Croissants 'dying out' in France
THE true French croissant – a Gallic gastronomic icon - is dying out, baking purists have warned, amid claims by one federation that half of the buttery, crescent-shaped pastries found in so-called "home-made" bakeries are industrially made and heated up on site.
For the past ten years, the number of “industrial” – frozen or pre-prepared - croissants sold in France’s 30,000 boulangeries has rocketed, baking experts say.
“Around one viennoiserie(croissants and other cakes) in two in our ‘traditional’ bakeries is now industrial,” Philippe Godard, spokesman for the French bakery and patisserie business federation said on Wednesday.
Since 1998, French bread sellers can only call themselves boulangers if they make their own bread in situ. “But the rule doesn’t extend to viennoiseries,” said Jean-Pierre Crouzet, president of the national confederation of bakers and patissiers. “One can be a baker and not make ones’ viennoiseries oneself,” he said.
The industrial croissants are made by big groups like Coup de Pâtes, which offers 700 pre-prepared bakery products, from lemon tarts to chocolate éclairs and pizzas, and almost a dozen varieties of croissant. They insist they use top-quality butter and respect strict food hygiene norms.
But makers of true home-made croissants are hitting back. Pierre Couderc, a baker in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, has placed a large sign in his window that reads: “All our products are prepared on site. They have not been chosen from a catalogue and delivered frozen by the industry.”
Discerning customers can taste the difference, the bakery’s croissant-maker-in-chief Eddy Le Tourrier insisted. “Our croissants are not rubbery, nor are they full of air. They are consistent and at the same time light, unctuous and crispy when they come out of the oven,” he told France Info radio.
Other makers of true French croissants complain they cannot compete with the lower prices of industrially made fare, which are sold at around 20 centimes apiece in bakery catalogues.
“I make my patisseries myself but I’m losing money,” warned Sophie, a baker in a chic quarter of the 1st arrondissement. “It’s not on. While they haven’t resolved the problem of the cost of home-made croissants, lots of bakers will call on the industry,” she said.
The national federation said it was looking into ways of making it clearer which bakeries sold truly home-made products.
In the mean time, the bakers’ federation of the Loir-et-Cher department has decided to take unilateral action. Starting next Monday it will launch a new “home-made viennoiseries” label local bakers can stick on their shop windows.
Though considered quintessentially French, croissants were first made by the bakers of Vienna to celebrate a victory against the Turkish armies that had been besieging the city. They are said to have been brought to France by Marie-Antoinette as a 14-year old bride hankering for comfort food from her native Austria, hence the French term viennoiserie.