Les desserts

by jemma margaret

As I mentioned earlier, Madeleine and I shared quite a healthy (?) number of desserts over the past week (and numerous compensation salads). This morning we both independently compiled lists of our first, second, and third favorites with some small comments. Perhaps such a collection will be of use to someone, somewhere, someday? However, in the interest of full disclosure I must forewarn that this is compiled from a haphazard sampling with places chosen due to proximity, fame, or trustworthy recommendations. And, as all dessert ratings probably are, these results are entirely subjective.

3. For the bronze medal, and the only coincidence between our two lists, matcha flavoured pastries. Madeleine stayed true to the spirit of the exercise and chose the Zen opéra cake from Sadaharu Aoki saying, “An absolutely beautiful pastry. Although the cognac was a bit overwhelming, I loved the green tea layer and toasty sesame seeds.” I cheated and tied this with the matcha macaron from Pierre Hermé, also paired with sesame. If only matcha powder wasn’t so damn expensive (so says the girl who bought her first half gram of saffron today (more expensive than drugs!)), I would be interested in trying out some recipes. A terrific earthiness that marries well with the small size of French pastry servings.

2. For the silver Madeleine opted for her well chosen combination of salted caramel ice cream and raspberry sorbet in a sugar cone from Berthillon. We shared this cone (actually we shared nearly everything) and Madeleine notes, “The perfect amount and the flavors really came through. It was also very refreshing and a nice combo of tart and sweet.” I enjoyed the combination of tart and sweet found in a very simple strawberry cake from l’Institut Suédois, also chosen by Madeleine (there is a pattern here). I should note that it was around 4 pm and I hadn’t yet eaten anything (though being on New York time, this isn’t as desperate as it sounds). The cake was somewhat meringue like and there was divine whipped cream on the side.

1. Amusingly, both gold choices came from Angelina where we spent a lovely morning getting jittery on sugar and caffeine. Madeleine decided upon, “Angelina’s crisp and ever so slightly burned pastry and vanilla bourbon cream in the Millefeuille. Just the right combination of crunch and sweet cream.” I preferred the deceptively humble pistachio financier, which tasted just like my grandmother’s almond cake except with pistachios. The day after eating it I began browsing recipes and pans, which goes to show.

In conclusion, as I remarked to my dear sister with respect to muffins most American style pastries might as well be made at home. Except for the glorious old-fashioned doughnut, treats found in stateside sweet shops are usually fairly easy to make for their price point. To the contrary, at about 1 euro per croissant one would be a damn fool to spend the requisite 6 hours at home attempting almost certainly inferior results. That said, I seemed to lean toward the simpler pastry options with some of my enthusiasm springing from the possibility of recreation, once again confirming my homebody (or cheap date) status. Madeleine proved a finer palate and a true appreciation for the engineering marvels and subtle interplay of taste and texture that grace the epitomes of French sweets.