Atelier de cuisine et patisserie – The Macaron

Yesterday, for three hours I was Julia Child!

If you have ever watched the film “Julie and Julia”, you willl have seen the signpost for Rouen about three minutes into the film. Well Julia Child continued on to Paris, but she may as well have stopped at Rouen. She had many long hours of pondering in her wonderful (and if I may say so slighly excentric) voice “but what shall I do?” before she had her eureka moment. Thereafter she threw herself into french culinary school and never looked back!  Read more

Christmas Atelier de Patisserie -La Bûche de Noel.

For the recipe


One of the things I love best about our region of France is that the preparations for Christmas only begin in December. Suddenly, on the last days of November, ‘cherry pickers’ park up in highly inconvenient parts of the city in the middle of rush hour and the council start to put up christmas lights, causing the circulation to grind to a standstill. Somehow the excitement caused is more intense than the long drawn out decorations of the UK which seem to appear as soon as the British shops have cleared  the last of Halloween.

Today I was booked in for ‘La Bûche de Noel’ at the Atelier de Patisserie and savoured the new decorations as I made my way there.

Nov,dec 2012 002Under the shadow of the cathedral the Marché de Noel was just opening up,

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while the pretty side street that led to the atelier was charming with its simple lights and foliage.

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I was momentarily dazzled by the sweet stall

Nov,dec 2012 005and spent a few moments watching the young ‘Dragons Ice Hockey team on the christmas rink outside the Hôtel de Ville.

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But Arnaud’s atelier was calling, and within minutes I was equipped with Tablier (apron) and ready for the class to begin.

Today we were making the Bûche de Noel (traditional Christmas log) with a roulade of Biscuit Viennoise and Crème de Beurre.

As ever, Arnaud was a mine of information. What he doesn’t know about eggs isn’t worth knowing, but what is, is that egg yolks can be stored in a freezer for a month, and that freshly laid eggs do not whip well. Eggs should always be left for a few days before using for patisserie.   Aparently, although he didn’t know the science behind it, frozen egg whites or a egg white and 10% water mix whip more quickly than standard eggs.

All egged out, we turned to start making the Biscuit viennoise.

We weighed out our ‘Tant pour Tant’ (such for such, the french expression for replacing one ingredient for an equally acceptable alternative) with an equal mixture of ground almonds and icing sugar. Any powdered dried fruit would work, ground hazelnut for example. We added the egg yolks and full eggs and whipped until creamy and light. Arnaud had plans for strengthening our arm muscles, and got us to work with a hand whisk!

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Then we whipped the egg whites into peaks and added the sugar to form a thick meringue.

Nov,dec 2012 030With a soft folding action we incorporated the meringue into the TPT mixture.

Nov,dec 2012 032Once thoroughly incorporated we poured onto  a greaseproof paper on a long baking tray.
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And with a spatula laid it smooth taking care to use as few strokes as possible.

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Once complete we placed it in the oven and prepared to make the filling.

Arnaud educated us on the various types of meringue; French, Suisse and Italien. The French form of meringue already having been used to create the volume for the Biscuit Viennoise.

Meringue Italienne is an uncookable meringue, which does not dry and is always used for making patisserie creams. This is the type of meringue we now use for making the Crème à Beurre.

Arnaud amuses us by admitting that he likes his steak ‘bien cuite'(I have known customers thrown out of restaurants for asking for that)  as opposed to his wife who like’s hers bleu. Can we believe he is really a chef? To achieve this with perfect timing he shows us his thermometer.

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We place the water and sugar mixture on the hob and bring to 115°, at the same time whipping the egg whites into peaks.

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Arnaud shows us what happens to the sugar if the temparture rises to 120°. A brittle, unworkable sugar that would break our mixer!

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We carefully measure the sugar solution temperature and at exactly 115° pour it carefully down the side of the whipped egg bowl.

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We leave the mixer to beat to a smooth thick meringue, before adding the butter to make the crème à beurre.

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There are two ways to add the butter, one is to add the entire cold quantity of butter to the warm meringue mixture where the heat softens and helps it incorporate to a smooth cream.

