Daily visits to a local boulangerie (bakery) are a must-do when in France. Housing a myriad of delicious treats, it’s never a bad time of day to stop in to pick up breakfast, lunch or a snack. You can often pick up the scent of freshly baked bread or pastries wafting down the street from the early hours of the morning, further enticing you to visit. Whether you are a sweet or savoury person, wrap your taste buds around these nine must-try boulangerie treats when in France. Bon appetit!
Perfectly circular and sandwiched together with a thin layer of icing, your first bite of a macaron is a mix of crunchy yet soft. Likened to a cross between a meringue and biscuit, their delicate nature comes from ingredients such as egg whites, icing sugar and ground almonds. An iconic boulangerie treat – popular thanks to big brands like Ladurée – legend has it that Catherine de Medici from Italy introduced macarons to France when she married King Henry II of France.
Designed to loosely resemble a nun, two choux pastries are filled with regular, or flavoured, cream or custard and sit on top of each other to form the ‘body’. Artfully dipped in decadent chocolate ganache to form the ‘habit’, Italian pastry chef Frascati first created the religieuse in Paris in the 19th century.
3. Pain au chocolat
Pain au chocolat translates to ‘chocolate bread’ as it was initially made using a brioche bread base. It has since been developed over time to use the same pastry as a croissant, so buttery, flaky layers of pastry encase little slabs of chocolate.
4. Mille Feuille
A mille feuille is a true piece of (boulangerie) art. Layers of pastry are baked under weights to ensure crispy perfection that doesn’t puff up when baked. When viewed up close, you can see fine layers upon layers which does its name of ‘a thousand leaves’ justice. A mille feuille is comprised of three pastry layers sandwiched together with a soft crème pâtissière, topped with more cream, fruit and/or a chocolate glaze.
The origins of the madeleine came from one of two places: from an 18th century cook, Madeleine Paulmier, who first made them; or a woman of the same name who came across the recipe during her pilgrimage and brought it back to France. Either way, this cake is the perfect buttery, yet light, bite. For a delicious twist, some boulangeries may flavour the batter or glaze them with chocolate. Madeleines are baked in special trays that give them their unique shell shape.
Hailing from the Bordeaux region, canelés are baked in fluted, copper moulds at a high temperature which gives them their rich brown colour. With a custard-like centre, a well-made canelé will have a beautifully caramelised exterior with hints of rum and vanilla throughout.
7. Kouign Amann
Did you know that the Brittany region of France has deep roots that align with the Celtic areas of the United Kingdom? They even have a unique Breton dialect that is spoken there, so kouign amann translates to ‘butter cake’ in the Celtic-come-Breton language and hails from the town of Douarnenez that is well-known for its butter production. The kouign amann was a happy accident, whipped up by pâtissier Yves-Rene Scordia when he ran out of desserts. With multiple layers of a butter-heavy dough and sugar, the result is melt-in-your-mouth layers of pastry with a crispy top.
The Paris-Brest was created in 1910 by pastry chef, Louis Durand, for the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race. Durand piped choux pastry in a ring-shape, filled it with praline crème mousseline and topped it with flaked almonds and icing sugar. A little messy to eat, but worth every mouthful.
9. Galette des Rois
With its royal name meaning ‘King’s Cake’, galette des rois are only seasonally found in boulangeries. The festive cake is traditionally served in early January on the Epiphany to mark the end of Christmas. Two layers of puff pastry come together with a frangipane filling before being baked. Some boulangeries may add a dried bean inside for good fortune – whoever finds it in their slice will be King or Queen for the day!
France is a hot destination this year. Don’t miss trying these boulangerie treats while discovering all that this gastronomical country has to offer. Join us on an Avalon Waterways river cruise, or a Globus or Cosmos tour through France.