Category: Pain de Sucre
I always tried to keep an open mind in my pastry adventures. For while anything with cassis, licorice/anise, or orange blossom is almost certain to delight me, I’m not as instantly wild for vanilla, cherries, raspberries, pistachios and other assorted flavors. I’m not saying I don’t like them. I actually do enjoy them. It’s just that it’s easier to grab my attention with certain parfums. So I did my best to be impartial and assess things “as if” I really did love cherries like I loved blackcurrants or enjoyed vanilla as much as orange blossoms. Given that a vanilla pastry is #3 on my Top 17 list and a raspberry-pistachio, Pascal Caffet’s Framboise-Pistache, is at #2, I hope you have faith that I was true to my aim.
It was actually in experiencing Caffet’s Framboise-Pistache that I developed a newfound appreciation for both raspberries and pistachios. In fact, I couldn’t help but visit his shop pretty much every week just to get one or two of them. So when Caffet’s patisserie closed at the end of June and he left Paris forever, I was traumatized. What would I do? I never came across anything else quite like it in the city . . . at least until one day at Pain de Sucre. It literally took me doing a photo shoot there to realize they had a Framboise-Pistache of their own. “Hey, Monsieur Mathray, I’ve only been here like two dozen times, has this been here all along?” “Oui, oui, but of course, “ he replied. “Then box it up for me, pretty please. I need to see how it compares to Monsieur Caffet’s.” This was perhaps a bit of a high bar to set for anyone, I suppose, but the composition was almost identical, so it was a pretty fair comparison. How did it turn out? Well . . .
Pretty well, actually. Sure, it wasn’t like staring into the face of God, as was my general experience with Caffet’s piece, but it was solid. The raspberries were quite ripe, though perhaps a bit “too ripe”, given the mold growing on one or two of them. The pistachio filling was wonderfully flavorful and even possessed some of the curry-like tones I loved so well in Caffet’s version. The tarte shell was well-executed – the standard modest complexity of Pain de Sucre’s pate sucrée. And the glucose drops + crumbled pistachios made for a cute enough garnish, though didn’t really add much to the overall flavor experience.
Aside from the mold issue, the only real downside is that it was perhaps a bit sweet for me. Not oversweetened by any means, but compared to Caffet’s fairly tart tarte, almost anything was going to seem a little too sugary.
Since I can’t get Pascal Caffet’s work, I’ll definitely grab another one of these from Pain de Sucre. It’s a good substitute, when in a pinch. But I’ll still be hopping on the train to Caffet’s flagship store in Troyes so that I can get an actual Caffet Framboise-Pistache every now and again.
And, yes, I’d suggest you add this to the list of pastries to sample at Pain de Sucre. Definitely snag works like their Corto, Augusta and Millefeuille, as well as a sleeve of macarons, first, but the Framboise-Pistache is nothing to shy away from.
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The greatest benefit of being a Parisian pastry blogger, together with all of you as my partners in crime, is the all-access pass we’ve earned to the legendary pâtisseries. Not only can I take photos in shops that ordinarily forbid them, but I get invited to snap away from any vantage point I like, and I mean any, as you’re about to see.
Pain de Sucre was at the top of my “hit list” from the first time I walked in. Even if Ladurée has the opulence and Hugo & Victor has the swank, Pain de Sucre is the one that feels most like it was plucked from a storybook. From the well-worn planks underfoot, to the obscenely ornate ceiling and wall-to-wall goodies, it drips the most elemental pastry shop vibe you could ever imagine.
Passersby stop to gawk. Their faces light up, and you see the cogs turning in their heads. “This place looks amazing. Should I go in? It’s gonna ruin’ my diet, but… Sweet Baby Jesus, look at that tarte! Oh…oh…oh my God, whaaaaaaaat…they have six types of gigantic marshmallows?! I have to get something here. No, I can’t. Yes, I can. No, I can’t. Yes, I can…” It’s basically a 60/40 shot at that point. The average person’s willpower is no match for the supernatural temptation of Pain de Sucre…
It’s incredibly popular with the locals, too. While I was doing the shoot, at least a dozen folks stopped by. And without even saying a word, Monsieur Mathray knew exactly what to hand them. The best was the 70’something guy who shuffled in and actually did grunt out his request – “Deux sablés! [Two cookies!]” Once he paid, without a “thank you”, he simply did an about-face and shuffled out as slowly as he’d shuffled in. Awesome!
