By Linda Dannenberg
Travel + Leisure
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(Travel + Leisure) -- When it comes to iconic baguettes, flaky croissants and melt-in-your-mouth pains au chocolat, the French capital delivers.
The shop: Vintage glass panels frame the façade of Maison Kayser (14 Rue Monge, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/44-07-17-81; closed Mondays), a destination boulangerie in the Latin Quarter. Eric Kayser turns out 60 different breads each day, among them the Malesherbes, a square-tipped baguette. His finely crafted viennoiseries -- France's traditional breakfast pastries -- are as notable as his breads. The Kayser café is the perfect spot for a light lunch; a plat du jour, desser and coffee are about $15.
Don't miss: His croissants, decadently plump, with a golden exterior that flakes at the merest touch and a meltingly tender center.
The shop: On weekend mornings, expect to find a queue snaking down the sidewalk from Dominique Saibron's contemporary glass, wood, and stone emporium, Le Boulanger de Monge (123 Rue Monge, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/43-37-54-20; closed Mondays). Fans (you'll be one!) can't get enough of his petits pains aux lardons et comté, slim, chewy rolls with bits of bacon and melted Comté cheese, or escargots cannelle, cinnamon-filled pinwheels of croissant dough with a buttery crumb topping.
Don't miss: The best-selling pain bio au levain, a delicately tangy organic sourdough loaf.
The shop: Master baker Lionel Poilâne died several years ago, but his daughter Apollonia keeps the business flourishing. At this original (and decidedly diminutive) wood-paneled headquarters of the world-famous boulangerie Poilâne (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-42-59; www.poilane.fr; closed Sundays), the bread is still baked in an antique wood-fired oven just downstairs.
Don't miss: The big, round miche; this dense sourdough loaf made from stone-ground flour can be decorated to your specifications and makes a fabulous gift. The rustic, free-form apple tart is another perennial favorite.
The shop: Philippe Gosselin, Grand Prix winner of the city's Best Baguette in Paris award, supplies bread and croissants to Jacques Chirac and the Elysée Palace. A classic baguette at Gosselin (125 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/45-08-03-59; closed Saturdays) is made from white flour, water, sea salt and leavening and has irregular air holes throughout from natural fermentation. "The baguette is the bread of Parisians," says Gosselin. "It has a life span of just six hours."
Don't miss: The shop's lunchtime array of baguette sandwiches, from ham-and-Gruyère to shrimp-and-avocado.
Pain aux raisins
The shop: Established in the firmament of great Paris bakers for the past 30 years, Basile Kamir is also one of the most influential. An advocate for things done the old-fashioned way, he lobbies for using stone-ground organic flours, forming loaves by hand, and long rising times. His Moulin de la Vierge (166 Ave. de Suffren, 15th Arr.; 33-1/47-83-45-55; closed Thursdays) is steeped in nostalgie, with vintage glass and ornate moldings.
Don't miss: The excellent pain aux raisins, a sumptuous swirl of soft croissant dough, eggy pastry cream, and raisins.
Pain au chocolat
The shop: A striking Art Deco boulangerie complete with starburst light fixtures, 1930's mirrors, and curved display cases, Boulangerie Bechu (118 Ave. Victor Hugo; 33-1/47-27-97-79; closed Mondays), in the heart of the chic 16th Arrondissement, is also a tearoom. Christian Marceau's retro d'or ficelle, a skinny, crisp variation of his "retro-style" pale-gold baguette, makes a perfect breakfast with apricot jam and café crème.
Don't miss: Pain au chocolat orange, an addictive variation on the classic treat, with citrusy notes enhancing the dark chocolate or the unusual, yet delicious, coco-banane, with lush flavors of coconut and banana.
Croissants aux amandes
The shop: After a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, resting place of Piaf and Proust, stop at La Flûte Gana (226 Rue des Pyrénées, 20th Arr.; 33-1/43-58-42-62; closed Sundays and Mondays), where Valérie, Isabelle and Marianne Ganachaud, daughters of the legendary Bernard Ganachaud, produce the house's venerable baguette.
Don't miss: Croissants aux amandes, originally conceived as a way to use day-old croissants, with an almond cream-and-kirsch filling, and brioche vendéenne, a template for the ultimate brioche, buttery with a hint of fresh vanilla.
The shop: A short walk from the Eiffel Tower, earnest young boulanger Thierry Dubois is baking his way to a growing reputation among the diplomats and doctors of the Seventh Arrondissement. At his peach-hued Pain D'Épis (63 Ave. Bosquet; 33-1/45-51-75-01; closed Saturdays), Dubois offers a range of specialty breads -- baguettes, boules and ficelles -- all from the same unique mixed-flour dough, a line that he calls Royale.
Don't miss: The fougasse, a ladder-shaped loaf dosed with olive oil and baked with fillings that change daily -- black olives one day, chèvre and tomatoes the next.
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