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Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Welcome to my delicious Do-It-Yourself guide: your own Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, the second part of my series on Day Trips Outside Paris.

As I mentioned in my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it’s where I live. There are about 400 shops in the royal historical town and, if you tend to look in the sweeter windows, then I have selected my particular favourites in the centre of town for your very own DIY tour, all within easy walk to and from the RER train station, opposite the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Grandin

Patisserie Grandin

Since Grandin opened in 1822, this pastry shop has been an institution on Rue au Pain, the oldest medieval street of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Michel Pottier, member of the prestigious Relais Desserts group, has continued with traditional French pastries from the Opéra cake to a legendary Baba au Rhum – but they also have three house specialities.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour grandin

Known primarily for their Saint Germain cake (individual versions seen above in the foreground), it’s made with ground almonds and topped with a boozy rum glaze.

Le Debussy pays hommage to the composer, born in the house just across the road (now Tourist Information), with a hazelnut sponge, praline mousse, rum and raisins, all glazed in dark chocolate.

The Saint Germain chocolates (both dark and milk) are filled with a good dose of Cognac. They were created for the opening of the new railway line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 14 August 1847.

13 rue au Pain
78100 Saint Germain en Laye

Tues-Sat 8.30am-7.30pm and Sunday 8.30am-2pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour osmont-patisserie

Patisserie Osmont

Originally in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine since 1987, the Osmont family spread their wings and opened another boutique here in 2009. The business is now run by the son, Vincent, who trained with Thierry Atlan at Lenôtre and with Pascal Caffet in Troyes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Osmont-pastries

Their bestseller is the Bois-Mort, the pastry that earned father Jean-Marie Osmont the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. It’s a crunchy meringue with hazelnuts interspersed with chocolate-hazelnut and dark chocolate mousses.  Other highlights seen in the above photo are the Tropique (lemon & mango caramel with coconut sponge), the Alliance (mint pannacotta with red fruit compote), and a Vanilla Profiterole Chocolate Tart (which inspired one of my recipes in Teatime in Paris).

There’s such a vast choice – including 15 macarons and a perfect Président pastry that thankfully never has to change.

3 rue des Coches
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7.30pm and Sunday 10am-1pm 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Gontran Cherrier

Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie & Patisserie

Since 2013, Gontran Cherrier has tranformed this spot as an ex-garage into The hang-out just about 40 baguette’s length from the market place. After the Ferrandi school, Gontran Cherrier trained with Alain Passard at l’Arpège and Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton. Now he’s surprising us locals with a range of exciting breads, viennoisseries and pastries.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour gontran-cherrier-croissants

Here you’ll find me grabbing my favourite croissants during the morning market (Tues, Fri, Sun) – and if it’s teatime, a Cape and Cape African tea with a yuzu cheesecake just to travel far. Don’t forget to pick up either a mustard baguette or a squid ink loaf, both rather sensational – and more croissants!

rue de la Grande Fontaine
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Chocolate Shops

As it’s the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, let’s turn to the chocolate shops. As you can see, we’re rather spoiled.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour pascal-le-gac-chocolaterie

Pascal le Gac Chocolatier

This gem of an address is classed as one of the top 7 chocolatiers in France.

After working at La Maison du Chocolat for 24 years and reaching the accolade of Creative Director, Pascal le Gac set up his own boutique in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 2008.

He favours excellence over appearance, simplicity and lasting tradition over passing trends. Just peeking in the window, glistening classic pastries such as éclairs, moelleux au chocolat, truffles, macarons, millefeuilles and opéras all allure the Saint-Germanois to open that door.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Pascal-le-gac

Step inside and smell that chocolate. Ganaches from miel (honey), spices, to even Mango & Sage – where dark chocolate and mango play together – but a subtle herby sage says a cheeky bonjour in the aftertaste.

The chocolate bars are all particularly accessible. I say that since sometimes chocolate makers can make chocolate dry, earthy and complex that it can be difficult to appreciate. Here I thoroughly recommend a bar of Equator 68% which is delightfully fruity, and the more intense Venezuela 81%. Pascal le Gac also does a 100% cacao chocolate bar.

Before you go, taste at least a couple of macarons – the salted caramel and dark chocolate are my personal favourites.

61, rue de Pologne
78100 Saint Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7pm and Sunday 10am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Nicolsen Chocolatier

Each time I see Nicolsen’s thin chocolate discs or palets, it reminds me of Sulpice Debauve who was pharmacist to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and lived here in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Of Debauve & Gallais fame, the oldest chocolate shop in Paris in rue de Saint-Pères (where I normally start my chocolate pastry tour in Paris), chocolate discs were flavoured with ginger or coffee and the likes as a form of royal medicine.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Mr. Debauve was the great grandson of David Chaillou who was first to set up a chocolate drinking house in rue de l’Arbre Sec, near the Tuileries Palace in 1660 under Louis XIV.

