Favourite chocolate, and sweet confectionary shops in Paris

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. Unibet casino här

christophe Roussel Pastry Challenge

Christophe Roussel Duo Créatif

6 Allée des Camélias
44500 LA BAULE

5 Rue Tardieu
75018 PARIS

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 (now retired, 2019), 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 the Saint Germain cake (individual versions seen above left in the foreground), it’s a compact cake made with ground almonds and topped with a boozy rum glaze.

Le Debussy pays hommage to the composer – born in the house across the road – 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 

UPDATE December 2019: Sadly Osmont is no longer in Saint Germain-en-Laye but continues to flourish in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, west of Paris.

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 started 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

See my post on an introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris.

Bac Sucré Fruity Edition on Paris Pastry Street

If you’re looking for just one pastry street in Paris, most Parisians with a sweet tooth will guide you to the Rue du Bac – also known as Paris Pastry Street. Situated on Paris’s Left Bank (Rive Gauche) in the 7th Arrondissement, it has been a shopping street for centuries.

Millefeuille recipe from Teatime in Paris

The origins of the Millefeuille from Rue du Bac – this is my own from “Teatime in Paris”

Birthplace of the Millefeuille

It’s also where the classic French Millefeuille pastry was invented by Adolphe Seugnot in 1867. Today the Pâtisserie Seugnot no longer exists but to make up for it, it’s now a street branching out with such a concentrated plethora of high-end pastry and chocolate shops that Rue du Bac is known more as Paris Pastry Street!

Last year saw the opening of the new event, Le Bac Sucré, created by Florence Mazo Koenig and inaugurated by the Mayor of the 7th, Rachida Dati. The event highlights the creative artisans’ savoir-faire and celebrates their creative sweet magic – this year through summer fruits to bring out the Paris sunshine!

Officially opened last night by Josiane Gaude, deputy mayor with the organising team, the Bac Sucré event kicks off today until Sunday 19th June. So here’s a tasting of what’s especially in store over the next 5 days from the participating patisseries and chocolate shops around the area.

Patisserie des Reves Paris Rue du Bac Sucre Event

LA PÂTISSERIE DES RÊVES

Pastry chef, Philippe Conticini opened his first patisserie here in Rue du Bac. Popular for his award-winning Paris-Brest (a praline cream choux pastry wheel), his pastries are all designed to evoke the sweet dreams of childhood (I’ve written a lot about his pastries on le blog lately! From Yulelogs, choux buns, even literally falling for his pastries, to the BHV tea salon).

As the event this year centres around fruits and new fruity sensations, receive a surprise fortune cookie with any seasonal fruit pastry, such as the Fraisier, Raspberry or Strawberry tarts.

93 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris


Angelina Rue du Bac Sucre Event Paris

ANGELINA

Particularly known for its legendary Mont-Blanc pastry, there will be Mont-Blanc lollypop (sucette) workshops over the weekend.

Special Edition: “Un été à Paris” – a raspberry compote, a light vanilla mousse, topped off with raspberries and redcurrants on the most deliciously crunchy praline crumble base.

108 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
Tel: (33-1) 42 22 63 08 or sign up directly at the boutique.


Chapon Chocolate Rue du Bac Paris

CHOCOLATERIE CHAPON

Patrice Chapon will be giving demonstrations how he makes his chocolate from cocoa bean to bar this Saturday 18 June. Hour-long sessions can be booked online here. Hurry as they’re free and only 8 people maximum per group are permitted in the tight workshop area behind the boutique.

There are no special editions for the event but try a cornet of mousses from the bar – including the Venezuelan 100% Chocolate Mousse (I recently made the recipe here on le blog), or his prize-winning chocolate with a salted dome (chocolat au dôme de sel).

69 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris


Dalloyau Paris rue du Bac Grenelle macarons religieuses

LA MAISON DALLOYAU

Last year, the highlight was the launch of Dalloyau’s surprising savoury Réligieuses (double decker filled choux buns), which are still available on order at the boutique here – but the Réligieuse star for Father’s Day on Sunday is the Papa Poule, filled with a vintage rum cream. This year two more new macarons are in the spotlight from pastry chef Jeremy del Val, amongst seasonal favourites such as orange blossom, rose-raspberry, lemon, and Earl Grey (Bergamot tea).

