Canellés?…Not!

Some of your are sharper than I thought and were very, very close.

And thanks to Aude, I’ve added a new French word to my vocabulary: Nounours, or, Teddy Bear (ours means ‘bear’.)
Brian thought they were the French version of Mallomars™and he shares my passion for the little dome-like marshmallow mounds resting on a disk of graham crackers finished with an über-thin dark chocolate coating.

Luckyguess perhaps mockingly thought they were breasts, but if breasts were indeed available in a chocolate-coated variety, I suspect they’d be a lot more popular than they already are. And Pru fell for the oldest trick in the book, the ‘slide-your-cursor-over-the-blog-photo’, which effectively threw her off-track completely.

So what are they?

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They’re chocolate-coated candies with a marshmallow filling, and a nubbin of hazelnut paste (a word that may send Aude to the French dictionary, as Nounours sent me to mine), all enrobed in a thin shell of delicously-dark chocolate. Each candy perfectly resembles a canellé, those little cakes from Bordeaux, baked in copper molds coated with beeswax, creating a dark, crusty shell around the eggy cake batter.
Canellés became all the rage amongst American bakers a few years back, but they’re difficult to bake correctly (…and before you get your panties in a knot about how I’ve spelled canellés, there’s a few different ways to spell them.)

When you find one, a good canellé will be very good indeed…but a well-made one is indeed rarly encountered (there’s a kiosk in the gare Montparnasse in Paris which sells terrific canellés direct from Bordeaux). The best have a hard, tough outer-coating, yielding to a soft, rich, vanilla-scented center that’s eggy and pillow-soft.

When I spotted these in the confectionary shop, the proprietor excited told me all about them…but in such rapid-fire French, that although her enthusiam had become contageous, I could only comprehend about one-third of what she was saying. When I detected the word guimauve (marshmallow) jumbled in her exhaltations, I had to try them.

And luckily for me, I did!

Now I have to find those little chocolate-dipped nounours

Guess What?

Anyone know what these are?…

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(Clue: They’re not what you think.)

Latte Sal

I was never a big fan of milk chocolate.
It was always too sweet, too bland, and never gave me that same chocolate rush of pleasure that a nice chunk of dark, bittersweet chocolate did. When I wrote my chocolate book, I heard from more than a few people, sheepishly, that they preferred milk chocolate. So I wanted to find out why a chocolate-lover would prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate.

Even pastry chef Pierre Hermé in Paris prefers milk chocolate in most of his desserts, including his famous towering 70€ Chocolate Cherry Cake:

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Note: My birthday is coming up in December…and I’ve never had one.

Just letting you know.

After much thought (yes, I think about these things all the time) I came to the conclusion that the problem is when you compare milk chocolate to dark chocolate. One is not necessarily better than another. They’re both two different things. I think of milk chocolate as a ‘confection’ made of chocolate with a bit of milk added. Eating milk chocolate isn’t like eating bittersweet chocolate just like eating red licorice (yum) should not be compared to black licorice (ick).

It’s similar to comparing a Vodka & Tonic to a shot of vodka.
Both are drinks that people drink, and both use vodka as a base, but they’re entirely different and don’t warrant comparison. Sometimes you want a Vodka & Tonic, and other times you want, or in some cases need, a neat, icy shot of vodka.

Remember the 80’s when people drank spritzers? (weren’t we cool when we ordered one…)
That infamous concoction of white wine topped off with sparkling club soda. It wasn’t a glass of white wine anymore, but something different, but it was made with white wine. And they weren’t bad, although I wonder what react I’d get here in Paris if I asked the waiter for a glass of white wine with some fizzy water added?

So chocolate-makers are trying to convert us dark chocolate lovers with new milk chocolate bars, which contain anywhere from 40%-65% cacao solids (the amount of cacao beans used to formulate the bar.) Milk chocolate must be at least 10% cacao solids to legally be called milk chocolate.

So in my quest to appreciate milk chocolate, one favorite is Domori’s Latte Sal. It’s a bar of cioccolato al latte made with 44% cacao solids and a clever touch of fleur de sel. That little pinch of fine sea salt from the Guérande takes the sweetness off the chocolate and adds a nice, curious counterpoint.

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Domori’s Latte Sal milk chocolate bar is available from Chocosphere in the United States.

