Algerine Pastries

Algerine Pastries

Walking through the Oberkampf neighborhood this past Friday on my way from one appointment to the next, I glanced at my watch and gleefully realized I had just enough time to drop by La Bague de Kenza, a luxurious Algerian pastry shop on rue Saint-Maur.

There was a line snaking outside onto the sidewalk — it was still Ramadan then and many of the customers were buying sweets for the nightly fast-breaking feast — but this gave me time to be entertained by the verbal fight that broke out when one lady accused another of trying to cut in front of her (if you hadn’t eaten or drunk anything all day, you would be nippy too), and to admire the colorful multitude of picture-perfect delights filled with almonds, pistachios, walnuts, figs, or dates, and flavored with honey, rose water, orange blossom water, mint, citrus, or vanilla.

It’s okay not to know the names of all (or any) of the little guys: the staff often caters to novices, so you can just smile and point, or ask for an assortment. I myself ordered eight different ones: a pistachio skandriate and a lemon and vanilla cornet aux amandes (pictured above, top and right), a sugar-coated corne de gazelle and a walnut baqlava (pictured here, left and top right), a doigt de Kenza, a rfisse (a mix of semolina, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, date, and honey, ground into a marzipan-like, pleasantly grainy paste), and two more that I unfortunately can’t name: a piped round of almond and walnut paste flavored with orange blossom water and topped with an unpeeled almond (pictured above, bottom left) and a meringue round filled with pistachio paste (pictured here, bottom right).

People tend to group under the general label of pâtisseries orientales any pastry that comes from North Africa or the Middle East, but the fact is that each country and each region has its own style, and the pastries at La Bague de Kenza generally follow that of the city of Algiers. Although they couldn’t be considered diet-friendly by any stretch of the imagination, their confections show a subtlety and balance that clearly set them apart from the cloying, oily specimens one occasionally comes across. And because the shop is renowned and popular, their turnover is high and their selection corrrespondingly fresh.

While two thirds of the boutique are devoted to sweets, it would be a mistake to overlook the savory section close to the register: their coca and bourek (flaky or crisp turnovers filled with meat or vegetables) are delicious, as are their semolina breads, leavened or unleavened, and their m’hajeb (bell pepper and tomato crepe). They also carry soft pouches of excellent laban (fermented milk) and raïb (curdled milk) from a farm outside of Paris.

And if you’re interested in making your own Algerine pastries, you can turn to the inspiring and beautiful recipe book that the shop owners wrote, called Les Douceurs de Kenza. It will probably take a bit of practice to get yours to look as exquisite as theirs, but it is a great book to learn more about the cultural and legendary backdrop of each confection.

La Bague de Kenza
Map it!
106 rue Saint-Maur – 75011 Paris
01 43 14 93 15

  • http://www.serriste.de/foodblog Anne

    I’m never sure if I should love or hate those Paris-specific articles you write. The restaurants and places always sound so good and I hate that I can’t just run and try them out myself.

    (Which of course means that I love your culinary city guide.)

  • http://www.lindamathieu.com Linda Mathieu

    I’ve been trying to work my way through the many French patiseries, now I see I will have to move on to another country’s pastries as well. Hard work but someone has to do it.

  • torie

    I love that place! The last time I was there none of my friends wanted anything, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s not possible to walk by that place without wanting to try every single delicious pastry!

  • http://wednesdaychef.typepad.com Luisa

    There was an article in the New York Times a while ago about this bakery (and a few others) in Paris that sell North African sweets. I, of course, clipped the recipes with every intention of trying them out, but still haven’t gotten around to it: they’re complicated things! They look awfully delicious, though…

  • http://www.cforcooking.com Jeff

    No cutting man…especially when waiting for sweets!!

  • http://adrianmoore.blogspot.com adrian

    The owners are berber, not from Algiers, as far as I know, so quite a few of the pastries (and other items) are not typically Arab in origin.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Adrian – I do believe both of the owners are from Algiers, but that’s not to say they don’t also have non-Algerine specialties in their range.

  • http://sooishi.blogspot.com/ sooishi

    ça à l’air très joli ces délicatesses,
    je ne connais pas du tout ce genre de pâtisseries, belle photo!

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.typepad.com/ barbara

    I’ve been invided to a halal bihalal this weekend so hopefully will be trying some of these delightful pastries

  • http://www.vindetable.net aer

    Sounds heavenly. Will definitely add it to the list of places to visit in Paris.

  • http://www.willows95988.typepad.com tongue in cheek

    When I was in North Africa I gained ten pounds onhtese sweets, mint tea…and the almond milk!! Heaven across the sea!

  • http://www.paristriptips.com paristriptips

    I absolutely ADORE the Moroccan and Algerian pastry shops in Paris. And you’re right, I just go and point and end up with what I want. I could eat a boxful at a time!

