Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris – Valentine’s Creation

Just picture it. A French bakery run by a couple passionate about patisserie called Baisers Sucrés – literally translated as Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

After Kévin and Gnagalé Béziers’ Galettes des Rois tasting last month, I was fascinated to find out what the creative couple were dreaming up for Saint Valentine’s Day. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to share in their unique Valentine’s creation at their recently opened boutique in the heart of Paris’s 10th Arrondissement for an exclusive article here on le blog.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris

Kevin Bézier is no stranger to teaching patisserie and with a serious line-up of 20-years’ experience at the hotel Lutétia, Georges V and Ritz-Escoffier school, on meeting his wife, Gnagalé the couple created Baisers Sucrés in 2013. As of April 2017, their boutique is more of a showroom for their patisserie consultancy/catering business already based in Bagnolet, east of Paris.

Their showroom boutique is not far from Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and around the corner from the 10th’s Town Hall or Mairie: perhaps not the most romantic side of Paris, and when I visited last week during the floods in Paris, the nearest Metro stop at Château d’Eau seemed particularly appropriate.  Needless to say, taking photos for you wasn’t in the best of conditions with such a lack of sunlight but the colourful display of cakes and pastries made up for it.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris cakes

An astonishing showcase boutique it is: from macarons in the window, to all sorts of shining éclairs, cakes (from traditional French “cakes” to patisserie items) and seasonal fruit tarts from lemon to apple or pear tartes aux pommes ou poires. The velvet red cube, “L’entremet Révolution”, is another of their specialities with a chocolate and Earl Grey mousse with a slightly bitter raspberry ganache.

It’s unusual for a patisserie to also sell bread, but I could see it was just as popular with the locals. By the time we’d finished in their lab, most of the oversized brioches, rustic baguettes, and other Viennoiseries – the umbrella term for croissants, pains au chocolat, chaussons aux pommes, and the likes – had pretty much disappeared!  I hear they also make giant Kouign Amman pastries for 6 people.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

The real star of the show at Baisers Sucrés is the house speciality, carried on from the tradition of the previous boutique, Tholoniat, and it’s here that they’ve been breathing their own new life back into the boutique.

Etienne Tholoniat originally opened the boutique in 1938 and went on to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1952, spreading her reputation as far as Japan and the Vatican, where Pope Paul VI ordered a sugar basket in Vatican colours. It was her Semifreddo, however, that stole the show and continued with her son, Christian.

Sweet Kisses patisserie Paris Speciality

I watched the Baisers Sucrés dream team in the back lovingly prepare this frozen dessert, spreading a mixture of whipped cream and caramelised nougatine between génoise sponges, then finishing it off like a crème brûlée.

Moreover, we can’t forget it’s also a chocolatier, chocolate shop. I cheekily asked Kevin and Gnagalé if they were tempted to follow the Nutella riotous promotions and reduce their Chocolate Caramel spread – but of course, chocolatiers don’t do that with such quality!

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate shop

Which brings us to the Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine’s creation they were about to show me backstage in their lab, situated at the end of the most charming Parisian courtyard.

With severe lack of light and yet another downpour, let’s keep it romantic and steer our attention to the glistening cobbles and green plants before entering a tiny sweet haven in the midst of the 10th.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris

First, the wafting smells of traditional, artisanal bread from their gigantic oven had me in raptures. I’d already had breakfast chez moi, but when the sizeable prize loaf was revealed then transported across the courtyard to the boutique, I was hoping I could grab a fruity-nutty slice en route. They make this pain aux fruits every Wednesday and Saturday.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

Chocolate Valentine Creation

It was time to get cracking on with the first stages of the Valentine’s creation, The Hibiscus Flower, or Fleur d’hibiscus. There were no hearts in the creation; instead they were saying it with flowers – and their love for chocolate as a couple.

Already the chocolate was being tempered to 31°C.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris chocolate tempering

A loaded tray of dark chocolate half sphere shells were waiting in line, as a large pot of simmering water acted as a Bain Marie to melt the tops of each, then plunge them into cocoa nibs coated in silver edible glitter.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris Valentine chocolate

It’s at this point that Chef Kevin shows me a tip. As he’s tempering the chocolate and using a thermometer, he finds the best test is to dip in a ripped off piece of baking parchment and leave it on the counter to see if it hardens correctly.  It’s ready, as he peels a bit off the paper.

