I can’t make it out of Boston without a face full of powdered sugar – the kind that piles up like snowdrifts atop cream puffs from the city’s fine Italian bakeries.
If I’m in the North End, the city’s Italian neighborhood, I’ll drop by Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, both on Hanover Street, so I can indulge my cream puff craving. While I’m there, I’ll also taste test the eclairs and cannoli.
Where to find cream puffs in Boston
My latest trip to Massachusetts didn’t include a trip to the North End, though. I was happy to discover an offshoot of Modern Pastry in Medford, not far from where I was staying with friends. We swung by an hour after I landed at the airport. I walked out of the shop – whose display cases are filled with elaborate cakes and cookies – with a box containing an éclair, a cream puff, and a tiramisu (for my husband).
They did not disappoint.
I cut my pastry teeth on Mike’s, where waiting in a line for 45 minutes is just part of the deal. Modern Pastry’s baseball-sized cream puff, though, made me swoon. Beneath that layer of powdered sugar hid a slightly crunchy, slightly chewy pastry. It held up well to the dollop of fresh whipped cream it contained. And the éclair? A ribbon of thick chocolate snaked down the center of a hotdog-sized pastry filled with thick vanilla custard.
Who makes the best cannoli?
I loved it so much I made my friends stop at the shop a second time, as we headed back to the airport after a week on Cape Cod. This time I opted for a cannolo alongside an éclair. It was the best I’ve ever eaten.
Modern Pastry makes its cannoli to order. You can pick from a shell that’s dipped in chocolate or plain, then filled with ricotta, custard, whipped cream, or chocolate custard. I got a plain shell filled with ricotta, which is traditional. Each one costs $4. For 50 cents extra, you can get it topped with chopped pistachios, almonds, or chocolate chips. I chose pistachios.
The verdict? I think Modern Pastry’s cannoli are better than those at Mike’s, but maybe that’s just because it’s what I was eating at the time.
A quick online perusal turned up several stories debating the merits of each. (You can read one here).
Clearly, I need to conduct more research. But I already know – you can’t go wrong either way.