If you are contemplating a trip to France soon then you will have much to look forward to, wonderous things such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees for example. However, there is another good reason to go and visit France and that is for some of the most delicious pastries in the world. When you walk down a street in Paris or any town in France the one thing that really stays firmly in your memory is the beautiful aromas which waft out of the patisseries and boulangerie there.
A little known fact about the French pastry classics we have all come to know and love is that they typically originated from Austria and not France. Vienna to be precise. So much so, in France they are referred to as ‘viennoiseries’ meaning ‘things of Vienna’.
In the early 19th century an Austrian officer called August Zang opened a Viennese bakery in Paris along with his partner Ernest Schwarzer. Many of the classic pastries the French eat today derived from that very bakery and are most commonly eaten for breakfast or mid-morning snack.
Here are some of our favourite mouth-watering patisserie classics;
Croissant (meaning crescent in English):
The croissant has earned its rightful place at the top of our list. It is probably the most popular French treat eaten not only in France but across the world. Tradionally, the croissant is a light buttery flakycrescent shaped pastry. It can be eaten hot or cold and can be filled with both sweet or savoury fillings. Legend has it that Marie-Antoinette brought the croissant to France originally but no one knows if that is accurate or merely just folklore. Others say the croissant derives from The Battle of Tours in 732A.D. when the Muslims were defeated by the French. The croissant is said to signify the Islamic crescent symbol.
Pain au Chocolat(meaning bread of chocolate inEnglish):
The pain au chocolat is another favourite in the pastry lover’s category. A direct descendant of the croissant, this rectangular pastry has a strip of chocolate in the centre of it. Typically the chocolate is plain/dark as opposed to milk chocolateand the pastry can be eaten hot or cold. Most enjoy pain au chocolat warm as theirgooey centre melts into the pastry.
Mille-Feuille (meaning a thousand sheets in English):
A mille-feuille (also referred to as a Napoleon) is a delicious cake made up of numerous thin crispy layers of buttery pastry. The layers are filled with either custard, whipped cream or crème pattissier. There are so many variations on this French classic using unique flavour combinations and toppings. Although there are no exact origins found for this pastry it is said that it is a modern twist on Marie-Antoine Careme’s classic recipe. Marie-Antoine was one of the world’s first celebrity chefs cooking grand cuisine for the royalty and the very wealthy French aristocracy.
Chausson aux Pommes (meaning turnover of apples in English):
A Chausson aux Pommes is another favourite to be found in almost every patisserie and boulangerie in France. It is traditionally made with asumptuous apple sauce filling encased in a beautiful flaky pastry crust. It can be eaten hot or cold but most prefer to eat them warm direct from the oven giving a warm apple pie taste.
Profiteroles (meaning a small profit or gift in English):
Traditionally, profiteroles are made from choux pastry and made in to small spherical shapes and baked till golden and hollow in the centre. Once cooled they are filled with fresh cream or custard then topped with either chocolate or toffee. Profiteroles are often stacked in to a large coned tower and served as a traditional wedding cake. The French call this cake a ‘Croquenbouche’ which translates into English as ‘something that crunches in the mouth’.
The one thing I know for sure is the above pastries may not have originated from France but they have certainly become some of France’s finest delicacies.
Writing this list has certainly put me in the mood for a delicious French pastry!