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FOOD & DRINK

French baker leads crusade to protect ‘noble’ croissant from industrial pastries

Little is as sacred to the French as their morning croissant and certainly no one makes it better. Now one baker from Nice is campaigning to make sure the quality of the delicious buttery pastries is protected.

French baker leads crusade to protect 'noble' croissant from industrial pastries
Photo: Glen Scarborough/Flickr
Worried by the fact that 85 percent of croissants sold in bakeries are now industrially manufactured, Frederic Roy is fighting back.  
 
In order to stop what he sees as the decreasing quality of croissants and even pain au chocolat (made with the same dough), the Nicoise baker is asking the French government to create an official status for the 'traditional' French croissant. 
 
“I simply want to protect the croissant. This new category would help create a noble, true and 100 percent natural pastry,” Roy told The Local. 
 
According to Roy's criteria, to be considered a truly 'traditional' croissant, the pastry should be made by the baker themselves, made with traditional flour – and that means without additives – and made with real French butter. 
 
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Frederic Roy / Photo: BFM TV

“Today the customer can't know if the croissant has been made at the boulangerie itself and this is why I want to create this status.”
 
His demand is not without precedence.
 
In 1993 the government passed a “bread decree” that led to the creation of the now hugely popular “baguette tradition” which has to be made according to, you guessed it, traditional methods and using only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water. That's opposed to the ordinary French baguette where the rules are less tight.
 
“It's been done for the baguette so it should be easy to do for the croissant too,” Roy said. 
 
So far, Roy's campaign has succeeded in garnering the government's attention. 
 
Photo: You As A Machine/Flickr
 
After writing to the prime minister, his request to give the feted pastry has since been transferred to the office of French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire and MP for the Alpes-Maritime Eric Ciotti has voiced his support for the move on his own Facebook page. 
 
“I've got a little boy who is just two. I want future generations to savour the taste of a traditional croissant just like previous generations,” he told The Local.  
 
On top of this, the new category would allow bakeries making their own croissants to increase their prices. 
 
This would no doubt come as a welcome relief to bakers across France due to the increased pressure the profession is facing as a result of a price-hike which has seen the cost of butter rise by 172 percent in the past 20 months.
 
This has resulted in bakers who make their own croissants having to up their prices while those using industrially made pastries can keep costs low. 
 
Indeed, Roy blames the butter price-hike for bakeries using the cheaper option, with the price of his own croissants rising by a massive 50 percent this year, to €1. 
 
Even though the croissant and indeed the pain au chocolat hail from Austria (hence the name viennoiserie), the pastries are now more commonly identified with French culture…and they're quite protective of their adopted cuisine, to say the least. 
 
In August, The Local reported on the Gallic outrage in response to the British invention of the 'sausage croissant', which saw croissants stuffed with bacon and sausages before being covered in eggs and cream and baked in the oven.
 
 
And in 2016, the British provoked an equally disdainful shrug from across the Channel following the “straight” croissants hitting the shelves of UK's Tesco supermarkets.
 
 
 
 
 
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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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