On my last day in Paris, I happened upon a Pierre Hermé boutique. Well, a boutique of THE Pierre Hermé, pastry genius who has taken the already fine art of French pastry to dizzying new heights (Visit the website! You won’t regret it.). There was only enough time for one pastry before I jetted off home, so I chose carefully. After my eyes roved over all of the exquisite options behind the glowing glass altar, I mean counter, I chose the praline “2000 feuilles,” or “two thousand layers,” a play on the normal term “millefeuille.” One of the three prettily made up, dressed up, and begloved salesgirls wrapped my order in a white box and carefully placed it in a sleek white bag trimmed with tangerine orange and sprinkled with petal-shaped laser cutouts. I snuck in one delectable macaron au thé au jasmin for the road.
Once home, I brought myself to undo the package, and contemplated the towering 2,000 layers inside. It looked taller than the typical millefeuille, and lighter. The real test would be in the eating. I grabbed hold of my serrated knife—an essential tool for such delicate work—and for to it and began the slow operation of reducing the airy masterpiece into bite-sized morsels. At the first bite, I knew I needed to devote all of my attention to the consumption of my pastry. The computer was switched off, the phone put away, the music cut. The taste of the pastry was subtle. The ever-so slight taste of toasted caramel was enough to taunt my taste buds; they wanted more.
The most notable element of the 2000 feuilles was air. It was deftly incorporated into every single bite. Between each flaky, mildly buttered layer of pastry was the emptiness and consequent satisfying crunch of genius. The cream was lighter than in any other millefeuille I have experienced, and I am sure that numbers in the hundreds. That cream was composed of one small part of fat, one small part of caramel, hardly any sugar, and so much air! My chewing felt so lowly compared to the heavenly pastry and cream oeuvre before me.
I ate neatly, cleanly. My instinct knew this was the kind of pastry to approach with ritualistic care, and I did. Time stood still in those moments where all that mattered was the ability to break down the praline sculpture in flaky morsels that maintained their integrity until my teeth and jaw could complete the demolition. Only very rarely did I happen upon a stone of a noisette, the only ingredient that seemed to bind the pastry to the earth. I took care to consume every last crumb. My moment of worship of French pastry was complete. I prepared for a final stroll through the Jardin des Plantes.
If you would like to experience the mastery of Pierre Hermé pastry, you can find his boutiques at several Paris boutique locations: 185 Rue du Vaugirard, 75105; 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006; 39 Avenue de l’Opéra, 75002; 4 Rue Cambon; 75001; 40 Boulevard Haussman, 75009; 133 Avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008. You can also find his pastries at a select few international locations.