Archive for the ‘Pastry’ Category

How the Top Pastry Chef in the World Is Modernizing the Form

February 3rd, 2018
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Cédric Grolet’s rise may seem meteoric, but the Paris pastry chef’s process is a slow, painstaking one

2015: Pasty Chef of the Year, Le Chef. 2016Best Pastry Chef, Relais Desserts. Also 2016: Pastry Chef of the Year, Omnivore World Tour. By the time Parisian pâtissier Cédric Grolet, executive pastry chef of Le Meurice, and I meet, he’s been recognized as 2017’s Best Pastry Chef in the World by Les Grands Tables du Monde. 2018 has barely even begun and the much-decorated sugar sculptor has added Gault Millau‘s Pâtissier of The Year recognition as the icing atop a very rich cake of accolades. Yes, his honors are numerous, but Grolet’s art is anything but baking by numbers.

The late Paul Bocuse once said, “Without butter, without eggs, there is no reason to come to France.” Grolet’s visually arresting renderings in butter, eggs and sugar are, in and of themselves, reason enough to venture forth into the Ville Lumière. The French magazine L’Expresse described him as having “revolutionized the world of sweetness.” Google the man and you’d be hard-pressed to miss the word “trompe-l’oeil,” as he’s become synonymous with his hyper-realistic sculptural confections: a lemon dessert that looks, well, just like a lemon, down to the dimples in its canary citrus skin. The same is true of his scarlet cherry doppelgänger that glistens like a Christmas tree ornament, and his iconic Rubik’s Cube cake, which swivels. Grolet is grounded by the backbone of a classicist, yet is propelled by the wings of an avant-gardist. It is no wonder, then, that he has achieved what can only be described as the apotheosis of confectionary creation.

“It is important to master the classics,” he says. “French pâtisserie is a classic pâtisserie—the Saint-Honoré, Paris-Brest, eclairs, mille-feuilles. But like a fashion designer, if you master only the classics, you won’t find any innovative edge in the creations. The same applies to me. I respect my French classics. I keep the French style except I modernize it. I refresh it.”

Inspiration, then, must come from everywhere. “I am inspired by everything that surrounds me, by everything that I smell, all I that I taste, all that I see,” he says. “I love fashion, museums, perfume, smells. I love colors, architecture…”

When I arrive at Le Meurice, that shining rue de Rivoli bastion, I’m ushered to its tables d’hôtes: a golden lucite table that could easily be mistaken for one of Grolet’s creations, with its gleaming surface and deliciously exact elliptical form. Grolet has been the executive pastry chef of Le Meurice since 2013, but his trajectory begins when he started making desserts at 15 in his hometown, Auvergne, France. At 20, he moved to Paris, where he worked under the tutelage of Christophe Adam at the gourmet food company Fauchon for six years. “When I was at ease and wanted a new challenge, I joined Le Meurice as an adjunct, working with with Yannick Alléno and Camille Lesecq,” Grolet says. “After a year, at 26, I became the pastry chef.”

His rise may seem meteoric, but his process is a slow, painstaking one. An equal measure of madness and method seem to be the recipe for Grolet, who is as meticulous as he is freewheeling. Devising a bûche de Noël can take up to a year of experimentation, and the pastries for Le Meurice’s popular tea time take about a week of research with his team. And once the experimentation is done, each pastry is built with a precision that I observe during his surgical assemblage of the Rubik’s cake.

Asked about his process, Grolet rushes excitedly out of the room and returns carrying a blue portefeuille, out of which spill several etchings. “I start by drawing,” he says. “I have a database of all my drawings of what I’m thinking of creating in the days and years to come.” He then gives the completed sketches to his sous-chef, who is tasked with transmuting the two-dimensional ideations into lifelike comestibles. This distance allows him to be more objectively critical of the work in progress. “Of course, the first drawing is never the same as the finished product,” he admits. “But step by step, it evolves. I find it pleasant to start with a drawing because, physically, it goes much faster. It takes a long time to make a desert— two to three days. A drawing takes me five minutes.”

It’s understandable that Grolet starts with the path of least resistance in his creative process, as he seems eager to get his ideas out into the open. He speaks of his craft with the speed and alacrity of a child elucidating the features of his tricked-out couch fortress. “I am trying to talk slowly; I am trying,” he says. “I am crazy when I talk about pastries.” It is perhaps this eagerness to share that drives Grolet to teach as many master classes as he does around the world.

Grolet takes his charge to modernize incredibly seriously. For Christmas 2015, he created a yule log plumped with preserved cherries and suffused with Espelette pepper: not exactly your standard-issue chocolate or vanilla holiday cake. “Christmas is once a year. Christmas is the time of presents; it is the time to surprise,” he says. “To me the taste of Espelette pepper with the cherries and the tarragon inside is particular. When better to offer to offer this cake than at Christmas? I am the pastry chef at Le Meurice: If I do not offer it, who will?”