Special Editions: Strawberry-Yuzu and Raspberry-Grapefruit macarons.

63 Rue de Grenelle (just on the corner of rue du Bac), 75007 Paris


Jacques Genin Bac Sucre Event June Paris

JACQUES GENIN

Famous for his melt-in-the-mouth caramels (particularly exotic fruits) and fruit jellies, last year he surprised us with more fruit jellies (I think I polished off the tasters of rhubarb jellies!) and even vegetable jellies!
His pastries, including a Millefeuille, are also just as legendary but these are enjoyed at the main boutique and tea salon in the Marais, on rue de Turenne. During EACH of the five Bac Sucré days, free demonstrations take place at 3.30pm Wed 15th-Sun 21st – no reservations needed!

Special Editions: Fruit jellies (kiwi, pear, blood orange, pineapple, lychee, raspberry, mango-passion)

27 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris


Eric Kayser Bakery Paris, rue du Bac

LA MAISON KAYSER

Boulanger Eric Kayser has followed the last three generations in his family as an artisanal bread-maker.

Special Edition: Sweet honey bread with raspberry chips.

18 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris


LA GRANDE EPICERIE DE PARIS

Recently renovated, Le Bon Marché classy department store at the end of Paris Pastry Street of Rue du Bac is renowned for its gourmet food hall, luring us from stands of cheeses and cured hams to its bakery and patisserie sections. Their pastries are exquisite, from billowy lemon meringue tartlets to the latest seasonal temptations.

Special Edition: Almond crumble choux bun, with apricot cream, Madagascan vanilla cream (crème légère) and poached apricot.

Le Bon Marché
38 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris

Grande Epicerie Paris Apricot Choux Bac Sucre Event Paris

There are even more patisseries, bakeries and chocolate shops on and around the corner to enjoy: Acide Macaron, Des Gâteaux et du Pain, Hugo & Victor, Boulangerie Galland, Foucher Chocolatier, and Secco bakery… now you can see why it’s referred to as Paris Pastry Street!

Bac Sucré Event
Rue du Bac
7th Arrondissement Paris

Wednesday 15- Sunday 19 June 2016
For the full programme, visit BacSucre.com


Bonjour Paris Publication Contributor Jill Colonna This article is published with Bonjour Paris.

 

Easter Chocolate Displays in Paris

If you hop around Paris today on an egg hunt, I promise you’ll be astounded by the immense choice of Easter Chocolate Displays.

As artisanal chocolate shops work flat out for one of the busiest seasons of the year, it’s no wonder that the French so aptly describe the term of window-shopping as faire du léche-vitrine, as the urge to lick the delectable displays couldn’t be higher. Who can resist Jean-Paul Hévin‘s sense of humour with that in mind for his Easter shopfront?

Hevin chocolate window for Easter

Already the choice of eggs in itself is awe-inspiring; but add to that the different-coloured chocolate hens, chicks, diverse other animals (owls, tortoises, sheep, cows), bells, and the fish that we typically find in the French chocolate boutiques.

Where can we start? Before we get cracking with a sampling of Easter eggs (oeufs de Pâques), let’s start with the most typically French in the Chocolateries: bells and fish.

Easter chocolate bells Hevin Paris

Chocolate bells with golden fish at Jean-Paul Hévin, Paris

EASTER BELLS (Cloches de Pâques)

Listen carefully for the Church bells over Easter weekend: in France they stop ringing from Good Friday when Jesus died to Easter Sunday morning. After Church Mass, to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, the bells joyously peel around France as they fly back from Saint Peter’s in Rome, dropping chocolate eggs in gardens as the children are eager to hunt for them.

Even my girls (who are French) have always found it a crazy tradition – perhaps as parents we simply poorly described it – but imagine trying to explain to your kids that church bells had flown with wings all the way to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope to help everyone in mourning, then returned (with no hands) to hide chocolate.

The Easter Bunny still makes more sense, even if it doesn’t figure that much in France, but over the years, more are gradually hopping into the boutiques – such as these pastel cuties from Hugo & Victor.

pink chocolate easter bunny hugo & Victor Paris

Bright coloured Easter chocolate bunnies at Hugo & Victor, Paris

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CHOCOLATE FISH?