Nicolsen, based in Chavanay, are easy to spot in summer as their ice cream cart is popular outside the shop, selling the famous glaces Berthillon. I hear they’ve decided to continue their famous saffron ganache, a house speciality.

19 rue au Pain
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 9am-7.30pm and Sunday 9am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Patrick Roger

Patrick Roger, Chocolatier

Last but certainly not least is the famous Patrick Roger, the chocolate sculptor who thinks well outside the chocolate box. A Meilleur Ouvrier de France for his house speciality: Amazone, a bright green dome of chocolate lime caramel which takes around 24 steps to obtain this look without using any colorants. If you’re looking for a taste sensation, try the Delphi for a blind tasting and let me know what you think is in it.  I personally love to stock up on Beijing, his large chocolate gingers.

A wider range of his chocolate sculptures are on show at his boutique in Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

2 rue de Paris
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Fri 10.30am-1pm; 2pm-7.30pm and Sat 10.30am-7.30pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Cakes

Have I at least whet your appetite to jump on that train from Paris?  It only takes 20 minutes on the RER A line from Charles de Gaulle Etoile station (Arc de Triomphe) and you’ll discover even more chocolate shops (such as Jeff de Bruges, deNeuville) and many more boulangerie/pâtisseries (Eric Kayser, Goulay, Maison Hardy, Paul, Fabien Ledoux, etc.), biscuit shops (La Cure Gourmande) and even a new American-style cupcake shop, Daisy Cake, which I still haven’t tried yet – I’ll leave that to you.

However, how could I finish a Saint-Germain-en-Laye Sweet Chocolate Pastry Tour without stopping for a cup of tea?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice

Chez Alice Salon de Thé

Hidden off the pedestrian precinct of Rue des Coches, Chez Alice’s tearoom is a quiet haven where you can secretly be decadent with a marshmallow hot chocolate and cream, a Champagne lunch, brunch on a Sunday (reservations a must) or a most civilised teatime with a selection of teas retrieved from one of the oversized Compagnie Coloniale tea caddies.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice Tearoom

Alice is not only one of the most adorable French women I know, but her cakes – all made by herself and her mother – are such a special treat to enjoy while escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday routine. In fact, I wish I could make it a routine to come here more often!

Chez Alice Salon de Thé
10 rue des Vieilles Boucheries
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 11.30am – 6.30pm and Sunday 12 noon-6pm

Fig & Almond Pudding

A simple, elegant figgy pudding with the added French touch of mini raspberry macarons

Foucade: A Healthy 100% Gluten-Free Patisserie in Paris

I almost want to keep this address a secret. Last week I discovered this new patisserie, Foucade, in Paris – the difference is that all pastries here are entirely gluten-free. Opened just since December 2015, tucked between the Madeleine church and Rue Saint Honoré, this stylish bright violet boutique oozes chic. From the inviting entrance with violet hydrangeas, #healthy ‘ashtags and intriguing pastry postcards splashed on the window, the pastry counter leads through to a quiet and secluded tea salon.

Foucade-paris-pastry-glutenfree

I met the boutique’s energetic founder, Marjorie Fourcade, who explained the concept behind Foucade. Discovering she was intolerant to wheat and dairy (lactose) plus problems related to sugar, she worked together with nutritionists for three years. The result was the creation of this healthy “Patisserie Positive”.

Foucade gluten-free Tea Salon

The focus is on top quality products for a total gluten-free cast with the majority of pastries also dairy-free (sans lactose). Marjorie insists on using natural ingredients with contents both low in fat and sugars – without forgetting the utmost detail to taste and flavour.

An emphasis is on fresh fruit and vegetables – yes, vegetables. There are no food colourings used: to achieve the vibrant crimson red on a Fraisier, for example, her Japanese pastry chef, Saori Odoi, adds beetroot juice. I could even taste the beetroot’s subtle presence, which is unusual in a classic strawberry French pastry, but hey, I’m flexible.

As everything is totally healthy, my excuse was to try as many pastries as I could fit in their extra large pastry box, especially interested to taste with the family at home and test out their reactions.

Healthy pastries Foucade gluten-free patisserie paris

Each Foucade pastry comes with its corresponding postcard, detailing the nutritional facts – a touch that is no doubt appreciated by any sensitive Celiac sufferer or anyone prone to food allergies. For us, we were simply curious to know more behind the pastries.

