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Entries in french pastry (11)

Thursday
Sep062012

Sweet Story: How the Kouing Aman became the Queen of Salt Lake City

Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

CakeSpy Note: Believe it or not, there's a sweet spot in Salt Lake City where the delightful French treat known as Kouing Aman (pronounce it "queen ahmann" in your Frenchiest voice, please) reigns supreme. It's at a bakery called Les Madeleines, where pastry chef Romina Rasmussen's version has won fans far and wide (even Oprah is said to be a fan!). But how did this happen? Here's the story of How the Kouing Aman became the Queen, written by the Queen of Kouing Aman herself, bakery owner Romina!

I wish I could tell you a story of one of my adventures that took me to Brittany, France where I discovered this hidden gem of a pastry.

It’s not as exciting as that. I discovered the Kouing Aman (or kouign aman) in a trade magazine. I like to stay up on what’s going on in the industry and was intrigued by an article I happened upon. I didn’t even make it right away. I put it aside to make it when I had time. Eventually, I gently nudged a regular customer to order some so I would have to make time. She did, and nothing has ever been the same.

The instructions wouldn’t work at this altitude (in Salt Lake City), so I adjusted the ingredients and technique. It took several batches to get them just right, but not so many that I wanted to give up.

At first I added them to our rotation of special viennoiserie, just once a week. At that point we were still undiscovered, so I only made eight at a time. Just eight! No one knew what they were. No one could say it. I didn’t expect it to go well.

Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

The first few weeks I sampled a few out and it was unanimous love at first bite. The third week I got “in trouble” with a guest for running out, as she had driven a long way. The following it was because I'd put them out on the wrong day of the week. I ended up adding another day.

By the sixth week I was making them every day and people were making excuses as to why they were eating them so often – you know sick friends in the hospital and other such tales. We quickly nicknamed them “crack” and cautioned guests about their waistlines if they ate 2-3 per day. I once saw it almost come to blows over the last one between two ladies.

No matter how many I made, they’d sell out. I started limiting them to six/day without advanced orders. But this only made everyone want them more. At this point I was making way more than eight/day.

Eventually The Food Network found us and featured the Kouing Aman on Road Tasted with the Neelys and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We started shipping them, and now I can say they’ve made it to all 50 states. Being on The Food Network was a business changing endorsement that I am very grateful for.

Kouing

CakeSpy Note: May we pause for a moment to observe that the box says "by giving BUTTER, you give your HEART"...? LOVE it!

Eight years later, the Kouing Aman isn't such a secret. You can get them in a handful of bakeries (four in Salt Lake and counting) in several major cities. Most recently they’ve been featured in O The Oprah Magazine and were named Food & Wine's top pastry of 2012. They're destined to become a classic.

Pastry Chef Romina, making Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

To purchase Kouing Aman or to plan a bakery visit to Salt Lake City yourself, visit the Les Madeleines website!

Thursday
Dec302010

God Save the Kouign: Kouign Amann from Le Reve, Seattle

"I like croissants, obviously. But I liked the firmer texture of this thing." - Mr. CakeSpy

So, even if you've never heard of Kouign Amann (don't worry, it's not pronounced the way I tried to say it at first, either), maybe you've got an idea of what it's like to eat.

But what...is it, exactly?

I like the explanation on this site: "Kouign Amann is a wickedly delicious little cake made from bread dough and plenty of butter and sugar and more butter and sugar. Multi layers of dough, butter and sugar are pressed into a thick cake which is slowly baked until the sugar caramelizes. "

I've had the very good fortune to sample this sweet treat in Paris, but more recently, was delighted to discover it at new-ish Seattle bakery Le Rêve. They have a bunch of French-y specialties mixed in with American sweets at their Upper Queen Anne location, but I zeroed right in on the Amann. 

After asking and being told it is actually pronounced something like "Queen Ah-mahn", I went home with the goods. Our thoughts?

