A climbers guide to French viennoiseries.
If you walk into any given rock gym in France, do not be surprised to see people devouring their preferred French pastry before they begin their long training or climbing session. I can tell you that during my time in France, I have had the luxury of seeing some incredible climbing performances after witnessing people devour an absurd amount of French viennoiseries before training. For example, I have witnessed climbers takedown pastries like the heavy-duty Brioche Suisse, which is a brioche dough or croissant dough rolled out and then folded around vanilla pastry cream and chocolate chips. I’ve seen others choose the Caussons au Pomme, which is a flakey crust pastry that is filled with fresh apple compote. Anything with apples in it is healthy, am I right?! You also have the classic climber. Arguable, you can call them basic, boring, or lame, but once you climb after they have eaten their pastry of choice, you can tell they are experienced and are not messing around. He or she knows that it is delicious, it’s powerful, and it’s an indisputable classic. Drum Roll Please! The Pain au Chocolate.
But there is much more…
First, what are viennoiseries?
Well, the answer is simple, a viennoiserie is the ‘bridge’ between pâtisserie and French bread and eaten either in the morning for breakfast or as a snack. Usually, these products are made with white flour and active yeast cultures, allowing the dough to rise rapidly and achieve perfect flakiness, but instead, these are made using enriched puff pastry. The definition of viennoiseries is pretty loose. In reality, viennoiseries are any sweet, snack-like items from the Boulangerie.
So, what are the best viennoiseries for climbing performance?
Of course, the only way to find out is to test all the pastries to see which one is the tastiest and which makes you climb the best. Sadly, there is a chance that by the time you test all of the different types of viennoiseries, your athletic performance might not be able to keep up with the crème, sugar, and butter you have ingested. So instead, I propose that you let me do it for you.
Here is the list of my top 10 favorite viennoiseries for optimal climbing performance.
The power ranking is based on serious scientific data analysis, testing and research. 😉 This ranking defines the amount of power one gets from eating one of these pastries before they climbing or training.
The Palmier is a puff pastry baked without yeast. The palmier is coated in sugar before baking, to give it a caramelized crispy crunch. The result makes for sweet, thin, and crispy layered pastry.
Power Ranking: 2/10
The palmier is like a granola bar…. But without the presence of proteins, whole grains, fiber, and healthy fats. In terms of its ability to be eaten any time before the climbing session, it’s great! It’s like the Croissants’ little, skinny brother; absolutely useless. That is why it deserves a 2 out of 10. Also, the chance that half of the pastry crumbles onto the floor after your first bite is very high. #natuevalleybar
Little round balls of baked choux pastry dough sprinkled with pearls of sugar crystals on top. Eclairs and Chouquettes are made with the same pastry dough except Chouquettes are not filled with crème on the inside in comparison to its cousin. The center is simply airy and empty.
Power Ranking: 4/10
Even if you pop 15 or more Chouquettes into your mouth before you begin your climbing or training session, there is no way that this pastry is going to keep you full. You might feel powered up for a few minutes, however, the energy crash afterward is detrimental. The only positive feature of the Choquette is that they can easily serve as a quick energy sugar boost if needed throughout the climbing session.
A buttery, flaky, and airy crescent-shaped pastry made with many layers of dough that puffs up when baked.
Power Ranking: 5/10
The lightness and airiness of the Croissant does not keep you full for very long. Eating one of these paired with either coffee or jam might be the better option, but we are looking for purity here.
#4 Chausson aux Pommes
Puff pastry, surrounding an apple-packed filling of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
Power Ranking: 6/10
If you feel like you are missing a little bit of fruit in your diet, the Chausson aux Pommes has you covered. You know what they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Anyway, most people are aware of the benefits of apples in an athlete’s diet. Here is the reminder regardless. Apples are filled with natural sugars, vitamins, and complex carbohydrates to fuel your muscles through the climbing session. Pro Tip: Transporting this pastry requires a great number of napkins, and meticulous positioning if you are putting it in your bag.
#5 Éclair aux Café
Éclairs are long, bar-like shaped pastries made with the unique choux pastry dough. They have a crispy golden exterior, a gentle doughy interior, and always hold a sweet surprise of creamy goodness in the very center.
