The innovative patisseries of Paris
A duomo macha azuki, a creamy cake containing a green tea macaroon, white chocolate cream, crunchy caramel layers and red adzuki beans, from Japanese patisserie maestro Sadaharu Aoki. (Kim Laidlaw Adrey)
According to most Parisians, a little of what you fancy does you good; nibbling on a tarte aux fraises here and a mille-feuille there are classic components of the Gallic lifestyle.
But in the capital of France – a country that recently won Unesco World Heritage status for its national cuisine – many traditional French pastries are getting an innovative twist.
Japanese patisserie maestro Sadaharu Aoki lends an Asian nuance to his desserts, enlivening traditional French cakes with eastern ingredients in his minimalist Paris boutiques. So rather than a traditional tarte aux fraises, a strawberry tart with crème pâtissière, here you'll find a tart flavoured with the Asian citrus fruit yuzu. Mille-feuille, layers of puff pastry and cream, are flavoured with green tea rather than vanilla. Notes of sesame, ginger and adzuki feature alongside puff pastry and crème patissière for creative – and impeccably presented – Japanese-meets-French culinary creations.
The most treasured of sugary treats, the macaroon, is traditionally offered in single-note flavours such as chocolate and vanilla. But at Pierre Hermé’s flagship location (72 rue Bonaparte), it’s his more audacious taste combinations that keep fans queuing out the door. Olive oil and mandarin, white truffle and hazelnut, and lime, raspberry and espelette pepper all feature on the menu this winter.
Cream puffs are the foundation of French confectionery – the puff pastry filled with unctuous cream and decorated with a lick of icing is the key component of both an éclair and the traditional French wedding cake. Now this staid classic has been modernised by Popelini, a bakery selling nothing but bite-sized choux à la crème, lined up like little jewels on the counter at their hip northern Marais boutique (29 rue Debelleyme). Here flavours are much more daring than the classics you'd see for most éclairs, including earl grey, rose and raspberry, and chocolate and passion fruit. Rather than ordering just one calorific éclair in an ordinary patisserie, here you can sample several flavours for the same sugar hit. Everything in moderation, non?
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.