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
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.