Upon finishing their school-days, French pupils are usually treated to a tasty viennoiserie before facing their homework. Thank God I did not escape that tradition and I must confess, it did make my day a lot better – I was almost willing to do my math exercises. French children have the 4 PM viennoiserie, we have our morning coffee to go.
Chocolate, apples and raisins
There are four main types of viennoiseries. The most international one is probably the croissant. It is a plain, buttery sweet bread – nothing more, a classic. If you desire something extra with it, you can go for a pain au chocolat – also known as chocolatine in the south of France and in Canada. Unlike the croissant, it has a regular bread shape, with 2 sticks of dark chocolate in it.
You can also opt for a chausson aux pommes. An airy type of sweet bread filled with apple mousse and cinnamon. It is best eaten warm, right out of the oven. Last but not least, and my personal favourite, are the pain aux raisins. This one is a whirly pastry, prepared with raisins and covered with glazing.
Who should we praise for such a delicacy?
There is no obvious answer to that question. The French will claim the ownership of the concept and truth be told, of all the bakeries I have been to, the French ones were always serving the best viennoiseries.
However, looking at the word itself, it stems from “Vienna”, so are viennoiseries Austrian recipes? No forensic evidence backs up this theory.
Approaching the situation from a different perspective, it might have occurred to you that in English, we call similar pastries “Danish”. Is this where the recipes come from? Again, not 100% true, but not completely erroneous either. Danish pastries do come from Denmark, but they are a bit different. The bread type is very similar, but the toppings are different. Most are done with custard, jam or marzipan.
I have also heard that the croissant would be a Turkish invention. Indeed, the same shape can be seen on the Turkish flag. Arabian pastries are also often shaped the same way – is it something we should look into?
Whoever came up with the recipe, regardless of their nationality, is a genius. No argument there. Quite fortunately, viennoiseries can now be purchased almost everywhere in the world – so enjoy!