Entremet is essentially a French word for a fancy cake, except, of course, when it isn't a cake. How French, right? You see, the French have one kind of cake which they call gateaux voyage, or traveling cakes, which a pound cake would be considered, or anything else somewhat dense and usually baked in a loaf pan. An entremet, on the other hand, is anything that is layered, as a layer cake and so a black forest cake, or an opera cake would be considered entremets, but so would something that consists of layers of mousse, fruit gelatin (which is tastier than it sounds), ganache, and or sable. Most entremet's have layers of cake in them, but not always. Confused? Now you know how I feel...all the time.
I decided to do more than one entremet mission since there are so many different kinds at so many different places, and because this week I got a bit distracted and so didn't go to as many places as I should have. I did manage to get my ever-growing ass to Carl Marletti, Sadaharu AOKI, and Un Dimanche à Paris, and tried a different entremet at each. It's been quite fun, and I look forward to stopping in some of my other haunts to see what they have to offer.
Carl Marletti: Le Rialto
Something I hate about going to pastry shops here in Paris is the pressure. There are so many options and I'm always afraid of choosing the wrong thing. I found myself in this very position when I went to Carl Marletti. Nothing was shouting at me to be eaten, and the male model behind the counter was looking at me through his spectacles in such a way as if to say, "Come on, hurry up and pick something already, you indecisive foreigner."
The truth was that I was (a teeny bit) disappointed. I had built Mr. Marletti up so much in my mind that I was expecting much more. He was just known for being such a nice man, and his shop was in such a sweet and charming little corner of Paris. I wanted him to be fabulous. I wanted his desserts to inspire me and move me to tears. But they did not. Not even close. But I thought back to the religieuse I got from him and though it was homely and messy looking, it still tasted lovely. So while nothing was making my mouth, or eyes, water, I decided to go with Le Rialto. It had mascarpone creme, lemon zest and was described as being somewhat like a cheesecake, which I love, and with raspberry in it and on it it sounded refreshing and bright. I wasn't sure if it actually qualified as an entremet, but it had different stuff inside, underneath, and on top, so in my mind it did.
The mascarpone creme was light as air with an ever so faint citron essence to it. I wished it had been a bit more dense and with a bit more citron but the mascarpone and the raspberry went nicely together with the citrus enhancing the flavors of the raspberry and vice versa.
The sable cookie bottom was incredibly delicious, with a salty, caramel flavor to it, and it was nice and grainy, which added textural interest to the dessert, complementing the soft, fluffy mascarpone and the seedy feeling of the raspberry sauce and the whole raspberries hiding deep in the mascarpone.
While each of the components were admirable enough on their own, and while together there was some semblance of cohesion, it really just wasn't right. It tasted like a first draft and needed some heavy tweaking. The sable cookie was the strongest element, and definitely the tastiest, but it stole the show when it really just should have been a nice foundation for the mascarpone to sit atop and shine from. It completely overpowered everything else in the dessert, but instead of dumbing down the sable, I would enhance the other elements and elevate them to a status worthy of participating with the cookie.
If the mascarpone had been just a tad bit denser, and the citrus just a tad bit stronger. But as it was, the mascarpone was much to dainty to be the main element, and the citrus was lost under the robust taste of the sable.
Not a complete waste of calories, but not a slam dunk by any stretch. You see, when I try a pastry it goes on one of three lists, "Eat Again", "Don't Bother", or "I'm So Pissed I Wasted Calories On You." This definitely went on the "Don't Bother" list. Not offensive, but not something I'm going to miss when I leave France, either.
Sadaharu AOKI: Zen
Unlike Carl Marletti, there were so many things at Sadaharu AOKI that I wanted to try. Everything was perfectly beautiful, colorful, and decadent. I read all of the descriptions and though Elze begged me to buy the Bamboo, I went ahead with this little number, the Zen, because it sounded quite interesting. Something about Sadaharu AOKI makes me feel that I have to get a dessert with green tea or matcha in it, and the Zen fell into that category.
