Favourite chocolate, and sweet confectionary shops in Paris

Paris Chocolate Star Denise Acabo – A l’Etoile d’Or

A l’Etoile d’Or – meaning “At the Golden Star” – there may be golden stars hanging up around the best Parisian chocolate and candy shop but the real star in Paris is Denise Acabo.

Surfacing out of the Paris metro Blanche station, the Moulin Rouge cabaret signals Pigalle, the border between the 9th and 18th arrondissements. Before being lured up the hill to visit Montmartre, a visit to Denise Acabo’s tiny boutique awaits just 5 minutes’ walk away in the other direction in the 9th.

Le Moulin Rouge Paris

A l’Etoile d’Or is tucked away on the left in Rue Fontaine. Together with my curious chocolate-loving French friends from the south, we excitedly study the shop window.

It’s filled with cello-taped press reviews since Denise Acabo opened A l’Etoile d’Or in 1993 plus, amongst porcelaine cups and a chocolate pot (moussoir), tempting concoctions of chocolate quotations from famous personalities since chocolate became fashionable; to today’s researchers and doctors.

Denise Acabo Chocolate Shop Paris

Us girlfriends gravitate towards the alluring advice in the window from Italian Sex Doctor, Salonia Andrea:

Chocolate is an aphrodisiac; women with a weakness for a daily dose of the black square (of chocolate) have a more and satisfying sex life.

All of a sudden, already in full swing, Denise Acabo comes flying outside the door to welcome us inside. She looks ready to dance a Scottish Ceilidh in an extra-long kilt with cleverly comfy shoes. As David Lebovitz aptly puts it in his “Great Book of Chocolate”:

The sign on the door should read ‘Beware of flying pigtails”.

A L'Etoile D'or Denise Acabo Paris chocolate star

No wonder there are so many articles already written about this Parisian star of chocolate. Denise Acabo leads us in, apologising for the loud music and asks her charming assistant to turn the volume down. “I adore listening to music,” she confesses. We unanimously urge her to keep it playing as it is.

Hm. Verdi’s Requiem. Are we at the Golden Star to experience a form of death by chocolate?

A L'Etoile d'Or Paris chocolate star

Denise Acabo buzzes around, wondering where to start first, speaking French at 100km an hour (this is when I wish I could compare it to words a minute had I listened to Mum trying to teach me shorthand).

Down-to-earth banter is interspersed with her passion for each chocolate in store and a constant cheeky humour. Don’t be fooled by the schoolgirl attire: she isn’t shy at using more adult and familiar French words and refreshingly tells us what she thinks.

We’re smitten.

At the golden star Denise Acabo

Every centimetre of her shop is groaning with French gourmet magazines and books, plus fun facts and anecdotes to accompany her personally selected treasure trove of France’s top chocolate and confiserie.

Bernachon trusts only Madame Acabo to sell their exquisite hand-made chocolate (made from scratch, from bean to bar) outside Lyon, and the delights from France’s gastronomic capital (read my article here) are well represented with not only their chocolate tablets and filled chocolates, but also les Coussins de Lyon – literally soft velveteen green ‘cushions’ filled with curaçao liqueur.

It’s not just Bernachon: she also stocks Bonnat chocolate bars, Henri Le Roux’s famous ‘CBS’, Caramel au Beurre Salé (salted caramels – more about this in my book, Teatime in Paris) plus Jacques Genin’s flavoured soft exotic caramels.

Denise Acabo candies or confiserie in Paris

Madame is proud to tell us she’s now 82 years old, adores people and has always sported her plaid uniform look. “Before I used to wear the tartan cravates et tout,” she says. “Now I’m a little more décontractée” (relaxed). Is it since she got over the gas explosion in the building and then re-opened in 2015?

We don’t even mention it: there’s so much to talk about what’s in those glass jars of chocolates and bonbons.

Denise Acabo chocolate candy shop Paris

She presses some innocent-looking chocolate raisins in our hands.

Silence.

I bite through the outer coating of dark chocolate that crashes into a soft, explosive golden raisin with a warming glow of Christmas. “Oh My God!” my mouth utters, taking me completely by surprise.

“That’s exactly what Meryll Streep said!” says Denise and tells us that a princess (whom shall remain anonymous here) picks up her order by the hundred kilo weight.

I was seeing stars with such a light but distinct taste of Sauternes wine coating the mouth, the chocolate not overpowering the flavour.

Denise Acabo candied rose petals for Champagne

We’re already wondering how the sugared violets or rose petals will stand up to the day’s walk around Montmartre later – especially as she’s gone to all the trouble to accept only the unbroken, perfect petals. She wraps them with bubble wrap and we continue around our walk dreaming of each petal (or crumb?) topped with Champagne.

Denise Acabo takes us back in time with the golden stars such as Louis XIV’s favourite barley sugar bonbons, various flavours of Les Anis de Flavigny from Burgundy, traditional oblong iced marzipan Calissons from Aix-en-Provence, soft or hard nougat with toasted nuts, pralines, Amandes de Sicile.