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The second method is to make the butter into a beurre pommade. Keeping the butter at a constant temperature of 37° we continually beat the butter until the consistancy of a ‘face cream’.

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The end result is a thicker crème for the solid butter, and a lighter crème for the pommade.

We add the flavour, pistachio to one and chocolate to the other, ready to spread over our cooked golden Biscuit Viennoise.

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Our biscuit is golden and we divide in two to form two ‘Bûche’, one of which we spread thinly with pistachio crème, the other with chocolate.

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Before rolling the Biscuit Viennoise into a roulade, moistening where necessary with a sugar syrup.

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We spread the outside of the log with more crème chocolate and fork to give a ‘log’ texture.

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The final stage of the atelier is to experiment with ‘Meringue Suisse’.

The beauty of meringue suisse is that it is excellent for forming little decorations as it looses its shape much more slowly.

We measure a two to one part mix of sugar and egg white. We whisk the mixture whilst heating it at a constant temperature of 50° until it begins to thicken, and then put into the Kitchen Aid to continue whisking until it forms a stiff meringue.

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We place several differently sized ‘douilles’ (nozzles) into several icing bags, twist the bag to form a ‘bouchon’ or cork in the nozzle, and fill the bags with meringue. Once ready we pull out the bouchon and push the meringue firmly into the nozzle.

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We take a baking tray with a greaseproof sheet and begin to form various shapes, mushrooms and snails  and old boots with which we will decorate our ‘bûche’.

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Having dried in the oven, the meringue decorations are ready to use.

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A final photo – well no, that’s for you to create!

As for our ‘Bûche de Noel’ –  its already been eaten!

A little early I know, but it was my birthday today! I think we can be forgiven! (Well we just couldn’t stop ourselves!)

As for you, the ‘Bûche de Noel’ freezes perfectly, so you have no excuses!

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For the recipe: Bûche de Noel

To read further blogs taking part in the Expat Blog Hop, click on the links.

 French Village Diaries

 Vive Trianon

 Melanged Magic

The Business of life

 Paris Cheapskate

 A Flamingo in Utrecht


Books are Cool

Life on La Lune


Victoria Corby

 Painting in Tuscany

Bordeaux Bumpkin

 Scribbler in Seville

 Perpignan Post

 Blog in France

 Leaving Cairo

 Piglet in Portugal

Andalucia explorer

 Box53b Naomi Hattaway

 Suzanna Williams

 Very Bored in Catalunya

 What’s an Alpaca

Steven C Sobotka

What about Your Saucepans

Chronicles of M

Beyond Manana in Spain

Jeno Marz


Callaloo Soup

Aussie in france

Didi Books English

The Eclairs Went Like Lightening – Atelier de Patisserie.

For the recipe click here

I was the first to pull my camera out at the Atelier de Patisserie this week, but the Japanese students weren’t far behind! After ten minutes we were neck and neck on the photo stakes, and by the middle of the class they were actually helping me out with my own camera, and I came home with 124 photos and no excuses for forgetting how to make Eclairs!

Arnaud also had his work cut out. This class was made up entirely of ‘foreigners’, with the Japanese students aided by their own Japanese translator Miki, who herself had moved to France only a year ago, and whose mastery of the French language was incredible, already having mastered Chinese and with a good command of English.

This post is decicated to my sister-in -law in Canada, who years ago asked me for a profiterole recipe, and to my Australian in-laws for giving me this atelier for my Christmas present. I’ve been making profiteroles for a few years now, but I’ve realised by now that there will always be something Arnaud can teach us, and as with all things, he has that attention to the final detail that turns a 1€  eclair into a 2€ work of art.

Having got the introductions over; and I was amused to see that for once Arnaud was struggling with the names, Japanese is certainly not an easy language for either the French or English tongue; We picked up our pans and scales and set to work.

Arnaud talked us through all the different uses for Choux Pastry; the sugary ones of course encompassing Eclairs and Profiteroles, Chouquettes and Chaussons Napolitan; the savory including Gougères, and with a 50/50 mix of pureed potato, Pommes Dauphines and Gnocci.

