As a pastry chef in Paris, I am guilty of frequenting pastry shops, looking for great places and taste combinations. So, even though I have some preferred staples on my sweet addresses list where I enjoy going from time to time, each month I try to discover a few places to put on my sweet map or simply to opt out of going there.
If you’ve been in Paris for awhile, you would have probably noticed that many patisseries, bakeries and restaurants change their menu according to seasonal arrivals of fruits and vegetables on the market. In most pastry shops you will find the summer collection full of mouth-watering apricots, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches and other fresh delicacies that rock and roll from around May till September.
I must admit summer is a great season for enjoying those gifts of nature in their pure state. Going to the markets, I buy fresh produce and feel bad reducing it into a preparation for a cake. However, this huge variety of goods also incites curiosity and interest as to how to relish them in desserts.
This reflection led me to pop in a classy pâtisserie/boulangerie in the 15th arrondissement, Des Gateaux et du Pain. It has two locations; one at Pasteur just two blocks from the metro stop and the other two blocks south of the Rue du Bac metro station.
The chef is Claire Damon, a woman (a rare occasion in the pastry world!) of strong will and character, as well as a rather creative individual. Damon’s philosophy behind the cakes is simple yet effective – the menu changes completely according to the arrivals of fresh fruits and vegetables to the market, with zero artificial aromas or colorants used at the production site.
These days, strawberries and rhubarb rule the ball, as well as some other summer essentials, peaches, apricots and cherries among them.
That said, the two desserts that I took were just the ideal reflection of summer – a strawberry baba and a rose-grapefruit cake. A thing I really treasure Des gâteaux et Du Pain for – their dedication to taste and the great primary materials.
Eating a dessert there feels almost like picking that fruit from the plant or the tree to take a bite and enjoy its’ freshness.
However, this time the baba and the rose-grapefruit cake were not as top-notch as expected. The baba itself tasted a bit old as if it was not on sale the first day and may have been kept in the freezer before serving, and the strawberry cremeux inside was not as generous as I would make it myself.
Thus the strawberry baba didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would.
As a side note, I am definitely on the same page with O. Wilde when he says: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”
Concerning the second pick, I must say the light, barely audible touch of rose and the almost non-existent grapefruit notes made me think of Sadaharu Aoki’s pastries which have a very faint Japanese-inspired taste. The mousse of the rose and grapefruit is light and tender, which is a great bonus since there are many pastry shops these days which add quite a bit of gelatin to their creations.
Besides, chef doesn’t want to hide the slight bitterness of the grapefruit which blends well with that of the rose. For me, this dessert evokes spring more than summer since the latter brings more clearly pronounced, robust flavours and sensations than spring with its’ first rays of sunshine and green leaves on the trees.
Overall, Des Gateaux et du Pain is an outstanding address for light, crisp and well-pronounced flavours in desserts and one of the best places for puff pastry creations, too (croissants, pains au chocolat, chaussons etc.). And, of course, a place worth visiting for something different to your usual pastries selection.
I would love to get feedback from you to know your preferred pastry shop in Paris. Do you have a sweet tooth, or tend to lean toward the savoury side of things?
Do let me know in the comments below! Or send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author:
Elena Kalmykova is a pastry student in Paris from Moscow, Russia.
With a course at Ferrandi and an internship at Cafe Pouchkine behind her, she is looking forward to exploring more of Paris gastronomy scene and sharing her experiences with Dispatches.
Follow her around Paris on Instagram: @elena__kalmykova.