31 Dec Breads, Sweets and Pastries, Paris
We were staying in an apartment near rue Les Petits Carreaux and rue Montorgueil, where there were a lot of bakeries, fruit shops and cafes. We visited the Stohrer bakery where we bought a mini beignet and a muffin-shaped feuilette agrume that was sort of like brioche, tasted a bit like palmier and had a crispy outer. The feuillete agrume had pieces of preserved orange and lemon inside. Stohrer is the oldest patisserie in Paris, having opened in 1730. Apparently Nicholas Stohrer invented the baba au rhum, which is a yeast cake soaked in rum, derived from the Polish baba. A branch of the Eric Kayser bakery is at the start of rue Les Petits Carreaux. From there we tried a brioche bressane (€1.10). The brioche was flat, round, mostly crunchy and sweet.
Dad and I returned to Eric Kayser to buy a baguette monge (€1.10). Unfortunately they didn’t have any almond croissants yet so we bought two madeleines instead for €0.50 each. I was hoping to pop in to Maison Collet to see if they had some almond croissants, but they weren’t open. We bought one from Stohrer instead, though it was €2.80. The madeleines were just alright, but the croissant and baguette were very good.
From Place de la Bastille, we took a 10 minute walk to Blé Sucre on rue Antoine Vollon, which has one of the top rated croissants in Paris. We took Rue de Faub Saint-Antoine, which had a lot of well-known clothing stores. We ordered two croissant au beurre (€1.10), an almond scroll, an apple tart tatin (€3.90) and some coffees. I haven’t had many croissants before because I’m not that into them and they usually give me stomach aches, but these were really good. I’ve never enjoyed a croissant so much, though it’s not surprising seeing as I was eating one of the best in Paris. The outside was crispy, the inside soft and flavoursome and they weren’t really greasy either. Mum liked her espresso and the tart tatin was also quite nice. I’m also pleased to report that the croissant didn’t cause me any stomach discomfort. I wonder how the croissant natural/croissant continental tastes different from what we have in Australia.
For breakfast we bought some things from Stohrer. We got an éclair (€4!), chausson aux pommes (€1.90) and two large canelés (€2.30 each. Mini ones were available for €0.90). The canelés were nice and moist. The éclair came with a branded patty pan and was wrapped in paper, rather than being put into a paper bag. This one had chocolate cream inside (I was expecting custard). It was quite pretty and symmetrical. This was probably the first time I’ve had proper choux pastry. The chausson aux pommes was the one I enjoyed most. The top had been formed into a leaf shape. We also ate the challah from yesterday, which more dense and less sweet than the one mum buys from Safeway in Melbourne (though that one contains raisin, so the sweetness probably permeated into the actual bread).
The Latin quarter was packed full of restaurants. It had a nice atmosphere, though was quite touristy and had people standing outside restaurants trying to get people to come in. It sort of reminded me of Lygon Street, so I wondered how many of the restaurants were actually really good. We came across a Maison Georges Larnicol, which specialises in chocolate, macarons and kouignettes. It was mostly self-serve and there were so many chocolate products on display. We bought a rum and raisin kouignette to try. There were also almond, pistachio, lemon and raspberry/chocolate ones. They were sold by weight (€2.50 for 100g); ours cost us around €1.50. It was quite dense and not as crispy as I expected. The bottom of the kouignette had a layer of hardened butter or syrup or something.
We happened across Un Dimanche a Paris, another top patisserie in Paris. It had a café next door, but the main shop also served takeaway coffee. On the counter were samples of their coated products. Most of them were things like fennel seed and rosemary coated in chocolate. People who bought products were free to consume them at the counter and were provided with a paper plate and cutlery. There were a number of interesting pastries available – one that I was particularly interested in was a hazelnut, caramel chocolate and biscuit one. Mum made an executive decision and opted for a trio of small ones for €5.50 and also got an espresso (€1.10).
When we got to Pierre Hermé there was a line out the door, but it quickly grew shortly after we joined. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes to reach the front of the queue. This store, on rue Bonaparte, is one of only two that sell pastries. I had read that the Ispahan (€7.50) was good, so that immediately caught my eye. It’s also sometimes available as a small macaron (without the whole raspberries), a small cake, a sugary cube (sort of like Turkish delight) and as a croissant. The 2000 Feuilles looked very tempting (€7.20). Though they were expensive, how often do we get to eat things from top Parisienne patisseries? We picked up two croissant au beurre (€1.70 each) and four macarons – Infiniment Caramel (salted-butter caramel), PX (Pedro Ximenez & steeped sultanas), chocolate praline & hazelnut and chocolate & foie gras (€2.05 each).
I think I liked the texture of the Pierre Hermé croissants better than Blé Sucre, but the flavour of the Blé Sucre croissants more. It may also have been affected by the freshness of the croissants. The croissants at Blé Sucre are quite fast-moving, whereas most people go to Pierre Hermé for the macarons and other pastries.
