Previous Post | Home | Next Post
July 21, 2008
As many of you know, I've been a Pierre Herme fan (okay, the president of his fan club), for years and years, in fact, since aboutÂ 2 minutes after I met him in 1993.Â At that time, he was the chef-patissier at Fauchon and had just created a cake that had the food, art, design and architecture worlds buzzing:Â La Cerise sur Le Gateau, or The Cherry on the Cake
This was the cake's official "headshot," done by the gifted photographer Jean-Louis Bloch-Laine (who also did the photography for Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme). The shape of the cake was conceived by Yan Pennor's
(sic), who went on to design Pierre Herme's rue Bonaparte boutique in
Paris, as was the three-sided box that was tied with a wide satin
ribbon. When you undid the bow, the sides of the box fell
away and the bright red cherry on the top was revealed, in almost the
same way a clown would pop out of a jack-in-the-box.
When you got the cake home, you'd open it at the table, so
that everyone could share in the drama, then gently lay it down on its
side and, following the gold leaf lines, cut it into six perfect
portions, each one containing all of the cake's elements: hazelnut
dacquoise, milk chocolate ganache, milk chocolate whipped cream, thin
sheets of tempered milk chocolate and a spread of milk chocolate,
praline and crushed wafers. (A make-at-home version of the cake, called Plaisir Sucre, is in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.) Everything about the cake was surprising, including its being made with milk chocolate in a country where bittersweet reigns.
Since that time, Pierre Herme has gone on to create so many desserts that have changed the way we think about pastry. Case in point, his family of Ispahan desserts
based on the now iconic trinity of rose, raspberry and litchi (today, there's even a yogurt that plays on this combo), which has been appropriated by almost every pastry chef in France.
Even knowing Pierre Herme's desserts as well as I do and
for as long as I have, I was as excited as a little kid when I visited
his kitchen behind the rue de Vaugirard boutique a couple of weeks ago.
My guide for the visit was Andre Loutsch,
the 29-year old pastry chef who is part of Pierre Herme's "test kitchen". As
Andre explained, Pierre Herme creates all the cakes - and, as
Pierre has often said, he creates them in his head - and then the work
of turning the idea, its components, its "architecture of taste," a
term Herme has used for years to describe the combination of a
dessert's taste, texture and temperature, into something "real," falls,
in part, to Andre, who works with Herme to make the actual dessert and
to give it its final look.
It goes without saying that Pierre Herme wouldn't have chosen
Andre Loutsch to work at his side if he wasn't talented, but what
struck me immediately about the young chef (who is about the same age
Pierre was when I met him) was his extraordinary enthusiasm for his
work. When Andre talked about macarons, it was as though he had only discovered them a minute ago.
The kitchen, under the direction of Colette Petremant,
Herme's executive chef (I wish I'd snapped her picture), who's been
with him for almost forever (it's rare that anyone leaves), is smaller
than you'd imagine and, like every other Pierre Herme kitchen I've ever
been in, calm. There's a peaceful, purposeful quiet in
the kitchen (one I've never been able to attain in my own kitchen -
even working alone, I make more noise than Colette's entire team!).
As you enter, there's a wall of pictures
And then, to the right, the space where dough is made
Everything that has dough, from tart shells to croissants, lives in this corner.
When I was there, the rose filling for the Ispahan was being made
But, sadly, not the macarons. Not that there weren't macarons to see. There was an entire refrigerated room filled with macarons,
the room Andre called "Ali Baba's cave". Andre said that no one leaves the boutique without buying a macaron and he's probably not exaggerating.
I caught the team early in the morning when they were between
projects and getting ready for breakfast, which is an all-work-stops
time in the kitchen. There's coffee, tea, cakes, of course, bread from Claire Damon's Des Gateaux et du Pain down the street and the same great butter that Pierre Herme uses for his pastries.
And, because it was still early, I was able to watch the shop come to life as the pastries were arranged in the display cases. Here's the Cherry on the Cake "in situ"
A quick aside: When La Cerise sur le Gateau was conceived, the mold for it was made of plaster. Just a few months ago, the cake joined the modern age: the new molds are silicone.
Don't you love the indentation for the cherry?
And I saw the fabulous Mosaic desserts,
combinations of pistachio and griottes, sour cherries, that are only
available for a few weeks during the year, les temps de cerises (cherry
And, finally, one of PH's most unusual creations, a dessert
made with spaghetti - real spaghetti - cooked in strawberry juice,
called Emotion Fragola (fragola is Italian for strawberry)
The night after my kitchen tour, Pierre and I were having dinner and I asked him where that dessert had come from. He
said he'd read that Italians had once made a dish with pasta and
strawberries and the idea so intrigued him that he kept playing with it
until he finally came up with this - a winner, which has the
strawberry-cooked spaghetti (yes, it's al dente), crushed strawberries,
balsamic gelee and mascarpone cream.