Arnaud told us that Choux pastry freezes well both in its raw and its cooked state. Salt is add to all Choux pastry for flavour, and sugar to encourage them to colour golden during cooking. The length of cooking time, and the ability to assess their colour prevents the Choux pastry from collapsing by the oven door being opened too early during the cooking process.

We poured the water, butter salt and sugar into a large casserole pan and placed on the flame to bring to the boil.

We extinguished the flame, added the flour to the pan and with a wooden spoon mixed well. Once mixed, we re-lit the flame and for a minute began the process of stirring the pâte to dry it. Once the pâte fell easily from the upturned wooden spoon, the pâte was ready for the next stage.

We added the lightly beaten eggs bit by bit until the pâte was smooth and came cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

We took a few minutes to discuss the various sizes of ‘douille’ or nozzles. An eclair took an 18 and  Chouquettes  a 12. We made up a piping bag, remembering to put a ‘bouchon’, literally translated as a cork, made up of scrunching part of the piping bag and pushing it into the douille or nozzle. We filled with the piping back with the pâte.

Holding the piping bag at an angle of 45° we ran the eclairs in 80mm lengths, pressing down at the ends and flicking back.

For the Chouquettes we used the smaller douille and made round balls piping from a vertical position. Now I have attempted to make the Chouquettes before. What always frustrated me was that after having cooked some fairly good profiterole shapes, I never succeeded in getting the sugar crystals to stay on the top of the Choux pastry. As ever with Arnaud , there is of course a secret.

Firstly we glazed with beaten egg the uncooked Choux Eclairs and Chouquettes; The Eclairs with a soft bristle glazing brush, pressing down perpendicularly to the length of the pâte; The Chouquettes by pressing down the tail left during the piping process. We then very liberaly sprinkled the Chouquettes with sugar crystals. Contrary to what one would believe, the majority of sugar crystals survive their stay in the oven.

We continue to use up the last of the pâte in the piping bag to make long thin strips called Mikados.

Once the Choux pastry is in the oven we start to make the Crème Pâtissière. The Choux will cook for 25-30 minutes.

We add the milk to the pan and incorporate a small proportion of sugar. Arnaud explains that that by adding sugar to the milk, the milk is prevented from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan as we bring it to the boil. The milk boils at 100°, the sugar at 170°, the higher boiling point of the sugar protects the milk.

It is essential to boil the milk if using fresh, unpasturised or raw milk.

By adding the egg yolks to the poudre à flan and the sugar, the egg ‘cooks’ in the mixture. It will not curdle when added to the boiling milk.

The flame of the hob is switched off. Half of the boiling milk is added to the egg mixture which is then stirred and poured back into the remaining milk. The flame is once more ignited and the mixture simultaneously cooked and beaten until it begins to boil. Once boiling, it is beaten for a further 30 seconds until thick and smooth before the butter is added.

The pan is removed from the flame. We divide the Crème Pâtissier into two bowls. We add 30g cocoa powder to one, and strong liquid coffee to the other and mix thoroughly.

We pour the Crème Pâtissier over a wire rack covered with cling-film, and cover with another layer of cling-film to prevent from forming a skin and leave to cool.

It is time to check the Eclaires and Chouquettes. Arnaud explains that if the Choux pastry still has areas of white or very pale pastry, it must be left to cook for a while longer until all the surface is golden. If they are removed from the oven too soon they are likely to collapse or be too soft once filled with the Crème Pâtissier.

Our Eclairs and Chouquettes are ready. We place them on a cooling rack and turn the Eclairs upside down to cool.

We melt some chocolate and dip each Mikado into it.

With a very fine douille or nozzle we make three small holes in the base of the choux Eclairs.

We beat the cooled rubbery textured Crème Pâtissiere until smooth and fill a piping bag remembering to make a ‘bouchon’ or cork as before using the very fine douille (3-4mm). Using the holes we have already punctured in the Choux, we fill with the crème.

We mix some icing sugar with syrop de glucose, flavouring one portion with chocolate and the other with coffee. Choosing a flat nosed douille (nozzle) and another piping bag we apply the ‘nappage’ or topping to the finished eclairs.

