Gateau battu, literally “beaten cake” a specialty from the northern region of France is my new favorite thing. It’s like a brioche but better. Just slightly more cake-like, it’s more tender and sweeter than the average brioche, making it perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Luckily it also happens to be the specialty of Picardy, the town where Dominique Ansel is from and it’s featured at his new patisserie, Dominique Ansel Bakery, in Soho.
It’s always a nice surprise to find really good viennosserie in New York City. I wasn’t sure what to expect at this tiny shop, it resembles so many of the bakeries out there that are just disguises for a café and coffee stop. But I was more than delighted with the quality of the baked goods. The battu was excellent as well as the “DKA” — Dominique’s kouign-amman, a flaky, caramelized mass of buttery goodness. Kouign is rarely seen around these parts. It’s a specialty of Breton and its secrets are well kept. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like croissant dough, rolled with sugar and baked until crispy on the outside and almost creamy on the inside, a delicious mess of goodness. Trust me, the richness is worthy of the best cardiologist around.
I have to say these two items really impressed me. In my opinion, the real sign of a good pastry chef is the ability and clarity to execute the simple things well. And these simple treats were fantastic and I don’t take fantastic lightly. I didn’t grab a canelé and now I’m truly regretting it as I can only imagine that it was also truly great.
There is also a case at the bakery dedicated to pastries including tart tatin, éclairs, the “Paris-New York” (a Snickers-like variation on the traditional classic Paris-Brest pastry), bunny cake (a take on carrot cake), “cotton soft cheesecake” (I have to admit, this feels like it’s been lost in translation to me) and the “mini me” cake. I couldn’t resist the “mini me”, it was chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. It was the lightest yet richest combination of chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse. Usually things like that are too rich for me, but this was like eating a cloud of chocolate — delicate, bittersweet and soft. My only complaint was the forest of mini meringues it was covered in but they were easily picked off and tossed to the side so as not to interfere with the cake itself.
If you are in the mood to try something new and special it’s worth a trip to Dominique Ansel Bakery. If I ventured to Soho more often I would definitely become a regular.