Whether you identify as a sweets lover or not, there’s no denying an impressive reaction elicited by the storefront of any Parisian bakery. Iconic French sweets, known for their elaborate and ornate details, speak to the seriousness and appreciation Parisians have for excellence in baking. It’s this attitude towards sweets that creates a unique culture where celebrity chefs are praised more for their commitment to the art of chocolate sculpting than they are their tailgate party appearances. While refined techniques and labour-intensive diligence make up our understanding of typical French desserts like eclairs and macarons, there are other French desserts that deserve the sweet spotlight as well. Here are a few of our favourites.
Millefeuille, which translates to thousand leaves, is characterized by its many sheets of flaky puff pastry, most commonly folded into three distinct layers off-set by two creamy layers of smooth vanilla cream. It’s a perfect balance of delicate brittleness in the thin sheets of dough with think and creamy dollops of rich vanilla. It’s an absolute must for a visitor to the city of love, and we even snagged our own on our sweet stroll through Saint Germain here at the famed La Pâtisserie des Rêves.
Galettes des Rois
Inspired by the three kings; Gaspard, Balthazar and Melchior, who ventured to meet the newborn baby Jesus according to the Christian tradition, this brioche-based cake is filled with a moderately dense almond-vanilla butter-based cream (frangiapane) and shaped into a reminiscent crown formation. French boulangeries are flooded with this dessert around early January for the festive season. Locally loved establishments have elevated this classic with signature twists, like Du Pain et Des Idées which pours Grand Marnier and rum into their creamy centre and Des Gateau et du Pain that caramelizes their crust with candied fruit and citrus.
Another item we couldn’t help ogling at at La Pâtisserie des Rêves were the incredible Paris-Brests that are full of luscious hazelnut praline cream in between a wheel of sliced choux pastry. The crust is topped with sliced almonds and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Any classic Parisian pâtisserie is bound to have at least one showcase dedicated to this heavenly dessert. A typical brest is classified by having a perfect balance between velvety hazelnut richness of the cream and airy crispness in the choux. Though experimental approaches are welcome when it comes to topping accouterments and moussing techniques.
Mention Angelina Paris to anyone and first thing they will ask you is if you had their signature Mont-Blanc; a decadent hazelnut cream-based confection with a meringue and cream centre that will literally weaken your knees (well, maybe it it’ll be the second thing they ask about after the famous Angelina hot chocolate which is another out-of-this-world experience). If not at Angelina, you can find this indulgent dessert, with its iconic sugar-dusted mountain peak and tangled strands of chestnut purée, at any sophisticated pâtisserie in Paris.
Saint Honoré Another classic that’s notably excellent at Angelina is the Saint Honoré – a complex dessert consisting of a circular puff pastry base, caramel glazed choux pastry balls filled with vanilla pastry cream decorating the outer edge like a crown and artful sprawls of airy whipped cream filling in the allotted space. It is named after the patron Saint Honoratus of bakers and chefs, who apparently had the hand of God extended to him during mass, connecting him with the holy chalice. The symbol of Saint Honoratus in art is thus the shovel holding three loaves of bread. The elegant dessert lends itself to artisan’s interpretations, with chefs taking liberties when it comes to unique jam fillings or creative flare with the namesake piping tip.
The formality that Parisians attribute to their culinary crafts is truly like no where else in the world. There’s really no wrong way to go about sampling your way through the boutique-like boulangeries and cafes that line the city streets. We can’t wait to share the hidden gems and must-see sweet spots of the city of love this October 9 – 13, 2017 on our Sweet Trip to Paris! Not only will we get our fill of decadent desserts, but fine wines, elegant brasseries and farm-fresh markets await!
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