I’m following up yesterday’s post about wonderful French butter with one about some of the outstanding pastries available here. Well why not? We’re all going to lose the COVID 25 we’ve put on right after we’re vaccinated, aren’t we?
As the average Frenchman cannot live without a daily fresh baguette, there are standalone boulangeries (bakeries) everywhere in Paris. Some grocery stores incorporate bakeries but they usually can’t hold a candle to the quality of the small, often award-winning, neighborhood bakeries. We’re blessed to have several really good ones nearby.
I submit for your consideration two amazing examples of the local bakers’ art. On the left above, we have the Chausson aux Pommes, from La Maison Pichard, a four-time winner of the title “Best Croissant in France”. On the right, a typical Breton specialty, called Kouign-amann. Tell your inner cardiologist to look away as I describe them.
Chausson aux Pommes
You can think of these as apple turnovers on steroids, if you must. But I think of them as sweet, spiced apples in a floating cushion of pastry clouds. Their layers of filo dough, paper-thin and delicately roasted in butter, simply evaporate in your mouth. They’re brushed with sugar syrup after baking and put back in the oven for another minute, caramelizing the syrup and giving the pastry that slightly sweet taste and awesome shine.
They’re one of the most buttery and flaky pastries you’ll ever eat. They’re often the item, along with baguettes, by which Parisians judge a bakery. I suggest that it’s impossible to eat two of them in row. We’re very lucky to have them available nearby from such a great baker.
This wonder is a Breton cake, once described by the New York Times as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe.” The name comes from the Breton language words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann). It’s a round, multi-layered pastry, made with layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers.
The cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in its layered structure) and the sugar caramelizes. The effect is similar to a muffin-shaped, caramelized croissant. I swear you could probably squeeze it like a sponge and get butter back out of it. One is struck, after eating just half of it, with an urge to get your cholesterol level checked. Real gustatory heaven!
Note that these are devastating pastries without the need for chocolate coatings, creamy fillings, or other frostings. The butter, sugar, and dough are sufficient to do the job. And, whatever you do, don’t, don’t, don’t even think about eating a Chausson aux Pommes followed by a Kouign-amann! I can tell you that it is possible but it’s surely not good for you. 😊
Next time, I promise, a post that’s not about food.