Maison Aleph

I’m always happy to hear of a new pastry shop opening in Paris, especially when it offers something a bit different than the others. Sometimes I go and they’re interesting. Other times, I’m less enthusiastic. I was especially excited when I heard about Maison Aleph, which offers bite-size tastes of the Middle East, referencing French techniques, but creating something completely original.

There’s been a spate of luxury stores moving into the Marais, adjacent to Maison Aleph, especially along the rue des Archives, as well as a spiffing up of the iconic BHV department store. But that part of the Marais is also becoming mini-mecca for sweets, including Pozzetto gelato, Christophe Michelak, Comme à Lisbonne, Grom, Edwart chocolate, as well as Pierre Hermé and Maison de la Prasline Mazet, which are just a short walk away, too.

I used to live closer to the area and it’s a shame I don’t anymore, especially when there are such beautiful pastries nearby. Owner/pastry chef of Maison Aleph, Myriam Sabet, previously worked in the world of finance. But like a number of young people in Paris, she decided to turn her attention elsewhere; toward baking.

Myriam grew up in Aleppo, in Syria, shopping the vibrant markets with her father. That was part of her inspiration to reinvigorate Middle Eastern pastries in the French capital. Parisians like foods of the Middle East, but she said many were disappointed that the pastries available weren’t made with the top-quality ingredients that are available in France, from Valrhona chocolate to walnuts from the Périgourd. So she decided to do something about it.

After leaving finance, she went to Montreal to learn more about Syrian pastries, as well as enrolling in courses to get her CAP (certification as a pâtissière), at pastry school in Paris. (Does anyone mind if I take a year or so off from my blog and writing book to go, too?)

The crunchy nids pâtisseries (pastry nests) she creates use swirls of kadaïf and a crown of Normandy cream on top to hide centers that range from dark chocolate-sumac and quince paste-almond, to pistachio-mastic and fromage blanc with Damascus rose. I appreciate bite-size pastries because I can try several without getting too full. Although it was hard to stop because each one was so interesting. I wanted to keep going. And going, and going…

The nids de voyage are perfect for traveling, but you’re welcome to eat them there, in the compact seating area. In lieu of cream, each of those are topped with a palet of chocolate or cocoa butter embossed with her logo, or the bakery’s name. I picked mine off as I wasn’t sure if it was edible or not. But Myriam assured me that it was. So I ate those, too.

Another nod to Myriam’s Middle East heritage are the 1001 feuilles, little filo squares that might recall baklava to some. None of the pastries here are especially sweet, so you can leave those thoughts of gloppy, syrupy pastries outside, and my favorites in this category are the white sesame-halvah and the Iranian pistachio with a touch of orange flower water. Perhaps a nod to les américains (which I often tease French confectioners that use peanuts about, because French people don’t typically use or eat peanuts in desserts), there’s a dark chocolate and peanut one, that this américain loved.

I should probably back up, or hit the ‘scroll up’ button as I write this, but the hot chocolate shown above, was one of the best cups of hot chocolate I’ve had in Paris, or anywhere. And that’s saying something, since I was in the middle of testing not one, not two…but three hot chocolate recipes at home last week. Myriam’s hot chocolate features dark and milk chocolate, milk and cream, and just the right proportions of cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg to give it a delicately spicy edge. I was going to ask her for the recipe for my next book, but I was trying to be polite in between gulps…I mean, sips, of her hot chocolate.

For those that want something a little more refreshing, there’s a lightly sweetened house made citronnade (lemonade) made with Amalfi lemons and a Damascus rosewater drink. It was funny a sign in front of them said either was available by the glass or the liter, and when I saw the beautiful liter carafes they store it in, I wanted to buy one. Those aren’t for sale, unfortunately.