A l'Etoile d'Or of Denise Acabo Paris

Asked what were her own personal favourites in store, she replies with a simple “I love absolutely everything here, as I’ve chosen each individual chocolate or bonbon carefully. I only stock what I truly love.”

Nobody can sway her gut decisions what are the best products in her opinion.  She tells us she constantly receives chocolate samples and yet only a small fraction of them are accepted into her boutique. Many of them are just awful, she exclaims with wide, sparkly eyes.

Denise Acabo chocolate wrapping of French traditional cartoons

Look carefully around the shop and you’ll see that each and every chocolate and candy is gift-wrapped in special brightly-coloured cartoon paper.

Denise explains that she is the only shop in France that continues this tradition of using les Devinettes d’Épinal.

A l'Etoile d'Or Denise Acabo devinettes

The cartoon-style images are What-am-I guessing games, full of colour. Even different producers of the images approach Denise Acabo, asking her to take on their devinette paper.

“But just look at this,” she exclaims, as she takes out a giant, creased and folded cartoon paper. It’s sporting far too much white and not enough colour or devinettes.

“Pfah!” and she throws it back into the wooden drawer.

Denise Acabo Paris chocolate Pigalle

I spy a Corsican corner, eyeing my favourite tastes from my husband’s Island of Beauty: jams with Corsican clementines, plus chestnut honey and confiture d’Angélique (angelica jam).

Explaining I’m an Ecorssaise (she liked that – merci Emmanuelle!), I wonder if she can find a Scottish and Corsican speciality using les Ecorces de Clementines Corse or something.

Whether she’s on the case or not, we’re steered to the health virtues of angelica, thanks to Monsieur Thonnard who produces the exceptional Angelique de Niort.

Denise Acabo chocolate candy paris shop

We’re off again, as she tells us that Angelica is an excellent fortifiant… As early as the middle ages, angelica was given to weaker children to suck on and give them strength.

Did you know that in the 14th century, angelica was grown in Monastery gardens to prevent the plague (la peste), but these days it’s also known to help cure respiratory problems and digestive troubles?

Denise Acabo Paris A l'Etoile d'Or

Madame Acabo shows us the same healthy angelica beckoning underneath a thin coating of delicious chocolate. We guess she’s taking this on a regular basis, with such energy, enthusiasm and character.

Meanwhile, back on the golden stars, my mind and eyes wander to Meryll Streep’s favourite Perles de Lorraine (caramel with mirabelle plum liqueur), hoping to bump into her for a rendition of Abba in flares and avoid questions like what it was like to film with Clint Eastwood – or does she wear Prada?

Denise Acabo A l'Etoile d'Or Paris chocolate

One word of advice: ensure you give yourself time to visit A l’Etoile d’Or, as anything under 20 minutes is just not realistic if you want to discover the stories behind the chocolates and candy – not to mention have the urge to buy most of the shop’s contents!

Denise Acabo oozes such contagiously cheerful chocolate-induced endorphins that you’ll most likely leave elated and be planning your next trip for a taste of more.

 

A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Pierre Fontaine
75009 Paris
Tel: 01 48 74 59 55

Metro: Blanche (line 2)

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique, Paris

If you’ve read my second book, Teatime in Paris, you will have discovered not just easy French teatime goûter recipes, but also the sweeter addresses in Paris – plus some fascinating titbits of history that accompany many of the pastries.

best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

With such a wealth of the best sweet addresses in Paris, imagine how exciting it is to have the most delicious oasis of patisseries, bakeries, chocolate and caramel shops plus Salon de Thé tearooms concentrated IN JUST THREE BLOCKS, all near the Eiffel Tower! What’s more, there are now two new delicious arrivals on the block!

Let me be your online guide to the best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique – starting at the bottom of the foodie pedestrian street of Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement, to the Esplanade des Invalides, an open-air playground for the boules-playing locals. Finish off your sweet stroll by watching them play, or grab a bench in the quieter little parks around it with a pastry box or two and caramels in hand.

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

best pastries rue saint dominique

Aux Merveilleux de Fred

Right on the corner of the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou, marvel at the Merveilleux meringue-and-Chantilly-cream domes freshly being prepared in the window. It’s not difficult to be lured in, door wide open, to this chandelier-lit bakery, where Frédéric Vaucamp has brought back the 18th century specialities of Northern France and Flanders. There are a few boutiques in Paris – remember me discovering the first one in the 16th, just off rue de Passy?

Each Merveilleux meringue cake comes in large, individual or mini, and each take a theme from French society. Choose your size, for example, with a whipped cream and caramel that’s called the Sans-Culottes – meaning “without breeches or pants” – referring to the common people who largely took part in the French Revolution. Cinnamon lovers will enjoy the Incroyables (cinnamon speculoos cream), or why not try the Unthinkable (the Impensable) with its crispy creamy coffee meringue? For a cherry in your cake, go Excentrique.

