Everyone knows that Paris is famous for its patisseries – you only have to get a whiff of freshly baking baguette in the early mornings on any of their boulangerie burdened streets & you can kiss losing those couple of extra kilo’s goodbye. Add the aroma of a freshly ground café and there are some early mornings ( before the bin trucks & the traffic jams that go with them arrive) where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d died & gone to patisserie paradise. It’s a regular Robert Doisneau flashback. ( check out his photos of Paris. He’s one of my favourites)
WELL ALLO (*add sexy french accent ) pain au chocolat , drops , pepites , chausson aux pommes & croissants wiz or wizout butter (*end sexy french accent) -where have I been all your life ? The array & selection of types of bread is mind blowing , not to mention how/if you would like it sliced and ; believe it or not … you can choose how well done you’d like it.
Oh , I’m addicted to the phrase : ‘ Une baguette tradition – pas trop cuite s’il vous plait’ – which (gramatically incorrect as I may be) means : a traditional bread stick – not too cooked please. Oh the joy of breaking off warm little chunks & eating them on the way home. Which I think may possibly explain why most people can be seen walking around with two of the fancy bakery paper clad little treasures in their arms. It’s a forgiveable offence to eat half a baguette on the way home – but only if there’s one & a half left over.
Of course , there are some exceptions to the rule … there’s a boulangerie near me , that my dear elderly neighbour (who survived Hitlers occupation of Paris by hiding with her jewish family in the basement of a country cottage .. incredible lady – that’s a whole other blog post), swears is the best in Paris. I didn’t even think to question her authority on such things …. she’s been around & knows the score when it comes to good ,bad & ugly bread in this city.
When you walk through its doors ( be prepared to queue – for up to 45 minutes on a Sunday) it’s like winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonkas baked goods emporium . Every corner of it’s relatively small space, packed with freshly baked biscuits , orange & cinnamon flavoured sweet breads, savoury olive & tomato bakes , apple/ peach/ pear tarts , eclairs , chocaholic wonders ,hundreds of jams and the queen of all red berry delights ..the Charlotte aux fraises. They even stock ridiculously yummy herbal tea’s. If you can manage to leave with nothing other than the two requisite baguettes … well I owe you a lavender macaroon or an olive & basil fougasse.
I’m sure there are plenty of other great / maybe even better ? Boulangeries around & I’m not doing them justice – but hey – I never pretended to be a foodie blogger – so I’m not going to start now.
For those of you who may have the good fortune to come across one at some point – It’s called ‘Le Grenier à pain’ ( which literally means the bread attic) – ours is the Rue des Abesses one in the 18th arrondissement – but here’s a weblink to all their adresses :
Now, having said all those wonderful things about les patisseries , ( and not once complaining about how hard it was to lose the 15kilos I gained in my first three months in pastry paradise) ,…………… there is just one problem.
They ( ie the standard Parisian bakery) don’t do Birthday cakes. I have searched high , low + sideways for even a supermarket that has a good old icing covered / some kind of kiddy cartoon figure emblem’d / will throw your childs name on it in blue or pink , type of sponge filled extravaganza. Not to be had in the heart of Paree mes amis , mais non , not a crumb of it. ( sad , not very good at making cakes myself, face)
Untill what was once a flowery tea pot shop on rue Lepic became BERKO … cupcake makers extraordinaires and fine purveyors of good old icing covered / some kind of kiddy cartoon figure emblem’d / will throw your childs name on it in blue or pink , type of sponge filled extravaganza’s. Not only that, but they also take the time to sit with said future birthday partier to put their cake together with them on a tactile screen ..; choosing toppings , fillings , flavours , icing colour and the all important mega fantastic cartoon character.
Which may mean you’ll end up with a chocolate sponge , chocolate cream filling ,chocolate chocolate + more chocolate black glittery icing with a spidermans head on it -the mother of all killer birthday cakes – but still- birthday boy / girl will never forget it.
Oh and did I mention they make cupcakes?…….cheesecake ?……… carrot cake?
Since then , we’ve also had to add our sons recent food allergy diagnosis to the list of requirements when purchasing (or trying to badly make) birthday cakes. It’s practically impossible to find a cake that has no cows milk proteins or eggs involved ; and even harder to make.
Well , if the lovely people at BERKO haven’t unintentionally come up with a plan there. Just this week , I bought one of their latest Mr Men / Little Miss cakes for my hubby. Since he’s still a big kid at heart we went for the Mr Cousteau ( Mr Strong) version for his birthday treat from the kids. There’s just enough in these mini party cakes for four slices.
Inside however ( and this is what totally sold me as an alternative to actually giving a piece to our allergic son) is what they call a ‘Feve’ – a lucky charm. We persuaded him that having a slice of cake wasn’t half as cool as getting the lucky charm – a little miss chatterbox in our case – that you bring back to the shop in order to collect your surprise.
So off we went & he got to pick out one of the new Mr Men books & they gave his dad a great big Mr Man – ‘I want tickles’ t-shirt.
Parisian expat parents – check it out for your big + small childrens next birthday’s. Or just for one of their mini carrot cake cupcakes (2€) …I have never seen a little kid so happy to have had his cake & not eaten it !!
(link to the berko blog above , also available at : 31 rue Lepic , 75018 Paris)
Thanks for the tea , the croissants & the cupcakes,
Mama S. xx
ps – For my cupcake lovers back home in Ireland who might be tempted – check out these sweet things – made from the very best of natural ingredients by one of the sweetest mama’s I know : cupcake kisses : – http://www.cupcakekisses.ie/