I’ve always been intrigued by the schools of chocolate fish in the windows.

Fish are popular for April Fool’s Day since in France it’s April fish or Poisson d’avril as the children’s chorus goes! If you’re any decently duped April Fool in France, you’ll probably be sporting a school of colourful paper fish taped to your back. There was one year I discovered that, after various not-so-discrete pressing to my back, I had been modelling a mobile primary school wall.

1-Poisson-d'avril

Eager to find out the history behind it, I tried to go to a school of fish myself, rummaging around for more clues but the fishy story remains rather unclear. Various sources cite the most popular: it goes back to the 16th Century under Charles IX reign, who changed the New Year to the 1st January. Until then in France, the New Year started around 1st April and was celebrated by fresh fish to herald the arrival of Spring (following the zodiac sign of Pisces, perhaps). As not everyone was au courant or kept forgetting this new calendar, jokes gradually spread the custom of pinning fish on their backs.

A la Mère de Famille particularly has a huge choice of chocolate fish and scallop shells. Like eggs, many are garnished with yet more miniature fish. The smallest fish and other seafood shapes, called friture, often garnish the insides of the bigger Easter eggs or are sold simply in sachets to eat comme ça, just like that.

This year’s sample of fish can be found hooked up vertically in a line, lined up in a jigsaw pattern, or found randomly swimming in clouds.

Easter chocolate fish Paris

Chocolate fish by Pascal Caffet (praline), Jean-Paul Hévin, Michel Cluizel, Patrick Roger, and A la Mère de Famille

EASTER EGGS WITH PERSONALITY

As with outside of France, eggs are still the most popular at Easter and over the years they’ve gradually transformed from brightly decorated hard-boiled to more chocolate. Symbolising the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday with the rolling stone that covered Christ’s tomb, the rolling of eggs transformed death into life, bringing new life and fertility – much like a chick popping from its egg.

Many high-end chocolate boutiques, confiseries (candy shops), pâtisseries, or top hotels have created their eggs from simply chic, amusing, to popular characters, or impressive giant sculptures as works of art.

Jacques Genin has gone wonderfully wild with a vivid, brilliant lacquered look for his masterpieces this year. Otherwise there are his clowns, fish and hens to choose from.

Jaques Genin easter collection

From Far West Cowboys at LeNôtre; Peter Pan and Captain Hook at Gerard Mulot; to Mangas of Pierre Hermé (along with many others) – what about some cool scateboarding eggs at Dalloyau?

Dalloyau easter skateboarding chocolate eggs

Dalloyau Easter 2016 Paris

Looking through the glass, Pierre Marcolini has chosen an Easter Wonderland theme, complete with this grinning Cheshire cat. Or what about a box of mini praline eggs: including pistachio, almond, nougat and hazelnut?

Pierre Marcolini Chocolate Easter Wonderland paris

Pierre Marcolini’s Easter Wonderland

From Le Manufacture de Chocolat of Alain Ducasse, you’ll find traditional artisan chocolate eggs and contemporary designer hens – but what caught my eye is this original DIY Easter Egg box for you to fill yourself, complete with a white glove for that in-boutique chic experience at home.

Alain-Ducasse-chocolaterie

Henri Le Roux has dressed his eggs Harlequin style – and, talking of clowns, Arnaud Lahrer‘s major act this year is the Circus Chocolate with Plou the Clown, sealions, elephants, and monkeys. Eggs are also clowning around at De Neuville.

Clown easter eggs Paris

Left to right: Henri Le Roux; Arnaud Lahrer; and De Neuville

We’re totally in love with Paris – and eggs disguised in an amusing collection this year from Christophe Roussel, including Paddle La Baule and Udon le mouton. Incidentally, highly glossy sheep also feature at Edwart Chocolatier. You could say they’re ewe-some. Ba-ah!

Easter egg creations by Christophe Roussel Paris 2016

Photos courtesy of Christophe Roussel, Paris 2016

 

FRIED CHOCOLATE EGGS

You’ll notice a few fried eggs (oeufs au plat) around too, such as these smashing takes by Patrick Roger and Georges Larnicol. The eggs in cartons look real – they are: except filled with chocolate praline.

Easter Chocolate Fried Eggs Paris

WHY SO MANY CHICKS and HENS?

