Thursday, January 05, 2017

Blé Sucré, Paris

When I visited Paris, of course one of the things I looked up was where to get the best croissants.  Because I was there for a business trip, I stayed close to my office, where the pickings were slim. It was shopping-ville and tourist-ville, filled with overpriced and underwhelming items.  The hotel breakfast at the W had abysmal croissants, and even the croissant from the famed Ladurée was awful (to be fair, they are known for macarons).   The only halfway decent one I found close by was from Liberté and that wasn't particularly awesome.

So when Saturday rolled around, I had one mission: to find the best croissant in Paris.  My research lead me straight to Blé Sucré, located fairly far from my hotel in the 12th arrondissement.  In fact, it turned out to be right next to East Mamma, where we had dinner the previous Sunday, but arrived by car.

I knew it was far away, an hour walk from my hotel, but reviews of the croissants, and chocolate croissants, were just too good to pass up.  But rather than walk, I grab a Vélib' bike from the station right outside my office, and risked my life on the city streets of Paris, just to get my treat in half the time.  (Don't worry mom, the ride wasn't really that bad, the bike was in good working order, and the route mostly sorta had a bike lane!  If you are ever in Paris and want to get around quickly, I highly recommend.  A day pass is only 1.70€, and from there, you can take unlimited <30 min trips for free, or pay a little for additional time.  I made it in under 30 mins, and there are stations seriously everywhere.

Setting

Storefront.
Blé Sucré is located on a sunny, quiet sidewalk alongside a park.  It is far off the beaten tourist path, and I could instantly tell that this is where normal people go for their casual morning treat.  Unlike most boulangeries, they actually had a small amount of seating, a few colorful tables on the sidewalk under the awning.  If you choose to eat there, your treats were put on a tray rather than bagged, and you were charged an extra 1€.  Also unlike most boulangeries, they did have coffee (although only regular, only espresso drinks).
Park.
The seating was fine if you actually wanted a table there, but the shop is literally right on Square Armand Trousseau, an adorable tree filled park with plenty of benches, and a playground (filled with what I presume were neighborhood children).

I took my treat there to enjoy, and appreciated just fitting into the scenery.  The park was crowded, filled with children and adult's voices alike, all speaking French, not a word of which I understood.

I loved it.  Finally, out of the tourist area.

The Goods

Jams.
But back to Blé Sucré.

I entered, not entirely knowing what to expect.  Blé Sucré doesn't actually have a website, so I had read reviews, and seen some photos, but I had no complete sense of what the lineup would be.

The first wall was filled with jams.  Uh, moving on.
Display Case #1 ...
Things quickly got more exciting.

On top of the main display case were packaged little goodies.  If I didn't have epic plans for Michelin starred dinner that night at Goust, I most certainly would have grabbed some of these to go.  There were all sorts of little cookies, but also palmiers, madelines (their signature item), and of course, fancy flavored artisinal marshmallows.

Below them, the treats began.  Beautiful fruit tarts, including a crumble topped one.  These came in two sizes, but even the smaller ones were huge, and 14€, so certainly not an individual sized treat.  There were also a bunch of stunning other desserts, including the first baba au rhum I've probably ever been interested in.
More Sweet Treats ...
The case continued, with a St. Honore that I wanted to devour on the spot, and all the classics: paris brest, millefeuille, etc.
Viennioseries.
But it was breakfast, and I was there for the croissant!  I sought this place out, for the croissant after all.   I had to get a croissant.

I expected that perhaps I'd opt for the chocolate croissant, since people love that too, but I wasn't expecting to be taken in by ... well, everything I saw.

My intentions of getting a croissant vanished.  How could I get something so basic?

I was overwhelmed by indecision.

I surveyed the selection, and stepped out of the way as I pondered.  Everyone else knew exactly what they wanted, stepped in, ordered their croissant or chocolate croissant, a baguette, and dashed out the door.  Not me.  I took it all in.

Seriously, everything looked incredible.  Yes, the croissants, down on the end on the bottom shelf, did look perfect.  They were huge, super crispy and flaky.  But the pain aux raisins above them glistened at me.  Next to them, the roule aux amandes took it up a notch.  And next to those, the kouign amann honestly looked amazing (now, kouign amann is pretty much *always* amazing, but these looked absolutely sugar and butter infused, caramelized beyond belief.  OMG.  If I hadn't devoured a Praluline the night before, I'm sure this is what I would have gone for.  But I couldn't quite take something quite that decadent.  Or so I thought ...)

Shocking to me were the brioche framboise and brioche caramel, bottom row, right hand side.  I've never seen anything like them.  They looked like soft, doughy bread, studded with either raspberries or caramel.  Not as rich as a croissant or the other pastries, but sugary and sweet too.  I came so, so close to getting the caramel one.

But, I was there for a croissant.  I didn't want crazy sweet, right?  Too many days in a row of feasting on sweets was catching up with me.  I was going to just get a croissant.  Or a chocolate croissant.  Right?  Right?!!

Finally, I stepped up to order, quite hesitant, because I hadn't really made up my mind, and, well, I hadn't heard a word of English spoken, nor seen a single sign I could read.  I pointed at what I thought was the caramel brichee, with the viennioseries menu in hand, and just asked if that is what it was (I still wasn't quite sure what that thing was).  The woman politely told me yes, and she responded in English to me, so I was relieved, and just blurted out, "Do you have a favorite?"  She pointed at the kouign amann of course, and then the roule aux amandes.  I honestly had no idea what the later was, it looked like a raisin swirl, but without raisins, and with almond flakes on top, and it was glistening.  Um, sure, why not?  I'm not sure what got into me.  I was supposed to be getting THE FAMOUS CROISSANT!  I went with her suggestion instead.
Roule Aux Amandes. 1.60€.
Anyway, yes, I wound up with the roule aux amandes.

It was made with the same laminated dough as a croissant, just, well, rolled up.  I'm pretty sure there was a small amount of almond paste between the layers, because I could taste almond other than just in the topping, or perhaps there was an extract baked into the dough?  I'm not sure.  I did unroll it, and never actually saw frangipane.

It was just a different spin on an almond croissant or almond danish.  Same dough, same almond flavors, just a different form.

I wasn't quite sure I liked it at first.  I think at some level it just wasn't actually what I wanted, but I honestly had no idea what I did want at that point.

The exterior was super flaky and crispy, the inside layers, moist and soft.  The softer layers had a slight chew to them, that wasn't quite enjoyable.  The dough had a sweetness to it, and was very, very buttery.  It actually might have been a bit too rich for me, particularly when covered in sweet glaze too.  When I lifted my treat up, after only having set it on the paper for a moment to take this photo, it was soaked through in grease.  Wow.

It was large, and a few bites in, I didn't expect that I'd finish it.  But ... it grew on me.  Soon I craved more sweet buttery-ness.

In the end, I did enjoy it.  I wished Blé Sucré was closer by, as I would like to return to try the regular croissant, as I set out to do in the first place.  I'm sure it was buttery too, but not in quite the same way.  And some of those other desserts ... swoon.  Next time.
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