I think madeleines go down as my favourite little French cakes.
They are pretty, they are small, and they can be eaten in two bites. That makes them just the right size for me and my reduced sugar cravings (strange how the more I work with sugar, the less I like consuming it.) And what’s even better is that they can be put together in a jiffy.
In my time working at a patisserie, I’ve made countless batches of madeleines. Over time I’ve learned a few lessons and debunked the legendary myth that the madeleine batter needs to be refrigerated overnight to attain those coveted humps.
Let’s get into a few details: Most recipes, especially classical French ones ask for the madeleine moulds to be brushed with beurre pomade or softened butter. This, in fact, is not good (to the shock and horror of my French colleagues). The mould coated in thickened butter has two problems: it holds on to way too much flour when dusted resulting in the flour caking on the madeleine when baked and unmoulded leaving ugly patches of raw flour (this can also happen if you don’t tap off the excess flour properly). Secondly, the chances of the madeleines sticking to the pan are higher. Instead, what you should do is brush a thin coat of melted butter on the pan. Let the butter firm up (or if it’s a warm day just pop it into the fridge for a minute) and then dust it with flour through a sieve. Get rid of the excess flour by giving it a firm tap it on the counter. Make sure every nook and cranny has a film of flour – if not, the madeleines are going to stick to the pan. [read more…]
In an earlier post, I had written about how to win a scholarship to study at Le Cordon Bleu, like I did (thrice). This left me inundated with lots of emails from culinary aspirants wanting to know more.
In this post, I’m going to attempt to answer some questions that were unanswered. I’m going to tell you about life at culinary school, the cost of attending culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu Paris versus other schools, and a whole lot more. If you have any more questions, please add them into the comments section and I’ll get back to you quickly!
I want to apply for a course at Le Cordon Bleu. What’s the process?
Signing up for a pastry or cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu is very simple. You log on to their website and follow the instructions they’ve set out for you. You have to fill out your profile and write a short essay. If you’re in doubt you can email the admissions department at the location you’re interested in and they will get back to you.
How can I apply for a scholarship? [read more…]
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I am an Iñaki Aizpitarte fangirl.
I love everything he does. He makes me want to be a better cook, to play with flavours, to be more creative, to think beyond geographic boundaries.
Earlier this year Arjun took me to his much lauded restaurant, Le Chateaubriand in Paris and we were in for a treat. After a series of tasting and exploring new flavours and textures ranging from veal head fritters dusted with freeze-dried raspberries to sweetbreads served with pomelo, I came home happy and inspired.
While the menu at Le Chateaubriand changes frequently, the dessert, Tocino de Cielo, is a constant fixture. Tocino de Cielo literally means piece of heaven. This video shows how Iñaki makes his version of the Andalusian custard pudding made of egg yolks, sugar and water. He explores the region, trying out the classic dessert, while having different people try his. It’s also really interesting how he takes children along in his research to reinterpret this (seemingly) childhood favourite dessert of his.
If you’re planning on visiting Le Chateaubriand, you’ll need to book a few weeks ahead of time, or just show up at 9PM for the 9:30PM seating that needs no reservations.
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris
+33 1 43 57 45 95
PS: Here’s a little to peek into his home and restaurant.
This is quite simply the best chocolate dessert I have ever had.
Pierre Hermé calls it Plaisir Sucré. Maison Landemaine calls it Jivara. Le Cordon Bleu calls it Douceur Chocolat. There might be many more versions of it around Paris, but at its core it’s the most delicate chocolate and hazelnut cake built over several layers of sublime textures.
This one is a slightly simplified version of it. The only technique that you really need to know for this is chocolate tempering. Simply put, the chocolate you buy is already in temper. But if you want to melt it to coat truffles, or in this cake, make chocolate discs, it needs to be in temper first. This means that you have to raise the temperature of milk chocolate to 40-50C, bring it down to 25C and then gently bring it back up to 30C, which is the working temperature for milk chocolate. By doing this the fat crystals realign themselves and the resulting set chocolate will have a lovely shine and crisp snap as opposed to being streaky and pliable.
What makes this cake so special for me is the layer that’s spread on the dacquoise – it’s a mix of milk chocolate, butter, hazelnut paste, toasted hazelnuts, praline and feuilletine. While you can make your own hazelnut paste and praline (tutorial coming up soon), feuilletine is the wildcard. It’s crushed up Gavotte Crepes that are incredibly addictive and the ones coated in milk chocolate always find their way into my basket at Monoprix. If you find yourself in Paris, you can buy a bag of feuilletine at G. Detou for about €5 [read more…]
While at a vide-grenier, the French equivalent of a car boot sale/garage sale, I stumbled upon a set of shiny new financier moulds. They were still in their original packaging and had a faded price tag from when Francs were still in use and Le Bon Marché was called Au Bon Marché.
On my return, the first thing I baked were these tiny little petits fours. I used a recipe for perfect financiers (almond cakes) from Nathalie Benezet, author of Le Petit Paris (USA | UK | India). I followed the recipe pretty much exactly as given. The only variation was that I added a quarter teaspoon of pistachio paste into half the batter for the pistachio flavoured financiers.
I’d forgotten just how much I love this roughly chopped up “pesto” made with fresh parsley, pungent garlic, toasted pistachios and a good, salty pecorino. All of this is brought together by a grassy extra virgin oil. It’s perfect to keep bottled up in a jar for tossing with some pasta for a weeknight dinner or as a flavourful sandwich spread.
Recipe for home-made pistachio and pecorino pesto.
A little while ago, ELLE India got in touch with me saying that they wanted to do “a roundup of fun, young Indians in Paris who’re doing interesting work.” I was (/am!) super thrilled to be a part of this. The lovely feature is out in September’s edition of the magazine. We were all dressed in Dior while Errikos Andreou played with light and shadows. The results are pretty spectacular.
Big thanks to everyone at ELLE India.
View the entire feature.
Photos from our summer days spent eating cherries, plums and mirabelles bought from the Marché Place de Zurich (every Wednesday).