Recently I was having dinner with a French friend and I noticed that she carried a bar of chocolate in her purse. I’ve noticed other French women do that, too. (Maybe that’s why men sometimes carry man purses?) In France, the chocolate bars are thinner than the ones in the U.S., which makes them easier to break off a piece to discretely nibble on, without stuffing a big block in your mouth (like I do in the privacy of home). Like the pastries at Maison Aleph, the chocolate bars (made with Valrhona and some Domori chocolate) feature flavors like white sesame, Iranian saffron, lemon-cardamom, and bigarade confit (candied sour orange).

My absolute favorite thing at Maison Aleph, however, was the pastry that was the least polished; les barres chocolatées, layered squares and rectangles with crumbled kadaïfi, almonds, sunflower seeds, and candied citrus, with the bottoms dipped in chocolate. They’re a little messy to eat, but worth the fuss and clean-up afterward.

Those I’m not going to ask the recipe for those, because they’d be hard to recreate at home. But I know where to go back and get them, when I need another.

Maison Aleph
20 rue de la Verrerie (4th)
Tél: 09 83 03 42 02
Métro: Hôtel de Ville

Beautiful pastries in Paris that combine Middle Eastern ingredients with French techniques. One of the most unique pastry shops in Paris!

Never miss a post!

27 comments

  • Christine from CT
    March 6, 2018 1:57pm

    Ça tombe à pic. Merci, Chef. I am coming to Paris next week and have planned a “Chef DL Itinerary” thanks to your books and blog. Can’t wait.

  • Daria
    March 6, 2018 2:05pm

    I was also very excited to try Aleph – we are big fans of kadaifs. The boutique and the idea are great! On the day we went there, we had a bit of a different experience. We found their version of kadaifs rather dry and a bit tasteless – the cream is nice and flavorful, but the base is nothing like what we loved in Lebanon or Israel… And also, the price!!! The kadaifs are really tiny (it’s really two bites) and cost 2,5€ – which basically means that it’s about 50% more expensive than pastries from Pierre Hermé and the like. Now, that shouldn’t keep you from indulging, but then the taste should outworldly…

  • Mak
    March 6, 2018 3:27pm

    Sounds great and looks beautiful. We have some very nice Syrian Jewish bakeries in Brooklyn, NY (i.e. Mansoura), but they generally don’t use butter because they think that their customers demand pareve products (non-dairy products that can be eaten after a meat meal according to kosher rules) and as such they are not all that they could or should be. I’m curious to know if Aleph uses butter in their products or if it is also kosher/pareve?

    • March 6, 2018 4:22pm
      David Lebovitz

      They do use butter in their pastries, from Normandy. So it’s not kosher. I’ve been to Mansoura but didn’t know they were kosher. But I just look at a picture of their façade and it says they are, right on the awning : )

      • Mak
        March 7, 2018 3:19am

        Thanks. I imagine with such good butter their stuff must be really excellent. By the way, it can possibly be kosher despite using butter (assuming the butter and the rest of the ingredients are kosher and don’t keep meat on the premises) but not pareve (so it can’t be eaten at a dessert in a meal where meat is served).

        • Susan Cohen
          March 7, 2018 7:28pm

          Exactly. Butter is not inherently not kosher.

  • Kate
    March 6, 2018 3:47pm

    Les barres chocolatées! As if there were not enough reasons to love Paris.

  • Nad
    March 6, 2018 4:14pm

    Is she from Damascus or Aleppo? Damascus is the capital of Syria but Aleppo is for sure the culinary capital. I recommend you check out Bandora cuisine. The chef makes traditional Palestinian recipes to safeguard the Palestinian identity and heritage.

    Oops, yes, she’s from Aleppo, but you’re right about Damascus being the capital – fixed! And thanks for letting me know about Bandora. I put myself on their mailing list & hope to join them for a meal. – dl

  • Emma
    March 6, 2018 4:17pm

    This must stop ! These endless openings of enticing pastry shops must come to an end !
    How do you want me to keep a decent waistline ?
    Let alone healthy blood tests !

    Stupid joke apart, having quality eastern pastry is such a good news, and I know where to go next Saturday.

