Pierre Hermé is out to get you. Amidst all of the normal cakes, macarons and mousses lurk a few surpises. And while it would be nice to know something strange is afoot just by looking at them, Monsieur Hermé would prefer it not be that easy. Take that light green macaron he’s been known to put in the line-up. Mint? No. Pistachio? Nooooo, guess again. Olive oil and vanilla with a sliver of olive hidden inside? Yes! Oh, and what about this lovely raspberry tart? You’re probably thinking those raspberries are encircling some sweet cream and that that dollop hides another layer of raspberry and crème all within a sweet tarte shell. That’s what crossed my mind when I asked the pastry jockey for one. It’s only once I bit in that I discovered it was a raspberry and red pepper tarte with parmesan cheese crème in a sweet sesame seed sablé shell. So let’s do the math here: raspberries + red peppers + parmesan cheese + baked sugary sesame seeds = A) Interesting salad combination B) Tasty pastry or C) A cruel joke.
The correct answer is B) Tasty pastry . . . for the most part. The raspberries themselves can be taken at face value – no shocker there, although they were a bit short of fully ripe. The red pepper was barely discernable. Not that I invite anyone to put red pepper into my desserts, but if you must, then I’d like to have it be slightly more pronounced. The parmesan cheese crème was, despite what you might be thinking, actually pleasant. I didn’t find it salty at all, and there was not a strong flavor present either. In fact, I’m more inclined to say it was a little “flat”. The texture, however, was nice – a good bit firmer than your usual tarte crème. And then there was the sesame seed shell. With that, well . . .
I felt that’s where the tart got out of control. The sesame flavor wasn’t overwhelming at first, but within a few bites, it was screaming at the top of its lungs. The raspberry and crème flavors got pushed aside, almost as if they were meant to be a subtle accompaniment to the force of the sesame. And I love sesame, to the point I will add sesame seeds to dishes that already contain plenty of it. I’ve also been known to just eat sesame seeds straight; that’s simply how I roll, friends. So when I think it’s overdone, it’s probably way beyond the point most people would find pleasant. And, knowing Hermé’s approach to other patisseries, I believe he would have a rationale for why it’s so in your face. But, much like a joke is not funny when you have to explain it, a dessert is not enjoyable when you have to justify assaulting someone’s taste buds.
This is one to skip, not that I think 95%+ of you would have any interest in this bizarre sweet/savory fusion anyway. For the other <5%, perhaps a good approach would be to break off the tarte’s rim so that you get a smaller amount of sesame with every bite. If so, you’ll likely enjoy a pleasant range of flavors you can actually tease apart from the base. As for me, I’ll be paying a little more attention next time I order something at Hermé.