During the 40-day Christian tradition of Lent, meat or eggs were not allowed to be eaten. Meanwhile, hens continued to lay their eggs so by the time Easter arrived signalling the end of Lent, there were so many eggs to be used. Many hens are garnished with miniature eggs, my personal favourite being praline. And if you’re fond of praline, try Pascal Caffet‘s plump hens, “mini Pious” and pralines made with hazelnuts from Piemonte.

Easter chocolate hens Paris

From top: Jean-Paul Hévin, A La Mère de Famille Below: photo courtesy of Pascal Caffet, and Patrick Roger

HAVE A HEART

A la Mère de Famille have also created chocolate hearts filled with the traditional fritures pralines for the upmarket grocery, Maison Plisson in the Marais.

GIANT EGGS

Just imagine the Easter bells trying to deliver some of the more giant sculptures from Rome. What about this giant 7.5 kg (about 17 pounds) Oeuf Plume, packaged giant ready to be delivered at Les Marquis de Ladurée? It’s garnished inside with Les Marquis’s famous mini cameos in dark, milk and white chocolate.

Easter Chocolate Displays Paris

Easter chocolate collection at Les Marquis de Ladurée Paris

 

CLOCK CHANGE

Alas, there are so many more but this is a selection of my personal best Easter Chocolate Displays in Paris. But now that I’ve “wound you up”, don’t forget in France that the clocks go forward on Easter Sunday, dubaiescortstars.com so let me leave you with this impressive clock egg structure by pastry chef, Pierre Mathieu at the Mandarin Oriental’s Camélia Cake Shop – available from today.

Egg clock by Pierre Mathieu, Mandarin Oriental Paris

Photo courtesy of the Camelia Cakeshop, Mandarin Oriental, Paris

I’d say it’s time to call it a marathon in chocolate. I’m sure you have enough chocolate here to nibble on until next Easter, although I’ll be posting more Easter treats in Paris every day this week on Instagram and Facebook.

Happy Easter to you from Paris!


I’m thrilled that my article on Easter chocolate in Paris is on BonjourParis.com! Please pop in and say Bonjour…

Bonjour Paris Publication Contributor Jill Colonna

Valentine Chocolates in Paris

Preparing a taster of Valentine chocolates in Paris has not been the easiest task – craving aside as I’ve been drooling in the windows – since most chocolate shops only set up their windows about a week in advance for Valentine’s weekend. Not all chocolatiers are necessarily attracted to a Valentine theme, so I’ll concentrate on them later as they gear up instead for Easter chocolates.

As you can imagine, we’re spoiled for choice in Paris, so I can’t possibly mention them all, but I’m sure you’ll find something here that tickles your fancy from 14 of the best Parisian chocolate boutiques.

If you’re into hearts, then you won’t be disappointed: the majority of chocolates are either heart-shaped or come in red-ribbon heart-shaped boxes. Some of the luxury chocolate boutiques have more emphasis on their windows, others on particularly beautiful packaging – while others are perhaps not quite as wow-factor on the presentation side, but their chocolates are definitely worth falling head over heels. Speaking of heels, Jean-Paul Hévin or Georges Larnicol will have you swooning over their chocolate stilettos, Eiffel Towers, mopeds or even pianos filled with macarons. There’s something for every budget – from the cutest of mini boxes to more decadent assorted arrangements to say I love you.

Pierre Marcolini Valentines Chocolates Paris

Pierre Marcolini’s Falling in Love Valentine theme

Pierre Marcolini – the double chocolatier who makes his own chocolate from cacao bean to bar – centres around his red heart raspberry chocolates available year-round but it’s all in the packaging, ranging from a mini duo box for under 5 euros to a giant cone for 99 euros.  Other hearts have been designed to join in with names to create the mood: Seduction (raspberry pulp), Passion (milk chocolate-passion fruit), Frisson (white chocolate-lime), Tendresse (Montélimar nougat praline), Plaisir (Iranian pistachio praline), and Douceur (salted butter caramel).

Chapon and Dalloyau chocolate shops St Valentine Paris

Patrice Chapon is another chocolate maker who creates his tablets and stunning chocolates from bean to bar.  His window in rue du Bac shows off his famous Smileys along with Valentine pink hearts and rather catchy-kissy red lips.  Chocolate-moulded hearts and lips are also featured at Dalloyau, but admittedly my heart is beating to unlock their duo of pastries for two. Also well known for his chocolate kisses, Christophe Roussel continues his seductive selection of kisses and sweet hearts in Montmartre.

