Des Gateaux et du Pain
Our first pain au chocolat comes from Des Gateaux et du Pain, in the 15th arrondissement. This elegant bakery makes you want to speak in hushed tones. Everything is sleek and
streamlined, and chef Claire Damon’s baked goods are so artistically displayed you almost feel you shouldn’t eat them. Almost. But these pastries have both substance and style. The pain au chocolat (€1.60) were beautifully done, with a deep reddish brown color, a nice high rise, and domed shape. Biting into them, the laminating—the alternating sheets of dough and butter that give croissants and pain au chocolat their characteristic layers—was beautiful, and they had a nice resistance, or chew.
Des Gâteaux et du Pain:63 Boulevard Pasteur 75015 Paris, France; 01 45 38 94 16; desgateauxetdupain
Interior of Des Gateaux et du Pain
The staff at the bakery is professional and helpful; while high end, they are welcoming and friendly.
At Blé Sucré on the Right Bank, chef Fabrice Le Bourdat works wonders with sweetened wheat. The outer layer of my pastry (€1.20) shattered and flaked all over my jacket, which in pain au chocolat is an excellent thing. The inside has the proper toothsomeness and there is a slight sweet/salty note to the dough. The butter really comes through—they use Montaigu butter from the French dairy region of Poitou-Charentes—without being greasy or oily. If you come here in the morning, you may want to wander through the Marché d’Aligre just around the corner, to bring home some fruits and veggies for a light lunch.
Blé Sucré:7 Rue Antoine Vollon 75012 Paris, France; 01 43 40 77 73;
The chef at this bakery in the 15th arrondissement believes that the quality of the ingredients is what makes all the difference in his pain au chocolat (€1.15). “Butter is like wine," he said, explaining that there are certain areas reputed for producing great butters. He uses Lescure grand cru, another butter from Poitou-Charentes, as well as Callebaut chocolate and Voiron flour. That was certainly true here— if a dough can taste creamy, it did. But it was also so light you’d never believe the dough was 1/3 or more butter (the standard for pain au chocolat).
Eran Mayer:100 rue du Théâtre 75015 Paris; 01 45 77 36 30;
Le Grenier à Pain
Le Grenier à Pain is a little bake shop with several locations in Paris. With its unfinished wooden floors and farm tools hanging on the wall, the location on rue Saint Charles in the 15th arrondissement looks like the bakery from your childhood (if you grew up in a small town in 1930s France.) The pain au chocolat (€1.20) has a nice rise and a deep color. It’s wider than it is long and the upper layer bubbles with flakiness. Tuesdays and Fridays there is a market along this street, so be prepared for a bit of hustle and bustle if you visit before 2 p.m. on those days.
Le Grenier à Pain:134 Rue St Charles 75015; 01 45 77 50 78; www.legrenierapain.com
La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc
Véronique Mauclerc is often heralded for being one of the few female boulangers (bread bakers) in Paris, and for having one of the few wood burning ovens left in the city. (Though it's only for breads; the viennoiseries, which is the category of breakfast pastries that croissants and pain au chocolat fall under, bake better in the electric oven.) Pastry chef Yohann Bonnet, who has been working with Chef Mauclerc for the last 3 years, explained that they make all their bread and viennoiserie with a natural starter. This gives them a deeper, more complex flavor and helps them keep better—though for pain au chocolat (€1.40) we are still talking in hours, not days.
La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc:83 Rue Crimée 75019, Paris, France; 01 42 40 64 55;
If you find yourself in need of a snack after a visit to the Eiffel Tour, head over to this bakery on the rue Cler. The pain au chocolat (€1.70) are a bit different from other versions, though not in a bad way. They have a lighter, bready, almost brioche-like texture to the crumb, and a subtle flavor.
Jean Millet:103 Rue St Dominique 75007, Paris; 01 45 51 49 80;
La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac
Lignac is a celebrity chef in France, with a TV show, restaurants, and cookbooks to his name. La Pâtisserie, his pastry shop, opened in November 2011, but has already hit its stride. I nearly detoured from my pain au chocolat quest when I saw the equinoxe—a bourbon vanilla, salted butter caramel, and speculoos pastry.
But no! Remembering my mission, I stayed true to course and bought the pain au chocolat I came for (€1.20). The outer layers met my teeth with an audible crunch—loud enough for the photographer to comment on. (By this time, he knew my penchant for the contrast between a delicate, crisp exterior and a soft interior with a bit of chew to it). Even after tasting many others, this one held its own. My jacket was fighting a losing battle because, once again, it appeared that it was snowing morsels of flaky pastry in my vicinity.
La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac:24 Rue Paul Bert 75011, Paris; 01 43 74 72 88; www.lapatisseriebycyrillignac.com
Stop by Miss Manon in the Marais to try two unusual flavors: chocolate-banana and chocolate-raspberry (€1.80 each). Both are sticky on top, undoubtedly glazed with a syrup. The chocolate-banana smells like banana bread, and the sweetness of the banana brings out a saltiness in the chocolate. The chocolate-raspberry version has the chocolate to one side, raspberry to the other —we cut them in half lengthwise and stacked the halves to get a bit of both in each bite. These are a welcome change, though they’re a little overkill for breakfast. They’d be better as a goûter (afternoon snack).
Miss Manon:87 Rue St Antoine 75004 Paris; 01 48 87 87 59
Head over to Béchu to try another pain au chocolat with a twist. In addition to the chocolate bars, the interior of their chocolate-orange croissant (€1.60) holds a drizzle of homemade orange marmalade and the top is crowned with a slice of candied orange zest. The croissant dough has a slight acidity, the requisite shatter to the top layers, and a slightly caramelized bottom. The classic pairing of orange and chocolate works well here, boosting this pastry into a special treat.
Béchu:118 avenue Victor Hugo 75116 Paris; 01 47 27 97 79
Exterior of Béchu
When asked what makes their pain au chocolat special, the manager of the bakery said, “We just make them with l’art et la manière, as they should be made.”
La Flûte Gana
Gana is sort for Ganachaud, the family that started this line of bakeries in 1934. Gana uses their own brand of flour, specially milled for them, and they pride themselves on the fact that their breads are all made with natural starter and all shaped by hand. These pain au chocolat (—1.28) were the first ones we got that were so warm that the chocolate was melty—brownie points for them, although it was a matter of timing. They are smaller than the other pain au chocolat we tried, and the chocolate is less dominant, making them a good choice for breakfast.
La Flûte Gana:226 Rue Pyrénées 75020 Paris; 01 43 58 42 62; www.gana.fr