It was made up of layers of matcha, cognac, and sesame/hazelnut dacquoise. It sounded delicious. It looked delicious, and more than that, it looked beautiful. I was excited to take it home and photograph it. The layers were extremely smooth, almost perfect. And the flavor combinations sounded intriguing and imaginative.
But when I did finally get it home and taste it, I was quite let down. Elze pulled the classic "I told you so routine" and I had to admit that she had, most likely, been right. Perhaps it is just me, but this dessert was disappointing. It's appeal was superficial. I tried each layer separately, which was turned out to be a mistake for it certainly tasted better all together than separately. The white chocolate cream was nice, sweet, and buttery, bringing to the table all the best elements of white chocolate. The matcha cake was the biggest let down because it was quite weak in matcha flavor, and that was sort of the whole point for me. But then, I got to the bottom layers.
The cognac layer was painfully strong. Luckily when you ate it with the rest of the cake, it helped with the alcoholic bite. I like my desserts with a lot of alcohol, especially when it's cognac, but part of why I love putting liquor in dessert is that there is usually cream involved, which softens the painful strength of such alcohols. But not in the Zen, the punch of the cognac was still quite present.
Then there was the sesame. Even with the cognac powering through with determined fervor, the sesame was still the strongest flavor in the entire dessert, and I was not appreciative of it. Mixed with the cognac it combined to create an almost medicinal taste. Like a kid with their first glass of alcohol, I continued eating it in hopes that it just took getting used to.
It most certainly had to be eaten all at once, with each layer being equally represented, in order for it to be at all pleasurable. Separately the components didn't seem like they would taste well together, but in reality they certainly melded much better than I suspected, with the sesame coming through more than anything else.
This is one of those desserts that I certainly will never bother buying again, but which I imagine might be a favorite for some people. If you love sesame in desserts, and your cognac strong and painful (I can be quite a sissy, so it's not unbelievable that there are people out there who would appreciate that), then this is something you should try. The technique behind each layer was executed with near perfection. The cream was beautiful, the cake nice and soft, the cognac was texturally intriguing and the sesame/hazelnut bottom and sesame decoration on the side added little explosions of crunch and interest. So while this dessert isn't something I went crazy for, I won't begin to assume that I can speak for everyone on this one. For me, I did not reach a Zen-like state, but for you it may induce such feelings of peace and calm that you insist on eating one every day.
Un Dimanche à Paris: Opéra
I have been inside of Un Dimanche à Paris before and fell in love with the charm of the store and the
adorable cobbled, walking street that it sits on. As such, I find it surprising that I haven't been back to actually buy something OR write about it for you guys. So I went out of my way to include it in this Mission. I was excited to go back to Metro Odeon, and back into the enchanting store.
Un Dimanche à Paris is quite modern in both its interior and pastry design, but instead of many other pastry shops, there is something comforting, welcoming, and charming about it. It makes me excited to eat its desserts. Maybe it's because I can walk around the counters and look in on the men working in the kitchen, or maybe because the ceiling looks like tree branches coming down and hugging you. Whatever it is, I love it. I don't feel like a naughty little kid about to break something. Instead I feel like a little kid about to eat some goodies.
I was also happy to see that they had an entremet I recognized, the Opéra. I actually made an Opéra in class, and always like to see how I stack up in comparison to the professionals. Plus, it's a cake soaked in coffee and so I think it makes complete sense as a breakfast item.
I liked how Un Dimanche à Paris's Opéra looked. It was modern and eye-catching, but not gimmicky or ridiculous. The layers were a tad bit messy but knowing from personal experience, it's not easy to get these perfect ( unless of course you're my adorable little chef, Chef Baccon, then perfection is as simple as breathing).