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate tips

As they both roll up baking paper into mini cornets to pipe out the chocolate, the ingredients now come into place.

The tempered chocolate acts as a delicious glue, holding a half sphere of chocolate filled with a previously prepared dome of hibiscus jelly covering a lemon and Earl Grey sponge.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés chocolate

Next come the hibiscus chocolate petals, previously prepared using half-sphere chocolate moulds. Each chilled chocolate petal is stationed in line before being sprayed with a coloured white chocolate velours. The effect is magic, with micro particles coating the chilled petals.

velours spray on valentine chocolate

Kevin and Gnagalé prepared 3 different versions: a plain chocolate-petaled flower, a fully sprayed version and this version of just half sprayed on the petals, which the couple eventually decide to choose for the Valentine’s Hibiscus Flower.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine creation

On goes the chocolate glue to stick on the petals, followed by quick freezing sprays to hold them in place.

The flower’s dome topping of Pink Champagne mousse perfumed with hibiscus flowers is given a neutral glaze with added silver lustre for that special je ne sais quoi.

Hibiscus flower Valentines Chocolate

Meanwhile, picture the scene as the team is swarming around our table in such a small space, carrying off their latest tarts and cakes to the shop.  Totally distracted I was, watching this pineapple coconut tart being topped with mango and lime then finished off with coconut shavings – a taste of the exotic which I gather is from Gnagalé’s native Senegal.

Pineapple mango tarts at Baisers Sucrés or Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Another tip from the chef came as these lemon cakes were being prepared.  He adds the final touch: a thin piping of butter in the middle to help crack open the cake in the middle.

Isn’t that funny?  In the UK, we’d be in horror with cracks in our cakes but in France, they encourage it!

sweet kisses patisserie paris cake tips

More petals for another dessert were sitting ready for their turn in the lab but back to the Hibiscus Chocolate Flower.  Gnagalé carefully tops each dome with silver leaf and the Valentine’s chocolate is ready to go.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine Creation

Hibiscus Flower Valentine’s Chocolate

Now for the cross-section and tasting!  Here you have it in a Hibiscus Flower: a Mexican 66% dark chocolate dome filled with hibiscus jelly with lemon and Earl Grey tea sponge, topped by a silver-glazed dome of Pink Champagne and hibiscus flower mousse, all encased in red chocolate velour petals.

The verdict: a tour de force of textures from the soft, crispy and fondant with light and subtle flavours to be enjoyed at room temperature (since this was still chilled.  It also wasn’t that sweet – something I keep mentioning about why French patisserie is in another league: they don’t add too much sugar so that you can appreciate the flavours.

All that was missing?  A glass of pink Champagne and my Valentine!

hibiscus flower chocolate Valentine Paris

With huge thanks to Chefs Kevin and Gnagalé Bézier for inviting me into their lab and Tholoniat Boutique of Baisers Sucrés.  Now it’s over to you to visit them and taste their specialities for yourselves. I discovered that they’re true to their credo: to share in the pleasure.

Baisers Sucres Sweet Kisses Patisserie paris

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day with the Fleur d’hibiscus from Baisers Sucrés, or let’s say from Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés Valentines Chocolate

Baisers Sucrés – Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Baisers Sucrés
Pâtisserie Chocolaterie
Boutique Tholoniat
47 Rue du Château d’Eau
75010 Paris

Métro: Château d’Eau
Tel: (+ 33) 01 42 39 93 12

 

Update!  This has proved so popular with clients that Baisers Sucrés have decided to continue with the Fleur d’Hibiscus, even after Saint Valentine’s!

Curried Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops – and a Flooded Seine

This weekend, as we’re waiting for the flooded Seine to rise to its peak in Paris and upstream today or tomorrow, we’re also keeping spirits high – both here and in Burgundy.  First with the Fête de Coquille de Saint Jacques (Scallop Festival) high on the hill in Montmartre and the 74th Fête de Saint-Vincent Tournante wine festival in Burgundy. As I’m not able to go to either of them, I’ve instead made a comprise of the two in a dish: Curried Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops.

Paris January 2018 Seine Floods

The Seine Floods January 2018

France’s meteorological service has confirmed that this is now the third-wettest last couple of months on record since data collection began in 1900.  Luckily, it looks very unlikely that we’ll reach the record flooding of 1910, when the river Seine rose to a whopping 8.62 metres.  Even although we live near the Seine next to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris, in 1910 the flooding came as far as the bottom of our garden!

