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What are your favorite local bakeries in France and why ?

Hello All,
I am going on a culinary/dessert adventure soon to Europe (alone). France will be a major part of the trip, Paris of course, Lyon, Nice ..etc.
Since France is the biggest dessert central, I would love to perfect the French specialties in the patisserie world.

I would love to hear some of my fellow chowhounders opinions on which bakeries and why they are your favorite!

I am planning on also interviewing the master chefs in some of the bakeries in France.

I personally love and wish to perfect Croissants (in baking). I'm close but still need practice.
Macarons, however, I have perfect.

Thanks everyone!

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  1. Landemaine rue des Martyrs. Near home. Excellent.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thank you! What do you like most about them ?

        1. re: Parigi

          Thanks Parigi. I was actually more asking on what food you like most from the place.

    2. If I live near rue des Martyrs, Landemaine would also be it; great breads though never had their croissants; love any of their fruit tarts, especially the tarte fine aux mirabelles. Just down the street is Sebastian Gaudard for his tarte au citron, Otello, Montmorency. He also has croissants, kugelhopf and all the viennoiseries but have never able to get there early in the mornings to eat them.

      7 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Those are great, thank you! I will try the croissants at Sebastian and rue des Martyrs, Landemaine and let you know how they are :)

        1. re: PBSF

          I couldn't find Otello, Montmorency on google, do you happen to know their website ?

          1. re: IammsT

            Never been on his website. Just google 'Sebastian Gaudard' to check if he has one. The Otello is usually in his pastry case but the Montmorency is seasonal. Was there early May.

            1. re: IammsT

              They are both types of cake. I think PBSF simply missed a word out - "....Sebastian Gaudard for his tarte au citron, Otello, and Montmorency."

              1. re: PhilD

                For pastry Gaudard is insanely good. But the OP asked for bakeries, therefore I did not list him.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Thanks for clarifying my shorthand. As you pointed out, Otello and Montmorency are pastries at Sebastian Gaudard.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    I see, that makes sense. Thank you for the clarification. I will be sure to visit Sebastian Gaudard! Thanks guys!

            2. If I live near rue des Martyrs, Landemaine would also be it; great breads though never had their croissants; love any of their fruit tarts, especially the tarte fine aux mirabelles. Just down the street is Sebastian Gauchard for his tarte au citron, Otello, Montmorency. He also has croissants, kugelhopf and all the viennoiseries but have never able to get there early in the mornings to eat them.

              1. Croissants in Paris -- Pierre Herme and Des Gateaux et du Pain
                Lemon Tart and Strawberry tart -- Pain de Sucre
                Eclairs -- Carl Marletti
                Brioche Feuilletee -- Patisserie des Reves
                Baguette -- Grenier a Pain (Abbesses) and Gosselin (blvd. St Germain, which is my local, so bread for dinner hot out of the oven from their last batch of the day btw 7:30pm and 8:00pm is quite lovely)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Nancy S.

                  Thank you Nancy! I have put all of those down on my list.
                  Pierre Herme is a must try for many things,I have his macarons book. But I heard his macarons are too much on the sweet side and that there is always a long line out the door.

                2. I hate the name, but Liberté on rue des Vinaigriers is very good for bread. For bread again, Thierry Breton makes and sells great loaves from his Chez Michel, Casimir, Pointe du Grouin empire.

                  The bread and pastries in my immediate 'hood, rue du Faubourg St Denis, suck. I wish it would change.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                    Thank you!
                    Though when I looked up Chez Michel, Casimir, it showed up as a restaurant, I'm not sure if I got the right one ?
                    http://www.restaurant-chez-casimir.com/
                    Let me know if the above link is the right place.

                    1. re: IammsT

                      Yes. He has 3 places. They sell the bread at the Pointe du Grouin.

                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                        Thank you for verifying Vielleanglaise!

                    2. re: vielleanglaise

                      In your immediate 'hood, try the nut and dried fruit bread at the former Tholoniat, that is good stuff. Huge loaves from which you can buy portions. The pastry is nothing to write home about.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        The pastry at Tholoniat was good for a while, but then pascal guerreau the baker left and it went down hill. The bread has remained good, but I mourn the mille-feuilles and their signature Tholoniat semi-freddo which is a shadow of its creamy self.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          Thank you for the suggestion! They only have good bread , got it.

