So I have this big spreadsheet of all the pastries I ate in Paris. Twice a week I go in, find one I haven’t yet written about, and turn it into the featured piece for either Monday or Friday. But there’s a bit of method to my selection process. Half of the patisseries have little *s next to them; they’re the fancy-looking ones and can only be Friday entries. All the rest are a little more hum-drum and turn into Monday posts. Now, every time I go through the list, I see all these Pascal Caffet pieces I haven’t written about, and I’m just like, “Ugh, they all look the same. No one’s going to give a **** about another one of these. Why couldn’t he have just made more original stuff?!”
Pastry is primarily an aesthetic treat in Paris; the flavors and textures can, and often do, take a backseat. That’s a big part of what keeps someone like Arnaud Larher going, and to a lesser extent Gerard Mulot, as well. Though, Monsieur Mulot benefits most from being a longtime neighborhood institution and from having some excellent breads. Anyway, Caffet has some dazzlers (see #2 on the Top 17 list here), but most follow the same formula of stratification. No matter how delicious they were, and they truly were some of the best-tasting pastries I came across, few care. It’s like someone who has a great personality, yet is decidedly unattractive . . . many people would prefer a pretty, yet boring and unpleasant person. Not that I’m saying an ex-girlfriend of mine was like that and that I’m bitter about letting myself be so superficial . There really needs to be some balance. Basically, I want my pastries to be like people who were dorky-nice kids in adolescence and then physically and socially blossomed in their 20s. That is to say – “hot” but totally unaware, so that they’re as pretty inside as they are outside. Maybe the Saint-Germain here just hasn’t reached its 20s yet . . .
To be fair, the actual Saint Germain, after whom this pastry is named, was himself made up of successive layers of crème and gateaux. Little known fact. So it was pretty much a given that Monsieur Caffet had to compose this from croustillant noisettes, moelleux noisettes, cremeux chocolat lait cote d’ivoire 40%, caramel a la fleur de sel et vanilla, crème legere vanilla citron vert. Or, rephrased in English: various layers of hazelnut preparations, combined with Ivory Coast milk chocolate cream, vanilla salted caramel, and vanilla/lime crème. Since it’s a Caffet, I’ll spare you a description of all the layers in detail. There are too many, and he always does them extremely well. However, I will call out the two stand-out features of the piece. The vanilla salted caramel was sublime; I would either like a giant pastry bag of just that or would like to have it on an I.V. drip. The other aspect of the Saint-Germain’s awesomeness were the harmonious textures. Kind of like ebony and ivory go together in perfect harmony, [sing it] “Caramel and noisettes go together with citron vert and crème!”
I think I only have four more Caffet pieces in my spreadsheet. And since I have such an abundance of treats from other shops to show off, we’ll see how many more of Pascal’s works I feel compelled to trot in front of you.
And as a little semi-related housekeeping note, now that we’re in November, I just want to tip you off that there will be no PP entry on Friday the 26th – the day after Thanksgiving in America. Too many of y’all will be stuffed on pie to care about Parisian goodies – or too busy celebrating Black Friday. I’ll remind you again the Monday before, as I know schedule changes draw enraged, “Where’s my Friday pastry?!” e-mails and Facebook notes.
Anyway . . . yes, grab a Saint-Germain. But, as I always must remind you about Pascal Caffet, he’s no longer in Paris. You’ll have to visit his shop in Troyes, if you really need a fix. I know I’ll certainly be making my way there, once I’m back in France.