Don’t forget to stock up for an extra-sticky brioche breakfast of Cramiques, either studded with traditional raisins, sticky “plain” sugar, or with dense, dark chocolate chips.

94 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 9am-8pm
Sunday 9am-7pm (Closed Monday)


Aoki macarons Rue Saint Dominique Paris

Sadaharu Aoki

Award-winning pastry chef, Sadaharu Aoki has been amazing Parisians with his distinct Japanese influences on French pâtisserie for the past 20 years. The window is enticing enough with Matcha Green Tea croissants and colorful macarons but why not step inside to taste the yuzu citrus and the black sesame macarons in the tranquil tearoom?

Many macarons are tea-infused with Hojicha grilled Japanese tea, and Genmaïcha, a green tea combined with roasted brown rice. Green tea is given another voice with his popular pastry, the Bamboo – Chef Aoki’s Japanese take on the classic Parisian Opera cake, with each delicate layer consisting of joconde biscuit, buttercream, chocolate ganache, syrup and glaçage (glaze) – but in place of the traditional coffee syrup, chef Aoki exchanges it with Matcha green tea and a splash of Kirsch liqueur, adding that special je ne sais quoi to the opera notes – Yo, it has its own pentatonic scale! For more of his pastry tastings, see my previous post here.

The shop was previously teamed up with Jean Millet Paris until May 2017.

103 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm
Sunday 10am-6pm (Closed Monday)


best pastries Rue Saint-Dominique

Lemoine

Stop here for a taste of the other speciality of Bordeaux, the Canelé. As winemakers used egg whites to clarify their wines, the local nuns came up with this delicious idea to use up the egg yolks in the 18th Century and the Canelas was born. Over the years the name has changed but it’s still a fascinating little caramelised crunchy fluted cake with an eggy vanilla and rum interior.

They also have macarons and chocolate but you can’t leave France without tasting a Canelé! The good news is that they can keep for a few days, so prepare your doggy bag for later as there are still many treats to try yet.

74 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Monday-Sunday 9am-8pm


best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

If you’re looking for a good, crusty baguette and a choice of delicious sliced breads, pop into the Boulangerie Nelly Julien, 85 rue Saint Dominique and be tempted with even more pastries.

Monday-Saturday 6.30am-8.15pm. Closed Sunday


Best pastries rue saint dominique

Le Moulin de la Vierge

The bakery window says it all: “Viennoiserie – Tout Au Beurre”.

Here you have to taste their Viennoiseries, the delicious umbrella word which covers the best buttery, flaky croissants, pains au chocolat, pains au raisin, apple chaussons to name a few – and typically eaten for breakfast. More butter cakes come in the form of little Financiers (friands) teacakes, plus their selection of traditional pastries. Rows of fresh crusty bread, flutes and baguettes wink at customers behind the cosy lamps on the counter. They also offer soup and sandwiches to either take out or sit in.

64 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Thursday-Tuesday 7.30am-8.30pm (Closed Wednesday)

 


Patisseries rue saint dominique Paris

Notre Pâtisserie

Turn right into Rue Amélie and you’ll see why it’s worth just a few steps off rue Saint Dominique. Decked out in turquoise blue and white, you’ll love the array of patisseries, macarons and viennoiseries dreamed up by talented pastry chef, Francesca and her team.

Check out the chic Parisian wallpaper and flowerpots on the original steel frames kept to remind you of the location’s history: it housed the workers of the Eiffel Tower in the 19th Century.

best patisseries rue saint Dominique Paris

You’ll also be lured in to watch the chefs in full swing producing their picture perfect pastries and brioches from the lab in full view behind the counter. Pastry classes on request.

Notre Patisserie, 7 rue Amélie, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 9am-1pm (Closed Monday)

 


Thoumieux best pastries in Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Gâteaux Thoumieux

As the word, “Thoumieux” implies with its play on French words, everything’s better! Just across the road from Chef Jean-François Piège’s famous eponymous brasserie, his cake shop has been taking Paris by storm since 2013 with the famous Chou Chou (a chou bun with a mini chou hidden inside).

Pastry chefs Sylvestre Wahid and Alex Lecoffre play with seasonal inspiration to create artistic treats using natural sugars and honey as well as some gluten free options. You’ll love their fraisier, mango cheesecake or lemon cake with a white chocolate crust. Don’t miss their fresh brioche buns – although my firm favourite still has to be the Chou Chou, which comes in various seasonal combinations.

58 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 8am-8pm
Sunday 8am-6pm (Closed Monday)

Update: Since writing this post, Thoumieux have sadly closed down their patisserie but the chocolates and macarons continue with a new shop opened by pastry chef, David Liébaux since mid-October 2017.


best sweet addresses Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Henri Le Roux

Who would have known that salted caramel is a recent discovery? Not only is this one of the top chocolate shops in Paris but Henri Le Roux is also known as Caramélier. Fans of salted caramel have Henri Le Roux to thank, as he created the CBS© (Caramel au Beurre Salé) in 1977 in Quiberon, the location of his first chocolate shop in Brittany and where salted butter is added to many local specialities. Ever since, salted caramel has appeared the world over and so he wisely registered it in 1981.