Still, even in doing so, he reaches into his “database” of classic techniques. “Many people told me cherries were not seasonal,” he explains. “I did what my grandmother used to. We took the cherries and preserved them in jars. Of course they are not like fresh ones, but a bûche needs to be structured. For that structure, they were perfect.”

We’ve now moved from the host table into Grolet’s antiseptic kitchen where his affability simmers as if in reaction to the oven’s heat. He teases a member of his team who is in the process of building the base of the Rubik’s cake, before adding the finishing touches. (The cake must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance, as it is not on the menu.) He gives it a second and final glance to ensure its symmetry as he walks away.

Fixated though he may be on form, presentation and flavor take priority. Grolet’s motto, “le beau fait venir, et le bon fait revenir,” means, “Beauty brings them in, and taste brings them back.”

He moves on to filling his Paris-Brest. He is enhancing this French staple with the flavor of praline but not just any old praline. “My praline is bold with pepper and salt,” he says. “Each time it brings an explosion of flavor.” The doughnut-shaped choux is sliced against a ruler with extreme exactitude, then filled with praline cream. The base choux is covered in freshly roasted hazelnuts, and with the flick of the wrist, he pipes arabesques of pastry cream onto the choux. Time for more praline, which he injects into the cream before crowning his handiwork with the other half of the choux. He slices off a sliver for me to taste. The choux is crunchy, the cloud-soft cream lightly sweet, the entire Brest bursting with (but not overpowered by) the nutty notes of hazelnut. He can tell I want more. He offers me another slice.

Like mandala art, his process of creation is one of liturgical devotion that takes eons from conception to that brief moment of dissolution of sugar on the tongue. But Grolet is unperturbed by the ephemerality of his art form. “My goal is to provoke a memory,” he says. “No one can take an emotion, a memory from you. You will keep it for life.” Indeed, his are the sort of disappearing souvenirs that live with a person forever.


Grolet does, however, care about his legacy. He finds it déclassé to coronate himself an artist or a star—both of which he undoubtedly is. He prefers to think of himself as simply a pastry chef, but one with lofty ambitions. He dreams of staying at Le Meurice while growing his worldwide presence, opening a string of Cédric Grolet concept stores and establishing a pastry academy.

For now, the inedible incarnation of his art lives in his first book, the simply-titled Fruits. When asked by chef Alain Ducasse why he wanted to do a book, he replied, “Because everyone is doing a book.” Grolet has since come to realize that the book, which took a year to produce, is his new “database,” a certain kaleidoscopic compendium of what he has dedicated the last 17 years of his life to. “A book means to look back over what I have done. It is my structure,” he says.

If there is any doubt that Grolet is inhabited by the spirit of an artist, his next words shatter those doubts like the crunch of his pâte sucrée: “A book is a form of communication; through it, people can understand what I do.” Is it not the desire to be understood that, as Khalil Gibran put it, “gives birth to art and all artists?”

I ask him what creation, out of his entire oeuvre, is his favorite. He loves them all, he says, but adds, “What I love is what I have yet to do.”

Source: Food & Wine



New Product Awards winners announced for Europain

January 13th, 2018
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A committee of bakery and pastry professionals announced seven winners for the Europain new product awards. “Among them are products that will help you save time and water and work comfortably in the kitchen no matter your height or range of mobility,” said Elizabeth Meaney, spokesperson for Europain, in a press statement. And the winners are…

• LINUM EUROPE– Flui, a water doser that shuts off the water as soon as the set quantity is reached.
• SASA – Modular trolley shelves used for storage, to save space and or to advertise.
• SOFINOR – An electrically adjustable table that adapts to your height or disability.


• MIWE MICHAEL WENZ – MIWE shop baking suite, a software tool allows you to manage, monitor and synchronize your systems’ data remotely.


• EURALAX – A motorized convertible shop window that switches from sales behind a counter to open self-service.
• INDUTEX – Softouch anti-slip paper for cake, which is a material stabilizing cake in its box during transportation.
• Les celliers associés – A range of three ciders by Val de Rance.

Europain is a global event featuring French and international suppliers.The award ceremony will be held at Europain on Feb. 4.


Bakery, Events, Pastry

3D Printing Comes to the Baking Industry

October 7th, 2017
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Three-dimensional printing for the pastry, cake decorating and baking industries has arrived.

CSM Bakery Solutions and 3D Systems Corporation, the originator of 3D printing and solutions, have announced they have reached an agreement to collaborate in the development, sale and distribution of 3D printers, products and materials for the bakery and food industry.

The global agreement allows the two industry leaders to join forces to bring innovative and creative 3D printed culinary products to the market. CSM will support the development of and have exclusive rights to utilize 3D Systems’ ChefJet Pro 3D printer for high-resolution, colorful food products for the professional culinary environment.

