Category: Special Features
Early last month, Pierre Hermé’s fine team sent me an advance copy of his new ‘Pastries’ recipe book (English version). My first impulse was, of course, to keep it all for myself and never share. But then I realized that I’d soon be heading back to Paris, so cooking – then eating – everything in the book would probably sabotage my plan to head there thin, with room to grow. I guess I’m just going to have to give it away!
So how can you win my copy? Well, you’re going to have to prove yourself…
[The contest has since ended. Thank you to all those who submitted an entry The winner is Rob C., whom I’ve notified by email. To everyone else, please keep an eye out for future giveaways!]
1. First, think of some people in your life who either understand your love of Pierre Hermé and pastries or who you wish understood your love. Friends, family members, or a special someone you once went with to Paris? Coworkers at your restaurant or bakery who love pastries, too? Your classmates, students or instructors at pastry school? Your bastard father who made you become a lawyer, even though you wanted to be a pastry chef? It just needs to be someone to whom you can express your pastry love, whether happily or resentfully. Then…
2. Write them an email, where you explain how amazing having this book would be. It can be short. It can be long. It can be happy, sad, impassioned, funny … whatever.
3. Either copy me at firstname.lastname@example.org on the email you send them or forward me the email after you send it. Don’t worry, I’m not collecting their email addresses – I just want to see what you wrote.
4. I will read all the emails and select a winner on March 14th, based on how thoroughly your email entertained or moved me. There’s nothing random about this giveaway; it’s based completely on my whim.
For now, I think it’s important for me to tempt you with photos from the book . . . lots of photos. I can’t believe Monsieur Hermé is just giving some of these recipes away. It’s bananas. And this is King’s Cake…
Ooooo. It’s the Brioche Satine. It’s not just brioche. It’s brioche with a passion fruit cream center.
And what’s better than having Pierre Hermé’s croissant recipe? That’s right . . . the only thing better is having his Ispahan croissant recipe, too. He gives both away in the book.
Ice cream, sorbet and ice cream “sandwich” recipes? Yep, he’s got that covered.
Monsieur Hermé even includes the recipe for what I believe to be his greatest pastry – the Gourmandises Constellation (which he considers an éclair variation, apparently).
Yum. It’s a fraisier…
Not only does the book include the millefeuille recipe, it includes the 2,000 feuilles recipe. I think we can assume his 3,000 feuille recipe will be in the 2nd edition.
There are a couple Paris-Brest variations, too…
And who can live without the Saint-Honoré recipe?
Of course this is a 288-page book, so the photos above just scratch the surface. Monsieur Hermé shows off his macarons, lemon tarte, cheesecake, crème brulée, kouign-amann, muffins, tiramisu, baba au rhum, charlottes, madelines, Opéra, soufflés, Tarte Tatin, and many many many more recipes. And, yes, it’s all in English, with ingredients shown in both cups and grams. Though I’m sure none of my readers would actually cook with cup and spoon measurements . . . right?
I know a lot of you are probably thinking, “I need this book NOW!” Well, ok then. You can always snag your copy of Pierre Hermé Pastries on Amazon. Or you can enter the giveaway here, wait until the 14th and hope that you are the lucky chosen one. Could it be you?! The only way to find out is to enter.
Special thanks to Pierre Hermé — Stewart, Tabori and Chang — and Abrams. They were kind enough to share the book with me so that I could share it with you.
Visiting Jacques Genin’s shop isn’t always about having your pastries and chocolates boxed-up to enjoy later. No, Monsieur Genin also wants people to sit down, relax, and unwind. The shot above is, of course, the most perfect expression of this idea, in that you see a lemon tarte, chocolate éclair, a basket of to-be-steeped Pu Er Millésime 1998 tea, and a small plate of complementary chocolates. It was, far and away, my lunch of choice during my last six months in Paris – and, not too coincidentally, a one-way ticket to culinary Valhalla.
The master provides a very pleasant environment for the enjoyment of your treats, as you can see below. Red velvet curtains, comfy chairs, the ambience of a stone wall that’s likely twice as old as the United States . . . it all adds up to something magical.
Once you’re seated, you can enjoy a broader view of the shop itself. The only comparable setting is the chocolate salon at Un Dimanche à Paris. Both are also quite calm and uncrowded, except at perhaps the height of the weekend. Angelina or Ladurée look and feel virtually barbaric by comparison.
Making the experience even more awesome is the lovely fresh floral display The Master always has going on in the shop. Unless you’re like me, and go multiple times a week, you’re likely to catch a new arrangement on every visit. As I’ve said many times before, details are crucial to Monsieur Genin, and this is yet another front on which he won’t disappoint.