                      2. Although we love to discuss our favourite boulangeries and pâtisseries on Chowhound, it usually turns out to be a shotgun blast of recommendations that Hounds just happen to know for one reason or another. For a more comprehensive approach, painrisien.com (in French, rather irregular schedule, updates on Facebook, and probably set for a final farewell soon) for breads and croissants... and parispatisseries.com (in English) and raids-patisseries.com (in French) for pastries might suit your purpose better.

                        38 Replies
                        1. re: Parnassien

                          Isn't "that Hounds just happen to know for one reason or another" the whole point ? Or is my existence even more meaningless than I hoped it was?

                          1. re: vielleanglaise

                            Vielle,
                            Sorry for the unintended blow to your self-worth.

                            Pastries etc are, I think, one of the most subjective topics in the food world. Kinda like defining sex appeal. Certainly your views aren't irrelevant but they are limited to your patch of Paris. Mine are probably even more limited than yours because I tend to fix on what's convenient and proximate. But there are excellent sites entirely devoted to boulangeries and pâtisseries and offer a comparative breadth and depth that the snapshots provided by Chowhounders do not. Given the OP's very broad scope and interest these sites will offer better leads than the scattered one- or two-sentence recs on Chowhound.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Yes and no.
                              There are objective factors like:
                              1. judicious (not too much) use of sugar
                              2. Good pie crust crunch
                              3. Good contrastbetween crust crunch and inside moistness
                              4. Ingredients that taste like real stuff, real fruit, and not flavorings.
                              But some details within these factors are subjective. I can't abide over-sugaring, but that's just I.
                              Then there are the fads. What o what is the fuss about macaron?

                              1. re: Parigi

                                Macaron? Is it 2004 already?

                                What about the cupcake contagion? The choux scourge?
                                And now endemic eclairs?

                                1. re: vielleanglaise

                                  "choux scourge" is an excellent tongue twister.

                                  1. re: markseiden

                                    I'm not even sure how to pronounce it correctly.

                              2. re: Parnassien

                                My scope is not limited to my quartier. My choices are based on my preferences, which are studied.

                            2. re: Parnassien

                              Thank you very much for the website Parnassien!
                              I have bookmarked them and will be looking through it.

                              1. re: IammsT

                                Paris holds a yearly the 'best' croissant contest. Check out Paris By Mouth website for this years winners and also last years. It also has the 'best' baguette contest section on their website. Like any list, there will be a difference of opinions but it is a good start for your search.

                                1. re: PBSF

                                  Oh wow, thank you!
                                  I didn't know they have contest like that, that's very helpful.

                                  1. re: IammsT

                                    It is becoming apparent that your goals and plans for this visit are still very undefined. Chow is a good starting place, but you really need to do some serious research on regional specialties and the current bakers who excel in each product and area.

                                    If it is really your goal to meet any of these people, you should arrange an appointment and describe your goals and motives. How is your French? How advanced are your baking skills? What will you be bringing to the conversation?

                                    Much of the information you need may be in French, but with patience you can learn a lot by putting content through Google translate. For instance, you could Google all of the past baguette and (name your) pastry contests and read about the contenders and their fortes.

                                    Multiply this by the number of countries you want to visit and the number of products you will search out and I see a huge project. Good luck and God's speed! :-)

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      unfortunately, I see the OP walking into an establishment without an appointment, without an explanation of the project, expecting to be shown all the secrets via wonky or non-existent French, then posting the bum's rush that will inevitably follow as being those snooty, anti-American French.

                                      I genuinely and sincerely hope this isn't the case.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Hi Sunshine842, I'm glad you gave me your point of view on how this looks like. I would have to rethink my approach now. What you described isn't what I have intended at all. I was hoping to go in more as a humble enthusiastic fellow baker who wants to excel.

                                      2. re: mangeur

                                        Is the OP an amateur or professional baker ? If an amateur, I wanna be a fly on the wall as she/ he asks the Gorgons who usually run the retail side for a chat with the boulanger or pâtissier. Especially if there's a queue of shoppers. BTW, the French for "to turn to stone " is "pétrifier". And it has nothing to do with being an American but with being an intrusion.

                                        Maybe searching for youtube cooking demonstrations might be less risky and more useful. Or signing up for very expensive master classes with celebrity pastry chef Christophe Michalak. But does the OP understand French ?

