Paris for me is a painful pleasure. In 24 hours I covered almost 30 miles, my feet have still not forgiven me. The rest of my body may never forgive me for how much wheat I ate when I was away. I normally follow a gluten free diet (for medical reasons, though I am angry at myself for writing this justification!) but with the help of some dietary prep and medication I can fall off the wagon for a meal or two without suffering too badly.
In every day life, it’s simply not worth it. I would rather live life without good bread than live with the pain and fatigue that follows. But pâtisserie is a genuine passion of mine, so its worth a little suffering for my art.
My first trip to Paris involved a huge amount of research to find safe food to eat. It was not a perfect trip, we were on a budget, and sometimes I simply went hungry. Times have changed now though and even the open air market stalls had organic gluten free bread!
I however, had set my sights on Helmut Newcake. Opened in 2011 I am not sure how I missed it last time I visited Paris. Luckily David Leboitz wrote a blog post on gluten free eating in Paris and covered the now closed Helmut Newcake cafe. If David Leboitz tells me this is one of the best canelé in Paris, I believe him. He is right by the way. Not far from Madeleine station on Rue Vignon, Newcake is a gluten free paradise, they don’t just have a gluten free offering, everything they offer is gluten free.
That’s a kind of gastronomic freedom I really appreciate.
I went twice during my short trip having missed the bread on my first visit. If you want the full Helmut Newcake experience I recommend being there very shortly after they open at 11.30am. You will have the pick of their cakes, breads and you might even pick up a GF quiche and salad to picnic with later. If you arrive before 11.30am, wait to be invited in, as they open the door before officially opening to customers. Parisians are big on manners.
My first purchases were a chocolate fondant, a coffee religeuse and two of the fables canelé one of which was greedily devoured before I reached the end of the street. Eating as you walk is also considered rude, but I couldn’t help myself. The fondant was wonderfully chocolatey but a little dry, the coffee religeuse had a great texture, the choice pastry wasn’t quite crisp, but considering it is gluten free it was excellent. The coffee creme pâtissiere filling for me was too rich and dense, I couldn’t finish the whole cake which is just sad.
The canelé were divine, crisp caramelised shells filled with a chewy and custards interior lightly scented with orange, heavenly.
These little bordelaise treats were a highlight of my trip, so much so I returned the next day and bought 3 more! I should have bought a dozen. I also picked up two baguettes. In hindsight I wish I had picked up a country loaf, but as I was flying home that afternoon u choose what I thought would pack best.
The bread was denser than I would have liked, but quite expected with GF bread. It had a wonderful crispy crust and due to being packed with seeds a moist, nutty flavour to it. I often find seeded breads to be moister and hold their structure better, I also enjoy the added texture.
I took my bread and made my way to the market at Place Monge for some extra picnic provision; real French butter, rich and creamy with plenty of salt, a perfect accompaniment to the bread and some sweet raspberries. The plan was to pick up some fresh goats cheese, however it was around 25c and climbing so I thought it best to avoid I bag full of melted chèvre.