Bon Apetite -Choux buns and Chouquettes


For the recipé click here:

For a few moments this morning I thought I was going to have to deal with a double booking. Not the kind where you find you are booked for two different tours in two entirely different places at the same time, but one you turn up to your destination and find that another group is already there.

This morning I led an eager group of Australians to the Atelier de Sylvie, a cookery school where they were programmed to create a profusion of profiteroles. But when we arrived, we found an equally sized group already crammed into the little cooking class. For a couple of seconds I wondered how I was going to deal with it, until the head of the first group heaved a camera onto his shoulder and with a wink and a grin called:

“Action”.

It turned out that our cooking class was going to be televised and I was dammed glad that I had thought to wash my hair this morning. Five minutes later I was miked-up and ready to translate the charming Sylvie, the owner and chef of the atelier.

WP_20160717_002The morning turned into a riotous affair, doing what the french do best, (and australian TV presenters do worst apparently), cooking and tasting delicious patisserie. In fact the presenter’s choux buns were so bad that we had to take them out of the oven twice in order for the  camera to effectively film the astonished expressions on the assembled cooks, and the grimace on the face of Sylvie!

“Il est le plus mauvais client que j’avais jamais eu dans cet atelier” she exclaimed, and the camera trained back to me to capture the translation. Struggling to contain my laughter I explained that perhaps that was better left untranslated, but no-one was having any of it:

“He’s the worst client that i’ve ever had in my atelier” I explained, and once the the camera man had finished snorting, he demanded we re-run the whole sequence. The presenter bravely bore the ridicule!

As the morning drew to a close we left the atelier, each holding a box laden with choux buns and chouquettes. (some more professionally looking than others!), calling

“Bon Apetite”, to the cameras as we went!

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For the recipé click here, and for the method, click here!

Tarte aux Fruits and a 19th Birthday!


My lovely daughter had her 19th birthday this week. It’s quite astonishing when I consider that we arrived in France when she was just twelve. Then she didn’t have two words of french to her repertoire, now she dances rings around me with perfect conjugaison, ado-speak and a measure of verlan thrown in! What, may you ask, is verlan? It’s an argot of the french language with inversed syllables and is largely meaningless to hapless adults, especially the linguistically challenged like me who often cannot get the syllables in the right order, let alone inverse them!

One thing that we are both capable of doing in equal measure however is eating french patisserie and so it came as no suprise at all when, on the subject of birthday cakes, my daughter opted for a french Tarte aux Fruits from Yvonne instead of a typically english cake. Yvonne is our old favorite boulangerie/patisserie in Rouen Gare where we used to live.  It is still no more than 10 minutes walk away, but a combination of home improvements, tax bills and all our electrical kitchen appliances breaking down in the same month made me baulk a bit, as Yvonne’s tarts are sublimely tasty, stunningly beautiful and extravagently expensive but more importantly a little on the small side!

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So on wednesday I got down to what I had been putting off for months. Making my own Tarte aux Fruits, Yvonne style. What I discovered in the course of the day was that they are supremely easy, and moreover, by the end of the evening – equally delicious.

There are two important facets to the Tarte aux Fruits. Firstly a rich sweet pastry which holds it’s shape and which doesn’t succumb to the moistness of the Crème Patissière. Then the smooth sweetness of the crème to contrast with the slight acidity of the fruit.

In my humble opinion pastry making is something of an art form. Throughout last summer I had the pleasure of standing in the kitchen with a professional patisserie chef and watching him effortlessly making perfect crisp pastry cases. I learnt several things.

-Firstly it is very important to keep the pastry cool and work the flour and butter mixture to the minimum, stopping mixing when the dough can just hold itself together.

-Secondly that the least amount of water or egg possible should be used to bind the ingredients together as during the baking process the evaporation of the liquid causes shrinkage.

-Thirdly the pastry should always be chilled for at least an hour before baking to prevent slippage in the mould during cooking.

-And finally the dough should never be stretched when fitting it to the mould as this also encourages slippage of the sides of the pastry case during the baking.

I asked the chef how to stop air bubbles appearing in the base of the pastry case, and he recommended using a pastry ring as opposed to a tin, and a perforated silicone baking sheet placed directly on the oven wire rack. In this way, no air is trapped between the pastry and a pastry tin.baking sheetsCercle-a-tarte-inox-24-cm

 

Having prepared the pastry case I began to cook the crème patissière.