But of course the true highlight is actually eating all the goodies you order. When I go alone, I almost always get the same treats I mentioned at the start of the piece here. And what about when I go with family or friends? Well, then I play pastry sommelier, order half the menu and force my company to enjoy every second of it. When my friend Allyn and I went one afternoon, I ordered so much for the both of us that they had to slide two tables together just to fit it all. Not kidding. There was a reason I gained 16 kilos while in Paris. Oh, and just so you know, I’ve since lost all 16 of those 😀 So I’m 100% ready to return to the City of
Light Pastries and get totally fat all over again.
And what do we have here? Is that the lemon tarte? Yes, yes, it is. I know you’ve all heard me talk about it over-and-over again, but you’ve never read a review of it, have you? That’s because I’ve been saving it as my final piece before I return to Paris. On April 16th, prepare yourselves for what’s sure to be the most over-the-top anything I’ve ever written here.
But I digress. I think we need to snoop around the shop a little more. Here’s the awesome spiral staircase the staff are always running up and down. I’m surprised no one’s killed themselves yet. Since each millefeuille is made to order, every time one gets ordered, a chef has to scramble down the staircase to present it to you … then scramble back up … and likely back down again, the minute after the next order is put it.
Angle yourself just right, and you can take a look up at the entrance to the kitchen. I only wish people could just go up there at-will, but it’s more of an invite-only situation. So, if you’ve never been there, take a few minutes to soak in Part I and Part II of my in-kitchen session with The Master, from last June.
Looking into the boutique, there you can see Arthur, Monsieur Genin’s trusted trilingual (fluent in English, Japanese and French) salesman extraordinaire, tending to a young lady and her little son. What a lucky kid, too, right? His formative experiences with pastry are being confined “merely” to that of the greatest classic pastry chef in Paris.
And speaking of The Master, here he is! Mail in-hand, he’s chatting it up with Arthur and Virginie, the shop’s directrice. I’m sure it’s a flan or baba-au-rhum strategy session, or maybe they’re just discussing chocolate or caramel inventory.
As a closing shot, here’s the little plate of free chocolates you get with every order in the café. There you see a coffee (left) and a lime-praline (right) with two powdered-sugar covered muscadines, which happen to be one of my all-time favorites of the master’s pieces. They’re an amazing mélange of fine chocolate and Grand Marnier that will pretty much knock your socks off. I used to buy bags of them and attempt not to eat them all on my walk home from the shop. Rarely did I succeed.
That concludes our three part Jacques Genin pâtisserie/chocolaterie series. As promised, you should either have been whipped into such a frenzy that you bought your tickets to Paris or, at this very second, you should be 100% ready to do it. So here’s a link to the latest Air France Spring Bargains page. Leave a comment below once your flight is booked, or, if for some reason you didn’t take the plunge, explain to me how heartbroken you are that you can’t [yet] make the trip to Paris to experience the magic of Jacques Genin and all the other amazing pâtisseries I love showing you here on Paris Pâtisseries.
EXTRA SPECIAL: On Monday, I’m announcing a Pierre Hermé book giveaway – of his new Pierre Hermé ‘Pastries’ (English version!)! So make sure you tune in then. A gigantic book, filled with some of his best recipes, is something you won’t want to miss out on.
Most shops have a specialty, whether that’s pastries, chocolates, or confections. Sure, they might offer-up all three, but they tend to have a focus at which they excel and some satellite offerings that are, at best, mediocre. Jacques Genin, however, is a master of all three disciplines. That’s why he’s always my #1 recommendation for where to get your sweet fix in Paris. There is no other shop with such a variety of stellar work.
What makes the Jacques Genin legend even more remarkable is that he has no formal training in pastry, chocolate or candy. He’s simply a savant. Like Mozart was to music or Newton was to mathematics, Monsieur Genin possesses an innate and profound understanding of the materials with which he works. In fact, to taste his macadamia caramel or to savor his aneth chocolate is to experience the mind of God.
In the very top shot, you can see a view from inside the chocolate case, where his sublime ganaches stretch out to a distant, glowing horizon. People often think that section of the wall is lit, but no, it’s just the radiant brilliance of the chocolates themselves.
Directly above is a wider view of the main case. There are 28 tins of 36 chocolates each there. That’s just about 1,000 pieces – aka $1500 worth of chocolate. And knowing how the master works, it’s all incredibly fresh – much having been made less than 24 hours earlier. I believe his usual prescription is to make sure you eat whatever you purchase within 3 days, to ensure optimal freshness. I usually down mine in 3 minutes, just to be on the safe side.