This denser, more sugary cousin to the croissant is a thing of buttery beauty indeed. A very satisfying breakfast, and very nice when served with jam (because fruit makes it healthy). We are excited to check out more of the sweet treats at this new spot, and are delighted that Kouign Amann may be a growing trend--I have heard that Bakery Nouveau will be offering it soon (if not already!).

CakeSpy Note: Want to make some for your very own self? Find a recipe and more lore on the David Lebovitz site.

Le Rêve Bakery & Café on Urbanspoon

Saturday
Apr172010

Flash in the Pain: Pain au Chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, West Seattle

You just try and tell me that isn't the loveliest and most hypnotic thing you've ever seen.

Oh, ok, we can look at it from another angle. If you insist.

OK. One more.

This buttery stunner is the pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau (you know, the one owned by the guy who won the thing), and it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

Now, usually I'm not a fan of croissants that have a crispy, shardlike texture on the outside--my greedy nature is saddened by the thought that I might lose a crumb of the outer croissant while eating. But happily, this one wasn't so much shardlike as it was lightly crispy yet yielding to a soft center--it felt almost like you could taste every ethereal layer of light pastry at once, and they were all very buttery. And then there was the chocolate, lightly bitter and a dark, rich complement to the lightness of the pastry.

Nothing pain-ful about this sweet treat. Well, except for the name, which I suggest they change to pleasure au chocolat, toute suite. 

Oh, and speaking of chocolate, according to Lorna Yee, next on the list to try at Nouveau is the chocolate cake.

Pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, 4737 California Ave. SW, West Seattle; online at bakerynouveau.com.

Sunday
Mar142010

Poires from Paris: Bagatelle de Poires Pochees Recipe

Totally sweet: a recipe from an actual French person! Here's a guest post from the wonderful and talented Helene, whose work you can find over here.

Well, today you will be able to amazed every one by cooking: "une bagatelle de poires pochées" for 8. How to make it? Nothing easier... I'll show you right now.

First, you have to prepare your pears by dousing them in a delicious sugar and spice coating.

For 4 pears, mix into a big pan:

  • 1 liter of water
  • 500 g of sugar
  • 3 or 4 cinnamon stick
  • Some star anise
  • 4 g. of vanilla

Let the mixture heated and dip your peeled pears, drained and cut in 2 pieces.

Let it cook slowly...

Second, prepare the biscuit

This is a cheap and easy recipe for a biscuit very Frenchy and so good.... This is the basis of our fruits or chocolate charlotte cake. For our recipe we need to prepare it in 2 plain circles. But first of all... the recipe :

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 100 g of flour

 Procedure

  1. Separate the white from the egg yolk. Mix the yolk and 80 g of sugar in a bowl: whisk strong enough to lather and bleach everything.  
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff and mixed with the remaining 20g sugar. Whisk again to smooth everything.
  3. Mix it gently with the yolk. Stir very slowly so as not to « break » our preparation.
  4. Add in once the flour and mixed it still gently.
  5. The batter is ready ! take your pastry tip and bag...
  6. Make 2 regular spiral, the size of your dessert circles.
  7. Sprinkle with icing sugar or cocoa powder twice.
  8. And presto! : bake them, 15 min. à 180°C

And third, the mousseline cream!

We have to start with our pear mixture.

Once it cooled, we will have to mix it with butter cream.

Ingredients

  • 300 g of whole milk 
  • 1 egg
  • 40 g of sugar
  • 30 g of fecule de pomme de terre (I don't know the word for this)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod

Faire un pâtissière :

  1. Heat the milk with the vanilla until it bowled.
  2. In the mean time, whisk together egg, sugar, powdered cream with a little hot milk (to relax the mixture).
  3. Once the milk is boiling, mixed everything in the pan and thicken everything, whisking bluntly!
  4. Be careful not to burn the preparation
  5. Once ready, take the mixture away from the fire and put it down a plate to the freezer for 20 minutes to cool it completely.
  6. Meanwhile, get your 170g soft butter!    I mean  a soft butter (not melted)  and whip  it into cream . 
  7. When your mixture is cooled, mix butter whipped with it.

Your mousseline  is ready!

Fourth, assembly ...