3 Favorite Façades

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I pass this café often when strolling up the rue de Chemin Vert, in the 11th arrondissement. Someday I’ll stop in at the bar for a café express since I’ve always loved the lettering out front.
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My local La Poste, a streamlined Art Deco masterpiece built in 1935, meant to suggest the speed and futuristic-optimism of the industrial revolution. Some would argue La Poste is anything but speedy and optimistic, but I’ve found the French postal system generally dependable and remarkably efficient. Located at 35, rue de Castex, in the lower Marais.
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Paris is full of small, cozy neighborhood restaurants that serve very decent food at reasonable prices, usually enjoyed with a hearty carafe of vin rouge maison. They’re not meant to ‘wow’ you will culinary feats; thankfully you’ll find no dried porcini powder rimming your plate or desserts scented with basil.

The welcoming façade of Aux Pyrénées at 25, rue Beautrellis, certainly is inviting and has plenty of charm.

The Chocolate Hemisphere

In this month’s Hemispheres Magazine, the magazine of United Airlines, you’ll find my article about exploring the chocolate shops of Paris. I talk about many of my favorite places, why I like them…and what I recommend you get while you’re there!

Although the article is only available on United Airlines flights in October (so book your flight to Paris today!) you’ll find a special ‘Cyber Sidebar’ at their web site of great addresses for le chocolat chaud, the famed ultra-thick and rich Parisian hot chocolate.

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To read the bonus Cyber Sidebar on their web site, click on the bottom link-bar, the ‘Cyber Sidebar’.

It’s my carnet of hot chocolate addresses in Paris, some are justifyably famous and well-known, and there’s a few secret new addresses that you probably don’t know about, but should.

I acted on “insider information” from a few Parisians; at one very famous hot chocolate emporium, the saleswoman pulled me aside and secretly scribbled down a few of her personal favorites and handed it off to me…for research!

Next month, I’ll post the Parisian hot chocolate recipe given to me by a well-known pastry chef and served in his chic salon, which I’ve adapted for home cooks…you’ll be sipping le chocolat chaud all winter long.



UPDATE: Hemispheres magazine has changed hands and removed many articles in their archives. If you’re looking for my favorite hot chocolate addresses, I’ll be offering a directory of Paris sweet addresses in the near future.

Vanilla-Poached Quince Recipe

What do you do with a fruit who’s flesh is gritty and rock-hard, inedibly astringent when raw, and as vexing to slice through as a tough ol’ catcher’s mitt?

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No one seems to know what to do when they happen upon some quince at the market. The gnarly-looking fruits seem as if they’ve just been plucked from a medieval centerpiece, surrounding by medlars and split-open pomegranates, mounded alongside sugary dates and clusters of grapes cascading over the sides of the over-sized platter of fruit, waiting to be served with perhaps a chalice of wine.

Quince should be yellow-ripe when you buy them. If bought green, quince should be allowed to ripen at room temperature for a few days until yellow and fragrant. My favorite varieties are Smyrna and Pineapple, but often you just have to pick from what’s offered.
Quince are usually covered with a gray layer of lint-like fuzz, which can be easily washed off. It’s a task I find as satisfying as cleaning the lint filter from the dryer.
(That is, when I had a dryer to clean the lint from.)

The most splendid thing you’ll discover about quince, however, will be the day after you bring them home: your kitchen will be filled with the most marvelous rose-and-violet-like aroma imaginable. I like the fragrance so much that I always left one on the dashboard of my car during quince season.

(That is, when I had a car to drive around with my quince.)

In Paris, I think I’d get some rather peculiar looks if I tried balancing a quince anywhere level on the métro.

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Since quince have lots of tannins they’re impossible to eat raw. Don’t believe me? Try a slice, and I guarantee you’ll be unable to produce saliva for a week afterwards. But you can simply grate raw quince into a bowl of sliced apples destined for an Apple and Quince Crisp, or follow my simple recipe for Quince Marmalade from Ripe For Dessert which calls for several quince to be grated and cooked with sugar and jam, until the tender bits of rosy quince are suspended in a quivering, softy-gelled syrup.

Fully cooked, however, quinces reveal their most beautiful side and turn a rosy-red hue. The stunning quince slices can be served warm or room temperature with some of the cooking liquid, perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, or mixed with other poached dried fruits, such as prunes, apricots, sour cherries, or cranberries.

I’ll sometimes alternate quince slices with apples when making a caramelized tarte Tatin

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And the highly-scented cooking liquid becomes even more lovely when reduced to a thick syrup, then drizzled over the tart. Or just pool some of the thick syrup on a plate alongside some slices of sharp cheddar, Roquefort, or sheep’s milk cheese with a handful of dates or some ripe figs.