Yet again Arnaud shows us techniques for decorating the eclairs, turning our 1€ Eclair into a 2€ Eclair.

and shows us a pot of Violet for jazzing up the nappage of a vanilla flavour Eclair.

We fill our cake boxes with our bounty and head home.

Barely have I got through the door than the Eclairs are all gone…..

With lightening speed!

translation: eclair = lightening

For the recipe click here

Mille Feuille – Atelier de Patisserie

After the excesses of Christmas feasting the Atelier ‘Fait Vous le Même’ appeared to be hibernating through January. This week it reopened with a invitation to create the ancient French patisserie ‘Mille Feuille’.

With great anticipation I arrived, true to style rather early, which necessitated another walk around the Quartier St Marc; an experience not diminished through frequency! This time I turned off the main streets and pushed my nose up against the windows of various antique shops and mused over old distressed chairs and gilt mirrors in a nearby ‘brocante’.

The origin of the Mille Feuille is unknown. It is however referred to in 1651 in ‘The Cusinier François. It was later improved by Marie-Antoine Carème, known as the “King of Chefs, and the Chef of Kings” who was an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as haute cuisine the “high art” of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favored by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered as one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs. She herself referred to the Mille Feuille as of ‘ancient origin’.

Traditionally the Mille Feuille is a patisserie formed from three layers of ‘Pâte Feuilleté (puff pastry) separated by a thick Crème Anglaise and dusted lightly with sucre glacé (icing sugar). Latterly it has been sweetened  with a layer of icing often feathered through with a chocolate pattern.

We begin the class by learning a little about the Pâte Feuilleté, and I wonder if this will be a repeat of the class on Croissants, and prepare myself to be disappointed about learning nothing new. Arnaud of course has other ideas!

First he slices some pâte feuilleté in half and points to the cross-section where faint stripes can be seen in its consistancy. These he explains are the layers of pâte and butter, essential for excellent raising qualities. The pâte will ultimately be made of 6 tours of three layers. The pâte for Mille Feuille is not the same as the pâte for Croissants. It contains neither yeast nor sugar. The Mille Feuille rises grace to its layers of butter and pâte and keeping the détrempe cold and not overworked is essential. Once butter starts to warm it is absorbed into the pâte, and once absorbed it will not rise.

Arnaud shows us how to correctly roll the pâte. A small downward push and roll being infinitely preferable to a forward push whilst rolling. There are three methods for making Pâte Feuilleté; Simple, Rapide and Inversé. We have already used the Simple method in the preparation of Croissants. The Rapid method involving small knobs of butter dotted over the pâte gives vastly inferior results. Today we learn the Inverse method.

The Inverse method is the opposite to the Simple method. Rather than placing butter on the pâte détrempe, we place the pâte détrempe on the butter, which has been altered to a Beurre Marnie.

First we proceed to make the Pâte. We pour our flour onto the marble worktop and add the butter and salt. Adding half the quantity of water we begin to incorporate the two, gradually adding the remaining water, all the time remembering to keep the mixture cool. We kneed the mixture until smooth, supple and elastic.

We then begin to make the Beurre Marnie. We pour the flour onto the work table and add the butter. We incorporate the flour into the butter until an even consistancy, again remembering to keep the butter cool. If either the Pâte or Beurre marnie feel tepid we refrigerate for five minutes.

Bearing in mind that the finished width of  the “pâton” (prepared but yet unused pâte feuilleté) is 15cm we form the beurre marnie into a basic rectangle by knocking it into shape on the worktop. We then repeat the process with the détrempe. We are ready to make the Pâte feuilleté!

First we place the Beurre marnie on a lightly floured worktop. We roll out the beurre marnie so that it is one third longer than the détrempe.

We place the Pâte Détrempe onto the Beurre Marnie and then fold the free part of the Beurre Marnie over the détrempe and fold again. The first ‘Tour Simple’ is complete.

