Perhaps my vision of Paris had always been romanticized by both novels and films, but my first step into the city was not what I imagined. The French countryside is nothing short of idyllic verdant fields once the train emerges from the Channel Tunnel, but as we neared the city, the urban landscape of Paris, with its grey multi-story buildings and graffiti marred walls, revealed that Paris was no different than any other metropolis. Of course, I had yet to see Haussmann’s wide boulevards and parks.
My aunt, cousin, and I had taken the Eurostar from King’s Cross on a cloudy day, and my heart was racing that in just two hours, I would be in the home of the pastry gods. We took an afternoon train, and I figured that I could cover at least one pastry shop on my list after we get settled in our hotel. Two if we were lucky. Unfortunately, multiple delays along the way stretched the trip into 4 hours, and the pastry shops neared closing once we snaked our way through the city’s metro. I was a bit disappointed that we lost out on a day.
I met Bernice the next morning at Blé Sucré, a small pâtisserie located in the 12th arrondissement right across from Square Trousseau. It wasn’t on my list of shops to go to, but I was immensely excited the moment I entered. Lined neatly behind a glass counter were rows and rows of pastries, from chocolate glazed cakes to Paris brest stacked with rich praline cream. As a huge dessertaholic, I had to restrain myself from ordering one of each. Although the viennoiserie selection looked mouthwatering, I skipped over it in favor for the tarts and cakes.
The vanilla mousse tart was filled with a creamy strawberry custard on the bottom. The tart shell was immensely buttery and rich, and I loved how simple and light the mousse was.
The chocolate cake was my favorite. Sitting on top of a crunchy feuilletine base was an intensely milky custard that reminded me of crème brûlée. The milk chocolate mousse was very airy in texture, and surprisingly lighter than I expected.
The pistachio mousse disk was silky smooth and very aromatic, and it balanced the tart cherry filling very well. The thin layer of crème d’amandes on top of the crisp tart shell added an interesting contrast of flavors.
The religieuse was filled with a thick salted caramel pastry cream that wasn’t too sweet. The choux was a bit too soft for my liking though, although I loved the paper-thin caramel crisps.
Although the meringue rhubarb tart was a beauty to behold, it was way too sweet. The rhubarb filling was overpowered by honey, and the thin layer of raspberry base didn’t help to balance the sweetness. I barely managed to finish the tart without a glass of water.
I rounded out my morning sugar quota with a pain au chocolat that Bernice ordered. Blé Sucré’s croissants have been voted one of the best in Paris, and you could tell immediately with the first bite. It was buttery, flaky heaven that melted in my mouth and filled me with toe-curling joy. Never had I seen a croissant with so many fine air pockets, and as I would learn later through multiple expeditions to different pâtisseries, croissants in Paris would ruin every morning pastry I have anywhere else for life. That such a ubiquitous staple in corner cafes and your local Starbucks should make such a memorable impression on me was surprising, but I find that often, it’s the simplest things that show how well a chef has mastered his craft. So let your senses be delighted at Blé Sucré. I promise it won’t leave a hole in your wallet.