Paris Bakeries

Hello hello, I’m baaack! And this time FOR GOOD. As a personal goal, I resolve to update this blog at least every three weeks for the entire year. It’s going to happen 🙂
During the summertime, I went on a 8.5 week trip to Europe, first to volunteer, then just for travel. One of my last stops was Paris. What I couldn’t get used to was how many patisseries, boulangeries, brasseries, cafes, etc. on the streets. In every arrondissement. Food lover’s dream, I’m telling you. I never got around to eating at a Michelin star restaurant (the price of everything in Paris just killed me a bit), but I did drop a few euros here and there (ok, a lot of euros) at a few of these boulangeries/patisseries.
Also, what I found weird is that these have been around for a long time in Paris. But as a first-timer in the city, everything felt so novel and it seriously was my first time seeing so many great pastries.

Blé Sucré


Blé sucré was my first stop. I came here on my second day in the city, while my dad was on the tour bus with the tour group, and I went exploring by myself. I got off Ledru-Rollin around 7am on a Friday morning and the streets were pretty quiet. I walked a block and a half, turned the corner into a quiet square/park, and saw the sign.

 

The lady there was warm and friendly. I tend to be mega-conscious of appearing too touristy, especially because I’m Chinese and that’s a big giveaway. And especially because lots of tourists must flock to those great patisseries. I ogled at the pastries for a few minutes, but I asked for a croissant and madeleines, which were recommended.
My first taste of perfection: butter croissant and original glazed madeleines. Look at that hump.
I don’t know why I was ever doubtful. No, doubtful isn’t the right word. I heard they had great croissants, but I didn’t understand how great a croissant can be, if that makes sense? I’ve been living my whole life in croissant ignorance, because this croissant. THIS CROISSANT.
Spiraling layers of goodness
One bite and I was like, “holy s&#t”. Crisp, thin crackly exterior that shattered at the first bite. Soft, warm, buttery with a slight chew (<– very important to the eating experience). All I could taste was good-quality butter. I’ve never had a croissant like this, and it just took me to a whole nother world.

The madeleines were also good, moist with a nice crumb, but it wasn’t as mindblowing.

Chausson aux pommes


Blé sucré is the only patisserie I visited twice during my trip. Because there’s so many new places to try, that’s saying a lot. The day before I left, I picked up a chausson aux pommes for my brother (who loves anything apple cinnamon) and a religieuse for myself, being a fan of choux pastry and eclairs and profiteroles and anything of the like.
It was a bit disappointing because the caramel religieuse was cold instead of room temperature, so I figured it must’ve been from the day before. Which is fine because it still was out of this world. The caramel pastry cream was really strong in butter caramel flavor. When I make pastry creams, it tastes too much like custard, and not the flavor I’m trying to flavor it with, if that makes sense? Like if you taste my pastry cream, you’ll think pastry cream first, and then vanilla after. But with this, you think caramel first, then butter and richness after. It was sublime.

 

Caramel Religieuse

Le Grenier à pain

Chausson aux pommes
Le grenier à pain was another name that came up during my researching of bakeries, because they won the first prize for “meilleure baguette de Paris” in March 2010, but because baugettes aren’t my most favourite thing in the world, I was not planning on taking the metro to Le grenier à pain just to try the baugette. But on our fourth last day in Paris, the hostel we booked was located a few feet away from this bakery, so there was simply no excuse.

 

Montmartre is without a doubt my favourite district in Paris, the hilly streets, the distinctly personal sense you feel while walking those usually calm streets, and the abundance of bakeries– a lot of which have the “meilleure baugette” sticker on their windows, having also won the award in a previous year. Which made me underestimate the exclusivity of the award, but it turns out, it just happens that the bakeries that win this award are usually in the Montmartre district (for some reason). Another fun fact is that whoever wins this award, gets to supply the French president with bread for a year (not fact-checked haha. I think it’s true?!)

 

We dropped by this bakery the morning we took the Eurostar from London back to Paris, and I picked up the chausson aux pommes while my dad got a sandwich made from their famous baguette.
The chausson aux pommes was exquisite. Because, like the croissant I ate at Blé Sucré, it was fresh out of the oven, and that makes all the difference. Its warmth radiating in my hand as I cradled it, calling out to me to eat it soon, while we were walking down the Parisian streets in the slightly brisk morning air.

