Saturday, April 28, 2007
Quintessential lemon tart
I met with pastry chef and blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz yesterday to have a chat and interview him for the book I'm currently working on, Gourmet Paris (to be published in English this fall by Editions du Mont Tonnerre). We mostly talked about ice cream, which is the theme of David's latest book, but one of the places he mentioned was a new bakery on the Square Trousseau, Blé Sucré. Being in a sweet frame of mind this week, I didn't waste any time in dashing over to check it out.
I used to work around the corner from Square Trousseau in the now defunct Time Out Paris offices and remember this boulangerie as a modest neighborhood place with cheap sandwiches. It's still modestly sized, but the interior has been redesigned with a brick arch and the oven visible behind the counter. It's a four à sol, which means that the loaves are baked directly on a flat surface that helps produce the desirable crunchy crust. When I visited at lunchtime, the baker was removing Rétrodor baguettes from the oven with a big shovel. Having recently had a spectacular Rétrodor experience, I opted instead for a fougasse, a lemon tart and a can of Perrier, which cost €5.50 in total (who says it's expensive to eat in Paris?).
I took my lunch and crossed the street to the leafy Square Trousseau, just as I used to do when I worked nearby. The only empty benches were getting soaked by the sprinkler system so I followed the lead of the many teenagers in the square and perched on one of the ping pong tables. Fancy fougasses and deluxe baguette sandwiches sadly didn't appeal to these French kids, who all had cardboard McDonalds boxes. I pitied them as I bit into my soft and yeasty fougasse filled with mushrooms, crème fraîche and bacon. Fougasse is a Provençal flatbread similar to focaccia, and I have to say that this one was even better than those I buy at La Fougasserie in Nice. The true test of Blé Sucré, however, would be the lemon tart. This is a tricky cake to get right, and I'm especially fussy as I think the version I make in Nice with local lemons and a touch of olive oil is hard to beat. What impressed me was baker Fabrice Lebourdat's domed filling, which I know is not easy to accomplish. The pastry wasn't as thin as mine, but it had a buttery, biscuity quality that I loved. Lebourdat topped off the tart with a little square of yellow-tinted white chocolate and the lightest sprinkling of snow-like icing sugar, making it a small work of art. The only problem was eating the tart without a fork, since the filling was so deep (it was just lemony enough, not too tart and not too sweet).
Later that day, as my crazed taxi driver careened through the Etoile with his mobile phone in one hand and his cigarette in the other, I told myself that if my time was up, at least I wouldn't leave this world wishing I had found the quintessential lemon tart in Paris.
Square Trousseau, 7 rue Antoie Vollon, 12th, 01 43 40 77 73.