Jan Retail Therapy: Parisian Pâtisserie


Firstly, there’s the sheer overwhelm of walking into a Parisian boulanger – the kind that specialises in haute pâtisserie (high pastry making) – and being greeted by a rhapsody in every imaginable (edible) colour, all beautifully preserved in an array of shapes and sizes. Then there’s the language. Even if you can speak French, pâtisserie is a language all unto its own. It’s pain-this and tarte-that, eclair, glaçage, gianduia, choco-tonka and citron vert… and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Sure, you don’t need to have a background in pastry making to enjoy a jaunt through the wonderful world of these ultra-refined creations, but the more familiar you become with its nuanced charms, the richer the experience will be. So, let’s jump in.

Pastry is so ingrained in French culture that it’s hard to imagine it didn’t originate in France. It is said to have arrived from Vienna when Marie Antoinette (an Austrian, if you’ve never gotten acquainted with the last queen of France) married Louis XVI. But if the Viennese planted the seed, the French certainly made it blossom.

The original Viennese method for making these enriched breads and pastries called for the use of pastry flour, milk and yeast, and thanks to a special oven (brought to France by the Austrian, Auguste Zang), the concept of baking by steaming was introduced to the world of pastry. Feeling that these pastries lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, the French soon added butter to the mix and figured out that by layering the dough, it would give birth to the now-immortal flaky pastry.

More recently, an haute pâtisserie craze erupted when Pierre Hermé, the heir of four generations of master Alsacien bakers and pastry makers, opened Maison Pierre Hermé in Paris in 2001. But that wasn’t his first rodeo. Before that in 1998, he opened the first of his Maisons in Tokyo. He is often credited with bringing a sense of taste and modernity to the craft in France.

Following a philosophy of “pleasure is the only guide”, Hermé has created his own universe of taste, pleasure and indulgence. Today, Paris is awash with exemplary pastries from the likes of Christophe Adam (famous for his eclairs), Philippe Conticini, Yann Couvreur and Cedric Grolet, not to mention the pastries of the famous institutions, Café Pouchkine and Fauchon.

A Short Guide

Following some of the big names in haute patisserie on Instagram is a great starting point, and a way of peeking behind the curtain to see what they’re all about. Most of them have a “maison” (or a few) somewhere in Paris, but if time is limited, why not pop into Galleries Lafayette for a sampling of all the most noteworthy pastry chefs’ creations?

Tarte Abricot Pistache

Apricot Pistachio Tart from Eric Kayser

Rich shortcrust pastry filled with an almond-pistachio cream, topped with glazed apricots and chopped nuts

Éclair Choco Tonka

Chocolate Tonka Éclair from Yann Couvreur

Tonka bean ganache, cocoa chips and dark chocolate glaze

Bisou-Bisou Exotique

Exotic Kiss-Kiss from Fauchon

Crispy, caramelized coconut layers on a soft coconut biscuit infused with exotic passion fruit flavours, covered in a coconut ganache.

Éclair Citron Yuzu

Lemon Yuzu Éclair from L’Éclair de Génie by

Christophe Adam

Filled with lemon cream, topped with a lemon glaze and soft meringue

Merveille au Praline

Praline Marvel from Yann Couvreur

Chocolate mousse, hazelnut praline, crunchy meringue, chocolate glaze and dark chocolate and hazelnut chips

Éclair Jasmine

Jasmine Éclair from L’Éclair de Genie by

Christophe Adam

Filled with a jasmine tea cream, topped with a jasmine tea glaze and sugar flowers

Éclair Rouge Baiser

Chocolate and Raspberry Éclair from L’Éclair de Genie by Christophe Adam

Filled with a chocolate cream and almond paste, topped with a raspberry glaze

Paris Brest

from Fauchon

Praline cream filling concealing a pecan-almond-hazelnut praline heart, sprinkled with nuts

Plaisir Sucre

Sweet Pleasure from Pierre Hermé

Dacquoise biscuit with crunchy hazelnuts, hazelnut crisp, thin wafers of milk chocolate, chocolate ganache and chocolate chantilly

Tarte Pistache D’Iran

Iranian Pistachio Tart from Yann Couvreur

Sweet almond paste with frangipane, covered in pistachio nuts

Tarte Citron Vert Shiso

Lime Shiso Tart from Yann Couvreur

Agar lime shiso, crispy meringue and lime zest

Tarte Infiniment Caramel

Infinitely Caramel Tart from Pierre Hermé

Shortbread pastry filled with caramel and lemon juice, soft caramel and caramel mascarpone cream

Tarte Gianduja

Gianduja Hazelnut Tart from Fauchon

A delicate gianduja (sweet chocolate and hazelnut spread) ganache with hazelnuts and a gold glaze