We pivot the “pâton” by 90° leaving the open side to the right. (Commencing the push down and roll technique at the open edges of the pastry to effectively partially seal and prevent the détrampe from squeezing out under pressure) We roll out our pâton until it achieves the width of 15cm by a length of 3 times our desired finished Mille Feuille size of 20cm. Therefore a length of 60cm. We then make a ‘Tour Double’ turning both ends to the centre and folding in half.

We ensure the pâton is still cold or refrigerate for 5 minutes. Once again, we turn the pâton by 90° with the opening to the right, and make another ‘Tour Double’. We leave it and ourselves to repose for a few meager minutes (or it can at this point be suitably covered and frozen.) We turn the pâton through 90° again and do one final ‘Tour Simple’. At this point we divide the pâton in two in order to make two 15×20 cm Mille feuille, always keeping  the opening to the right hand side and we cut in half from front to back.

We roll out the pâton to a dimension slightly greater than  15x 60 cm allowing for potential shrinkage of pastry on a lightly floured surface.

We leave the pâton, the finished pâte feuilleté, to repose for five minutes.

Using a ‘Pique-Vite’ or alternatively a fork, we prick the pastry all over, turning and repeating the process on the other side. This encourages even rising.

We transfer the Détrempe to the lined baking tray using the rolling-pin and leave it to rest for half an hour. No repose for us though, we have more important things to do!

Whilst we wait for the pâton we begin the Crème Anglaise.

Arnaud gives us a lesson in gelatine. Crème Anglaise can be frozen successfully,  but is usually ruined by the quantity of water in the recipe. It is essential to correctly dissolve the gelatine. The quality of gelatine is referred to by its bloom quantity. Professional gelatine is 200 bloom. Shop-bought gelatine is usually 150 bloom.  For professional gelatine the quantity of water added to the gelatine should be 50g water for every 10g gelatine; For shop-bought gelatine the quantity of water added should be 40g for every 10g gelatine. For a recipe specifying 8g of 200 bloom gelatine, increase the weight of 150 bloom gelatine to 10g. Gelatine prevents the cream in our recipe from flopping after whipping.

We place the milk and sugar into a saucepan and put to heat.

We place the poudre à flan (cornflour or farine d’amidon with vanilla), the sugar and the egg yolks into an inox bowl and mix.

Once the milk is warm we add half  to the inox bowl of  egg mixture, place the pan to the side and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, we pour the contents of the inox bowl back into the pan. We mix again thoroughly. We relight the flame and bring to the boil whisking constantly. Once thick we retrieve it from the flame and add the gelatin and water mixture and mix thoroughly.

We cover a wire rack with clingfilm. We overpour with the Crème Anglaise andd cover it with clingfilm to prevent it crusting and leave it to cool.

After the Pâte Feuilleté has rested for its 30 minutes we place it in an oven at 180°, overlaying it  with a metal grill rack to prevent the pâte feuilleté from rising. (If a grill rack is not available, remove the pâte feuilleté mid cooking, and press down to remove air).

We remove the pâte feuilleté from the oven when it is crisp and golden on both the top and bottom surfaces.

At last comes the really fun bit – we are ready to assemble the Mille Feuille. We remove the Crème Anglaise from the chiller, and place the now jelly like pieces into the Kitchen Aid and beat till light smooth and creamy. We then add 50g of an alcohol such as Kirsch or Marashino and continue beating before folding in first one half and then the remainder of the whipped cream.

Cutting horizontally with a bread knife (serrated) we divide the length of Pâte feuilleté into three parts choosing the most attractive for the top surface. We load generous quantities of Crème Anglaise filling onto the base, firmly pressing down the middle layer and using a palate knife clear the sides of cream before continuing to the top layer.

Once the sides are neat we dust with sucre glacé (icing sugar) and proceed to make a caramel decoration.

In a pan we melt spoonful by spoonful caster sugar continuing to agitate over a flame until a deep golden colour.

Arnaud shows us how to crunch up a sheet of greaseproof paper and restraighten, before pouring the molten caramel over it. Lifting the sheet into the air he turnes the sheet vertically in a rotating motion until the caramel sets in a thin layer over the sheet. The crumpled paper gives a wonderful crackle effect to the caramel pieces.

Once hardened Arnaud peels the caramel off the sheet and breaks into large leaf shaped pieces.