Don’t leave Paris without a taste of the CBS, with its deliciously dark and soft half-salted caramel with crushed walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds giving it such a unique texture – and now celebrating its 40th birthday! There are dozens of additional flavours to choose from, including a subtle Sakura cherry blossom caramel to welcome the arrival of Spring. Peruse the mouth-watering range of chocolates (including one with truffle), as well as the caramel (Caramelier) and chocolate (Bonsoncoeur) spreads that are a special luxury on crêpes or simply on the best baguette!

52 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-2pm; 3pm-7.30pm (Closed Sunday & Monday)


best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique Paris, Karamel

Karamel

Stick with me, as caramel continues to unwrap at the next block! Karamel is the new concept tearoom and patisserie created by another caramel-loving Breton, Nicolas Haelewyn, after a career at Ladurée with the last 5 years as international pastry chef.

Sitting in front of a long glass case of traditional looking pastries, it’s difficult to choose just one, as each masterpiece is intriguing – from the giant 1001 Karamel Mille feuille to some more dainty-looking treats. While I’m pondering, I’m thrown off track with tasting cups of a huge tureen of Teurgoule (or Terrinée), a dark-skinned slow-cooked caramel rice pudding from Normandy as Mum and our good friend, Rena, already tuck in to their pastry choices.  I won’t spoil your surprise of my rather curvy caramelised pear on a tartlet – but open it up and Oh-là-làs are guaranteed! Sharing this somehow would have been difficult (well, that’s my excuse).

The teas by Kodama are all beautifully explained. Amazed at such a surprising match of green tea with lively ginger and lemon, the extra touch was a caramel slipped behind a dainty floral porcelain teacup.

Karamel, 67 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris

Monday-Friday: 7.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm
Sunday 9am-1pm

best patisseries near Eiffel Tower


Want to make your own financiers, canelés, madeleines, tarts, millefeuilles, éclairs, choux buns and macarons yourself at home? Don’t forget you’ll find the recipes in my second book, Teatime in Paris!

teatime in Paris pastry recipe book

Jean-Paul Hévin: New French Touch Chocolate Collection 2016-2017

Thank Hévin for chocolate! Jean-Paul Hévin demonstrates stylish savoir-faire with his new French Touch chocolate collection for this holiday season 2016-2017.

New French Touch Chocolate Collection

Seven main ingredients are used by Hévin to give us that festive French Touch this year: fashion, joie de vivre, style, creativity, humour, terroir, and tradition – all illustrated in the following seven pure chocolate creations for Christmas and New Year. With FOUR new bûches in the collection, Hévin designs his chocolate yule log pastries around the quality of his chocolate first.

Bûche Fashion

new french touch chocolate collection 2016

Hévin has always had an fashionable element of la mode in his chocolate and this Bûche Fashion firmly puts it in the bag, as the saying goes (same in French: l’affaire est dans le sac). Not quite a “trunk”, this is a rather compact handbag for any chocoholic who appreciates a pure intense Venezuelan chocolate sensation. Could our hands be too hot to handle this chocolate handbag? You could also show you’re “well heeled” with his famous chocolate stiletto sculptures!

Bûche Cancan

new french touch chocolate collection 2016 Cancan Buche

A festive Bûche Cancan represents the French Joie de vivre party spirit. Like the Cancan dancers, the Tonka base has an exciting crunch, topped with frilly layers of chocolate and almond sponge, with a gutsy Peruvian Grand Cru chocolate mousse. A dark cherry jelly adds a suggestive lingering aftertaste.

Bûche Grand Style

new french touch chocolate collection 2016 Buches edible decorations

Be transported to the regal gardens of Versailles with the Bûche Grand Style, especially designed to be easily transportable abroad for any stylish party, even if it’s next day to the USA. Based around a chocolate mousse (Grand Cru from the Equator), its subtle aftertaste brings out the pistachio in the chocolate gianduja base.

Bûche Rève or Dream

new french touch chocolate collection 2016

Creativity is given to Jean-Paul Hévin’s personal favourite Bûche Rêve – with dreams of a child being able to reach for the moon at Christmas. It’s the most complex: an orange crème brûlée is subtle but just enough to distinguish some balancing acidity and I loved the texture with the crunchy almond chocolate base. Although candied ginger is in there, it’s just a suggestive hint, all billowing around a Brazilian Grand Cru chocolate mousse.

new french touch chocolate collection 2016 Buche Reve

Jean-Paul Hévin, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). Spot the orange crème brûlée?

Table Centre, Lumière

His French Touch continues with an ingredient of humour, demonstrated by a table centre-piece Lumière, as a chocolate candle – of course, not to be lit!

new french touch chocolate collection 2016 Lumiere table centre

New Bordeaux chocolates put terroir (soil, climate etc. that distinguishes chocolate like wine) in the limelight with a Grand Cru from the Equator.

