Now enter the Aladdin’s cave of Parisian Patisseries with me: patisserie cases overflowing with the most delicious looking sweet treats around every corner. It is too hard to resist not getting a daily fix of flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry or chewy macaroons.
My favourite is Mille-feuille: This pastry’s name literally means “thousand sheets” and is a pastry made from many layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling of pastry cream, whipped cream or custard. Every patisserie has its own version mille-feuille, with differently flavoured creams and topped with a variety icings. This is akin to what we attempt to do in New Zealand and call the plain-Jane name “Custard Square”. I can tell you right now that ‘Custard Square’ is a poor cousin indeed. The Paris version is amazingly delectable and not even too sweet.
Then there is Tarte: the French answer to apple pie. They are usually made with a thin, flat layer of puff pastry topped with fruit. You will sometimes see a layer of custard in between the pastry and the fruit, but French tartes are always open-faced. One finds tartes of all sizes and fillings and you can almost never go wrong with a well made tarte.
The Pain aux Raisin is a well-known French butter pastry that is laden with raisins. Made from sweet dough, it is formed into a spiral shape and then baked until the edges are slightly golden. When made following a traditional French recipe, pain aux raisins has a cream filling layered within its spiral.
Considered a Viennoiseries pastry, pain aux raisins is similar to a croissant. This pastry differs from the croissant in that it is made from a sweet dough. The two pastries do have their buttery pastry base in common. The butter-style pastry base is complicated to make, as the butter must be kept at a precise temperature for the flaky pastry to become light and airy verses leaden.
We enjoy this pastry throughout the day with a cafe latte or traditional black coffee. This is a calorie-laden treat, as even though it contains a lot of butter within the pastry itself, is often slathered with sweet butter again before it is consumed!
Macaroons - ahh, these brightly coloured gems of chewy meringue with a soft centre of white chocolate ganache are legendary in Paris. Made from ground almonds, egg whites and sugar, the macaroon is imaginatively yet delicately flavoured with pistachio, aniseed, coconut, violet, orange blossom and rose water, chestnut and green tea, rosemary and olive oil. There are so many flavours to try and each is dangerously and divinely more-ish.
The experience of entering a Parisian Patisserie is one that exercises the visual sense just as much as the taste and smell senses. Stepping into one of these colourful and picturesque patisseries leaves one spellbound with beautifully iced and decorated edible creations.
It is almost impossible to make your choice quickly, and you will want to try everything at once. Pace yourself and enjoy!
Have you eaten decadent french pastries? What was your favourite?
Share your experience and travel tips in the comments section below!