It’s becoming more and more apparent that France is fuelled by butter.
This is one place that I love to window shop. For me, the presentation of each individual little pastry is almost enough to satiate my hunger. The delicacy of some of the constructs can only have been done with proper care and I’m led to imagine the hands and the minds behind the creations (possibly a sweaty man unit with a floury head but let’s imagine something a little more romantic thank-you).
Pastry is a serious business here in France. To ensure its maximum quality with zero sloppy meringues and no croissant failures, the word ‘patisserie’ can only be used once it’s been legally cleared that there is a pastry professional in the house. This means employing a ‘maître ‘patisserie’ or ‘master of pastry’; someone who has completed lengthy training, examinations, a grueling apprenticeship and eaten 11 croquembouches in under an hour. It also means a bloody delicious array of French goodies for the weary and wild eyed.
After a day cleaning chateaux bathtubs and scraping the remains of le petit dejeuner off plates we were dropped (by John, our helpx host) in the nearby town of Saumur to have a wander (a small town in the Loire Valley).
First of all, there’s a big ol’ Château thrusting it’s grandeur onto the peasants below. Secondly there’s wine. It’s actually a really sweet town; winding cobblestones streets filled with bars and cafés, balconies covered in flowers, butchers, cheesemongers and yes yes yes the sweet smell of the patisserie and boulangerie.
So after walking the town, we treated ourselves to our first French pastry made by a MASTER.
While Quin took one look at the face sized meringues and had a heart attack of happiness, I picked out an apple and apricot spiral on top of a thin round of pastry; the Tarte au pomme.
Some other classic French pastries to try include…
Éclair – made from choux pastry, filled with cream and often topped with chocolate ganache.
Paris Brest – two rings of choux pastry sandwiches with a ridiculous amount of heavy cream and sprinkled with sugar and flaked almonds. Not actually a homage to the breasts of Paris but named for a bicycle race between Paris and Brest.
Crossiant – butter with a small element of pastry somewhere in there.
Macaroon – the popular little almond meringue rounds filled with flavoured cream of increasingly flamboyant flavours.
Mille-fielle – meaning ‘thousand leaves’ because of the thin layers of pastry that line the top and bottom of a thick custardy cream, the top layer covered in a white icing swirled with chocolate.
Diabetes – all of the above.
Bon appetit! (Pronounced bone-up-a-tree for all the Aussies out there)