Foucher chocolaterie Paris St Valentine

Foucher Chocolaterie in rue du Bac, since 1819

Foucher, also in rue du Bac, has been there since the shop opened in 1819. Their heart-shaped milk and dark praline-filled chocolates are perhaps for those with a sweeter tooth. Red fruit calissons (sweet marzipan confections from Aix-en-Provence) add a different red touch.

It’s still hearts galore at Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse with a large heart to be enjoyed à deux: either a dark chocolate coconut-passion, or a milk chocolate praline.

La Maison du Chocolat Paris St Valentines

La Maison du Chocolat in Paris

La Maison du Chocolat is celebrating Valentines not just with heart-shaped boxes but the emotion of love’s infatuation with that frisson feeling or quivering. Nicolas Cloiseau explores this through his chocolates and has created a “Pop” gift box containing four themed chocolates, each provoking a slight shudder with the play of chocolate and fruity acidity or salty surprise.

There are two milk ganaches: Yellow Fusion (praline, caramel and nuts with a hint of lemongrass and lemon notes), Orange Passion (passion fruit with lime, mango and vanilla); and two dark ganaches: Striking Red (acidulous punch of redcurrant, strawberry and raspberry), Dashing Blue (Persian blue salt with praline and blue poppy seeds). The red fruits are indeed particularly striking, with the clever shuddering effect taking hold – I’m in love!

Patrick Roger chocolate Paris

Patrick Roger’s filled chocolate hearts and marzipan faces

Patrick Roger, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (or MOF, the highest accolade given to French craftsmen in their field) is known best as the chocolate sculptor who thinks outside the box.  You’ll find his latest masterpiece,  Rodin’s “The Thinker”, sculpted in chocolate in all of his nine Paris boutiques – you can still see his work in the entrance of the newly renovated Rodin Museum in Paris until 21 February.  While his love hearts are filled with an assortment of chocolates, I can’t help falling for his bright-eyed marzipan hearts.

Valentine Chocolates from Hugo & Victor, Paris

No need to “book” your Valentine Chocolates from Hugo & Victor, Paris

Have that fluttery feeling of butterflies in the stomach? Then head to Hugo & Victor with their heart and butterfly theme – and there’s no need to “book” your valentine chocolates here!

I adore their presentation this year with the cutest little dusky pink box holding four dark chocolates: a delicate jasmine tea ganache and deep love-hearts containing runny cranberry caramel. If you’re frustrated at stopping there, the sophisticated book presentation encloses more dark and milk jasmine tea ganache chocolates, along with crispy milk chocolate pralines.

Pascal Caffet award winning Chocolatier and pastry chef

Pascal Caffet, Paris

Another Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Pascal Caffet is King of pralines, using hazelnuts from Piemonte. But first I was introduced to Adam, a dark 70% Venezuelan chocolate with a heart of salted caramel ganache, and Eve, a subtle cherry blossom ganache dressed in white chocolate. On the other hand, Romeo, an Ivorian 40% milk chocolate with his crispy praline heart doesn’t yet have a Juliette – so I’ll just take at least a couple of Romeos, please. I’m hoping that next year Juliette turns up as a dark praline seducer like her other half but in the meantime, I found another “Dark Favourite” of 70% dark chocolate topped with a heart, containing a praline mix of Valencian almonds and Piemonte hazelnuts.

Pascal Caffet Paris, chocolates and pastries

Pascal Caffet – for a MOF, he’s just as wonderfully nutty as his pralines

I know. This was meant to be just about chocolates but I couldn’t resist the look of Pascal Caffet’s frozen Valentine’s dessert for two, the Cocooning: 70% dark Venezuelan chocolate mousse and biscuit, red fruits and Bourbon vanilla crème brûlée.  See? Don’t get me started but I’m swooning at the patisseries again.  Philippe Conticini says “Say it with a Cake” and entices us into the Pâtisserie des Rêves with his glistening red Pommes d’Amour.

