If you want to get to grips with French pastries, you simply have to start with Saint Honoré.
Honoratus, bishop of Amiens, lived sometime in the 6th century AD. He was made a saint after his death and is venerated in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
It’s not entirely sure when the association between Saint Honoré and patisserie first started.
We know that in 1202, a local baker named Renold Theriens donated some land in Paris to build a chapel in honour of Saint Honoré. Was this just chance or had there already been the start of a legend…? In any case, the chapel soon became one of the richest in Paris and gave its name to streets Rue Saint Honoré and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which run through the heart of Paris’ 1st arrondissement.
It was definitely in 1400 when the bakers of Paris established their guild in this church – the church of Saint Honoratus – and started to spread his cult. He was subsequently also adopted by the guild of confectioners and pastry chefs as their patron saint.
This became such serious business that, in 1659, Louis XIV ordered that every baker observe the feast day of Saint Honoré (16th May) and to give free pastries out to their local community.
Nowadays, Saint Honoré is probably most commonly mentioned in reference to his eponymous pastry.
It is a classic but very complicated French dessert, traditionally composed of a puff pastry base, a ring of filled choux pastry balls and finally a very generous swirl of whipped cream (either chiboust or chantilly.)
However, because there are so many different components, it’s a very challenging cake to make and you won’t be surprised to hear that there are many different interpretations. Variations include using flaky pastry – pate brisée – instead of puff or diverging from the traditional vanilla cream.
If you want to find a Saint Honoré pastry while you’re in Paris, some of the best can be found at Patisserie des Rêves, Angelina, Dalloyau… and you should also try Carl Marletti‘s own version – called Lily Valley – with violet and blackcurrant flavourings.