May 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
During April’s trip to Paris to brush up my pâtisserie skills at Lenôtre’s École des Amateurs, I took the opportunity to wander the streets, gaze into the shop windows, read the magazines and do a little tasting. I’ve distilled this into my take on the latest pâtisserie trends.
Trend 1: Choux puffs
Move over macarons, choux puffs are set to be the latest small cake trend, or so young entrepreneur Lauren Koumetz hopes. She set up her boutique bakery named Popelini in the Marais district last year. Cannily, the tiny patisserie selling just choux puffs is just across the road from world-famous bakery Poilâne’s newest outlet in the rue Debelleyme (see my previous post). Eagle-eyed viewers will have seen Rachel Khoo popping into the shop in Episode 2 of her recent BBC 2 series “Little Paris Kitchen”.
The concept is simple – take a choux pastry puff, fill it with flavoured crème pâtissière and top it with a disc of prettily coloured fondant icing. The appearance of these choux puffs and their flavour combinations clearly owes a lot to the macaron trend, and indeed the pastry chef at Popelini, Alice Barday, is ex- Ladurée.
There are 9 classic flavours in the current range – these include dark chocolate, lemon, salted caramel, pistachio/griottine (more on this one later) – plus an ever changing ‘flavour of the day’.
Trend 2: Pistachios
The love affair with the pistachio nut goes on and on. It must have something to do with their intriguing green colour as well as their delicate flavour. In the on-trend pâtisseries, every classic tart or entremet traditionally prepared with ground almonds has been reinvented with pistachios. The pairing of griottine cherries (morello cherries preserved in kirsch) with pistachios, whether in the filling for a choux puff (see above) or in a frangipane tart is increasingly popular.
There’s even a shop, La Pistacherie, which opened in mid 2011, devoted to the pistachio nut in all its forms on the Rue Rambuteau just around the corner from Beaubourg, the Pompidou Centre:
Trend 3: citrus
Forget familiar lemon and orange, now it’s got to be mandarin, grapefruit (ideally delicate pink grapefruit), or more exotically still bergamot or the Japanese favourite yuzu. The Japanese are avid buyers of French pâtisserie – just look at the big names that have opened up branches in Tokyo – and are in turn bringing their influence to bear – the green tea powder matcha is found flavouring all sorts of cakes and biscuits now. The tart, aromatic yuzu described in flavour terms as being similar to the grapefruit and mandarin is very popular in Japan but sadly well nigh impossible to get hold of in the UK. I have seen prepacked juice available for sale in specialist Japanese stores so maybe the fresh fruit is on its way.
Not strictly citrus, but the herb lemon-thyme is popping up all over the place whether perking up emigré pâtissier Eric Lanlard’s lemon cake or adorning a Pain de Sucre (see below) fig tart.
Trend 4: all things American
Parisians have fallen in love with brownies (charmingly pronounced as ‘brew-neez’), luscious cheesecake and simple-to-make pound cakes and muffins and have made them their own. You’ll find them everywhere now – peeking out of chi-chi pâtisserie windows and on sale to grab and go as you pass through the Gare du Nord or wherever. On-trend boulangerie-pâtisserie Huré on the rue Rambuteau has an enticing display of American-inpsired loaf cakes in the window with flavours such as white chocolate and cranberry and pecan to the fore.
Trend 5: Classics reinvented
A step further down the rue Rambuteau and you’ll find Pain de Sucre (‘sugarloaf’), one of Paris’ hottest establishments, regularly featuring on top 10 lists of Paris’ best pâtisseries. Renowned for its flavoured breads, oversized jars of pastel-coloured marshmallows, reinvented classics abound here. Its rum baba, renamed ‘Le Baobab’ is sold complete with miniature pharmacist’s dropper of rum to allow for dosing of alcohol just the way you want it.
It’s not just in Pain de Sucre that you’ll find classics reinvented. The space age showroom featured in several episodes of the BBC 2 programme “Little Paris Kitchen” is Philippe Conticini’s “Pâtisserie des Rêves” (Pâtisserie of Dreams). Rachel Khoo, the chef within the Little Paris Kitchen is shown admiring a reinvented chocolate éclair, a sculpted beauty almost unrecognisable as an éclair displayed like an artwork beneath its own glass dome. You can find pictures of it plus detailed tasting notes here.
Places like this lead the way, but everywhere you’ll find classic large cakes like the gâteaux Opéra or St Honoré reinvented either as small individual with sophisticated pared-down decoration. The mini Opéras will sport a lacquered chocolate glaze, as dark and shiny as a Steinway grand piano, ornamented only by a shred of pure gold leaf. Alternatively, classic cakes can be miniaturised and given a new flavour twist like Ladurée’s billowy pink raspberry and rose miniature St Honoré. You can see this here. My last two links are to US citizen Adam’s beautifully obsessive blog http://www.parispatisseries.com/ dedicated, as the name suggests to all things sweet in Paris – you couldn’t find a better starting point if you were planning a food-based trip to the French capital.
As the French are voting for a new president today, I’m going to sign off with a French joke. I suspect it may be the last we hear of Sarko for some time:
Q: What is Nicolas Sarkozy’s favourite cake?
