With few other activities to engage in outside of the four walls of our appartement thanks to dear old COVID, Dani and I have clung to life’s simpler pleasures: like daily visits to our neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops.
We have the great fortune (or misfortune, if you’re my waistline) to live on the same block as two highly-reputed bakeries, and a mere stone’s throw from about a dozen others, all vying equally for our love and attention (and money). With places to go being limited to food stores and shops, spending our precious daily minutes outside before curfew often means popping over to a boulangerie for a fresh baguette and the occasional (okay, fine, habitual) pastry.
Our regular go-to pâtisserie has nearly always been this, a pain au chocolat. It is the croissant’s fancy sibling, stuffed with two slim bars of dark chocolate and enough butter to ensure that your fingertips and lips remain well-moisturized for the remainder of the day. The best ones are a mess to eat – they pastry flakes apart all over, and when they’re warm the melted chocolate on the inside smears all over the hands and face, making grown adults look instantly five years old again (or perhaps it’s just me). I simply don’t care. To me, a pain au chocolat is heaven on Earth and I never, ever get sick of them. I wish there was some kind of candle or room spray that could reproduce what it smells like when you pass in front of the bakery and these bad boys are just on their way out of the oven.
This one is from the bakery Terroirs d’avenir on the rue Paul Bert in Paris 11. They also have another bakery in the 2nd on the rue du Nil.
And yet, despite my deep, deep love for the chocolate croissant, there has been a recent new contender for the number one spot atop my favorite pastry list (and I think it may have usurped the pain au chocolat on Dani’s): the escargot – or, as we’ve seen it called more regularly, the roulé:
The “plain” ones are usually filled with raisins and a light, creamy custard. However, bakers have been getting creative with other fillings…
…like pistachio and chocolate (from Du pain et des idées)…
…or even praline (this one is again from Terroirs d’avenir).
I guess you could say we’ve developed something of a love affair with the escargot.
Of course, we’ve also dabbled in some seasonal delights as well. Most recently was the galette des rois that we enjoyed for Epiphany in January. We aren’t Catholic, but who really is going to turn down another excuse to eat an almond cream-filled puff pastry? Far be it from us to turn up our noses.
And since we couldn’t let the season pass after sampling only one single galette des rois, we thought it was best to also try a slice from pâtisserie Nanan. We do work in quality assurance, after all.
Of course, we used Christmas as an opportunity to really go ham on the pastries and brought out the big gun: Cyril Lignac. Cyril Lignac is an uber-famous pastry chef whose pastries have become something of a sensation, especially here in Paris. There is a Cyril Lignac pastry shop AND chocolaterie right on our corner and there is a literal line out the door and down the block every single day. I won’t tell you how long Dani waited in line to score us some goodies on Christmas Eve; just believe me when I say that they were totally worth it.
This was a mini bûche de Noël, pear and chestnut cream flavored. It looks much less appetizing than it tasted: surprisingly light and fluffy and utterly pleasant.
We also had some kind of chocolate concotion, which we did not get a photo of – I can only imagine it was because we were distracted by THIS:
The mother of all Cyril Lignac creations, the famous baba au rhum. An ultra-spongy cake that is positively drenched in rum and syrup, topped with whipped cream…when I say this is the best dessert I have ever eaten in my entire life, I am not exaggerating in the least. It was divine. We split this one on Christmas Eve and went back a week later for another on New Year’s. Zero regrets.
Now where’d I put my running shoes…?