Love at First Bite at Gourmandise French Bakery

croissant

We were almost too late. Word on the street is you’ve got to get here early, because the secret is out. Gourmandise French Bakery makes the best croissants this side of Paris.

When they opened shop, just before Thanksgiving 2023, Chef and owners Aurelie and Silvio had planned to bake a couple days a week and then open a location in the St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Little did they know how curious the local community of Milverton, Ontario would be about a small French Bakery opening in the centre of town. One by one they trickled-in. Word spread. Almost overnight, the line ups outside were of people from Stratford and Listowel and beyond.

They were busy right out of the gates. Aurelie’s croissants had become the biggest thing since sliced bread. Foodies from afar would make the drive to discover this hidden gem on Main Street and, in short order, get hooked.

croissant
A display case of croissants includes nine different types of croissants, from Organic Wild Blueberry, Raspberry and Strawberry croissants, to Pain au Chocolat and an alluring Pistachio, Raspberry, Chocolate croissant. Another display case includes a panoply of delectables. A veritable jewelry box of macarons, éclairs and immaculate tarts like Lemon Curd French Meringue; Pear Chocolate Tartlet with French Walnuts; Apricot, Almond Cream and Apricot Puree; Coconut Lime; and Dolce de Leche, Pecan and Chocolate.

We begin with the Pain au Chocolat. The distinguishing feature is immediately recognizable. So many layers. It’s not oily or greasy. The crunch is unmistakable. There is heft to this. This is a Pain au Chocolat-lovers Pain au Chocolat, and beckons a latte and time to sit and enjoy. The combination of flavours from the Pistachio, Raspberry, Chocolate croissant is unique and there is a subtle balance between their sweetness and acidity.

macarons
Fresh Raspberry and Vanilla Cream Macarons; Fresh Raspberry and Belgian Chocolate Macarons. www.gourmandisecanada.com

Aurelie makes everything by hand with love and Belgian chocolate. She likes to work alone, but Silvio is her taster. They met in Quebec. She had come from France; he had come from Chile. When she prepared for him a Vol-au-vent with scallops, it was love at first bite. They moved to Milverton, because he had previously lived in Stratford, and knew the landlord, who offered them a space with a kitchen. The kitchen is Aurelie’s domain. This is where the magic happens. When she whisks trays of her confections through the hall for Silvio to display in their boutique, the aromatics waft to the neighbours which, as one tells me, lets him know the most delicious pastries he’s ever tasted are about to be ready.

Croissants are usually between 70 grams (medium-size) and 90 grams (large-size), but these have more weight to them because Aurelie prefers to double the laminations. “I don’t like a croissant that is full of air inside,” she tells me, “It’s quite naked.” Instead, she makes larger cuts and increases the layers. “It’s how I like it to be. I like when you eat one and you feel satisfied and full.”

Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Eclair
Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Éclair

Today’s éclair is an impeccable construction of chocolate mousse and hazelnut. As a true French éclair, the quality of the ingredients, their stirring and artful assemblage is fresh, fresh, fresh. We can taste the difference, and we can taste the care and the passion that goes into creating something so delicate and so satisfying. The pistachio macaron, too, is not commercial; it doesn’t crumble into powder or break in the middle and fall apart. Each layer has integrity and yet blends together for a creamy mouthfeel.

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What’s most surprising to me is that Aurelie and Silvio have their system down tight, so that she can prepare at least five different kinds of croissants and ten different kinds of pastries each day. Silvio is her taster. If he approves, they sell it. Aurelie bakes until the shelves are full, and no sooner is that goal met than her curious-turned-regular smiling customers leave happy with their orders filled.

Crookie. www.gourmandisecanada.com

Aurelie tells me she likes to make people happy, and budgets her time so that she can engage with her customers. Before leaving, I ask her if she’s heard of the “Crookie”, the part croissant–part cookie that has made its way from France to New York and turned into a viral trend. “Oh, I’m baking them right now. They’ll be ready in two hours.” Nothing could make me cancel my weekend plans faster, and the following morning we return for the inaugural touchdown of the Crookie in this part of the world. This time we arrive before opening, and are delighted by this hot new confection of a beautiful croissant with ooey gooey chocolate and cookie inside with a touch of crispness as it bubbles up and seals the outside.

A wonderful example of an industrious young couple with teamwork and a can-do spirit, Aurelie and Silvio take their time to ensure their quality procures a feel-good ambience and smiles with every taste. We take our time appreciating it.

For more information about Gourmandise French Bakery go to: www.gourmandisecanada.com

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