Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit (Paris Day Trips)

I promised you this taster of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit. It’s a fabulous way to discover this royal town’s history which breathes around the Château and boasts a rooftop view over the River Seine to Paris.

As Paris visitors flock further west to the Palace of Versailles – also in les Yvelines – this visit will uncover the importance of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with the Kings of France before the court moved to Versailles in 1682. Birthplace of Louis XIV and also the composer, Claude Debussy, you will find that Saint-Germain has had a few surprising culinary births too.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Following on from this introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye as part of my series of easy-to-do day trips from Paris, guided visits on the castle roof run between May and end September, and are easily reserved in advance (see all practical details at the end of this post).  Although visits are only in French, English can be organised in advance if done in a group.

In the meantime, before your visit, let me whet your appetite as a Scottish-French local and guide you on your own DIY tour.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

There were two castles: the current pentagon-shaped Château Vieux and the Château Neuf . The latter newer castle was built under Henri II, finished by Henri IV and dismantled under Louis XVI and his brother, future Charles X. It’s one of the rare castles dismantled before the French Revolution, with the bricks and stone recycled by the Saint-Germanois.

Today, the Château Vieux now houses the National Archaeological Museum. A model in the museum gives us an idea of both castles’ grandeur, terraces and gardens which, at the time, cascaded all the way down to the Seine (now the town of Le Pecq).

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Rooftop visit

The layout of both castles in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (apologies for the unavoidable reflections on the glass case)

Today the castle’s inner courtyard is one of the Renaissance’s most beautiful.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

A visit on the castle’s rooftop is pretty special, showing off a panorama of the Seine Valley – including a skyline view of Paris to La Défense and Sacré Coeur. Look carefully, and you catch sight of the Eiffel Tower, poking out behind the Mont Valérien.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Just by visiting the Castle roof in the space of 30 minutes, we gathered nuggets of delicious history as we walked around the chimneys.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The fortified castle originated in 1122, when Louis VI le Gros built on the plateau of Laye. Only the dungeon (the square tower on the left of the museum entrance) retains the original shape, with a Campanile tower stuck to it, much like that of the Louvre in Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Louis IX (Saint Louis) completed the castle and by 1238 had a chapel built, the only part of the castle to survive the fire during the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 between Philippe VI Valois and the Black Prince. It was Charles V that re-built the castle by 1367, adjoining the Gothic Chapel.

Saint Louis Chapel

Louis IX’s Gothic Chapel was probably good practise for his Saint Chapelle in Paris built ten years later, constructed on much the same lines.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

It’s here that the story starts to get deliciously interesting at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as it’s where François I married la Reine Claude in 1514. Since then, the rosace was filled in, as the banquet hall he added on was right behind it.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Each time I walk around the Chapel, I can’t help thinking of greengage plums. What? Plums? Did you know that the Greengage plum is known as Reine Claude in French, named after François I’s Queen as she adored them so much? Speaking of which, have you tried my Spicy Plum Jam? La Reine Claude would have surely approved with it spread on her royal baguette over breakfast with François I.

François I at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

This was François I’s favourite residence. He loved the castle so much, he turned Charles V’s fortress into a Renaissance palace.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

He is said to have spent 1000 days at Saint-Germain-en-Laye which, considering the sumptuous castles in the Loire Valley and Fontainbleau, is quite something!  François I’s symbols are not difficult to spot on the roof: his crowning initial with the Fleur de Lys carved in stone and flaunted on the imposing chimneys high above the town. Spot also his salamander, especially on the enormous banquet hall chimney inside.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle roof visit

François I’s son, Henri II continued with more of the building work, including the new castle which was completed under Henri IV. During the reigns of both Henri IV and Louis XIII, the Château Vieux was left to royal children and their household staff.

Louis XIV and Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The Sun King, Louis XIV was born in Saint-Germain’s Château Neuf, 5 September 1638. All that’s left of the “new” castle is the red-bricked Pavillon, now part of the Hotel Henri IV that looks over the Seine to Paris. This hotel boasts a couple of other births from the culinary world: soufflé potatoes and the legendary Béarnaise sauce.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

I was lucky to see the original birth and baptism papers from the local archives during an enlightening conference of Louis XIV in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, thanks to our local historian, François Boulet. The baptism took place in the St Louis Chapel when Louis (le Dauphin) was 4 years old in the presence of his parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.  It was such a long awaited royal birth that 30,000 bells peeled all around France to celebrate!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Following Louis XIV marriage in 1660, he moved into the Château Vieux, breaking with tradition with the new castle.

