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Topped with za’atar and labneh, the latest croissant at Proof Bakery is a good one

Topped with za’atar and labneh, the latest croissant at Proof Bakery is a good one
A plate of za'atar croissants at Proof Bakery. (Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

The viennoiseries at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village have long operated like currency in this town, as owner and pastry chef Na Young Ma’s croissants are sublime iterations of the genre. (The canelés de Bordeaux are pretty great too.) Her ur-croissant is one of the best in Los Angeles and comes in variations for those who want a little extra with their butter-laden laminated dough.

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Along with the pain au chocolat, ham and cheese croissant, almond croissant and seasonal fruit croissant, there has lately been one topped with za’atar and labneh — a glorious spin on the Middle Eastern obsession many food folks have had since Yotam Ottolenghi entered our lives.

“We’re trying to have a different croissant every month,” Ma said recently over a plate of them.

Pastry chef Jun Tan doesn’t like wasting things, so he started air-drying herbs and making his own za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice mix usually composed of thyme, oregano and sesame seeds. When he found himself with a surfeit of the stuff, he decided to put it on a folded 4 ½-by-4 ½-inch square of the bakery’s plentiful supply of laminated dough, added some labneh, and ta-da.

Tan, who spends a lot of time in London and thus has visited all of Ottolenghi’s restaurants, makes his za’atar with a blend of flowering thyme, marjoram, oregano, parsley, cilantro, toasted sesame, sumac and salt that he “sorta copied” from the packaged stuff he gets at Super King. He also plays with the labneh, sometimes switching it out for fromage blanc or crème fraîche or cream cheese.

The result is like a mash-up of a French pastry and an Israeli or Lebanese breakfast plate: deeply aromatic, a little savory, a case study in layers that all too quickly translates into a tiny cairn of golden flakes on your plate.

3156 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 664-8633; proofbakery.com. @proofbakeryla.

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