                                        1. re: Parnassien

                                          the lack of comprehension/distinction between "boulanger" and "patissier" tells me amateur.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Let us not be harsh on inexperience and the sincere will to learn, when they are expressed with such kindness and respect. It is so much nicer than erratic knowledge hiding behind a stubborn or agressive pose, things that we've seen a bit too much of this past season.

                                            But indeed I do not think the OP will have much luck chatting with pâtissiers and boulangers considering how busy they are, and the fact that the OP's replies do not reflect a lot of experience of what the matter really is.

                                            My advice would be to throw oneself full-heartedly into that "dessert adventure" without hoping for too much interaction with their authors. At one point someone might show up from the back of the shop and they can start a conversation. A minimal knowledge of French would be required. Who knows what might follow?

                                            But one thing should be clear: boulangers and pâtissiers never give away their secrets. To anybody: foreigners, French people, and least of all other boulangers and pâtissiers.
                                            Some of them even go so far as to modify the contents of the books they write (under their own names) so that the recipes more or less "work", without being their original recipes. I know two illustrious examples that I will not reveal any more than pâtissiers will reveal their tricks. (Except in friendly surroundings around champagne.)
                                            So imagine, someone out of the blue speaking imperfect French...

                                            Perhaps your dessert adventure in France (which I hope goes well) will inspire you to come back and take a professional course in pâtisserie and/or boulangerie in English. The Ferrandi school, for one thing, has an international pastry program which includes boulangerie.
                                            See http://bit.ly/1mJ20ZE

                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                              Thank you Ptipois, for everything in your comment. I am checking out the website you provided and it is very helpful. I had looked into the schools in France for patisserie and boulangerie. I had a dilemma for taking them and not taking them months ago.
                                              Last year, I broke my back, luckily, the doctors were able to fix it. But it's caused me more permanent damage now which I'm trying to recover and be stronger. I have been baking every day for the past year. To test new recipes, new techniques. My only obstacle right now is that I can't stand for more than 3 hours. Both of my feet starts to swell up, my back gets excruciatingly sore and the nerves in my legs act up.

                                              Before all this thought of the food adventure and interviews with the chef, I had thought about just going to France and be an apprentice. That was actually my first thought and goal, but to think being on my feet for more than 8 hours and no rest.. I don't think any doctor would recommend it.

                                              Your comment on the getting in an interview with the chefs and them revealing their secrets part, I have prepared myself for the worst. I am going not expecting the best outcome since I know that life is no fairy tale. The most that will happen is maybe I will get a couple professional bakers who feel sorry for me and say yes to an interview. I agree with what you said. I do realize that I am going in this alone, too rushed. I just didn't want to waste anymore of my time in doing something I hate here.
                                              Maybe this trip will be of nothing but great food and great sight-see. There is always six month later, when I've learned more about the culture, language and ready to dive right back in.

                                          2. re: Parnassien

                                            I am not a very professional baker in the commercial kitchen, but I am more advanced for home bakers.
                                            If you have time or like to, you can check out my instagram, has all the things I bake on a regular basis.
                                            I bake about 6 days out of a week, sometimes 7 days.
                                            And do have a following here, locally, that orders on a daily basis, it's not anything big, but I'm starting.
                                            Or my website, if you prefer.

                                            Instagram: llamas_need_love_too
                                            Website: www.bakerypamplemousse.com

                                            And thank you for the comments.

                                            1. re: IammsT

                                              I admire your courage considering your health issues (I do hope you get better) and can only encourage you to try and learn more, for your passion for pâtisserie seems very real.
                                              I've looked at your Instagram and I think your croissants look quite good indeed... And you seem pretty skilled at macarons.

                                              I would advise you to take it easy at first — just travel, eat, and enjoy your travelling and eating. I can assure you that just eating, and eating something in its context, is learning. Then more questions will arise at the end of the trip. Taking a course really seems like the way to do it, otherwise you'll be hitting and missing and not necessarily make any connections. While taking a course will certainly provide some contacts and connections, think of that...

                                              Please keep us posted with whatever you decide to do.

                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                Thank you very much for your warm response Ptipois!
                                                I am trying to improve on my croissants and find out what is it I am doing wrong. I am testing out a recipe tonight.