We all laugh alot when Arnaud owns up to not having any cake boxes tall enough to close round our Mille Feuille. Two of us are going home by bus! We might be mobbed! But we shall fight them off …

Safely home and dressed with its caramel leaves the Mille Feuille is ready to eat.

Oh, If only I could describe the taste….

For the recipe please click here.

Atelier de Patisserie -Le Dessert Royal Chocolat

Version français

I should be saying “sadly I knew that no-one would make me a birthday cake”, but sadness doesn’t come into it at all. In fact I was perfectly over the moon at the prospect of booking myself into ‘Fait le vous-même’ again. What I had discovered was that on my birthday the patisserie for the day was ‘Royal Chocolat’ and not even a wild hound from the gates of hell could have kept me away.

This time, aware that the buses didn’t always run to plan I arrived in very good time, and enjoyed fifteen minutes taking a ‘tour’ about the neighbourhood. The shops weren’t yet open but the shopkeepers were setting up their wares and I took the oportunity to take a few photos:

and I have this message for all little piggies out there – Do not sleep if you value your lives – because this shop has plans for you!

But after these beautiful specialist shops, this one reminded me that the day has begun and it was time to get cooking …. chocolate!

I met Arnaud, the Maitre Patisier coming across the square and we entered the shop together, donned our aprons and awaited the other three royal chocolatiers!

The Royal Chocolat is a three tier gateau; a base of biscuit, a layer of ‘chocolat craquant’ and the top layer of ‘mousse au chocolat’. In any good patisserie this would cost anything between 10€ and 25€ depending on the level of superficial decoration at the end.

Arnaud began by explaining the biscuit viennoise base. The first ingredient on the list was TPT which Arnaud explained was a “half and half mix” (tant pour tant) of icing sugar and “poudre de fruit sec” (dried fruit powder). In this instance we were going to use a mixture of icing sugar and almond powder. The beauty of this receipe is that it can equally be made ‘gluten’ free and is an ideal recipe for sufferers of coeliacs. The small quantity of flour being replaced by rice flour or Maizena (cornflour).

When making this recipe it is essential to beat the eggs before weighing the quantity required. Waste can be refrigerated and used for quiches or omelettes later.

Having measured out the ingredients we added the almond TPT to the beaten egg mixture and beat it until white and fluffy. We then beat in the flour.

Arnaud is intent on developing our whisking muscles and electric beaters are “interdit”!

In a separate bowl – do not forget that it must be inox – we beat the egg whites into fluffy peaks or ‘neige’ (snow) as the french describe it adding the granular sugar a bit at a time.

We added a small scoop of meringue to the TPT mixture and mixed quickly and thoroughly. We then folded in the remaining TPT mixture gently. If the meringue is mixed in one ‘lot’ the resultant product becomes too liquid and grainy.

Making a ‘cork’ (bouchon) with a section of piping bag pushed into the nozzle (douille) of the same, we loaded the biscuit viennoise mixture into the piping bag. We used a flat spatula to push all the mixture well into the piping bag before releasing the bouchon and then inverted the piping bag so that the mixture did not immediately pour out through the nozzle. For a few of us, there was a little escapage before we got a hang of the technique!

We placed a gateau ‘mould’ on a greaseproof sheet, and starting with nozzle of the piping bag in the centre of the mould we squeezed the biscuit viennoise pâte in a spiral until a centimetre from the mould itself; removed the mould and continued to squeeze the pâte for one more spiral. There is enough of the mixture to make two such biscuit bases, one of which can be frozen for a another day!

Whilst we are waiting the ten minutes necessary for the biscuit to cook we begin the ‘base chocolat craquante’. The chocolate ‘covering’ for this section of the receipe is for hardening the praline. Any colour of chocolate can be used and makes no difference to the taste.

We take the opportunity to taste various pralines – one made from noisettes (hazelnut) and the other from almond. For this recipe we decide to make a mixture of both.

