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Friday, March 18, 2011

Pain au chocolat

My son Eric's first words in French were "pain au chocolat." He was eight years old when we brought him back to Paris for a visit. His breakfast each morning and snack each afternoon was pain au chocolat. I thought of him as I began my behind-the-scenes visit to my local boulangerie.

Stephane's hands were a blur with the expert tuck and roll of a man who's been creating croissants, chaussons, and pains au chocolat for 22 years. I was entranced watching the speed with which Stephane rolled, sliced, and tucked the dough - preparing ready-to-bake extras for tomorrow, his day off.

As he worked, I learned more about Stephane's background and his family. His wife is Japanese - she's a pastry chef at the Ritz. They are/were planning a trip to Japan in two weeks. Will they still go?

Soon, a tray of pains au chocolat comes out of the oven.

I am handed one - still steaming, its chocolate still slightly molten. As I bite into its heavenly, buttery, chocolately center, I close my eyes, smile, and think of my son Eric. I wish he were here.

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