Pierre Hermé :: Croissant Ispahan
Some people always need to have the most luxurious and decadent of everything. Me? I keep it simple. Take this croissant I had Wednesday – it’s just your basic billowy mound of buttery-rich pastry, finely glazed, sprinkled with candied rose petals, and filled with an exquisite rose pâte. Like I said . . . very basic and no-frills. So when I saw the mongrel above at Pierre Hermé, humbly featured as the centerpiece of all the other petit déjeuner goodies, I said aloud, “Much like a three-legged dog at the pound, I’m going to take pity on you and love you as if you didn’t look quite so unfortunate.” Judging by the fact that only a few of these were left by the time I got to the shop, I assume other people were swept by the same beneficent feeling. Now, some of you may be saying, “Hey, Paris Patisseries, croissants aren’t pastries. Are you just reviewing this because you feel sorry for it?” Well, dear readers, while it is true that croissants are viennoiseries, not pastry, a glazed croissant with candied roses and a pâte filling is most definitely pastry. So let’s talk a little about Plain Jane here . . .
Kidding aside, this croissant is obviously ridiculously over-the-top in the best way possible. If you ever have a dream of eating a flaky croissant in a Parisian café, swap out the regular one and insert the Ispahan here to ratchet your dream to fantasy level 5000. Were it a Ladurée croissant that had been used as the framework, it could have been elevated to an actual religious experience. But it was fantastic nonetheless. While a little more chewy than I might like, it still had a nice flake on the outside and moist, buttery, stretchy, tender structure on the inside. The flavor of rose was very well balanced, whether experienced through the candied roses atop the piece or through a direct bite of the rose pâte, which had only a minimal amount of added sugar (exactly how I love it). And it’s really that rose pâte that’s my only modest criticism. A block of the stuff (scan down to the fourth photo). . . it’s a bit inelegant. I realize there’s an inherent massive challenge to making a fine croissant with a filling like this, but I have to think there’s a less heavy-handed aesthetic approach that could be taken. I know I’m being a little picky here, but that’s my self-appointed job as Paris Patisseries.
Even if the internal aesthetics were not entirely a thing of beauty, the exterior was. As you can see from the shots above, stunning might be the best descriptor. As much as I love my Ladurée croissant, it would look homely next to this. I’ve simply never seen so many dazzling surface features on a croissant before. Frank Gehry could probably base his next concert hall or museum on the angle shown above. This pastry is architectural, yet completely organic in its forms. I love it! Clearly Hermé is baking these using the croissant molds Rodin was rumoured to have carved shortly before his passing in 1917, or he’s a master of puff pastry. Flip a coin.
I wish I could tell you whether the Ispahan is a temporary feature at Hermé or a regular item. If any of you, my dear readers, know, please leave a comment below. It would be wonderful as a fixture, but there are plenty of other essences I would love to see croissant’ified. In any case, I recommend you get to Pierre Hermé’s on La Rue Bonaparte as soon as possible to snag one or a dozen of these for a snack.