Below you can see an extra tin of his lime praline pieces, which are hard to make out in the photo above. Rather than crowd either the main chocolate or pastry cases, Monsieur Genin will occasionally set such “bonus material” on one of the counters. I can’t complain. There’s nothing wrong with an overflowing abundance of perfection.
When you purchase chocolates in the master’s shop, the salesperson always has a very particular way to arrange the pieces. There’s an artistry to every box – something Monsieur Genin dictates. Here you can see three réglisse pieces (white/orange stripes) that were put in on the diagonal, two Chataignier honey pieces (yellow scalloping) that flank the center of the north-south position, and then there’s a basil piece being placed there, yet-to-be-set with three others that will aesthetically complete the box. I’m not kidding either; every box you buy will have the chocolates arranged in a beautiful pattern. Monsieur Genin ensures excellence at every step.
Soak in the below – another gorgeous expanse of chocolates. And what’s interesting to me is that it’s all made with Valrhona couvertures. There’s apparently no Domori, Felchlin or anything else. Despite that self-imposed limit, he manages an amazing range to the character of all the pieces.
Anyone who’s had these knows exactly what they are. Yes, the mango-passion caramels. Arguably Monsieur Genin’s most famous . . . anything. Even though I have other caramels, pastries and chocolates in his shop that I love more, I still bought these on almost every visit. They are perfect 10s on the 0-10 scale. I had to walk out with various ultra-perfect 11s, 12s, 13s, and 14s on that same scale, but I couldn’t pass up standard 10-out-of-10 perfection. Many would actually argue these are the greatest pure candy ever conceived.
And what do we have here? Chocolate caramels? Yum. Do I have the recipe for these? Yes. Will I share it with you here? No, I don’t have permission. But I can tell you it’s just five ingredients and that the end product is sublime.
And here we have the macadamia caramels – the most fantastic of all the master’s caramels. And I’m not even a macadamia nut fan, in general; I’d way rather eat pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts and others on their own. But in the master’s hands . . . the macadamia nut is king. Truth be told, the actual awesomeness does vary, depending on the excellence of the macadamia nuts used in that day’s batch. I purchased these compulsively, and the flavor ranges from delicious to life-altering. When the nuts are perfect, these caramels are the finest thing in the entire shop – which is saying a lot.
Look at this sweet carpet of pâtes de fruits! Banana, mango, pineapple, blood orange, apricot and raspberry! They’re all stellar. Banana is notably extra excellent. And pineapple and apricot and notably super extra incredibly excellent. I literally believe they improve upon nature itself.
Until you have one, you have no idea how tender the thing is. Most chefs make their pâtes de fruits super chewy – aka disappointing. But you can almost “bite” one of Monsieur Genin’s pieces in half with just the pressure of your lips. It’s surreal.
Apricot pâte de fruit close-up. They’re so incredibly expensive, but it’s worth every centime.
One last view here of the pâtes de fruits – now with his Mirabelle flavor in the foreground. Available for only a short time each summer, they’re so good.
The Master also makes various candies – most easily purchased in this Mosaïque grab-bag format that sits alongside his gigantic rochers.
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the 144-count gift tins. Here’s a close-up of two of them sitting side-by-side . . .
And here’s a view from above just one. It’s like a field of chocolate that never ends . . .
So there you go. Did you enjoy soaking in Monsieur Genin’s caramels, pâtes de fruits and chocolates? Ready to book your flight to Paris yet? If you’re somehow still not convinced, stay tuned for Friday, when we’ll sit down in the boutique for “pastry lunch”. That should finally put you over the edge.
Now, three years and two months since Jacques Genin opened his boutique at 133 rue de Turenne, I think it’s time every in-print or online reference to Parisian pâtisseries treat it as the sine qua non. I don’t say that to deny that Pierre Hermé is a wizard of creativity, that Ladurée is an enduring classic, or that Café Pouchkine and Hugo & Victor are anything less than brilliant. What I’m suggesting is that Monsieur Genin’s work forms such a complete foundation for classic pastries, fine chocolates, and confections that it’s just bizarre to treat him as anything less than central to the discussion.
As I’ve often said, to taste Monsieur Genin’s lemon tarte or chocolate éclair is to taste Divinity. That’s a rare experience that you can only get consistently at a few other pâtisseries in Paris. What sets Monsieur Genin apart from even them is not just that there are at least a dozen assorted perfect pastries, chocolates, caramels and pâtes de fruits in his shop, but how close scores of his other pieces run to that level of sublime excellence. I only wish you could taste it all with me. Sadly, that’s not possible. So, as the next best thing, today kicks off Part 1 of 3 in our visit to Jacques Genin’s. By the end, you’re going to be ready to book your flight to Paris.