These are the descriptions of the Ispahan and 2000 Feuilles from the Pierre Hermé website:
Ispahan – Rose macaron biscuit, rose petal cream, whole raspberries, litchis. A subtle combination of sweet rose cream flavoured with litchi, whose taste extends those of rose and raspberry while establishing a contrast with its acidity and power. All of this goodness is contained in a tender, crisp macaron shell.
2000 Feuilles – Flaky caramelized puff pastry crust, crispy praliné with Piedmont hazelnuts, praliné mousseline cream. 2000 Feuilles presents a harmony of textures: caramelized puff pastry and crushed hazelnuts contrast with the creaminess of its praline mousseline cream. Thin pieces of Britanny-style crêpe dentelle biscuit provide the crispy layered texture.
They were expensive, but very, very good. The lychee cream in the Ispahan was light and fresh tasting, wasn’t that sweet and went really well with the large raspberries. As the description suggested, the 2000 Feuilles tasted wonderful and had lots of different textures. The trio of pastries from Un Dimanche a Paris were demolished next. Unfortunately they didn’t quite stand out after eating those Pierre Hermé pastries, but were still nice. I was glad to find that I ate them an order from nice to nicest. The raspberry slice had a slight citrus flavour; the little round one was crunchy, peanutty and had chocolate cream; the chocolate one had a moist, almost gooey centre (a bigger version of this was also available for purchase). The 2000 Feuilles was the best pastry for tonight, but the Ispahan came a very close second.
The macarons had a wonderful aroma, especially when they were cut. The salted caramel didn’t have a particularly strong flavour. The foie gras one was interesting. It was quite moist and almost had a metallic sheen to its striking dark rose-coloured shell. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had foie gras before so am not able to recognise the flavour, but it tasted mostly of chocolate. Out of the four my favourite was the PX.
Today I got a baguette céréales from Eric Kayser (€2). It had a lot of poppy seeds on the exterior and was also a very nice bread. Dad got an almond croissant (€1.90) and apple turnover (€1.50) from Maison Collet because Eric Kayser didn’t have any. The almond croissant had more filling than the one from Stohrer, but it was very sweet – almost honey-like. The apple filling was puree rather than apple pieces like Stohrer’s version. The chausson pommes was better than the croissant amandes, but neither were as good as Stohrer’s. I think the extra cost of the Stohrer versions was worth it.
Mum wanted some ice cream and a waffle with chocolate from Amorino at the Lafayette Café. We bought the 2nd smallest cup size for ice cream (€5.50) and filled it with pistachio ice cream, hazelnut ice cream, strawberry sorbet and also a waffle with chocolate (€4). The girl was very generous with the ice cream. I saw some people walking around with ice cream cones piled high. She also managed to arrange the ice cream so that it looked like petals coming out of the waffle cone.
On the way out we stopped by the Pierre Hermé on the basement level to see if they had the Truffe Blanche & Noissette macaron (white truffle and roasted hazelnut). Apparently a girl walked straight into dad at the Lafayette Christmas windows, half-destroying the macarons. He said they were ‘slightly squashed’, but that was quite an understatement. Although we lost the texture and possibly some of the taste of the shell, the filling still tasted quite strongly of truffle and I enjoyed it.
We bought a pain aux céréales (€2.35), a croissant fresh out of the oven (€1.05) and a chocolate pastry (still no almond croissants) from Eric Kayser. I stopped by Stohrer to look for the name of the feuillette agrume and saw the baba au rhum. They had a plain one and one with fresh cream and berries on top (€4.50), but dad had already bought the other two pastries so I didn’t have anyone to share it with. The batard form of the céréales bread was nicer than the baguette, being more moist. I bought a batard instead of a baguette thinking I’d save some for breakfast tomorrow. I ended up eating it all. The croissant was OK, but definitely still not as good as Blé Sucre. It was also slightly greasier.
After spending some time inside the Saint Germain of Prés church, we went back to Pierre Hermé. The line was shorter than before, but still nearly twice as long as the other day. After joining the queue, a staff member came out with a tray of chocolates to give to waiting customers. We were free to try both of the two flavours on offer. One was passionfruit and chocolate and the other was dark chocolate with almond. Inside they had a semi-liquid layer containing the passionfruit/almond. They were pretty good. The almond one was nicer than the passionfruit one. Unfortunately they didn’t have any 2000 Feuilles that day, so we went back to the Paul on rue Buci and had a palmier (butterfly biscuit, €2.10) and a rhubarb tart (€3.40). The palmier tasted nice, but was much harder than the ones we often find in Melboune. I think I prefer them to be less hard.
In Montmartre we noticed a line outside a bakery called Le Grenier a Pain. The name sounded familiar so I consulted my list, and it was actually the bakery awarded the prize for 3rd best croissant au beurre by the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Patissiers in the 13eme Concours du Meilleur Croissant au Beurre AOP Charentes-Poitou. We joined the queue to buy two; they were only €1 each, which is one of the cheapest croissants I’ve seen. Their baguettes are also highly rated, coming out 1st in the competition in past years, and the vast majority of people were buying bread. It was a shame baguettes don’t keep overnight; I would have loved to try one. The croissant was comparable to Blé Sucre. It wasn’t as fat, but the inside was soft and flavourful and the outside was nice as crispy.