mercredi, décembre 21, 2005

That Little Financier in All of Us

And no, I don't speak of money matters. Over here there are bakeries, specializing in les baguettes, and there are pâtisseries, specializing in pastries; but both fill their shelves with delicacies like fancy cakes, tarts, croissants and other sweet things (attracted by the high-margins, no doubt). Bread, though just as delicious, remains remarkably cheap (60 centimes or so for a full-blooded French baguette that evaporates in your maw like a crusty cotton candy). It's an endless temptation, all these goodies, and causes a confusion just as endless when it's your turn to pick out the one you're going to take home. I often disobey this rule of one and order two different types, esp. when shopping for a new treat: this strategy is pretty safe because most times one of the little delicacies will taste crappy. Surprising, I know--maybe I'm rejecting indulgences that express some peculiarly French taste, (see escargot, foie gras, et al); or maybe I don't like 'em because my palate was formed on TasteeFreeze and the brownie portion of a Swanson's TV Dinner. It's always easy to toss that evening's underwhelming entrant into the trash. The next patisserie run will bring a new crop of contestants. And though I haven't sampled anywhere near everything the bakeries of Paris have to offer, and neither have I applied any consistent methodology to all this tasting, I can say that a few favorites have emerged. These judgments are those a rank amateur, so be forewarned, they are as illiterate a choice as anyone with my plebian, American background could make.

1. Croissant aux Amondes/ Pain Amondes (?): first taste on first trip was a revelation: ardent sampler and supporter during first month here; consumption tapered to nil as both (their) supply and (my) demand waned. Interest recently reborn, but supply remains tight: still hard to find. Is it seasonal?

2. Molleaux Chocolat/Chocolate Cake: best is from La Boulangerie Pain au Prince, made with hearty slices of pear. The chocolate over here seems one step more savage than what we are accustomed to in the 'States—as though Paris is closer to the source, the headwaters of some chocolate Nile. In fact, the chocolate doesn’t taste like it comes from a watery source, it tastes mined, dug up from the earth, dark as coal—and it's less sweet than the chocolate I grew up with, it’s more gritty and uncompromisingly present. A dry intensity. Dryness of a different sort, however, is what makes most cakes sampled over here a disappointment: dryness as staleness. Paul's Molleaux Chocolat comes in a solid second place to the reliably moist Pain au Prince.

(Am I actually writing up some kind of food ratings entry?)

3. La Financier:Tonight's dessert.

Dear Wife and I were strolling through our old neighborhood, rue Monge in the Latin Quarter, the place where we first huddled in this big city. I couldn't resist popping in at the old Kayser bakery and checking for a Croissant aux Amondes, but no dice. Instead we bought some Financiers.

Easily overlooked in the typical wall of buttery baked goods that greets you upon entering any respectable boulangerie/patisserie, the Financiers huddle quietly among their own, living in three distinct breeds (chocolate, plain [which means almond], and pistachio). They are typically placed alongside their more famous cousins, the Madeleines, and positioned near the register, or caisse to better court the impulse buy. I quote from Dear Wife's post-taste research:

"The little rectangular almond cakes known as financiers are sold in many of the best pastry shops in Paris. Perfect financiers are about as addictive as chocolate, and I'd walk a mile or two for a good one. The finest have a firm, crusty exterior and a moist, almondy interior, tasting almost as if they were filled with almond paste. Next to the madeleine, the financier is probably the most popular little French cake, common street food for morning or afternoon snacking. The cake's name probably comes from the fact that a financier resembles a solid gold brick. Curiously, as popular as they are, financiers seldom appear in recipe books or in French literature."

Quoted from

I like the larger financier sold at Gérard Mulot, made in a combined pistachio/chocolate form. Excellent. Positively wet with taste intensity. But these smaller numbers from Kayser were excellent, too, and in easily controlled portions.

PLEASE NOTE: In addition to these three superb delicacies, we should mention Dear Wife's favorite treat, which is BY FAR the Pistachio Macaroon from Paul. It is sensational, and highly recommended.

Here's a shot of the interior of our local Paul. Watch out, that man is munching a Macaroon!


At dimanche, décembre 25, 2005, Anonymous Rick said...

Almond croissants... aaaah, the one part of Paris that I wish I could have brought back home. Sigh.


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