From his reign in 1666, Louis XIV spent a staggering quarter of his reign at the castle before eventually moving to his newly embellished Versailles in 1682. In Saint-Germain, it wasn’t merely for hunting but for the Court, where the greater part of his powerful and personal decisions were made. We often just associate Versailles with Louis XIV but we can frequently forget just how important Saint-Germain was for the the Sun King and the court. It’s also where he learned to dance and where Lully performed many of his premières in the giant ballroom.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Improvements were made to the castle by Jules Hardouin Mansart and André Le Nôtre designed the French gardens and the vast terrace overlooking the Seine before his other wee gardening job at Versailles.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain Pharmacist Treats Royal Headaches with Chocolate

As the longest reigning monarch in France, Louis XIV probably ate extremely well at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I suspect one of the ingredients to a long and prosperous life was chocolate, introduced to the French court by his mother, Anne of Austria, and his wife, Marie-Therèse who both brought over their chocolate luxuries – in the form of a chocolate drink – from Spain.

Later at  Versailles, it was under Louis XVI that chocolate finally flourished outside of the French court in Paris, thanks to the pharmacist in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Sulpice Debauve, appointed King’s Physician in 1778 to help cure the Queen Marie-Antoinette’s headaches through chocolate coins or pistoles. More on that later, as this addictive subject merits its own post – but again, Saint-Germain is one of the ingredients!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

James VII of Scotland in Exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

When Louis XIV and his court permanently moved to Versailles on 20 April 1682, the Sun King ‘lent’ the Château Vieux to his cousin, James VII of Scotland (II of England) while the Stuarts were in exile from Britain during the Glorious Revolution. He stayed here with his family for 13 years until his death in 1701 and is buried in the church across the road from the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof

Many of the Jacobites stayed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye until the French Revolution and finally left in 1793. For a brief summary of the Jacobites, read this great article here. Did you know that Saint-Germain is twinned with Ayr in Scotland?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

French Revolution, Wars to Today

During the French Revolution the castle was used as a prison, then a hospital for the treatment of contagious diseases, a cavalry school under Napoleon Bonaparte, barracks then a military prison.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Thanks to a visit from Queen Victoria to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1855, eager to learn more of its British past with the Stuarts, she urged Napoleon III to save the castle from abandon and so it was restored. In 1862 Napoleon III created the Museum of Celtic & Gallo Roman Antiquities as part of the castle and the following year it was listed as a historical monument. Restoration work was carried out by Eugène Millet, who studied under Viollet-le-Duc (of Notre Dame restoration fame).

The Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed at the castle on 10 September 1919, officially ending WWI with Austria.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The Castle was used as Headquarters by the German Army in France during the German Occupation (1940-1944), as was the Château d’Hennemont, which is now the Lycée International. Many German bunkers are reminders throughout Saint-Germain of around 18,000 soldiers occupying the military town. Thankfully, and astonishingly, Saint-Germain wasn’t bombarded by the allies. There are two bunkers right next to the castle in between the hôtel particuliers or mansion houses.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle Museum

Today, the castle houses the National Archaeology Museum. It includes the world’s largest collection of prehistoric art, illustrating the life and inventions of men from their origins to the merovingian period. Furniture is replaced by countless exhibition cabinets, showing a fascinating insight into life to the middle ages.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s Speciality Cakes

No visit can finish without a taste of the local culinary specialities.  Both puffed potatoes or some Sauce Béarnaise, born at the Henri IV hotel’s restaurant, are not the easiest to sample on the street (see the recipe for Sauce Béarnaise here), so I’d recommend popping in to at least two patisseries in particular for their speciality cakes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Teatime in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Since 1920, the Pâtisserie Hardy has been making Le Gâteau Saint-Germain, of which I’m constantly told that the recipe’s secret has never left their boutique. It’s a sweet tart filled with almond paste with bits of almonds and glazed with a light icing – see my recipe for le Saint-Germain here.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Debussy

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s chocolate speciality, Le Debussy, was created by the Patisserie Grandin to celebrate the birth of composer, Claude Debussy on the same street on rue au Pain, the oldest street in town (called bread street, as at the time of François I, this was where the bread was baked as there was no oven at the castle.)

