Dining Interview

Oui, Pastries Please

From croissants to cake, learn what it takes to make a pastry French.

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Xavier Mauprivez, a fifth generation baker, was born above his family’s bakery in Reims, France. He and his wife Karen visited Newport in 1998, fell in love with the area, and moved here when their kids graduated from high school. They now own The French Confection in Middletown.

What’s the difference between French and American pastry?
French pastries are not too sweet and are buttery. Every French person knows the differences between the doughs for a cream puff, apple turnover, fruit tart and shortbread cookie, and they care about the textures. They talk about buttercream, pastry cream, diplomat cream and whipped cream as they eat. I’m so fascinated (and intimidated) by French baking.

What’s the process for baking a croissant?
Making and baking croissants takes a lot of skill. It’s a two-day process. The dough needs to be mixed the day before and to rest in the fridge for 12 hours, then you need to fold in the butter with a special machine (a sheeter). Then you let the dough rest a few hours in the fridge. Later you can cut the actual croissants, put them on a baking sheet, let them rise to a perfect size then bake them. I’m proud of my croissants but my favorite thing to make (and eat) is a “gluten free” cake called the “opera.” It’s made out of almond flour layered with chocolate ganache and mocha buttercream, topped with chocolate glaze.

What do you make for yourself when you have a day off?
I like to make my own pizza dough, linguini and ravioli when I’m at home. My family waits for pizza and pasta nights! We sometimes have crepes, French toast and waffles at home. Everything else can be brought home from the bakery.

What do the French eat for breakfast?
The French breakfast consists of croissants or baguette with butter and preserve and a latte (cafe au lait). The coffee cup is often a cereal bowl with no handle, and many people dunk their bread in the bowl.

What’s on the menu for spring?
We are now making “zeppoles” until Easter. Then, for spring, we are making a pastry I called the “josephine,” a napoleon filled with fresh whipped cream, blueberries and strawberries. It’s not all sweet, though, right? We also serve sandwiches on croissants, quiches, meat pies. The must try is our lobster on a buttery croissant. I had to make the iconic lobster roll my own way.

I hear you’ve got something big in the works.
After 25 years of having our own business, we are planning to compile our story and recipes in a book.

The French Confection
72 E Main Road
Middletown
401-619-7816