The rest of us tend to have less focused objectives, and as we step inside, Pain de Sucre begins its sweet seduction with a gigantic platter of chocolate covered marshmallows. You’d probably agree with me that more stores should adopt this “design element”…
To your left is a miniature sugar habitat for chocolate elephants and hippopotami. That’s some top-notch quirk, my friends…
And before we actually get to the pastry shots, let me just escort you to the far end of the shop, with its fine assortment of baguettes, croissants, brioches, assorted breads, ice creams and more. You know I love my pastries, but I could easily binge on anything and everything in the frame here. In fact, when I trotted these photos by David Lebovitz last week, he was quick to say, “…I think their breads should get more attention than they do.” Indeed.
Amplifying the temptation is the insane spread of “hot pockets” ;), cookies, cakes and every conceivable chocolate/nut combination known to man.
As I snapped the above photo, it dawned on me that kids never get to see things from adult angles, so I positioned the lens at my waist and popped off the below. Imagine being 5-years-old and soaking that in. That’d be enough to keep anyone fascinated by sweets and pastries for life…
Looking all the way up is maybe the coolest ceiling ever. I need to ask them if it’s original. It’s too cool not to be, yet in such amazing shape that I wonder if it’s new or heavily restored.
Ok, now that you’ve been patient with the non-pastry part of the tour, let’s dig in. We’ll start with the average person’s view of their spread. A beautiful vista of gâteau, pâte sucré and crème…
But that’s the not the reason you have me, my dear readers. Here’s our view…
Don’t you wish you could live in there?
I just love Pain de Sucre…
And like almost all pâtisseries, they carry the 4-6 person size of their inidividuels. Personally, as long as it’s still technically 1 pastry, I would treat it as a single serving. Logical, n’est-ce pas?
Before you go through more of the photos, we need to pause here. Don’t skip ahead; this is important. There are two main camps of macaron love in the world – those who love Ladurée and those who adore Pierre Hermé. They are completely different styles, but you know what? So is Pain de Sucre. Start considering them the 3rd piece in a holy trinity of macarons. Next time you go in there, get a menthe, a caramel au beurre salé, and a cerise-pistache. You’ll see exactly what I mean. The textures are completely different than Ladurée and Hermé, and the approach to flavor is quite distinct, as well. I can almost guarantee at least 20% of you will defect from the two giants to Pain de Sucre right away.
Imagine how hard it was to resist just grabbing at them while I took my shots. I mean, seriously, it was excruciating standing in front of hundreds of macarons without being allowed to touch.
Would Monsieur Mathray have noticed if I snuck a few into my pocket? I mean, he was in and out of the kitchen the whole time. So I had ample opportunity.
I resisted and took a couple more shots, like the below, from the vantage point of Monsieur Mathray and Madame Robert.
And then there was this one, where my ultra wide angle lens came in handy. Doesn’t it look like I was glued to the ceiling while taking the shot? And maybe I was – “hiding” up there until they closed the shop, and I could descend to feast on macarons.
Monsieur Mathray noticed the ample attention I was devoting to the macarons, and what happened next was possibly the coolest thing to ever happen in the history of pastry addiction…
As I snapped away, he literally tossed a latex glove on the counter in front of me and said, “Do you want to eat some while you take your photos?” WHAT!!!!!?????? You should have seen my face. I just looked at him and said, “Now?! I can just eat them?!” to which he replied, “Yeah, take whatever you want.” On the 0-10 scale of awesomeness, this was approximately a 73. I know a lot of you would kill to have this opportunity. With that in mind, I ate 20 of each flavor right then and there, as not to waste the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or maybe I only had 6. The point is . . . at that moment, I was the luckiest pastry lover on earth.
It’s a little tricky to take photos of your own hand feverishly snatching macarons, but this had to be committed to film. This was a true ******* Kodak moment, if ever there was one.