The tourist river cruises and all other boat traffic on the Seine in Paris and upstream has been stopped. It’s not difficult to see why by these photos I took on Thursday afternoon.  Already it was approaching close to 6 metres, more than four metres above its normal height. But apart from some RER and metro lines closed, the City of Light is in good hands and the skies are holding off on the forecasted rain – for the moment!

curried cauliflower soup seared scallops

Annual Burgundy Wine Festival Inspiration

This year’s Burgundy wine festival, la fête de Saint Vincent Tournante, is taking place in Prissé, Macon.  I’ve been thrilled to take part in previous festivals – and even interviewed on French radio! Join me in the typical ambience by reading these posts on Clos Vougeot, 2015 and Saint Aubin in 2014: the chosen village gears up to the event by decorating trees, houses, wine casks and the likes with coloured crèpe paper flowers (representing the wine qualities – white flowers or fleurs blanches) and interesting sculptures. As we’re given the list of local wine producers taking part with their special festival blends, we flit between tastings trying to keep warm with stands offering simple dishes that compliment the wines.

In 2014, I distinctly remember a welcoming bowl of curried cauliflower soup with seared scallops.  The French are not known as being soup lovers but this chef was popular that day, as he served out this comforting, healthy soup – with the crème de la crème of seared, almost sweet, scallops fried in front of us and left to sink into the soup as we were holding our glasses of Saint Aubin white wine balanced on a string around our necks.

curried cauliflower soup with seared scallops

Ever since that delicious moment, I have been making this at home as it’s so easy to reproduce.  When it comes to curry, the French never serve it hot and spicy: instead it’s usually only lightly fragranced with curry powder – perfect so as not to overpower the scallops, as we’re left to appreciate their nutty flavours in browned butter and hint of turmeric. I’ve recently discovered a Scottish Hebridean smoked salt from the Isle of Lewis which, topped to finish, is a most subtle compliment to finish it all off – and, if you have my book, Mad About Macarons, it’s brilliant served with a mini curry Tikka Macsala macaron!  The spicy curry’s fire is put out by the balancing sweetness of the macaron shells.

Curried Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops

 

curried cauliflower soup with seared scallops

seared scallops in turmeric and smoked salt

 

Curried Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

A lightly curried cauliflower soup given the French touch with sweet, seared fresh scallops in turmeric and Scottish smoked salt.

Course: Main, Soup, Starter
Cuisine: French, Scottish
Servings: 6
Calories: 139 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large cauliflower weighing about 1kg/2lb, leaves & core removed, cut into florets
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (or ground cumin)
  • ground pepper
  • 2 tsp salt fleur de sel
  • 900 ml /30fl oz chicken/veg stock
  • 6 fresh scallops
  • 20 g /0.75oz butter unsalted
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked salt optional
  • fresh coriander leaves & dried onions for garnish and curry macarons!
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based pan and add the onion. Cook gently for 5 minutes without browning. Add the cauliflower florets and curry powder and sauté in the oil for another 5 minutes until the curry coats the florets. Add the pepper, salt and stock (the stock should be at the same level as the cauliflower, just enough to cover).
  2. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat and once foaming, add the turmeric and scallops. Sear them for about one minute on each side (depending on their thickness – please don’t overcook as they’ll turn rubbery). Top with a pinch of smoked salt, if using. You may want to cut the scallops in half.
  5. Pour the soup into bowls, add a scallop each to sink into the soup and serve with crispy onions, fresh coriander and a mini curry macaron (optional! Recipe in my 1st book, Mad About Macarons)

Recipe Notes

Food & Wine Pairing:

What wine to accompany this curried cauliflower soup with seared scallops? A chilled glass of white Burgundy or a Chenin Blanc.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

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Putting on The Ritz – Paris Teatime

Teatime at the Ritz in Paris was on my perfect French afternoon tea bucket list all during its four long years of renovation. Even as the luxury 5-star hotel was undertaking its €200 million face-lift on Place Vendôme, I still featured the Ritz in my recipe book, Teatime in Paris, knowing that they would unveil something exceptional. Together with our clinging French attire, my friend and I were excited to let time stand still and put on the Ritz Paris Teatime!

