If you think of the word pastry, then typically patisserie or viennoiserie probably won’t enter your mind. But if we are to be technically correct (and not offend any Frenchmen) we should refer to French pastry products as patisserie or viennoiserie.
Ok, so we could offend some Austrians here as viennoiserie origins from Vienna soo… anyway, for some reason we still class viennoiserie as French, even though it isn’t. However, viennoiserie become popular through French bakers and many viennoiserie products have become adopted into French culture and perfected by them, so much so that we think they are French I suppose?
Anyway, let’s move away from hearsay and discover the facts...
Patisserie and viennoiserie products are sweet bakery products that are typically found in France. Of course they contain a lot of sugar and fat. They are often eaten as a snack with coffee, but some have many uses.
Anyone that wishes to bake at a professional or semi-professional level should really know a little bit at least about each. It's also worth investing some time in knowing what's the difference between Italian and French bread.
So let’s explore, what is patisserie and what’s the difference between patisserie and viennoiserie?
The main components of pastries are eggs, butter, milk, cream, and sugar. A patisserie is where you go as a tourist for many of us non-French people. There are all sorts of pastries inside!
The patisserie is used to describe the pastry they sell in French pastries. Although the word is very liberally used in the English language, it is only used by bakeries in France and Belgium that employ master pastry chefs.
Pastry chefs are highly trained and use classical techniques to make authentic products. Since much of patisserie is complex, it can only be executed by a well-trained hand.
Artisan patisserie is traditionally light and delicate, sweet and decadent. The finished products are not only expected to taste delicious but look exciting as well.
Designs can change over the years as tastes and eye-appeal develops but iconic delicacies include:
This dessert is made in the shape of a wheel and filled with praline cream. It was created in 1910, to commemorate a bike race from Paris to Brest and back.
This is a large profiterole (choux pastry filled with pastry cream) with caramel thread, often decorated with hinted almonds or chocolate that is traditionally served during French national holidays. Renowned as bloody hard to make!!
Choix pastry is piped into oblongs, lightly baked and filled with crème patissier and topped with a chocolate icing. Modern variations include coffee flavoured eclairs and vibrant fruit combinations using raspberries, passion fruit and mango.
A dessert consisting of layers of cream and puff pastry usually topped with sprinkled sugar and combed icing.
What is viennoiserie?
Viennoiserie are a collection of baked products that typically feature at breakfast time. They were developed by Viennese bakers, some in their homeland and others after immigrating to Paris. They became quickly adopted in Paris, the rest of France and soon across to other developed nations.
Viennoiserie is a bridge between pastry and bread. The products are usually made from white flour and an active levain. The levain is usually yeast. Bread needs a levain the make it rise. When baking viennoiserie, the dough rises and creates layers of perfectly flaky pastry.
This famous French bread is made with yeast, butter and sugar. It can be made by hand or for best results a laminator can be used. The layers in these breads are created by rolling out the dough, folding a slab of butter into it and a combination of rolling out to stretch the dough and folding it over itself repeatedly to create layers of butter and dough.
The croissant dough is the same dough that pain au chocolate, pain au raisin and many other local viennoiserie products, specific to the baker or the area it is found.
A viennoiserie which is similar to a typical bread. They are a bread-like yeast-leavened bread, but with additional material (particularly eggs, butter, milk, and sugar) which gives them a rich, sweet flavour. Served as a snack with coffee or as a part of breakfast.
Translates as a pig or elephants ear, these delicious pastries are perfect with a café au lait! Despite being similar to a croissant type pastry they are harder and more biscuit like. A beautiful shaped bread and an ideal snack.
These iconic breads are a proper treat! I fell in love on my last trip to France. The steam oven was invented in Vienna and these breads where revolutionary when they were first produced.
By using steam on a sweet bread a unique glaze is created on the crust which makes Vienna bread so characteristic.
Vienna breads can be eaten with a sandwich filling or a more brioche style bread can be made by enriching with additional butter and sometimes chocolate chips. The steam oven that these were originally baked evolved into the type of oven used in bakeries across the world today.
The difference between Viennoiserie and Patisserie
Viennoiserie is fattier and sweeter than everyday bread whilst less indulgent and flamboyant compared to patisserie. Kind of a middle ground, everyday kinda treat. They go hard relatively quick so its best to eat viennoiserie on the day, or even better just after they arrive from the oven.
Viennese foods are not generally iced although they may be filled with frangipane, chocolate, fruit, and other pastes. You can't go to France and not try viennoiserie and patisserie!
Further reading: What makes French bread taste French