Every single one of the guys in this lineup was found guilty of scrumtrulescence and hastily devoured….
Even after all those macaron shots, I still hadn’t finished the shoot. Pain de Sucre is famous for their pastries and macarons, but they’re also renowned for their marshmallows. Coconut, rose, pistachio, fleur d’oranger, and on-and-on. I don’t know about you, but I love this idea of gigantic glass jars full of huge gourmet ‘mallows.
Remember the first pastry shot I showed you – the one from the usual customer’s point of view? Well, here are the same rows of tartes and domes, the way we get to see them, my friends. Much as I had done on my visit to Carl Marletti’s shop, I made sure to poke my finger in each and declare them all , “MINE!” It was just my way of showing my enthusiasm for Monsieur Mathray and Madame Robert’s work 😉
Here’s an equally loveable angle on the same treats…
This is how Madame Robert and Monsieur Mathray see Pain de Sucre. Can you imagine being tempted like that all day? For me, it would be like a cocaine addict working on a coca plantation. I’d weigh 700 pounds within a year.
The last thing I should point out in Pain de Sucre is their enormous wall of fine preserves. After you’ve sampled a few of those, you could never go back to Smuckers again 😉 Of course, anyone reading this probably ditched them long ago.
Visually delighted and stuffed with an assortment of macarons, it was time to head out. I took one last look at that insanely cool ceiling…
I said goodbye to animals in the chocolate zoo. They said goodbye to me…
After giving my thanks for the unprecedented access and buying “a few” pastries for my walk home, I turned and popped off a final shot of Monsieur Mathray hard at work filling orders.
And I bid adieu to the amazing Pain de Sucre. Oh, but don’t worry . . . I’ll be making plenty of return visits in 2011. In fact, Madame Robert and Monsieur Mathray have even invited me to photograph them at work, crafting their goodies. They wanted to do the shoot now in September, but since I left at the end of July, we decided we’d do an interview to tide all of you over. So keep an eye out for the that later this year or early next. I have other pâtisserie tours, interviews, and in-kitchen sessions to amuse you with until then.
After seeing all of this, I’m sure I’ve instantly sown the seeds of Pain de Sucre obsession in the lives of a few thousand people. If so, mission accomplished. Without question, it is one of Paris’ grandes pâtisseries.
Pain de Sucre
14 Rue Rambuteau
75003 Paris, France
01 45 74 68 92
Become a Fan: Pain de Sucre’s Facebook Fan Page
Become a Friend: Pain de Sucre’s Facebook Friend Page
Every couple weeks, I’d be in the mood for an extra long walk from my apartment in the 6th arrondissement. So after gorging myself on Ladurée viennoiseries, I’d pop on my extra French-looking sunglasses, check that I had plenty of Euros in my wallet, grab my keys and head out the door. I knew I was headed for Pain de Sucre, but I wasn’t ever sure which route I’d take; there were two favorites. The first was to walk up Rue Bonaparte, until I reached the Seine. Then I’d cross the Pont du Carousel, ogling the river, plus glimpses of the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, The Grand Palais, and more, before hitting the other side. For those of you familiar with Paris, you know what I’d be staring at . . . The Louvre. In fact, I’d be right in the middle of its length, so I’d walk through the courtyard – on my right the giant pyramid and on my left the Tuileries gardens and a clear shot all the way to Arc de Triomphe. Once out the other side, I’d go down the Rue de Rivoli, marvel at the Tour Saint-Jacques, swing up Rue Sebastopol, soak in the hamster habitrail that is the Centre Pompidou and be right at Pain de Sucre’s door. My other favorite route took me across the Pont Saint-Michel so that I could bask in the grandeur of Notre Dame Cathedral. But, truth be told, I was more interested in seeing a certain homeless man. He sat in a chair, always resting, his head slumped-down with his chin tucked against his chest . . . there’d be nothing too remarkable there were it not for the fact that, at his sides, he was cradling twin 20lbs. sleeping dogs in each arm. I never quite understood how he got them to sleep like that, and I really never got why he’d want them to sleep like that either. Whatever was going on, it was simultaneously sad to see them on the street, but adorable enough to make into a postcard. Seeing napping puppy man was only my secondary mission of the day though. So I’d refocus, and make my way to Pain de Sucre, where on a few occasions I couldn’t resist grabbing a Rosemary.
