Edible Paris: Discover the restaurants, markets, bistros, cafés and luxury food shops of Paris

Personalized gourmet food tours of the best restaurants and specialty food shops in Paris, France, all crafted by food writer and critic Rosa Jackson

Guilt-free cupcakes

Guilt-free cupcakes

I first spotted Patricia Valliccioni at the Raspail market, standing behind a stall of little cupcakes that looked like nothing I've ever seen in a French pâtisserie. I was intrigued. It's unusual enough to see a woman pâtissière, let alone one who has invented a new style. I didn't have time to talk to her for very long that day but tasted her pistachio-raspberry cake, whose moist, nutty crumb reminded me in a way of the North African pastries I've loved since I was a teenager in Paris.
I came across Patricia again yesterday at the afternoon market in place de la Bourse, which happily seems to be developing a good following. The market runs from noon to 8pm on Tuesdays and Fridays instead of the usual 8am-1.30pm, allowing the local office workers to pick up fresh foods at lunch or on their way home from work. It was a freakishly summery April day and I had only landed in Paris hours ago, so it seemed like just the moment to chat with Patricia and treat myself to a few of her cakes.
It turns out that Patricia is from a family of Corsican biscuit makers (hence her name) - her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all in the business. Patricia enrolled in a nine-month pastry course in Paris that culminated with internships at the Warwick hotel and Sucré Cacao in the 20th, among other places. Before going solo she worked with Eric Kayser, one of the city's top bakers.
"I used to make all the traditional cakes, like the croquembouche (choux pastries filled with pastry cream and topped with caramel)," she told me. "But at a certain point I started to have doubts about using so much cream. So many people have intolerances to dairy products or health problems that can be aggravated by cream. I decided to work on replacing it with fruit purées."
Hence her unusual line of cakes. Orange was the first, followed by a multitude of variations such as sweet chili, black sesame and spinach-mint (one of many savory versions). The weirder the flavor the more her customers like it, she says, which shows that Parisian tastes really are growing more adventurous. Her ideas often come directly from her customers, who suggest new combinations. At her stand you'll also find fiadone, a Corsican take on cheesecake made with brocciu (a kind of Corsican ricotta), eggs, sugar and lemon zest.
I chose three cakes - orange, black sesame and pistachio-raspberry - and ate half of each for breakfast this morning. Orange was the most classic, while black sesame had a slightly disconcerting coal-black color all the way through but just the right touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness. Pistachio-raspberry was already a favorite, and I'm a sucker for anything with pistachio.
Patricia plans to open her own shop within the next year or two, so you might not find her at the market for long - look for her stall at Raspail or the Bourse, both on Tuesdays and Fridays (she works with a partner). What could be better for spring than a guilt-free cake?

To read more about my edible adventures in Paris and Nice, visit my food blog!

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HAN
Dec 12, 2008 11:22pm [ 1 ]

delicious!

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A memorable girls' weekend

"I wanted to drop you a note to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our girl's weekend in Paris and your itinerary was just perfect. We loved the almond croissants and pains aux raisins at Le Moulin de la Vierge, in fact, we went back again Sunday morning.  You were so right about the coffee at Au Roi du Cafe, I have had my share of mediocre coffee in Paris, but my espresso on Saturday morning was one of the best I've ever had; and my friends, the tea drinkers, were pleased to see that they also had good tea.  The woman at Beau et Bon asked how we had heard about her and was pleased to read your write up.  The market was fantastic, we made too many purchases to list and ended up having to go back to the hotel to lighten our load before picking up the trail again.
 
All in all it was a truly perfect way to spend a day in Paris and I can't wait to go back to hit the places we missed this time."

Rose Barefield, Frankfurt

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