Friday, January 20, 2012


Entremet are so complex and with such a wide range of variations that I had to do another week of them. And yet again I found myself questioning what exactly an entremet is and I've decided that it's anything with multiple layers. Here in France that can often result in a lot of mousses, and while I love mousses, they can be a bit boring if that's all that's going on. I'm not elderly. My teeth are real. I don't need my meals mashed or my desserts soft and mushy just in order to get them down the hatch without choking. So really, folks, let's throw in some texture. Please.

I always go out of my way to avoid such blobs of boringness when purchasing these delicacies. None of them are cheap so there is no point in paying for something I know out of the gate I won't enjoy. And I was happy to see that all three of the entremet I devoured this week were not just scoops of soft mousse. For this week I went to Pierre Herme (because that man is a genius), and Des Gateaux et Du Pain, and Elze was sweet enough to bring home her favorite entremet from Hugo & Victor. All three were quite different and I found myself enjoying this mission for its variety, because sometimes eating plate after plate after plate of the same dessert can feel, well, like an actual mission.

Hugo & Victor: Hugo Marron 

While there are multiple things at Hugo & Victor that Elze finds scrumdiddlyumptious, she confessed to me that she does not revel in consuming most of their entremet. But there was one, she said, that she loved, and it was the Hugo Marron. So like a proud mother hen, she carried one home to me in one of Hugo & Victor's big black thick paper bags so that I could swoon over it and share it with my faithful readers.

The Hugo Marron is a domed entremet, covered in a milk chocolate ganache glacage. While you may remember my personal feelings of disgust towards glacage, I understand its purpose in desserts and as long as there isn't too much of it, I can put those feelings aside and still enjoy myself. However, with this glacage, I was more than happy to dip my finger into it and lick it clean. It was absolutely delicious. Like a blanket of chocolate the consistency of a gooey caramel, I found it not one bit gross or off-putting. What a wonderful way to start a dessert.

On the inside was Marron, or chestnut, mousse that was a light, fluffy cloud of heaven with a wonderfully fresh, nutty marron flavor to it, unencumbered by the artificial alcohol flavor one so often finds in marron desserts. This dome of mousse sat atop a hazelnut cake that had little hidden hazelnut treasures that crunched in your mouth like tiny bombs of nutty delight!

In the middle was a vanilla meringue which stood on a bed of creme de marron. The meringue sadly had absorbed so much moisture from the mousse and creme de marron that it had lost its alluring crunch which Elze informed me was lovely but required you eat it first thing after it is made. I posited the idea that the meringue be dipped in chocolate to protect it from the moisture and Elze perked up, giddy with excitement at my brilliance. I doubt this will be implemented, but I do think it would add for even more interest to the dessert.

Even with the soggy meringue the Hugo Marron was delicious. I just think that the added complexity of a crispy meringue center would make it exceptionally memorable, different, and intriguing. But I enjoyed it and appreciated the variety of textures it married together and the unadulterated marron taste with the graininess that comes naturally with chestnut.

Pierre Herme: Plaisirs Sucres (co-winner!)

As usual, Pierre Herme failed to disappoint. It seems to me that everything that man touches turns to gold and whenever I sink my teeth into one of his masterpieces, I am instantly humbled by his genius. It makes me wonder how someone can be so in tune to one area of life, art, and food. Perhaps, like with Blues' artists, he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for complete knowledge of everything sweet. His desserts certainly are sinful enough. But I guess they could be described as heavenly as well. When I bite into them it does feel as if God himself has reached down and touched me. Either way, what he does is, no doubt, not of this world.

The Plaisirs Sucres was no different from every other Pierre Herme creation I've been lucky enough to experience. It is of course beautiful, with a thick dacquoise bottom, a liberal layer of praline, perfectly tempered sheets of gorgeous chocolate, and handsome tubes of chocolate mousse. I chose it more for its beauty than my craving for it because, to be honest, I am getting a little tired of the chocolate/hazelnut combination so popular here. I know it sounds sacrilege but it's true. You can have too much of a good thing.