  1. Your pears are drained and  cutted 
  2. Place your first biscuit in the bottom and wet it with syrup poached pears. 
  3. Put your cream into a first layer and place a pear slice on the side of your circle.
  4. Fill with half a pear cutted in small pieces! be generous and cover with cream mousseline.
  5. Cover it with your second wet biscuit !
  6. The circle is completed ...chill for at least 2 hours.
  7. Once cooled, here is a great cake nearly done!
  8. It is better to eat the next day, so the flavors will be stronger and better "soaked" !  

C'est formidable...

Finally,  some decorating suggestions!

In France, it is common to add a thin layer of almond paste and write the name of the cake  on it.  

But I prefer that you use your imagination. If you're afraid of spoiling, prefer simplicity! For example, use your last poached pears into slices and place it on your decor, or the spices from the syrup...or maybe you'd like to make them into little "cupcakes" ...the sky's the limit!

Thank you very much! I hope you love this "bagatelle" French pear cake !  

Tuesday
Mar092010

Mac Attack: Sweet French Lessons for Beginners at Versailles

Let's face it: nobody wants to be the American in Paris who can't even take a stab at bonjour. But I know it can be hard to get motivated to learn a new language, so I've put together a sweet lesson of useful phrases, all taught by the sweetest of fluent speaking teachers--French macarons--in the sweetest of classrooms: the opulent Palace of Versailles.

Commençons! 

What to say when those freedom-loving French ladies bare all? You tell them to reign it in. Translation: "Be Modest!"

Even though you're in a foreign country, you should never feel like you can't speak your mind. Translation: "My apartment is nicer."

If you're enjoying yourself, by all means, let it be known! Translation: "I'm the king of the world!"

Because you never know when you'll brush shoulders with greatness...Translation: "Hello Descartes. What's up?"

Now, little macaron, that's just rude! This is a family site.

Be polite, but do let your desires be known. Translation: "I'm hungry!" and response "Where's the beef?"

Of course, you should be aware that sometimes different cultures have customs which we might not understand. Translation: "The horror!"

...and of course, because we are at Versailles, let's give a little shout-out to Marie Antoinette's famous declaration. Roughly translates to "Let them eat cake!"

See? You're practically fluent already. Learning French was never so much fun--or so délicieux.

Monday
Mar082010

Ultra Violet: The Blackcurrant Violet Religieuse from Laduree, Paris

Walking into Laduree in Paris is a bit like walking into Tiffany or Cartier: it is one of those supremely luxurious places that has the ability to make you feel fancy by simply walking through the door.

Laduree's Champs-Elysees Location, complete with Ladureemobiles!Of course, while both are luxury brands, buying a few of the delights spun from sugar at Laduree is far more reasonable to the typical shopper than shelling out cash for something silver (or gold, or platinum, or diamond-studded) from Tiffany.

Not only is it a delightful place to visit, but it's an important landmark in the world of pastry: founded in 1862, the cafe pioneered the concept of the salon de thé. Per the Laduree site:

Under the Second Empire, cafes developed and became more and more luxurious. They attracted Parisian high society. Along with the chic restaurants around the Madeleine, they became the showcases of the capital.

The beginning of this century found Paris wrapped up in a frenzy of distraction and going out in public. Parisians flocked to the Universal Exposition. Women were also changing. They wanted to make new acquaintances. Literary salons and literature circles were outmoded.

Ernest Ladurée’s wife, Jeanne Souchard, daughter of a well-known hotelier in Rouen, had the idea of mixing styles: the Parisian café and pastry shop gave birth to one of the first tea salons in town. The “salon de thé” had a definite advantage over the cafés: they permitted ladies to gather in freedom. Jeanne Souchard succeeded in combining the turn-of-the-century trend to modernism with knowledge of the merits of a craft transmitted by her family.

So you can probably see why visiting Laduree is one of those pivotal pastry experiences that every sweet tooth should experience at least once (even if the company which now owns it, Holder, is responsible for putting macarons in French McDonalds too).

While they are perhaps best known for their macarons, on this visit, I had my eye not on the little sweetburgers but on their iconic and infinitely lovely religieuse.