                                                Yes, I have been talking to a baguette sandwich owner, his store is near my house, he's French/Italian and makes the best baguettes ever. I've been giving him my desserts and seeing his feedback and when I've told him about my trip he had the same response with you about how the chefs in France would react to an outsider like me.

                                                I think I will return to school to learn more in depth of everything but after I regain the ability to stand for more than 5-6 hours a day. For now, it does seem like traveling and tasting all the different foods France / Europe has to offer, bring back the exotic and recreate it here. I will keep you posted on what will happen!
                                                Thank you very much for the support!!

                                                1. re: IammsT

                                                  I think that sounds like your best bet for right now -- take this trip to heal (mentally and physically -- pain takes its toll on your head!) explore and eat and get a feel for what you'd like to focus on when you return. No schedule -- do what you feel like doing, when you feel like doing it.

                                                  Then when your back can better support your dreams, come back for classes and set appointments to visit some of the artisans.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    I would love to get interviews with the culinary greats, but I know it's very far fetched. I'm a nobody right now and they wouldn't even take a second look in my direction. But I am making it my goal!

                                                    I am still on pain medicine every day, taking it every few hours, the pains are manageable with the medicine. But it hasn't stopped me from baking. I am still selling my baked goods now and baking every day after I get home from work. I have learned a lot baking like this as well.

                                                    I do understand that schools can teach me things that will take me weeks or months to crack or discover, in just one class. The other thing that's holding me back (besides the my health condition) on going to school in France would be the financial part, I am not equipped to not work that long and having to pay tuition. It's something I need to save up and seriously work on getting aides or applying for loans. I have looked into the programs offered abroad and they are very costly. This trip is already scary enough to be out there for months without work, not to mention the expenses on lodging and food!

                                                    Anyhow, sorry for pouring all this out and making you read all of it!!
                                                    Thank you for your comment and support Sunshine842 and Ptipois!!!!

                                                    1. re: IammsT

                                                      Why don't you try to finance your trip and perhaps future tuition on Kickstarter or another system of that sort?

                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                        I will have to consult with my banker about that. I'm opening my business account there now so I can dive into more officially opening the catering business.
                                                        As for the finance part, I have something I'm waiting on, legal wise (regarding my major injury), so I'm hoping that will pull through after my trip. Though the lawyer did advise me it might go to litigation and will take up to 1.5-2 years. So if that comes out beautifully, I will have enough to support myself in not working and going to school; but if it doesn't then I will be mostly on my own.
                                                        I will also look into if there's anyway to fund this through any sponsors, but without a name for myself yet, it will be very tough to get anyone to listen.

                                                      2. re: IammsT

                                                        Are there no credible Baking colleges and schools in the US that maybe more accessible? It maybe better to dip your toes in the water at home and see how you fare on a local course rather than jumping into a course at a top French school.

                                                        The courses in France are generally in French as the courses are presented through the technical universities. Of course there are some in English but at a price premium - and may not be sessile to use limited funds for the basics.

                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                          The Ferrandi program I am referring to is in English (or I wouldn't have recommended it). However your suggestion of starting nearer to home is a good one.

                                                          Regarding Lenôtre, I have never heard of English-language courses and I see no trace of that on the website (the English-language section leads directly to the French tuition program). I suppose they would be at least easier to find if they did exist.

                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                            I actually have looked into the schools here years ago. I did applied and went to Le Corden Bleu for a brief time. But the tuition there is just insane. I had to work 3 jobs at that time just to pay it monthly. I couldn't keep up and because of all my time being taken up with working, I didn't have much time to look into grants or financing the classes.

                                                            There is a school here, more locally, I would love to attend, but it is also very costly. The school is located in San Francisco, called Culinary Art Institute (CIA). I might go there if it's cheaper. But to live up in San Francisco is also very expensive, may as well be living in France and studying there, it would cost me the same, I would think.

                                                            1. re: IammsT

                                                              Cost of living in SF is indeed insane. Even longtime locals are being pushed out by the flood of tech money flowing north from Silicone Valley. They all want to work there but live here.

                                                              The daughter of a French friend contacted me about coming here to do a stage. I told her that she absolutely couldn't swing it, showing her news articles that place SF as the most expensive city in the US. She started looking for opportunities in the mid-section of the country.

                                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                                That is very true. It wasn't that bad before, but it's just getting too crazy, funny that LA is more affordable to live than up in SF.