I added the milk to the pan and incorporated a small proportion of sugar. By adding sugar to the milk, the milk is prevented from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan as I 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.

I switch off the flame on the hob. 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.

When the butter is incorporated I remove the pan from the flame and pour the Crème Pâtissière thinly 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. At this point it is possible to freeze the crème for another day or use straight away for a gorgeous tart.

Once cooled I put the crème patissière in my Kitchen Aid and beat until smooth before filling a piping bag with the crème.

The piping bag is partially stuffed into its nozzle to form a “bouchon” (cork) to prevent the creme from passing through the nozzle when I fill the bag. When I have transferred all the creme into the bag, I untwist the “bouchon” and push the creme down to the nozzle opening with the help of a spatula.

piping bag

piping bag1

Starting from the centre of the pastry case I squeeze the crème patissière through a 8mm round nozzle spiralling outwards until I reach the rim of the pastry case. This prevents the need to spread the crème with a spatula and the danger of damaging or”dirtying” the pastry case itself.

Once done it is just a simple matter of positioning the fruit. I chose raspberries with a strawberry edge, and every so often upturned a raspberry and filled it like a mini “cup”with a raspberry coulis.

strawberry tart

Afterwards  you  can dust softly with icing sugar, or lay a sprig of black currents or redcurrents and a sliced strawberry or two as decoration.

I was worried that my daughter would be disappointed that she didn’t have a real Yvonne tart for her birthday. But when she came in from work she opened the fridge and uttered a “ooooh”.

After dinner, when we were sitting replete from second helpings, my pudding monsters declared it was a huge success, especially as they didn’t have to forgo being greedy as they would have done with Yvonne’s little masterpiece, and moments later it was “snap-chatted” to celebrity and my daughter declared that judging by the responses of her friends – I better get making another one!

 

For the recipe click here

 

La durée (staying power) of Ladurée –


Ever since I moved to France, I have been aware of the name of the “House” of Ladurée, which has been associated with the prettily coloured almond meringue shells we know today as Macarons. The Macaron appeared in Europe in the middle ages, but it antecedent appears to have been from Morocco and before that from Syria under the different name of the “Louzieh”. It is believed to have passed to France from Italy during the Renaissance and  is likely that Catherine de Médicis  introduced it to the French when she entered the French royal family. The first recipe for the macaron is found in a publication in the XVII century. Enriched by spices, liqueurs and jams the shells of the macaron were paired together in 1830 to form the shape of the macaron we recognise today. They were found in Belleville, the Parisian quarter with ganache or cream fillings in 1880 and were also fabricated by the “Maison Ladurée” which tinted the shells in pastel colours indicating their flavours.

Despite living a stone’s throw from Paris, I have never, until yesterday tried one Ladurée’s masterpieces, but have always wanted to, and it is somewhat ironic that when I finally came to taste one, it wasn’t in France at all, but thousands of miles away in Bangkok! It wasn’t even that I was desperately hungry, or desperately curious. Since I regularly cook Macarons myself, and act as translator for the Institute Nationale de Boulangerie Patisserie for, amongst other things, the Macaron, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and if the Maison de Ladurée warrented the title of the grand master of the Macaron.

So why did I come to finally splurge on a Ladurée macaron in Bangkok of all places. Well the answer was the queue at the Skyrail BTS platform at Siam. Anyone who has travelled in Bangkok in public transport will know that it’s a pretty overwhelming affair, not least at rush-hour when there are literally thousands of bodies crushing into the train carriages. But of course getting into a carriage isn’t the only hurdle. First buy your ticket!

The skyrail platforms have a few booths which at first glance look like  ticket offices. So on our first outing we queued for tickets only to find that despite being six of us, the  person behind the screen would only change our notes for coins, leaving us in the somewhat unenviable position of having to queue again at a little slot machine to actually get hold of the tickets, which we had to do one at a time.

So yesterday when I looked at the heaving masses on the concourse, and then into my purse noticing with a grimace that I had only notes, there were only two choices, to queue twice, or to nip back into the mall and stop at the first shop possible, buying something innoccuous and getting some change as a result. The first shop that I fell upon was Ladurée!


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To hand it to Ladurée, the display looked tempting. One macaron was even half dipped in gold! I selected my one solitary raspberry Macaron only to have a major heart attack at the price demanded. As their cheapest, the rapberry Macaron costed a whopping 200 baht (5€), and I was agast to see, whilst one server wrapped my little macaron in a beautifully crafted napkin “envelope” concoction, the other was pulling from the till a wad of notes for my change. It took much gesticulating to get across the message that I wanted a handfull of coins.

