Best Desserts, Beautiful Ideas, France Travel Tips: Discover ‘Sweet Paris’

An American in Paris, indeed. Southern California native Frank Adrian Barron wrote a captivating love letter to the City of Lights in his debut book Sweet Paris: Seasonal recipes from an American baker in France (Harper design). This beautifully crafted hardcover is brimming with gorgeous photographs by Joann Pai that go perfectly with Barron’s charming words. He shares culinary know-how, travel tips and more than 60 spectacular recipes. For anyone who has fallen in love with France, dreams of vacationing there, loves to bake or eat desserts, this is a captivating dream book escape. Consider it an extra delicious Mother’s Day gift.

Barron moved to Paris with his partner in 2012, who was offered an interesting job. Their stay, intended to be temporary, became permanent and changed Barron’s life – and the lives of those in his orbit. At first there were significant adjustments: learning the French language, cultivating new friendships. Accepting so much new didn’t mean Barron forgot the old, though. He had a crush on France but missed America. And it was at this crucial juncture of appreciating the joy of life of both worlds that a pivot emerged that led Barron to an unexpected career. Sweet Paris stirs an irresistible story with a bit of fairytale appeal.

In Paris, Barron was surrounded by bakeries and pastry shops tiered with brioches, buttered croissants, eclairs, macarons, madeleines and mont blancs, which he devoured daily. Over the months, “…after gorging myself on all the French delights…I was ready for flavors that reminded me of home,” he explains. Barron was homesick for classic American sweets like banana bread, buttercream-filled layer cakes, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, lemon bars, muffins, and his mother’s signature Bundt cake with cinnamon and brown sugar. Barron, a self-taught baker who couldn’t find these edible comforts in Paris, brainstormed and impressively taught himself how to construct increasingly complicated feats until his results became masterful. His goal: to design desserts that – voila! — are amazing combinations of the finest French and American ingredients and influences.

His path widened. He hosted cake parties for friends, orchestrated cake decorating workshops from his Marais apartment, and took orders from cafes and shops. As word of mouth was praised, foodie publications took notice and applauded Barron’s skill and thrill, panache and enthusiasm. His Instagram @cakeboyparis was born — and a loyal following grew faster than an oven full of soufflés.

Paris revealed many lessons for Barron that readers might be able to incorporate into their own storytelling. His Creme de la creme Tip: just say the word Yes, as often as possible. If you accept this – to surprise opportunities, to travel, to gain new interests and experiences – even if you are initially insecure, it pushes you forward and broadens your horizons. And that’s just as well.

Barron sets an intriguing backdrop by setting the book’s theme and pacing: The difference between American and French food is their attitude toward seasonality. In the United States, especially in large cities, virtually any food imaginable can be available year-round. We are fortunate to be able to source fruit and vegetables, for example, not only from our orchards and farms, but also as imports from distant countries. Juicy, crimson strawberries in the dead of winter? For a price they are accessible in America. Not so easily in France – and that is why the rhythm of French kitchens is precisely adjusted to the change of the seasons and what is better when. The French follow these rules. Such are French strawberries, which are expected in the cold seasons even more appreciated under the welcome heat of spring and summer skies.

“Seasonal baking has taught me the joy of savoring ingredients at their most delicious,” says Barron. “But it also trained me in the art of anticipation — and the joy of looking forward to what’s to come.”

baron organized Sweet Paris in chapters celebrating the four seasons, he highlights recipes and activities – and in each section he offers fun suggestions: hunt for treasures at Parisian flea markets, shop smarter like a Parisian, choose and arrange flowers with flair, select fine cheeses and shop for must-haves . Don’t miss sightseeing. There is a helpful list of favorite Parisian addresses for sipping excellent coffee, nibbling on fine chocolates, sipping aromatic tea, finding exemplary baguettes, as well as shopping for specialty kitchen utensils, housewares, candles, jams, linens and literature.

His many wonderful recipes include Pistachio Cherry Tea Cakes, Sakura Financiers, Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake, White Peach Cake, Lavender Honey Madeleines, Gâteau Opéra, Pavlova with Summer Berries, and Passion Fruit Coconut Cake. He writes invitingly about superb buttercream, whips up cake decor that sparkles, and gives festive baked gifts to family and friends. There’s even a thoughtful passage about creating a cookbook in times of COVID.

In spring, he recommends a day trip to the exquisite Château de Chantilly, a vast estate housing one of France’s largest art collections. Its formal French gardens are dazzling. Also, travel by fast train to nearby Palace of Versailles, where the Grandes Eaux Musicales show extravagant fountains from April to October, spouts soaring and splashing water in sync with music.

The famous April in Paris? “Here, spring unfolds its goodness layer by layer,” he explains. “I am strolling through my neighborhood market… with a patient smile, knowing that color and abundance will eventually find their way into my basket… I know I will have to wait longer to find the ultimate ‘La Vie en Rose’ moment’ – when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, auspicious picnics sprinkled with a soft pink confetti in places like the Palais-Royal.”

“There are signs that the best part of the season has arrived,” continues Barron. For spring, “the warmth stays for more than three days in a row. The fuchsia magnolias are beginning to bud on the Champs-de-Mars… And at my favorite markets in the city, from the Marché Bastille to the Marché Saxe-Breteuil, I spot the biggest signals of them all – the very first sightings of pale rhubarb and fat ones Blackberries, ripe apricots, cherries and, yes (finally!), decadent strawberries. They will be the basis for the baked goods that will soon fill my oven, my kitchen, and the hands of friends who join me goûter [tasty snack] under rows of pastel trees or just gathered at my table, next to an open window with the afternoon breeze dancing through.”

Lingering over the calm and uplifting pages of the book might inspire you to wish you could be one of Barron’s friends and sit at his table too. For now, Sweet Paris you will almost feel like you are.

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