20 September 2017

No way to treat a snail (Pain aux raisins)

| Paul Costigan
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Among the many tempting pastries that are wonderful to eat (but probably bad for the waist-line), there’s one that remains a stand out for me. That being what some people call a ‘Snail’ or to use the correct term ‘Pain aux Raisins’.

To clarify: Pain aux Raisins are a spiral pastry (see picture above) that is often eaten for breakfast in France. The real ones are made with that melt in the mouth leavened butter pastry shaped in a spiral into which you should find a sprinkling of raisins and a crème pâtissière filling. There are some variations across Europe.

Sadly in Australia, it is rare to find Pain aux Raisins made in the authentic manner. Too many times it looks (and tastes) as though someone has read about what this pasty is supposed to be and has used their readily available ingredients to come up with a sad look-a-like.

There are loads of crimes committed by many bakeries in the name of this delicious pasty. It is not uncommon to find them made out of ordinary puffy style pasty – or even baked so that the outside is very crusty and super flaky.

And then there are the many instances when bakeries cannot resist adding all manner of toppings to their attempts at Pain aux Raisins. These monstrosities come with many sugary substances and icings dribbled all over the top – or the same gooey sugary mixture squeezed into the spiral instead of the crème pâtissière.

Bakeries who commit such sugary crimes need to have their pastry cooks taken away and re-educated.

I admit my bias towards seeking out Pain aux Raisins baked properly is based on the experiences many years ago of having one of these wonders in the streets of Paris. I can still remember my shock to the melt in the mouth flavour and the realization that this was the way they were meant to taste. Those early morning Parisian Pain aux Raisins were warm, were fresh and yes – they were the next thing to being a melt in the mouth experience.

On occasions, I still set out to see if good Pain aux Raisins are being made in Canberra. I know of one shop in Melbourne, but as yet I have failed to discover if there is any bakery in Canberra that knows what it is doing when baking Pain aux Raisins.

I have looked at many bakeries and at the markets. In fact, one shock I had was at the markets recently when what looked like a reasonable attempt at one, but for some reason, they had super-sized their offerings. As it turned out the pastry was far too flaky and they were simply far too enormous to be a breakfast snack.

On a visit to 39 Steps, that gem of a café in O’Connor, I spotted Pain aux Raisins on offer. They were not too bad – and made for a great snack with their coffee – which on that day – was also quite good. Recommended. Note: the café is bigger on the inside than what you first expect – having a very small frontage.

And so my quest continues…

Is there anyone out there with a similar taste for Pain aux Raisins? Any suggestions on where in Canberra (or nearby) there is a bakery that produces such pastries anything close to the authentic style?

PS: The Pain aux Raisins above were bought in a local supermarket so that I had my own photograph of what I was talking about; I would rate them in taste about 7/10.

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Imogen Ebsworth7:50 pm 20 Sep 17

What are you doing? Get thee to cafe breizh in ainslie! Authentic French pastry chef and pain au raisan to die for, slight variation being an utterly delicious orange glaze as opposed to a cream filling. They make wonderful pastries but it’s still my favourite

Paul Costigan2:39 pm 20 Sep 17

Thanks – have not tried Croissant D’or in Civic for many years – will do so soon. Based on your comment, we were off to Gungahlin for lunch – but sadly no escargot – they come in on Thursdays. Another day maybe.

runtheredlight10:15 am 20 Sep 17

I’m a fan of the escargot from Croissant D’or in the Civic bus interchange, but admittedly I haven’t had one in a while. I bet Le Bon Melange in Gungahlin would treat you right, Paul.

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