kayser

There are a few Kayser stores in Paris.  During my trip to France last year, the first one I attempted to visit, unfortunately, was closed.  The sign on the door posted an explanation, but I could not decipher whether it was due to renovations underway or closed for the obligatory summer schedule.  (Very limited French!)

I eventually stopped by the Maison Kayser store in the 5th arrondissement.  I was keen to visit the store as Eric Kayser is praised lavishly as one of Europe’s best artisan bakers, thoroughout one of my favourite books, Local Breads by Daniel Leader.

However, I had consumed quite an amount of bread at this stage so upon seeing the selection of breads, sweet breads and pastries, opted for something a little sweeter.  Something a little richer. 

I purchased a croissant.

The Kayser croissant absolutely put my recent croissant effortto utter, and complete shame.  They were plump, soft, tender, rich, and buttery.  Perfect in every way.  No wonder it has been voted one of the best croissants in Paris.

Kayser is a must visit and the croissant a definite must try.

Boulangerie Kayser
8 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris

 

le-boulanger-de-monge 

When sightseeing in Paris last year, my partner and I decided to combine a trip to the markets at Rue Mouffetard with a visit to le Boulanger de Monge.  It was not hard to find this little bakery.  It was the store with the line of customers out the door.

I wanted to familiarise myself with the offerings so took a wander by the window.  In full view of passersby and customers, staff were weighting and shaping great volumes of bread dough.  The speed with which they handled this task was astonishing.  It was a rare sight having this activity so upfront.

I wandered to the back of the line, and once inside, in shaky French unconfidently declared, “Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plaît”. After a few other dialogue exchanges – including a number of agreeable nods from me – I whipped the baguette offered to me under arm and proceeded with my partner to the markets.  We were off to find accompaniments. 

In the little narrow street of the markets there were a host of vendors selling beautiful fruits, flowers, cheeses, meats.  We both noticed this grand chicken rotisserie outside Pascal Gosnet.  We were instantly sold.  After the purchase of half a chicken and a few potatoes (soaked in chicken fat!) later, we then walked to Le Jardin des Plantes– a stunningly beautiful botanical garden in Paris – to find a quiet spot to eat.

The bread was impressive. The flavour was rich and complex, and it was almost nutty.  Le Boulanger de Monge only use 100% wheat flour and it showed.  The bread was earthy with a slightly off-white colour.  It was delicious by itself sans butter or any condiment.

I was amazed how each Boulangerie, with such a simple set of strict ingredients, can produce such unique bread full of depth. In this case I guess that is why Le Boulanger de Monge had a string of customers out the door.  I am sure most locals visit every few days for their daily bread supplies.  What a life!

While munching on our purchases at Le Jardin des Plantes we noticed a group of girls going from person to person. They reached us and said something in French I could not decipher (I probably should have lengthened my enrolment duration at Alliance Francaise!). They quickly switched to English (merci), and we found out that one girl was about to be married.  They were selling homemade crepes to raise money.  Well, despite my fill of bread, chicken and potatoes, how could I not support this girl taking her next step in life?

I selected Nutella as my topping of choice for the crepe. Typically I am strictly a lemon/sugar girl but thought a change would be good. The crepes were lovely, and it was so special to enjoy a homemade version of such a French specialty.  I am not sure if this is a tradition in France, but it was lovely experience.

Le Boulanger de Monge
123 rue Monge, 75006 Paris

croissants21

When I think of word association, I am pretty confident if someone flashed the word croissant to me, I would associate it immediately with the word France.  Pretty obvious perhaps, but when you think about it, that is a strong connection.

Well, it is for me because the croissant epitomises French pastries.  It is rich, it is light, it is multi layered, it is complex, yet so seemingly simple.

I have always wanted to tackle making croissants.  I have been deterred mostly due to the length of time they take to prepare.  It is not hard work necessarily (though it is more tricky than your average bread loaf!), but not so completely complicated that it is out of the realm of any enthusiastic amateur baker (e.g. me).

I do have a hidden agenda for perfecting the croissant, I must confess.  Recently, Christmases for me have included a new breakfast experience with my partner’s family … the bacon and egg croissant, cooked on the BBQ in true ‘Aussie’ style.  This year I would like to contribute homemade croissants for the breakfast.  There are a few months yet to practice, but no time like the present (with bread month!) to start.

I have also been inspired by Elra at Elra’s Baking, with her first and successful croissant this month.  She made it seem so easy that I knew I had to try, too!

I thumbed through a few croissant references I had on hand.  Sherry Yard, Roux Brothers, Martha Stewart, Julia Child.  I settled on Julia as I have not tried her yeasted recipes before.  Also, I know how tirelessly she worked to perfect her recipes that I assumed I must be in with a shot of success, too. 

So after practically double digit pages of instructions and two days later, I finally offer up homemade, freshly baked croissants.

Overall, I am happy they resulted in something resembling croissants, but they are less than perfect.  I fear I did not let the shaped croissants proof long enough prior to baking.  At that stage (end of day two), I was getting a little too impatient, I think.

I will definitely try these again with the same recipe.  Speaking of, details coming soon – right now I am short on time.

