Paying homage to brioche...creating fanciful profiteroles...reinventing the madeleine...three Parisian chefs are pursuing their pastry passions for both pleasure and profit at new boutiques with a single, but multi-faceted motif.
Tapping into a resurgence of interest in iconic traditional pastries, macaron, cream puff, and eclair – dedicated stores have been popping up around the city for the past several years, and now bakers are adding more variations on a theme.”Mono-product shops are really in fashion in France, especially in Paris,” observed Agathe Cros, an executive at VFCRP, a public relations firm with many culinary and lifestyle accounts.
For three-Michelin-star chef Guy Savoy, brioche has been a favorite since an early pastry apprenticeship. The layered mushroom brioche that accompanies his signature artichoke and truffle soup is always on the menu at Savoy’s eponymous restaurant, along with other savory and sweet brioche made by his long-time pastry chef, Christian Boudard. This May the restaurant moved across the Seine to the Quai de Conti on the left bank, ensconced in a large, handsome, custom designed space in the venerable 18th century building that until recently housed the Monnaie de Paris, the French mint. The 36 year old Boudard and his staff of five have happily transitioned from a cramped basement kitchen to a spacious facility with huge windows, river views, and, of course, state-of-the-art equipment.
Taking advantage of the extra space, and the popularity of the brioche, Savoy and Boudard decided to collaborate on a boutique just a stone’s throw from the restaurant at 54 rue Mazarine, where the brioche would be delivered, fresh from the restaurant kitchen. Gout de Brioche opened on July 1st, marble shelves filled with wooden baskets of buttery, fragrant, individual (5€ each) and “grandes brioches”, the latter serving 6 to 8. With seasonal changes, the selection includes the mushroom and a savory Parmesan, and on the sweet side, praline rose, pistachio apricot, and a brioche clafoutis with seasonal fruits. Tea, coffee, juice and Champagne are also available.
The pastries sold at Gout de Brioche are rushed from restaurant to shop, but Philippe Urraca’s playful profiteroles are made à la minute in full view, and offered in a dozen varieties at Profiterole Cherie, the shop he opened last December in the Marais at 17 Rue Debelleyme.
Riffing on the currently ubiquitous choux shops, Urraca, President of l’Association des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France en Patisserie since 2003, and judge on the popular France 2 TV series “Who Will Be the Next “Grande Patissier,” created Profiterole Cherie because he loves the dessert. It is a French favorite, he notes, but usually served in restaurants, often pre-frozen, and not very good. His shop, Urraca explains, is a place to have fun and play with the textures and flavors of a light, crunchy puff, a creamy filling, and a sauce. The profiteroles (6€ each) can be enjoyed at marble-topped tables in the raspberry-and-cream colored boutique, or packed for take-out in compartmentalized boxes especially designed to keep foods cold.
The choux are freshly made every 45 minutes and topped with craquelin, the brown sugar, butter and flour dough that provides French puffs with a caramel-y crackle. Then it’s customer choice of creme patissiere or ice cream filling, and sauce. The selections range from the classic vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce to the towering Mont Blanc, a high-rise confection of cassis confit, chestnut ice cream, whipped cream, and a vanilla chestnut sauce. The Fraise, with strawberry sorbet and fresh berry sauce, is as colorful as the paintings in the Picasso Museum a few blocks away; The Fleur d’Orange is piped with orange cream filling and topped with orange confit, coffee whipped cream, meringue and an orange caramel sauce.
Back in the 16th century profiteroles were savory, not sweet, a small meat filled roll given as a “profit” or thank you for domestic services. Urraca is currently developing a series of savory profiteroles; there will be a different one each month, made by a famous guest chef.
Up in the 9th arrondissement, on the Rue des Martyrs, epicenter of specialty food shops, Mesdemoiselles Madeleine is tempting passersby with both sweet and savory versions of the beloved little scallop shell shaped tea cakes, the literary legacy of Marcel Proust. The concept may date as far back as the middle ages when a rudimentary dough was baked in shells to distribute to pilgrims journeying to St. Jacques de Compostelle, but owes its popularity to the novelist’s early 20th century Remembrance of Things Past.
The boutique is the brainchild of Steve Seremes, a financial consultant seeking a new challenge. Seremes enlisted pastry chef Stephane Bour, a veteran of the kitchens of Marc Meneau and Marc Veyrat, to reinterpret the simple formula for more adventurous 21 century palates. Each variety is christened with a lady’s name: the all-chocolate Prudence has a light ganache core, a 72% cacao couverture, and dried fruits, cacao nibs, and chopped nut crumble; Apolline combines grapefruit and pistachio; Renee is a feisty black olive tapenade with carrot and cumin. Prices vary from 0.70€ for a mini to 4.5€ for la gourmande.
Is there a future for mono-concept establishments? In Paris, the idea is spreading as fast as the proliferating mustard, honey, and pistachio dedicated shops, along with American-inspired restaurants like Le Pince, devoted to lobsters, and La Maison du Croque Monsieur, an outpost of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village cheese sandwich spot. And now, according to the website Paris-is-Beautiful, “The current trend toward single-product culinary shops appears to have spread to single-colour spaces,” among them Le White, an all white store selling only white decorative and household objects created by young designers. Perhaps they will also ask a young pastry chef to prepare all-vanilla desserts