I pictured a city filled with art, both in the plethora of world-famous museums and in the city itself. I imagined greenery abound, ornate and stately building facades, window boxes spilling over with colorful flowers. I saw inviting cafes teaming with chic Parisians whiling their afternoons away lunching or drinking artistically foam-topped cups of coffee. I pictured women, dressed in a classic, ever chic, understated fashion, looking perfectly put together and totally gorgeous with little to no effort. I imagines perfectly manicured parks with floral explosions of color, sprinkled with bubbling fountains throughout the city. And cute little ponds within these said parks teaming with toy boats as perfectly styled Parisian children grinned agog, watching their boats bobbing along the elastic waters surface, their parents close by keeping an eye on them with affectionate smiles on their faces and at each other (because this is the city of love, isn't it? So of course, I imagined all the couples madly in love). I imagined the tastiest of foods. Ripe, robust, nutty, strong flavored cheeses. Vividly colored, cream filled pastries (mainly eclairs). Steaming mugs filled to their brims with hot drinks. The rustling crunch of a baguette as one ripped off a hunk, to find the bread yielding and soft in the center.
Oh yes. This was the Paris that existed in my minds eye.
I have been to Paris three times now (a forth trip in the works for this summer) (yes, I finally made it!). And no, I do not feel an ounce of boredom at this prospect of returning yet again, despite having already been there a handful of times. In fact, I feel much the opposite. Thrilled. Titillating anticipation. I cannot wait to step back into the the city of light and all its splendor. Because in fact, all that I imagined Paris would be is exactly what I found upon finally stepping foot into the city when I was 22 years old.
My first time in Paris was during the tenure of my studying abroad. I picked Florence, Italy specifically for my study destination (for the reason that I knew nothing about this particular city so decided to go somewhere totally new in idea for me), and this was my first time in Europe. I was spellbound.
I had imagined and dreamed about the magic I was sure Europe held, and upon arriving, I was swept up in it. The picture perfect landscapes, the high speed trains able to whisk one to another country in mere hours, the mouthwatering and foreign foods I was able to try in their authentic origins, the cobbled streets and quaint alleyways, the lyrical languages that made up the noise backdrop as I wandered. I loved all of it and vowed to live there someday.
My first time visiting Paris had been during this time of mine spent in Italy studying. My Mom flew over to visit me during the last leg of my trip and whisked the two of us off to Paris for my 23rd birthday. Now THAT was mind-blowing. Totally and utterly fantastic. I will never forget our picnic on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower as the massive monument sparkled behind us, a glitter strewn backdrop to a low key but incredibly memorable meal.
My second and third times in Paris were with two different exes. Each were very different experiences, both of which I absolutely loved. Nighttime bike tours were taken through the insane, death-defying traffic of Paris, the city aglow all around us. Bike rides were taken through the French country side and out to Giverny to tour Monet's famous waterlily gardens. Sprawling picnics in parks were had. Kisses stolen. Coffees sampled (despite the fact that I dont like coffee). We crept our way into the hushed, life sized jewelry box of a stained glass cathedral, Saint Chapelle. Pastries were eaten with gluttonous joy and wild abandon. A tiny charm necklace was unearthed in a little boutique shop, delicate and pale gold with a miniature Eiffel Tower charm on it (still worn often to this day). Notre Dame was climbed. The Marais was wandered. The list goes on. Both trips were romantic, a total blast, very memorable and are now treasured memories of mine.
To see some of those awesome photos from my previous Paris adventure, you can click here. And here for even more photos (including lots of pastries). And finally here for the third part of my last Paris adventure.
(As well as throughout this blog entry. All photos I took during my trips to Paris).
The recipe I am about to provide you with was inspired by a luscious, creamy tart which was stumbled upon during one of these trips to Paris. The tart that was sampled (and burned a permanent sugar encrusted outline in my memory) and immediately begged to by copied was a pistachio raspberry tart. So, upon arriving home, an attempt at recreating this was made. And actually, the homemade version tasted and looked better than the original!!! See for yourself in the photo (and recipe) below:
Without further ado, the recipe inspired by the adventure:
For the crust:
1.5 cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup of unsalted pistachios, skinned
1 stick + 1 tablespoon of butter, chilled and cubed
1 large egg yolk
For the pastry cream and garnish:
2 cups of whole milk
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3.5 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature
12 oz. fresh raspberries
Finely chopped unsalted roasted pistachios
1. 1. Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C degrees.
2. Pulse flour, sugar and pistachios in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a course meal. Stir in the yolk and pulse again until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead just to incorporate dry ingredients.
3. 3. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press dough evenly over the bottom and up sides of the pan. Freeze for about 30 minutes before baking.
4. 4. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Alternatively, you can split the dough between four 4-inch mini tart pans and bake individually if you so desire.
5. 5. To prepare pastry cream, bring milk to a boil in small saucepan.
6. 6. In a separate heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar until well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about ¼ cup of the hot milk from the other saucepan. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remained of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for one or two minutes. Then remove pan from heat.
7. 7. Whisk in vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk in bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, stirring the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes. The cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
8. 8. To serve, spread the pastry cream in the tart shell and smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange raspberries on top and sprinkle with pistachios. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.