Arnaud takes the opportunity to discuss how to melt chocolate – and states catagorically ‘NEVER in the microwave’. The science behind it is simple. At 55° for dark chocolate, and 45° for white and milk chocolate the cocoa-butter burns. Once burnt the chocolate becomes unworkable. Using  “bain-marie” is the only option. The water under the “bain-marie” must be heated to simmering and then the heat source switched off. The chocolate is left to melt in its own time in the residual heat.

We have a lesson on chocolate. To add liquidity to chocolate add cooking oil. It is the cocoa-butter which gives the liquidity to butter and it’s melting point is 34° which is the approximate temperature of the mouth. Hence why chocolate is so pleasurable to eat!

Bought chocolate can be very low in cocoa-butter. Arnaud recommends ‘Lindt Special Dessert’ as the best ‘on the shelf’ supermarket chocolate for cooking, but also recommends the chocolatier Michel Cluizel for his bulk-buy chocolate. Arnaud has 6 varieties of Michel’s chocolate and we get down to some tasting!

Arnaud also explains that it is possible to make your own chocolate. This is called ‘grande charge’. By adding powdered cocoa to cocoa-butter and sugar it is possible to create a chocolate to ones own desired consistancy. By adding milk powder one can achieve ‘milk chocolate’. Cocoa-butter can be bought at a french pharmacie.

But it is time to return to cooking. The chocolate has melted and the praline is added and mixed very well before folding in the ‘crepe dentelle’ ( a brittle crepe ‘biscuit’)

The biscuit viennoise is golden all over and ready to come out of the oven. We remove it from the hot tray and onto a cooling rack. The top surface of the biscuit is turned face down onto the final serving platter which prevents the finished dessert from sticking during serving and the mould is placed over the biscuit to neatly cut the irregular edges and is left in place for the rest of the session.

Immediately we spoon over the chocolate craquant and press firmly into the edges and smooth all over.

But now the time has come to make the mousse au chocolate and one has only to look at the recipe to note that there are only two ingredients – chocolate and cream. This is a seriously indulgent little number!

I have already noted that cream in France is an entirely different species from that of its neighbouring England. I am glad that Arnaud takes time to talk about cream as I have already made some mistakes on its behalf! French cream tends to be thinner and less easy to whip than its english counterpart. Arnaud explains that the fat level in cream (matiere grasse) must be above 35% for it to whip. He explains that crème liquide has had milk added and that crème epaisse and crème fraiche are better than crème liquide. Crème epaisse is sometimes treated with lactose which gives it a sourer taste, whilst crème cru (raw) can have an acid taste which is removed by boiling it. The best english equivalent would be whipping cream rather than double for this recipe.

If whipped cream is added to chocolate which is too hot it will separate the fat from the liquid, whilst on the other hand adding cream to chocolate which is too cool will cause it to harden instantly. We test the temperature of the chocolate in the bain-marie, which is a good excuse to lick our fingers later and remove the bowl from the ‘bain’.

We scoop all the required whipped cream into the bowl of chocolate and whip quickly until it is all evenly incorporated and pour over the ‘chocolat craquante’ in the mould.

We use a spatula to push the mouse into the edges of the mould to avoid air gaps and then begin to smooth the top surface.

Next comes the fun bit – removing the mould with a heat-‘gun’.

et voila! the 10€ dessert…

…but wait!

Arnaud is not content with the 10€ dessert!

He proceeds to pour a liberal quantity of melted chocoltae onto the marble worktop and smooth thinly across, re-scoop and re-smooth several times with a palate knife until the chocolate takes on a whitish dry hue. Still workable, the chocolate is rolled into chocolate ‘cigars’ with a sharp butchers knife.

and now we have the 20€ dessert….

But Arnaud is still not entirely happy with our creation. Why have a 20€ dessert when one can have a 25€ dessert….

Arnaud gets out the gold..

But as I said – It was my birthday and the 25€  Royal Chocolat has been eaten, so if you want to see the end result you will have to make one yourself!

Oh all-right then, I did take just one shot of it before I headed for the bus – all the time whilst walking, grinning smugly at passers-by and thinking…

‘If only you knew what was in my cake box i’d be in real trouble!’

It was truly the best birthday ‘cake’ ever tasted!

For the recipe click HERE