Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Noël chez Pierre Hermé (Christmas at Pierre Hermé)

The windows of patisseries both humble and renowned are beginning to fill with bûches de noel, France’s most popular Christmas cake. Even Picard has dedicated an entire freezer case to its selection. Essentially a vamped-up jelly-roll, bûches de noel range from modest to extravagant and from traditional—bark-textured chocolate frosting, mocha butter cream filling and snowdrifts of icing sugar—to creative—Laduree’s bûche passion-framboise (passion-fruit and raspberry)—and sleek—Pierre Hermé’s lacquer-shiny numbers in single-origin chocolate.

Visiting the latter’s shop yesterday, it was impossible not to gasp at the couture-perfect bûches, or at their equally extraordinary price tags. I took ample comfort, though, in a small sampling of the season’s new macaroon flavours. This winter, Herme has chosen to focus on fruit (more exciting than chocolate variations, and more enjoyable than the truffle and foie-gras creations of last season). I managed to try rose-quince, which was perfectly balanced, and the chuao, half chocolate, half cassis, with the rich, bitter chocolate offset by tart cassis berries. I’ll be back soon for the headliners, strangely unavailable that day: fortunella (kumquat and star anise), green apple and angelica, agapé (citron and pain d’epices, a gingerbread-like cake) and envié (violet and cassis berries).

It won’t fill me up or keep me warm, but there is probably no more pleasure to be had for well under 10 euros.

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