I finished my behind-the-scenes visit just as I'd hope I would - tasting macarons with Andre
And forcing him to do the impossible - choose his favorite: milk chocolate/passionfruit.
Fortunately, Andre is politer than I am and he didn't put me in a similar spot. I could never choose just one favorite - never.
Tags: Pierre Herme
Patisseries, Boulangeries & Chocolate Shops
Restaurants, Chefs, & Artisans
| July 21, 2008 9:56 AM
oh those pictures remind me of all the great moments I spent there. true love.
everytime I visit Paris, I make sure to drop by to say hello, have a chat with Colette and nibble on a couple of macarons!
and AndrÃ© is such a sweet person as well.
thanks for the visit Dorie. xx
| July 21, 2008 10:13 AM
Oh, lovely. Thank you for this post. I can see that I'd better set aside LOTS of time here during our upcoming trip. And there's no way we're leaving without that gorgeous La Cerise sur le Gateau.
| July 21, 2008 10:40 AM
Pierre is an absolute genius and it looks like he has some great help too! All of the desserts are beautiful! And of course the macarons are amazing. I can't imagine standing in a room with that many macarons! I am glad you got to taste them at the end. I am sure they would all be my favorite.
| July 21, 2008 10:46 AM
Thank you for sharing! Do you think Pierre is aware of the thousands and thousands of fans in the American branch of his fan club (of course, you know I'm among them!!) What heaven to spend a day among his creations!
| July 21, 2008 12:15 PM
Great post. It looks amazing. What care goes into creating a sweet treat and the presentation, WOW! You are one lucky girl.
| July 21, 2008 12:27 PM
Gorgeous post. Wonder is there any way I can purchase the macaron pictures. All my attempts have failed so far. Also, how can I get the PH10 book shipped to the US. Does anyone sell it here?
| July 21, 2008 2:09 PM
So lovely, thank you for sharing this glimpse of waht goes on behind the scene!
| July 21, 2008 2:11 PM
A very nice post, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm a big fan of PH as well and was very lucky to be able to meet and learn from him during his 2-day class in Chicago last May. He was such a wonderful person, I hope he will open a shop in US soon so that I can enjoy all his amazing desserts again.
| July 21, 2008 4:26 PM
Dorie: What a delectable post. I was lucky enough to go to PH's boutique on rue Bonaparte when I was in Paris in May. It was so hard to decide what to purchase but the staff was so gracious! I had no idea he was so young. I had the honor of meeting him in the kitchen of Bouley in 1993 where I worked in the pastry department. He asked to be introduced to the pastry staff after he'd finished his meal in the dining room. A true gentleman and artist!
Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener
| July 21, 2008 5:33 PM
OH MY GOD!
| July 21, 2008 11:24 PM
Ooh! I wish I could book a flight right now! Those desserts are to die for, or at least to fly for. I must remember to visit Paris during les temps des cerises - I love pistachios & sour cherries. And that cake! Stunning...
| July 22, 2008 12:59 AM
gawd what a glorious post. DYING here.
| July 22, 2008 7:21 AM
You can order "PH10" on-line at www.librairiegourmande.fr, althouth they are closed until August 18th. Thanks for showing the one thing I've always wanted to see: the mold for the "cherry on the cake."
| July 22, 2008 8:20 AM
Thanks for sharing a glimpse behind the scenes. That cake is gorgeous! Lucky you getting to spend the day there!!
Duncan | Syrup&Tang
| July 22, 2008 9:49 AM
This is like one of those fantasy moments! To step inside and breathe the tasty goodness... ohhhh. Only a few months since I did my macaron crawl of Paris and already I'm craving a return visit.
| July 22, 2008 10:02 AM
Great post Dorie. I loved seeing the machinations behind the legend that is Pierre Herme. I've only recently started getting into macarons. I'm slowly perfecting them, although it can be very frustrating at times.