Le Debussy is a hazelnut sponge with praline mousse with raisins soaked in rum and coated in dark chocolate. You’ll also find a Saint-Germain cake at Grandin. If you love rum, then it’s guaranteed to satisfy with its boozy glaze!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

We loved the compact yet relaxed 30-minute roof tour: simply book on the morning itself directly at the Museum ticket office to ensure your place. Alternatively, book a longer visit by telephone or email in advance, and you’re good to go (precise details below). Note: I may add that I suffer from vertigo but I honestly had no trouble on this Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit.  As groups are small with a guide and another member of museum staff behind us with clear footpaths, it’s very secure. No children under 10 are admitted, however.
So, on a lovely day, jump on the RER A express train line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, pop into the ticket office just across the road to book if it’s not done already, then enjoy a walk around. There’s so much to see and do.

What Else to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

I often call Saint-Germain a mini royal Paris, as it’s so beautifully compact for boutiques and there’s plenty to do. I thoroughly recommend wearing good walking shoes as there’s plenty to do:
  • The farmers’ market (Tuesdays, Fridays & Sunday mornings – the latter is the biggest);
  • The quaint boutiques! Even the several cheese shops alone are worth a stop. Check out Foucher’s interior – it’s like stepping back to 1923 when it opened.
  • Walk in the extensive castle grounds (it’s free), including the long terrace built by Le Nôtre overlooking Paris, plus a walk through the beautiful forest (the walks are all well signposted);
  • Have a picnic in the park, or why not do it in style by ordering a gourmet version straight from Monsieur Fine Bouche, who offers €10 off your first order when you use the code, ‘MadAboutMacarons’;
  • Visit the church across from the castle, where James VII Scotland rests;
  • An afternoon visit to the Claude Debussy Museum, recently refurbished at N° 38 rue au Pain (closed Mon/Tues);
  • Maurice Denis Museum – this is currently closed for renovation until 2020;
  • The Fête des Loges in July-August is one of Europe’s biggest fairs. Shuttles run from the RER station.
  • An absolute must? My DIY chocolate & patisserie tour – Patrick Roger, Pascal le Gac (formerly from Maison du Chocolat), Gontran Cherrier, Eric Kayser, to name a few more, plus an ice cream stop at La Fabbrica de Luca, a few doors away from the oldest house in Saint-Germain on rue de la Salle. Have I missed anything?
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Practical Information

SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE CASTLE ROOF VISIT: Open 2 MAY – 30 SEPTEMBER
2 Types of Visits are possible, organised directly at the Chateau Museum in FRENCH ONLY. For a guided visit in English, advance reservation should be done for a group.
  • Historique du château et visite des toits” (1h weekly visits – 1h30 on weekends Full price each 5€/7€)
    ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ONLY by telephone (01-34 51 65 36) or by email  (Reservation.man@gmx.fr)
  • Promenade sur les toits (Duration: 30 min Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 2.45pm Full price each €4). Reservations to be made on the day itself, weather permitting, directly at the boutique/ticket office of the Museum.
Musée d’Archéologie nationale – Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Place Charles de Gaulle
78105 Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Billetterie/Ticket Office: Tel 01-39.10.13.22
www.musee-archeologienationale.fr
Jardin des Arts
3 rue Henri IV
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Getting There from Paris:

Only 20 km west, this makes for an ideal day trip from Paris with a short 30 minute train-ride on the RER A line (red) west (ouest) to the terminus at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

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Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored.  As a local, I’m proud to introduce new ideas for your day trips from Paris.

DIY Paris Day Trips Saint Germain

Melting Meringue Snowballs

I promised to make a festive dessert for the holidays – even if our Christmas tree isn’t up yet.  Let me introduce you to Melting Meringue Snowballs that are so simple to make and assemble, plus can be prepared in advance.  What’s more, the inside has a generous surprise awaiting. Now it’s just over to you to ‘throw’ a party!

