Compagnie Generale de Biscuiterie

compagnie generale de biscuiterie, paris

From the outside, Compagnie Générale de Biscuiterie is a low-slung place, resembling a workshop of some sort, rather than a pâtisserie, located on the way up to Sacré Cœur, in Montmartre. I made the trek up there to check it out because I was interested in the one thing the low-key place makes: cookies.

The French use the word “cookies” primarily to refer to chocolate chip cookies, but they have several other words in their vocabulary for the bite-sized treats, including (but not limited to) madeleines, sablés, petites gâteaux, croquantes, palets, galettes, and biscuits. No matter what you call them, I like them all.

compagnie generale de biscuiterie, paris

I heard about the biscuiterie because apparently the shop had a press opening and saw a few articles that attendees posted about it a while back. I’m not always so savvy about those things and feel like a dork standing there on the sidelines. And there was that one time in the Marais that I got chased by the owner down the sidewalk, who thought I was a freeloader. (Hmmm…maybe I was?) Or the messages are to attend events in far-away places, or have nothing to do with me, i.e.: samples of Paleo jams, New Year’s Eve events in Sri Lanka (yes, really), and male “enhancements” that, although I’m in my mid-fifties, I’m not quite ready for. (Although I should probably hold on to some of those for the future.)

Rather than being herded into a room with people vying for a little taste of something, I kind of like to sneak in on my own and do some sampling that way. (That said, I do sometimes go to places with people who work for the shops, so I can meet the staff or the chef, and see what’s going on in the kitchen.) Sometimes, though, you scratch your head at what some publicists do. I’m still smarting from the time I got multiple invites from the publicists to a restaurant opening in Paris. I decided to go, but when I got to the door, the publicists didn’t want to let me, because they weren’t convinced I was going to “place” my story in a newspaper or magazine of their liking.

More recently, I went to a book party for a bartender at a swanky hotel that he presides over. I’m not obsessed with freebies but the servers kept passing me by with taste-sized glasses of the drinks they were offering everyone else. At one point, the bartender did put an appetizer in front of me…then slid it away a few seconds later, giving it to someone else down the bar.

compagnie generale de biscuiterie, paris

That said, press events are nice because if the staff is on-board, you can taste a variety of things (in taste-sized portions), and no one minds if you take pictures, which can sometimes require a bit of cajoling to do in pastry shops and bakeries. Oddly, some of the ones in Paris that notoriously forbid photos have Instagram accounts. On the other hand, chocolatier Patrick Roger told me that he likes when people take photos because they are enjoying his work and sharing it. It makes him happy.

So I sometimes need to be extra-wily getting pictures and have been on the receiving end of a few reprimands. Some are wary because they don’t want people to think the place is messy – they might have flour on the counter, chocolate shavings scattered about, and in one instance, they didn’t want the burnished, time-worn oven mitts they used to remove searing hot breads from the oven in a photo because they were too funky. (Of course, that was precisely what I wanted to take a picture of.) But I find beauty in the aftermath of a baking project or a generous meal, sometimes more so than the finished, highly polished treats. The clerk at Compagnie Générale de Biscuiterie was happy to let me take a few shots, which I got in quickly.

The downside is that I’m no pro at multi-tasking (which is why some bloggers are hiring professional photographers – I’m hiring one, after I get a copy editor, translator, travel agent, dishwasher, and placate my on-site coding expert) and I was so busy picking out which cookies I wanted between clicking the shutter, that I realized I hadn’t taken enough shots when I got home. That was my fault because I’m also timid and didn’t want to take up too much of the clerk’s time or be a bother. The upside is that I took all the cookies home, made some tea, and sat down to work my way through them.

What’s fun about Compagnie Générale de Biscuiterie is that you can mix-and-match from the selection of cookies made by Gilles Marchal, who was the pastry chef at several three-star restaurants in Paris and worked at La Maison du Chocolat – who now has Le Bistro de la Galette restaurant, and Gilles Marchal bakery, both nearby.

Sugar-crusted vanilla squares (called Kipferls alsaciens) came home in the assortment with me, as well as macarons (the à l’ancienne type, not the sandwich-type macaron parisien), financiers with pistachios and topped with hazelnuts, and crisp les cookies, which, to someone like me who prefers their chocolate chip cookies to be chewy, I was prepared not to like, but they were very good. A little neater than their messier American counterparts. The triangular bars of coconut rounded out the selection, as did the chocolate sablés with a touch of sea salt, And for those who think that Paris is full of unsmiling faces, there are smiley sablé cookies guaranteed to cheer you up.

compagnie generale de biscuiterie, paris

Arlettes weren’t available “by the cookie” when I was there, just in bags. According to the clerk, they come out of the oven at 3pm. The cookies are €6,50 per 100grams (about 3.5 ounces) – I bought twenty cookies and they cost me €13. A nicely packed tin box is €30, which I didn’t treat myself to.

If you’re in the area, there is a communal table adjacent to the kitchen, so you can be part of the “action” if they are baking on weekends, when the large wooden table turns into an informal Salon de Thé, (tea salon), if you’d rather enjoy your cookies…or galettes…or palets…or biscuits sur place…where no one is going to shoo or chase you away.

compagnie generale de biscuiterie, paris

Compagnie Générale de Biscuiterie
1, rue Constance (9th)
Métro: Blanche or Abbesses
Tél: 06 86 43 40 84
Open 11 to 6pm, Tuesday through Sunday.

The tea salon is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 3:30pm to 6:30pm.
(Hours subject to change.)

 

 


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22 comments

  • December 5, 2016 4:11pm

    Clearly not cheap but they do look good, I must say. They look like addictive bite sized bits of goodness.

