Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paris-Brest, Paris-New York, Always Divine

Phew. I got to indulge in Jacques Genin's glorious Paris-Brest just a month before he put the kibosh on making pastries. So enamored was I, I also went for Philippe Conticini’s award-winning Brest. Both were divine: rings of choux pastry, piped full of rich hazelnut pastry cream. Classically French, undeniably indulgent.
So why stop now? It may be a new year and a different city, but that’s no reason not to indulge in the French classic when the opportunity presents itself.

Not that the Paris-Brest readily presents itself in New York. Macarons are ubiquitous. Baba Rhum is creeping onto menus around town. The Paris-Brest is more elusive.

But when Dominique Ansel opened his Soho bakery a little over a year ago, this was the pastry that garnered him a lot of attention. (That and his oh-so-sweet-sticky-buttery-perfect Kouign Amann).

Ansel, inspired by his go-to snack when he first came to the city—none other than a Snickers bar—replaced the hazelnut cream with rich dark chocolate and savory peanut butter that meld beautifully between the softly crunchy rings of pastry.

He also miniaturized it—perhaps the only dessert that is smaller here in America than in France.

And showing the French flair for artistry, dots of peanut butter and candied nuts decorate the salted caramel glacage on top. 
It's reassuring to know this French beauty is so close here in New York.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Long live the kings!

January sixth is the Day of Epiphany in France—a religious holiday that celebrates Christ being visited by the Three Kings on the Twelfth Night. Fair enough. But what makes the holiday worth nothing is that the French celebrate all month long with wonderful galettes des rois.

The cakes beckon from everywhere; from neighborhood boulangeries to renowned patisseries, hard to miss because of the paper crowns that top them.

They’re not the prettiest cakes the French make. But they’re exquisite for anyone who loves creamy almond paste as much as I do.

The construct is relatively simple—essentially frangipane (almond paste) inside flaky puff pastry. A little egg and sugar, maybe some crème fraiche or Grand Marnier. It depends on the recipe and baker. But I’m quite certain all versions are delicious.

There are also some strange traditions associated with this celebration: a small plastic charm, une fève, is hidden inside for some lucky recipient to get and become king for the day.

Once the galette is cut, a child hides under the table to give the name of the person that will be served next.

The galettes are often washed down with cider or dry white wine.

Another reason to love the French.

Reposted from 2010.