March 6, 2021
When I think of Paris, a few things naturally come to mind. The Eiffel Tower, phenomenal art work, gardens galore and of course, a seat at an outdoor cafe sipping a cappuccino while engaging in some serious people watching. However, Paris wouldn’t be the same without ALL of the yummy pastries begging to be boxed up and eaten by those who dare look their way.
“For anyone who loves pastry, Paris is the center of the universe. Not only can you find a patisserie or boulangerie on every street, but the odds are tremendously in your favor that you’ll find a good, perhaps great, pastry or bread shop, and that it will turn up just when you most need a buttery croissant or a bittersweet chocolate cookie. Like sidewalk cafes, street-corner kiosks, and every famous monument from the Eiffel Tower to Sacre-Coeur, patisseries are part of what makes food lovers, bon vivants, and romantics cherish Paris.”
My husband and I went to Paris 22 years ago. We were young and in love and oh so eager to soak up all that this city of lights had to offer. Before we left on our much anticipated trip, my mother-in-law gifted me a signed copy of Paris Sweets-Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops by Dorie Greenspan. Just in case you are wondering, Dorie Greenspan is a James Beard Award-winning author of Everyday Dorie and Dorie’s Cookies and a columnist for New York Times Magazine. I fell deeply in love with her book. It is not only a guide to some of Paris’ most decadent treats, but also a tribute to some of the most admirable Paris Patisseries. I devoured each page of this scrumptious book over and over again before our trip. I could not wait to visit all of these pastry shops and indulge in all of Paris’ sweetest treats.
Greenspan’s book will transport you directly to Paris. Her book consists of six main sections…
- Cookies Big and Little, Buttery, Crunchy, Tender and Crisp
- Simple Cakes for Snacks, Suppers, and “Le Gouter”
- Tarts for Teatime or Anytime
- Pastries and Small Treats for Occasions Simple and Swell
- Grand Gateaux for Fetes and Feasts
- Base Recipes
Paris Sweets has some of the most incredible recipes adapted from Paris’ most treasured pastry shops. Greenspan writes all about these sweet shops offering her readers their history, origins of the various goodies and the importance of using simple and high quality ingredients (think butter, fleur de sel, chocolate, etc.). This book is one to bake from and also one to read and cherish by the fire. From tarts, to meringues, to the most luxurious chocolate in the world, Greenspan has the Paris “treat” scene covered. With recipes that are completely manageable, even a baking rookie can take them on.
I have baked from this book more times than I can remember. Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that my 15 year old son and I made together that pleased all of the barbarians at my table. The first recipe we made was Grandmother’s Creamy Chocolate Cake/Gateau au Chocolat Grand-Mere adapted from La Maison Du Chocolat. The Maison Du Chocolat in Paris was one of my first stops that I actually remember from 20+ years ago. Though I can’t recall what we ordered, I will never forget the glorious smell of chocolate that filled the chilly air. This small chocolate shop was founded by the late Master Chocolatier, Robert Linxe, and decades later, La Maison Du Chocolat has boutiques all over the world. In all honesty, this cake is very similar to a flourless chocolate torte, except this recipe includes ¼ cup of flour. Five ingredients is all you need to make this rich and lavish cake. This dessert can be served alone in all of its elegance or can be dusted in some powdered sugar to give it a glow. Of course ice cream and whipped cream are never a bad idea either. The cake was a five star hit with zero complaints. The nice thing about this dessert is that it can be served casually after dinner or it can truly put on the ritz at a swanky dinner party.
Classic Madeleines are ALWAYS a good idea. These light and airy cookies are perfect with a hot cup of tea mid afternoon. And let me just tell you this…these gems have massive roots. The love of these cookies dates back to the early eighteenth century and have been popular ever since. Greenspan’s recipe is adapted from Patisserie Lerch (which to my understanding is now closed). With just seven ingredients, this recipe was easy-breezy to make. My only warning is to read it through one full time for planning purposes. Once the cookie dough is made, it does need to be refrigerated for a minimum of three hours to develop its “crown”. Another recommendation is to use a nonstick madeleine pan for the quintessential shell-shape they are known for. We made the Classic Madeleine, which has the loveliest hint of lemon to it. Greenspan offers a Honey or an Earl Grey variation as well.
Our cookies came out awesome. The shape was perfect and the texture was light and spongy. They are pretty amazing on their own, but I would pair them with an ice cold glass of milk or a piping hot mug of tea. Even your pickiest eater will adore these.
Greenspan’s book is an oldie but goodie and a STAPLE on my cookbook shelf. If sweet treats from Paris fill your dreams at night, this needs to be a part of your life. Next up for me is the Whole-Lemon Tart and Coffee Eclairs….how good is that!!!!!!
Cheers to making a delicious mess in our kitchens!