It's no secret that Du Pain et des Idées, a little corner bakery in Paris' Canal Saint Martin neighborhood, serves some of the best bread in town.
David Lebovitz has been espousing the superiority of its boules since 2008. Anthony Bourdain paid it a visit in an episode of The Layover, back in 2012. And its escargot au chocolat et pistache—a hypnotic swirl of laminated dough and bright green pistachio, flecked with chocolate—has become so internet-ubiquitous in recent years, it's inspired zillions of close-ups of the pastry seemingly levitating in front of the boulangerie:
So I was surprised when a list of Paris recommendations compiled by my little sister Clementine included an item from Du Pain I'd never come across: the sacristain.
Recommendations from Clementine do not come lightly. She's an astute critic with exacting standards, and she doesn't sugarcoat. I once saw her turn away an entire platter of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies because she suspected they were made with imitation vanilla rather than pure extract. (Another entry on her Paris list, for a secondhand shoe store, says simply, "Tiny shop with intimidating salesperson. The most beautiful shoes you’ve ever seen.")
Accordingly, when I entered Du Pain last week and locked eyes with a big plate of sacristains, I knew this wasn't the time to mess around.
The sacristan is a long, twisted pastry that's like a croissant aux amandes if it grew eight inches, lost its potbelly, and took on the sort of ineffable intrigue that'd make you want to spend all night talking to it at a cocktail party. According to Petite Panière, it hearkens from the South of France, and the origins of its name are murky.
At Du Pain, they're €3.30 apiece, made of deeply golden, unthinkably buttery puff pastry dough (a páte à palmier) cradling delicate crème pátissièrie, and it's unlikely you'll make it to one of the wooden tables out front before you start peeling into one with the urgency of someone who believes all of life's secrets are tucked into its folds. Each is a foot long, or thereabout—who could think to measure at a moment like that?—but by the time you get to the end, you'll swear it was a miniature version and that you need to head back for a second.
Which you should, if you, too, are on Clem's Paris plan; the next section of her list involves quite a bit of walking—and she doesn't recommend stopping for a glass of wine until you've reached just the right spot.
What's your all-time favorite pastry? Let us know in the comments!