Ritz Paris Teatime new Salon Proust

Tea in the Salon Proust

Winter in Paris is perhaps the best time to indulge in the ultimate French afternoon tea. It takes place by the fireplace in the salon given homage to Marcel Proust, under his watchful portrait’s eyes.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

Author Marcel Proust came to the Ritz’s opening party in 1898 and chose it as his second home. He apparently took to the corner spot right next to the fireplace, finding endless inspiration for his novels using the hotel’s elegant surroundings and intimate salons of the literary and aristocratic elite.
Here he felt that “nobody would push you around”.

Ritz Paris Teatime at the Salon Proust

As soon as 2.30pm chimes, the loaded silver Champagne bucket beckons at the entrance to the open-curtained, cosy salon. Would you pick a flute of Reserve Barons de Rothschild Blanc or Rosé to add even more sparkle to the occasion?

Ritz Paris Teatime with Champagne Rothschild

The shiny marble table mirroring the impressive floral display is suddenly hidden, groaning with golden-framed glass boxes containing a whole range of biscuits, petits fours and cakes from yesteryear (les biscuits d’Antan).

Marcel Proust looks on wide-eyed, swooning over his childhood favourite sweet treats on overflowing tiered plates. He no doubt would have loved what’s to come from the talented head pastry chef, François Perret.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

It is a journey through the flavors of my childhood memories which I grew up with and which developed by taste buds.”

Chef François Perret insists, too, that he doesn’t use sugar to excess. This is my kind of pastry chef!

Exceptional teas from the TWG Tea Company in Singapore are given pride of place over pages and pages in the menu. The tea sommelier has picked out black, green and white teas, including semi-fermented, fermented teas and herbal infusions. I would recommend the Ritzy Earl Grey with added cornflowers. Non- tea drinkers are also spoiled for choice with the likes of hot chocolate, five different coffees, as well as iced and cold drinks.

Ritz Paris Teatime teas

A Right Ritz Paris Teatime

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is distinctly French in the Salon Proust. There are no patisseries or pastries as such; instead typically refined biscuits and petits fours from yesteryear plus mini tarts and cakes.

It’s the scalloped, humped madeleine teacake that takes centre stage from start to finish, as made famous by Proust in his novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu). Even the tea service evokes a golden madeleine motif: Chef Perret helped to design the French white limoges porcelain made by Haviland.

Ritz Paris Teatime Madeleines de Proust

Service is immaculate and convivial, as each element of this Parisian teatime is given a touch of relaxed ceremony. A mini madeleine arrives in a bowl for starters, then sumptuously immersed in lemon-infused milk – we’re asked to leave it to infuse for a minute to enjoy the experience at its best.

Three tiers of treats arrive, competing for centre stage: we’re introduced to each layer in order, starting with a quirky teacup as top tier. They’re all biscuits and petits fours that would have traditionally been served in the brasseries of the time: sponge fingers with cocoa nibs, Russian cigarettes, Florentines.

Ritz Paris Teatime Table

The second tier highlights biscuits such as Spritz, buttery Pailles au framboises (nothing like the French packet ones!), airy allumettes of egg whites and lemon, marshmallow bears. The bottom tier is devoted to tarts and cakes, with the lightest sugar tarts on a brioche base (I hear they’re now serving old-fashioned lemon tarts), pink praline meringue, marble cake and giant tuiles.

A most memorable treat is perhaps the “Pain au Chocolat”. Not at all appearing like the classic viennoiserie that we see in Parisian boulangeries, Chef Perret has played with the simple French childhood goûter (after-school 4pm snack) of a baguette sandwich filled with a couple of chocolate squares, cleverly transforming it into cocoa-nib-covered dark chocolate breads served with a platter of cocoa butter, coconut butter, whipped cream, and jam.

Pains au chocolat butters ritz paris teatime

The Madeleine du Ritz arrives hidden under a bell, unveiled as delicately perfumed with orange blossom and lemon-glazed. So not to completely ruin your surprise, they change the flavour combination every now and again.

Recipes for madeleines and tuiles are included in Teatime in Paris, just in case you’d like to recreate a ritzy teatime at home.

With all that tea, even a trip to the restroom was discrete ceremony, where the tap water glides from golden swans.

