The weather has been kind to us if you like the sun. But, if you are making pastry and desserts it’s a pain the in the butt! Butter, flour and heat do not mix and today we were starting our marathon two days with the amazing Jean-Mark Boyer who has deservedly earned a Michelin star.
The chance to spend time with such experience is priceless in my humble opinion, learning tips and tricks gained through years of serious hard work and professional training that you can’t get easy access too as an amateur, especially for 2 days!
For this entry I have decided to blend the two days to cover the various pastry we made, rather that break it up. The next entry will cover our trip to Carcassonne and the amazing Table du Franck Putelat restaurant.Things were going to be very complex as we were given an insight into the desserts we were making. Fraisier, Financiers with Rocket Chlorophyll and Mint Syrup, Fried Cherries with Liquorice Syrup, Crème Brûlée with Praline, Eclair St Honoré (not the James Martin version) and ‘LePuits d’Amour’, Peanut, Banana and Lime Dessert etc etc….! I have just checked my blood sugar level and all is ok, I am only going to sample things!The above picture is the start of Le Puits d’Amour of which there are a variety of interpretations. Starting with making a very rich and buttery (900grams/1Kg flour/30grams Salt) Puff Pastry (yes, I did make it), cutting out rings using a couple of glasses, a sweet dough made with all the usual ingredients for a petit sablé with added ground peanuts forms the base, with the rings glued on top with Egg Yolk.
The Puff Pastry was a two day process folding the mixture and leaving it to rest to allow the layers of pastry and butter to settle, I did the second (book fold) at 11:00 P.M., leaving it to the morning would have been too late!
A Praline, Créme Diplomat, Compote of Bananas, Lime Confit, Tonka Bean Caramel glaze are used to fill the delicious treat, all of which had to be made by the intrepid groups of ‘International Chefs in waiting’!!The finished result was sublime, there was a subtle Banana flavour in the background, the Lime was probably the most prominent but to be honest it was just delicious. There were lost of processes going on each of us doing ‘our bit’, like a brigade in a professional restaurant it was hectic but really good fun.The Fraisier also has several stages, make a ‘biscuit’ or dacquoise base piped into a metal ring, line the edge with Strawberries, add some Créme Diplomat, a Fruit Pureé, some more Créme Diplomat, smooth the top, make some Strawberry ‘powder’, a Sorbet etc……Our Chef/Travel Writer buddie Mark was celebrating his birthday so this was a surprise celebration cake to honour the day, it was very well received (and VERY tasty). Happy birthday Mark.
The Eclair St Honoré was a serious piece of work which was two days of effort (for a cake), with all of us doing different elements!
As you can see in the 1st photo at the top, Ali is deftly piping the Choux pastry into ‘Eclairs’, these were prepared and cooked in advance.The Eclairs are cut, not in half but 2/3rds the remaining lid being the last 1/3rd (but they were not going to be used at lids, more later).
The Puff Pastry, is cut into ‘coffins’ and baked until risen and crisp, they form the base. I think the only difference between ‘Professional Chefs’ and the ‘International Team’ at ‘The French House Party‘ was the fact different people working on different elements meant the lengths of pastry and top were sum-what different! Practise makes perfect.
The two pastries are ‘glued’ together with Caramel, being extremely careful to mind your fingers, Caramel (melted sugar) is VERY VERY hot! Crème pâtissière is piped on top of the Choux ‘coffin’.I mentioned the Choux ‘lids’ earlier, we used them to ‘punch’ small discs of pastry, four per cake, they form part of the decoration and some random texture on top of the ‘Chantilly Cream’, which is piped on the Crème pâtissière as you can hopefully see in the picture.
We finally made some sugar work using a couple of forks and a spare pair of hands, pulling the sugar like cotton from a bobbin, making thin strands that could be quickly bundled together. You can see the final result of my efforts above, although it was definitely a team job with everyone making individual components that would come together at the end.Vasily was in charge of the blow lamp, he is a lovely guy living in Switzerland but originally from Russia. He had a great sense of humour as do all the guests and mucked in and joked with the international cooking expedition! We made some small Lemon Tarts with a Meringue top, which he coloured with precision. (He is not trying to colour his fingers!!).The final result looked like it came out of a professional pastry shop in London, Paul from America had done a fab job with the lemon cream which was nicely sharp, to offset the sweet crown of Meringue. Some grated Lemon zest finished things of nicely.Let’s extract Chlorophyll from Rocket for a Financier, sounds like a good idea, never done that before!!!!
As you might be beginning to release, the word ‘Advanced’ was taken seriously in the title of this cooking course, we were introduced too, and learnt loads of new processes and techniques!
It was quite eye-opening to experience the trouble and effort professional chefs go through to stretch their expertise to the limit, and impress their customers with unusual creations. The Financier was accompanied by a Mint Syrup, and Rocket leaves sprinkled with Icing Sugar, it was really tasty.
An ‘exotic’ Fruit Log was also constructed, a Meringue base with Coconut, Caramel Cream, Vanilla Passion Mango Cream and Lychees.‘Master Chef’ Vasily was in charge of the piping this time (I was glueing the Puff Pastry to the Choux Bun bases with the dangerous Caramel), others were preparing the Mango and Caramel Creams, it was all hands to the pump.Before baking, the Meringue Logs were sprinkled with Coconut Powder and when cooked and cooled, layered with the Caramel Cream, then some Mango Cream, then another ‘log’ and repeated. Some added a third layer and used some of the Caramel to coat the sides, sprinkling crumbled Meringue like a pebbled wall, it was going a bit freestyle as people gained their confidence, I simply sprinkled some Meringue dust on the top of mine!As the various desserts was put together by each member of the group the work surface looked like the back of a Patisserie, lining up with plates of colourful delights.
The two days with Jean-Mark have been fabulous, learnt loads, made some mistakes, laughter in bounds its been a fab time, and shame it has to end. We have one last treat which is a meal at his 1 Michelin star Restaurant on the last evening which we are all very much looking forward too.
………………………Until next time………………L8ers………………