I first came across the pastry chef Claire Damon (photo credit: Relais Desserts) at Macaron Day conference organised by Relais Desserts and hosted by the Institut du Cordon Bleu. She was one of the guest pastry chefs giving an insightful presentation on the highest standards of patisserie to mere mortals like myself. She is a highly acclaimed pastry chef that worked alongside Pierre Hermé for five years and spent another five years with Christophe Michalak. It is such a pity that my French is not up to par and I could just about understand 50% of what she was saying. What I gleaned from her presentation is that like an artist she takes inspiration from nature, music, the arts, everyday objects around her. She seemed particularly enthralled by the beauty of nature which instilled in her a deep respect of natural ingredients and in particular fruits.
It was during her presentation that I had the chance to sample her legendary Le Pamplemousse Rosa, a creation consisting of a delicate rice flour biscuit flavoured with rose water, cream and segments of Corsican grapefruit, covered by airy rose-flavoured cream. The gateau was so delicate, bursting with sharp grapefruit flavour which was counter-balanced by the beautifully rounded rose-flavoured cream. It left me wandering how it was possible to create such a light dessert where the fruit did not "bleed" into the rest of the ensemble and make it soggy. The fruit still preserved its juiciness and integrity but so did the rest of the ingredients. It was thus inevitable that I would try to find where I could get more of these amazing treats. After a little bit of research I found out that Claire Damon has set up Des Gateaux et du Pain with David Granger on the 15th arrondissement of Paris, which is now considered one of the leading patisseries of Paris (Photo credit: Des Gateaux et Du Pain).
Entering the shop in itself was a beautiful experience. Gentle classical piano music playing in the background, spacious and minimalistic set-up in luxurious black deco, sharp lines and a marble floor. The shop is sectioned into bread, gateaux and viennoisserie spaces. Even though it was 9.30 in the morning, my mind was transported in a self-indulgent state as if I was in a spa, my heart rate slowed down and my movements became deliberate to savour every second I was there.
I asked the delightful shop-assistant, who thankfully spoke english, what was new this week. Given the seasonality in Claire Damon's philosophy I wanted to sample the latest creations and to experience the emotions she intended to conjure up for us at this moment in time. I chose Paradisi, with a zingy rhubard glaze that covers a jelly with wonderfully sharp and slightly bitter pomelo and light vanilla cream. The delicate ensemble is supported by almond biscuit and shortbread. I also chose Le Petit Bateau which features an airy vanilla mousseline cream covered by a delicate strawberry gel glaze and is shaped as a smooth and shiny hyperbolic dome on top of strawberry compote. The latter is supported by almond biscuit encased in buttery shortbread. The result is adorned by a white chocolate "sail" and it is indeed reminiscent of a little charming boat.
If you enjoy the use of fruit in light desserts that are not overtly sweet, then definitely visit Les Gateaux et Du Pain. The respect Claire Damon shows to her ingredients is outstanding, resulting in pure and harmonious flavours presented in elegant forms.
Des Gateaux et Du Pain
63 Boulevard Pasteur, 75015 Paris
Volontaires (line 12), Sevres/Lecourbe (line 6), Gare Montparnasse (line 13)
Photo credit: all photos are mine unless otherwise stated