For the following two weeks, while I am in France, I am going to try a new pastry. Every. Single. Day.
In case you haven’t memorized your multiplication tables yet (don’t worry, I haven’t either), that’s fourteen pastries. Is that a lot? Honestly, I would be eating that many pastries—or more—anyway, so I might as well get something out of it besides an empty wallet and a gourmet French dessert baby kicking at my stomach.
So what is culturally significant about fourteen variations of dark, rich, chocolate, flaky dough, and vanilla beans? I plan on finding out, one bite at a time.
Read the entire series here.
I ate one pastry (or more) every day a little over a month ago. I promised a write-up about each one of them, and I’ve still got three left. So now we’re gonna marathon this thing.
The Saint Honoré is a pastry that I came to France knowing I wanted to try, mostly because my mother told me this story: when she and my dad went to Angelina, the famous Parisian café, the combination of an extra thick chocolat chaud and the Saint Honoré made her run for the bathroom like she’d just taken some kind of max strength laxative. You would think this would deter me from wanting to try the Saint Honoré, but this sweet little family anecdote only presented the kind of challenge I like to conquer: a digestive challenge. (I am exaggerating for emphasis. I do not actually like digestive challenges.)
It’s possibly not quite as innocent as it appears:
My mother must just have a super sensitive stomach, because this pastry did not have even a fraction of the same effect on me. It’s exceptionally rich, and the vanilla whipped cream was absolutely delicious, but I’m just not a cream puff kind of gal. And the Saint Honoré, from my admittedly gastronomically ignorant perspective, is a glorified cream puff.
Of course, this classic French dessert has an interesting past. This choux pastry dish is named after Saint Honoré or Honoratus, the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, bishop of Amiens.
Honoratus, despite his name, believed himself to be unworthy. He was reluctant to be elected bishop of Amiens, even though he was allegedly virtuous from birth. When Honoratus was finally proclaimed bishop, his nursemaid, in the middle of the baking bread for the family, remarked that she would only believe the news if the peel she was using to bake the bread put down roots and turned itself into a tree. Of course, once the peel was placed in the ground, it transformed into a mulberry tree that was still being shown into the sixteenth century.
There’s no other information as to why Honoratus became Saint Honoré, the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. He didn’t seem to be a baker himself, but I guess a tree growing out of a peel in your name is pretty miraculous and deserving of whatever sainthood.