Au Nom de la Rose – Atelier d’art floral à Rouen.

Version Français – click ici

It was indecent, the number of bags I was carrying. People were staring – women particularly, and should I ever win a million, I should like to carry this many flowers home with me every day. But then if I was so abundantly overwhelmed with roses every day maybe it wouldn’t be so delicious, so perfumed or so heavenly. Don’t let my husband read this lest he get the wrong idea – an abundance of roses everyday is the direct route to my heart – but this isn’t carte blanche for investing in a rose farm in equatorial Africa – at least not yet!

We spotted the notice tucked between the glorious display of roses.

…cours d’art floral!

This is absolutely my favorite flower shop and usually as I pass I take a peek at this little round table. If I am lucky, they have bouquets of  ‘Roses du Jardin’,usually about five blooms that they consider past their prime, charmingly arranged, but which often last longer than a week.

But today there was no skulking about the edges, wishing and hoping; I entered ‘Au nom de la Rose’ with the assurance of a habitual customer. I was going to participate in the Atelier d’Art Floral…absolument gratuit!

The first shop ‘Au Nom de la Rose’ was opened in Paris in the 6ième arrondissement in 1991, the store being supplied by its own rose bushes in Provence. Now there are are about 80 boutiques worldwide and their roses are grown in Provence and Brittany, and on the equator. The roses from France are notable for their smaller blooms, whilst those from the equatorial regions, profiting from increased sunshine and humidity are substantially larger. The amazing scent of the blousy tea-roses assailed us the minute we stepped across the threshold; and the quantity and variety of blooms were stunning.

The equatorial blooms are now sourced from African run rose farms.

First we select our choice of blooms from large buckets. We then watch as the stems are cleaned and de-thorned.

Once done we are shown how to start laying the roses and feuillage (greenery) stem by stem in a rotating spiral.

The boys have finished before the girls!

The youngest seems to have found a natural talent..

“‘Ee’ is better” says the proprieteur proprietorially, reverting to a foreign language to disguise his comment. Unfortunately he chooses English.

“I heard that” squeaks the older one indignantly.

After a bit of raffia know-how for the boys,

We are shown our next arrangement.

We are instructed not to force submerge the ‘mousse’, shown how to cut and place the stems and head off to select a pot.

It’s time for the girls raffia training!

But the afternoon doesn’t end until we try some other rose products, Rose perfumed tea, Syrop de Rose, and Gelée de Rose. The Rose Tea is subtly fragrant, whilst the Rose Syrop (cordial) which is recommended diluted with water or added to Kir(now there’s a thought) and the Rose Gelée on brioche remind one of Arabian Nights and Turkish Delight.

It’s time to pack up, and we discover what happens to all those petals we discarded earlier..

as we liberally sprinkle them over our bags..

These aren’t any old shopping bags, they’re rose filled, rose scented, rose adorned shopping bags!

We splashed out a little so that we could have a rose perfumed apartment every day of the year…

even on our impecunious days!

I wonder if one could have too many bags of flowers?

My mantle-piece doesn’t seem to think so…

and nor do I!

Atelier de Viennoiserie

Today I had the slightly bizarre conundrum of trying to find a croissant to eat just before I was due to arrive at my viennoiserie class to learn to make….croissants! As with daily life, first I forgot to eat breakfast because I was too busy giving my children theirs, and secondly because I was trying to write a letter to my son’s english teacher (in french – it seemed more polite and less threatening) to ask her to give him something more difficult to do – a bit of Shakespeare rather than learning to say “my favourite sport is…”

As luck would have it I left late and managed to catch the only bus which stopped mid-route to change it’s driver, who then didn’t turn up. I wisely came to the conclusion that I couldn’t endure an entire cooking class hungry, but forgot of course that most shops are shut on mondays. I did eventually come across a boulangerie with some Pains au Chocolate and hastily gorged one as I rushed to the Atelier.

There was a slight mix-up with the inscriptions this morning at “Fait-le vous-même but a few of us came off better for it since Arnaud, the maitre Patissier hadn’t enough “Pâte”, or dough prepared, and so we started with what he had and made some more from  first basics.

The menu for today: croissants, pains au chocolate and brioche.

We took our carefully measured  pâte and once again found the enormous tub of butter and weighed out the appropriate amount to begin to make our pâte feuilletté which is required for pains au chocolate and croissants.

I know what you are thinking! That is a seriously large amount of butter in croissant dough. And you would be right.

The science behind viennoiserie is simple – butter melts at between 30 and 35°. To make croissant and pain au chocolate pâte the butter must not melt. Once butter melts it is absorbed into the pâte with the result being that the croissant looses its flaky texture and during cooking the tray becomes a receptacle for melted fat and the resultant croissant greasy. To make croissant pâte the ingredients and work surface must be cold, and the pâte not overworked.

Brioche, on the other hand contain almost identical ingredients, however the butter is absorbed into the pâte, giving it a breadlike texture. Extraordinary to achieve such diverse end products from such similar ingredients.

The croissant pâte is rolled once and the butter flattened slightly, laid on top and the pâte refolded around it.

What follows is an important series of turns and rolls, 1 tour double and 1 tour simple, with a minimum of three turns in total. The pâte, or detrampe, as a piece of pâte is called, is acurately measured at each turn. The resultant rolled detrampe being 60x25cm for croissants, and 60x30cm for pains au chocolate.

Arnaud tells us that if the detrampe is too hard to roll, to leave it to rest for five minutes before continuing.

so my detrampe and I have a rest!

At last I achieve 25x60cm!

Time to cut into triangles with a 12cm base and roll into a croissant.

Once glazed with egg, the croissants and pains au chocolate need two hours to prove, so there is just enough time for a little technology before starting out on the brioche.

On the subject of yeast Arnaud winces as I admit that, not knowing that live yeast can be frozen, I have actually in the past thrown some away; and he confirms that all french boulangeries sell fresh yeast to their customers over the counter – and don’ t forget the importance of sugar!

Next we discuss the types of flour and the importance of gluten in the raising process. Farine de Grist is a very high gluten flour, and good flour for vienoisserie is the so-labled “Farine de 55”.

We get ready to make the stickier brioche dough by making a flour mountain with three “puits” – loosely translated as pits, containing the yeast, salt and sugar.

We add the egg slowly and bind and thump the mixture into a smooth supple dough before adding mountains of butter and massaging it until it is absorbed. It is barely possible to extricate the hands from the ensuing sticky mass!

once the dough has fermented we roll into balls:

and with a bit of prodding form them into tins.

And once glazed, here they are ready for proving!

After the viennoiserie has doubled in size, approximately two hours later; It is ready for the oven at 180°.

Fifteen minutes later the smell in the atelier is incredible and we are barely able to restrain ourselves from grabbing the piping hot croissants, pains au chocolate and brioche from the trays!

….but just a minute, before you think this all looks so easy – who made the croissant on the left because they got their butter too warm, and it isn’t so wonderfully risen and crispy.

It wasn’t me….

Or was it? I shall have to do it all over again just to check.

Meanwhile we go home with a huge bag full of today’s masterpieces, and two more detrampes for the freezer, ready for we we are next taken over by a  croissant-making whimsy!


For the recipe click here

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atelier de pâtisserie