What is vienoisserie?

Croissant, laminated dough

In France, bakeries usually have signs in the windows that prominently say “Boulangerie” and “Patisserie.” A boulangerie is a bakery that specializes in breads. A patisserie is a bakery that specializes in pastries. The majority do both and offer a wide selection of both sweets and baguettes and other breads. Some bakeries also display a sign that says “vienoisserie,” usually without much explanation. Vienoisserie means Vienna-style baked goods, but includes many things that are very typically French. They are pastries made with doughs that are “dry” and rich in butter, and would include a pastry made with brioche dough, as opposed to a cake-type pastry that begins with a very wet batter. Vienoisserie also includes pastries that are made with with yeasted, laminated dough that alternates layers of flour/pastry dough and butter. These pastries include things like croissants, Danishes, pain au chocolate (both often made with croissant dough).

Vienoisseries are usually eaten as breakfast or as a snack and not as a dessert because they are not too sweet. Even treats like pain au chocolate and brioche au sucre are not sweetened, despite their respective additions of chocolate and sugar. The main flavor of pastries like this is butter, and they are generally known for the lightness of the pastry, whether you are dealing with a flaky croissant or a soft brioche bun.

It is worth noting, as commenter Susan Betz mentioned to me, that a similar term is also used in the US and Canada. She said, “As an interesting contrast, in both the US and Canada, the term Viennese Buffet is sometimes used for a selection of desserts. It is frequently, though not exclusively, of individual servings as opposed to slices of a larger baked item. I have been to a wedding in Toronto that ended with this and have seen it offered at major hotels here in the states. It is akin to what a more casual restaurant would call a dessert bar.”

13 comments

  1. Thanks – this info is super-helpful, Do you live in Paris? Of just on vaca?

  2. Jennifer – I was just there on vacation.

  3. hm, had never heard this term before. very interesting that they would make the distinction between the “vienoisserie” style pastry, which seems to me the kind of thing I’d usually order for breakfast, vs a patisserie which I guess also sells actual cakes and tarts…didn’t know this. thanks for the info!

  4. Thanks for posting that, I love French pastries. The very first thing I ever learned how to cook was crepes (unless you count the mac and cheese I learned how to make in college … somehow I don’t think that’s quite the same).

  5. Just to explain why some places say “viennoiseries” on their sign: in France, only places where the bread is made from scratch and sold at the same place can be called “boulangerie”, the legal requirements are quite high. Now, you will find many places that only have ovens to heat up frozen dough: you’ll find them round every corner selling croissants, pains au chocolats and other viennoiseries that are in fact industrial products. These places do not fill the requirements to be called boulangerie even if they sell bread, for example the “Paul” chain which is so popular and supposedly traditional, and does have nice products.
    So my advice (I’m French but not working in that business so just a bread lover tip) is to avoid viennoiserie places and find a proper boulangerie – it’s not like they’re so hard to find in France!

  6. Hard to spell but not hard to love as mere looking at the pic makes me want to grab one. By the way, good info on the different worlds of “bakeries”.

  7. Karen Melchior

    And danishes are called Vienna-bread in Denmark. There must be some kind of Vienna connection.

  8. Good, interesting article, but where took information?

  9. Interesting. But what sign on novelties of the news?

  10. Just to explain why some places say “viennoiseries” on their sign: in France, only places where the bread is made from scratch and sold at the same place can be called “boulangerie”, the legal requirements are quite high. Now, you will find many places that only have ovens to heat up frozen dough:

  11. usually without much explanation. Vienoisserie means Vienna-style baked goods, but includes many things that are very typically French…

  12. hese places do not fill the requirements to be called boulangerie even if they sell bread, for example the “Paul” chain which is so popular and supposedly traditional, and does have nice products.

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