Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paris: pastries

The pastries in France are a reason to live and are a sight to behold. We ate pastries every day, sometimes twice a day! Eclairs, cream puffs (religieuse), madeleines (little pound cake type things), florentines, milles feuilles (Napoleons), palmiers, meringues, tarts, macaroons.

My mother has quite a penchant for meringues. They can be found in nearly every patisserie, so we ate quite a few. She also really likes coffee flavored eclairs.

The very best pastry we ate, however, was a palmier from the famed gourmet grocer Fauchon at Place de la Madeleine. A palmier is layers of puff pastry with sugar and butter rolled into a heart shape. Simple ingredients but truly divine when executed to perfection by the masters at Fauchon. Do not go to Paris without getting one. Fauchon is also know for it's madeleine's. Typically this little tea cake is flavored with lemon. At Fauchon the master bakers experiment with all kinds of flavors. They were good but they did pale in comparison to the palmier. I like my madelienes best dipped in a hot cup of tea or coffee. Overcome by our delight, we forgot to take pictures of the palmier!

The other temple of pastry delights in Paris is a place called Laduree located also at Place de la Madeleine and on the Champs Elysee. They specialize in macaroons. These are not your typical coconut macaroon. You can see from the picture on the left that these are brightly colored cookies. A macaroon is two cookies, flavored with coconut and other things, with a butter cream filling sandwiched between them. We tried them in pistachio, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, coffee, and chocolate. Butter cream. Need I say more?

Everything at Laduree looked wonderful. I also tried a religieuse au rose (a rose-water flavored cream puff) mostly because it was pink! How could I not buy a pink cream puff? Now, on the short list of things I hate to eat is Turkish delight which is an evil jelly like candy flavored with rose water that the British seem to love. Yes, it is pink but it is vile. So I didn't high hopes for the pink cream puff. To my delight, it was delicious. The rose water delicately flavored the pink creamy filling which contained a hint of cherry too. I hope there are pink cream puffs in heaven.

The spectacular presentation alone merits attention, but the fact that these delicious morsels taste as beautiful as they look, is truly wonderful. French pastries are the intersection of food and art!

Fortunately, we walked about 8 miles every day so eating all of these delectable morsels did not adversely impact our waist lines! Thank goodness.

I also discovered that eating as many pastries as I can manage in 10 days makes me not want to eat dessert ever again...or at least until I go back to France!

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