Now, the Rosemary is certainly among the more inventive flavor combinations you’ll come across. The shell is fairly standard – an almond pâte sablée. It’s subtle, delicious, and beautifully prepared. But that cradles a rhubarb/raspberry/rosemary pulp, crowned with a healthy mound of orange blossom infused almond milk crème. If you’re not quite into the idea of a more savory herb like rosemary being in a dessert, then its piney-lemon tones could be challenging. That being said, the marriage of the rhubarb, raspberry and rosemary was handled quite well. There’s just enough sweetness, though not overwhelming, and each of the flavors manage to not get lost in the mix. The other challenging facet of the Rosemary here is the use of almond milk for the crème. Almond milk is, by nature, subtly gritty, so be prepared. But I actually rather enjoyed it with the fleur d’oranger (orange blossom).
Perhaps the best descriptor of the Rosemary would be refreshing – both in terms of its original composition and the overall taste experience. It’s too bad Pain de Sucre doesn’t have a tea room, otherwise this and a little Lapsang Souchong might be a perfect afternoon treat.
But even in the absence of a tea salon, Pain de Sucre is among the most amazing of all the Parisian patisseries to visit. That’s why I’m taking you there on Friday! You heard me . . . you and I are going to Pain de Sucre – in a massive 30 photo entry, where we not only step inside, but are ushered behind the counter . . . and get invited to do something you won’t believe. Half of you are going to have your mouths drop open in shock when you see it.
So, yes, check out the Rosemary. It might just be the finest rhubarb, raspberry, rosemary, almond milk, and orange blossom pastry you’ll ever have. It’s also likely to be the only one, so I suppose the competition isn’t too tough. And also make sure you are back here on Friday for our journey inside Pain de Sucre. It’s the first in a number of super special features I have for you (interviews, in-kitchen sessions, in-store photos) in the months ahead. You’re going to love it.
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If my calculations are correct, I’ve eaten just north of 200 different pastries in the last 2+ months. Some of the shopboys at Hermé think it’s funny that I’m there every other day. Some of the shopgirls at Ladurée light up when I walk in. And, at Rêves, they wait with bated breath for me to make my selections when I enter. The point is, they all know me too well because I’ve exhausted their supplies. Sure, they slowly roll in some seasonal pieces, but I’m now in the phase of clearing out the cases of some of the more distant patisseries. Pain de Sucre’s always a fun one; it’s just challenging to get up to the Centre Pompidou, near where they are. But I made a point of venturing up there on Thursday. Monsieur Mathray, one of the owners, was behind the counter, as always, and patiently waited for me to make peruse the case. It was actually this millefeuille that had me hung up. So humble and ooey-gooey, as millefeuille tend to be, I wasn’t sure I could find good camera angles when I got her home. It’s certainly been a challenge when I’ve done shots of Ladurée and Marletti millefeuilles. Then again, it looked so ooey-gooey and delicious that I couldn’t resist. So I stared it down and then gave Monsieur Mathray a, “Et la millefeuille, s’il vous plaît. Je pense que . . . ou’ay, c’est tout!”
When I’d set up my camera, I went to the fridge to whip out quartet of Pain de Sucre treats I’d snagged. I barely had the box open when the scent of the vanilla crème hit me and elicited an immediate, “Sweet God, that smells good!” from my lips. I half thought about skipping the photos and just eating it right away. But if it really was going to be that good, it was better that I document it for all of you before indulging. After a torturous 30 minutes of shot after shot, I picked it up, plopped it on a plate and dug in. Did it taste as magnificent as it smelled? No. Not at all. It tasted way better! This is the best standard millefeuille I’ve ever had. The crème was relatively thick and didn’t explode out as I bit into the feuilles, so Pain de Sucre gets a big gold star for that. It was also obviously sublimely vanilla-laden and with just the right amount of sweetness. The feuille, in one sense, were even more incredible. They’d been cooked literally perfectly. Not too crisp, not too chewy, not too bland, not too overcooked & overly complex. Best of all, they had the subtle hint of marshmallow, which I still can’t figure how they managed to coax out. The entire thing was a masterwork of flavor and texture. The only reason I won’t hand down five stars at the moment is that nothing gets that rating until I’ve had it at least twice, but this is certainly a contender.
