Parisian Baguettes

Paris Baguettes and Croissants, a carb lovers tasty peek inside the boulangerie

Posted on Posted in Activities/Experiences, Paris, Travel With Children
Parisian Baguettes
Parisian Baguettes

My dad use to drive a truck and one of his more famous and anticipated stops was the local Amoroso bakery in Philly (a legendary bakery for rolls).  He would deliver boxes and in return the guys on the loading dock would give him bags of just out of the oven rolls.  He would then come home and my sister and I would slather butter on the warm bread to the dismay of my mom who was cooking dinner.  She knew that trying to feed us after we’ve ingested our body weight in bread was a no starter, so much of her hard work was relegated to the Tupperware container for leftovers the next day.  So my bread addiction started early and it wasn’t until I was old enough to travel that I discovered all the wonderful varieties of bread and pastries that the world had to offer. While I wish I had my Mom’s willpower and thin figure, I was always going to identify more with the Pillsbury Doughboy (yum, crescent rolls…..) and need to go to the gym a lot in the hopes of negating the bad (yummy) carbs.

The first time I visited Paris in the 90’s, I was overwhelmed by the choices – croissants,  pain au chocolate and baguettes everywhere.  People walked to the neighborhood boulangerie daily for their breads and pastries. Fresh baked bread was a wonderful discovery back then (sorry Strohmann, Wonder, Pillsbury and all the other breads of my youth). My bread addiction was elevated after that visit and bread would begin to seduce me around the world (along with wine too!) as I searched out the local bakery in every new city and port.

Boulangerie Paris
You must bake on premises to be called a Boulangerie

So visiting Paris with my niece, I wanted to go behind the scenes of the Parisian boulangerie and see the magic being made in person.  Using Viator, we met the same Meeting the French guide from the macaron tour of Gerard Mulot (Viator is like Open Table for tour companies).  This time we were a group of five not eighteen and the cost was similar (under $35 per person for the one hour tour).  Located in a residential area, we allowed an hour travel time and unfortunately got lost as our hotel gave us the wrong metro line (there were two options with the same name on two lines – one closest to the bakery and the other a bit of a walk).  We walked around the main street, asked the local bus driver who gave us directions to follow the bus route up the hill and around. Had we taken the right metro line, the bakery was two minutes away from Le Grenier a Pain (don’t click link if you are hungry).

Le Grenier a Pain
Le Grenier a Pain
Le Grenier a Pain Paris
Like a kid in a candy shop I’m happy here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking into the shop, the breads and pastries are the stars on display.  Unlike the day before, we did not need to don protective clothing.  We walked into the very small area in back to meet the baker and watch his process.  The room was compact to say the least and felt like it was enveloped in flour.  Baskets of bread sat on the floor taunting me throughout the demonstration.  The baker was young and spoke only French which was translated by our guide.  He explained each of the steps with the dough as it went through the process from dough to portions to rolled out baguettes ready to go in the oven.  The oven to cook the baguettes is set at two different temperatures – a bottom temperature and a steam surround temperature – this gives it the crunchy bottom and the softer middle with a slight crunch on top.

Baguette Dough
The baguette dough

 

French Bread Baker
The baguette dough cut ready for the next step

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separating the baguette dough
Separating the baguette dough

We would learn the French take their baguettes quite seriously as there are baguettes laws!  A baguette can only be made with wheat flour, water, salt, yeast and must weight 250 grams (8.8 ounces). The number of slits on top is up to the baker – here he does five when he makes the traditional baguette.

Baguette Baking Paris
Preparing the baguette dough with slits before baking in the oven

We were each allowed to use the razor to put slits in the dough (a bit harder than it looks) for our baguettes.  We would let the bread bake and proceed to the basement pastry kitchen.  The older building has a very narrow circular stairway that leads you to the work space of the three pastry chefs.  We met the head pastry chef as he was working on pain au chocolat and croissants but not before passing the butter at one station!

French bakery butter
Butter is key ingredient in French pastries

He also spoke French that was easily translated for us.  After explaining how the dough is made for croissants, he was rolling out the dough and cutting to specific strips for chocolate croissants and placing a stick of bakers chocolate inside each.

Croissant dough
Rolling out the croissant dough
Cutting the pastry dough
Cutting dough to exact specifications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain du chocolat
Adding chocolate for pain au chocolat
Pain du Chocolat
Ready to bake the pain du chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving along, he then rolled out the croissants. He makes 150 croissants each day which is a lot when you figure there are so many bakeries in the neighborhoods and everyone sells essentially the same products albeit each with a different taste. I waited for the important fact that I had read about croissants and bingo!  The guide must have read my mind when she translated the chef “Croissants made with butter are straight, while croissants made with margarine are curved”.  You can taste the difference and see the consistency change when a croissant is butter vs one made with margarine.

Paris croissants baking
Rolling the croissants in Paris
French croissants ready to bake
French croissants ready to bake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then spoke with the pastry chef working on the cakes, she was an artist with each creation.  We learned that the four corners cake she was working on is 25% sugar, 25% egg, 25% flour and 25% butter (and you can add fruit if you want).  We were given samples of two cakes she was working on. The smaller four corners cake was simple and tasty!

Glazing the cake in Paris
Dipping cake and painting a glaze
Four Corners Cake Paris
Yum! Samples!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished creations in the pastry kitchen, only a portion of what wonderful creations were in the front store for sale.  I’m already a bread and dessert addict and being on this tour fed my addiction quite nicely.

French Meringues Boulangerie
The Meringues were so pretty to look at during our tour
Parisian Cakes
The finished cakes ready for sale at the boulangerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Grenier a Pain breads
Many varieties of bread for sale

With our visit downstairs complete, we ascended the stairs to retrieve our baguettes (the ones that we put slits in).  Fresh from the oven, we were each presented with the gift of bread and also given a croissant.  Wanting to dig right in, the guide said to wait a while as hot bread will cause a “tummy ache”.  So my niece and I left the boulangerie with our baguettes and croissants and headed to the metro happy with carbs in hand.  My dad may no longer be with us, but am sure he was smiling that the bread gene in our family continues with my niece.

Le Grenier a Pain Paris
Baguette Le Grenier a Pain Paris
My niece loved having her own baguette so no sharing required
My niece loved having her own baguette so no sharing required

7 thoughts on “Paris Baguettes and Croissants, a carb lovers tasty peek inside the boulangerie

  1. Oh yum! Sounds like a fabulous tour (and mouth watering too). It’s so interesting to take a behind the scenes look at how things are made – especially a bakery in Paris! I’d be all over those meringues. 🙂

  2. I’m about to take my 10 year old to Paris….this is a really helpful set of posts you made about your time there with your niece. Thanks!

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