                                                                Though if I do go to CIA, they are closer to Napa Valley, it should be cheaper there, but still not economically friendly.

                                                                Maybe it will be cheaper to just be in France and going to their culinary schools there.

                                                                But I did learned that the average French, don't make much money. If I do decide to study there, part time job will be needed.

                                                                1. re: IammsT

                                                                  The Ferrandi international course is $26,000 for the five month course then you do an internship for 3 to 6 months. I suspect the internship is unpaid so you need to add on 5 to 11 months accommodation and food.

                                                                  Paris is also an expensive city to live in. Not certain about the part time work opportunities as I understand it's a full on course so working during the academic part may not be practical.

                                                                  Obviously during the intern phase you may not have the time or capacity for another job. And there is also the work permit issue that means you may find it difficult to get a visa that allows you to work legally unless you are an EU citizen.

                                                                  Sorry to be slightly negative but I am not certain a course in Paris is less expensive than the US.

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    Hi PhilD,
                                                                    It's okay, I'm glad you were being honest and laying everything out. It's not that I haven't thought about studying and interning in Paris. I have, lots.
                                                                    That would be for the future though, once I can be my old self again.
                                                                    I may stay in the US for the school but Paris is just a different experience. I really do want the experience of being in a foreign country (where the origin of all these pastries are from as well) learning what I love, would give the whole half a year to a year, irreplaceable from if I was learning it so close to home. I don't know if that makes sense to everyone else, but it is something I prefer to do. Expenses will be high, prior to diving in, I will have to save up a lot more than now.. which I am not sure how long that would be either.

                                                          2. re: IammsT

                                                            I just looked at the famous pastry house Lenôtre's website for you. One-off 4-hour workshops on croissants & pains au chocolate as well as other ateliers for pastry techniques, small cakes, etc. 135 € fee. But in my very quick browse, I didn't see any mention of an option for English-speakers... but maybe there is.
                                                            http://www.lenotre.com/fr/ecoles/ecol...

                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                              Thank you Parnassien!
                                                              I looked at it .. but I can't read French (sad face!).
                                                              I will google translate it and see if they have any English classes.
                                                              But 135 € is very reasonable!

                                                              1. re: IammsT

                                                                Ferrandi also does short course. They last four to five days and are around €2,000 ($2,759). Various subjects including bread, pastries and macaroons. These are in English.

                                                                http://www.ferrandi-paris.fr/en/inter...

                                                                1. re: IammsT

                                                                  (Breathless from the last 15 mins of USA vs Belgium)
                                                                  Another google find: La Cuisine Paris on the quai de l'Hotel de Ville in the 4th... 3-hour croissant lesson in English for 95€.

                                                                  Baking (and indeed cooking) is not my universe so does anyone have any opinion on La Cuisine Paris school ?

                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                    Thank you for the suggestions Parnassien!
                                                                    I will look into those schools.
                                                                    95€ is very reasonable and in English.

                                                                    Hi PhilD, I just saw your message now about the 4-5 days program after I've already replied you on the previous message. I think I will probably take the classes that you've mentioned.

                                                  2. re: mangeur

                                                    Thank you Mangeur, for the suggestions.
                                                    My French isn't very good at all, I really would need to learn it in such a short time. I was told by my friends and peers that there would be a lot of English speaking people.
                                                    I've also considered hiring a translator, if that will help ?

                                                    I've been trying to take down notes as I go along and of places I want to to visit and interview these chefs.
                                                    My baking skills, I would have to say more advanced for a home baker but still a novice for a commercial kitchen. I have been trying to broaden my horizon and learning new things to bake and new techniques.

                                                    And I will definitely be doing more homework on that before I start out on the trip. I won't just be in France on this trip, I will also be in a lot of the other countries in the EU.

                                          3. Poilâne.

                                            Just the best bread there is in Paris, and consistently great. Why:

                                            I went there when I was young, and there was always a queue which I detested.

                                            Back again in 1983, I mentioned I made my own bread each week at home, and as it was early, was allowed in. The wood-fired oven was already heating up, and the bread dough, each massive, was being weighed and ready to go.

                                            Water ? Flour ? It is a basic, simple, bread recipe, but the taste is unique.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                              Wow, they have been oepend that long ? They must be very good. I have also put them on my list of place to visit. What kind of bread are best there ? Or are they all up to par ?