A: Brownie (pronounced like ‘Bruni’ in French!)
29, rue Debelleyme
Tel +33 (0)1 44 61 31 44
Opening hours – check website but currently Tuesday to Saturday 11.00 to 19.30; Sunday 10.00 to 15.00
La Pistacherie (website still under construction at time of writing)
67, rue Rambuteau
Tel +33 (0)1 42 78 84 55
Opening hours “every day of the week”
18, rue Rambuteau
Tel +33 (0)1 42 72 32 18
Pain de Sucre
Tel +33 (0)1 45 74 68 92
Opening hours: 10.00 – 20.00 closed Tuesday and Wednesday
La Pâtisserie des Rêves
93 rue du Bac
Tel +33 (0)1 42 84 00 82
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 – 20.00; Sunday 9.00 – 16.00
111 rue de Longchamp
Tel +33 (0)1 47 04 00 24
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10.00 – 20.00; Saturday and Sunday 9.00 – 20.00
April 21, 2010 § 2 Comments
I made a flying visit to Paris during our Fontainebleau-based week over the Easter holidays. It’s an easy train journey of just under an hour on the commuter service from Fontainebleau-Avon station to the magnificent Gare de Lyon.
One day I will make a proper visit to the Train Bleu bistro and restaurant within the station but for now I’m just content to look:
After taking in lunch and a visit to the Chopin exhibition at the Cité de la Musique way up in Paris’ north-eastern corner, I decided to hop off the metro 2 stops early and walk back to the Gare de Lyon in the hope of taking in some gastronomic sensory experiences along the way. Bizarrely, most of the district I chose to walk through seemed to be a mecca in shopping terms for either motorbike or DIY enthusiasts. I finally struck gastro-gold in the form of august Parisian pâtisserie Dalloyau as I walked down the Boulevard Beaumarchais on the approach to the Place de la Bastille:
The classic French Opéra cakes in the window looked absolutely stunning – sleek, glossy dark chocolate squares with a discreet flash of gold leaf. Given the shop’s proximity to the Bastille opera house, home to the Paris opera since 1989, I just had to have one.
Inside, the shop has the hushed spare opulent feel of a designer jewelry store, complete with security guard and cashier’s office. While I waited for my precious cake to be taken from the window display and packaged in the covetable burgundy Dalloyau bag, my eye was caught by a display of, you guessed it, yet more macaroons:
Browsing the rather lovely Dalloyau spring collection brochure (it really is like couture) I see that Dalloyau claim to have their own 300 hundred year old secret macaroon recipe. That would suggest a date of 1710 which would, if strictly true, make their macaroons a century older than the Ladurée ones. There is clearly scope for some historical research here. The brochure also says that the special recipe is lower in sugar and higher in their own almond paste to give a more flavoursome macaroon. They also make a big deal about using only natural plant derived colours and also the ultra freshness of their macaroons. Also for the record, their permanent collection of flavours is as follows: chocolate, coffee, caramel, vanilla, pistachio, raspberry, earl grey tea, Cognac and lemon. Clearly I had to put Dalloyau’s macaroon claims to the test.
Here is the little box of macaroons I brought home with me. I chose raspberry, pistachio, chocolate and salted butter caramel flavours:
And here is my gorgeous Opéra cake:
A little research revealed that Dalloyau is a fair-sized business: there are 7 more branches in Paris as well as the one I visited. The business has a long history having been founded back in 1802 by a canny former baker to the royal court. Post-revolution, he correctly thought that the bourgeois populace of Paris would want to have a taste of what had previously been reserved for the aristocracy. He clearly took Marie-Antoinette’s dictum “let them eat cake” seriously. Not only that but Dalloyau was the inventor of the classic French opéra cake which my Larousse tells me is a “cake composed of biscuit Joconde (almond sponge) soaked in strong coffee syrup and layered with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. An Opéra, whether an individual or larger cake is always rectangular and 3 cm thick. The top is covered with icing decorated with gold leaf on which the word “Opéra” is written.”
Back home I noticed an article on the firm not in a food publication in Real Deals, a private equity magazine. Paris-based Perceva Group has just acquired 50% of the company which has been struggling financially lately. The following Financial Times article of 19 March 2010 is informative:
Who would have thought that a chance visit to a cake shop could provoke a history lesson and an insight into the world of economics!
Back to the real question, what did the stuff taste like? I didn’t expect to be bowled over by the macaroons but they really were a cut above – the pistachio ones were a much more delicate shade of green than the Cassel ones (see my previous post of 21 April 2010) and tasted fresh and intensely nutty. The same was true of the raspberry ones – they delivered a real fruit hit. From now on these are the benchmark.
As for the Opéra, served in dainty pieces, this was a divine after dinner morsel, an ultra-sophisticated version of the more rustic Italian Tiramisu.
The only remaining question is can a bunch of private equity investors really run a cake shop?
Dalloyau flagship store
101, rue du Faubourg St Honoré, 75008 Paris
00 33 (0)1 42 99 90 00
5, boulevard Beaumarchais, 75004 Paris
00 33 (0)1 48 87 89 88