Melting Meringue Snowballs

The recipe may look long but please don’t be put off.  It’s just all explained in detail and so worth the effort.

Thanks to the hosts, Terraillon France, I was invited recently to a special Noël pastry demonstration given by Chef Alexandre Favre at the Michalak Masterclasses, run in their new workshop behind the pastry boutique in rue du Faubourg Poissonnière in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.

French meringue snowballs

For me, this was a meringue revolution! I’m not the biggest fan of meringues as I normally find them too sweet – so imagine my surprise when meringues had been piped out using upturned silicone cake moulds to make a large hollow inside.

French meringue snowballs

Chef Alexandre’s boule de neige meringues were sensational mini meringue snowballs – as he had smaller moulds and piped them out as more realistic snowballs without any swirly effects.  As my moulds were slightly larger, I piped out a spiral effect to make them into larger, rather melted meringue snowballs.

Two separate desserts were prepared during the demonstration, including these impressive Mont Blancs with pear, lemon jelly and praline on lemon cake bases.  I was so smitten with the tart lemon jellies that I added them to my melting meringue snowballs to add that zingy acidity to make the meringues slightly less sweet.

Mont Blanc Poire Marron

The result? The lemon just makes it! Although the lemon jelly recipe calls for sugar, it doesn’t even need it if you prefer a tart surprise inside. TIP: If you’re using organic unwaxed lemons for the juice, grate the lemon zest, place in a zip-lock bag and freeze. You’ll love this for an even quickly-made Moist Lemon Almond Cake, for example.

Chef Alexandre uses the French meringue method for his boules de neige snowballs – just like I use in my recipe for Parisian macarons in both my books. I find it so much easier to work with and there’s no need to fuss about with a thermometer. Why make things complicated when you can keep it simple?

Melting meringue snowballs

Equal quantities are measured out of the egg whites (like the macaron recipes in my books, I use egg whites that have been stored in the fridge for 3-4 days), sugar then whisked together until soft, firm peaks. Then the icing sugar (powdered sugar) is folded in using a good spatula.

Don’t forget that measuring out your ingredients using a good digital scale is vital in French patisserie (read my article here to find out why). Incidentally, I use Terraillon’s Macaron digital scale for precision in my baking.  After constant use for over a year since I’ve had it, the batteries finally gave up on me yesterday.  The good news is that this kitchen scale let’s you know STRAIGHT AWAY with “Battery” flashing up so that your baking is kept consistent.

melting meringue snowballs

The new Terraillon silicone piping bag comes with a variety of exciting tips, easily clipped on to the bag’s holder. To push the batter or whites in the piping bag, use a patisserie scraper (corne en plastique). I used a simple plain tip to pipe out around the moulds.

Two hours later, once the meringues are left to cool, they easily come off the silicone moulds – with a most beautiful hollow ready to fill!

Melting Meringue snowballs

Each meringue base just needs to be filed off using Terraillon’s new microfilm grater, part of their new baking utensils range. This way your melted meringue snowballs can sit perfectly upright without falling over.

Melting meringue snowballs

Surprise!

Split the meringue in the middle and you’ll appreciate how the hollows means less dense sweet meringue and more delicious fillings.

Melting meringue snowball

It’s not just a Melting Meringue Snowball – it’s generously filled with toasted hazelnut praline, bitter lemon jelly, unsugared vanilla cream and I added a candied chestnut (marron glacé) just to complete the French-style festive touch.
melting meringue snowballs filled with praline

Again, weighing out the ingredients carefully, the praline can be made in advance and kept at room temperature for up to a month. Separate the meringues into couples and in each half, fill with praline and lemon jelly; the other half, fill with unsugared vanilla cream and drop in half a candied chestnut (marron glacé).

Melted meringue snowballs

Stick them together with the vanilla cream, add a tiny dollop on top of each melting meringue snowball and top with some gold leaf and white chocolate shavings.

