Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pierre Herme, patisserie

One of the most famous pastry chefs worldwide, especially of the modern era, Pierre Herme started his career at the age of 14 as an apprentice to Gaston Lenotre. At the age of 24 he became the pastry chef of Fauchon where he remained for over a decade. Next it was Laduree, the luxury french pastry shop chain that founded the macarons. 

In 1998 he stared his own brand name Pierre Herme Paris, with the first worldwide boutique in Tokyo, followed by a salon de the, since his contract with Laduree prohibited him from opening a boutique in Paris. The first Parisian boutique opened in 2002 in 72, rue Bonaparte near Saint-Germain between the boulevard and the Jardin du Luxembourg. Many more shops followed and as of now you can count 16 shops in France (Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg), 3 in London, 13 in Japan and one or two in each place like Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Hong Kong, South Korea and Azerbaijan. There is also an online shop via his website to most European countries.

My first ever macarons were from Pierre Herme. Many years ago while I was in Selfridges of London I came across his little shop in a shop selling just macarons and chocolates. I was immediately blown away by the macarons, so much that next day I returned for some more and a box of chocolates.  

Many more visits followed since then, in every trip if it was possible I visited a store to grab some macarons or pastries. In Paris in some of his boutiques you can find viennoiseries and pastries. His first boutique in rue Bonaparte has a good selection and always a queue outside. 

We tried the tarte au citron ( there is a tarte au mandarin now too) which was good but not outstanding. Thin pate sablee with lemon cream, candied lemon zest and pieces of lemon pulp. In lemon tarts I think less is more so except from the aesthetics I would prefer it to be just the pate with the cream.  

His highly praised croissants were crunchy, fluffy inside with intense butter flavor. I also liked the Croissant ispahan, a glazed croissant with candied roses and rose pate filling.  

Some of his most famous pastries are the 2000 feuille, the ispahan, the tarte infinement vanille, the desire, to the tall La cerise sur le gateau or some other compositions that I suppose are seasonal and cost up to 130 euros for 6 to 8 servings. This year its the Indulgence, a pastry with mint, corn and garden pea costing 98 euros.  

To the macarons, perhaps the reason of his fame. They are easily recognizable by the intense colours and the big amount of filling. I still can't decide between these and the more classic, less fancy ones from Laduree. Even though they are basically both macarons, it is like comparing apples to oranges. 

There are many different flavors, from the regular, like rose with rose petals, salted butter caramel, milk chocolate and passion fruit, olive oil and mandarin, vanilla from Madagascar Tahiti and Mexico, Jasmin mango and grapefruit; to the limited jardins collections (photo below) or the seasonal with foie gras, black truffle and figs, chocolate or hazelnut with white truffle, that you can find during and before Christmas. Most of these macarons are astonishing. It is not just the combination of the flavors that sometimes seem bizarre, but are well thought through, but also the consistency, the quality of ingredients and mastery in the making. Always soft inside with a thin crispy layer outside, never chewy, never dry. 
Macarons can be bought seperately or in boxes which cost a bit more. Check for his cat boxes (in design of Nicolas Vial, or the round, like a wheel, box. 

Many would argue that macarons should be more simple letting you actually taste the almond flavor. I partially agree, as I don't like little surprises inside like whole nuts, little jellies or candied fruits, just plain silky smooth flavored ganache between the two shells. Maybe if you see PH macarons as pastries, then the ''problem'' is solved, cause they are truly astonishing.

In most shops you can find, except from everything mentioned above, jams, marmalade, chocolate spreads, waffles, biscuits, cakes, ice creams and sorbets, even his cooking books.

The other part is the chocolate assortments. There are the regular chocolate pieces and some with a macaron shell inside. We tried the first and even thought they were quite good I didn't find them that good to justify the price (same story with marquis de Laduree). If you consider that many great chocolatiers are just around the corner from most PH boutiques then I suppose you should buy your macarons and go elsewhere for your chocolate, (Patrick Roger, Jean Paul Hevin, Pierre Marcolini, Jacques Genin for Paris, or Marcolini and L'Artisan du chocolat in London). 

There is a Pierre Herme App for macarons, which you can find in his website by scanning the barcode with your phone.

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