Au Levain du Marais

16 04 2008

I went to check out a market in my new neighborhood yesterday.  I had 10 euros to spend and my list was not too long, so browsing around after I had gotten what I needed I stumbled upon a fromagier  who had little (4-5 inches in diameter) rounds of lait cru Camembert.  They were 2.80 and I had about 3 euros left over, so I figured it was a sign.

Returning home with my market bounty, I realized that I didn’t have any bread in the house.  I’ve been meaning to check out Au Levain du Marais, a boulangerie just around the corner from my apartment.  (Well, one of their locations is – I think they have 3 or 4 in total.)  I didn’t have any more cash, and naturally my bank doesn’t have any ATMs within a half a mile, but I figured if I spent enough I could use my bank card.  So under the guise of research (hey, I’ve got to find somewhere I want to work in the event that Pierre Hermé has enough help) I bought a baguette tradition, two croissants for breakfast this morning, a coffee éclair, and a millefeuille.  Of course it turns out they don’t take cards, so I grudgingly spent the coins I had been hoarding for the laundromat.

I don’t regret it.  As it has become a habit, I tore off the quignon and took a bite.  Nice crusty exterior, with a chewy, big-holed crumb.  I couldn’t wait to try it with the camembert.

Good bread, great cheese, what more can you ask for?

The cheese was amazing.  Rich and almost bacony in flavor, with a sweet, oniony tang.  If quiche lorraine was a cheese, this would be it.  Fantastic.  I will never buy pasteurized Camembert again, if I can help it.

The éclair, which I neglected to photograph, was unremarkable.  The choux was good, but the glaze was the overly sweet fondant one finds on WAY too many pastries in this town, and the custard filling tasted too eggy and felt overcooked.

We may have overindulged on our pre-dinner bread and cheese (who could blame us?) so we ended up saving the millefeuille for breakfast as well.  I heated up the croissants in the oven (travesty, I know, but I was trying to buy enough to merit using the bank card…) and let the millefeuille sit out to take the chill off.  When the croissants were heated through, Nick and I ate them with our coffee and tea, respectively.  Halfway through, I had to stop and take a picture.  Despite being a day old, this is one of the better croissants I’ve had in Paris.

Croissant innards

It was buttery, but there was something more.  The pastry was very flaky, but not at all tough.  It tasted like there may have been levain in the croissant dough, which could explain the overall tenderness of the final product.  (I’m not entirely sure about that – there’s so much I don’t know about yeast and how it works.)  At any rate, a delicious croissant.

Millefeuille, aka Napoleon

The millefeuille, perhaps better known in the States as a Napoleon, had nicely caramelized puff pastry layered with vanilla cream.  I wondered how they got it to keep its shape so well (back home, I always had trouble with the cream oozing out when I tried to cut the Napoleons) but one bite answered the question: it’s got to be mousseline.  Or whatever they call it here when pastry cream is blended with buttercream.  Glad I let it sit out a while before eating it.  It was good – creamy and buttery with just the right amount of sweetness.  I noted with pleasure the lack of fondant glaze over the top.  I definitely prefer it when the simple flavors of the puff pastry and pastry cream are allowed to shine.  So why, then, are they using fondant on the éclairs?  I’ll just skip those from now on.  And I can’t wait to try some fresh croissants one of these mornings.


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