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Entries in paris (16)

Wednesday
Mar032010

Coup de Coeur: Sweet Treats from Pain de Sucre, Paris

I don't know about you, but I think "Quatre Quarts" has a much nicer ring to it than "Pound Cake". After all, "pound" makes me think of jailed puppies, being punched, and chugging beverages in a most unappealing way, where "Quatre quarts" sounds...well, French.

Ramon loves French pound cakeIt's actually the place from which we take our "pound cake" too--the Quatre-Quarts refers to the amount of ingredients involved in making a Frenchie pound cake. 

But let's not linger on that right now: let's talk about the lovely heart-shaped raspberry flavored one I tried in Paris, at the super-cute patisserie Pain de Sucre.

Why is it a winner? Well, for one thing, it's heart shaped and a rather appealing shade of rich, visceral red.

And when you bite into it, you'll find it hard to imagine a more luxuriant, buttery, berry-infused cake. It's so dense, it will leave a slick of sweetness in your mouth. That's how you know it's good: the taste lingers so you have many moments to savor and ponder how delicious it is.

Of course, you'd be remiss not to try some of the other treats at the shop, ranging from homemade marshmallows to confections of all sorts, to a splendid array of viennoiserie:

and even baguette-shaped macarons(!)

We just happened upon this place by walking by, but I would firmly suggest seeking it out if you find yourself in the City of Lights. Or, even better, I suggest that you book a flight and get over there right now.

Pain de Sucre, 14, rue Rambuteau, Paris 03; online at patisseriepaindesucre.com.

Tuesday
Mar022010

Bonjour, Delicious: The Praluline from Pralus, Paris

While walking around Paris, pretty much everything you see in shop windows is alluring.

But even amidst all of the beautiful objets d'art and tempting pastries showcased at the street level, there is still something that will stop you in your tracks: the Praluline at Auguste Pralus's shop, a signature brioche which is "Often imitated, but never matched!". 

Curious about this unusual-looking treat, I did a little sleuthing. Turns out it has a rather storied past:

One lovely morning Auguste Pralus places a brioche with pralines in his showcase. Since that special day in 1955, the Praluline has never lost its premier position in each of the showcases in the Pralus pastry shops. 

A rich brioche flavored with pieces of pralines made in-house: Valencia almonds and Piedmont hazelnuts coated in rose sugar and then cracked. The addition of these rosy nut bits adding a unique flavor and texture to make the creation so special!

The Praluline is regularly sent to enthusiasts over the world (USA, Japan, Sweden...) This star of the Maison Pralus has also become a culinary ambassador for the region of Roanne. “marvelous buttery brioche filled with rose pralines” according to the tasty definition of Gille Pudlowski, the Praluline has traversed its local borders to become the uncontested star in all of the Pralus shops (Paris, Annecy, Charlieu…)

and of course, if you're not sold on it yet, the legacy continues, per their website:

For its 50th anniversary, the Praluline is accompanied by a little “sister”: the Pralusienne. Cousin of the Tropezienne which celebrated its half century also in 2005, the Pralusiennne presents a tasty partnership of the Praluline and a delicious crème mousseline with Madagascar Vanilla.

Now, after coming across the Praluline, I did start to see variations on the rose-sugar-praline theme in a lot of patisseries, and I can tell you firsthand that it is a very good combination. 

Want to get your hands on one? I hear a rumor that they'll ship worldwide upon request; it undoubtedly won't be cheap, but you can find out more by contacting them

Or, if you're lucky enough to be in Paris, hit up one of their shops; locations can be found here.

Monday
Mar012010

Sweet Liaisons at Maison Berthillon, Paris


So, in Paris there is this famous old ice cream shop called Berthillon on the Rue Saint Louise en L'ile, which, if you've never been there, is pretty much center-city and just about the Frenchiest little street you'll ever walk down. 

This place is hardly a secret--it's mentioned in all manner of guidebook and website--but that's ok, because awesome like this needs to be shared with the world.

Oh, Berthillon. 

On Dorie Greenspan's list of "The Paris Ten: Must-Tastes", she says

I know ice cream isn't the first food that jumps to mind when you think of Paris, but it would be a true pity if you went all the way to Paris and missed a scoop from Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, Paris 4).  No one knows how Berthillon does it (and they're not telling), but they make ice cream with the deepest, truest flavors ever churned.  Getting ice cream from the shop is a pleasure - when the shop is open: for reasons unfathomable, Berthillon closes in August, the peak of ice-cream season.  Luckily, many shops sell Berthillon and they're so proud to do so that they post signs on their doors saying it's their scoop of choice.

And after having visited, it's a delight to say that they're not just coasting on their reputation: they get the job (that being making ice cream) done, and they get it done right. The ice creams are unbelievably creamy, and full of rich, deep flavor that is assertively, but not excessively, sweet. The attention to detail is phenomenal--the salted caramel ice cream is flecked with red sea salt; the pistachio is redolent with a rich nuttiness, and studded with actual pistachios; the coconut is an absolute knockout of rich creaminess. The cones even taste good! 

