There are certain flavors that are virtually a guarantee for a good time. While I pretty much enjoy every one out there, I’ve found pistachio, réglisse, passion fruit, coquelicot, and maple are extremely hard to mess up. At the other end of the spectrum are equally loved flavors like strawberry, mango, blueberry, caramel, almond, rose, and lemon that – in the wrong hands – can be totally destroyed. The more sensitive the flavors, the more challenging their use alone becomes … and the more extremely difficult their successful combination is.
One of the elements of Pierre Hermé’s greatness, as highlighted in his about-to-be-released Pierre Hermé Pastries book (English version!), is his willingness to push the limits with original mélanges of flavors. Extreme brilliance comes in the form of his Gourmanidses Constellation, a masterful blend of cardamom, orange, strawberry and heavily toasted almonds. Tasty efforts like the Envie combine cassis, violet and vanilla into a pleasant treat. Asparagus & hazelnuts or carrots & oranges, on the other hand, come off as combos that maybe aren’t 100% ready for prime-time. So what about the Tarte Garanace and its mélange of cinnamon, fig and raspberries? Well . . .
The texture of the cinnamon mousse, which makes up the bulk of the piece, is splendidly light and smooth. It’s also fairly overspiced – to the point of being acrid. And yours truly is known to suck on Vietnamese cinnamon sticks and chew Ceylon cinnamon for fun, so I’m not quite sure how the mousse here could come off as even marginally off-putting . . . but it does. What’s interesting is that, when combined with the fig, the cinnamon almost works. But it’s still there in such volume that the fruit makes it merely palatable, not enjoyable.
Much as I wish the raspberries contributed to some magical alchemy here, they do more to derail the overall experience than help it along. As I mentioned in the opening, I’m all for odd combinations of flavors, but cinnamon/fig + raspberry doesn’t seem to be a winning combination. The pâte brisée shell, on the other hand, is delightful – buttery and with some nice character. The net effect of everything, however, is best described as “flaccid”.
As you can see in the shot above, the figs are sublimely ripe. Thumbs up.
And the cross-section below shows off a beautiful interior. Lovely composition, Monsier Hermé.
So, no, while I think the concept is interesting, the overall effect just didn’t seem to pan out. I have to applaud Monsieur Hermé and the team, though, for being adventurous and trying a novel combination of flavors. Even if it wasn’t a homerun here, that spirit drives some amazing pieces in the PH pastry case. And I’m sure it will continue to drive many more awesome macarons, viennoiseries and pâtisseries.
NOTE: The new Pierre Hermé Pastries is set to come out on March 1st. You can pre-order it through the link right there, but I’m also planning a little giveaway for it in a few weeks! Monsieur Hermé’s team let me know they’d soon be sending me a promo copy. I could keep it, sure, but I’m a sharer Stay tuned for details.