“We are very excited about what this opportunity can mean for the food industry,” says Marianne Kirkegaard, CSM’s president and chief executive officer.

The partnership enables collaborative research and development, engineering, design and printer development that will be focused on specific sourcing, food product development and go-to-market plans. After careful analysis and extensive discussions, planning, and market research, CSM and 3D Systems have formalized this agreement and are beginning the work to bring prototypes to the market.

“Our agreement with 3D Systems has the potential to re-shape the food industry,” Kirkegaard says. “Across a number of industries, 3D printing has helped transform industries and there’s every reason to think the same can be true for the food industry. We are excited to partner and continue to expand capabilities and culinary opportunities with their platform.”

Vyomesh Joshi, 3D Systems president and chief executive officer, expresses similar optimism about the agreement.

“Our extensive and versatile portfolio of materials addresses the widest range of applications and performance in 3D printing – from culinary to industrial,” he says. “As we continue to drive innovation and explore strategic partnerships with industry leaders, our partnership with CSM is a perfect fit to leverage our technology and capabilities to expand applications and materials.”

Showcased at the National Restaurant Association Show 2015 in Chicago, the ChefJet Pro from 3D Systems can create full-color bespoke confections for an unlimited array of applications, such as sculptural, ornate cake and cupcake toppers, candies, delicate latticework or logo sugar cubes.

Speaking at the 2015 NRA Show, Tom Vaccaro, dean of Baking and Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of America, posed a question to the audience: “What will cakes look like in the future? With this technology, they can really take any shape. In a lot of ways, this technology touches the creativity of the chef and also your guests. You could pretty much say to your guests: Tell me your dreams.”



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The Magic of Macarons

September 11th, 2017
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From Paris to New York to Seattle, the French macaron continues to make its way into the hearts and minds of American consumers. This trend shows no sign of slowing down.
FP Patisserie, for example, is the luxury high-end brand from acclaimed pastry chef François Payard, featuring cakes, pastries, tarts, chocolates and confections made from only the finest ingredients. The flagship location of FP Patisserie is found on the upper east side of Manhattan, and is divided into three distinct sections: the pastry shop, the bar and the dining area.
From the sidewalk, window shoppers and customers alike may see the artfully arranged pastry displays and colorful macaron collection, thoughtfully arranged in custom glass display cases accented with the quintessential “Payard Orange” colored marble. Additionally, all of the merchandise is openly displayed on custom created dark wood bookcases, as if being featured in a library.
“My pastry menu is consistent with a market menu,” says Payard, who says his favorite flavor combinations are dark chocolate, caramel and salted peanuts (very American), passion fruit and raspberry, and pistachio and cherry. “When you use too many flavors, the identity of each flavor gets lost. I try to keep it simple,” he says.
Further evidence of the rise of the French macaron in American can be found at Ladurée. Today, there are eight US locations of the famed Ladurée, including stores in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami.
The story of the Paris-born Ladurée macaron starts in the middle of the 20th century with Pierre Desfontaines, who first thought of taking two macaron shells and joining them with a delicious ganache filling. Since this time, the recipe did not change.
In September 1997, a new prestigious Ladurée address, both a restaurant and a tea room opened on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. President David Holder decides to bring back the great classics, which have contributed to the reputation of this “salon de thé,” as well as to create an environment for gastronomic creativity in Paris.
The newest Ladurée in America opened May 2 in Washington, D.C. The 1,100-square foot store serves dozens of colorful French macaron flavors inside a location designed to create the feel of a French salon.
“It’s not so easy to make macaron, so we really are super control freaks about what we use,” Ladurée USA co-president Elisabeth Holder Raberin says. “We have chefs training for years to make macaron. They wake up at 2 a.m. to bake.”
While making her unique “flower” macarons, award-winning baker Deborah Ott from France relies on white chocolate cream filling, prepared using heavy cream, white chocolate and cornstarch.
“What is very important in the macaron,” bakery owner Pierre Zimmerman says of the classic French dessert, “is the first bite is the key. The classic shell is meringue, which is very neutral. So there has to be a real explosion of flavor because there are only two bites. The key is to lower the sugar in the macaron filling, so the filling is not too sweet.”


Dominique Ansel Named World’s Best Pastry Chef

April 15th, 2017
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2013 might have been the year of the Cronut, but 2017 is shaping up to be the year of its creator.

Chef Dominique Ansel was awarded the title of World’s Best Pastry Chef 2017 today as part of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. In doing so, he becomes only the fourth pastry chef to receive the award, following in the footsteps of Jordi Roca, Albert Adria, and Pierre Hermé. Additionally, Ansel is both the youngest and the only US-based chef to ever take home the award.

