It's bright green exterior and yellow lettering made it hard to miss, and the tall windows displaying pots and pans beckoned me. This cookwares store is very different from the Sur La Tables and Williams Sonomas here in the US. It's an old store with creaky wooden floors and very dark on the inside. I don't know if this is the original location, but they have been in business since 1820. If cooking is your religion, this place is your 500 year old church. I strolled through the dark and compact aisles of wares. I felt as if I was holding my breath so not to disturb anyone. The selection was not immense, but it was serious. They had every size of De Buyer crepe pans you could imagine. I kick myself for not buying the tiny baby sized one I eyed. I could have spent a lot of money in this store, but had to remind myself of the limits of the suitcase I was traveling with. However, I was set on buying a fitting gift for myself before leaving this store.
Opposite of the cookwares section is the bakewares. Ceiling high shelves of tart pans, charlotte molds, mixing bowls, and the newer silicon molds. My weakness has always been miniature things, and E. Dehillerin's selection of tiny tart pans and Petit Four molds was staggering. I started picking out a few pieces (these would fit in my suitcase just fine). I had a handful before I knew it, and was wondering to myself how much they were going to cost. I know how expensive they are at Sur La Table, and I knew I wasn't getting a discount here. As I headed towards the cashier to inquire on the price, I noticed on a shelf just about eye level, a small round plastic container holding almost all the same pieces I had in my hands. A set! I returned my selections to their places and picked up the plastic container and continued to the cashier feeling extremely pleased with my find.
The Box of Petit Four Molds
The gentlemen in the store were very helpful. I had a short exchange with them in French, asking the price of the set. 50 Euros.... I didn't even want to think about the conversion rate, I was already attached to them and thinking of what I was going to make as soon as I got home. The set was taken from me, a bill was presented and I paid. Then another man carefully wrapped my treasure in brown paper, secured it with tape, placed it into a bag and presented it to me. What fabulous service! I thanked them and then reverently made my exit.
The week following my return from Paris, I had an assignment due for my seminar class. For three weeks we had been studying fruits, spices and herbs. On our last class we had to turn in a recipe for a dessert or savory item that included a not commonly used fruit, (we were given a list of fruits we could not use as our main ingredient) a spice, and an herb. I was looking forward to this assignment. The fruit part was easy; lots of possibilities. Even the spice part wasn't too difficult. But throw an herb in there and that is where it got complicated. I started paging through the Flavor Bible, a great book I got for Christmas, looking for compatible combinations. I found a little inspiration in Paris after eating a Grapefruit and Wasabi macaroon from Pierre Herme. It was fantastic.
Along with the inspiration and my little splurge from E. Dehillerin, I came up with Grapefruit Curd with fresh Cilantro in a Cardamon crust tart. They turned out to be nice, light and refreshing little bites in a perfect Pate Sucree shell. I took some to my class the night I turned my assignment in, and my instructer and fellow students enjoyed them. Yesterday our recipes were handed back to us and I'm happy to report, I got an A.
Grapefruit Curd with Cilantro in a Cardamon Crust
The Grapefruit curd was made following a lemon curd recipe, but I substituted the Lemon juice with fresh Grapefruit juice. Once the curd had started to cool, I stirred in some finely chopped fresh cilantro and saved a little to sprinkle on top as a garnish. The crust was made with a basic Pate Sucree recipe. I worked a little Cardamon into the crust before rolling it out, and then sprinkled a little more Cardamon onto the crust once it was in the tart shell before baking it. Once the shells cooled, I piped the curd into them and let it set. The curd contains gelatin, so this could easily be made into a larger pie sized tart and served in slices.