Writer Jane Sigal hit every arrondissement in Paris in search of culinary brilliance. Here, her favorite Paris bakeries and pâtisseries, plus a profile on one trendsetting boulanger.
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Master baker Eric Kayser has shops all over the city—and in such far-flung destinations as Dakar and Tokyo. The original location, opened in 1996, is in the 5th Arrondissement, and still showcases walls of extraordinary, naturally leavened, open-hearth-baked breads, including crusty, chewy baguettes that are considered some of the best in Paris. There are also divine buttery croissants, seasonal pastries like a lemon bichon (caramelized flaky pastry filled with lemon cream) and simple, savory items available for takeout, including a textbook-perfect ham and Emmental cheese sandwich. maison-kayser.com
The original 1862 Ladurée shop has a gloriously baroque interior, with 19th-century wood paneling and wall frescoes decorated with angels. The delicate, airy macarons here stick to conventional flavors like vanilla, pistachio and cassis. Among Ladurée’s other stellar baked goods: a knockout pain au chocolat aux amande that combines flaky pastry with dark chocolate and green almond paste. laduree.fr
Pierre Hermé, a fourth-generation baker who was the wizard behind the pastries at Fauchon, opened his first store in Paris in 2002 in Saint-Germain. Most come for the exquisite macarons, meringue sandwich cookies in flavors that range from pure Venezuelan dark chocolate to the shock-pink ispahan, made with rose, lychee and raspberry. pierreherme.com
The puckery lemon tart and whole-apple tarte Tatin at Fabrice Le Bourdat’s out-of-the-way shop are an incredible deal for the quality.
Self-taught baker Christophe Vasseur’s products are so good that Alain Ducasse serves them in his namesake Paris restaurant. Vasseur’s pain des amis (friendship bread), with a flat top, hard crust and nutty flavor, has a cult following.
Borrowing a restaurant technique, Guy Savoy protégé Hugues Pouget assembles each caramel mille-feuille and triangular passion fruit tartlet to order.
The pastries all arrive by dumbwaiter at this swank pastry shop and tearoom. Highlights include updated classics, like a wheel-shaped cream puff Paris-Brest with a soft praline heart.
Pierre Mathieu shows off his baking skills with a textbook rendition of the gâteau Saint-Honoré—a delicate layering of puff pastry, whipped cream, pastry cream and crackly caramel.
A Paris Star Baker: Rebel Boulanger Gontran Cherrier
Paris Bakeries: Gontran Cherrier, Artisan Boulanger© Aya Brackett
In the mid-2000s, pastry chefs with restaurant résumés began opening fantastic shops in off-the-beaten-track locales. One of the most popular of these neo-boulangers is Gontran Cherrier, 32, a shaggy-haired TV chef and author fond of playing with flavors that would shock the old guard, from squid ink to cumin.
Cherrier comes from three generations of bakers—his father and grandfather spent decades making a small roster of classic breads in little local bakeries. After learning the family business, Cherrier went to cooking school, worked in high-end kitchens (Lucas Carton, L’Arpège) and now has a trendsetting bakery (left) that’s seasonal, experimental and totally unpredictable.
In the north Paris neighborhood of Montmartre, Cherrier’s modern space—with polka dots on the ceiling and jazz playing—mixes three typically distinct genres: boulangerie, café and take-out. “What I have in common with gastro-bistro chefs like Yves Camdeborde [of L’Avant Comptoir],” he says, “is to make the universe of quality available to everybody.”
He sells an exemplary baguette every day, but like a restaurant chef, the real excitement is in the constantly rotating specials, such as rye-and-red-miso bread, a not-too-sweet chocolate brioche with Sichuan peppercorns, and jet-black squid-ink buns stuffed with smoked swordfish and speck. Cherrier’s fusion approach has been so successful that there are bakeries all over the city with a similar aesthetic. Even Cherrier’s father has started to adopt some of his son’s innovations. "Now my father sells his pain de campagne by weight," says Cherrier. "Just the way I do."
Jane Sigal is a contributing editor to F&W. She is working on a book about Le Cirque.
Great Bakery Recipes
Last updated August 2012.