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There's More to the French Boulangerie than Croissants and Pains au Chocolat

It's All About Bakers and War

The croissant was invented by Viennese bakers who saved Vienna from an attack by the Ottomans…

Croissants and Pains au Chocolat

Everyone who comes to Paris heads to a bakery for a croissant, maybe a pain au chocolat.  These are a siren call to anyone who loves pastries, emblematic of the entire French lifestyle.   

croissant, pain au chocolat, brioche


They are part of a category called “Viennoiseries” a story which relates to a story about bakers and war.  As legend has it, the Ottomans were ready to attack Vienna in 1683.  They began digging tunnels under the fortified walls of the city and the bakers, up early to knead their bread, heard them and gave the alert. This allowed the Viennese to repel the attack.  To celebrate the victory, those same bakers created a crescent shaped pastry as a snub to the Ottomans, for the crescent was their symbol.  Fast forward nearly one hundred years, and a young woman named Marie Antoinette travelled to France to marry Louis XVI.  In her retenue were bakers from the Austrian court who made croissants for the French court.  One can imagine, in those heady times, that those same bakers rolled their dough around chocolate, inserted cream and raisins into it, fashioned it into all sorts of shapes. 

They Haven’t Changed…Much

Today we find those same viennoiseries in every French boulangerie. They aren’t exactly the same, though. Then, the viennoiseries were made with enriched bread dough; the flaky croissant dough we know wasn’t invented until 1905. The rest is history!

pastries, French, croissants, pain au chocolat

The moment for most viennoiseries is breakfast, which is when they are at their best and most flaky. If you want to try those from La Boulangerie Moderne (Careful! They’re not sure they LOVE their new-found fame), here is the address: 16 Rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques, and they’re open every day but Saturday and Sunday. If you don’t want to make the trek don’t worry. You’ve got 1360 boulangeries within the Paris city limits to choose from, and most of them offer excellent viennoiseries. Just watch for the lines of people outside the door on a Sunday morning to choose the best!

Should you decide to stray from the croissant and pain au chocolat, the following list will help:

• Croissant – butter-rolled yeast dough baked to a crisp crescent.
• Pain au Chocolat. – the same dough, rolled, folded into fat rectangle, with two bars of semi-sweet chocolate inserted in the center. Based on
• Suisse – brioche dough rolled, folded to rectangle, filled with pastry cream and chocolate chips
• Chouquette – pâte à choux with sugar crystals on the outside
• Brioche – buttery, egg-rich dough
• Pain brioché – regular bread dough enriched with eggs and butter, less than a brioche.
o Round, with sugar on top
o Round
o Whole braided loaf
• Pain aux raisin – croissant dough in a snail shape, filled with pastry cream often flavored with kirsch or rum, and raisins.
• Croissant aux amandes – yesterday’s croissant topped with almond cream that is often flavored with kirsch or rum and shaved almonds.
• Pain au lait – bread dough enriched with milk, shaped into a small oblong, or a baguette-shape.

• Less typical:

• Bugne – fried pastry, often flavored with orange flower water.
• Kugelhopf – milk and egg-rich yeast dough with raisins soaked in kirsch, and almonds, dusted with powdered sugar.
• Cannele – crepe batter baked in special fluted mold.
• Sacristan – puff pastry cut into strips, dusted with sugar, twisted.

2 thoughts on “Pastries of the French Boulangerie”

  1. Hi Susan! Loved this video and blog article! I make a version of the Pain Suisse called a Plié. The only difference is that it’s made with croissant dough instead of brioche. I first had one at the French bakery where I interned during school and I immediately fell in love with it!

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