A religieuse is a pastry which is said to take its name from its resemblance to a nun's habit--but being composed of choux pastry filled with thick custard and topped with delicate and pretty icing with buttercream piping on the sides, some harcore pastry lovers might argue that the name stems from its taste, which approaches an absolutely religieuse experience.

And at Laduree, they have a few different flavors; we chose the intriguing Blackcurrant-Violet, which is described as "Choux pastry, blackcurrant & violet flavoured confectioner’s custard."

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of lavender or rose-infused pastries, which I feel often can err toward tasting a bit perfumey. However, if there is one that could turn me around, this would probably be it: while assertively flavored, the violet flavor is beautifully done: buttery and floral and full. But like I said, it's powerful--I don't think I could polish one of these off in the same way that I might attack, say, a chocolate variety, but it sure was a delight to share and savor with others (we shared it among a group of four).

But as always, it was a delight to visit Laduree. Next on my list to try there, though? The Marie-Antoinette, an exquisitely appointed little cake...or maybe the mont blanc? 

Laduree has various locations in Paris and beyond; for locations and more information, visit laduree.fr. And as a P.S., if you want to try making your own religieuse pastries, why not check out this excellent post on Not Quite Nigella?

Thursday
Mar042010

Thou Tart in Heaven: A Totally Sweet Tarte au Chocolat from Eric Kayser, Paris

It's true, that at its core, the Tarte au Chocolat is basically a perfect food. There is no part of its construction--usually a shortcrust pastry filled with rich, luxuriant ganache filling--that is not delicious.

But in the elite ranks of the tarte au chocolat, some do rise above others.

Case in point: this version, topped with candied hazelnuts, from Eric Kayser.

Now, I had headed to Kayser intent on trying the Tigrés (Tiger Tea Cakes) as featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Paris Sweets (which, by the way, if you don't own, I have to say "You've got to be kidding me". Buy it now). But when I got to the bakery, I couldn't seem to drag myself away from the vision of these little chocolate tarts, served in sweet little squares topped with a disc of white chocolate and some candied hazelnuts.

They may not be the Tigrés, but they are tiger-approved:

And they're CakeSpy approved, too. These tarts are made of magic, starting with a rich and lightly crumbly crust which is brilliantly held together by the sturdy block of ganache which mind-bendingly deep, dark, and mouth-coatingly rich.

And delightfully, the garnish--a white chocolate disc and candied hazelnuts--are not merely for looks, but they actually add thoughtful bits of flavor. The hazelnuts add a nice light crunch, and an interesting flavor shot that is simultaneously sweet and savory; the white chocolate is, well, sweet, which is actually quite when nice paired with the rich, slightly bittersweet chocolate flavor.

Of course, if there is one warning that I should offer before you seek out this tart, it is that you will want to devote several minutes solely to the eating of this treat: it is one that you will want to pause and savor until each bite of chocolate has melted away.

Eric Kayser sweets can be found in Paris (several locations) as well as in Greece, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Dubai and more locations; find out where at maison-kayser.com. If you want to create this brand of magic at home, you may also be interested in some of his books, including Eric Kayser's Sweet and Savory Tarts.

Monday
Jan042010

Vive le Roi: Baby Galettes des Rois for Serious Eats

Galettes des rois

The 12 days of Christmas may be drawing to a close, but there's still one sweet treat to enjoy this season: the Galette des Rois.

In case you missed Dorie Greenspan's Serious Eats piece last year, the Galette des Rois is a rich almond cream and puff pastry confection which commemorates the arrival of the three kings on the Epiphany. Within each galette is a hidden treasure—a feve (originally a bean, but often a trinket now), the finder of which is declared king.

So why make them mini? It all comes down to the fate of the feve. Faced with the prospect of a possible revolt by the power-hungry masses who all want to be crowned king, I decided to take control of destiny by making mini galettes wherein everyone could have a trinket. Happily, this seemed to ensure peace in kingdom cake.