                                              1. re: IammsT

                                                If your planning to interview Artisan Bakers (I don't think they call them master chefs) in some of the top spots it maybe wise to at least research French bread and some of the big names like Lionel and Max Poilâne.

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  I see, thank you for the tip!
                                                  I have heard that French chefs are very proud so they may not always share or are little more stuck up, especially towards americans.

                                                  1. re: IammsT

                                                    That is mostly the case with pâtissiers or artisan bakers. Cuisine chefs are more prone to sharing.

                                                    1. re: IammsT

                                                      Maybe It would be better to spin your comment around - "French chefs are very proud so they may not always share or are little more stuck up, especially towards americans."

                                                      Instead I think it's better to think that any highly qualified (as others have said getting into a bread or pastry course in France is highly competitive and it's hard work to pass) and experienced professional will be very happy to share and educate, interested and knowledgable visitors.

                                                      But I am pretty certain they may well appear to be "stuck up" if a visitor who just likes cakes interviews and grills them especially if they have very little knowledge of the subject, it's history, traditions, and who the iconic professionals are.

                                                      Lots has been written about French baking and pastry work so it shouldn't be hard to study and get up to speed to give a visitor some good basic knowledge i.e. the difference types of shops, the regional products and specialisation, the trends etc.

                                                      Its far more than knowing where the good shops are.

                                                  2. re: IammsT

                                                    Pain Poilane is the big round sourdough loaf that Lionel Poilane is famous for. They also bake two or three other types, probably a rye, nut, dry fruit. No baguettes. Go to his flagship boulangerie on rue du Cherche-Midi to see what it is about. He was a legend but there has been a revolution in bread making the past twenty years or so in Paris. Now every quartier has excellent boulangeries (bakeries) which is different from a patisserie as pointed out by Parigi on an earlier reply.

                                                    1. re: PBSF

                                                      Gaudard, a pastry chef, makes (killer) croissants and makes no other breads.

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        Sweet, I love croissants and have been trying very hard to find a perfect recipe. I will go try Gaudard and their croissant!

                                                    2. re: IammsT

                                                      Sourdough, walnut, rye, raisin, etc.

                                                      There is a sampler box available.

                                                      http://www.poilane.fr/pages/en/michem...

                                                      All good. There is also a English video perhaps on Youtube of Griff Rhys Jones learning to bake there and interviewing the current owner. " Best Cities in the World-Paris "

                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_P...

                                                  3. Vandermeersch

                                                    Vandermeersch
                                                    278, avenue Daumesnil, (12th)
                                                    Métro: Porte Dorée

                                                    We once stayed in a hotel directly opposite it on purpose, just to be across the street from this bakery (and that the hotel was excellent value also helped!).

                                                    They're famous for their kugelhof (kouglof). It's truly wonderful. The other patisseries are also excellent and I can't recommend this bakery enough, or even this quarter of Paris as it's strictly off the tourist route yet close enough. Please note that they don't bake the kouglof every day.

                                                    David Lebovitz has an entry on Vandermeersch on his blog as well as other reviews on certain patisseries around the city.

                                                    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/02/...

                                                    Another boulangerie/patisserie I loved is La Boulangerie par Veronique Mauclerc, which is also off the beaten path. The baked goods include the conventional pastries and breads but they're excellently made.

                                                    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2007/09/...

                                                    1. First you need to clarify -- are you looking for boulangeries, or for patisseries? They're not the same and don't sell the same products.

                                                      Patissiers can make bread, and boulangers can make pastry, but their training is specialized on their field of choice.

                                                      Frequently a storefront houses both...but not always.

                                                      You probably also need to know that French people overwhelmingly don't make a special trek to a particular artisan -- whether patissier or boulanger. One might make a special trip to pick up a particular cake for a special occasion, but overwhelmingly, you choose your favorite amongst those in your own neighborhood. (We had *seven* boulangers within walking distance, some with pastry, some without -- we had our favorite, but regularly bought from all of them)

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        "First you need to clarify -- are you looking for boulangeries, or for patisseries? They're not the same and don't sell the same products."
                                                        I did point out this distinction but did not get any feedback from the OP.

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          sorry, P (and I know you know this...) I didn't see it, and was thinking it was odd that nobody had mentioned this -- it kinda matters!