Power Ranking: 6/10
The Éclair aux Chocolat is typically the most classic flavor for this viennoiserie, however, the coffee flavor is superior on so many levels. As a quick pre work out snack nothing is more powerful than a little caffeine sugar boost combo. Secondly, the choux pastry dough is so light and airy, it makes for the perfect vessels of transportation for this prized coffee and crème mixture. Although the Éclair aux Café is incredibly nutritionally powerful there are a few disadvantages. Although it may resemble a bar, do not mistake it for a granola bar, because it doesn’t keep you full for very long, and transporting this bad boy without it gushing into your bag is a job of its own.
#6 Pain au Chocolat
The pain au chocolate is formed from the same batter as the Croissant. It shares the airy, buttery lightness essence as the Croissant but in addition, it has one or two sticks of chocolate running through the center.
Power Ranking: 7/10
The lightness and airiness of the Croissant by itself doesn’t usually suffice for a training session, but with the addition of a chocolate center in the Pain au Chocolat the power ranking goes up. The chocolate gives you a quick boost in energy for those hard moves and the rest of the croissant dough helps to keep you going until the end. Additionally, because the Pain au Chocolat is light, you don’t feel excessively heavy after you have consumed it but has no protein substance.
Pro Tip: It can even be eaten minutes before climbing.
#7 Pain aux Raisin
The Pain aux Raisins is a leavened butter pastry with raisins mixed in and formed into a spiral. For added power, it has a crème pâtissière (custard) filling spiraling through.
Power Ranking: 8/10
The Pain aux Raisin shares some similarities with the Croissant family by flaky, airiness in the dough. However, because the Pain aux Raisin has custard inside it is much heavier and dense. You will for sure need a few minutes to recuperate after having consumed this. Perfect for a long climbing or training session. Pro Tip: DO NOT consume this pastry moments before you go climbing. After you have consumed this leave at least a 30 min buffer before you climb.
#8 Pain Suisse
The Pain Suisse is basically a brioche dough filled with pastry cream and scattered chocolate chips then baked to its golden perfection.
Power Ranking: 8/10
All that you want in a French viennoiserie and pre-workout snack. This one is hefty but so worth it if you are planning a long climbing or training session. The brioche dough is thick and rich in comparison to the Croissant dough. It has substance and will keep you full for a long time. With the addition of the pastry crème wrapped inside with chocolate chips scattered all over; this thing is a powerhouse. You certainly hit all of the nutritional macros. Crème equals protein and chocolate is transformed into direct energy. Pro Tip: Leave at least 30 mins of digestion time before climbing, after you have consumed this pastry.
#9 Pain Vienniose aux Chocolat
Similar to Pain Brioche but nutritionally lighter because it is made with less butter and eggs. The dough itself is light and doesn’t taste too sweet. that is why the presence of chocolate chips perfectly balances it out.
Power Ranking: 9/10
The pastry is shaped like a long baguette, which makes it very practical for transport. You can throw it into your jacket pocket or climbing bag without having to worry about what it may look like when you take it out. The Vienniose aux Chocolat has a high ranking because it has substance and richness that will surely keep you powered up but without the feeling of having a brick of sugar and crème in your stomach while you climb. Nutritionally the chocolate blasts energy and the carbohydrates of the bread keep you sending hard.
#10 Pain aux Chocolat et Amande
The luxurious Pain aux Chocolat. Basically, it is a day old Almond Croissant that the Boulanger fills with chocolate to bring it back to life. The most delicious version of the Croissant family. However, not all the boulangeries have these available, so when you find one note it down.
Power Ranking: 10/10
First, let’s talk about the nutritional power of this viennoiserie. It starts with the almond meal frangipane swirl inside. Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. The health benefits of almonds include lower blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. Who doesn’t want that before they climb? The pastry dough of the Croissant is already on the “lighter” side, the addition of almond and chocolate contents throughout the pastry perfectly balance it to make a complete meal. Many climbers agree that after you eat this you can surely climb El Captain in record time. (Quoted by Ben Bouissou)