Pastry Shop in Monterey, California

If you've never tried a canelé before, you must. It's a really-hard-to-make french pastry that's like a magic fusion of sponge cake and creamy custard, PLUS a darkly-caramelized outer crust that is sometimes crunchy. You can tell a good pastry shop by their canelés.

This was a very well-balanced pistachio-apricot tartlet. The pistachio filling wasn't too sweet, and the crust wasn't too hard or too crumbly. Some desserts taste great for the first bite or two, but they're so sweet and/or dry that you absolutely NEED a glass of milk, or some other kind of liquid to wash it down. This tartlet though, I happily ate all by itself.

If our friend hadn't been treating us (thanks, Liz!), I would've had a much, much harder time controlling myself. I wanted to try everything.

These little guys looked especially good.

This is a kouign amann (KWEEN yah-mon), and before this day it was what one of my friends calls a "unicorn", meaning something that you've heard a lot about, but never actually seen. I had read a lot about this on baking blogs before, and boy did it live up to expectations! It's a laminated dough (meaning it has hundreds of layers of butter folded into it) but doesn't have nearly as many layers as a croissant. This makes it a little more bread-y, a little less greasy/buttery, and with the layer of crunchy caramelized sugar on top, a little more awesome. 

Want to know where the kouign amann came from? My favorite pastry blogger has a short little post on its history: http://www.joepastry.com/2010/say_what_now/.

Here we have a pistachio-raspberry-chocolate cake, and a slice of plum tart. This tart was just as balanced as the early apricot one, though with a sweeter streusel on top to balance out the tart plums. I think the chocolate cake slice was my favorite, after the kouign amann. The sponge layers were soaked in a light syrup, so it wasn't too dry, and the mousse and other fillings were just melt-y enough to dissolve in your mouth and let the flavors come through. I couldn't really taste the pistachio, but I did notice the raspberry. The only thing I would've liked to add was some kind of crunchy layer.

These pastries were from Parker-Lusseau Pastries in Monterey, California. It's a bit pricey, but worth it.