patisserie des reves paris Valentine gifts

There are many more new stunning patisserie beauties arriving in the shops at the end of the week, just in time for your Valentine’s weekend.  Pastry chefs are showing some tempting teasers of classic large macaron hearts filled with raspberries: Pierre Marcolini adds vanilla and yuzu, Angelina adds rose and redcurrants for a “Heart to Heart” and although Pierre Hermé couldn’t have a Valentine’s Day without his famous Ispahan macaron heart of rose, raspberry and litchi, his 2016 creation is a “Venus Heart” of quince, apple and rose. Dalloyau may still have a heart but also a second pastry for two shaped as a love padlock. The most incredible I’ve seen so far is the “Cache-Coeur” from Un Dimanche à Paris with a heart suggesting a rather heart-shaped bust below a plunging neckline. Oh-là-là!

In the meantime, for multi-taskers, celebrate the Chinese New Year and Saint Valentine’s together. The Pâtisserie des Rêves are saying it with fortune cookies containing love messages.  And if you’re planning on Popping-the-Question, then even that hidden message can be easily organised too!

Happy Sweet Valentine’s Day from Paris! Go on – melt your other half…


 

This article is featured on the Bonjour Paris Publication.

Festive Paris Magic at the Patisserie des Rêves – 2015 Yule Logs

A touch of Christmas magic arrived in Paris this week with a tasting of not one but three new French Bûches de Noël or Yule Logs.  Launched by the Pâtisserie des Rêves at their tea salon in BHV Paris it was also a unique opportunity to chat with the extraordinary pastry chef behind them, Philippe Conticini and creative director, Thierry Teyssier.

Just walking into the pink pastry boutiques of La Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris reminds me of that enchanting scene in the film, Mary Poppins; as the family jumps on a carousel, wooden horses take off and they ride in the air to discover a cartooned magic kingdom, then sip tea from porcelain cups.

But imagine opening up a secret door into a delightfully real theatrical world – with oversized glass bells announcing an ever-changing line of exquisite pastries, giant pink spiral lollipops standing to attention in jars, with a pile of humped-back madeleines, buttery-rich financiers and viennoiseries all sitting on the counter. It’s no surprise that children are also the focus of attention here, with special goûter (a French afternoon teatime snack) days organised especially for the little ones.

Patisserie des Reves Paris BHV tea salon

Literally the “Patisserie of Dreams”, the unique concept of the Pâtisserie des Rêves was born in 2009 when chef Philippe Conticini and theatre and hotel entrepreneur, Thierry Teyssier (owner of Maison des Rêves), partnered their talents together to create the first pastry shop in Rue du Bac.  Over the last six years, the internationally acclaimed pastry chef and creative artistic director have expertly aimed at rekindling precious childhood gourmet experiences to create a memorable magic experience in pastry for the next generation.

Chef Conticini aims at awakening the senses by modernising traditional French pastries with his own magical touch of surprise to the likes of the Saint Honoré, Millefeuille, seasonal tarts and Paris-Brest pastries – all still his signature pastries that have global gourmets queuing in his boutiques from Paris to Japan and now in London.

Today Philippe Conticini is not only one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary pastry chefs, he’s also one of the rare chefs to have also achieved a high-level cuisine career in the savoury world too.  He literally grew up in the kitchens of his parents’ restaurant, south-east of Paris in the Val-de-Marne area, and by 1986 was co-owner of the Table d’Anvers until 1998, catching a Michelin star along the way.  During that time (1994) he was creator of the verrine: instead of serving dishes horizontally on plates, they’re served vertically in transparent glasses – a brilliant idea making desserts also easy to transport, now copied the world over.

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier

Ten years before the Patisserie des Rêves was the turning point when he shot to international fame while with Petrossian Paris. In 1999, while creating a café-boutique concept for the house in NYC, he baffled the culinary world with his unexpected dishes around a Caviar theme, wowing American gourmets. In the space of just 5 months after first being featured in Food Arts Magazine, news spread quickly of his immense talents and within only 18 months he was awarded a Michelin Star.

Today, in between being a TV star with appearances of the popular French equivalent of the Great British Bake-Off show – among others – he teaches the sensation of taste with ongoing workshops, and continues to revitalise the universe of scents, taste, textures, flavours, and presentation that generate that special Madeleine de Proust feeling of déjà-vous (or should I say déjà-goût?).

