Place Maubert (Metro: Maubert-Mutualité)
We took the line 10 and got off at Maubert-Mutualité. Exit via the exit with escalator and you are in the market, booths run perpendicular to street, small but good. If you look to your right at the street level yo will see La Maison d’Isabelle at 47 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 5th arrondissement you will see where the 2018 croissant winner in all France is located.
One of the great annual rituals in Parisian culture is the awarding of top prizes to local bakers and pastry chefs, who work hard year round to snag top billing for their baguettes, pastries, viennoiseries and other creations. The competition for the all-butter croissant, or croissant au beurre, can be particularly fierce: it’s extraordinarily difficult to achieve the right balance between flakiness, chewiness and melt-in-your-mouth softness embodied by the “ideal” specimen. Many bakers are automatically disqualified, since only croissants produced using artisanal, hand-made techniques can enter the fray– and 80% of croissants in France are made using industrial methods and ingredients. Another strict rule? To get a shot at winning this revered contest, bakers must use a specific, high-quality butter bearing the Charentes-Poitou AOC label.
For those who make the cut, however, the payoff is profound. Earning the right to call oneself meilleur ouvrier (best artisan) in any culinary category not only attracts droves of customers: it puts a permanent feather in your professional cap. It can secure reputation, and a thriving business, for years.
A Latin Quarter Bakery Wins in 2018
La Maison d’Isabelle specializes in pastries made with organic flour and butter– a growing trend in the capital as Parisians hop on the health-conscious and ecologically responsible train. Displayed prominently in the left window of the shop, the award-winning, all-butter croissants currently sell for only 1 Euro. This modest price endeared me to the bakery right away, since many meilleurs ouvriers immediately inflate their prices as soon as they earn a top prize.
Made with organic “Gruau” flour and top-quality Charentes-Poitou AOC butter from the Pamplie creamery, the croissants au beurre on display at the bakery are pleasingly golden, with a distinct sheen and visible layers of thin, flaky pastry dough. Appearance does matter quite a bit: it turns out that a full 60% of the scoring system for the annual butter croissant competition relates to looks: “cuisson” (bake– 20%), “brillance” (sheen–20%) and “forme” (regular, even shape– another 20%). The croissants sold here clearly meet the mark on all three counts.
An important side note: all-butter croissants are technically not truly crescent-shaped. Their cousin, the croissant ordinaire— often made with less butter and even with (heresy!) margarine– are the ones that display a genuine crescent form (see below). This type can be recognized by its characteristic folded edges, making it look a bit like a crab.
The market is a bit different that many as the stalls run perpendicular to the Boulevard with a good selection and there are permanent stands on the Boulevard St Germain as well