For the full post and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Sunday
Aug312008

Love is in the Eclair: Some Sweet History, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

The Eclair
Until this month, eating an éclair was a matter of walking down to Le Panier and grabbing one of the delectable confections. But all of this changed with our most recent Daring Bakers Challenge (suggested by Meeta and Tony) which was to make Pierre Hermé’s éclairs. Now, admittedly we haven't made éclairs before but this recipe seemed like rather a quirky one (check it out here).

But like we always do, during all of those between-steps moments we had to do something to keep ourselves from eating the unfinished masterpieces, so we turned to discover a bit more about the sweet treat. Here's what we discovered, along with our little helper above (who we like to call Pierre Eclair):


Eclair
What is an éclair? To those who may have grown up eating the version peddled at Dunkin' Donuts, you've been living a lie. That is what would technically be referred to as a "long john"--basically a doughnut dressed up like an éclair. Not that we'd turn our nose if offered a box of them.

 

Likewise those of you who have sampled the "eclair" by Cadbury and Co. are also not eating the French pastry--these confections are a caramel coating around a chocolate center.

Eclairs, Fairway, NYCEclairs at Caffe Roma, NYC

No, a true éclair is a
"long, thin pastry made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with icing.
The dough, which is the same as that used for profiterole, is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside. Once cool, the pastry then is filled with...pastry cream (crème pâtissière), custard or whipped cream, and topped with fondant icing."

Of course, if that seems a bit long, this definition for the éclair seems rather succinct: according to the Chambers English Dictionary, an éclair is “a cake, long in shape but short in duration.”

 

Where do they come from? Like a sweet mirage, the eclair's origins are hazy. According to foodtimeline.org, "The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs but provide little if any details regarding their origin. This probably means the eclair is a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture that perhaps Antonin Carême (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to éclairs."

Beautiful Eclairs at St. Honore BoulangerieEclairs at Piancone's in Bradley Beach, NJ
But wherever they may have come from, they caught on fast. They'd jumped the pond by 1884, garnering a writeup and recipe in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. You can find the original American recipe here.

Eclair 

Why are they called "eclairs"?: Like the riddle about the Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. In An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto muses that "The primary meaning of eclair in French is 'lightning', and one (not very convincing) explanation advanced for its application to these cream-filled choux-pastry temptations is that it was suggested by the light gleaming from their coating of fondant icing". Well, John might not be impressed, but we rather like the Frenchy, film-noir image that gives us--the film's hero, shot in dark, moody tones, walks into a bakery, and upon encountering the eclair for the first time, is blinded by the flash of its glossy veneer, and then completely struck by that first taste.

 

 

Enough already, how did they taste?: Full disclosure? We didn't think that these were the tastiest of recipes for the first-time éclairmakers--they tasted a little too eggy for our liking, our custard was maybe a little runny. But, they say Hermé is the best (and we believe them), so it's exceedingly possible the fault was on our end. Only one way to find out--you can check out all of the entries at daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com. We think that this website did a wonderful job on them--and the recipe is posted there too!


 

Sunday
Jul132008

French Toast: A Salute to Our Favorite Parisian Things for Bastille Day

Paris, je t'aime
For serious Francophiles, July 14 is the most wonderful time of year: Bastille Day. Well, Bastille Day itself may be a celebration of the anniversary of a très bloody uprising, but we're choosing to celebrate the day in a far less visceral and much sweeter way: by celebrating all of our favorite things Parisian and pastry related! And so, here's a little parade of ten of our favorite Frenchie things, from pastries to places and experiences:

(Cakespy Note: OK, so our list of loves is pretty central to Paris, probably because that's the only place in France we've ever been.)
Part 1: Five French Pastries We Adore

 
1. Religieuse Experience: The first ever pastry we tried in Paris was the Religieuse. An iconic-looking pastry, the Religieuse is apparently named for its resemblance to a nun's habit, although we're not sure if there is any further religious association with its invention. What we do know is that the fancy eclairs, which can be filled with various fillings, are exceedingly delicious and beautiful. Also, for lovers of the religieuse and cupcakes, run, don't walk, for this fantastic wallpaper which we discovered through Chocolate & Zucchini. (Religieuse, pictured left, from Laduree's site). 