Profiteroles3

In honour of French patisserie treats, I have short-listed a few items to bake this month.  First up were madeleines.  Next challenge, profiteroles.

I am fascinated by choux pastry (pâte à choux).  This multipurpose pastry can be used to create cream puffs, profiteroles, and éclairs.  I recently attended a class at Black Pearl Epicure and the lovely Kristie Rickman, head pastry chef at E’cco, demonstrated a few pastry essentials.  Choux pastry was on her list and she created a number of mouth-watering cream puffs.  Inspired by Kristie, I decided to recreate the golden puffy delights at home.

As my deliciously light madeleines turned out perfectly, I thought I would continue with Sherry Yard as recipe guide for the choux pastry.  Kristie shared a sensational chocolate custard recipe, so there was no question what to use for filling.

There are a few steps to this recipe, but all are very simple.  The end result is worth the effort!  In fact, I was given some feedback on these little chocolately puffs of goodness.  They were apparently absolutely delicious … but just way too small!  So next time I make pâte à choux, I need to upgrade to éclairs!

{ Pâte à choux } adapted from Sherry Yard

Makes about 18 medium sized puffs

* Ingredients *

¼ cup water
¼ cup milk
45g butter, at room temperature, cubed
½ cup plain flour, sifted
2-3 eggs, at room temperature

* Directions *

Place water, milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and mixture just comes to the boil.
Add all the flour to the butter mixture at once and use a wooden spoon to beat until well combined. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for at least 4 minutes or until the mixture forms a mashed potato like appearance.  Remove from the heat.
Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for a few minutes to cool the mixture down.  Then start to add the egg one by one.  Make sure the egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Before you add your last egg, check for consistency.  (See notes.)  Once done, the dough should be shiny and smooth.  At this stage you can fill a piping bag with the choux paste and use straight away or freeze for later.  (See notes.)

puff-ballstopsbottomsPreheat oven to 220 C or 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat.  Pipe the profiteroles onto the baking tray. For medium sized puffs, pipe about 3-4 cm in size (1 ½ inches).  Brush the tops with a little egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffs begin to rise.  Turn the temperature down to 180 C or 350 F.  Carefully prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and bake for another 15 minutes.

When the puffs cool, cut the top half off each one with a serrated knife.  Set the tops over a cooling rack.  Drizzle ganache over each puff top (you can use any recipe you like for the ganache).  Place the puff tops in the ridge to set, about 15-20 minutes.

Fill the puffs with a filling of your choice.  Use the Chocolate Custard recipe below or choose plain whipped cream or vanilla custard.

Then replace the tops to finish off your lovely puff!  If you are greedy like me, try to eat these cream filled sensations in one single bite.  All the flavours complement well.  If you can somehow resist not popping the whole thing in your mouth in one go, they still taste pretty good, too! 

{ Chocolate custard } adapted from Kristie Rickman

Sufficient to fill 18 medium sized puffs

* Ingredients *

3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
250ml milk
50g good-quality chocolate
100ml cream, softly whipped

* Directions *

Lightly whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the flour and whisk to combine.
In a saucepan, slowly boil the milk.  Once the milk has reached a boil ladle about ¼ cup into the egg mixture and whisk well.  Then transfer the egg mixture into the rest of the milk and cook slowly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Add the chocolate, stirring until to melt through.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the top to prevent a skin forming. Cool to room temperature. Once ready to use, stir in the cream.  Transfer to a piping bag to pipe mixture into the prepared puffs.

{ A few tips … }

1.  You can freeze the pastry before you pipe into puffs.  Transfer the mixture once cooled to a piping bag, seal and then freeze for up to 2 weeks.  I made my pastry a week ago, popped it in the freezer, then let it defrost for about an hour before piping.
2.  The work of adding the eggs is made much easier using a stand mixer.  But you can complete this step by hand if necessary.
3.  The number of eggs given is a bit of a guide.  When you have added the second last egg, check the consistency.  The pastry should be more firm than runny.  If it is a little runny, add the last egg.  Sherry’s tip is to pinch off about 1 teaspoon of the dough with your thumb and index finger, then pull your fingers apart.  The dough should stretch rather than break.  If it breaks, add the last egg.
4.  Steam helps these little puffballs rise.  Sherry recommends putting a cup of hot water into a baking dish at the bottom of the oven when you put your puffs in to bake.
5.  When I cut the tops off my puffs, I set out the bottom half in the same order as the tops on a separate baking tray.  That way I could match the correct top and bottom together easily when it came to assembly time!
6.  Filled puffs only last a couple of hours in the fridge – but probably not a problem if your household has a sweet tooth like mine!

So for my short-list of French-style patisserie treats this month, I have one challenge to go.  Next week I will be tackling croissants.  Souhaitez-moi bonne chance!

chocolate-madeleine

I have been reminiscing about my recent trip to a handful of Paris’ best patisseries.  To pay sort of tribute (and to sadly attempt to re-create the experience), I have short-listed a few decidedly French treats to bake.