The chocolate tops were a bit too thin, in my opinion, and obviously hadn't been stored properly, for they had been allowed to curl. The curling had no effect on the taste, but if they were a bit thicker they would've added a much needed crisp. The cake was beautifully moist, efficiently imbibed with coffee, and was wonderful to eat, practically melting in my mouth.
The flavors were great with the chocolate and coffee evenly balanced, but there wasn't anything particularly exciting or different about it. It wasn't like I wanted something different, but I was expected to be a bit more blown away. There was no imagination, no bit of Un Dimanche à Paris in it. You see, to me the best places take something classic and recognizable and do it in their own way, without being too new or scary, without stepping too far from the norm to be unrecognizable. They just add something that, when you eat it, makes you wonder why people haven't always made it that way.
This was not the case with Un Dimanche à Paris. It was good, it was satisfying, but it was also something that I felt I could make myself and be just as happy with it. But that's just it. I was happy with it, and if I were at Un Dimanche à Paris with a hankering for coffee/chocolate (or cake for breakfast), I wouldn't hesitate to buy this again. Especially since I felt it was reasonably priced at €5.50.
Un Dimanche à Paris: Fruit de Passion et Citron Vert Cheesecake
Okay, cheesecake may be pushing the entremet definition to it's limits. But I just couldn't help myself. There I was buying my Opéra and sitting right next to it was this little temptress.
You see, one of my favorite things in the world is cheesecake. It's just so rich and guilt inducing that I can't help but love it, deeply. Plus it comes in an array of flavors and variations, from goat cheese cake, to chocolate cheesecake, New York to no-bake. So when I saw that there was, for the taking, not only a cheesecake, but a cheesecake with passionfruit and lime, I had no choice in the matter, I had to buy it and I had to buy it now.
It didn't hurt that this cheesecake was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The glossy passionfruit top was beckoning me to it, shamelessly flirting with me. The crumble sprinkled around the edges were practically laughing at me, knowing that they were too scrumptious looking for me to resist. And they were right. Fighting was futile. I had no say in the matter, it was coming home with me.
When I sliced through it I was more than happy to see an inner center of hidden goodness. I didn't know what it was, I suspected that it was some sort of passionfruit heart that would explode in my mouth when I finally indulged in it. It was hard to contain myself long enough to take pictures. But I did have strength enough for that.
Finally, after much anticipation, I placed a large, un-lady like bite in my mouth. It was delicious. There was no denying that. An incredible cheesecake, and due to my abiding love for all cheesecakes, I can be a bit picky when it comes to cheesecake. I have high expectations, and this cheesecake met them. I was more than happy to waste a few calories on this little beauty.
The cheesecake part was silky and soft, much smoother and less viscous than your standard slice of New York, but still with enough body to have interest and give my mouth something to play with. It reminded me of the undercooked cheesecakes I make for myself, because if there is anything I like more than cheesecake, it's cheesecake batter. The crust was incredible with a sweet caramel flavor and with the ability to hold together just long enough for me to get it into my mouth before falling apart into a crumbly mess that was an absolute delight to eat!
Overall, this was an amazing cheesecake, and I was completely powerless to its perfection until I remembered exactly what had been so enticing about it when it was sitting coyly behind the display case glass. The passionfruit and lime flavors had tempted me into buying it, and yet they were barely detectable. The passionfruit was so faint that I had to concentrate on it in order to even be aware of it. The lime, on the other hand, was completely absent.
The fact that the cheesecake was so darn good I forgot about these things says enough. I would certainly eat it again, but just don't expect to get your passionfruit/lime rocks off. I guess I would say that they were there, just enough, to be somewhat cleansing in a way that citrus can be, but that seemed to be all they were there for. But really, I didn't miss them, not one tiny bit.
So this week there is no winner. I'd name the cheesecake because it's delicious but it didn't actually hold up to its name, so I feel it would be improper to congratulate it for fraud. All the same, Un Dimanche à Paris certainly won overall in comparison to Carl Marletti and Sadaharu AOKI.