OC Register Critic Brad A. Johnson scoured the county in search of the top European-style bakeries. Mission accomplished.

Bread bakers are a strange lot, always waking hours before the roosters start cock-a-doodle-doing to slide their jiggly, sweetly sour loaves into ovens that have been warming all night. Baking is a career of passion, and I am immensely grateful for those who heed that calling. There is an infinite divide between artisanal, naturally leavened breads and what typically passes for bread at the large brand-name grocery stores these days, and because of that I haven’t bought a loaf of bread at my local supermarket in nearly 10 years. Once you’ve gone that route, there’s no turning back. 

I’ve been eating a lot of bread and pastries lately, searching for the best European-style boulangerie (breads) and viennoiserie (croissants/pastries). Here are 2 of the 10 best bakeries in Dana Point. 

4. Moulin

If you’ve ever wondered just how big the French community is in Orange County, just go to Laurent Vrignaud’s Moulin in Newport Beach around 10 a.m. any day of the week. Every table is taken, and all that chatter you hear is everyone speaking French. This bakery rules the viennoiserie scene with an unmatched array of croissants, danishes, cinnamon buns, canelés, pan au chocolate, palmiers, madeleines, etc. But don’t overlook the baguettes (and that’s to say nothing of the patisserie, which is also prolific.) 1000 Bristol St. N., Newport Beach, 949-474-0920, moulin.com (satellite locations in Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Laguna Beach and San Clemente)

8. Giana Bakery & Provisions

When chef Danielle Kuhn opened Maison Cafe in Dana Point a few years ago, she served a lot of toast — really good rustic sourdough toast — made from loaves that she commissioned from Bread Artisan Bakery. Earlier this year, just up the street from Maison, she opened Giana, where she now bakes her own rustic sourdough, and it is absolutely outstanding. In the pastry case: berry danishes, huge croissants, vanilla-iced morning buns, kouign-amann and all manner of cookies. 34146 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, 949-503-1994, gianadanapoint.com