Tea break Ritz Paris restrooms

I’d missed the bill arriving, which was yet another wonderful touch (their discretion, that is – not that I’d run off to the bathroom!); elegantly and discreetly placed at page 46 inside an old edition of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, where Proust describes that perfect taste of a childhood memory through a Madeleine and some tea.

Ritz Paris Teatime check Proust book

Don’t be fooled by all the light biscuits and mini cakes: it’s just not possible to finish everything that’s presented (well, without needing a golden crane option at the end to lift us out). A box of untouched goodies are yours to take home, plus yet another finale: the most exquisite tiny tea caddy containing a Rooibos and yuzu tea with precise instructions to infuse 5g for 400ml at 90°C for 3-4 minutes, s’il vous plaît.

After such a Ritz Paris Teatime, it’s quite easy to take a stroll indoors and lose yourself in the sumptuous corridors leading to the Hemingway Bar. To access the bar, temptations continue with this elegant shopping gallery.

Ritz Paris Shopping gallery

With teatime starting at 2.30pm, by the time you’ve enjoyed an afternoon of it by the fire in such lush surroundings, it’s extra magical in Winter to come out to the sparkling lights of Place Vendôme.

So, what do you think of having a Christmas Ritz Paris Teatime? Looking for the perfect luxury in Paris? Then why not treat yourself to Context Paris’s Luxury Private Paris Food Tour, Cooking at the Ritz?

Teatime Ritz Paris Christmas

Open every day: 2.30pm-6pm

French Teatime (Thé à la française): €65; Champagne Teatime: €85
Salon Proust
Ritz Hotel Paris
15 Place Vendôme, 75001 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 16 33 74

Metros: Opéra or Tuileries

 

Note: This teatime was experienced in November 2016 but the original version of this article was finally first published for Paris Perfect in February 2017. This post includes an affiliate link to Context Paris at no cost to you.

Relais Desserts Yule Log Presentation, Paris 2017

This week, the elite group of top pastry chefs had us floating on the Seine for their annual Relais Desserts Yule Log presentation of Bûches de Noël. You’ll remember me talking about the Relais Desserts group here before, as they organise the charitable event, the Fête du Macaron or French Macaron Day each Springtime.

relais desserts yule log presentation paris 2017

Even the boat’s pristine top deck looked covered in shiny festive glaze with seats of whipped meringues. Meanwhile, I was already in a daze to get started  downstairs: there was a LOT of patisseries to get through and their stars of pastry to meet. So, ready for a bumper gourmet edition? Grab a cup of tea and join me on the sweet voyage.

 

Presided by Frédéric Cassel on the left below, Relais Desserts invited us to taste the bûches/yule logs, meet the chefs behind each creation, ask questions and enjoy the tasting notes.  As I do in my patisserie recipe books, each creation suggests how to serve it: either chilled or, as in most cases, to take out of the fridge for 15-30 minutes beforehand in order to appreciate all the flavours and textures.  Recommendations for the perfect drink to accompany them are also given, although this one is easy for a festive meal if you like bubbles.

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

 

Each yule log was presented by collection. Have you ever seen chocolate paper before? This listing was printed on paper made by 45% of recycled cacao shells.

cocoa paper

I’m a sensitive cookie. If you’re like me and an obsessed gourmet, can you imagine walking in to one long room filled with the most outstanding French pastry chefs in one spot? I was overwhelmed yet bubbling to discover each creation.

 

Dried Fruit & Nuts Collection (Fruits Secs)

relais desserts yule log Bernardé

Sporting the renowned collar of a Meilleur Ouvrier de FranceNicolas Bernardé doesn’t give a name to this yule log but certainly provokes the goose-bumps, just thinking of the flavours: NOISETTES-MANGUE-PASSION.  It’s a mountain of hazelnut sponge, mango-passion fruit compote with a passion fruit cream, crunchy hazelnuts from Piemont and a Gianduja crème légère. Enjoy it with Earl Grey tea.

 

Relais Desserts Mercotte Roussel

The beaming smiles of Mercotte and Christophe Roussel were in full tasting swing. Mercotte – France’s wonderful answer to Mary Berry – is TV presenter of La Meilleur Pâtissier, patisserie blogger at La Cuisine de Mercotte, and on the jury for Christophe Roussel’s prestigious Amateur annual pastry challenge, Le Défi Patissier, of which I was most flattered to join them as guest on the jury last year in La Baule (read all about it here).