You would think with all of these credentials, chef Conticini would be distant. It couldn’t be more the opposite since for myself, it was memorable magic in itself for him to chat informally, demonstrating his modest sincerity, and willing to share in his most intrinsic form of expression through pastry.

Buches de noel Patisserie des Reves Paris

Bûches de Noël 2015

Chef Conticini stresses that his take on the classic Christmas Yule log is simple – yet his three Bûches have taken 2-3 months to prepare. It takes time to produce something so tecnicially complicated, he says, and that has to appear effortless, to as to remind us of the traditional French festive dessert from childhood but with that modern Conticini touch.

2015 Christmas Yule Logs by Philippe Conticini

Vintage Vanilla Yule Log

This is for pure vanilla fans looking for that creamy intensity, rolled to a black centre of vanilla grains with touches of griotte cherry throughout. He suggests finely grating a touch of lime zest to finish off the dessert: the lime delicately magnifies the vanilla beautifully.

Millésimée au Chocolat Yule Log

What’s Christmas without chocolate, they say? Classic chocolate and vanilla are worked into a symphony of textures and its warming sensations of silky dark chocolate are sumptuously progressive.

Praline lemon French Christimas Buche 2015 from Patisserie des Reves

Main photo courtesy La Pâtisserie des Rêves

Praline-Lemon Yule Log

Following his signature Paris-Brest with an extra secret praline centre, it’s no surprise that his famous praline continues to excite the senses here. On a base of salted crunchy praline and a light hazelnut sponge, the lemon is extremely delicate within a vanilla mousse with a round finishing sensation.

Extra fine Praline chocolate bars

Together with Carol Gillott, of Paris Breakfasts fame, we tasted the range of new chocolates for Christmas.

Christmas chocolate praline bars patisserie des reves

Following on the success of his white chocolate collection, the new collection is presented in a magic box of golden secrets for the festive season, with 10 extra-fine mini tablets revolving uniquely around praline. The praline predominates the palate – whether it’s dark, milk or white chocolate – but the whisper of raspberry, fleur de sel, lemon or coconut make each nibble a special treat.

I particularly loved the milk chocolate and passion fruit, as he leaves the fruit seeds in the chocolate, giving it that extra fine crunch. I don’t normally like seeds in pastry cream, but here it’s a surprise that works.

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier new book

Having already published award-winning recipe books which are also a reference for professional chefs, Philippe Conticini’s latest, Souvenirs Gourmands, is now on the shelves and co-written by Pascale Frey.

I couldn’t resist snagging my own as an early Christmas present from hubby since it’s filled with delightful childhood gourmet memories of 50 French celebrities (Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Christian Lacroix …) with their favourite souvenirs linked to their recipes that are all given the Conticini twist. I’m sure we could entice them to produce an English version too.

New book by Philippe Conticini, Souvenirs Gourmands

As famous bear of ParisBreakfasts was creating his own gourmet sensations to treasure, Carol Gillott wowed Monsieur Conticini with her exquisite watercolour of Rue du Bac, just one of her Paris map creations since illustrating the first one for my book, Teatime in Paris!

Carol Gillott Paris maps rue du Bac

As the first patisserie in Rue du Bac, the Pâtisserie des Rêves has been such a go-to address that other prestigious pastry boutiques have followed suit to join in one of the most sweet gourmet streets in Paris. In June this year, Chef Conticini was chosen as Godfather of the first ever Bac Sucré event, to celebrate the talents of his artisan neighbours.

Fortune cookies by Philippe Conticini

Also just in time for Christmas, are pink gift cards which will come in handy for pastry lovers (hint, hint, Antoine) – but this is my favourite lucky hit: the new buttery Fortune cookies with their subtle hint of coconut.  It’s perhaps the French answer to pulling British Christmas crackers at the table. As I opened mine, the message read:

Le Bonheur est toujours à la portée de celui qui sait le goûter.
“Happiness is achievable to those who know how to taste”.

That simply sums up the essence of Chef Conticini’s sweet magic.


 

This post is linked to my first article now featured on
BonjourParis online publication


 

The three Bûches de Noël will be available as of 10th December. Both the praline-citron and chocolate bûches are now available as individual portions.

Patisserie des Rêves
93 rue du Bac
75007 Paris
Tel: +33 1 – 47 04 00 24