The ice cream may have been cold, but it certainly warmed this spy team's hearts and appetites.

Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004 Paris, France; online at berthillon.fr.

Sunday
Feb282010

Shockingly Delicious: Legay Choc, Paris

So, CakeSpy and Company (myself, Mr. Spy, and friends Nicole and Ramon) just packed up and went to Paris for a week (It's OK to be jealous. I would be if the roles were reversed). We rented an apartment in the Marais, and upon meeting with the rental agent who gave us the keys and let us in, the first pressing question about the neighborhood was posed: "Quelle est la meilleur pâtisserie?"

Without skipping a beat, the response was "Legay Choc". Now, this kind of sounded like he was saying "the gay shock", but who am I to argue about a name when there is the promise of delicious pastry ahead?

And within five minutes, we were there. And Legay Choc, as it turned out, was tiny and adorable.

What did we get? So glad you asked.

A croissant, which was buttery, flaky, and tasted just how a croissant should;

a light and fluffy sweet demi baguette of briochelike dough studded with dark chocolate bits;

but the winner of the pastry round? Sans doute, the Roulé Cannelle (it translates to "cinnamon roll". I looked it up). It looks like a palmier, but it is really so much more. The pastry dough is coated in a sweet mixture of caramelized butter, sugar and cinnamon which gives it a tantalizing taste and crunch; it is harmoniously matched by a smattering of raisins which add little bursts of sweetness and soft texture to the mix. 

And as a side note, the employee  was extremely cute and nice--he somehow managed to not wince at my rusty gallic-speak, even when I accidentally pronounced "cannelle" as "canelé", which any French person can tell you is a different thing entirely.

Legay Choc gets a thumbs up, way haute.

Legay Choc, 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at legaychoc.fr.

Saturday
Feb272010

Sweet Harmony: Opera Cake From Dalloyau, Paris

Dalloyau in Paris is renowned for their Gateau Opera, and I'm here to tell you why.

But before I do that, how about a little backstory on the baker behind the cake?

Dalloyau was founded in 1802 by Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau. He was no stranger to fancy food--both his father and grandfather had worked in royal kitchens. However, he was a visionary in that he was able to forecast that with the revolution coming and the end of court life, there would be a rising interest in food from the middle and upper classes--and he was there to feed them, with his concept of a "maison de gastronomie" which specialized in takeaway dishes that could be prepared by cooks.

Well, the concept certainly took off, and Dalloyau began to create quite a nice niche for itself. And pastry and sweets were a big part of it--according to the Dalloyau website, in 1883, founder Jean-Baptiste's great grandson, Achille Henri Dalloyau created the first modern ice cream store--and established the pastry union.

And as for the Opera cake? Well, according to an article in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas,

The elegant opera cake premiered as the Clichy, introduced by Louis Clichy, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Years later, the renowned Parisian patisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as L'Opera. This classic gateau is composed of exquisitely thin layers of biscuit viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The top of the cake is iced with a very thin chocolate glaze, creating a pleasantly firm texture. This cake is traditionally square or rectangular with the sides of the cake exposed to reveal its tempting layers.

And Dalloyau's storied version is very, very good. The rich coffee flavor infuses every bite, adding a deep, dark layer of flavor to every other piece of it: the biscuit, the chocolate, and the rich, smooth buttercream. Not to get too poetic about it, but this is sort of the kind of dessert that makes you want to close your eyes and say "mmmm" for a very long moment.

Today, Dalloyau today is comprised of over 500 employees, counting amongst their ranks "97 cooks, 100 pastry cooks, chocolate makers, confectioners, 4 ice-cream makers and 4 bakers"--all the better to make more Gateau Opera to share with the world.

Gateau Opera from Dalloyau, available at Dalloyau boutiques and cafes; for more information, visit dalloyau.fr.

Friday
Feb192010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Patisseries I'll Be Visiting in Paris

Guess what? I'm in Paris right now. And to share a bit of the sweetness, here's just a baker's dozen (in no particular order) of the many sweet spots on my must-visit list in the City of Lights!

Laduree, because it's a magical place.

Pierre Herme, because he's kind of like a macaron rock star.

Patisserie des Reves, because Dorie Greenspan says it's great.

Synie's Cupcakes, because I'm curious to see the French take on the American trend.

Hotel du Cadran, because apparently they have a chocolate shop and great macarons on premises!

Dalloyau, because I hear this rumor that they have a killer Opera Cake.

Chistian Constant, because Clotilde Dusoulier says they have a "picture perfect cup of hot chocolate"

Baillardran, because a pastry shop in a train station is intriguing.

Lecureuil, because they are said to have "petits fours that seem right out of a children's book.

U Sputinu, because I'm into "produits tres bons Corses".

Berthillon, because visiting a famous glacier sounds pretty fantastic.

La Grande Epicerie, because I think I could spend many hours just wandering here.

Patisserie au Grand Richelieu, because it looks old and wonderful.

(P.S. Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments! I'm in Paris all week!)

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