Shops & Markets

Pierre Hermé’s Aztec Entremets

Pierre Hermé's Aztec Entremets

As many of you guessed, the dessert for our dinner party last Saturday was ever so kindly contributed by pâtisserie expert and enthusiast Ulrich, he-who-works-with-Pierre-Hermé. You see, Pierre Hermé is a perfectionist and it really shows in the simple beauty of his creations. Extreme and skillful care is taken in the preparation, but once in a while of course, something goes wrong. In that case the product cannot possibly be sold as is, and whoever in the staff is interested (and the quickest, I guess) can have it.

And this is how Ulrich was able to bring a large Aztec cake (more precisely, Pierre Hermé’s cakes are called “entremets”). I will describe the Aztec cake for you, but before I do so, I feel I have to warn you to please take any action you deem appropriate to protect your keyboard from accidental saliva spillage. Ready? Here we go. The Aztec cake starts with a bottom layer of muesli biscuit, crunchy and tender at the same time, with teeny tiny bits of dried fruits and nuts. Then come several intermixed layers of flourless chocolate cake, dense and moist ; orange compote with balsamic vinegar, zesty and aromatic ; and chocolate mousse with specks of fleur de sel, mellow and soft with the subtle shadow of salt. These layers are topped by a final thin layer of macaron-like almond meringue. All of this is wrapped in a shawl of glossy frosting, of a deep dark chocolate color, luscious and velvety. The final touch of beauty on this cake is a disk of caramel, delicate and thin, brushed with a smooth and shiny sugar coating, the color of copper with specks of gold, deposited on four small dice of ganache, and seemingly floating just a few millimeters above the cake, like a nimbus.

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Pousse-Pousse

The Sprouted Seeds Project

At the lovely Pousse-Pousse boutique the other day, I bought myself a sprouter, and two tubs of sprouting seeds. A tub of pink radish seeds, and a tub of the “longevity mix“, which includes alfalfa, broccoli, turnip, lentil, mustard, black radish and soy seeds.

They have a lot of other seeds to choose from, but the pink radish is peppery while the longevity mix has a more mellow taste (devoid of aniseed), so the duo seemed like a good place to start.

I left them to soak in water for the night, before placing them on different racks of the sprouter, and have been faithfully watering them, twice a day, with water filtered in our Brita jug. They’re supposed to be ready after 5 days, and so far so good, so Monday should find us eating our first sprouted seeds salad!

Pousse-Pousse
7 rue Notre-Dame de Lorette
75009 Paris
01 53 16 10 81

Mini Sandwich Skewer

Brochette De Mini-Sandwiches

[Skewered Mini-Sandwiches]

The boulangépicier store, or “be”, opened a year ago in Paris, and is owned by Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser, the famous restaurant and bakery emperors. The name, as well as the concept, is a fusion of “boulanger” and “épicier” – baker and grocer.

On the grocery front, they sell a range of gourmet goods (unusual spices, condiments, jams, chocolate, candy, pasta…), a small selection of organic produce and dairy products. On the bakery front, they sell the fantastic Kayser breads, made on the premises, an array of lunch items (soups, salads and sandwiches), as well as a few pâtisseries and desserts (tartlets, cookies, chocolate mousse, fruit salad…).

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G. Detou: The Magic Baker’s Store

G. Detou

Last weekend, while I was in the 1st arrondissement buying kitchenware, I remembered my grandmother telling me about a professional baking supplies store she used to go to when she still had four sons to feed at home.

The store is called G. Detou, which happens to be a pun: “G. Detou” is pronounced like “J’ai de tout“, which means “I have a bit of everything”.

I couldn’t remember where the shop was so I looked up the address, and I was amazed when I finally located it, right in the middle of rue Tiquetonne, which I’d walked up and down countless times without ever noticing this jewel was there. I really don’t have an explanation other than that there is magic at work here — you know, this little nook of a place that thou shalt see only if thy heart is pure and thy desire to buy baking supplies in bulk is earnest.

G. Detou

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E. Dehillerin

E. Dehillerin

E. Dehillerin* is a renowned cooking utensils outlet located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It’s a totally no-frills store that has stayed pretty much the same since it was first opened in 1820, though I imagine they didn’t sell silicone baking mats then.

It’s open to individuals, but is mainly targeted at professionals. As a consequence, all prices are listed before tax (H.T., meaning “Hors taxes”), contrary to what is customary in regular French stores.

The sales people are helpful and knowledgeable, but they are definitely not the patient, shoulder-rubbing type.

When you step inside the store, the first thing that may strike you is how narrow the aisles are lined floor to ceiling with metal containers and coarse wooden shelves, the products stacked with no particular merchandizing effort. There is very little space to move around, and you keep having to make way for bustling sales reps checking the reference for sharpening stones, and for customers who are trying to get a closer look at the giant soup ladles right next to the stainless steel mandoline slicers you yourself are inspecting.

The sales people are helpful and knowledgeable, but they are definitely not the patient, shoulder-rubbing type. They’ll tell you which type of bakeware is the sturdiest, but they won’t hold your hand and nod along while you debate which size gratin dish you really need — if you’re looking for the French Williams-Sonoma, this is not it.

Beyond the sheer fun of trying to hold your ground in this beehive, wearing your freshest and most charming smile, the reward is this : top-quality, professional-grade gear at affordable prices, and good, no-nonsense advice. I love this store.

E. Dehillerin

On my recent visits, here’s what I got :

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