2. Debutante Divorcé: The second pastry we tried in France was the Divorcé. Though its name would infer separations, we think it's probably more of a heavenly marriage of flavors: though some variations existed, our favorite was an eclair-ish pastry topped with half-chocolate, half-coffee icing, and then inside the pastry, beneath the chocolate iced section there is coffee cream, and beneath the coffee icing there is chocolate cream. Mon dieu! (Photo left, from a flickr pool).



Luxem-bourgers meet a real BurgerMacarons, Le Panier, Pike Place Market
 
3. Mac Daddy: Naturally, the macaron plays a big role in our French dreams. What could be Frenchier than those sweet little burger-cookies? (For more on the dear treats, check out this previous posting).
Napoleon, Zabar's, NYCNapoleons at La Bergamote
4. Grosses Bises for the Mille-feuille: This pastry is also known as the "Napoleon"--but although it's a mighty little bite, it's said by some that it's not actually named for Monsieur Bonaparte, but instead is named after Naples the city, where it is said to have been invented. What in the world is a mille-feuille though? According to Wikipedia,
The Mille-feuille (French 'thousand sheets'), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as "millefeuille" and "mille feuille".

The St. Honore Pastry
5. Chiboust, a Coup de Coeur: ah, the Gâteau Saint-Honoré. It's a cake "named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 AD), bishop of Amiens"-- but really what gets us excited is the creme filling, named after the pastry chef who invented it circa 1846: "Crème Chiboust, also called Crème Saint-Honoré, is a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) lightened with whipped cream or stiffly beaten egg whites"...this pastry cream is the stuff of dreams, light and rich all at once, not too-sweet; and when contrasted by the perfect pastry crust, not a taste easily forgotten. (Picture shown: individual Saint Honore pastry).

 

 

Part 2: Five Frenchie Things and Places We Adore:
1. Boulangeries et Pâtisseries: As a general cultural note, any country that is advanced enough to have two genres of bakeries is really just fine by us. So what is the difference between the two types of French bakery? A Boulangerie is where you'd got to get your baguette; a Pâtisserie is where you'd go for an eclair or tarte au citron. There can be crossover of course, but in our minds, it's the Boulangerie for carbtastic treats; the Pâtisserie for creamy and chocolatey treats.
Pastries hanging out at Laduree in Paris
2. Lovely Laduree: A simple visit to the Laduree website is like a mini-escape from real life--but a visit in person to one of the venerable Paris teahouses is like going into an Alice in Wonderland world. No, they're certainly not cheap, but can you really put a price on true magic? Multiple locations; online at laduree.fr.
3. Bagels and Brownies: Yes, this is an actual place in Paris. When we came across it, we were...intrigued. Tucked in a side street near the Alliance Française, there was a line out the door every day for this purveyor of American-style treats, including jumbo cookies, blondies, doughnuts and, bien sur, their namesake items. So how was the Parisian take on American baked goods?Heartbreakingly delicious, and most certainly not low-fat. Parfait. Bagels and Brownies, 12, Rue N D des Champs, 75006 Paris, France; +33 1 42 22 44 15‎.

L'Opera
4. Pastries on the Rue de L'U: One of our more memorable experiences was a trip to the Rue de L'Universite, which to any hardcore foodie is not merely a street, but The Street Where Julia Child Lived. As a tribute to the dearly departed Julia, we picked up an Opera cake and ate it (daintily, with a fork) while strolling down the Rue De "Loo" as she called it--we think Julia would have liked the idea of Cake Gumshoes making a pilgrimage to her old 'hood, especially with chocolate and gold leaf smeared on our faces.
5. Markets, Markets, Markets: From the ginormous Le Bon Marche to the enchanting street markets (check out a list here), markets are part of the romance of Paris, and in our opinion they live up to the reputation and then some. Who wouldn't love to be walking down the street with a fresh baguette, tearing off the top for the first bite, like a native? Le sigh.

 

 

 

 

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