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As you approach Profiterole Chérie, you will be greeted by a rich, warm aroma of butter that will make it impossible to resist walking right in. Upon entering this cheery pink boutique, the ever so charming Philippe Urraca is buzzing around the kitchen. He is a man that almost needs no introduction in the pastry world—his numerous accolades speak for themselves*—yet as you watch him lovingly prepare the day’s profiteroles on a cold Paris morning, you cant help but feel that this is, indeed, a humble enterprise. (*In 1994, he was awarded the title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France,” and since 2004, he’s served as President of the Association of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France en pâtisserie.)
In 2014, Urraca chose to open his boutique in the innovative and artistic area of Le Marais—perhaps the perfect backdrop to this revitalized dessert and an ideal battleground from which to wage culinary war on the notoriously difficult-to-please tastebuds of Parisians. This is a campaign that he has certainly had some success in with throngs of city goers queuing up to savor these timeless French pastries.
You can take your pick from just two types of profiterole. One is filled with ice cream and and the other dessert cream with both prepared using a puff pastry base and exhibiting a crunchy exterior. I begin with ‘ma chérie‘, the classic profiterole, but quickly move on to the sweeter ‘dessert‘ option. Urraca has chosen a variety of classic flavours to top his pastries such as strawberry, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, praline and coffee, but I plump for the citron meringue. Served with lemon confit, sauce and cream, it really is a delicious and zesty showstopper, with the sharpness of the fruit balancing perfectly with the meringue, offering an extra layer of texture to the profiterole. At one point I attempt to push Urraca to give me a favorite but he holds each profiterole very dear to his heart saying that it was impossible to choose! However the profiterole that stole my heart was ‘Ma Chérie Paris-Brest‘, a heavenly combination of hazelnut paste, chocolate and praline, it’s no wonder its their best seller.
Customers also have the opportunity to watch their profiterole being made right in front of them, seeing it transform from a mere ball of pastry into something that probably wouldn’t look out of place at the Louvre. Chef Urraca begins by hollowing out the profiterole, then proceeds to fill it with a luscious column of vanilla ice cream, and then finishes with a generous cascade of velvety chocolate sauce. The profiteroles are served with an extra little pot of sauce to pour at your own pleasure, completing what amounts to a fairly intricate process.
Profiterole Chérie is part of a growing trend in the pastry world of patisseries focusing on a single product with other examples including La Maison du Chou, Aux Merveilleux de Fred, and L’eclair de Genie. One could argue that focusing on a single particular pastry represents a desire to create a largely pointless niche borne from the current culinary simplicity zeitgeist. However, the beauty of this concept means that pastry chefs like Philippe Urraca have the time and space to really hone their craft. The success of Profiterole Chérie absolutely exhibits that– pardon the pun!– the proof is in the pudding. and if you’re not particularly enamoured with chou pastry, I guarantee that you will fall in love with these little works of art.
Perhaps you think that you’ve had good profiterole in Paris, but the fact that Philippe Urraca plays by such an entirely different set of rules to his peers means that there isn’t really any competition. Unfair, really.
Profiterole Chérie, 17 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 77 90 62. Open from Tuesday-Friday from 12:30 pm-8 pm; Saturday-Sunday from 10 am-8pm. Pastries are 6 euros.
Lead photo credit : Chef Philippe Urraca at work at Profiterole Chérie/ Ellie Alvarez