Brian Pfeiffer recently returned to Paris and, while waiting for pesky things such as a travel visa to be approved, he bided his time scouring the city for pastries. His taste in food and architecture is impeccable plus he has an uncanny ability to ferret out hidden or lesser known gems. Evidently those skills far surpass his ability to navigate the bureaucracy of travel paperwork, but luckily so for us because here Brian shares his latest great find among the pâtisseries of Paris. ~Marjorie
Text & photos by Brian Pfeiffer
If you love pastry and the thrill of discovery–and if you find yourself in Paris–then make your way to the Pâtisserie Aurore-Capucine. Monsieur Jean-François Petit, pâtissier, has created his own inventions and variations on French and Austrian pastries using all the traditional ingredients–chocolate, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios–but with the addition of fragrant flower and herbal essences such as rose petals, rose geranium, jasmine, lavender and violet to provide delights that are largely unknown to Western palates. While such flower waters flavored all sorts of delicacies in the courts of Europe as late as the seventeenth century, they largely disappeared from cooking in Europe and North America after the eighteenth century.
Trained as a pastry chef by the traditional French method of apprenticeship, and having worked in the fabled pastry kitchens of Fauchon, Monsieur Petit was inspired to begin using flower and herbal flavors after a trip that he and his wife took to Tunisia. There they experienced first-hand the living tradition of making these essences as it has been handed down from generation to generation for millennia. A couple years later, after exploring the traditions of Provence where fragrant plants are grown in abundance for perfume, Monsieur and Madame Petit took the leap of establishing their own pastry shop. They chose an unlikely location in the ninth arrondissement, well in advance of the gentrifying expansion of the center of Paris which is only now reaching this corner of the city. They extend a warm welcome to customers who come from all neighborhoods of Paris to enjoy the high quality and abundant variety of offerings at Pâtisserie Aurore-Capucine.
The range of pastries is wide and varies with the seasonal availability of ingredients. It includes various cookies such as sablés flavored with basil & rose or thyme & rosemary and Nürnburger lebkuchen flavored with ginger, anise and a rose-water glaze. Macarons are made in the manner devised in Toulouse to celebrate the wedding of Louis XIV in 1660. Fruit tarts include apricot tarts with lavender on a bed of almond cream, and pear-grapefruit tarts on a pistachio sablé.
Time and appetite did not permit me to get as far as the cakes, but Le Sévillan (a rich chocolate cream on an almond base wrapped with a layer of pistachio cream) and La Chocolat Royale (dark chocolate truffle perfumed with orange-flower water and a hint of ginger on a sablé) looked like the right places to start. In the weeks before Christmas, Neapolitan chestnuts arrive on the premises where they are confected into marrons glacées and are available until the year’s supply is exhausted. All of it is worth a detour – or two – or more.
NOTE: The Pâtisserie Aurore-Capucine has no website which may be frustrating to some customers, but I was charmed and delighted to visit a pastry shop that is focused on the most important part of its mission–making superb pastry and confectionary–and leaves the marketing to word-of-mouth. For those who want to see more on the internet, look up Les pâtisseries aux fleurs d’Aurore Capucine by Farida Foodista for a video interview.
Pâtisserie Aurore-Capucine is located at 3 rue de Rochechouart, 75009, Paris. This is at the bottom of rue Rochechouart near rue Cadet, which happens to be a market street (see p. 126 of Markets of Paris, 2nd ed.)
Open Tuesdays through Friday 11 am – 2 pm and 3:30 pm – 8 pm. Saturdays 10 am – 7 pm
Brian Pfeiffer is an architectural historian who nominally lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he plots his frequent escapes to Paris in an ongoing quest for pastry to fortify his wanderings.