Ahhh Paree, its bridges, its stunning architecture, gorgeous museums, stylish people, affordable cheese and wine, leafy parks, and riverside bouquineries (book stands). I spent a week in Paris this past spring. I hadn’t been back in the City of Lights for years and was most looking forward to trying as many Paris bakeries and pastry shops as possible and that’s exactly what I did. I managed to get quite a few in and below is a roundup of my favourites.
This was definitely my coup de cœur among all the Parisian pastry shops I visited. The diminutive Middle-Eastern, Marais boutique first seduces with its fresh white walls and colourful arabesque-inspired tiled floor. Then come the rows of elegant “nests”, contemporary versions of the ubiquitous baklava. The flavours are all exquisite and include creative combinations such as hazelnut praline and liquorice or yogurt and Damascus rose. Maison Aleph makes the cutest Middle-Eastern bento boxes (vegetarian and meat-filled versions) if you’re looking to picnic in one of the capital’s many pretty parks. I also carried one of their zaatar pannetones back home, a cumbersome endeavour perhaps, but I instantly regretted not having purchased more than one the minute I bit into the fluffy, rich brioche-like bread infused with zaatar, one of my all-time favourite flavours.
What to taste: everything at this tiny shop is delicious but I fell hard for the pistachio and mastic nest. Pistachio is my go-to flavours in any pastry shop but the mastic put this particular combo over the top as it propelled me back to one of my most-beloved childhood flavours. Mastic is the resin of the mastic tree. It’s the original chewing gum (Arabic gum) and is still used as a seasoning in Lebanon and around the Middle-East.
This small Le Marais pastry shop’s design has had its claim to fame on Instagram. The central circular installation houses glass domes protecting a collection of cakes and confections. Macarons, cannelés, sweet spreads, and various treats are piled up on the shelves all around the store. Dreamy indeed!
What to taste: their revisited Paris Brest with its crisp chou pastry, airy praline cream and dense, intense praline center.
Whenever I was asked to pick a dessert when I was little, I would always choose a chou. Classic vanilla-flavoured crème pâtissière was and still is my favourite cream so picking this cream vessel was always appropriate. I have become so accustomed to choux with a crunchy top that I find myself a bit disappointed every time I have a classic chou.
What to taste: the pistachio or lemon curd chou, or purchase a selection of a few choux to taste test.
What pastry lover hasn’t dreamed of biting into one of L’Éclair de génie’s remarkable éclairs? L’Éclair de génie has several shops across Paris and each store’s display cases are lined up with rows of colourful and decadent éclairs. The delicate pastries are stuffed with many exquisite flavours from a mouth-puckering lemon curd, to a silky smooth pistachio and raspberries to a rich hazelnut praline.
What to taste: get the box of 4 mini-éclairs, which make a perfect little sampler of 4 very different flavour profiles to try.
Pastry chef Patrice Demers recommended this boutique to me and it instantly became my favourite the minute I walked into one of their two shops. One side of the store is dedicated to breads and pastries such as kouglofs, croissants and more while the cakes are displayed like jewels in a black lined display counter along the other side of the boutique.
What to taste: Try a seasonal dessert, such as the delicate and elegant grapefruit cheesecake or the mara strawberry tart that were on display when I went, or dig into their baba au rhum, one of the best in Paris.
Yann Couvreur’s elegant pastries are just as delicious as they are striking. The star pastry chef is one of the best in Paris and is known for his creative approach and rock and roll attitude. I was in Paris during strawberry season (aka the best season) and Yann Couvreur’s strawberry-studded creations were a sight to behold. His famous rectangular éclairs are a refreshing take on a classic.
What to taste: Merveille praline, an airy confection made of layers of light chocolate mousse, hazelnut praline with fleur de sel, meringue and a dark chocolate icing with hazelnut and chocolate shards.
Ask any Parisian what the best Paris bakery is and they will likely point you towards Du pain et des idées (or Poilâne, whose bread you can taste in many restaurants and cafés-trottoir). The small artisanal bakery in the 10e arrondissement is a favourite among Parisians and visitors alike. Some of Au pain et des idées’ most popular baked goods are their croissants and breads as well as the internet-famous “escargots”, puff pastry rolls studded with pistachios and chocolate, nuts or fruit.
What to taste: the Sacristain, a crispy, buttery, foot-long pastry that’s stuffed with crème pâtissière, then twisted and baked.
There’s a reason why La Maison d’Isabelle’s croissants were voted best in Paris in 2018. They are truly what a croissant should be: crispy and light on the outside, moist and soft on the inside and oh-so-buttery all around. Made by hand using organic flour and high-quality, high-fat butter, these croissants and pains au chocolat are worth lining up for. Judging by the gathered crowd outside the small neighbourhood boulangerie, they are crowd favourites. Bonus: since the bakery has a very high turnover, the chances of getting a warm, just baked croissant are pretty high.
What to taste: the butter croissant, one of the best in Paris for sure.
Click here for my guide of Montreal’s best bakeries and pastry shops.