                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                            Oop! sorry Parigi!
                                                            I didn't mean to not get back to you regarding this!!
                                                            I must have missed your question on that, sorry!

                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                            Hi Sunshine842, I'm sorry I didn't clarify the category I'm asking for. I actually was wondering on any type of bakery/cafes as long as it's a MUST try. I love all pastries, except cupcakes.

                                                            1. re: IammsT

                                                              Are you saying you are looking for both categories : (1) bakeries (boulangeries; AND (2) pastry shops (pâtisseries ?
                                                              We are trying to tell you they are two separate expertises. Pâtisseries don't sell bread.
                                                              Sorriest we obviously failed to make ourselves clear.

                                                              1. re: IammsT

                                                                You're not really grabbing much of what we've said, either about the difference between a boulanger and a patissier (most of them are NOT cafes), nor that it takes a very special occasion to draw a French person out of their home neighborhood for bread or pastries.

                                                                You also will not just waltz into a boulangerie OR a patisserie and expect them to

                                                                a) be there (their day starts in the middle of the night)

                                                                b) welcome your unannounced visit with open arms -- this is a business, not a tourist site, and they have things to do that don't involve hanging out with a tourist (do you even speak French?)

                                                                and above all,

                                                                c) expect them to share *ANY* of their professional secrets with you -- this is a business based upon years of education (yes, they go to school, some as well-regarded as any Ivy League school, to be a boulanger or patissier), experience, and careful working of their recipes, and they're not going to blab the recipes and time-honed techniques that have made them a success!

                                                            2. Hi LammsT -

                                                              Thinking about your original post again, it might be helpful to start your interviews in LA ( Los Angeles, or Louisiana ) where you are located.

                                                              That would help you to understand the art of baking, the terminology, and what is required to to perform said tasks.I would go as far as to suggest taking a hands-on course in baking bread or pastry first, if possible.

                                                              Small bakeries normally start the day early to get things going and the product made, and sold or delivered. If you had the opportunity where you live to experience this, and become familiar with the work, tools, terminology, and the process, it no doubt would help your goals in France.

                                                              Early in the morning is the best time to make an appointment to see the baking process as you wish, even with a working language knowledge of French. What you bring to the French bakers in the way of knowledge and interest will be more appreciated.

                                                              1. There's a site called "Meeting the French" and one can book a tour under the category "Parisiens at Work". Indeed, one can tour Grenier a Pain in the 18th arrondissement. Many years ago we booked a tour to visit Veronique Mauclerc, which was informative, personal and quite special. And it's not exorbitant. Back in the day it was 10 euros/person. It's a bit more now, but still reasonable.

                                                                1. lammsT, here is my suggestion for you, based on your financial and physical limitations at this time.

                                                                  If you cannot afford training in France, and SF is too expensive, consider The Baking Education in Norwich, Vermont. They offer classes for both the ambitious home baker as well as professional classes for bakers. It is the home of King Arthur Flour, and their bakery produces artisanal breads wholesale to local restaurants and hotels, and has a teaching facility. The director is Jeffrey Hamelman, a Certified Master Baker, author of Bread: A Bakers Book of Techniques & Recipes.

                                                                  They offer professional courses in Classic French Breads: Miche-Levain-Baguette; Croissants, and also courses on how to set up a bakery business. Sometimes James MacGuire, a baking consultant and teacher from Montreal is a guest teacher - take his classes, there is no better teacher for French breads in North America than James. He was a student of Professor Raymond Calvel, and translated his book "The Taste of Bread" from the original French to English.

                                                                  It may be the right fit for you, as well as affordable. Once you have acquired some professional knowledge, a trip to France such as you have described will be much more meaningful.

                                                                  1. Another excellent school you might look into is the French Pastry School in Chicago. It's run by Jacquy Pfeiffer and both he and the school have won multiple awards. I believe the school is somehow connected with the City Colleges of Chicago, which would indicate a moderate fee structure. And Chicago is still quite an affordable city to live in.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                      Thank you for the suggestion ChefJune!
                                                                      I will look into that and see how they are for when I return from this trip.

                                                                    2. if it's patisserie that interests you, you might check out
                                                                      the 2009 documentary on the MOF competition:

                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_of...

                                                                      (which I recall is available on Netflix on demand in the US.)

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: markseiden

                                                                        Thank you! I've added it to my list to watch on my netflix!
                                                                        This should be very inspiring!