One day, I hope to taste a Pierre Herme creation when I visit Paris.
| July 22, 2008 10:50 AM
Sigh. In my next life, I want to come back as Dorie.
| July 22, 2008 5:10 PM
Thanks for the pictures,words,and inspiration....the elegance of Herme's work always blows me away.
| July 23, 2008 5:32 AM
I went to Pierre Herme for the first time yesterday as I was in Paris for 2 days. Went into the Rue Bonaparte shop and just wanted to try everything but managed to resist and came away with 6 macaroons and a small tub of plenitude ice-cream which was incredibly good in yesterday's baking heat. Back in London today and dreaming about going back to stay near by so I can go every day!
| July 23, 2008 9:18 AM
I don't think you meant to make anyone sad when you wrote this post, but now I am... Getting to Paris maybe every couple of years just isn't enough, and now I'm reminded of Pierre Herme's wonderful little shop. What a great treat to walk into Pierre Herme' and see all of his amazing creations! Such inspiration!
| July 23, 2008 11:33 AM
I lived in France in Feb. '07 and my first stop was Pierre Herme's boutique. I call it a boutique because it's so exquisite. I felt like I was window shopping at Tiffanys but I could actually buy a macaron...I stand corrected, a few macarons. I held my own macaron tasting with my husband. Next to the passion fruit one, the olive macaron was the one that stuck with me.
Thanks for the great post Dorie!
| July 24, 2008 10:55 PM
What a great look inside this kitchen! The mold for cherry on the cake is amazing.
| July 26, 2008 6:24 PM
What a wonderful post so interesting to see behind the scenes of such a legend. One day i would love to move to paris, even if just for a while, thankfully im from the UK so it hopefully wont be too hard and its things like my memories of visiting Herme's shop and sitting outside the Saint-Sulpice, devouring some goodies, that make me wont to go there again
| July 27, 2008 10:54 AM
Dorie! All look beautiful! Really!!! xxGloria
| July 29, 2008 12:27 PM
Be still my heart.
| August 12, 2008 2:49 AM
I love this entry Dorie! Im such a huge fan of your blog (and OF COURSE Herme...the man!) Im actually trying to trail for a week in his test kitchen in December. Im a pastry chef at Chikalicious Dessert Bar in New York City currently. If there is any advice you would be willing to give me I would GREATLY appreciate it! Thank you so much Dorie! email@example.com
| August 20, 2008 9:56 PM
I have your book "Chocolate Desserts by Peirre Herme'" and cannot wait to attempt to make a real French Macaron. Is there a particular brand of almond powder that your recommend that can be purchased in or shipped to the U.S.?
Love you website and enjoy reading your post. Cannot wait to visit Paris soon as I am obsessed with all things French (yes most of my American friends make fun of me, even the ones married to French men).
Have a blessed day!
| August 28, 2008 2:01 PM
What a great behind the scenes tour! Pierre Herme told us the same story in class about the Italians using strawberries for pasta. I think there was a shortage of tomatoes and they decided to use strawberries. He told us this when he was making tomato puff pastry for his REvelation dish which he said he sold for 135 euros and sold maybe 1 per month but he didn't care because he liked it.
| October 8, 2008 11:28 AM
Thanks to u! because of u, i came to know world greatest chef including "The Picasso of Pastry "
First i came across " Baking with Julia" and then on titles like 'Desserts by Pierre HermÃ©, Chocolate Desserts by Pierre HermÃ© and Paris Sweets, such is the comprehensive scope of this baker's bible.
When referring any of your book, it seems written recipes that hold your hand like an old friend every step of the way.
last year somwhere around july ,when i visited Paris 1st thing i have done w to queue up at PH's pastry shop and purchased all flavours of macaroons. I could not resists to taste Ispahan flavoured macaroon and again queued up just for Ispahan. The staff( i guess, he wis a Japanies must hv been laughed at me.) we purchased d same desserts, which you mentioned above, 'Mosaic pistachio dessert'. Till last week, i carefully kept d glass as if it was a souvenier from Paris.and d glass got cracked , which made me to cry, yaa literally i got tears in my eyes, as d glass being good memory of PH pastry shop.
thanks dorie for letn me know the greated chef's creativity and sharing their wonderful recipes!
| March 9, 2010 9:13 PM
Thank you so much for this post. I am a teen who loves to cook, and has an affinity for pastries and desserts ( making and eating!) Last january, I went to Paris for the first time, and made sure I stopped at Pierre Herme's boutique ( along with Laduree, Angelina, and other local shops). One of my best memories from that trip is eating one of his creations on a park bench with my Mom. When we got back, I immediately purchased both of your collaborated dessert books. They are amazing! I just wish I had time to cook everything in them.
Leave a comment
I've been having a terrible problem with spam, so to help, please fill out the CAPTCHA box below. Write your comment, enter the squished words you see in the CAPTCHA box -- don't forget to separate them by a space -- and then hit 'submit'. It's annoying, I know, but hated losing your sweet comments in the spam. Thanks so much -- xoDorie
View Previous Entries