Around Paris: 10th: Du Pain et Des Idées (again)

5 01 2010


It’s January again, and you know what that means: galettes des rois!  It also means a new year, and a new project.  Last year I visited (virtually or otherwise) a different French region every month.  This year I want to focus on my adopted hometown, Paris.  My goal is to have (and write about) at least one food adventure in every one of Paris’ 20 arrondissements.  I haven’t yet decided if I’ll be doing them sequentially or not, but I’m starting with the 10th because it’s close to home, and home to one of my very favorite bakeries in town.  Yes, I’ve already written about Du Pain et Des Idées, but that was before I became a regular.  (And before Clotilde convinced me that sometimes it’s ok to repeat yourself on a blog, especially if it is about something that gets repeated frequently on your table.)  It is safe to say that I have by now sampled all their products, except the ones with walnuts, to which I am allergic.  For those of you who are wondering, the best mini-pavé is the Bayonne-Reblochon-figue, a lovely sweet and savory bite of cured ham, stinky cheese, and fresh fig.  I am also a big fan of the seasonal fruit tarts, which for most of the winter consist of apple caramelized in salted butter.  But I had yet to try their galette.  Until now.

Gorgeous galette

As you can see, it is spectacularly beautiful.  Fortunately, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.  Nick and I split a small one (which I am pretty sure is intended for four people) for breakfast on Sunday after a morning walk along the sunny Canal St. Martin.  The puff pastry is golden, buttery, and extremely flaky, and the almond filling is just right: not too sweet, moist as opposed to dry, and all the almond flavor comes from actual almonds.  After polishing off the galette (I got the bean, and used my powers to decree that I didn’t have to wear the silly paper crown) and our mugs of home-brewed coffee, we headed over to the Centre Pompidou for a free Sunday (the first Sunday of the month, many of Paris’ museums are free!) modern art fix.  But that’s another arrondissement.

Following me on my adventures around Paris is easy – check out my Platial map, the Gourmand’s Map of Paris.  It has markers for places I’ve written about as well as ones I’m keeping to myself.  I try to keep it up to date, and give useful information such as addresses, Métro stops, and opening hours.  Here’s to a fun new year of exploring!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Du Pain et des Idées

25 07 2008

A few weeks ago, at the fête de la cour, one of our neighbors directed us to check out a boulangerie about 5 minutes away.  I finally got around to it last week, and my life will never be the same. 

Du Pain et des Idées is, as the neighbor said, not too far from my apartment (although I pass at least 4 other bakeries on the way there).  The charming storefront is situated at the end of a cute little street just off the Canal St. Martin. 

My new favorite boulangerie

It is owned and run by Christophe Vasseur, a former fashion salesman who, in his forties, decided to scrap it all and learn the art of baking bread.  And I’m glad he did, because he makes some of the best bread in town.  So far I’ve brought home the flute à l’ancienne, a long, thin bread (as the name implies), and the pain des amis, a large, flattish bread sold in hunks of 250 or 500 grams.  Both are superior in flavor to just about any bread I’ve had so far in Paris.  They have gorgeously crispy crusts that make me extremely happy to finally have a proper bread knife.

But neither of these is the reason I’ve been back three times in a week.  No, my new obsession is this:

So many flavors, so little time...

These little rolls are the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread.  Just imagine, fist-sized, fresh baked bread with a host of sweet and savory fillings.  I have taken to stopping by on the way home from work and grabbing one for a late lunch.  So far my favorite is the tomato confit and feta one, but the still-warm spinach and goat cheese wasn’t half bad!  There’s a honey-sesame one I’m dying to try, and there always seems to be something new.  I could probably eat one every day and never get tired of them.  My only question is: Why doesn’t every bakery in Paris… no, France… no, the WORLD, make these?

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc

27 05 2008

And now, the long-awaited Véronique Mauclerc post!  I won’t be putting up any pictures of her breads, because they’d just make mine look bad. Well, that, and I don’t have any decent pictures of them.  But they are something special, I will tell you that.  The first one I tried was a hazelnut, almond, and pistachio bread that was to die for, especially toasted and buttered with jam on top.  Apparently, Véronique Mauclerc has one of only four wood-burning ovens in Paris!  In it she and her team bake large loaves of bread using organic flours and natural yeast (levain).  What was interesting to me in her shop, the first time I went, was that the breads are not necessarily sold whole.  Many of them are too large for a family to eat in a couple of days, so they are sold by weight.  You tell the woman at the counter how big of a piece you want, and she cuts the bread and weighs it.  If you want it sliced, she’ll do that, too.  I have since learned that this is the way bread is sold by many artisan bakers, but I still find the concept kind of novel.

Of course, no boulangerie is complete without at least a small selection of pastries.  The pastries are usually of a more rustic style than you would find at a pâtisserie, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less tasty.

Tarte au Citron

Take, for example, this lemon tart.  The tart shell itself was filled with a buttery cookie-like substance, rendering what was essentially a thick shortbread cookie for the base.  And then there’s that gorgeous slab of bruléed lemon curd perched on top.  Not too sweet, not too tart, with a firm yet creamy texture.

Or this rhubarb crumble tart:

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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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