 

relais desserts yule log Christophe Roussel

Far removed from a traditional yule log, Christophe Roussel, also the star of La Baule and la Guerande, evokes icy snow with his ICEBERG. Served chilled, it’s a most refreshing end to any festive meal. Topped with glistening choux buns, break into creamy vanilla, toasted hazelnuts from Piemont with a zesty touch of orange.

 

Jean-Philippe Darcis ‘s ALESSANDRIA (top left below) is best served with a good pure Arabica coffee, to accompany the Gianduja mousse, Ristretto cream with a cappuccino marshmallow, hazelnut sponge and chocolate-hazelnut crunchy crumble. Attention: it’s a limited edition, with 300 examples for Christmas.

Relais Desserts Yule logs Dalloyau Lenotre, Darcis

Jean-Christophe Jeanson prefers to keep his UNE SURPRISE Bûche secret. Made for Lenôtre Paris, even the packaging evokes a mysterious snowy forest in Lapland.  I wonder if Laurent Duchêne was asking if he could reveal it?

Again on a snowy and marshmallow note, Nicolas Boucher’s KUKLA (bottom right) is for Dalloyau Paris. Its  chocolate cover evokes a matryoshka doll, revealing a variation on a theme of a pavlova: an almond meringue base with confiture au lait with a financier heart of mango-passion fruit compote and vanilla cream.  Glazed in white chocolate, this frozen bûche is surrounded with a citrus marshmallow. Recommended with a mature dark rum.

 

Chocolate Yulelog Collection

relais desserts yule log Pierre Hermé

I managed to catch an enigmatic smile from Pierre Hermé, as he looked on to his GÂTEAU DE NOËL ÉCORCES. Together with artist Sylvianne Lüsher who designed the clay base, it’s an ephemeral piece of art – and at only 20 examples being made for Christmas, it’s a cracker of a limited edition! A log within a log, encompassing Viennese chocolate sponge, dark chocolate and raspberry Chantilly, raspberry compote with dark chocolate salted butter shortbread. Three out of the four portions are dark chocolate: one is raspberry red to give the artistic finish.

 

relais desserts yule log Hévin Paris

Following on from last year’s French Touch collection (see my post on it here), Jean-Paul Hévin has been inspired through time, paying homage to designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld with his GÉOMETRIK.
A crunchy almond praline with poppy seed base is topped with a Peruvian Grand Cru chocolate mousse smoked with pine, topped with a hazelnut sponge and caramelised laurel-infused mousse.
A special tip for clean-cutting this Christmas is to cut the yule log with a warmed knife.

 

relais desserts yule log marc Ducobu

Marc Ducobu‘s MERVEILLEUX NOËL brings the classic chocolate yule log from Belgium with new notes based on meringue, Chantilly, Caribbean chocolate ganache, with different chocolate crispy textures.

Vianney Bellanger (above right) brings his chocolate CAROUSSEL from Le Mans, evoking childhood with a crunchy chocolate crumble, plus the more rare criollo cacao variety in a chocolate mousse from the Dominican Republic. It comes with a chocolate crème anglaise (light custard) with crunchy pearls.

 

relais desserts yule log Jeff Oberweis

Jeff Oberweis concentrates more on after Christmas when the traditional yule log changes time to New Year’s Eve, known here as SAINT-SYLVESTRE.  Inspired by Salvador Dali’s melting clocks, it’s ticking with Madagascan dark chocolate mousse with a Gianduja crunch, plus a Brazilian milk chocolate cream topped on a chocolate almond sponge.  I think it’s about time we visited Luxembourg with only 2 hours by TGV from Paris. After having lived in Guatemala, he knows a thing or two about chocolate!

 

Spicy Collection (Épices)

Relais Desserts Yulelogs Pignol Lyon

Jean-Paul Pignol‘s BELLECOUR pays homage to the silhouette of Lyon’s famous square and his Madeleine de Proust of childhood memories: devouring clementines from under the Christmas tree.
The warming hint of spices are in a soft sponge, a crackling nutty contrasting texture with a Peruvian chocolate mousse which is interlaced with the most deliciously acidic note of clementine marmalade and confit. After discussing macarons and Lyon with Chef Pignol, I have to return soon: on my last gourmet trip to Lyon (see my post on Lyon’s patisseries) I didn’t even try his speciality, La Tarte Ecossaise!

