Blogging about pastry will probably initiate vicious rumors that all we do over here is eat sweets! Not true at all. We have actually been quite well-behaved in terms of the consumption of desserts and candies. Sure, we have had a few caramels from Jacques Genin and have tried out a few Parisian desserts…all in the name of research, mind you. What we have discovered so far is that just down the next street, rue Brézin, we can get some lovely confections to fill the occasional need for something sweet after dinner. Here are some of our favorites so far from the Pâtisserie Guerin.
One tasty treat which I first remember trying in Montreal is the religieuse. Invented by the Frascati pastry shop on Montmartre in the mid-nineteenth century, they are supposed to look like miniature nuns, hence the name. Like éclairs, they are made from pâte à choux dough, filled with a type of custard, and then drizzled with chocolate or coffee icing. But religieuses are finished off by placing one small round puff of pastry on top of a larger one with a white piping around “the neck” to imitate a nun’s habit. Apparently neither éclairs nor religieuses would have been possible to make before the invention of pastry bag. Anyway, they are delightfully sinful little nuns!
Another favorite which our family first tried in Paris on our younger son’s ninth birthday is the Paris-Brest. A baker, not a pastry chef, named Durand is said to have invented the dessert in 1891 after he saw the bicycle race of the same name going past. The contest later inspired the creation of the Tour de France, but the pastry’s name remained the same. The ring-shaped dessert is supposed to resemble a bike tire, though thankfully that's where the resemblance ends. We had searched many pâtisserie windows before finally purchasing a Paris-Brest at our neighborhood store. And it was a good one: flaky dough, praline filling, with crunchy sliced almonds on top. Delicious!
A new dessert for us is the royal au chocolat, sometimes called a trianon. An essential ingredient in this pastry is a crispy cookie called a gavotte which was accidentally created in 1893 when someone overcooked a crêpe. I’m sure there are several recipes, but the one I found calls for layering gavottes over a chocolate cake base twice, topping it with some chocolate mousse, and covering the entire thing with a chocolate glaze. Should be good for a chocolate fix, right?
Just doing our research. At your service!