I carefully cradled my little “treasure” back to the Skyrail station where my children were still manning their position in the queue for tickets, and egged on by them I took my first bite into my Ladurée macaron. There was expectant anticipation that for a few moments I would be transported to some higher realm of conciousness, a sort of gastronomic paradise.

“Well” demanded the children, a few moments later, “Was it worth the inflated price tag, and was Ladurée synonymous with “heaven”.

In a word, “No!”, it tasted like all other macarons the world over!

Perhaps If i’d bought a gold dipped one, and melted down the gold, I might have appreciated its value. Perhaps Ladurée can be thanked for their clever idea of pairing the shells, and colouring them to denote their flavour, but the rest, as they say, is history. There are many patisserie chefs out there just as capable of making lovely macarons as the famous Maison de Ladurée for a fraction of the price. And I do hope that Ladurée has something else up its sleeve, as an excellent macaron rests with the imagination of it’s creator, and that could as easily be you and I.

For its 4€ Ladurée price tag you could make a trayful at home, freezing the left-overs for instant gratification moments another day. So when it comes to “la durée” in minutes of munching…

Ladurée gives a total of about one!

Enjoy it while it lasts!

You’ll find the recipé here

All aboard for Patisserie Classes – A little matter of Translation!


For the macaron recipé click here and for the method click here.

Did I mention how much I love my job?

The beauty of it is its variety, and the diversity of people that I meet on a daily basis. Today was no exception. Again, leaving my teenagers fast asleep on a damp and dreary Mayday holiday, I was up with the lark to meet 20 or so visitors to Rouen from their cruise ship and head them in the direction of  the INBP, otherwise known as the Institute Nationale de Boulangerie et Patisserie. And as we all know, when you are looking for heat..

..head for the kitchen!

Today I stood alongside Sebastien in the demonstration kitchen, leaving  the 20 strong group to settle in the auditorium for a cooking demonstration of a Tart à la Mousse de Noix de Coco avec Garniture de Framboise et ses Macarons. Coconut Mousse Tart with Raspberry Sauce and Raspberry Macarons.WP_20150501_009The INBP was created in 1974 and has 8000 students passing through its doors each year. The training courses cover Boulangerie, Viennoiserie, Patisserie, Chocolaterie, Glacage (finishes) and Confisierie (sweet-making). There are students who decide to change careers and join the INBP for accelerated training courses, and others that take the traditional ones, and of course the all too necessary competitions for Maitre patissier, boulanger or confissier; Le Coup de France and the Olympiad.

Sebastien is French, and a self-confessed “nul” (dunce) in the english language! Personally, the opportunity to work along-side one of the “greats” of the patisserie profession translating his lesson from french to english for the participants is a win win situation. I get to learn the skills, and get paid for it – and what’s more have some left-overs to take home with me!WP_20150501_006With twenty in the class it isn’t possible to let each member of the group create from first basics. Sebastien did the lionshare but with plenty of opportunity for the group to get a bit of “hands-on” during the process. Look at Sebastien’s hands working with lightening speed!

WP_20150501_001We started with the creation of macarons, the method for which is here and the recipe here. As the macarons were cooking in the oven, Sebastien showed us how to make the perfect pastry case. I couldn’t believe my luck. For years my pastry cases have always been my great failing. Not because I can’t make pastry, but because the cases are never perfect. I always have bubbles of air trapped between the base and the tin, and the colour is never even. We have a boulangerie close to home where the pastry cases are always a vision of perfection, perfectly square, perfectly smooth and an even golden brown. I have always wanted to know how they manage it and today I was in pastry heaven.

Sebastien started with a thin pastry round mould, and not a conventional tin. Secondly he used a wire baking tray as opposed to a flat sheet metal baking tray, and finally he lined the wire tray with a perforated silicone sheet. And this my friends is the secret. Any air that would otherwise form between the pastry and the tin simply dissipates through the air airholes in the underside of the silicone and wire tray.

The next essential role in pastry making is not to overwork the dough. For those with warm hands it is essential to understand that the warmer the dough becomes, the more the oil in the butter used in the dough liquifies and creates a fatty pastry. Finally, the best pastry is created from well chilled and rested dough. Leaving the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to a day makes for a crisp and perfectly delicious pastry.

