Perfect pastry pairings

caffeine magazine australia coffee pairings with pastries

Bakehouses are making a comeback – and, as Amanda Lennon discovers, this new wave fascination for indulgent pastries can be perfectly matched with a specialty brew

Words Anna Sulan Masing | Main image Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash; Studio photography Bentley Creative


You might think of the croissant as classically French – but in fact, it’s part of a pastry family hailing from Austria, known as viennoiserie, “Viennese things”. The kipfel – the ancestor of the croissant – was a crescent-shaped hard roll made in Austria during the 13th century, long before the French added yeast and butter to give us the airy, flaky pastry we all love today.

For centuries around the world, a small baked treat coupled with a coffee and some conversation was a ritual for either a morning or afternoon snack, particularly for those looking to display their affluence. Fast-forward to 2021 and not much has changed. So, what is it exactly that continues to make the pairing of coffee with viennoiserie so appealing?

It all boils down to a straightforward balancing act. On one hand, the acidity in coffee acts as a foil, with timely doses of bitterness cutting through the sugars before the pastry becomes “too much”. On the other hand, the smooth, full-bodied mouthfeel of some coffees can also complement and even accentuate the richness of laminated dough.

The reason the baked goods, known as viennoiserie, look so impressive is the result of a process called lamination, involving layers of butter and a yeast-leavened dough being brought together. From the multiple of single and double folds, to the millimetre thickness into which the dough is rolled (and rerolled), to achieve these dainty but approaching architectural pastry structures, it is imperative that an eye for detail is invested offering that perfect outcome.

caffeine magazine australia perfectly balanced coffee cup pastry stack
Basic instincts

The plain croissant is indisputably the foundation and mother-craft of all viennoiserie with its versatility setting it apart from others. Its basic, buttery foundation of laminated dough offers a neutral foundation for any pairing. To some, it is neither sweet nor savoury; to others, it is both. However, the umbrella term viennoiserie encompasses a far wider range of baked goods – certainly wider than you might find on display at your average local bakery.

Extend your taste buds and begin thinking chocolate croissants, Portuguese tarts (originating from French monks utilising leftover egg yolks after starching their robes in egg whites), Breton kouign-amann, covered in caramelised sugar, as well as the chausson aux pommes, the apple turnover’s rounder, plumper and infinitely fancier French cousin. Each of these brings new flavour profiles and textures to the table of laminated dough, making the pairing of coffee with pastry all the more exciting.

A discussion of modern baking could hardly be legitimate without tipping your hat and acknowledging the amazing Tartine Bakery – quite possibly the most revered bakehouse of our time. Indeed, not a single person could question the revolutionary contributions to the field made by this San Francisco institution – from the open crumb every baker wants to mimic almost translucent sheets making their revered croissants. Tartine’s cookbooks (also noted as bibles) are well honoured around the world.

A sign of the times

Now, more than ever, more and more of us are opening our palates, extending our food knowledge and becoming passionate about baking and experimenting with flavours. Baked goods and baking, have become the food-scene focus, with more and more of us willing to travel to the next suburb, in order to flavour that indulgent pastry or source the ingredients to replicate at home. Word on the street spreads, and soon we see an influx of dedicated bakeries popping up across the nation.

As with coffee, the first wave of mass-produced supermarket offerings has passed and the appeal of bakery chains during the second has also settled. The third phase is now in full swing. The hunt for the best Portuguese tart, the unique chocolate-filled croissant and or that flaky buttery sweet pastry is the new modern-day challenge, and rightly so!

To discover the Aussie bakers that are pushing the boundaries of pastry, get yourself the latest copy of Caffeine Australia.

This feature appears in issue 05 of Caffeine magazine Australia

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