Gift Idea for the Baker

51XNqOB-UKLThe Sweet Life in Paris

By David Lebovitz

I’ve been busy baking for the holidays.  I’m not a baker, but there’s a couple of traditional holiday treats I bake to send to family and give to friends.  As Husband and I cleaned up the mess – (powdered sugar is such a beast)…I remembered this book which lives happily on my books to keep shelves.

David Lebovitz is a well-renowned pastry chef and baker from here in the Bay Area (of Chez Panisse fame) who moved to Paris.   

The Sweet Life in Paris is a collection of recipes interspersed with reflections on his adopted city. The observations about Paris are wonderful, his grumpy view of American tourists with their fanny packs and flip flops —  to his very funny riff on French men in their “religion revealing” bathing suits. He also writes unflinchingly about the frustrations of living in Paris.  He can’t get a visa without first opening a bank account, and the banks won’t open an account without a visa, as it requires extra paperwork. (He ends up bribing a friend of friend who works at bank with box of chocolates.)

“Unlike in America, where everyone is taught to say yes, in France, oui means more work.”

Mr. Lebovitz is confounded by the frequent French workers strikes and angry at Parisian’s inability to wait in line at the grocery store

“In Paris there are only two reason you can cut in front of others waiting in line:

1. Because you are old, frail, or have a physical disability that prevents you from standing for long periods of time.

2.  Because you don’t think you should have to wait in line behind anyone else.”

There are the Parisian shopkeepers who would rather smoke outside than sell you cheese that you are obviously unworthy of, the mind-numbing process of returning an item that broke with its first use and the alarming pedestrian pushing

But the curmudgeonly writing can’t hide the author’s true love of Paris and especially its culinary delights —  the chocolate shops and their beautifully artistic offerings, out of the way cafes that serve simple steak aux pomme frites, the bakers who work through the night catering to the French demand for their morning croissants and afternoon baguettes.

There’s one chapter (and a recipe thank goodness) called “Hot Chocolate to Die For”, which will cause you to run to the kitchen to unearth some baking chocolate and whole milk.

And the recipes —  mon deux! — just listen to these temptations  … Chocolate Macaroons, Breton Cake with Fleur de Sel, Dulce de Leche Brownies and there’s even a Caramelized Apple Tart which is supposedly low fat. 

But I found the most valuable pages are his appendix of favorite places in Paris for baked goods — the best croissant in Paris (why yes — yes please) –not to mention the best chocolate shops – priceless  

This is delightful and funny book filled with the charms and eccentricity of Paris.  But the main reason to get this The Sweet Life in Paris is as a “gift” for your favorite baker — and secretly hope you’ll get to share in the results.


N.B.  The author reveals his favorite place in New York City – City Bakery for salted croissants and thick hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow.  Just look at this – possibly worth the 3,000 mile trip.


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