First up, madeleines.  The recipe selected is courtesy of the magnificent Sherry Yard.  Magnificent as her ability to translate volumes of detail about the fundamentals of baking, in way an amateur can understand, speaks to her enormous skill.

I also could not resist baking a delicious buttery treat that was adorably shaped as a shell.

Sherry’s basic recipe is for a Orange Blossom Honey Madeleine.  Sherry provides a few variations for lemon, pistachio and chocolate to cater for a variety of palates and tastes.  I opted for chocolate, as I truly cannot resist this flavour in its many forms!

The recipe is quite simple.  You just need to factor in a little time for the batter to chill.  Sherry includes the addition of almond meal to add flavour and lightness to the batter.

{ Orange Blossom Honey Madeleines }

Makes about 8 dozen mini or 4 dozen standard cakes.

* Ingredients *
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
½ cup almond flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup orange blossom honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 tablespoons chopped kumquats or 1tablespoon mince orange zest
4 eggs

* Directions *
1. Sift flours, baking powered and salt into bowl and set aside
2. Beat butter on high until soft.  Slowly add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Mixture should be light and fully.  Beat in honey, vanilla, orange flower water and kumquats or orange zest.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the flour mixture to the batter in thirds until just incorporated.  Cover the batter and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).  Brush moulds with butter and dust with flour.
5. Spoon batter into the pan, filling each about three-quarters full.  Bake for 10 minutes for mini or 15 minutes for standard size, or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
6. Best served warm from the oven but can be stored airtight for 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.

{ Chocolate variation… }
Replace ¼ cup of cake flour with ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.

chocolateMy visits to Pierre Hermé and Ladurée were rather extraordinary to say the least.   The sights, the smells, the tastes were truly amazing.  But that could not compare to my behind-the-scenes experience at Gérard Mulot.

After spending a little time taking in the delights on offer at the 13th arrondissement store (including the collection of macarons, les petits gateaux, and les chocolates!) we were ushered to the kitchen to share in some macaron and chocolate secrets.

I was captivated by the chance of witnessing macarons made by one of the masters in France first hand, Chef Patrick Leclercq.  A chance like that certainly does not come along every day!  Combined with my introduction to chocolate making by Chef Antoine Hesloin, and I was feeling very centred and complete indeed!

antoineChef Antoine explained the basics of chocolate making including tempering, flavouring and presentation.  The seemingly never-ending array of mouth watering samples confirmed sheer excellence in his profession; the flavours effortlessly outshone what my taste buds had sampled in the past. 

The memory of Gérard Mulot that stays with me is not only of the faultless chocolate and patisserie, but of an eagerness to share in the passion and knowledge of the craft.  Gérard Mulot is an institution in Paris and I am privileged to have such a rewarding experience there.  This boutique is firmly a “must-see” in Paris. 

Gérard Mulot
93 rue de la Glacière, 75013 Paris

laduree2The instant I clapped eyes on the celadon green coloured store in Saint Germain, there was no question I was in Paris.  It was undeniably stylish, tasteful and very French.  I am talking, of course, about Ladurée

Inside I was subjected to a feast for all my senses.  Visually the store was beautifully presented with a range of elegant treats ranging from macarons to cakes and pastries.  Handsome presentation boxes adorned the counter space and shelves on the walls.  There was a buzz of activity not only from my fellow customers but the staff as well.

I greedily ordered half a dozen macarons (chocolat, vanilla, framboise).  Each flavour was a delight to savour – albeit the savouring did not last for long!  During my time in Paris, I visited Ladurée multiple times.  It was quite a challenge for my waistline, but well worth the experience.

If you are obsessed with the macaron (like myself), you cannot go past a visit to Ladurée.  It truly is a special piece of France.  Trés Belle.

Ladurée
21 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris

laduree

pierre-hermeWalking into a Pierre Hermé boutique is an experience.  In a recent visit to Paris, I took a trip to 72 rue Bonaparte in Saint-Germain.  The store was a delight for all the senses.

Patisserie in France is something to be savoured.  Whether an afternoon pleasure, a post dinner sweet, or a celebratory memento.  Patisserie is paid rightful tribute in France.  It is not cream donut slapped into bag then gobbled while driving (oh, and having some of the contents fall into your lap while you do!).

At Pierre Hermé, each patisserie is a piece of art – and it is treated as such.  When you make a selection, the item is carefully lifted from the display case onto a single board.  It is then taken away from the main counter to be individually packaged.  Your patisserie is placed in a beautiful cornflour blue box and gently sealed.  The sequence is finished with the item presented to you like a gift.

It is like you are walking into a high-end jewellery store about to purchase a special piece of jewellery.  You are overwhelmed by the beauty of all the pieces.  When you choose, your item is treated with the up-most care.  And when you leave, you leave knowing you have something very special lovingly tucked away within the box you hold in your hands. 

After the visual experience comes the tasting…  Pierre Hermé is undeniably one of the pastry masters in Paris.  I do not think I need to explain.

Pierre Hermé
72 rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris.  Also at 185 rue de Vaugirard 75015 Paris.  Plus a new boutique at 4 rue Cambon 75001 Paris (dedicated to macarons and chocolate).