Bordeaux chocolates new french touch chocolate collection 2016
The same chocolate is highlighted in a new festive macaron range, Cocorico. Hévin pays homage to the traditional French sporting cockerel mascot, Cocorico (Cock-a-doodle-do!), symbolising the French pride of their country and culture.

Hevin macarons new french touch chocolate collection 2016

This image of Jean-Paul Hévin to present the new French Touch chocolate collection sums up his quirky humour. I wonder what Renoir would have preferred for a festive dessert at this rather famous lively lunch on the Seine or Déjeuner des Canotiers in Chatou?

renoir-hevin-french-touch-painting

The French Touch festive collection is available as of 6 December.

Which one would you choose?

Jean-Paul Hévin
Avenue de la Motte Piquet
75007 Paris

Update! For more yule logs new this season in Paris, read my article at Paris Perfect!

Pascal Caffet’s New Festive Pastry Collection on Praline

I have great news for praline lovers since they’ll be spoiled this holiday season: Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection 2016 is entirely based on his winning praline theme.

Known by his Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) peers as the King of Praline, you’ll understand what they mean if you’ve gone into the charming boutique in Paris’s 16th arrondissement and tasted just one of his pralines. Join me for a taste here.

This Christmas, one new bûche (yule log) takes the spotlight, surrounded by a team of other festive treats in store.

New Festive Yule Log

Pascal Caffet's new festive pastry collection 2016 - new yule log

The new sublime Bûche Féérique is indeed magical with layered waves of intense praline, a perfectly balanced compote of blackcurrant from Burgundy and smooth chestnut from Naples. It’s topped with an airy Madagascan vanilla mousse then glazed with blackcurrant.

Personally, this was one of my favourites of all bûches I’ve tasted for this season, as the play of textures with the chestnut and fruit are all harmoniously dosed so that every layer’s flavours shine through. The blackcurrant gives that acidic depth, and the whole sensation is surprisingly light.

Pascal Caffet's new festive pastry collection: buches de noel

Four other classic yule logs feature in Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection: 70% dark chocolate from Guatemala (Splendide); Venezuela (Etincellante, Merveilleuse); and 40% milk chocolate with lime (Lumineuse). All feature chocolate from La Chocolaterie de l’Opera®.

Splendide (pictured above as a large yule log) is for pure chocolate lovers who love that extra textural crunch of almond praline at the bottom.  The chocolate mousse has almost a hint of smokiness to it which comes from the cacao plantations, with a mix of Guatemala and Madagascar.

Even if you prefer dark chocolate like me, the Lumineuse will be a real family pleaser since although it’s made with milk chocolate, the play of flavours create a festive explosion to any meal. How does hazelnut praline with a light vanilla and lime mousse, vanilla caramel, milk chocolate lime mousse and grilled hazelnuts sound?

Life is a Box of Chocolates

Pascal Caffet's new festive pastry collection - chocolate pralines

I spied a selection of chocolates – what do you think about an edible chocolate box?  As Pascal Caffet says:

The best chocolate is the one that we love.

A Piece of Christmas Cake

Pascal Caffet's new festive pastry collection 2016 - spiced Christmas cake

I’m not such a cake fan – unless it’s like this: syrupy moist and full of flavour.Also part of Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection is the Spiced Christmas cake. It’s his take on the traditional gingerbread with star anise, cinnamon, orange and candied Corsican clementines.

The cherry on the cake for praline lovers is Pascal Caffet’s new cookery book, simply called “Praliné“, which  came out 21 October. Most of the 100 praline recipes are easy enough for us home bakers while there’s a section dedicated to the more challenging recipes if you feel like taking the plunge as a pro.

The festive collection is available in any of his boutiques in and outside Paris as of 25 November.

Pascal Caffet
13 Rue Duban, 75016 Paris

Metro: La Muette


Disclosure: I was invited by Pascal Caffet’s team to simply taste the new season’s yule logs in store.  I was not compensated and was not obliged to write a positive post.  As always, opinions are entirely my own.

Angelina’s New Yule Log & Festive Collection 2016

Angelina’s new yule log for Christmas this year will certainly grace any elegant festive table for a traditional French bûche dessert. And for fans of their famous African Hot Chocolate and Mont Blanc, there are more surprises in store.

Angelina Paris Rue de Rivoli

The highlight for me was not just being invited to taste and share Angelina’s new yule log with you, but I was equally bowled over to be able to talk with the pastry chefs themselves.

Angelina’s New Yule Log, the Paon Blanc

Created for Angelina by head pastry chef, Christophe Appert, the Paon Blanc (white peacock) takes pride of place for this year’s festive centre-piece. The rare and beautiful white peacock was particularly chosen as an artistic symbol of the Belle Epoque era, echoing the style of the famous tearoom in Rue de Rivoli since 1903. For more about the background of Angelina, see my article here.

christophe Appert, Head Pastry Chef Angelina new yule log

Angelina’s new yule log is sheer elegance on a plate, the Paon Blanc fanning out delicate notes of citrus and the exotic with passion fruit, mango and coconut. As light as the peacock’s feathers, this is always appreciated after a festive meal and its perfect play of not too much sugar encourages the delicate fruity notes and white chocolate to shine through.

