a little pastry sampler from dorie greenspan’s paris sweets

“For anyone who loves pastry, Paris is the center of the universe. Not only can you find a pâtisserie or boulangerie on every street, but the odds are tremendously in your favor that you’ll find a good, perhaps great, pastry or bread shop, and that it will turn up just when you most need a buttery croissant or a bittersweet chocolate cookie. Like sidewalk cafés, street-corner kiosks, and every famous monument from the Eiffel Tower to Sacré-Coeur, pâtisseries are part of what makes food lovers, bon vivants, and romantics cherish Paris.” ~ Dorie Greenspan, Paris Sweets

 photo of Dorie at the ALA Convention, June 2010 (ALA photostream).


Mais, oui! Enchanting deliciousness around every corner.

Ladurée pastry by w_a_b.

Breathtakingly beautiful pastries, jewel-like in their precision and artistry, beckon from bakery shop windows. Each bite a little ecstasy, connecting you to the most magnificent baking tradition in the world. Sigh.

If you cannot go to Paris just now, let Paris come to you in Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City’s Best Pastry Shops, by inimitable food writer, editor and cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan.

Even if you never make a single recipe, you will love the tidbits of culinary history, vignettes about the bakers and their shops, short takes on French baking ingredients (butter, salt, eggs, vanilla, crème fraîche), and the generous bounty of tasty anecdotes and asides. No, you do not have to be an avid baker or even a passionate Francophile to enjoy this book — it’s enough to be human, to love beauty, to be curious about food, to appreciate evocative writing that has the power to charm and transport the reader to a haven of sensory pleasure.

photo by Baykster.

Does mere mention of chocolate bread pudding, madeleines, cherry clafoutis, whipped cream-filled meringues, coffee éclairs, opera cake, and chocolate temptation make your heart beat faster? For Greenspan, it wasn’t the Louvre, Left Bank, or Notre Dame that got her hooked on Paris back in the early 70’s. It was a perfect strawberry tartlet. Two bites of the “absolutely pure flavor of butter,” and baby-sized berries “heavily perfumed and so extraordinarily flavorful that they might have served as the model for the ideal strawberry,” epitomized everything she loved most about French culture.

So she spent 30 years searching for the best pastries in Paris (can you think of a sweeter “job”?), and then she convinced seventeen chefs to share their recipes, which she adapted for American kitchens. By the time you finish reading her book, you’ll long to visit Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, Boulangerie Poilâne, Stohrer, La Maison du Chocolat, Lenôtre — and perhaps, like me, you will be wearing your *Paris dreamface* ☺.

Tiger Tea Cakes recipe adapted from Maison Kayser by eLoWeeZee.

Today, I’m serving up several of my favorite excerpts and a few photos of the shops and finished recipes (the book itself is sprinkled with Florine Asch’s winsome pen-and-ink illustrations). Think of it as “le goûter,” the French equivalent of afternoon tea. A little sweet, a quick restorative, a stolen pleasure in the hours between lunch and dinner (or anytime the tummy rumbles). Bon Appétit and enjoy Dorie’s delectable prose!



Ladurée interior by d3j4vu.

The instant you enter Ladurée, your eyes are drawn to the ceiling. Even the pyramids of macarons (see page 122) and the glossy chocolate creations can’t keep you from looking heavenward at the plump cherubs, rosy pink and properly toqued, pulling fat little cakes out of puffy clouds . . . The angelic chefs preside over a room that is always full, no matter the hour. From their cloud-puff perches, they have a daily view of celebrities and tourists, neighborhood habitués and connoisseurs from every corner of Paris, all being served by waitresses in prim black dresses.



photo by rosieinparis.

I can remember the first time I went to Jean-Luc Poujauran’s bakery sometime in the 1980’s. I was staying at the other end of Paris, but I made the pilgrimmage happily because I’d heard so much about this young baker. What I hadn’t heard about, and what made me smile with a girlish ear-to-ear grin, was how completely winning the little shop is. Tiny and painted in Provençal blue and cotton-candy pink, it is the kind of shop that makes even grown-ups want to press their noses up against the windowpanes — and many do.

Boulangerie Poujouran interior by Nomadic Sun.



photo by roboppy.

La Maison du Chocolat is the perfect name for the house that master chocolatier Robert Linxe built. The exterior of every Maison du Chocolat is the color of the world’s best bittersweet chocolate, a hue to put you in mind of lush truffles, impossibly creamy mousses, and cakes with chocolate glazes so glossy you can see your reflection in them. Inside you are surrounded by milk chocolate and caramel-colored walls and made light-headed by the potent perfume of chocolate. For those of us who believe that chocolate is, as its ancient name, Theobrome, decreed, the fruit of the gods, a step into La Maison du Chocolat is a step into chocolate heaven.

Maison du Chocolat sampler by yummyinthetummyblog.


These easy-to-make, easy-to-eat, easy-to-love chocolate-chocolate chip cookies are from Pierre Hermé (see page 56), the man Vogue magazine called “The Picasso of Pastry.” They are cocoa dark, not very sweet, chock-full of chocolate bits, melt-on-your-tongue buttery, just crumbly enough to be true sablés, or sand cookies, and just salty enough to catch you off guard. In fact, the combination of chocolate and salt (Pierre uses the somewhat exotic fleur de sel, sea salt from the Guérande; see page 9) makes these cookies fatally appealing: I don’t trust myself not to finish the batch in a sitting, and I’ll bet you’ll find yourself in the same spot — a warning to make these when you’re certain not to be alone . . .

Korova recipe adapted from Pierre Hermé by cbder.

About the name: Korova was the name of the milk bar in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, A Clockwork Orange. It was also the name of a restaurant off the Champs-Elysées for which Pierre Hermé created these cookies. The restaurant is gone, but the cookies are still a specialty at Pierre’s pâtisserie as well as the house cookies at my house.

 Hermé inspired Parisien Flan by eLoWeeZee.



photo by aarium.

*Remember the punitions I mentioned in my French PB roundup last week? Here’s a wonderful video of Lionel Poilâne showing Dorie how to make them in 2002, the year Paris Sweets was published. Sadly, Lionel was killed in a helicopter crash shortly thereafter.

And finally, a little treat from Paris’ oldest pâtisserie, Stohrer. This French institution was established in 1730 by Nicholas Stohrer, pastry chef to both Stanislas Leszczynski (exiled king of Poland and one of the world’s greatest gourmands) and King Louis XV at Versailles.

photo by lili.chin.

Dorie says, “For me, it’s a thrill to follow in the footsteps of these eighteenth century pastry patrons . . . I am incapable of leaving Stohrer without buying the pastries of the past, the triplets of
babas — baba au rhum, Ali-Baba (page 112), and baba chantilly — created for King Stanislas to commemorate his love of the 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights; the cream-filled puff pastries called puits d’amour; or the kouglofs.”

Stohrer pastries by jazzromanos.

Eh bien. Hope you enjoyed le goutêr. Merci beaucoup!

Attendez! A madeleine for the road (3 different recipes included in the book). Maintenant, create your own Proustian memory!

Made by food librarian.


Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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