Did you know that the croissant isn’t really French? It’s actually Austrian. Legend has it that after the failed attack by the Turks during the Siege of Vienna in 1683, Viennese bakers made pastries to celebrate. They shaped the pastries in the form of the crescent they saw on the flags of the Ottomon Turks. These “kipfel” (German name for crescent) became popular in Vienna after that celebration.
In 1770 the croissant came to Paris. The Austrian Princess Marie Antoinette went to France to marry King Louis XVI. To honor her, Parisian bakers made these same pastries, calling them the French name, croissant. Croissants were as popular in Paris as the kipfel in Austria. The French perfected and popularized the croissant making technique. The little half-moon shaped pastries went on to become one of the most famous food symbols for France.
There is a whole category of French breakfast pastries that fall under the name Viennoiserie (Viennese Specialties). The technique for making them lies somewhere between the crafts of the boulanger (baker) and and that of the patissier (pastry maker). Viennoiserie are made with a yeast-leavened dough having some similarities to bread making; however, butter, eggs, milk, sugar and sometimes cream are added to the dough making them sweeter and bringing them closer to pastry making. You will find them in a boulangerie. Some, not all, patisseries sell them. The more popular Viennoiserie are croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, brioche, baguette viennoise, and chausson aux pommes.
They are best eaten right out of the oven. When in Paris, I like to sneak out super early in the morning and pick up one while they are still warm, preferring other types of Viennoiserie over the croissant. Whether you are croissant faithful or not, you should have at least one (per day) of these breakfast pastries while in Paris.
A perfect Paris morning for me: a warm Viennoiserie, a bench in one of the many lush Paris parks, the melody of children laughing, birds chirping and flowing waters from fountains in the backdrop, and flaky crumbs covering my lap once I’m finished eating.
Pain au Pistache (cousin to the Pain aux Raisins) from Boulanger de Monge
Brioche with dark and white chocolate chips from Le Grande Epicerie
Chausson aux Pommes from Boulangerie Gregoire at 69 rue Monge
A tip on finding the best boulangeries in Paris:
There are great boulangeries in every arrondissement in Paris. I wouldn't get on the Metro and go across the city to search out the "best" boulangerie. Instead I'd stay near your hotel/apartment and look to see where the the Parisians are lining up. Especiailly weekend mornings and around 7:00pm during the week, they'll line up at the best neighborhood boulangeries waiting for baguettes fresh out of the oven. This also might be the only time you'll ever see a Parisian waiting in line. One of best pleasures in Paris is buying a freshly baked baguette (or 2) so hot out of the oven, you can barely carry it home, if it makes it home---that's why you get two. I usually make at least one stop at Mayson Kayser who has boutiques throughout Paris. If I'm in the 14th or 15 arr., there's the Quartier du Pain (the chef, Frederic Lalos is a MOF) and Phillipe Gosselin in the 1st, 7th and 9th arr. But, I happily stand in line to test another boulangerie's goods wherever I am.
Join me in Provence in 2013 for a French Pastry Culinary Vacation and learn how to create these and other classic French pastries! Details here: Pastry-Making Vacation in Provence
What is your favorite Breakfast Pastry? How would you spend a perfect morning in Paris?
Square Saint Medard
This post is part of WanderFood Wednesdays, wandering foodies that blog.