When you first walk into Pierre Hermé’s pastry shop, you don’t know where to focus your attention. Immediately on your right are jars of ultra-luxe teas and exotic preserves, chased immediately by a case of individual chocolates in dozens of varieties beautifully lit for your viewing pleasure, and a little further down the wall are fantasy breakfast pastries like my favorite, the Ispahan candied rose croissant. But that’s just the teaser. Because on your left are his insanely famous macarons, which are hovered over by the shop boys and girls, plucking out those little treats one-by-one on-demand and slipping them into boxes for the insatiable line of customers that often stretches out the door. Oh, and then there are the pastries. The pastries! Believe it or not, it’s a case full of so many beautiful pieces that the above is easily overlooked. I know you’re thinking, “Uh, no. My chocolate radar would have me locked on that like a heat-seeking missle.” And I’m telling you that the rest of his patisseries will scramble your choc-dar like the RAF’s chaffe disoriented Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Your powers are no match. But if you take a few minutes to compose yourself, or simply go there 3 or 4 times a week like me, the Plaisir Sucré here starts to pop out.
Maybe it’s the simple aesthetics of the Plaisir Sucré that pulls one in more than anything else. But while it may appear rather facile, the construction is a marvel. Most people have trouble frosting a cake neatly, much less assembling something like this, and even a seasoned pastry chef would find this challenging. Specifically, what we have is meticulously layered hazelnut dacquoise, praline feuilleté, [hidden] layers of chocolate ganache, and a few thin layers of milk chocolate sandwiching chocolate Chantilly crème. But you’re probably just wondering how it tastes. Well…
The dacquoise was excellent, light and a nice companion to the praline feuilleté floating atop it. Even though I generally loath praline feuilleté/croustillant, this was handled with considerable restainst, so it worked very well with the whole package. The ganache that married the next couple layers together was barely perceptible, but without going into specifics, it was a smart touch for keeping the pastry together during one’s munching of it. The chocolate Chantilly crème was as deliciously creamy and gooey as you’d expect. And the only slight let-down were the milk chocolate layers. Prior to working on my pastry snobbery, I was working on my chocolate snobbery, and there’s a certain milk chocolate I know whose texture alone is literally a “happy switch” that shoots directly to my brain, like electricity, within 10 seconds of it hitting my tongue. That’s a high bar this chocolate couldn’t meet, but it was nevertheless an admirable and pleasant effort.
I’d recommend this piece more as a snack than anything, but it’s definitely worth picking up. However, there are number of other chocolate pastries in Paris that make this look quaint. So if you’re in Hermé and need a chocolate fix, go for it. If you can wait 20 minutes, wander over to Jean-Paul Hévin and treat yourself to the work of a true chocolate master.
Oh, and do you ever wish you could have pastry like this hand-delivered to you every morning? Well, you can. Just add Paris Patisseries as a friend on Facebook. You deserve a daily dose of Paris’ finest.