Paris Picks: Breads, Pastries, Cookies and Cakes
If there’s just one thing that France does so much, much, much better than les Etats-Unis (the US), it’s bread. At this point, I don’t even think it’s a negotiable statement – it’s simply fact. If you live in the States and have access to wonderfully perfect baguettes, pain au chocolat, chouquettes, and so many other beauties, I’m all ears – s’il vous plaît, let us all know the magical address. Otherwise, I think we’ll just keep looking to France as the leader in all things gluten inclusive.
You can find great baguettes literally anywhere in France. In a small town? Your friendly neighborhood baker probably makes amazing bread. In a large city like Paris? You probably have several within quick walking distance. And there is always a boulangerie open (not like 24/7, but every day of the week) because it’s an actual rule, and neighboring boulangeries take turns in their days off. I’m partial to the baguette tradition or de campagne.
Anyhoo, amongst the plethora of bakeries and pastry shops, which are my faves?
35 rue Rambuteau, 75004 (also on 44 rue Cler, 75007)
While it’s not the prettiest loaf, as you can see in the image above (also not the best quality photo), Pralus’s Praluline is ROSY PINK, SUGARY, BRIOCHE-Y HEAVEN ON EARTH. I’m telling you, this dome-shaped brioche has this magical power of disappearing into your stomach in a matter of minutes/hours/days. Pralus coats almonds and hazelnuts in a crackling rose sugar (I never knew it was rose though, to be honest) and incorporates them into a delectable brioche. When you take a slice in your hands, you might notice some pink sugary goodness left behind on your fingers, but this is a small price to pay.
I could literally eat this every day. Of course, I shouldn’t (no one should), but I could. Perfect for breakfast, perfect for brunch, perfect for tea time, snack time (le goûter), dessert. Ugh. I want a loaf right now.
P.S. Pralus is actually a chocolatier so you might want to check out their chocolates. I always get distracted by their chunks of Praluline samples and the magnificent loaves, though.
16 rue Sainte-Anne, 75001
I think this is another great address that I first learned about thanks to David Lebovitz. I have an inkling I would have found it anyway, though, as I searched for pretty much anything Japanese-related while in Paris. Anyway, Aki Boulanger is a place you’ve got to visit. They are a franco-japanese bakery with delicious savory breads, delicate pastries, and WONDERFUL CAKES! CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE. CAKE!
I’m a little bit biased (ok, probably a lot), but I think these are some of the best cakes in Paris. When I arrived in the land of pastry chefs and chocolatiers, I thought I’d be privy to a magnificent selection of cakes. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with a lot of Parisian cakes. Sure, they were beautiful, magnificent works of art, and impeccably displayed. However sometimes they were too sweet, other times overly expensive for something that didn’t seem that special, or didn’t pack enough punch in flavors. I grew up eating lovely, fluffy cakes in Japan (and not even in super fancy places – the neighborhood cake people pretty much anywhere make wonderful cakes), and since Japanese pastry chefs are mostly inspired by French pastry making, I figured Paris would have cakes that were even MORE amazing.
I was wrong. I think Japanese cakes, inspired by French cake/pastry-making, take the top prize. For example, as a kid spending summers (and some other seasons) in Japan, I grew up loving the Mont Blanc. A wonderful cake with a swirly mountain of chestnut creme puree. As a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed study abroader, I had great dreams of finding marvelous Mont Blancs all across Paris as I skipped about, eating every single one of them. I can’t tell you how sad I was when time, after time, after time I was let down. Like, they were alright. But often, they were wayy too sweet, or just nothing home to write about.
Aki Boulanger’s selection of marvelous cakes however, includes a most wonderful Mont Blanc as well as so many other things, like a strawberry short cake and many matcha-flavored items.
Bonus stars for Aki Boulanger: they have lunch items, bento boxes and so much more. Basically: go here.
8 rue Cherche-Midi, 75006
Poilâne’s beautiful, world-renowned, bread comes from many years of tradition and hard work on the part of the Poilâne family. The current CEO, Apolline Poilâne took over the business at the young age of 18, after her parents died in a helicopter accident. You can read more about them here and here. Their famous loaf is a traditional, large, round sourdough. They also have other baked goods, but my favorite? The Punitions – small, perfect buttery cookies that I could scarf down all day.
If a trip to Paris isn’t in your immediate horizons (it’s ok, not on mine either, sadly), you might try one of these recipes and create a close approximation of them at home! Their first store (and my favorite) is the one on rue Cherche-Midi, but there are several more throughout the city 🙂
They also run casual restaurants (Cuisine de Bar), featuring open faced sandwiches. They were good, but I felt that my time and money were best spent at their bakeries.
37 rue de Roi de Sicile, 75004
Pastéis de nata, wonderful, warm, cinnamony egg custards with a flaky pastry-like crust. I could scarf down a bajillion a minute, but I don’t (mainly because that would = much monies). So freaking delicious, and another thing that I will blame on David Lebovitz. He recently released his own list of “fave” pastry shops, so I suggest you go take a look.
This is located in the Marais, so you can eat while you window shop across all the wonderful boutiques and historic buildings.
94 rue Saint Dominique, 75007
Another Lebovitz find. Y’all, maybe you should just read his blog instead of mine (jk, please keep reading, but I do recommend checking it out). I don’t actually like meringues, but these incredibly light confections are basically like sweet, fluffy clouds of heaven. They are so light, that it almost feels like you’re not eating anything (but you are). They’re a bit messy to eat, but oh so lovely.
They also have other baked goods, including a pain au chocolat that I absolutely loved (it was made with a soft bread rather than pastry).
A few locations, I went to the one on rue Notre Dame des Champs in the 6th arrondissement
A lovely, traditional bakery. They were located close to the Stanford Center, so I’d stop by sometimes to get a pain au chocolat. About a decade ago, they won one of the big French newspaper picks for the “best” baguette and the “best” pain au chocolat. If you’re considered any kind of “best” in a city chock full of bakeries, it’s likely to mean something.
I had to update this post because I forgot to add MEERT! MEERT! First off, their store is so beautiful + the windows pull me in all the time. There’s one in the marais, and one in saint germain (and maybe others?). Go get the gaufres de Lille – it’s kind of a hard thing to describe, but basically imagine two waffles squashed super/paper thin (so a semi-soft waffle-y texture), filled with luxurious sweet filling (Madagascar vanilla and Speculoos are my favorite). Perhaps it’s not good for dieting, but it’s great for the soul 😉
74 rue Saint Dominique, 75007
Canelés, canelés, canelés. You can find them in most boulangerie/patisseries but the ones at Lemoine are extra good.
My favorite chain/commercialized bakery. In my opinion, it’s much better than Paul (perhaps also a bit pricier, I don’t remember). They have great lunch menu’s where you can choose a drink, baguette sandwich and dessert for something like 10 euros. They used to have this marvelous pear-chocolate cake/tarte thing that I’d get all the time, but they have slightly different selections depending on the store location and I sadly haven’t seen it for several years. I hope you find it. If not though, pretty much everything is good 🙂
Finally, a round up of the types of breads/pastries/cakes that you might want to try:
- pain au chocolat
- baguette (tradition)
- chouquette (cute little chou pastry sprinkled with clumps of light sugar)
- fondant au chocolat (chocolaaaaaaaate. basically it’s a choco cake with oozing/soft choco center)
- mont blanc (delicious chestnutty cream – perfect for autumn, winter, and basically any time)
- anything that looks appealing