  • Mary Katherine
    March 6, 2018 4:50pm

    You’re KILLING me, David! My mouth is watering and no pastry even close, much less Paris. But don’t stop – I love every imagined bite! LOVE your posts and everything about you.
    xoxox
    Mary Katherine

  • Ivy Valory
    March 6, 2018 6:43pm

    Les barres kind of remind me of florentines. So beautiful.

  • Ann
    March 6, 2018 7:24pm

    Yes, I would mind horribly if you left your blog for one year. Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through the day.

  • Peggy Bilbro
    March 6, 2018 7:37pm

    This place goes to the top of our list of intriguing pastry shops for next summer!
    Jim & Peggy

  • Bricktop
    March 6, 2018 8:58pm

    We have an AirBnB a whole 2 blocks from their next month. Oh l’humanité!

    • Bricktop
      March 6, 2018 8:59pm

      there*

  • Violette kogut
    March 6, 2018 9:32pm

    I purchased all your books, L’appart should be a movie. I am from Paris! I know all the games the workers play….you were very patient! I am surprised your French friend did not step in sooner and left you in such mess.

    Being from a different culture, I should write a book on the things that I could not understand…..encore aujourd’hui after so many years, it is une aventure à chaque fois.

    -Violette Kogut

    • March 9, 2018 3:22pm

      I agree about making this into a movie. I wrote a 5 Star review on Amazon saying something like “if Frances Mayes channeled David Sedaris” – such a great read!

      • March 10, 2018 12:12pm
        David Lebovitz

        Thanks so much and glad you liked the book! Appreciate your leaving a nice 5-star review on Amazon as well. Really helps the book : ) xx – david

  • sharon
    March 6, 2018 10:09pm

    Is the place kosher, by any chance?

  • Wendy
    March 7, 2018 2:37am

    This place looks wonderful! Having become addicted to the Orange Flower Guimauves (Marshmallows but nothing like the American ones) at Pain du Sucre, going on your rec, I’ll go to any pastry shop you love. We live in Brittany, with almost nothing “ethnic” around, apart from ethnic Breton — love the crepes, not the Kouign Amann — and I can’t wait to get here in April, thanks!!!

  • Patricia
    March 7, 2018 5:49pm

    Delightful story and the photographs are seriously beautiful.

    Off topic, a story about you and your apartment just popped up on France Today. Another “joy” ride through the great difficulty you experienced. Didn’t realize the USB cords were still a dangling conversation!

  • Karl
    March 7, 2018 10:17pm

    drooling along here…great to hear about your pastry shop-hopping-addiction…can’t wait to try some. Making a list here…

  • March 8, 2018 1:59am

    Just another place to put on the list of places to visit the next time I am in Paris. I just finished reading your book-I am so glad you decided to stay.

  • March 8, 2018 10:18am

    The photos alone make these little pastries look delicious — sadly I’m no longer in Paris, but now I can add these to my list for places to go eat the next time I’m there.

  • Tom
    March 8, 2018 11:36am

    Having lived in the Middle East for a decade (well, the GCC but many visits to other parts of the Middle East and Turkey), as much as I love baklava and some of the traditional desserts, they have always been too sweet, too doused in sugary syrup. I’ve always wanted to try the same baklavas and other treats but with the sugar amount dialled back substantially so that you could taste more of the raw ingredients. And it looks like this pastry shop is doing that. Will have to be a must visit the next time I’m in Paris!

  • Margaret
    March 8, 2018 2:05pm

    You were being facetious about taking a year off? But I think it’s a great idea — who knows what it would inspire when you return. Everyone can benefit from a sabatical, right? While you’re gone we can revisit your past posts and recipes we’ve been meaning to try :)

  • adrian
    March 9, 2018 2:35pm

    Oh, wow! She uses Domori?! I have had Valrhona/Domori blended bars and I love them even more than Domori as it is.
    Must get myself back to Paris!