Bonbons! The Best French Sweet Shop in Paris

I literally stumbled into this sweet shop the other day in the 5th Arrondissement.  It was raining cats and dogs and, instead of taking the metro back to Châtelet, drifted with the howling wind as it directed me downhill like some kind of sweet calling. The sudden sight of glistening jars filled with chocolates and bright pastel confections halted my track and lured me indoors. I stepped back in time like a curious, mesmerised child into this haven in Paris. It’s le Bonbon au Palais.

Table of French regional confectionary at Le Bonbon au Palais, The best sweet shop in Paris

I remembered Carol Gillot of ParisBreakfasts talk about this sweet shop and its owner, ‘Professor’ Georges. Well, here he was in person, proudly presenting his range of the best regional and artisanal sweet delicacies from around France all under one roof. As he says on the giant blackboard, life is much more beautiful with sweets or candies. His shop resembles a classroom from yesterday, with Nicolas and Pimpranelle looking on (yet another story: Antoine and I dressed up in PJs as the children’s TV characters at a fancy dress party, only to discover that everyone else was in elaborate Carnaval of Venice costumes.)

Georges at Le Bonbon au Palais, specialist of French regional sweet candies in Paris

With Brassens (another Georges) singing and strumming his guitar on the vintage radio, Georges opened several giant apothecary lids as he explained some  delicacies while I tasted and relished in the jolly Georges ambience.

Pierrot Gourmand sucette artisanal lollies the oldest lollipops in France

The Pierrot Gourmand symbols of the Comedia dell’Arte displayed France’s oldest lollipop, or sucette.

Georges Evrard created the Pierrot Gourmand company in 1892 and invented the first lollipop in 1924.  It was also one of the first companies to envelope lollipops in printed paper. The milk caramel was the original flavour, nicknamed ‘Pégé’ for P.G.  Pierrot Gourmand now sells around 140 million lollipops each year.

Lyon sweet candy speciality les coussins de Lyon

I’d already fallen in love with le Coussin de Lyon (chocolate ganache perfumed with curaçao) during my gastronomic weekend in Lyon. Here, Georges also had framboise (raspberry) and myrtille (blueberry) versions plus the Coussin’s sweeter cousin in bright yellow (top right), Le Cocon de Lyon. The cocon resembles the silk worm’s cocoon, paying homage to the silk-weavers of Lyon.

apothecary jars of traditional sweets from all around France at the Bonbon au Palais

Barley sugars, jellies and fast emptying jars of salted caramels from Normandy and Brittany line the pristine, glossy white shelves.

almond marzipan calisson speciality French sweets from Provence

How many times have I visited family in Provence but I never knew about the Calisson de St. Rémy?  It’s not quite as sweet as it’s popular and brighter yellow oval Calisson cousin since it’s made with different almonds.

spicy sweet piments of Vaucluse, candy speciality in Provence

Mother-in-Law in the Vaucluse has certainly never introduced me to these spicy sweets, either. Instead she orders traditional candied fruits from Apt from the factory shop by the kilo.  I’ve still got two kilos of candied ginger and orange peel left to add to desserts and macarons.

french candy sticks and love heart lollipops at the best sweet shop in Paris

I’ll have to return with my girls and our pocket money. There’s so much more to learn about French candies. Meanwhile, I’m hiding my Bonbon au Palais bag under my desk like a naughty squirrel. Georges said these delicacies can keep for up to 6 months so all the more reason for me to keep them aside and savour them on the palate (notice the play of French words with palet/palate and palais/palace).

the best regional French sweet confiseries

These Tas de Sel from the Loire (literally translated as salt stacks) and Tétons de la Reine Margot from Pau in the Pyrénées-Atlantique, (meaning Queen Margot’s nipples) are definitely for secret, special, oh-là-là moments.

Queen Margot's nipples tetons de la reine chocolates

Like this wonderful moment.  I’ll tell you why next time, but meanwhile we’re finally off on that summer holiday we cancelled last year.  I just need to taste another téton de la Reine Margot, just to ensure my chocolate palate gets the taste of orange and the Cognac.

A bientôt!

Le Bonbon au Palais
19, rue Monge
75005 Paris

Metro: Cardinal Lemoine

 

A Sexy Valentine Dessert Recipe with Parisian Macarons

Last week, as the wild, wild winds howled around a rather bald looking Paris, there was still love in the air. As I turned up my collar and tightened two oversized Scottish scarves, I briefly stopped on this bridge to take in Notre Dame and admire the frozen statues of the 12 apostles walking up the spire.

Even the blustery, horizontal rains didn’t stop this romantic couple from locking up tight and cosy together. I felt like the Parisian Love-tourist Gringe as they put their initials on a padlock and locked it on to one of the two Paris ‘love lock’ bridges, le pont de l’Archevêché. Tut-tut!  OK, where’s my romance, you ask?  I don’t need a padlock to show it. So there.

Romantic couple on the love lock bridge near Notre Dame in Paris

Back home, sheltered from the winds and feeling much more romantic and cosy, I wanted to make something sweet and special for Antoine – and my girls!  Why wait until Valentine’s Day?

One of my favourite Valentine’s desserts is on page 109 of Mad About Macarons: a giant rose macaron with rose and raspberry cream, topped off with a heart macaron.  For those of you who adore lovehearts, then check out How to Make Macaron Heart Shapes. This year, so far, there are no love heart shapes in sight; unless this edible winter pansy counts.

red fruit bavarois recipe with rose macarons

Instead I was tempted by a blackcurrant (cassis) bavarois recipe in Pierre Hermé’s Dessert Book (my pride and joy prize for winning a local  French Pâtisserie competition a few years ago with my pistachio and wasabi macarons). It’s a French answer to the Italian panna cotta (see this rose, cherry and cardamom panna cotta recipe). What I love about this dessert is that it’s packed with fruit and at this time of year, I just used a mix of frozen red fruits. If using frozen, there’s no need to defrost them first; just throw them in the blender and follow the recipe below. Except I have played around so much with the recipe, it’s reduced in sugar and I’ve eliminated the butter.

easy sexy valentine dessert rose macarons

Red Fruit Bavarois Recipe

You’ll need silicone demi-sphere moulds or other shapes will also work well, such as dariole moulds.  If not using silicone non-stick moulds, then butter moulds first. This recipe is gluten free.

Serves 4-6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours

400g mix of red fruits (fresh or defrosted)
4 gelatine sheets @ 2g
140g caster sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or mixed spice)
400ml crème fraiche (30%)

1      Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 10 minutes.

2      Wash and drain the mixed red fruits and whizz them to a purée in a blender or food processor.

3      Heat half of the fruit purée with the sugars and cinnamon then add the gelatine (squeezing first any excess water). Mix in the rest of the purée and the crème fraîche then pour into demi-sphere silicone moulds (I poured into 5 half-sphere moulds, right to the top).

4      Set aside to cool then chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set.

5      When ready to serve, quickly run the bottom of the moulds under the hot water tap then upturn them directly onto each plate (I do this with the help of a pastry scraper).

Serve with white chocolate, rose and orange blossom mousse.

valentine macaron dessert with sexy bottle of wine

It went down a treat with a mellow sexy red wine. You think I’m joking but this Sexy bottle is Portuguese wine.  But to be THE sexiest and perfect Valentine this weekend, make your own home-made macarons.