However, the second I bit into this little devil I changed my mind. Pierre Herme can make me chocolate hazelnut desserts to indulge in every day for all I care. The man is a god. The chocolate mousse was so smooth it practically made me cry and, as if that weren't enough, it had the most decadent, rich chocolate flavor which made my palate tingle in captivation. The sheets of tempered chocolate added a playful crunch that mingled well with the flawless mousse. And then there was the dacquoise. Dacquoise is a meringue cake that is not easy to perfect. But, of course, Pierre has it mastered. It was so light with just enough of an essence of crispness to the outside. It had that wonderful chew that melted as it sat in your mouth, characteristic of meringue, but with the softness of a cake.

The praline was nicely done so that it enhanced the chocolate's natural richness, without becoming the main star of the dessert. Pierre Herme finds a way for all the flavors and textures to dance harmoniously, instead of bombarding your senses before falling flat. Pierre, I think I'll miss you most of all.

Des Gateaux et Du Pain: Poire Muscovado (co-winner!)

This was my first time into Des Gateaux et Du Pain, but I felt it was time for me to try something new. I, of course, left my little note with directions on the kitchen table at home so I had to walk around checking every shop from one side of the street to the other until I found it. I feel lucky that I did for its black store front certainly didn't pop out and shout, "Here! Here I am!"

When I went inside I didn't see a single pastry in the case. I was beginning to worry that I had gone into the wrong location, which I found odd since I was fairly certain that there was only one location. But then I saw, hiding in the back, the pastry case. It seems a bit odd to me that they would tuck these morsels back in a corner, but I didn't question it too much.

The woman who helped me was very sweet and aided me in my decision making. I wanted to know what this individual little domed dessert was and she described the entire thing to me in her beautiful french which I, surprisingly, understood. It was an extremely decadent tart, but she even used the word "entremet" to describe it and that was all I needed to hear. Into a box and back home on the metro with me it went.

There were multiple layers to this tart and I was excited to see how well they all played together when I finally took a bite. The top layer was a thick pear jelly followed by a muscovado cream mousse. Muscovado is a type of brown sugar with a rich molasses flavor, and I could certainly taste this when I ate it. It gave off such a lovely caramel flavor but was different enough to be thoroughly interesting. Next was a layer of pear morsels that were soft, but not so soft as to be insulting and mushy, and they added more textural diversity and interest. These all sat on top of creme d'amande and a perfectly rich and crispy tart shell.

The tart shell made me think of well baked christmas sugar cookies and was hard enough to hold together and let me pick up the whole thing and shove it in my pie hole, but not so dense that I couldn't bite into it either. The pear was so refreshingly delicious and the subtle and intoxicating flavor of the muscovado pulled me in and made me want to keep on eating it just so I could indulge in its wondrousness a few minutes more. It was so difficult for me to save half for Elze, and if she had not come home at precisely the moment she did, it is very likely I would've gorged myself on the last few bites and thrown away the evidence.

I know it may seem like a cop-out to have two winners, but there really is no way for me to choose. The Poire Muscovado and Plaisirs Sucres are both so perfect and so different that I can't pick one over the other. It all depends on what you're in the mood for. Today I was more than happy to abandon myself to the secrets that Des Gateaux et Du Pain's Poire Muscovado had tucked in its shiny folds, but if I were salivating for chocolate and hazelnut I know I would begin to fantasize over Pierre Herme's Plaisirs Sucres. For that very reason, I feel that this was one of my more successful missions. Not only did I uncover one of the many wonders that Des Gateaux et Du Pain has hiding behind it's black doors, I also was reawakened to the glorious combination of chocolate and hazelnut by Pierre Herme's undeniable genius.

So not a bad week at all. All three of these desserts were fabulous and certainly out-shined last week's entremets. They did such a stellar job, in fact, that I can see myself returning to any of these places just to get my lips around one of them entremet again.

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