The very top shot only captures a small part of the boutique. Well-lit, warm and inviting, this is a shop where you can and should feel comfortable. The staff is one of the finest in all of Paris and happy to help with any questions you might have. Their affinity for occasionally handing out free chocolates and caramels doesn’t hurt either 😉
Taking a look at the shots directly above and below, you can see the deliciousness of the main pastry case. Saint-Honorés, lemon tartes, éphémères, éclairs, choux vanille, and raspberry tartes abound. Several of the pieces are consistent throughout the year, but there’s also a seasonal rotation + pieces not on display. Gems like his various millefeuilles are done made-to-order, so The Master would never let them sit out in the case, as so many shops do. Others, like his baba-au-rhum, can only be ordered when you’re seated in the café section of the boutique (which I’ll show you in detail in Part 3 on Friday!).
Monsieur Genin also offers-up several more pastries that don’t quite fit in the case: the caramel-walnut tarte, apple tarte, and chocolate tarte…
Don’t think that just because they’re not in the refrigerated case that they’re in any way lesser acts of genius. In fact, his chocolate tarte, in my not-so-humble opinion, is only rivaled by Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Fine Porcelana. Both are incredible, though of course Monsieur Genin’s is a more perfect representation of the classic.
Here’s everything all together, complete with his legendary Paris-Brest pastries, sandwiched in there between the éclairs and choux vanille.
You probably thought that was all. But, no. Depending on how busy the morning has been, somewhere between noon and 2pm, at least one flan comes down from the kitchen. Cut into only six slices, you essentially have to be lurking in the shop for its arrival, to make sure that you get one. I’ve been told that it’s become so increasingly popular that, on the weekends, Monsieur Genin will often make 3 or 4 for the day. Again, that still offers you little hope of getting a slice. To enjoy the experience of flan perfected, as only The Master could have done, you’re going to need to time it.
Pastries are really only 1/3 of what makes a visit to Monsieur Genin’s such a life-altering experience. For not only is he a savant of crème and gâteaux, but he’s arguably the greatest fondeur en chocolat in Paris, as well. Before I ever enjoyed anything from his shop, and people would say what a great pâtissier and chocolatier Monsieur Genin was, I thought it was complete ********. To do both at the ultimate level makes as much sense as someone being a great sprinter and marathon runner; it’s basically nonsensical. Somehow Monsieur Genin, despite zero formal training in either discipline, happens to be a master of both. That’s not hyperbole. I’d suggest you try the following chocolates: aneth (dill), tonka noir, basilic and réglisse lait. If, after those, you don’t believe he’s a wizard of chocolate, you’re insane.
But sit tight, because on Wednesday, in Part 2 of 3, we’re going to dig much further into the chocolate case, as well as the caramels and pâtes de fruits. I just wanted to tease you a little with the photo below.
And here’s a small section of shop that’s pretty much just devoted to gifts. You can see four copies of Monsieur Genin’s Tarte au Citron cookbook on display there atop the counter. To their left are variously sized gift tins of chocolate. My favorite is the 144-count tin, which I affectionately refer to as “the fun size”. There’s nothing quite like walking one of those home with a friend, sharing a few pieces, and eating the other 137 by yourself.
Rivaling my love of Monsieur Genin’s pastry and chocolate offerings is his wonderful selection of fine teas. There were too many afternoons I’d sit in his café, enjoying a tarte au citron, éclair au chocolat and a steaming cup of perfectly steeped Pu Er Millésime. It’s actually what crosses my mind any time someone asks what pastry shop to visit and what to get. Sit down, get the lemon tarte and chocolate éclair – or opt for the baba au rhum – and order the Pu Er. The next 30-60 minutes of your life will be literally halcyon in their magnificence.
The shot below is a fuller view of the back wall of the shop. Simple, lovely, stacked spartanly with all those teas and tins of fine chocolate . . . what’s not to love?
But let’s drift back over to the pastry case. Do you notice what’s wrong in this picture? I’ll give you a few seconds . . . . . . Caught it? Yeah, someone’s already take a slice of the flan. We’ve been talking about chocolates and tea here for a couple minutes, and now there are just five slices left…
Here’s a close-up from another day, where he happened to have made two. That means that instead of lasting for 30 minutes on display, they might make it an hour before there’re all gone. You seriously need to buy a slice immediately.