Melting meringue snowballs

Melting Meringue Snowballs

Melted Meringue Snowballs
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 50 mins
 

Melted Meringue Snowballs, generously filled with roasted hazelnut praline, lemon jelly, vanilla cream and candied chestnut for a special French festive dessert, inspired and adapted by Chef Alexandre Favre during a Michalak Masterclass by Terraillon in Paris.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: easy meringue method, Filled meringues, French meringue,, Meringue fillings, Praline cream meringues
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 290 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
French Meringue:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) egg whites (I use 3-4 days aged whites)
  • 100 g (3.5oz) sugar
  • 100 g (3.5oz) icing/powdered sugar
Hazelnut Praline:
  • 50 g (2oz) sugar
  • 100 g (3.5oz) hazelnuts
Vanilla Cream:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) Whipping cream 30% fat
  • 1 vanilla pod/bean - seeds scraped (or 1/2 tsp powdered vanilla)
  • 50 g (2oz) mascarpone
  • 4 candied chestnuts, cut in half
Lemon Jelly (Optional):
  • 100 g (3.5 fl oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 25 g (1oz) water
  • 7 g (0.25oz) sugar (optional if you prefer a more tart lemon surprise)
  • 2.5 g (one sheet) agar-agar
Instructions
French Hollow Meringues:
  1. Using an electric whisk or a stand-mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until the whites start to foam.  Add 1/3 of the sugar then increase speed until the meringue starts to form.  Gradually add the rest of the sugar while beating until the peaks are soft, shiny yet firm.

  2. Stop the mixer and fold in the icing sugar using a spatula until well incorporated. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag with a plain 10mm tip then pipe out spiral mounds around an upturned silicone mini cake mould.

  3. Bake in a cool oven at 80°C fan for 2 hours (according to the chef but I can't make my oven that low - so baked at 110°C fan/130°C/250°F/gas 1/2 for 2 hours. As the meringues were bigger than his minis, it still worked out well at 2 hours.  After 2 hours, switch off the oven, open the door and leave inside for 10 minutes. Remove to cool then lift off the moulds.

  4. Once cool, grate the wispy tops off half of the meringue shells to smooth in order to let the meringues stand upright.

Lemon Jelly:
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice and water to the boil. Add the sugar (if using) and the agar-agar.  

  2. Pour the mixture immediately into mini silicone cake moulds (preferably the same size as the meringues) and leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Once set, they're easy to remove from the moulds.

Hazelnut Praline:
  1. Toast the hazelnuts under a hot grill for a couple of minutes. When cooler and able to handle, rub the hazelnuts between your hands to easily take off the skins.

  2. Gradually heat half of the sugar with a few drops of water in a small saucepan until it starts to melt. Add the rest of the sugar and leave to melt until a golden caramel forms.

  3. Immediately transfer the warm, liquid caramel to a food processor and mix together with the toasted hazelnuts until it forms a soft paste. Transfer to a piping bag.

Vanilla Cream:
  1. Using an electric whisk or a stand-mixer, whisk the whipping cream with the vanilla on high until it thickens. Whisk in the mascarpone then transfer to a piping bag.

Assembly:
  1. Separate the meringue shells into couples for each Melting Meringue. Pipe in the praline into one half, top with the lemon jelly. In the other halves, pipe in the vanilla cream and add half a candied chestnut.

  2. Stick both halves of each meringue together with the cream.  Add a tiny blob of cream on top and garnish with white chocolate and gold leaf.

Recipe Notes

Decorate with gold leaf and white chocolate shavings. Sprinkle each meringue with the meringue powder, following grating of each base.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Serve with a semi-sweet Champagne to celebrate.

With huge, special thanks to Terraillon France for hosting the event and to Chef Alexandre Favre for such a wonderful festive demonstration and meringue inspiration from the Michalak Masterclass in Paris. Now it’s over to you – Express Your Chef!

Melting meringue snowball

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Melting Meringue Snowballs

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Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making these Melting Meringue Snowballs?  Please leave some comment love below, take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram or Facebook – or just spread the word about le blog!

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I’m thrilled and totally over the moon to be voted as BEST FOOD BLOG IN PARIS 2018 and feature on the cover of Expatriates Magazine.
A HUGE thank you to YOU, my readers and friends for all of your support this year! You’re the best! Copies of the magazine are being distributed this week around Paris so don’t forget to pick up your free copy.

 

 

 

__________________

Disclaimer: I was invited by Terraillon France to watch this demonstration. I was not compensated for this post and not obliged to write about the experience. As always, all opinions are my own. Huge thanks to Chef Alexandre Fevre for permission to use his recipe.

