With the idea that I’d rather spend my travel bucks on chocolate than a tour guide, which I’m not great at tolerating in any case, we found an online self-guided walking tour through Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ (6th arr.) most famous chocolate and pastry shops.
Stop one was Ladurée (21, rue Bonaparte). Get this…they invented the double-sided macaron — two almond meringue biscuits joined with various smooth ganache fillings. (This location on Bonaparte now houses their Secrets and Beauty store. Ladurée’s chocolate is now at 14, rue de Castiglione (1st. are.)). They have been in business since 1862.
In case you’ve never tried a macaron, which kind of puts you in the category of never having heard of the Eiffel Tower, they come in an amazing array of melt-in-your-mouth flavours, including bitter chocolate, orange blossom, coffee, rose and my favourite, carmel with salted butter. After purchasing a beautifully boxed selection at Arnaud Larher, next up was Debauve & Gallais.
In operation at the same location (30, rue des Saints Pères) for more than 200 years, the boutique’s wood-panelled interior and semicircular chocolate counter momentarily distracted us from the chocolates. How chocolatey does this chocolate shop smell? Who says scent memory is strong?
How ironic. Debauve & Gallais started out as an 1800s health food store. The chocolate was used to make bitter medicines taste better and the chocolate was marketed as promoting vigour and health. Ok.
We also stopped in at Pierre Hermé at 72, rue Bonaparte, but by this time my camera was sticky with chocolate I had to focus solely on the pastries made by a fourth-generation pastry chef.
After our four stops we got distracted by the street life and shopping and will have to go back to visit Gerard Mulot, Pierre Marcolini, and Chocolate de Neuville another time.
Lucky us, Ladurée has opened its first Canadian location on Robson Street in Vancouver. We are heading there in three weeks to run the marathon (Handyman) and the half (me) and plan to get a macaron fix after our run.
If you can’t make it to Paris or Vancouver, here is Ladurée’s recipe for Cake au Citron (lemon cake) which is flavoured with lemon…four ways…and a tiny bit of rum. It’s easy to make despite its fancy French heritage although be sure to poach your lemon slices the night before so they can soften nicely.
Poached lemon slices:
- 3 lemons
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
Lemon cake batter:
- 5 tbsp + 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 2/3 cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 lemon
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp cream
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt
- 1 2/3 tbsp rum
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup + 2tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup real lemon juice
- 2 oz. lemon jelly (or apricot jelly if you can’t find lemon)
- 1 tbsp water
The night before baking, cut lemons into thin (2 mm) slices. Bring water and sugar to a simmer and add the slices. Poach over very low heat for 20 minutes. Don’t boil. Cool and then refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Set aside six of the poached lemon slices for decoration. Drain the remaining slices and measure a 1/2 cup and cut each slice in half.
Butter a loaf pan, dust with flour and line with a rectangle of parchment paper to make the unmoulding easier.
Place the 5 tbsp of butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat.
Sift the flour and yeast into a small bowl. Grate the zest from the lemon and toss with the sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, while whisking. Continue to whisk and add the cream, salt and rum. Fold in the flour and yeast mixture, halved lemon slices and lukewarm melted butter.
Preheat oven to 410F. Fill the loaf pan with the batter to 2 cm below the rim. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and using a knife, make a slit lengthwise in the crust that has formed on top. You will use this slit to soak the cake in the lemon syrup later. Return the cake to the oven and then lower the oven temperature to 350F an bake for 45 minutes. When ready, a knife inserted in the cake should come out clean, dry and free of crumbs.
While the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup by bringing the water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Remove from heat.
Placing a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet. When the cake is done, remove from the mould and place on the rack. Bring the syrup to a simmer. Using a ladle, pour syrup over the cake and allow to soak in. Gather syrup from baking sheet and pour over cake. Repeat twice. Cool and then decorate with the reserved poached lemon slices.
To make the lemon glaze, stir together jelly and water. Lightly heat without boiling until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Coat cake with glaze.