This week will be a bit of digital (for you, a little bit more realistic for me!) gluttony as I have been taking photos of (and later sampling) a selection of the delectable eats Paris has to offer. We begin with the classics:
Enjoyed typically for breakfast but suitable at any time of day, croissants are literally everywhere in Paris.
The Pain au Chocolat is made from the same dough as a croissant but with the addition of chocolate (because of course all that butter just isn’t rich enough already).
Next we have financiers – tiny (typically 4cm x 2cm) dense almond cakes usually served with tea/coffee and available in many flavour combinations. As you can see, these ones literally have my name on them!
Also popular with tea/coffee are madeleines – shell shaped plain cakes. Those who move in literature circles would love to say they have read the painfully long and detailed 7 volume novel of Marcel Proust “A la recherche de temps perdu” (In Search of Lost Time). For those who can’t be bothered – he spends pages describing the sheer joy of eating a madeleine after many years, bringing back fond memories of his childhood. Casually mention this the next time you engage in a high level literature discussion to impress the others! I wasn’t quite so ecstatic when I tasted the madeleines myself. Maybe it’s a literature thing.
Next we have the wonderful discovery of choux pastry. Delectably adaptable, it forms the base of many well known desserts:
Chouquettes are simple unfilled pastries sprinkled with a very thick, granular sugar that make a light accompaniment to tea.
Choux pastry is probably best known in the form of éclairs – long baked pastry buns filled with some type of cream and topped with chocolate. This photo was taken at a bakery called Fauchon who make the best I have ever tasted.
They are also extremely chic and visually appealing. The price, not quite so appealing.
The Religieuse is another form of an éclair – always 2 puffs, one much bigger than the other with piped cream stripes. This one was coffee cream filled puffs with a caramel glaze. And yes, it tasted just as good as it sounds!
A more sophisticated version of choux pastry can be found in the decadent Saint-Honoré – filled pastry puffs which are then caramelised and served with whipped cream. As big as this looks, I assure you it is extremely easy to get through. Should you try it out one day, do NOT offer to share it with someone.
Another regular in both upmarket restaurants and stalls in the streets are French waffles. They are usually crispy and dusted with icing sugar. This particular one was (generously!) topped with sweetened fresh cream, chocolate and served with caramelised pears. Man I love France.
One cannot go to France and not taste the legendary Tarte Tatin. For those who do not know the story – the dessert was discovered by accident when one of the Tatin sisters (who owned a hotel by the same name) accidentally left apples cooking in butter and sugar for a traditional apple tart a bit too long. As an attempt to salvage the dessert, she put the pastry on top of the apples, placed the entire pan in the oven to bake and then flipped the dish over to serve. Thus a classic was born! Dripping with caramel and usually complemented with a sour cream to cut the sweetness, this dish is definitely one to be tried.
Just as famous as the Tarte Tatin is the Crème Brûlée, or “burnt vanilla cream” as many restaurants have translated it. The dessert is fairly basic – a vanilla custard cream topped with sugar which is caramelised just before serving. I highly recommend the lemon and orange duo from La Bastide d’Opio – a quaint Mediterranean restaurant in Paris which I visited many times.
Another French classic is the Moelleux (pron. “mweller”). This chocolate pudding is served hot and has a molten chocolatey centre, typically served with a light custard cream (crème anglaise) to cut the sweetness. This particular one was also from La Bastide d’Opio, and was made with Valhrona – a high quality French chocolate.
A dessert sure to be found everywhere in France is the Millefeuille (“thousand leaves”). The dessert is so named as it is formed of various layers including puff pastry, creams, nuts, praline etc. This particular one was from Pierre Hermé and had layers of hazelnut flavours. A bit of a disaster to eat – trying to get a spoon through all the layers is not easy. Extremely tasty though, and again, definitely one NOT to share!
A pleasant discovery that I did not previously know of is the Bourdaloue Tart – a pastry base containing crème pâtissière, pears and almonds. The tart is baked and then sprinkled with sugar which is caramelised. A light, tasty dessert which I will definitely be introducing into Maryam’s Kitchen!
Because I am somewhat obsessed with the flavour salted caramel, I will end with this little beauty – a salted caramel tart topped with a milk chocolate cream from the Japanese bakery Sadaharu Aoki. The cream was piped in absolutely perfect concentric circles, typical of the bakery’s aim for aesthetic perfection.
And finally, in case you’re wondering whether or not I actually ate all of this stuff… Let’s just say that I like to be as well informed about the nature of the things I write about as possible. Here’s to hoping you appreciate my hard work!