30 May 2018

Down with the pastriarchy

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:27 pm on 30 May 2018

Pain au chocolat or chocolatine? In France's equivalent of the trans-Tasman pavlova stoush, the south and north of the country are at loggerheads over the name of the delicious pastry.

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat Photo: Pxhere free image

The impassioned and longstanding debate last week reached the French parliament, where a handful lawmakers tried to give the name chocolatine the same status as pain au chocolat.

Aurélien Pradié, an MP from the south-west Lot region, said the name for the soft chocolate-filled delicacy had its origins in the Gascon region and was the pride of southern France.

Head pastry chef at the Village Bakehouse in Christchurch, French expat Thierry Didierjean, says the row was already going on when he was an apprentice.

Didierjean, isn’t sure of the origin of the term ‘chocolatine’ – and he’s not alone. Some theories link it to a 19th century pastry known as ‘schokoladencroissant’ and others to the influence of the English rulers of Aquitane some 400 years earlier. There’s even a website devoted entirely to the argument.

Echoing France’s agriculture minister Stéphane Travert, who appeared astonished the controversy had got to the level of parliamentary debate, Didierjean says the whole thing’s gone too far. MPs had put the amendment into a wider farming bill and it was quickly voted down.

Though he prefers the name pain au chocolat, Didierjean says the main thing it not what it’s called but how it’s made.

Only butter should be used – no margarine or other fat – and high quality flour.

“The taste of this product has to be perfect,” he says.

“For us, we make the dough 24 hours early. We let the dough rest in the fridge for 24 hours.”

Butter then sugar is rolled into the pastry – “it’s all mixed by hand. It’s again left in the fridge, for six to seven hours, then taken out and left to prove for another five or six hours, before baking.

“It’s a very, very long process.

“There are no shortcuts … not in our bakery.”

And Didierjean says neither term should be confused with ‘chocolate croissant’.

“Chocolate croissant is a crispy croissant – pain au chocolat is soft.”

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