  • milo

    In Munich there are just a few Algerian patiserie shops ( apprx. 3 ), but we have more turkish sweety shops with baclava ( hmmm ).

  • http://coupecouture.fr Sylvie

    Je crois que les propriétaires sont effectivement Berbères, mais cela ne les empêche pas de venir d’Alger ! Un ami Berbère et qui a passé sa jeunesse à Alger m’avait recommandé cette pâtisserie mais je ne suis jamais allée.

  • CelineCook

    Tu comprends mon drame d’habiter rue Saint Maur!!

  • http://adrianmoore.blogspot.com adrian

    Je sais Sylvie, mais il y a des subtiles différences entre la cuisine berbere et Arab, c’est tout. Et trés souvant je préfere la cuisine berbere.

  • Vivianne

    I’m so thrilled to have found this blog. It is simply fantastic!!
    The pictures are beautiful, the stories are interesting and tasteful, and the tips so helpful.
    I’ll be visiting often…

    Vivianne

  • Seham

    I would recommend you try lebanese pastry next ! A great place to try it in Paris is “El Dar” situated 8-10 rue Frédéric Sauton in the 5th arrondissement.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Seham – Thank you so much for the recommendation: I’ll give it a try and report back!

  • Robyn

    Hello, just wanted to drop by and say that you have a lovely blog. I enjoy reading it. It’s also nice to find some good recipes that use the metric system, hehe. Thank you for sharing them.

  • Katy

    Clotilde: for people like me – sadly limited to the English language with a little Spanish – would it be possible to translate a few of your favorite recipes from this book? It all looks wonderful, but it makes me sad to think of the zillions of recipes and cookbooks I’ll never be able to enjoy because I don’t speak the language.

  • Poppysad

    Dear Clotilde,

    Sorry for leaving an off-topic comment, but I’ve just noticed that you finished “La vie mode d’emploi”. My question is this: how did you find the pasta salad recipe which is included in it? I don’t have the book nearby but I do remember it looked quite difficult (at least for an inexperienced cook). Would you be interested to try it? And do you find the chromatic menus of the old lady’s cook inspiring? I love reading them.
    I always think how cool it would be to try recipes out of literary books (for example, I’ve been wanting for some time to bake Peau d’âne’s cake, without the ring). But I’m afraid it would result in a dreadful, uneatable mess.
    Thanks for your great blog. I’m impatiently waiting for the publication of your book.

    Camille

    PS Taniguchi’s graphic novels are excellent.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Katy – I have yet to try anything from the book, but when I do I will post about it and include the recipe.

    Poppysad – Funny you should mention that! I really enjoyed reading Gertrude’s chromatic menus and Docteur Dinteville’s crab salad recipe: I, too, love the idea of making a recipe from a novel.

    But when I read the list of ingredients and the instructions for the salad, it really didn’t appeal to me: no offense to Monsieur Perec (perhaps he meant it this way, who knows), but the recipe seemed quite fussy and I don’t think of crab and Stilton as a marriage made in heaven. And good crab is hard enough to come by here that I probably wouldn’t risk it. Then again maybe I’m wrong and the “Salade de crabe Dinteville” is a delight?

  • http://www.larrylinkler.blogspot.com Larry L

    I love Algerian pastry. I could never make it look so good myslef. Great shot!

  • robin

    Bague also has a wonderful savoury noodle dish called Reshta which I have eaten for lunch several times.

    BTW, Have you written about Bague for LeFooding?

  • L.Ramphal

    Made the Orange cake (no flour) with the ground Almonds.
    Had no white suger but used l.brown.Came out perfect and delicious.

    This will be on my favourate list.

  • Margaux

    I used to work in an Algerian restaurant in Paris, rue d’Aligre (those of you who like Parisian markets should definitely check it out) called “La Ruche a Miel” and I can assure you, the patries comming from La Bague de Kenza will seem nothing to you once you’ve tried the ones sold at “La Ruche”. When I worked there I must have gained approx. 10 pounds…. AND I used to hate Maghrebian pastris because I don’t like almond paste and heavy duty sweet stuff… then I discovered La Ruche… Anyway, as you can see, I am a big fan, and there are reasons to be!

    Clotidle, je suis vraiment tres admirative de ton site et de ton histoire qui ressemble beaucoup a la mienne.. Je suis actuellement aux Etats-Unis (je suis a moitie americaine) mais je suis nee et j’ai grandi en France et la nourriture me manque enormement…. D’autant plus que j’ai eu une petite entreprise de restauration a domicile a une epoque…. J’aimerai beaucoup que l’on s’echange des mails et qu’on se raconte nos experiences respectives.

    Felicitations pour le site, il est genial. Et merci pour ce petit bout d’Europe en ligne!

    Margaux

  • Nadjet

    Where can i buy these cookies???!!!! I live in Dallas, Texas and there are no Algerian restaurants:((,….Is there a website where you can buy em from…please help , i have been craving this stuff for a long time..

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