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Poached Quince

  • 3 quince (about 2 pounds)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4½ cups water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and the seeds scraped into the syrup

One caveat: Please don’t cut yourself when slicing or peeling quince. They’re tough little suckers. Tougher than you are. They’ll turn a lovely shade of red on their own without you cutting yourself while slicing them.

1. In a large non-reactive saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and the vanilla bean pod and seeds, to a boil.

2. Peel and quarter the quince using a chef’s knife.
With a paring knife, cut out the tough core and any bits of hard matter surrounding it. Take care, as the flesh is very hard (some people suggest poaching the quince with the cores, then remove them later, but I remove them).
Cut the quince quarters in half or thirds, making 1-inch slices.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the quince slices to the syrup (they’ll begin to brown quickly once cut, so submerge them into the syrup as they’re sliced). Cover with a round of parchment paper, and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours, or until they’re rosy and tender (poke them with a paring knife if you need to check.)

Once poached, the quince in their liquid will keep in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. You can also use these as a base for my Quince tarte Tatin.

This recipe was updated, and you can find a variation of it here: Rosy Poached Quince.

Patrick Roger Chocolates

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I am often asked the difficult-to-answer question, “Who is the best chocolatier in Paris?”

There are very few parts of Paris where you can’t find something delicious made of chocolate. Luckily from my apartment, I’m just a few blocks from Dalloyau, Gerard Mulot, Lenôtre, and Joséphine Vannier near the Place des Vosges, a small chocolate shop whose window delights the tourists, but belies the more serious chocolates inside.

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Surrounded by all this chocolate, how does one name a favorite?

I was thrilled when Patrick Roger decided to open a boutique in Paris. (His workshop is in Sceaux, in the suburbs of Paris). Instead of setting up in a super-chic arrondissement, his shop is close to the bustling Boulevard St. Michel. Each time I pass by, there’s always people pressed hard against the tinted glass (which is to protect the chocolates from the sun), peering in to catch a glimpse of Roger’s stunning bonbons and whimsical chocolate and marzipan confections.

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When it comes to chocolate, my philosophy is ‘Simple is Best’.
The finest chocolate bonbons allow the flavor of the chocolate to come through without interference from the other flavors and ingredients. The zippy notes of fresh lime juice enlivens a cushion of ganache, a hit of Sichuan pepper, smoky Earl Grey tea, and meltingly tender rum raisin-filled nuggets: all are examples of the masterful balance of flavors that compliment dark chocolate, not compete with it.

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Little flakes of oatmeal embedded in a smooth ganache. Mounds of crispy slivered almonds enrobed in dark chocolate. Oozing caramel with the curious and welcoming addition of with pear juices enclosed within a vividly-colored, glossy half-dome. These are some of Monsieur Roger’s creations that continue to seduce me. They satisfy like classic chocolates do, but with curious new flavors that thankfully aren’t meant to shock, but to simply taste good.

Rochers, square cubes of chocolate, flecked with little crackly-bits then dipped in chocolate couverture are my second favorite chocolates here at the moment. My first love are perfect squares of nougatine, a caramelized melange of crispy nuts and burnt sugar, ground together to a paste, formed into cubes and neatly enclosed in chocolat amer.

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Most of the time I stop by, many of the customers either wandered in off the Boulevard St. Germain, lured by the simple, yet dramatic chocolate displays in the window and seem to walk around the shop in a daze, not sure of where to begin or what to taste.

The other customers I find there are food-savvy Parisians, who’ve stopped in to pick up a little sack of noisettes, wild hazelnuts dipped in crisp caramel and dipped in dark chocolate, a few pure chocolate tablettes, or a selection of chocolate bonbons in the easily recognizable green-blue box, which has become a frequent addition to my chocolate checklist here in Paris.


Check out my video: A Visit to Patrick Roger.


Dalloyau
Locations across Paris

Joséphine Vannier
4, rue du Pas de la Mule
Tel: 01 44 54 03 09

Lenôtre
Locations across Paris

Patrick Roger
108, Boulevard St. Germain
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42

And you can read about my experiences ultimately working at Patrick Roger’s shop in my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

Pick-Up Line

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“This isn’t your house?
Paris is your house!

A dog dèjection left on a sidewalk is a 183€ fine.
30,000 garbage cans are at your disposal in Paris”

(If you think it’s icky looking at this on your computer, this sidewalk billboard faces the tables at an outdoor restaurant and cafè. Imagine looking at that while enjoying dinner!)