So, after our healthy little stroll through the Marché Bio, we can now indulge in sweets, right? Because pictures of cheeses and grape clusters and sculptures and flowers were all just a prelude to this. Yes, Paris is for lovers, and fashionistas, and avid museum goers, but for someone with a sweet tooth, Paris is the ultimate playground. Festive window displays await in its streets, with macaron pyramids in bright, bold colors, and pastel-hued boxes tied with satin ribbons, stacked just so, like scenes from a fairytale birthday. Wandering in its streets, I feel like a little girl in a borderless, unending candy store, one that twists and swirls through an entire city.
We had a lemon meringue tart at Les Deux Abeilles, they of the perfect ginger lemonade, the meringue just this side of cream, delicately kissed by brown sugar. Homey baked goods were displayed on antique chests layered with crisp white linens, like waking up to an unexpected feast at a friend’s cozy, winter cottage.
On a stroll through the winding, gem-filled Rue des Martyrs, we ducked into Rose Bakery, and had one of their famous carrot cakes topped with a thick slather of cream cheese frosting.
Fauchon was having an Eclair Weekend, and we stepped inside, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the display cases filled with row after row of creative, gorgeous eclairs.
I lose track now, at which point it was exactly that I spotted this display of mini kouign amann, but I remember the way my fingers were all sticky with caramel and butter, as I reached for my phone to snap a picture.
Back on the Rue des Martyrs, just a few steps from Rose Bakery, I noticed a little pastry shop, its curtains partially drawn to shade its wares from the afternoon sun. When I walked in, I was greeted by two ladies speaking in hushed, library voices.
The space was white and bathed in light, with antique mirrors and light fixtures lending an aura of Old Paris. There were neatly wrapped small cakes, the plastic folded in a triangle at their heads like a plastic tiara, meringues stacked high on glass pedestals, and rows upon rows of perfectly tied sachets- containing tiny meringues, colorful candies, and little squares of marshmallows- all beckoning to be taken home.
I wanted to leave you with a Parisian dessert that would be easy to recreate in your own home. I’ve had chestnuts on my mind, so a Mont Blanc, which I’ve rarely (if ever) seen outside of Paris, seemed to be just the thing. Once you locate some chestnut purée, the going is easy: you begin by making meringues, which you then top with a small dollop of freshly whipped cream, followed by delicate strands of the chestnut purée. And there you have it, in your kitchen, a bite as dreamy and ethereal as Paris.
I made these in a very low-tech kitchen: I beat the egg whites and sugar for the meringues by hand (cursing my existence about halfway through; but by the time they are out of the oven, it’s a distant memory. Make sure the egg whites are pure, without a trace of yolk, and that you’re beating in as much air as possible with your whisk, as opposed to a stirring motion). Also, it will make you feel rather impressed at how quickly you can whip the cream (place the bowl, whisk and container of cream in the freezer for a few minutes, until they are nice and cold). And, although, ideally the chestnut puree should be piped atop the meringue in spaghetti-like strands (using a decorating tip such as this), you can get by with a ziploc bag, by filling it, squeezing out any air bubbles, and making a small opening at one of the edges.
Meringue recipe adapted from Remedial Eating
3 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus a few tablespoons
800 grams (28 oz) chestnut purée
33cl (330 ml/ 11 oz/ scant 1.5 cups) heavy cream
For the meringues: Preheat oven to 150°, or the lowest setting possible on your oven. (If that’s 200° or 225°, just begin checking sooner, around 1 – 1 1/2 hours.)
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites and sugar until tripled in volume, shiny, opaque, and able to hold soft peaks, 5-8 minutes.
Using two soup spoons, spoon dollops of meringue onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them about an inch apart. Flatten slightly with spoon, making sure they are approximately the same thickness, to ensure even cooking.
Bake for 2 hours at 150° (less if hotter, see above), or until meringues are dull white, firm to the touch, and crisp throughout. Turn off your oven, and leave the meringues there to crisp, for one hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To Assemble: Taste your chestnut purée and add sugar if desired (you should want to eat it with a spoon). Thin the purée with a little water, if needed, for easy piping. Spoon the purée into a piping bag (or a ziploc bag, see headnotes).
Whip the cream with one tablespoon sugar (or more, to taste), until stiff peaks form. Spoon the cream into a piping bag (or ziploc, as above).
Pipe a small mound of whipped cream onto the center of the meringues. Next, pipe the chestnut purée onto the meringues, beginning at the outer edge of the meringues, and working your way to the middle, concealing the whipped cream center. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Chill until ready to serve, removing them fifteen minutes or so before serving.
Mont Blancs, elsewhere:
Angelina’s Mont Blanc, via Fine Dining Lovers.