My local pâtisserie usually has a featured pastry which is discounted for the day. This is their way of getting people to try (and possibly become hooked on) various styles of pastries. This featured dessert usually costs around a Euro less. I feel it is my duty to try these desserts du jour for two reasons: 1. They are on sale. 2. We experience a culture on many levels and tasting the desserts is almost as high on the list as a new friendship, but definitely more important than a museum visit. There are so many desserts to try that I also thought this would be an economical and logical way to set about learning more about France through my palate. So this is how I have came to know the diplomate.
There are many variations on the diplomate but the common denominator is usually the diplomat cream. It is a mixture of gelatin and pastry cream. Then there is a layer of cookies soaked in rum syrup. There can also be candied fruits or in the case of the one I tasted today, tiny bits of fresh fruit, too. All of this is held up by a brioche-style crust. I have just described the one I had but I have seen pictures of other versions. It is kind of France’s version of bread pudding. The woman at the bakery handed me the boxed, neatly wrapped in their signature paper, and I was shocked at the weight of just one diplomat!
Speaking about the weight of a diplomat, this particular pastry is credited to Prime Minister Talleyrand, who is said to have invented it during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, where the who’s who of Europe gathered to put the continent back together after the nearly 25 years of continuous Napoleonic wars. I am imagining Talleyrand proudly boasting,”at least my new pastry can be eaten with a little dignity. Have you ever tried to gracefully eat a Napoleon pastry? You cut it with a fork and the layers of millefeuille resist the fork and force all the pastry cream out to the sides. Then you just have a big mess on your hands! Now I proclaim the diplomat pastry and nice, clean political boundaries in Europe!”
I was only able to eat about half of the diplomat because it is so dense. I will save the rest for later this evening.