All pastries are very much reduced in sugar, allowing each ingredient to shine. Let me give you a sample tasting:

La Citronnée – Acidulée! With an 81% reduction in sugar compared with its traditional gluten versions around Paris, we were preparing our cheeks for a complete puckering session.  WRONG! (I think the most puckering sensation I’ve had with a lemon & lime tart is at Carette.) Although still tart, the creaminess of the lime, lemon, and yuzu were all slightly sweetened by a hint of basil.  The crunchy texture of the tart base of unrefined almonds finished it off beautifully. My girls were impressed that they’d also had a +269% dose of vitamin E, at that.

foucade's spicy gluten-free clove apple eclairs

L’Eclair Spicy – Spicy it is.  The choux dough is so light, made with colza and chia grains, topped with a crunchy almond and hazelnut praline.  The apples are sautéd in three spices and the Chantilly is particularly heady with a strong kick of cloves, which makes for a totally new éclair experience.

L’Opérette Puissante (dairy-free) – This is the ultimate dark chocolate treat and powerful it is. With a mixture of 70%, 85% and 100% raw cocoa, with a light crunchy mixture of buckwheat and chia grains for the most deliciously healthy protein boost. I thought my girls would find it too “raw” and lacking sugar, but they totally loved it – it’s true that it’s robust in chocolate and so a little goes a long way!

Speaking of buckwheat, Marjorie insisted I buy a packet of the Foucade special gluten-free granola. As I normally make my own breakfast oat granola with no added sugar except roasted in maple syrup, I was expecting (more or less) the same thing. I’m still trying to get my taste-buds around it and, even although there’s no label on the packet to list the ingredients, I can tell there’s a strong play of buckwheat in amongst all the lovely nuts and cranberries. Personally I prefer buckwheat in galettes (traditional Breton savoury crêpes) or a lighter version in their Opérette.  Their cute mini moist lemon cake (Cake pur citron) was more my cup of tea – although buckwheat in granola is so intriguing I may become hooked!

All pastries are very much reduced in sugar, allowing each ingredient to shine. A particular personal favorite to give you an example is La Rustique – crunchy base of chestnut flour and brown rice, sweet potato and cinnamon purée and topped with baked apple. I loved the different textures and although not powerful, the hint of sweet potato is a clever touch. At 145 calories, it’s apparently 64% less than its traditional pastry, with 40% less sugar and has 97% more Magnesium and 44% more vitamin C! No gluten, no egg, no nuts and no soya. If you’re a real dark chocolate fan, then try the (also dairy-free) powerful l’Opérette, with a mixture of 70%, 85% and 100% raw cocoa for the most deliciously healthy protein boost.

One particular pastry which struck us at first as being a total classic surprised us the most. Described as “Authentique”, it’s cheeky ingredients made it our overall winner:

La Rustique – a crunchy base of chestnut flour and brown rice, sweet potato and cinnamon purée and topped with baked apple. We loved the different textures and although not powerful, the hint of sweet potato is a clever touch. At 145 calories, it’s apparently 64% less than its traditional pastry, with 40% less sugar and has 97% more Magnesium and 44% more vitamin C! No gluten, no egg, no nuts and no soya.

If you’re a demanding gourmet who pays particular attention to well-being and are sensitive to the most natural ingredients, then add Foucade to your best patisserie list on your next visit to Paris.

Foucade Paris
Maison de Pâtisserie Positive
Tea Salon
17 rue Duphot
75001 Paris

Tel: (33-1) 42 36 11 81
Metro: Madeleine

Tues-Fri 10am-7.30pm; Sat 11am-7pm


See my article about the top 100% Gluten-free Pastries in Paris at Bonjour Paris.

 

Palets Bretons Recipe – French Butter Biscuits or Cookies

Slightly sweet & salty French butter biscuits – just irresistible!

Macarons vs Macaroons

It happened again.  I recently caught myself wincing at a teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant tea salons, where the famously stylish Parisian “macaron” was translated as “macaroon”.

I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems, but get it right.

While Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, they are both totally different.

Macarons vs Macaroons

This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book five years ago, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.

I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.

Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”

bitten macarons by Jill Colonna

Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?

The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.

So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.

But there’s more to it than that.

macarons vs macaroons Jill Colonna

Is it a macaron? A rougher looking amaretti cookie and a Parisian Gerbet macaron

What is a Macaron?

Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.

In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.

French macaron varieties Montmorillon

French Regional Macaron Varieties

But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).

For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey. Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (more like an round almond cakes – see above. Here there’s also a Macaron Museum!), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.

macaron vs macaroon coconut or almond version

Macaron on the left (don’t be confused with the coconut on top, I was just being funny); Macaroon on the right. Both recipes in “Teatime in Paris”

What is a Macaroon?

Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.

It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.

Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s blog at Christina’s Cucina to see how to make the real McCoy bars!

To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.

Macaroon Jam tarts

Macaroon jam tarts

Macarons vs Macaroons

So before the confusion spreads any further between such differences between macarons and macaroons, let’s nip it in the bud.  In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today, unless a regional version is mentioned, refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot, otherwise it’s not a Parisian macaron.

Now it’s your turn to spread the macaron word – or is it a macaroon?


 

This article was originally published for BonjourParis.com