Le bonbon au palais, 19 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris
Le bonbon au palais is one of those hidden gems that make shopping in Paris so interesting. It’s an independent sweet shop which has traditional candy from all over France stored in olde worlde glass jars—which temptingly are also for sale. The shop is filled with multicolored marshmallows, lemon drops and humbugs, and the interestingly named coucougnettes which translates as something of which most men have two between their legs. Well, it is France! Ouch!
Each jar is labelled with a handwritten slate saying what and where the sweets are from. The decor is equally nostalgic, consisting mostly of schoolroom posters from the 1950s and onwards.
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French pȃtisserie is so vast, that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start choosing recipes. One way to do it is to choose what’s in season. And then my partner, who is French, came up with another method: that of setting me challenges. So this week’s challenge: Charlotte aux fraises.
The charlotte, is a really traditional recipe. It’s said to have been invented by the legendary pȃtissier Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833) who, like many of the great French chefs of the revolutionary period, ended up in exile in London. In fact, it was supposedly named in honour of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the British Prince of Wales for whom Carême worked while on the other side of the channel.
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Gateaux Thoumieux, 58 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007, Paris.
The Rue Saint-Dominique cuts right through the centre of Paris’s 7th arrondissment linking the twin green lawns of the Hôtel des Invalides and the Champ de Mars, home to the Eiffel Tower. At the heart of the quarter, it’s packed with bistros, cafés, small shops, and of particular interest to me, boulangeries and pȃtisseries.
And the most interesting amongst the pȃtisseries is Gateaux Thoumieux owned by one of France’s most celebrated two-star chefs, Jean-François Piège. Piège is often on TV here, most notably as one of the judges on Top Chef and I’ve been wanting to try out one of his cakes for a long time. He has the knack of taking the classics of French pȃtisserie and injecting a morsel of the unexpected that makes you say ‘why wasn’t it always done like this?’ Read More →
Pastry is the basis of French pȃtisserie, and along with creams is one set of techniques you have to master. In fact, once you have mastered the basic techniques of French pȃtisserie, you can make up your own recipes quite easily by mixing pastry, creams, and flavours.
This infographic runs through five of the main pastry types in classic pȃtisserie and acts as a memory aide for creating them. Most of them are also used in British and American cuisine. People tend to be very afraid of puff and choux pastry but like everything once you have learnt and mastered the technique, they are not too bad. You just need to follow the recipe and the steps carefully.
What is your favourite type of pastry? What do you like to bake with it?
A relatively easy but impressive cake based on a traditional French strawberry tart, with a twist of rhubarb.
What you might know from reading previous blog posts, is that I am crazy about strawberries. I think I’ve also retweeted about 100 photos of them in the last month. What you might not know is that I am also crazy about rhubarb.
As a kid, I was introduced to baking and eating baked goods by my grandmother. Amongst her specialities were fruit crumbles. My brother and I used to fight it out over whether she should make our favourites: apple for him, rhubarb for me.
It is a happy fact of life that strawberry season coincides with the high point of the rhubarb season. June rhubarb might not be as delicate and pretty as the early forced rhubarb, but it’s packed with flavour. So this week I decided to make a cake that combines the two.
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