 

relais desserts yule log arnaud larder

Arnaud Larher is already celebrating 20 years’ anniversary since opening his first boutique in Montmartre, 1997.  With a mixture of nostalgia and his favourite recipes comes ÉPICÉA.  It’s a yule log filled with 66% dark grand cru chocolate and gingerbread mousse, orange marmalade on a gingerbread base and all topped with a glaze and 80% dark chocolate Chantilly cream.

 

Citrus Yulelog Collection (Agrumes)

relais desserts yule log Mulhaupt

Thierry Mulhaupt brought this dazzling ÉTOILE from Strasbourg and Colmar to take the chocolate brownie to new heights. An almond brownie is topped with the most succulent Maltese orange caramel and topped with a 66% dark chocolate mousse with orange marmalade.
He also makes a savoury bûche (salmon, lemon, broccoli as a starter) and has just published a new book on Bredeles Salés, filled with savoury recipes for aperitif nibbles.

 

relais desserts yule log Luc Guillet

Luc Guillet must have been inundated with fans since I couldn’t find him before I had to run off.  To celebrate his first Christmas in the family business, his CÉSAR is inspired by his Asian travels, with fragrances of yuzu, black sesame, chocolate and caramel.

 

 

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Bouillet

Also hailing from Lyon, Sebastien Bouillet brings on a touch of circus fun with his CHAPITEAU. Toasted popcorn and 44% milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut are topped with a beautiful yuzu cream and yuzu jelly that tickles all the senses. For more on his boutiques, see my article on Lyon here.

 

Yulelog Fruit Collection

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Paris

Claire Damon, the only woman chef in the group, has logged herself with a self-portrait in INITALES CD.  Evoking her childhood memories of freshly cut hay at the end of spring, she evokes a taste of summer on the plate this Christmas. Be transported with a compote of handpicked wild blueberries from Auvergne, a light sponge of rice flour and an airy mousse fragranced with cut hay. There’s even a touch of crunchy wild clover. She healthily suggests a modest glass of still water to accompany it.

 

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

Claire Damon has the spoon! With Laurent Duchêne, Arnaud Larher, Sebastien Bouillet

 

relais desserts yule log laurent duchene Paris

It’s the famous Black Forest Gateau that inspired Laurent Duchêne this year with his SOUS BOIS FORET NOIRE. The fun visual of being in the woods mixed with the legendary ingredients are taken to new heights with a light chocolate sponge, Tanzanian 75% dark chocolate creamy mousse, griotte black cherry confit and a Madagascan vanilla Chantilly.

 

relais desserts yule log Frederic Cassel

Frédéric Cassel continues the tradition of exchanging gifts, and his BOITE CADEAU continues the charm with 14 Christmas boules garnished with all sorts of delicious speciality surprises from his patisserie in Fountainbleau. It’s a limited edition, with 100 examples available this Christmas.

 

relais desserts yule log Michel Pottier Grandin

Called Royale, referring to the royal burgh of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where Michel Pottier runs the Patisserie Grandin on rue du Pain (quite aptly named as the original bakers’ street to King François I’s château, just around the corner). As I live in the area, check out my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye and a DIY Chocolate & Pastry tour in his royal town.

Serve chilled, Royale’s lime and raspberry mousses nestle between an almond sponge, topped with toasted meringue with a fresh raspberry coulis or sauce. I like the mini macarons as a slice guide, so there’s no cheating.

relais desserts yule log richard Seve

Richard Sève beckoned me over with a square of red chocolate. I felt like Charlie in a chocolate factory. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s due to open a new lab and chocolate museum in Lyon at the end of this month.
He made the chocolate using whole fresh strawberries without any added sugar to continue the pleasure of summer over the Christmas table. His COLIBRIS, referring to the exotic birds that feed off the rare nectars of tropical fruits and flowers, adds the most intense yet light natural strawberry ganache with a compote of mango and passion fruit to an airy sponge.

 

relais desserts Coco Jobard

To finish off my early festive log, meet the talented Coco Jobard, food stylist and recipe editor for the association’s new forthcoming book, Haute-Pâtisserie for Relais Desserts, due to hit the bookshelves on 26 October. You mean – there’s more?

So, after all that, am I the only one to have this inexplicable urge for Champagne?

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museum

The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum Paris

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (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