There’s a little piece of France in Calgary and it’s just off of Macleod Trail S.E..
Pascal’s Patisserie, which has been in this location since 2011, is a bakery specializing in artisanal take-and-bake pastries. While this isn’t the kind of caf you drink coffee and eat your pastry at, its charm is undeniable. French radio plays inside the bakery, which is set up like a welcoming, country kitchen, and the two owners are always willing to stop for a chat and help Calgarians practice their French.
This bakery is unique to Calgary, and according to those who frequent it, it offers some of the best Viennoiserie in the city – maybe even the country.
How to Become a Croissant Master
According to Lison McCullough, the manager of Pascal’s Patisserie, Pascal Bagioli is one of the most qualified pastry chefs in the city who “would be a demigod in France.” How did he get to this point in his career?
“I started [baking] a very long time ago,” says Bagioli. “I had an uncle who was a baker in a village in the Pyrnes and I worked with him.” An apprenticeship with a pastry master in Toulouse followed. Now, Bagioli has more than 15 years of perfect pastry experience.
Starting early helps, but budding pastry chefs also need to have an instinctual need to create gorgeous pastries as well as an insatiable desire to smell fresh dough on a daily basis. At least, that’s how Pascal Bagioli became a croissant master. “The smell is my favourite. The kneading, the flour, the water – it’s amazing. It fascinates me,” says Bagioli.
The Art of Making Croissants
While some might think that creating beautiful pastries is an art, it’s actually more of a science. Whenever Bagioli makes dough, he needs to consider the outside temperature, the altitude and the humidity. All of these factors will influence how long it will take the dough to rise, how much yeast is needed and how long they need to be baked for.
“Pascal uses a total bespoke recipe,” says McCullough. “He has to adjust the recipe if there’s a Chinook because that will affect the shape of the croissant. It’s so highly technical – it’s as scientific as it gets, actually.”
Why Buy Artisanal Croissants?
The croissants are made using traditional methods that bakeries hardly use anymore, even bakeries in France. For example, Bagioli beats his butter to temperature with a rolling pin, cuts everything by hand and relies on traditional fermentation to bring the pastry “to life.”
The artisanal process is rare in this day and age, and so is artisanal taste and authencitiy. “Industrialization has affected pastry production, and not just in North America,” says McCullough. She explains that more than 40 per cent of the pastries brought into boulangeries in France are made industrially off-site, meaning a pastry won’t have the same beauty and the quality won’t be the same.
“Any product that’s mass produced under industrial conditions won’t have the same beauty as something that is made with someone’s hands and their heart,” says McCullough. “Ours are products of love, really.”
The Power of Simple Pleasures
The main goal of Pascal’s Patisserie is to preserve the art of handmade pastries, and to encourage customers to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. With these pastries, customers are transported down memory lane. “People have a connection to food. It’s powerful,” says Bagioli. “I come from a country where you can spend five hours having a meal. But it’s not just about the food – the point is the experience, the sharing, the gathering and the conversation.”
Making croissants is hard – they’re considered the soul of the pastry chef – but luckily Pascal’s Patisserie specializes in frozen pastries. Now, the everyday Calgarian can have authentic, French pastries in their own home. Buy them frozen, let them rise overnight and bake them for about 15 minutes. The final step is to relax and enjoy a slow, lazy Sunday morning with people you care about.
Pascal’s Patisserie is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 101, 5240 1A St. S.E., 403-968-6156, pascals.ca.