Pâtisserie Paradise

Megan Nicholls 

The French are stereotypically famous for their fine wines and delicious cuisine. However, their quintessential cakes and pastries have also played a significant cultural role for centuries. The mouth-watering delicacies might be easily confused with traditional desserts, such as crème brûléeprofiteroles, and tarte tatin, not to mention the well-loved crêpe; and, of course, baked croissants, baguettes, and pains au chocolat. 

The concept of pâtisserie belongs to a completely different category altogether, offering a variety of miniature cakes; mousses; petits-fours; and delicate pastries, made using rich ingredients, and adorned with sugar decorations, handcrafted chocolate, and fresh fruit. The creation of these delights involves food science, precise techniques, as well as artistic flair to create an exquisite culinary experience. The French take this cultural artefact so seriously that establishments can only legally declare themselves ‘pâtisseries’, if they employ a licensed maître pâtissier” (master pastry chef), who has undergone years of intense training and exams.  

This delicious cultural heritage has existed in France for hundreds of years, and pâtisseries across the world now follow their original recipes. In the 21st century, perhaps there is the risk that automated technology and mass-produced products will replace intricate, time-consuming crafts, like pâtisserie. However, artisans have successfully evolved to the point of striking a balance between tradition and innovation, earning a place in our hearts. There is no greater example of this success than the matcha green tea-infused brioche and cherry blossom-flavoured ganache, served as a modern alternative to tradition by upcoming Franco-Japanese pâtisseries. Similarly, one of the most reputable pâtisserie and macaron sellers, Ladurée, opened its doors in 1862 in Paris, but still develops new flavours twice a year. The luxury French bakery has collaborated with many fashion designers, namely Vera Wang, who recently designed a coconut crème chantilly macaron and tropical flavoured mini cakes. Pâtisserie undoubtedly offers customers a rare moment of luxury and decadence, to escape the chaos of their modern lifestyles. Paris, in particular, is full of tourists clutching at precious pastel coloured boxes and the sight of colourful display cases filled with these layered desserts. The influence of social media has contributed to this fashionable trend with countless photos of the intricate, visually-appealing delights appearing on our newsfeeds.  

Some of the most popular pâtisserie delights include: 

  • Mille-feuille – translated as a “a thousand layers”, refers to the wafer-thin sheets of puff pastry stacked between vanilla custard cream. The cake is traditionally glazed with a swirled white and brown icing pattern.  
  • Macaron – an almond-flavoured meringue-based confection, which can be made in a variety of colours and flavours. Two small disks of the biscuit-like delicacy are sandwiched together with buttercream, ganache, or jam. Although macarons are usually an expensive treat, many McDonalds restaurants now sell them as an affordable alternative! 
  • Paris-Brest  a ring of choux pastry, which resembles a wheel and is piped with praline cream. It was created to commemorate one of the oldest cycling races between the two cities.  
  • Café gourmand – consists of a beautifully presented plate with three small pâtisserie items and a cup of coffee. It is seeing an increase in popularity in many establishments in recent years, replacing larger desserts after a meal. 

The bite-sized portions mean you can sample several pâtisserie treats during one visit, in order to truly appreciate their sweet flavour, rainbow of colours, and precise designs. Pâtisserie is not renowned for its student-friendly prices, but this indulgence is completely worth it! The delight and awe created by these simple, dainty cakes is probably best summarised by the French chef Marie- Antoine Carême: “There are five arts: painting; sculpture; poetry; music; and architecture, of which the principle branch is pâtisserie”.  

Some of the most popular pâtisserie delights include; 

  • Mille-feuille translates as a “a thousand layers”, referring to the wafer-thin sheets of puff pastry stacked between vanilla custard cream. The cake is traditionally glazed with a swirled white and brown icing pattern.  
  • macaron is an almond-flavoured meringue-based confection, which can be made in a variety of colours and flavours. Two small disks of the biscuit are sandwiched together with buttercream, ganache or jam. Although macarons are usually an expensive treat, many McDonalds restaurants now sell them as an affordable alternative! 
  • The Paris-Brest was created to commemorate one of the oldest cycling races between the two cities, since the ring of choux pastry resembles a wheel. The pastry is filled with piped praline cream.  
  • In recent years, le café gourmand has increased in popularity in many establishments, replacing larger desserts after a meal. It consists of a beautifully presented plate with three small pâtisserie items and a cup of coffee. 

The bite-sized portions mean you can sample several pâtisserie treats during one visit, in order to truly appreciate their sweet flavour, rainbow of colours and precise design. Pâtisserie is not renowned for its student-friendly prices, but this indulgence is completely worth it! The delight and awe created by these simple, dainty cakes is probably best summarised by the French chef Marie-Antonin Carême; “there are five arts; painting, sculpture, poetry, music and architecture, of which the principle branch is pâtisserie”.  

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