Having formed the pastry in front of our eyes, Sebastien reached into the fridge, and pulled out a ball that he had “made earlier”. We ribbed him that he had popped into Carrefour supermarket on his way over, and he winked and assured us that he had got up at 4am to prepare it for us. We noted sagely the rings round his eyes!

WP_20150501_005We made a mousse from pureed cream of coconut, whipped cream and gelatine which we poured in its semi-liquid form into a silicone mould and placed in the freezer to set. It was interesting to reflect on the fact that each country has cream that differs wildly from another. French cream is very liquid with reduced levels of fat. It is often difficult for the english in France to find cream that resembles that of their home country. But the fat content for a french patisserie recipe relies on a 30-35% volume of “matière grasse” or butter fat. In other words, France is virtuous for its “healthy” cream!

Our macarons were ready after 12 minutes in the oven at 150° and came cleanly off the baking sheet, as did our pastry cases. Needless to say, Sebastien perfected his already perfect cases of pastry, by scraping off the raggy edges at the base,

“Je suis “perfectionist”” he said whilst we were hard pressed to see any faults through a magnifying glass!

Using a piping bag Sebastien spiralled the raspberry sauce into the base of the pastry case, and placed on the top the now solidified mousse of coconut, which since frozen was easy to manipulate. It would thaw in the pastry case.

The group got together to form the completed raspberry macarons with the raspberry sauce and arrange them along-side fresh raspberries for the decoration. Sebastien looked at the baking sheet in front of him, and not without some irony gave a little word of caution:

” Mesdames, Messieurs, Faites attention que les coques soient tous le même taille!” –  Ladies, Gentlemen, watch that the macaron shells are all the same size!WP_20150501_011

WP_20150501_016

WP_20150501_007But it goes without saying that the best part of all was when we cut the tart into slices for our own “degustation” (tasting) before reluctantly heading back to the ship.

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Liberté, Egalité et Conformité – Mais NON Madame!


Just before Christmas I decided to do some communications ‘spring-cleaning’. It was long overdue because my TV, telephone and internet were with one operator, and our family’s  4 mobile phones with another. Clearly there were deals to be had if I put everything under the same operator and a few savings to be made. Turning overpayment into patisserie had to be a good idea!

If you are not ‘au fait’ with French ‘abonnements’, or membership contracts then you have a thing or two to learn about France. Number one, there is a certain amount of legalised ‘theft’ going on with most mobile contracts. Firstly ‘pay as you go’ doesn’t really exist in France. It is possible to buy a pre-payment card for mobiles, but really they are just a mini contract. For example if you wish to top up your mobile with a fiver, the credit will not last until you have made five euro’s of phone calls or internet forays – oh no! The five euros will last you 5 days, and if you have only made one euro’s worth of calls, the other four euros will be swiped at midnight of the 5th day, no matter how much you might have wanted to talk to your boyfriend, mother or missing child at 12.01am.

The second thing to know about the French is that offers for a reduction an a new phone, or an offer for reduction if you change contact type is not as clear cut as going to the till and having the reduction taken off the bill. Oh no! That would be far far too simple. And this is precisely what happened to me when I decided to do my communications spring-cleaning!

A charming lady in the phone, internet and TV shop told me about the remarkable offer they had if I changed from a contract (forfait) bloqué to non-bloqué, which became even more exciting if I also joined them for TV and internet and ‘land-line’. In the process I would gain a juicy percentage reduction  per mobile, and one mobile absolutely free as part of the TV and internet package. Then I was also going to get lots of euros off per phone from changing from bloqué to non-bloqué. Marvellous, it was a new year master-stroke of savings and increased consumption of Tarte aux Fruits! Or so I thought!

Did I mention that these great reductions were not done at the till? The charming lady gave me a special form for each phone to fill out, and another even more special form for the TV package.  I left the shop with 5 new contracts and five new forms, which is clearly quite a large amount of paperwork for one day.

At home I carefully filled in the forms, photocopied the contracts, photocopied the receipts, cut out and added the cardboard barcodes from the boxes, added the RIB (Relevé Identifiant Bancaire – or bank account details on a special print out – visit to bank required) and once I had completed this multiplied by 5, and very very carefully checked the small print of the forms, I headed off to the Post Office to send all the information in a big envelope by recorded delivery to the ‘big men in suits’. A month passed before I discovered in my post box an equally fat envelope waiting for me. When I opened it up I discovered all my carefully organised documentation plus a letter which stated:

“Chère Madame,

Je suis désole de vous informer que nous ne pouvons pas faire suite de votre demande. Vous n’avez pas conformé aux réglementations comme requis.”

