I think I’m pretty easy going when it comes to my chocolate. I like it dark; very dark (my favorite); milk; white; with nuts; with fruit; cream filled…well, you get the picture. But what is it that attracts me (or anyone) to the chocolate or pastry? Is it the brightly colored packaging with the beautiful bows or the intricate dusted designs on the tops of glossy chocolates? Is it the perfectly molded chocolate with the nut or fruit garnish that hints of the flavors inside? Or could it be the luxurious textures of chocolate and confections that are assembled like a glorious piece of art?
I was on a journey to figure out just what it is (or isn’t) that draws me into a chocolate candy shop or bakery. I wanted to find out what makes me yearn for the confection. What better place to conduct such an experiment than in France?
One of the first shops that pulls me in is one in which the windows are filled with square shaped fruit tarts topped with juicy red raspberries and strawberries in perfect rows, delicately dusted with powdered sugar, chocolate shavings and a couple of pistachio macaroons. Next to these are glistening chocolate cakes that are edged with fan shapes of chocolate and topped with rolled chocolate cylinders. I am captivated by the rich and colorful textures and can immediately imagine what each decadent confection might taste like. These are they desserts that dreams are made of…one that I would proudly present at a fancy dinner party. Since a fancy dinner party isn’t near in my future, I opt to save my 28 Euros (about $38) and not splurge on the cake. I would undoubtedly end up eating it all myself anyways. The yearning was definitely found in this shop!
There is certainly no shortage of chocolateries nor patisseries in France and I find that my research is both time consuming and a bit overwhelming, as I have a tendency to struggle with self restraint. I have to remind myself this is an exploratory mission, not a tasting one.
I find that I am being drawn into virtually every shop that has the rich dark brown delicacies in the windows. From solid chocolate bars to chocolate on a stick, I am pulled in one boutique at a time. Autumn has arrived and there are now beautiful displays featuring rich and intoxicating colors of burnt oranges and deep purples that pair so well with the molded chocolate in shapes of mushrooms, leaves and pumpkins. Flavors such as apple ganache with bits of hazelnut, dark chocolate with cognac and praline with chocolate mousse arouse my senses.
One of my favorite patisseries that I came across was Bouché, located in Beaune, a town in the Burgundy wine region of France. The fall vineyard and wine themed windows with various chocolates and pastries captivated me. What I found inside was my dessert nirvana. There were dense dark chocolate tortes and creamy layered mousses with chocolate meringue logs that made my knees weak. Then there was the chocolate glazed Ópera cake-an almond sponge cake with espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache layers; the mille-feuille, “thousand leaves”, made of flaky buttery puff pastry with layers of chocolate cream and topped with a vanilla glaze; and chocolate hazelnut dacquoise, layers of meringue and cream, topped with fresh raspberries. Everywhere I looked there were lovely desserts that seemed to fulfill my chocolate fantasies.
It seemed as though I was never going to meet a chocolate shop that I didn’t adore. That is, until one sunny day in the French Riviera....
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