Paris pastry samplings are one of the things I most look forward to whenever I visit the city. This trip I binged sampled so many I felt a sugar coma coming on. The samplings started and ended with Pierre Herme. Although some of my friends complain about Chef Herme's higher prices, his pastries and macarons never dissapoint. Simply and impeccably decorated, the flavors are as flawless as each little pastry jewels' appearance. There is a reason he's the highest priced patissier in town. The problem is that when you start a Paris pastry binge with Pierre Herme, it creates a high standard for the other pastry shops to live up to. And, many of them don't.
We started with some from the current "fetish" line or special of the season: vanilla and ended with macarons. Right now Chez Herme has an array of Infiniment Vanille (Intensely Vanilla) specials on offer. We tried two, and each lived up to its promise. All of the various creams in the pastries generously use three kinds of vanilla; from Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico. I also really wanted to bite into one of those fat vanilla eclairs, but that will have to be for the next PH pastry binge.
This tart starts off with a crunchy pate sable (shortbread crust) at its base, giving some crunchy texture to balance all the creamy vanilla-ness that follows. On the tart's crust lies a vanilla bean and white chocolate ganache. For more vanilla, a lady-finger disc is soaked in vanilla simple syrup and nestled into the ganache. At the very top, rests a thick disk of vanilla and mascarpone cream.
A dense and slightly crunchy almond-vanilla macaron cake holds a layer of vanilla mousseline cream (pastry cream, butter and vanilla) and a layer of the vanilla and mascarpone cream. It has less textural contrast than the tart and wasn't as powerful on the vanilla flavor, even though each cream again has a combination of the three types of vanilla. What it lacked in vanilla overload, though, it made up for in creaminess. I liked the pairing of almonds and vanilla together, too.
The thing about macarons are that they can be too sweet, as they already have a lot of sugar in the cookie, which is egg whites, sugar and ground almonds. When the filling is jam, more sugar, the entire macaron is much too sweet for my palate. Pierre Herme understands how to perfectly balance the filling and the cookie. Although sometimes a bit odd or avant-garde, his fillings contrast use flavors that are fatty, creamy, salty and sometimes savory to create macaron bliss. These were my favorites from his selection (from right to left):
Infiniment Chocolat - Intensely chocolate filling made with a single origin Venezualan chocolate for the chocolate ganache filling.
Infiniment Vanille - Again for lovers of all things vanilla, there is the infiniment vanille macaron. White chocolate and vanilla bean ganache is the filling, and I would say this macaron is more intensely vanilla flavored than the tart.
Huile d'Olive & Vanille - Olive oil and the white chocolate & vanilla ganache pair to make the filling for the green macaron. I preferred this to the infinement vanille because the olive oil offsets some of the sweetness of the white-chocolate based ganache.
Infiniment Caramel - Still my all-time PH macaron favorite. This is for lovers of caramel, especially the salted-butter kind. A buttercream of caramel and salted butter is the perfect salty, fatty foil to the sweet macaron cookie.
Caraquillo - One of the new flavors for the September re-entry from vacation line, this ganache filling blends together chocoate, coffee and anice flavors and definitely puts this macaron in my top three of all of them.
I'll soon share more pastries from my pastry binge at some of the other best pastry shops in Paris.
Pierre Herme - There are several locations in Paris - These are the patisseries I visited:
185 rue de Vaugirard - Metro stop: Pasteur
72 rue Bonaparte - Metro stop: St. Sulpice
Macarons and Chocolates only: 4 rue Cambon - Metro stop: Concorde or Madeleine
Most indivudual pastries cost 6 to 6.50 euros and mini macarons cost 72 euro a kilo (I paid 8.50 euros for the 5 above)
Where is your favorite pastry shop, Paris or in another city? What is your favorite pastry?