“Dear Madame,

I am sorry to tell you that we cannot deal with your application. You have not conformed to the requirements”

Once you have lived in France long enough you will be familiar with ‘the groan’ – a sort of inward mixure of irritation, annoyance, frustration, and incomprehension which is very quickly followed up by a sense of grim determination whilst at the same time maintaining an outward appearence of charm and serenity and cool.

I had mastered myself somewhere between the 4th and ground floor of our lift;  Sadly I forgot that the phone and tv shop would be far too engrossed with their lunch! They assurred me that whilst they were happy to take the wodge of paperwork from me, they couldn’t possibly look at it for more than an hour. I left to stare wistfully at the Patisserie window down the road.

“Well” I said when I returned, “Have you worked out what I did wrong”

“Ah OUI, Madame” came the reply, “Vous n’avez pas conformé” (you haven’t conformed)

“Chaque application doit avoir également son envelope à lui” (each application must equally have it’s own envelope)

“Mais Vous, Madame, You have put all your applications into the same envelope”

“On doit conformer, Madame!”

“Well” I said “Can I send them back in separate envelopes?”

“Mais NON, madame” she replied, C’est fini.(it’s finished)  We are not at ‘liberté’ to accept late applications, It would not be “equalité” for tout le monde …..

……On doit conformé.”

It seems I cannot have my cake and eat it after all!

SOB!

The Great French Hypothetical House Hunt – The perfect Kitchen.


Today I received a phone call from the French estate agent that thought that this would be my perfect house:

“Madame” he said, “If you are quick to put in an offer, you will be in a very strong position – no matter if your house in England has not yet sold”

“Yes” I mused, “I will be in a very strong position because no-one else wants this particular house – Its is very plain and very banal and not at all what I am looking for”

His call did however set me to reflecting about one of the most important rooms of a house. The kitchen.  With my new found passion for patisserie, I often dream of the large smooth granite slab atop my central island unit in my old kitchen and think how wonderful it would be with all its marvelous ‘coldness’ for creating chocolate curls, and preparing pâte feuilleté (puff pastry) and croissants.

And so my dreams started to formulate themselves into my new and perfect hypothetical kitchen. And at that moment I knew why, even with the smooth talking Monsieur’s …

“mais madame, on habite à l’interieur d’une maison, pas l’exterieur”

(but madam, one lives in the interior of a house, not the exterior)

..the house in question simply would never work, even if blindfolded on entry. The kitchen was simply too small and pokey for any kind of creative excess.

Firstly the ideal kitchen has to large, and how much more fantastic than to have an open fire and bold beautiful architectural features. Look at this vaulted ceiling!

Top of the wish list –  plenty of room for a huge table for family and friends to sit around.

and ideally doors leading out to the garden..

…and a view! I know of course that I’m getting carried away, but i’d like to be able to wander out and pick mint from the garden to put with the peas.

If I lower my expectations, this would do very nicely!

Did I mention how important it is to have a huge slab of polished stone for patisserie? I imagine I did!

Simplicity is key when choosing cupboards, and calm cool colours. All the ‘busy’ will come from the utensils.

Simple glassware and china..

..crocks and pots.

and a wonderful corner for friends to settle in and chat, or the kids to lounge about and talk about their day whilst I cook –

or dare I say it, for ‘husband à l’etranger’ and I to have ‘time-out’ with a glass of wine!

…leaning on some wonderful cushions made from old grain sacks like these from Atelier Be.

and an ‘aide memoire’ to remind me what I need to buy. I imagine blue means I need to order more and white, that I have enough. This cannot be my house, I have plenty of wine left and have not finished all the chocolate!

An old battered jug in which to put garden flowers would be lovely,

 and old French linen tablecloths,

and some old french plates found in a brocante.

and a wonderful old french clock to get us to school on time.

and perhaps some unframed portraits of odd ancestors!

and no matter what, with all those old brocante ‘finds’ , the old french windows and food from the market, the ideal kitchen is unmistakably French.

The perfect kitchen for lounging lazily at the table with a glass of wine and a delectable patisserie?

I’ll let you know once i’ve polished off these macarons!

All photos thanks to Google Images

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.