Let’s look at its sophisticated layers: underneath the white peacock’s coat of coconut and white chocolate and golden powdered feathers, lies a crisp crumble base finely topped with coconut butter/white chocolate.  The heart of the yule log contains layers of joconde almond biscuit (sponge) interspersed with three different jellies: orange, passion fruit and mango.

It’s all covered in an airy vanilla mousse – and my favourite part is the circular, surprising zing of a lemon and lime cream which I’m so glad that Chef Appert added after his first few drafts, as for me it’s the winning touch! I have to add that I’m not a white chocolate fan – but this is so fine with a perfectly dosed overall balance that the white chocolate, although present, is a wonderful background suggestion.

Gourmet Advent Calendar

yule log angelina christmas advent calendar

The traditional Advent Calendar evokes chic illustrations of the tearoom in Rue de Rivoli, with a surprise behind each window. Each day discover the likes of milk chocolate almonds, white or dark chocolate pralines,  Napolitains and Giandujas (chocolate-hazelnut).

The advent calendar is on sale as of 16 November.

angelina christmas gift boxes

Gift Boxes (Coffrets)

Angelina have thought of everything this Christmas, and their selection of gift boxes includes the new white-peacocked festive edition. Fans of Angelina’s famous African Hot Chocolate are spoiled with a festive edition with added cinnamon, a box of 19 chocolates, and a jar of chestnut paste to continue their Mont-Blanc theme.  A new Christmas tea (Thé de Noël) from China and Sri Lanka is also given the white peacock treatment with orange peel and flavoured with gingerbread and flower petals.

christmas yule logs angelina Paris 2016

More Yule Logs

Angelina’s new yule log still has it’s traditional bûche family alongside it: the Choco Intense, The Tentation Passion and the Mont-Blanc.

Did you know that the emblematic Mont-Blanc pastry was created by Angelina pastry chefs in the 1910’s based on a popular hairstyle that women wore at that time: a short bob?

Saturday 17 December

Mark your calendars if you’d like to surprise your loved ones with a personalised note around the festive white peacock theme. A Calligraphist will be at both stores to write something for you with her plume on an Angelina card. Free event.

  • Boutique in Rue du Bac: 11am-3pm
  • Tearoom in  Rue de Rivoli: 3.30pm-7pm

Spotlight

Meet Florent Martinot, pastry sous-chef, who joined Angelina in June 2015. Originally from the gourmet Capital of Lyon, a town where he grew up around delicious confection specialities and where he realised his vocation after falling and saving a pain au chocolat rather than his teeth as a youngster. He’s worked with Sebastian Bouillet, Dalloyau (specialising in chocolate), Hermé (managing the opening of a new chocolate shop in Alsace), then finally Hugo & Victor (R&D) before his calling to Angelina.

Florent Martinot pastry chef Angelina

Sous pastry chef, Florent Martinot

Christmas Macarons

Last but not least, are the macarons!  This Christmas, there’s nothing plain about their vanilla macarons which are coated in gold powder to top off the White Peacock theme with panache – not ganache.

angelina vanilla christmas macarons

With thanks to the pastry and press teams at Angelina for a wonderful festive tasting and for trying so hard to evoke a Christmas ambience in sweltering 30°C + temperatures of our Indian Parisian Summer in September! The Christmas collection, including the limited edition Paon Blanc, is available as of 26 November.

Angelina
Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris


P.S. Let me show you this beautiful illustration of Angelina’s Paon Blanc bûche by a newly discovered artistic friend, the talented Isma of MesArticlesduJour. This conjures up the feminine, light touch of Angelina, don’t you think?

buche paon blanc Angelina's new yule log 2016

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition: La Baule 2016

Some of you saw the live videos on Facebook but I’ve been itching to tell you in much more detail about this exceptional pastry and chocolate weekend! To start, I was bowled over to be invited by Christophe Roussel to join the French jury for his Annual Pastry Competition Final in La Baule (Loire-Atlantique) on France’s west coast.

Open to budding amateur pastry chefs, five talented finalists were chosen in September via their tantalising patisseries and descriptions on Facebook, all based on this year’s défi (challenge), first announced in July.

As the event wasn’t open to the public, I feel duty-bound to share this with you, patisserie and chocolate lovers. So fasten your seat-belts for a bumper post!

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition

Annual Pastry Competition

What was the Défi Patissier‘s CHALLENGE this second year?

TO REVISIT an OPÉRA cake, using the famous Fleur de sel de Guérande as an imposed ingredient and during the final, include Christophe Roussel’s new signature Bahiana® chocolate from Brazil.Sounds easy? An Opera pastry has to be one of the most difficult in the French pastry repertoire!