 

One bite and again, the flaky layers shattered, revealing the apple filling. While most chausson aux pommes look similar enough, the apple inside is always unique. This one, the apple was pureed smoothly, not unlike apple sauce but thicker and lightly sweet, with a touch of cinnamon.

 

I’m sorry to say but neither my dad nor I were a big fan of the baguette (I had a bite of my dad’s sandwich). Which isn’t saying much, since we’re not baguette fans in the first place.
Beautiful and tempting small cakes on display.

Pierre Hermé

Some roll their eyes, some pass by it unknowingly, some worship it, some don’t even look twice– however you feel, you can’t argue that the quality of Pierre Hermé’s pastries and creations is not near the top. In Vancouver, you can’t find a place with so many high quality, aesthetically perfect, creative pastries all in one place. You just can’t. So bear with me, but I lean towards the “worship” boat if anything.

 

Left: Ispahan, Top right: Milk chocolate & passion fruit, Bottom right: Pistachio
First off, their macarons. These are actually the only ones I tried in Paris (for the health of my wallet and myself), I didn’t bother with Lauderée or any other pastry shop. So I don’t have many macarons to compare off of, but from what I tasted– they were really well balanced. Well balanced in texture as well as flavour. My dad, who isn’t as big of a fanatic as I am about these sorts of things, was pleasantly surprised by how unique they were (he didn’t know about macarons before tasting them), and said all the right things– they were crispy and light, yet chewy and denser in the centre with the filling. The Ispahan just screamed lychee, you really couldn’t miss it. The milk chocolate played off the tartness of the passion fruit. The pistachio wasn’t as memorable, but there’s no such thing as a bad macaron from PH.
Plaisir Sucré
FYI and because I’m detail-oriented, I’ll be including the descriptions as given from the website. The plaisir sucré is composed of: “Dacquoise biscuit with crunchy hazelnuts, hazelnut crisp, thin wafers of milk chocolate, milk chocolate ganache and milk chocolate chantilly. Milk chocolate is here highlighted by a variety of textures and sensations.”
That’s exactly what it was– layers of contrasting milk chocolate textures. Crisp, light, dense, rich, chewy– it hits all of those notes and more.
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. Wonderfully flavourful.”
Sublime and highly recommended. Best mille feuille I’ve ever tasted, by miles.
Tarte Infiniment Vanille
“Pâte sablée, white chocolate ganache with vanilla, tender biscuit moistened with vanilla, vanilla-flavoured mascarpone cream.
The Tarte Infiniment Vanille consists of a shortbread crust with a very rich, dense filling of white chocolate ganache flavoured with vanilla and mascarpone cream, also flavoured with vanilla. The contrast in textures yields an impression of great lightness.
In this recipe, Pierre Hermé has combined vanilla from several different provenances (Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar) to develop a “house vanilla”, Pierre Hermé’s concept of the ideal vanilla.”

I feel sad reading this description because a lot of work and care was put into this tarte, but sorry Pierre I can’t taste the Mexican, Tahitian and Madagascar(ian?) vanillas. Am I supposed to detect each one? It just tasted vanilla-y, but not obnoxiously so.
Désiré
DÉSIRÉ: Brittany-style sablé pastry, lemon cream, strawberry and banana compote, tender lemon biscuit, whole strawberries, decoration using strawberries, wild strawberries or raspberries depending on the season.
Désiré is a composition in which lemon and strawberries express a note of acidulated freshness. A study in contrasts : crumbly sablé and tender lemon biscuit are offset by the light freshness of the cream and strawberry banana compote.

I was really impressed with this one. I remember picking off the raspberry and popping it into my mouth first, to make the rest of the pastry easier to eat in a bite. What I didn’t expect was how raspberrian (just making up my own words here don’t mind me) the raspberry tasted. Like it’s just a couple of raspberries adorning the top and they could have been inferior raspberries and it wouldn’t even have mattered that much, but no, these were top notch, top of the game raspberries singing with flavor.

The lemon cream with perfectly smooth and tart.

We ate these pastries above from PH on two different visits– the second time was on my birthday, and I got the vanilla tarte and the Désiré as my birthday cake (how lucky was I?!). That also broke my three-year-long streak of baking my own birthday cake, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We enjoyed it in the nearby square, where I guess a lot of people enjoy the pastries, because there were PH boxes and paper bags in the trash bins.