Even better than the millefeuille was that I had the chance to speak with Monsieur Mathray about doing a little photo shoot in the shop and getting some behind-the-scenes pictures, too. I started the conversation by showing him the blog on my iPhone, and he immediately said, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen it… The Augusta…” I quickly chimed in that indeed that pastry was a big hit with my dear readers and that the Corto I’d recently reviewed was even more popular. Especially entertaining was that he repeatedly asked, “So this is you?…That’s your blog?” He couldn’t quite believe it. So we’ll see what we can firm-up, but even some simple yet well-composed in-store shots would be a treat, as they’re otherwise a big no-no in their shop.
While the aforementioned Marletti millefeuille and Ladurée’s strawberry millefeuille are also quite notable, Pain de Sucre has something exceptional here. When I visit them this coming week, I’ll be sure to grab another just for the pleasure of indulging once again. There’s nothing I love more than enjoying a classic done to perfection.
I watch my language here on the blog, and I do my best to keep the content squarely PG-rated. But today, due to the graphic nature of the pastry, we just need to get something out of the way so that we can continue wholesomely. Please, if you’re under 18 or are easily offended, skip to the next paragraph… Ok, now that it’s just adults in the room, yes, this does look conspicuously like a pink breast with a gigantic raspberry nipple and square areola. I’m 99% sure that was the intent, too. I can just hear the conversation between the owners, Didier and Nathalie, now, D:“Hey, Nathalie.” … N:“Yes?” … D:”You know what I was thinking?” … N:”What’s that?” … D:”We should make a pastry that looks like a breast.” … N:”Oh my God, that’s genius! Your creativity is boundless, Didier.” … D: “Thanks, Nat. But let’s make the areola square so that it’s not totally obvious.” … N:”Ok. But can we have the nipple be an obscenely oversized raspberry?” … D:”It’s like you’re reading my mind.” After a fist bump and raucous chant of “PAIN…DE…SU…CRE” with their team of sous-chefs, they got to work on the Corto. After all, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Pain de Sucre does like to get experimental with their flavors and designs.
When I first bit in, my teeth sunk quickly through the crème, confit and “biscuit”, before hitting some chewy resistance halfway through. They’d sandwiched a layer of raspberry macaron in the middle, and together with the creamy crème, sticky confit, and cakey biscuit, I was in texture paradise. The only thing better than an array of textures is an array of textures that work well together. Pain de Sucre has pulled it off in spades. And the flavor? Well,individually, everything was excellent. Delicious tones of raspberry abound throughout the layers, and hints of lemon pop in for a guest appearance. However, there’s simply too much raspberry pulpe and confit at the core of the piece. It’s fairly overwhelming and could be toned down considerably, as not to push subtlties in the other layers aside. Balance. I need balance.
Achieving flavor equilibrium is an issue I’ve noticed at Pain de Sucre, time and again. Whether it’s a piece like this or their Ephemere that have a center of too-intense flavor, their Baobab that comes with a pipette of extra rum so that you can manage your own flavor level (taking some of the burden off them), or their Franquette that effectively has almost no flavor whatsoever, they just can’t quite get a handle on it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pain de Sucre. I recently included them in what I’ve dubbed the “Elite-8”, but they need to bring in one of their other buddies from that group for some consulting. Help is needed. For all their creativity and prolific output, they’re being held back. What’s interesting, too, is that their declaration on Pain de Sucre’s Facebook fan page says, [translated] “A a time when gastronomy is focused on being scientific and molecular, Didier and Nathanlie . . . are coming back to basics, working on the memories and the emotions of flavor.” Make what you will of that.
I would still recommend the Corto. It’s definitely among the top 5 textural marvels I’ve had here in Paris. For that alone, it’s worth checking out. And while the flavor balance is askew, it’s not so off base that it makes the piece in any way unpleasant. So whether you love raspberries or anatomically-inspired pastry, head on over to Pain de Sucre.
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.