With the competition’s early morning start, Christophe and Julie generously helped relieve any night-before stress by hosting a welcome dinner on La Baule’s beach. Dessert was, of course, by Christophe himself.  If anyone had forgotten his style and needed to tweak their dessert next day, now was the time. The desserts set the tone…

fleur d'Asie of Christophe Roussel

Luckily I had lovely Lucie by my side who works with Christophe, so she could suggest two out of the FOUR desserts! The Fleur d’Asie, or Asian Flower, is a delicate combination of apricot and the Asian Osmanthus (Devilwood) plant which has scents of apricot and peach. I love his hidden Fleur de Sel which gives that unexpected crunch – fantastic!

A First in France: Signature Chocolate

Chocolate-lovers will love the Fleur de Bahiana, the upcoming Bûche de Noël (festive yule log) made with the new signature Brazilian dark chocolate (69%), Bahiana®. It’s from the Pêtrolina cacao farm in the Bahia region, a family-run plantation, and made exclusively for Christophe Roussel in partnership with Valrhona – a first in France.

Intense in chocolate with floral and fruity notes, I found it so warming, almost like tasting a chocolate-vanilla pastry version of a velvety hot chocolate with playful textures. To top it, it wasn’t overly rich but left a lovely round satin touch on the palate.
But I digress – back to the competition!

christophe Roussel pastry competition

Meet the Finalists

From left: Catherine Brug (Besançon: Opera-Cube), 18-year-old Laurie Lacoviz (Saint-Maur: Opéra Rock), Anne-Sophie Donnard (Montmorency: Comme un Air d’Opéra), Émilie Chrysostom, (Paris, Min’Op), and Arnault Buisson (Luxemburg, Opéra Spirit).

The finalists - christophe Roussel pastry competition

Meet Christophe Roussel

Ever since I walked into Christophe Roussel‘s welcoming boutique when it opened 5 years ago in Paris’s Montmartre, it was special. As I say in my book, Teatime in Paris, Chef Christophe must be one of the most genuinely friendly and approachable pastry chefs in France. His credo is sharing, pleasure and a little bit of madness – and add to that an incredible generosity.

After setting up his first pâtisserie in La Baule in 2004, he decided to steer away from the traditional route of adding a boulangerie and instead devoted the rest to chocolate-making. Now with an impressive business with around 44 employees and 7 trainees, Christophe Roussel, part of the prestigious Relais Desserts group, is the star of the French west coast with two boutiques in La Baule, Guérande, Pornichet, Paris, and has just opened another in la Pornic. Together with his wife, Julie (pictured far right below), they make the perfect duo créatif.

Only the HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCTS are used to create his gourmandises, notably sourcing local produce – one of which is the famous salt, the Fleur de Sel de guérande, just a few kilometres from his laboratory in La Baule (pronounced la-bowl).

Jury for Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition La Baule

The Jury

Meet the rest of the jury with Christophe Roussel. You can imagine why I was so honoured to be a part of such a prestigious line-up!

  • Thierry Bamas MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) and world champion for frozen desserts, he’s the star of pâtisserie based in the Basque region, between Biarritz and Bayonne. Like Christophe, he runs pastry and chocolate-making classes.
  • Cyril Carrini, winner of the last 2015 Meilleur Pâtissier on French TV’s M6 Channel (The French equivalent of the Great British Bake Off), and winner of the best of the winners. He’s a policeman near Bordeaux who also runs pastry workshops.
  • Mercotte is to France what Mary Berry is to the UK. A most adorable, down-to-earth TV celebrity for the Meilleur Pâtissier on M6, and The French Patisserie Blogger at La Cuisine de Mercotte, with four recipe books.The Pastry & ChocolateLAB

The Lab

Hitting the starting block at 7.30am, the finalists cracked on with their 3-hour pastry challenge. As it was the early stage, we had the opportunity to visit the immense lab.

Christophe Roussel labWhat an Ali-Baba maze! It was hard to resist a peek into these enormous vats of babas steeping in rum syrup as we explored each chocolate and pastry-making workshop. Everyone was quietly and dynamically working on each creation: from chocolate moulds of Peppa Pig, Calimero, and chocolate kisses destined to be exported to Japan, to his assortiment of macarons – of which about 25 tons are produced a year. There’s even a room assigned to edible decor – spot his pastry signature above (top left).

religieuse pas très catholique christophe RousselBack to the buzzing competition room, just to keep us going, we taste Christophe’s Coffee Réligieuse – Pas Très Catholique (meaning a bit doubtful), with lively notes of two different coffees and a chocolate craquelin crumble topping for le crunch. Incidentally, this was the inspiration behind the recipe for the salted caramel choux snowman in Teatime in Paris!

THE Challenge

The classic Opéra isn’t an easy pastry … and on top of it, personal variations made it a particularly interesting challenge. Cubes, balls, discs, giant spheres, logs, tuiles … they’d all thought it out so well.