Anyway, we sat on a bench facing the street, where there was a firetruck (or ambulance? I forgot. But some sort of police-y vehicle) with personnel sitting inside, chilling. They didn’t pay much attention to us, nor us them, but to any observer, my dad and I must’ve looked really strange. We were treating the macarons/pastries like delicate jewels (okay if had you to pay $10.72 CAD per pastry wouldn’t you?!) and were savouring every bite (me with my eyes closed), discussing at length after each one. We were hardcore. Meanwhile, a couple came and sat on the bench next to ours, ate their pastries casually, and left before we had even started on the next one.

Oh yeah, the lady in front of me in the line up wrote a cheque for SIX HUNDRED EUROS worth of goods from PH. Crazy, but awesome.

Eric Kayser
Eric Kayser has quite a few locations, and from what I’ve read, consistently maintains high quality products in all his stores. Here is where I took my first bites of Kugelhopf– a yeasted chewy-but-tender cake/bread. It was lightly sweet and studded with raisins and flaked almonds. My only gripe was that it was a tad too dry to eat on its own, but would be perfect with a latte.
The above photo is grossly edited, but here you’ll see the pointed end of his mixed cereal baguette. A tad too hard for me, but I can’t accurately judge baguettes.
Poilane
Of course, I had to visit Poilane, one of the oldest bakeries (est. 1932!) for their sourdough bread, baked in a wood-fired oven.
So much history behind something as simple as bread; I love that enduring passion. We bought a few small rolls to sample, and walked to the Jardins to enjoy our picnic.
Roma tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, unknown spread, and my favourite… pickled herring!
Canned fois gras… seemed a bit spam-esque
The bread was indeed pretty special– it had a texture and chew (and flavor!) unlike any I have ever tasted.
And for dessert– chausson aux pommes, of course.

PAUL

Poor PAUL on Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day handling the hoards of bread-loving customers
Starting from top left clockwise: brioche studded with raisins & pearl sugar, plain brioche, l’escargot au raisins, chocolate eclair
PAUL is a bakery chain and apparently it is quite popular, judging from how often we’d see people carrying their baked goods. I feel like some of their items are a hit-or-a-miss… meaning, they’re all delicious, but some are more delicious and stand-out than others. For example, I don’t know why, but I found their raisin/pearl sugar brioche (I don’t know the proper name) to be highly addictive. Perfect texture, not super sweet, sort-of-chewy… that loaf was gone in a flash. On the other hand, their eclair wasn’t memorable, and their l’escargot wasn’t super crispy flaky tender.

 

Lunch on my birthday was the leftover foie gras, and mashed avocado on a sesame baguette

Du Pain et Des Idées


If I lived in Paris, and if butter was a health food (don’t we all wish), I could easily imagine myself waking up early each morning, making the trip to my favourite bakery, and enjoying my warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven pastry on the quiet streets. Enjoying the air of stillness and calm, before the stress and anxiety from our responsibilities have a chance to wake up.


On my last morning in Paris, I gladly woke up early, took the metro by myself, and trekked to the final bakery I wanted to try on my list.

 

Pain au chocolat, escargot, chausson aux pommes
I could tell the lady could tell I was a tourist– there was only two other people there, also tourists. No long line up of locals, which I was surprised about, but it just meant I was lucky. I was done with lines by then…
Clockwise: l’escargot au citron et nougat de montelimar, le pain au chocolat et banane (pictured twice), l’escargot chocolat pistache
I bought what people recommended: l’escargot chocolat pistache, the chocolate and banana croissant, as well as the chausson aux pommes for my brother, and a citrus nougat l’escargot. The chocolate and banana (both are dear to my heart) croissant was tasty, yes, but I wish hoping for more filling. The chausson aux pommes (I ended up taking a bite) was a pleasant surprise, because the apple filling was nothing more than half an apple, skin on, baked inside. It was barely sweetened, and I liked that the apple came in a more “natural” state.
In the end, my favourite was l’escargot au citron et nougat– sweet but a little tart, and the filling was very creamy– reminded me of frangipane.

With luck, I hope to be able to write a “part 2” to this post in a few years 🙂
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