Lee Orloff and I have been friends since we were 13 years old and have shared an interest in food over the years. Lee is a foodie extraordinaire and has lived in Paris since 1991. She eats out often and keeps a diary with both photos and descriptions of everything that she orders in all the wonderful restaurants of the world. I am honored that she has written a blog for the site on the bakery pleasures that exist in Paris. Following are her words…
Before I moved to Paris, I loved to cook and especially bake chocolate cakes. I used to read cookbooks in bed, trying to figure out whom to treat with which wonderful recipe. Imagining a myriad of parties so that I could create a myriad of pastries, I never got to bake everything that appealed to me in the books. Then I moved to Paris where I expected to continue this hobby.
Now the cookbooks stay on the shelf and I read novels. That is because I have the best pastry shops at my fingertips and can even indulge just me when I want a treat. I never have to make a whole cake to satisfy my own sweet tooth. Wonderful pastry shops are all over the place. My two favorites these days are “Jean Paul Hevin” and “Le Pain de Sucre”.
Years ago, when Judy made a quick trip to Paris, I took her to the “Jean Paul Hevin” shop and she knew at first glance that this is THE place to go for the best chocolate cakes: most of them made of dark chocolate, subtly flavored with other delights such as coffee, rum, raspberry, passion fruit, walnuts and almonds, etc. The cakes are textured so that you experience crunch and smoothness in every bite. From the very beginning, one of the best, in my opinion, has been The Marquise. It has everything: nuts, rum, coffee and lots of smooth and crunchy chocolate. I ordered a large one for one of my birthday parties. If you run your own bakery, my advice is to invest in high-quality baking racks and other baking equipment.
Most recently, M. Hevin has created what is my favorite: Tonka. The Tonka bean has been introduced of late to the chocolate pastry scene and is a very aromatic bean that tastes a bit like vanilla, a bit like strong coffee, a bit like brandy. It adds a depth to the chocolate that is incomparable.
Hevin also has a line of macaroons and most of them are chocolate flavored with something wonderful such as caramel, coffee, vanilla, lemon, and passion. There is also a wonderful crème brulée macaroon.
Within the past five years or so, a wonderful pastry shop, “Le Pain de Sucre” opened in the Marais near the Pompidou Center. Its two very creative chef/owners used to work in a three-star restaurant, and were responsible for all the desserts there. In their own shop, they have seasonal collection and use many exotic ingredients. I love to taste each new addition. Most of the pastries sit on a buttery pâte sablée. They use exotic aromatic flowers, herbs, green tea, fruits and of course, chocolate and caramel. Their multi-colored macaroons are beautiful with extremely interesting combinations, like chocolate-cassis, strawberry-pistachio, and passion-caramel. Every season, they feature a wonderful Baba au Rhum that has a tube of rum sticking up in the cake so that you can add the rum when it is time to eat. I love the pastry called Romarin which has a rosemary flavor along with the fruit flavor. Another cake that appears every season is the wonderful Etat de Choc: a creamy layered chocolate extravaganza with caramel and hazelnut. That one is my favorite.
Pain de Sucre also features guimauve: natural marshmallow in different flavors and chocolate-guimauve covered pops. Let’s not forget about the savory items such as meat tourtes, and delectable feuilletés filled with goat cheese and figs or cured ham and gruyère cheese. The breads are also top quality and excellent.