Macaron Day Paris 2018 – Plan your Visit!

As our thoughts are happily turning to the much awaited, budding arrival of Spring on 20 March, it’s also the official date of Macaron Day Paris.

Macaron Day Paris 2018
starts the weekend of 17 March and continues to Tuesday 20 March.

Macaron Day Paris

Initiated by the ‘Picasso of Pastry’, Pierre Hermé (Vice President of Relais Desserts), Macaron Day is a charitable event which is organised by the high-end pastry chefs of French pâtisserie throughout France, Europe and the World over who are all members of Relais Desserts.

Macaron Day Paris 2018

Photo courtesy of Relais Desserts

Macaron Day Paris: The Motto

The motto is simple: One donation (un don) for One macaron.
Donations go towards the association, Vaincre la Mucoviscidose – Fighting Against Cystic Fibrosis. Their volunteer workers rally around the Relais Dessert boutiques with their tins and each time you add your donation, you pick the macaron of your choice. Last year the Association raised a fabulous €50,000 and so this year, let’s help them top it!

To assist your planning of the perfect macaron day (or weekend) in Paris, each participating boutique for Macaron Day is listed below as well as opening times. N.B. some boutiques are closed on Sunday or Monday.

Pierre Hermé

With a gourmet choice of about 20 macarons which will be available for tasting, you’ll probably be glad there’s a queue on Macaron Day at Pierre Hermé, just so you can decide on a few!

About 20 delicious flavours will be available for tasting, such as:

  • Rose, Jasmine and Fresh Mint in the Infinitely collection;
  • Ispahan (rose, raspberry & lychee), Licorice and Violet from the Signatures collection;
  • or new Lemon, Honey and Orange Blossom flavours from the Garden of Atlas collection.

Don’t forget the all-time favourites too. Mine are Mogador (milk chocolate & passion fruit) or his Infinement Vanille (Madagascan Vanilla), Montebello (pistachio & raspberry), and Yasamine (jasmine, mango & candied grapefruit)… but I’ve kept the best until last:

There’s a NEW SIGNATURE MACARON FOR MACARON DAY PARIS: Garden of Lima with lucuma nut and caramelised ginger.

Macaron Day Paris Pierre Hermé

Photo courtesy of Pierre Hermé: New Signature macaron “Garden of Lima” with lucuma nut and caramelised ginger.

4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
39 avenue de l’Opéra, 75002 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
18 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Publicis Drugstore, 133 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-10.30pm)
89 boulevard Malesherbes, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Le Royal Monceau Raffles, 37 avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 3-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)
185 rue de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday 9am-5pm)
58 avenue Paul Doumer, 75016 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Printemps, Parly 2 shopping centre, Le Chesnay (Saturday 10am-8.30pm; closed Sunday)

 

Sadaharu Aoki

This Japanese-French pâtisserie is highly Japanese but I can assure you that the Japanese macaron language helps gets the ooh and aahs of communication going, macaron-munching style! Try spectacular flavours such as Matcha Green tea; Black Sesamé; Genmacha; Hojicha; Earl Grey; or I find this perfectly acidic citrus Yuzu macaron always hits the spot.

56 Boulevard de Port Royal, 75005 Paris (Tues-Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed Monday.)
35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris (Tues-Saturday 11am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm)
103 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris (Tues-Sat 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)
25 rue de Pérignon, 75015 Paris (Tues-Saturday: 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)

Macaron Day Paris Dalloyau Macarons

Dalloyau

This historical institution, on the go since 1682 from the original boutique in 101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, now has ten boutiques in and around the City of Lights offering a range of Paris macaron flavours.