Make sure to ogle all the pastries, too. That Saint-Honoré right there will blow your mind. The chocolate-topped puffs on it are filled with chocolate crème, while the caramelized sugar-topped ones are filled with vanilla crème. It’s practically like getting two amazing pastries in one. And all the other little goodies there in the frame are worth killing someone over, too – especially those lemon tartes, chocolate éclairs and caramel éclairs.
After you’ve purchased a ton of merchandise, take in the full view of the main pastry and chocolate sections of the boutique…
And get ready to return here on Wednesday, when we’ll binge on caramels, pâtes de fruit and all those amazing chocolates. If you enjoyed this entry, the next one will completely blow your mind. Serisously, it’s going to be perhaps the most mouth-wateringly delicious series of shots I’ve ever posted here – a veritable spread of chocolate and candy food porn.
Please feel free to share this post with family and friends. I wasn’t kidding when I expressed how frustrating it is that Jacques Genin isn’t the first name people think of when Parisian pastry is referenced. Talented as the other great pâtissiers are, Monsieur Genin is where “it” starts.
Back in June, I took you inside Pain de Sucre to see how they make their famous macarons. But since I spent a couple hours in the kitchen that morning, I managed to capture a bunch of other goodies in various stages of creation. Why not share it all with you? Even though it’s an assortment of almost totally random shots, I know regular readers look forward to these entries as much as casual readers get giddy at the sight on any entry with “Ladurée” or “Pierre Hermé” in the title. So let’s dig in!
I’m sure a lot of you probably go nuts for brownies with . . . nuts. And that’s exactly what the young ladies in the top shot are preparing. With the batter poured into the silicone molds, three nuts from the gigantic nut bin get equidistantly laid down. Though I can’t say I’d ever have the stamina to labor full-time in a kitchen, there’s something very intriguing about working at that scale and with tubs of nuts and dozens of macaron shells just casually lying around. It’s no wonder most chef pâtissiers are at least slightly obese; I would be, too.
Speaking of courting obesity, check out the above! There’s a job I definitely couldn’t do without eating at least ½ my work. “Oh, ****, I just sliced this whole sheet a little too thick. Guess I’m going to have to eat it now. Wouldn’t want the customers to get anything that didn’t look perfect.”
The shot below is one I always thought was funny when I’d come across it in my photo catalog. It looks like the lady in the middle is just standing there like a goober, while four others busily swirl around her. What she’s actually doing is reading off the white boards toward the upper-left of the photo. I believe one has a recipe on it, and the other has a list of some items that need to be purchased/ordered for the day. I’m not sure what she’s about to do, but given the pace of everyone in that kitchen, I have no doubt she just finished something intense and was on top of her white board-dictated duty within seconds.
Here’s another favorite shot. I think Kitchen-Aid should start selling stand mixers that can accommodate whisk, paddle and hook attachments that are this size.
Nothing beats a quantity of butter that must be cleaved. Cutting a pat of butter for home recipes seems somehow effete once you take in a guy lopping off chunks of beurre from a gigantic block.
But how else are you going to make the choux in a mixing bowl that’s twice the size of your torso?
Just over 2 kilos of eggs here, cracked at lightning speed. And notice the tub and litre bottle of egg whites in the back-right of the shot. Can you imagine baking at that scale?
It’s back to the nut brownie girls here. This time they’re cutting and powdering sheets of fresh marshmallows. Not too coincidentally, that’s usually how I order my marshmallows . . . by the sheet. It makes for a good afternoon of gnawing.
I wish I had a cleaner shot, but I think you can get a sense of the size of the uncut blocks there. Ginormous.
And here’s what the chef we saw earlier was whipping up with all that butter . . . a huge quantity of choux that was now ready to be piped out. Best facial expression on the guy, too. It’s like, “Oooooooo! Oh, yeah! I’m gonna pipe you, bake you, and then eat you with my mouth.”
The below might have been my favorite shot of the day. The chef was just laying down line after perfect line of pâte à choux. With gigantic bowls and mixing equipment flanking him – and a row of silicone molds on the wall – it makes anything Martha Stewart does look quaint and amateur.
And let’s not forget about the macarons! Even though I showed you the whole thing months ago, I think I assume correctly that you can never really see enough of them. I’d also like you to notice all 6 people in the frame. You can never complain that your kitchen is too small once you realize how most of the pros operate.
So there you go – a quick romp through Pain de Sucre. The next in-kitchen feature I have for you will be in mid-March, when Hugues Pouget makes a fig tarte almost totally from scratch for us! But there are several other very special specials before then. You won’t want to miss any of it, not to mention all of the incredible pastries that are right around the corner.