Christophe Roussel pastry competition opera challenge

All aspects were taken into consideration: such as respect to the classic recipe (e.g. right dosage of coffee coming through, enough chocolate, right textures; their interpretation; clean workspace; no waste (Christophe made frequent bin inspections), respect to time, visual aspect, and so on.

While all was being filmed on camera, we were additionally going around filming and snapping shots on our phones: everyone was spontaneously interviewed on Facebook Live by the bubbly Mercotte (we were all impressed with her mega battery!). Apparently I speak French like Jane Birkin, ahem…  Thierry Bamas and Cyril also caught the online interviewing bug as the stress and COUNTDOWN started.

Discussions behind the finalists didn’t put them off – and although there was the odd hand trembling towards the finishing touches, everyone showed their talent of being calm and collected, plus it was a good team spirit if someone needed to borrow equipment from each other.  Not every competitive spirit is prepared to do that.

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition La Baule 2016

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … and STOP!  Et Voilà: their finished results. Now we could think of the visual aspect. Great job – and totally resembling what they submitted online.

Finished operas - Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition La Baule

By now finished, the finalists took off their aprons for a well-earned break.

Jury Salon du Chocolat la Baule

Photo courtesy of Michel Orion, Ouest-France

Salon du Chocolat, La Baule

Meanwhile, we were given the added job of tasting our way through 3 different themes of chocolates over at the Castel Marie-Louise, as part of the Salon du Chocolat in La Baule, hosted by the Casino Barrière. Our challenge was to pick the best in each category before announcing the winners – including the pastry challenge – at the Salon later.
chocolate-jury-la-baule

Our group tasted 12 chocolates on a dark chocolate and citrus almond paste theme. The unanimous winner went to Vincent Belloir (Goût du bonheur, La Roche-Bernard). It was best for the visual sheen on the chocolate, the clean cut without losing it’s shape, the smooth texture, the bouquet on ze nose, and of course, the taste!

Olivier Grimault (Créat-shop, Les Sorinières) won the chocolate bar category with dark chocolate and Matcha, … and winner of the third category went to Christophe Roussel for his dark chocolate and pink peppercorn!  Also congratulations goes to Amélie Giraud for her chocolate sculpture, who is also part of Christophe Roussel’s team!

A few glasses of water later – and all before lunch ….!

Pastry Competition Tasting & Verdict

This is when I appreciated when Mercotte took me under her wing. Although the group agreed on the same issues and were discerning on each aspect, my marking was slightly too high for each finalist – so now I can put it down to experience!

Jury tasting Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition La Baule

Photos courtesy of Michel Oriot, Ouest-France news

Pastry Competition Winners!

Our winners were also announced on Saturday evening at the Salon du Chocolat.

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition winners

Congratulations to the winner, Anne-Sophie, a school teacher and French pastry blogger at SurprisesetGourmandises. She wins a Gourmet Luxury Weekend in La Baule and a day of pastry-making with Christophe Roussel.
Bravo to Catherine Brug who came a close second, and a huge round of applause to Arnault, Emilie and Laurie. Each of them were not just great bakers but lovely, sensitive souls too.

finalists Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition

Lucie Henaff, thanking everyone, even prepared framed momentos of their Opéra creations, a lovely keepsake of their tremendous talent.

A Gourmet yet Light Weekend

After all the excitement, the chocolate, the opera cakes, lunch, more various dessert tastings, there was … another gourmet dinner!

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition Castel Marie-Louise La Baule

For everything we ate, however, all was impeccably light. Spoiled by Eric Mignard, Michelin-starred chef for 30 years at the Relais-Châteaux Castel Marie-Louise, he took us through local seafood and fish menus, including a memorable dish of tartar scallops with passion fruit, pineapple, daikon, and salsifis chips with grilled almond oil. I’d need another few pages to discuss the rest!

Christophe Roussel dessertsj

On to the DESSERTS, all prepared by Christophe Roussel, each one was immaculate. They’re airy, full of surprising textures (he has fizzy chocolates too) and each ingredient has its own punch to say, “Taste me – I’m here too!”. The finale – made especially for the occasion – of Tahitian vanilla mousse with mango and that nesting ball on top is full of exploding salted caramel. It was the closing firework display to an exceptional weekend.

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition

Do keep an eye out for the 2017 competition on Christophe Roussel’s Facebook page. If you or anyone you know is a real fan of making French pastries, then you’ll have witnessed that this is an extremely special competition indeed. I hear there will be even more surprises for next year’s Défi challenge. How can you beat that?

Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition La Baule

I’ll finish with Christophe Roussel’s popular chocolate kisses from La Baule and say a big Cheers, Santé to you, Chef! Bravo to such an extraordinary and successful weekend, the opening of your new boutique in La Pornic, the new signature Brazilian chocolate, for such a wonderful, dynamic team you’ve inspired – and, above all, for your generosity.

christophe Roussel Pastry Challenge

Christophe Roussel Duo Créatif

6 Allée des Camélias
44500 LA BAULE

5 Rue Tardieu
75018 PARIS