For Macaron Day, Dalloyau are on a floral theme, with 2 NEW FLAVOURS: Fraise-Griotte-Coquelicot  (strawberry-black cherry-poppy) and Rose-Framboise (rose-raspberry). Both new seasonal flavours will continue after Macaron Day Paris for another 3 months in their boutiques:

5 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Bastille, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
2 Place Edmond Rostand, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
63 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 8.30am-9pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)
69 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8pm)
Galeries Gourmandes, Atrium du Palais des Congrès, 2 Place de la Porte Maillot, 75017 Paris (Saturday: 11am-8pm; Sunday 10am-8pm)
18 Place du Marché, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine (Saturday & Sunday: 9am-8pm)
67 Jean-Baptiste Clément, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt (Saturday: 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-2pm)
21/39 rue d’Alsace, 92300 Levallois-Perret (Saturday 10am-9pm. Closed Sunday)

 

Laurent Duchêne

With at least 15 macarons to choose from including the great classics, I’d also pick the more unusual flavours such as his Chocolate-Yuzu or Mojito macarons. For Macaron Day Paris, his NEW SIGNATURE MACARON is Le Limoncello, with Limoncello cream and jelly with a hint of basil.

238 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Tues-Fri: 8.30am-2pm, 3pm-7.30pm; Saturday: 8.30am-7.30pm & Sunday: 8am-1.30pm)
2 rue Wurtz, 75013 Paris (Monday-Saturday: 7.30am-8pm; closed Sunday)

macaron day Paris

Photo courtesy of Jean-Paul Hévin, Paris

Jean-Paul Hévin

Try Jean-Paul Hévin’s new macaron, Annam: between two Grand Cru chocolate hulls from Vietnam, discover a chocolate ganache, tangy chocolate taste, yellow fruit notes. This new creation plus all the other chocolate favourites will be available in all Jean-Paul Hévin stores around Paris.

231 rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
41 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
3 rue Vavin, 75006 Paris
23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet, 75007 Paris (all 4 boutiques open Mon-Saturday: 10am-7.30pm. Closed Sunday)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussemann, 75009 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)

 

Arnaud Larher

There are 4 new macaron flavours that I confess I haven’t yet tasted, but hope to try them out on Macaron Day:

  • Chestnut cream filling with pieces of candied chestnuts and black currant;
  • Praline + milk;
  • Yuzu fruit ganache spread, featuring the Yuzu citrus; and
  • Olive oil-based ganache filling;

Otherwise choose from his classic selection of exquisite flavours: my favourites are Pistachio; Mango-tangerine; or Coffee and chocolate cream laced with strong coffee.

93 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday: 10am-7pm)
57 rue Damrémont, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 9.30am-1.30pm & 3.30pm-7.30pm; Sunday: 10am-1.30pm)
53 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 10am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-1.30pm)

Macaron Day Paris 2018 LeNotre

Photo courtesy of LeNôtre, Paris

LeNôtre

The legendary house, LeNôtre will donate 25% of its macaron sales and courses from its “Ateliers de Gaston” (Gaston’s Workshops) to the Vaincre la Mucoviscidose (Fight Cystic Fibrosis) Association.

10, rue Saint Antoine, 75004 Paris (Mon-Sun 9am-9pm)
15, boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris (opening times as above for all boutiques)
22, avenue de la Porte de Vincennes, 75012 Paris
61, rue Lecourbe , 75015 Paris
44, rue d’Auteuil, 75016 Paris
48 avenue Victor Hugo, 75016 Paris
121, avenue de Wagram, 75017 Paris
Parly 2 Commercial Centre, Centre Commercial, 2, avenue Charles de Gaulle, 78150 Le Chesnay (closed Sunday)

Christophe Roussel

This boutique, Creative Duo with Julie (Christophe’s adorable wife) at the bottom of the Montmartre hill, has a most sumptuous selection of macarons to choose from..

Try their Pistachio Morello Cherry; Caramel Coated with Dark Chocolate; Passion Fruit and Tarragon; or Lavender Apricot, making us dream of a hot, fragranced summer in the South of France. One of my all-time favourites, however, is his Cheesecake macaron – you have to try it!  On second thoughts, try them ALL!

 5 rue Tardieu, 75018 Paris (Mon-Fri 10.15am-7pm; Saturday and Sunday 10.15am-8pm)

 

Enjoy yourselves, happy tastings and make a charitable weekend out of eating macarons for your donations during Macaron Day Paris.  Not only is it gourmand, but it’s all in a good cause.  Why not share your macaron experiences together on the MadAboutMacarons Facebook page? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Macaron Day Paris – or make yours the perfect Parisian macaron weekend and let’s top last year’s target!

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!

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?