    • Emma
      December 5, 2016 10:26pm

      yes 6,5€ seems ridiculously expensive.
      A good neighborhood bakery sells them 3 to 3,5 €.
      So why twice more expensive ?
      Makes me think of this new 4,5€ creme aux oeufs joint !

  • December 5, 2016 4:49pm

    I can’t multitask and take photos and inspect the merchandise at the same time either. And I’ve been given the ‘oh no, it’s too messy’, ‘oh no, there’s flour on the bench’ etc excuse too. It seems impossible to explain that this impression of it being a working patisserie or boulangerie is exactly what I want to take a photo of. It’s that obsession with everything being propre and correct that the French have. It’s not just a culinary thing either. It’s landscape, industrial settings, you name it.

  • JoAnn
    December 5, 2016 5:01pm

    Montmartre is my favorite neighborhood and thanks to you I have another treasure to visit when I return. I’m glad you went back on your own to investigate and I’m glad they let you take pictures, well, the ones you managed to get ;)

  • December 5, 2016 5:50pm

    Great post – you bring the art of biscuit making to life!I will have to check this out next time I’m in Paris especially as a former biscuit maker!

  • Mary
    December 5, 2016 6:29pm

    Omg, I don’t know how you manage not to weigh 500 lbs with all those noshes and goodies!! Very enjoyable story as always!! I always get excited when I see your name come up on my email…it’s like getting a post from an old friend….Happy Holidays!!!

  • Ashley
    December 5, 2016 7:39pm

    Hello David,

    Sorry this comment isn’t really related to the post, but you are my go-to source when trying to bake American recipes here in Paris and I am seeking your expert advice! I tried again, unsuccessfully, to make cream cheese frosting but whenever I do the consistency is never correct (always too liquid.) I imagine it has to do with the fact that the Philly cream cheese here is the kind for tartiner and thus I might need to adjust the butter/cream cheese ratio. Any advice? Thank you and looking forward to future recipes/ posts!

  • December 5, 2016 8:17pm

    Hi David, I just wanted to drop a line and say thank you for the generous teachings, discoveries and slices of life you share with us, your readers. It’s a rare gift when a writer can make you feel like you’re sitting across from them enjoying a cup of coffee and a story, and in this case, also some delicious cookies. Merci!

    • Kim B.
      January 1, 2017 12:30pm

      Indeed!! Well said Tom, and thank you David!

      And I love love love that last photograph with the cups of tea and the scattered cookies on the wood surface.

      Happy New Year and hope you had a wonderful birthday!

  • December 5, 2016 8:18pm

    Such an inspiring blog, just as many if us are starting to ramp up for cookie making in our own humble kitchens! Can you please tell me about the two cookies in the photo that look like icebox cookies; one white, and one chocolate, looking like they were rolled in coarse sugar (is there any sea salt, for example, involved in the making of that cookie?) Are they sablés?

    • December 5, 2016 8:26pm
      David Lebovitz

      Those are simple sablés (butter cookies). I have a recipe for chocolate “wafer” cookies in my book, Ready for Dessert, and there are recipes elsewhere for them. The put grains of French sea salt in the chocolate ones and both are rolled in coarse sugar, then sliced and baked.

      • January 1, 2017 10:53pm

        Ah, thank-you!

  • December 5, 2016 9:09pm

    I love your introductions to French artisans. You do such a good job of getting out information. I also have been discouraged from taking photos, though mostly it’s just barely tolerated.
    The cookies are tempting!

  • Teri
    December 5, 2016 11:05pm

    I especially love the unique shape of the coconut macaroons. Could you teach us how to do that pretty please?

  • tati
    December 6, 2016 1:51am

    Love your blog. Bright, honest, funny, delightful, inspiring, interesting and always natural and delicious. Your book is o my Christmas list, the recipes absolutely perfect and reliable. Cheers and thank you!

  • pourgir
    December 6, 2016 5:17am

    I love your observations about press events. Being presented with an appetizer and then having it slid down the counter to someone else – ha, I can just picture it.
    I lived in Paris for four years in the last millenium and your posts always make me wish I was still there. Thank you.

    • December 6, 2016 2:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      That event was pretty strange, but funny in retrospect. A number of journalists and others were invited and the bartender/author stayed in his chair, surrounded by a trio of young journalists (perhaps?), for the duration of the event, while I stood next to it for a few minutes hoping to meet him and get my book signed. And the time I asked one of the servers for a taste of one of the cocktails they were passing around, in tiny glass-sized portions, she acted like it was a major imposition to let me try one. I like cocktail bars and thought it’d make an interesting story for my blog, accompanied by a recipe from his book, but I left because I was hungry. But it seem like a fun event for others! ; )

  • Haggie
    December 6, 2016 4:56pm

    Compagnie Générale de Biscuiterie

    That is a great name!

    You could license that and open French-themed cookie shops in malls and suburbs…….except that Americans would expect all the cookies to be the size of dinner plates.

  • Elizabeth
    December 7, 2016 5:39pm

    David, perhaps you wouldn’t agree, but the take away for me from this blog post is, you look damn good for a fellow in his mid 50s! All that baking obviously agrees with you.

  • December 9, 2016 12:22am

    Lol I will take a smiling sable cookie over a smiling Parisian any day! Haha

  • December 9, 2016 10:59am

    The concept of the afternoon tea for this place is great. The biscuits looks yummy.

  • Roberta Baechlin Laguna
    January 3, 2017 2:58am

    Your writing is so entertaining and informative, and is reflective of your kind, generous spirit. I am so happy to have you as a representative of American culture and intellect there. I feel that you are appreciated and loved. Thank you, Merci mille fois.

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