French chefs have a reputation for being stern and bad-tempered. They do exist, but Nicolas Bacheyre, the award-winning head pastry chef at Un Dimanche à Paris, although very disciplined and hard working can also be seen making mischief in the kitchen from time to time. And he has been my target for the past four years.
As a born and bred Canadian I have an affinity for the taste of maple syrup. My uncle was a producer of maple syrup in Ontario so my family had the privilege of always having a steady flow of that sweet, golden liquid of the gods. We ate it on everything. Even today, I make Brussels sprouts with butter, walnuts and maple syrup. It is a big hit with my French friends.
They love the stuff and can’t get enough of it. Many of my friends here in Paris had never tried it, but once I introduced them to it they were hooked. When I take trips to Canada I am inundated with requests for it. Invariably when I return to France from my visits home I am laden down with syrup to distribute when I get back to Paris. Those jugs of boiled tree sap are heavy too. It looks as though I am dragging suitcases full of anvils through CDG airport on my way to get the shuttle home.
Monsieur Bacheyre is always pushing the boundaries and creating new and inventive pastries. I figured he was up for the challenge so I zeroed in on him for a pastry made with maple syrup. Something I hadn’t yet seen in Paris.
It took me four years of gently suggesting and cajoling. Un Dimanche à Paris is one of the regular stops on the Original Flavors of Paris tour so from time to time when we stopped in I would give him a maple syrup candy as a small reminder of my request. The pastry kitchen is behind glass walls so you can view it from the shop. Last year, when I saw them making a new pastry I held up a note to the glass saying: “Maple Syrup???”, in hopes that he may be making my dream come true of maple syrup pastry. Sadly, he and the other chef shook their heads saying no.
I can now say that my patience, persistence, and gentle efforts have paid off. Every year in France after Christmas and during the period of Epiphany, a celebration of the three kings visiting the baby Jesus, the French serve a tart called the Galette des Rois. It’s flaky tart with a layer of frangipane (almond cream) in the middle. Inside the tart is hidden a little bean or fève. Today, the bean is usually made of ceramic. The tarts are sold with little paper crowns. Whoever finds the fève in their slice is endowed with the crown and has the honor of being king or queen for a day.
Each year pastry chefs will come out with variations on the traditional frangipane and I am proud to say that this year, Nicolas Bacheyre has created a Galette des Rois flavored with maple syrup and Corsican oranges. The maple syrup flavouring is delicate with the essence of the orange.
I am honored that Monsieur Bacheyre has chosen a traditional French pastry to combine with maple syrup that is so symbolically Canadian. I feel like it is somewhat representative of me, being a Canadian, living in France, and sharing my knowledge of traditional French food and wine with visitors to Paris.
Article by Lisa Rankin, hard-core foodie, wine hound, Paris lover, and Flavors of Paris founder.
Un Dimanche à Paris
4 Cour du Commerce Saint Andre, 75006 Paris — 01 56 81 18 18 From Tuesday to Friday : 12h00-22:00 / Sunday: 11h00-19h00 / Monday: 12h00-19h00