Paris is a magical city known for its fashion and, of course, food…in particular, the city’s over abundance of patisseries and boulangeries averaging one ever 100 meters. For those with a sweet tooth and a love of carbs, here are a few tips and recommendations for your enjoyment.
What is the difference between a patisserie and a boulangerie?
The first step in navigating Paris’ baked goods is to understand the difference between a patisserie and boulangerie. A patisserie is the place for delectable sweet pastries including: croissants, eclairs, pain au chocolat, fruit tarts, apple turnovers, and caramels to name a few. On the other hand, boulangeries are bakeries that may also sell pastries, however, they specialize in bread and baguettes. You may even stumble upon a store called “boulangerie-patisseries” which is an establishment that will sell a selection of both. Either way, your carb cravings are covered.
Parisian pastries 101
Originally known as kipferl, croissants date back to the 13th century in Austria eventually making its way to Paris in 1838 when an Austrian artillery officer named August Zang opened the first “Boulangerie Viennoise” on 92 rue de Richelieu. At that time, Austrian desserts were very popular and in fact “Patisseries Viennoises” are still common in Paris today. The French adopted the name croissant named after the crescent shape of the pastry tweaking the recipe slightly. Traditionally made with flour and butter, some of the most delicious are baked with special butter mixed with crème fraîche, commonly is used in most French pastries. Some say this is the reason French pastries are the best while others say it’s the water.
Some of the most indulgent French baked goods are at Poilâne. Poilâne makes many different types of desserts, however, their croissants are baked perfectly – flaky and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. The pain au chocolat, also known as a chocolate croissant, is a best seller as well. Being one of the most popular boulangerie-patisseries in Paris, they frequently make fresh new batches to meet demand. If you happen to walk into Poilâne and see croissants on racks, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Poilâne is also famous for their shortbread cookies and chausson pommes or apple turnovers with the literal translation being “apple slippers.” These buttery delights are made with fresh apples, cinnamon, eggs and of course the crème fraîche laced butter. Legend has it, chaussons pommes were invented in the 1630s in Saint Calais, France. At the time, the town was suffering from illness so the Chatelaine or “lady of the town” distributed flour and apples to the poor who then made chaussons pommes.
Original location: 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris, France
Du Pain et des Idées
Du Pain et des Idées is one of the best boulangerie-patisseries in Paris. They are famous for their escargot pistache, a spiral-shaped pain aux raisins, another local Parisian pastry derived from the Viennese. Do not be weary by the name escargot. This pastry does not contain snails, but rather pistachios or seasonal fruit. If they happen to be in season, you don’t want miss the tarte abricot, available only a few months during the year. Dèlicieuse!
For those traveling to Paris without a pronounced sweet tooth, try the pain au lardon which means bread with bacon. Lardon is the French version of bacon, cut into small thick chunks making this a very savory snack. You may choose lardon with walnuts (noix), goat cheese (chevre), spinach (épinard) and prunes.
Location: 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
How to order patisseries in Paris
For the inexperienced traveler, pointing to your selection and hoping for the best isn’t always the safest bet. To ensure you get your desired selection, try ordering in French using these simple tips. Pronunciation can be a bit tricky given every word in French has a gender. You should note that if a French word has an “e” at the end, like tarte, it’s generally feminine and preceded by une, pronounced “oon”. Words not ending in an “e” like croissant, are preceded by un, which is pronounced “ah-n”. You can avoid worrying about any of this by just ordering a number of pastries instead. Trust us, you’ll be able to finish “quatre pain au chocolat” with ease.
Je voudrais: Pronounced “shuh voo-dray,” this means “I would like…” which you can then follow with your pastry order.
S’il vous plaît: Pronounced “see voo play,” this means “please” in French.
Une tradition: If you hear someone ask for “oon tra-dih-see-own”, you should do the same. This is similar to a baguette but made with better ingredients and more care.
One final tip: avoid calling a chocolate croissant croissant chocolat. French bakers will regard this misnomer as offensive to their craft. Chocolate croissants are called pain au chocolat which means chocolate bread.