Some of my fondest childhood memories are of walking with my mother to La Pâtisserie bakery. This bakery (boulangerie in French) also baked international desserts for the diverse population in my neighborhood, Bay Ridge Brooklyn. We would ask the lovely, fair-haired baker for details about each dessert. 🍨 She would answer patiently and pleasantly, convinced that we would settle on something, not realizing it would take forever.
One day we made a deal with each other to try one dessert per week. We decided to start with the chocolate and cream cheese muffins with chocolate chunks.
We found it difficult to venture beyond this dessert. We ended up trying one new dessert each week and included the muffins as an extra.
I recall those moments at night sitting at the kitchen table with snow insulating the window panes replacing chilliness with warmth. My Mom would take more tea from her vast tea collection saying, “Let’s try the Ming tea.” She would tell me stories about her colorful past and we would laugh in between sips of tea and bites of the weeks’ new dessert.
We snacked on the petit fours which were fabulous. Thin layers of cake separated by fresh raspberry jam and covered in icing. They were beautifully decorated, moist and flavorful. This 19th-century dessert simply means small oven in French. This refers to the temperature of the ovens used during that time. Petit fours are a bit of an art form and not for the beginning baker.
The eclairs, (flashes of lightning in French) were troubling for a while. The tubularly shaped choux pastry filled with light custard, topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate icing was a little addicting. I would get these mad cravings and rush down to the bakery myself and buy one a la carte (corny joke, but true).
As some of you may know the word “dessert” originated in France as desservir, meaning to clear the table. One of my favorite moments. It’s a time to digest the main course and choose a new topic of conversation. It’s a source of extra enjoyment. A treat, something special and if you’re lucky, something to be remembered. Like the desserts, my Mom and I shared from the French bakery. Bon appetit…