I meant to post this last week but things have been a bit hectic around here so hopefully ill post numerous times this week. You already know I ate a lot of macarons in Paris but they were far from the only sweet thing I ate, there was much more, which may explain why I spent last week still not hungry and with little desire to eat anything. The thing that sets Paris apart from other cities, for me at least, is the creativity used with their pastries. Paris patiserries are stunning, from the simple elegance of a lemon tart to the nearly ridiculous and over the top entremets, I find it so inspiring walking into the boutique-like patisseries and am constantly being blown away by the creative aspect of it all. Over the week I visited many (12?) patisseries and got something more substantial from 7 becuase if I had eaten much more I seriously think I may have been ill.
After I finished off the tiny macarons from Lenotre I tucked into the classic, that pastry they are famous for, the Opera. I was expecting something bigger but actually this was a rather small and delicate slice of the classic chocolate and coffee cake. Made up of very thin layers of cake soaked in coffee and sandwiched with chocolate I had imagined a rather dense and filling cake, yet surprisingly the cake was quite light and not the least bit heavy. Coffee and chocolate is a classic for a reason and this was a really good example of how these flavours can work. Price wise Lenotre seems to tend towards the expensive, especially when related to portion size.
I visited the counter of Aoki in the amazing food hall in Galleries Lafayette. In the middle of all the amazing produce sits the counter of japanese inspired French desserts. Aoki uses relatively classic styles but mixes it up by using japanese flavourings such as yuzu and green tea. I settled on the “Bamboo” a green tea flavoured opera cake, a modern variation of the classic a la Lenotre. I enjoyed this more than the classic, whilst it wasn’t as moist and was more substantial, I found the flavours more interesting. The grassy flavour of green tea seemed to sit very well with the chocolate. I really liked this and found myself wanting to try other things from this store, which is always a good sign.
I was really interested to visit here, its very newly opened and has a very interesting concept. They have a core set of flavours and others that are seasonal but for each flavour there are two products. The first is “Victor” the more traditional interpretation, a millefeuille maybe. The second product is the “Hugo” a modern interpretation, something which is harder to describe or categorize. Bearing in mind all the chocolate and caramel based things id been trying it probably would have made sense to try something fruity but I got pulled back in and ended up selecting the modern interpretation of caramel. It was a beautiful thing, a caramel chocolate shell with a caramel mousse filling and a crunchy base. It was good but not amazing, the filling was great but I found the domed shell just a bit too sickly sweet and would have preferred just a plain chocolate shell but it was still enjoyable and everything was so beautiful id like to give other things a go.
4. Pierre Herme
Of course I had to get something other than macarons from my favourite patisserie in Paris. I bet by this point you could guess what I chose…yes it involved caramel and chocolate and yes it was excellent. I chose the amazing looking Plentitude and took it back to Les Halles to enjoy before packing up my stuff and heading home. As my last taste in Paris it was quite something. Described as consisting of “chocolate macaron, dark chocolate chips with pure sea salt, bitter chocolate mousse, bitter chocolate ganache, crunchy caramel” it really is a wonderful dessert, although it is rich and filling. Salt works really well with chocolate and its used perfectly here, just enough without being too obvious.
Another recently new addition to the Paris pastry scene is Patisserie des Reves run by Phillipe Conticini and its theme appears to be classics reworked. There are eclairs which are encased in a chocolate tube rather than covered with a glaze, a tarte-tatin using slow baked apples plus more twists on other classics. Everything is beautiful although using more of a modern simplistic look. I finally decided on the Paris-Brest and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Its quite large for an individual serving (yes I managed to finish it!) and is rather rich but it really was excellent. The choux pastry was perfect but the filling is where this really shined.
Each little dome of choux was filled with a praline cream but stepping away from the original it also surprises with its hidden liquid praline centre. Maybe a little outside the tourist mainstay its well worth a visit and it was just announced they have opened a second location in the 16th arrondissement not too far from the eiffel tower.
Pain de Sucre was literraly steps away from where I stayed so it was only natural I should try here. I didnt purchase any of there tarts or more substantive items but instead chose one of there verrines, something smaller and a little lighter because lord knows I really didnt need anything else large or rich. It consisted of a layer of vanilla rice pudding topped with bits of brioche topped with mango “pulp” and lime.
This was a very nice change of pace from all the chocolate i’d been having. Pain de Sucre is also known for its marshmallows which come in a wide variety of flavours. I sampled the casis, the salted caramel and the chocolate/coconut. Unfortunately the caramel wasn’t very good, quite lacking in flavour. The other two were thankfully much better, strong in flavour and nice and soft.
7. Jacques Genin
Last but by no means least comes Jacques Genin which may be my new favourite patisserie for numerous reasons. Firstly its a beautiful and large space, light and airy which is quite different to the trend for darker small boutique style stores. It also doubles as a tea salon which makes it the perfect place to sit and take some time out from your busy day on the tourist track and enjoy some of the delectable treats on offer. You wont find any odd or random flavour combinations here just the classics, done as well as possible. I chose the caramel eclair and it was a perfect example of what an eclair should be. The choux pastry wasnt soggy or too crisp and the filling was light yet full of caramel flavour. When you order tea and a pastry you also get a couple of complementary chocolates or candy to accompany them, I was given two pate de fruit and they were also excellent. Apart from the excellent pastries and the wonderful space you also have excellent staff. I came across generally good service all across Paris but here it was top notch, with very friendly and attentive staff. I happened to mention I had been advised not to miss the mango/passionfruit caramels a staff member brought me one over to try (and these things are fairly expensive). I loved these caramels so much that the one freebie lead me to buy a €17 bag and brought them back to UK, they were definitely among one the best things I tasted on the whole trip. Soft, melt on the mouth and bursting with passionfruit and mango flavour, this is one recipe I really would love.