While Ansel’s first New York City bakery only opened five years ago, his notoriety continues to build as he keeps introducing more incredible pastry creations, which began with the Cronut in 2013. Ansel has no plans of slowing down and his growing number of pastry marvels shows it, including the Frozen S’more and his new Zero Gravity Chiffon Cake.

Ansel’s growing global empire already includes locations in New York City, London and Tokyo, where he just recently opened a second location. The new location offers a number of unique pastries exclusive to the Tokyo shop, including soba croissants, matcha babka, and custom DKAs made with Kokuto black sugar from Okinawa.

Ansel is also opening a full-fledged restaurant in Los Angeles later this year where he will aim to connect with guests through a full-meal experience the same he does already with pastry. When asked about developing a full menu for the new restaurant, Ansel explained that he’s eagerly seeking out inspiration, regardless of where it comes from. “It’s not about a certain type of cuisine or the stereotype of putting yourself in a category,” he says. “It’s more about thinking out of the box and seeing what’s out there around the world and having a connection with the guest.”




France is the winner of the 15th edition of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie

February 4th, 2017
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France achieved first place in the 2017 edition of the Coupe de Monde de la Pa?tisserie contest – the international reference event in the trade created in 1989 by Gabriel Paillasson its president founder. Among the 22 teams composed of 3 specialists (sugar, chocolate, ice- cream) from 4 continents, the team from France completed a flawless run in 10 hours of tests, followed by Japan and Switzerland.

The Results

Gold Medal: France

The French Team composed of Etienne Leroy, Bastien Girard and Jean-Thomas Schneider won the Gold Medal, a gold trophy, and 21,000 euros in prize money.

Silver Medal: Japan

The Japanese Team composed of Takahiro Komai, Yoshiaki Uezaki et Takao Yamamoto, won the Silver Medal, a silver trophy, and 12,000 euros in prize money.

Bronze Medal: Switzerland

The Swiss Team composed of de Ce?dric Pilloud, Jorge Cardoso et Jean-Baptiste Jolliet, won the Bronze Medal, a bronze trophy, and 6,000 euros in prize money.

The Vase de Se?vres – a prize donated by the President of the French Republic and awarded to the country that scored the most points for the degustation – was award to France

France obtains the trophy like in 2013, thanks to a great teamwork and tasting grades that made the difference. Japan definitely takes its habits in the top 3, and proves its regularity among the best pastry nations. After years of absence, Switzerland steps on the podium for the first time and creates surprise after the wild card obtained at the Coupe Europe selection in January 2016.

Gabriel Paillasson, founding president of the Coupe du Monde de la Pa?tisserie, is very satisfied with the contest: « All nations, even the less experienced ones, did a fantastic job. It was a magnificent event with an amazing atmosphere that reflects pastry’s evolution in the world. “


Events, Pastry ,

U.S. Pastry Competition 2017 Finalists Announced At IRFSNY

January 21st, 2017
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Rising stars of the pastry world will compete for the coveted title of Pastry Chef of the Year at Paris Gourmet’s U.S. Pastry Competition taking place at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York on Sunday, March 5 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The theme for the 2017 competition is Modern Masters Come to Chocolate.

The U.S. Pastry Competition 2017 finalists will have three hours to set-up their exhibit and will be permitted one assistant. All attendees of the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York are invited to see the illustrious showpieces created by America’s leading pastry chefs throughout the duration of the Show.  

“We are thrilled to be hosting the 28th annual Pastry Chef of the Year Competition,” said Ron Mathews, Vice President for the Urban Expositions Family of Foodservice Events. “This special event has consistently been a highlight on the show floor, and we look forward to welcoming the competitors and an esteemed panel of judges to critque and select the next Pastry Chef of the Year.”

The U.S. Pastry Competition is America’s most prestigious pastry competition. The event allows leading pastry chefs to showcase their talents by creating “petite gateau buffet” (mini cake/dessert display) and a plated dessert, exhibited along with highly technical chocolate sculpted showpieces using Cacao Noel brand chocolate. Board members of the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique, one of the oldest and most prestigious chef associations in the world, will preside over the judging procedures.

Contest awards will total over $16,000.00. Finalists for this year’s competition come from across the nation and include:

  • Jeremy Archereau, Restaurant Daniel (NY)
  • Francois Behuet, Francois Payard Patisserie (NY)
  • Manuel Bouillet, Barry Callebaut (IL)
  • Isaac Carter, Facebook HQ, Menlo Park (CA)
  • John Cook, Norman Love Confections (FL)
  • Ariety Estevez, Loews Atlanta Hotel (GA)
  • Romuald Guiot, Pitchoun Bakery (LA)
  • Laura Lachowecki, Woodstock Country Club (IN)
  • Timothy Maguire, Icahn Assoc. (NC)
  • Robert Nieto, Jackson Family Wines (CA)
  • Richie Pratadaja, FIKA (NY)
  • Deden Putra, The Peninsula (NY)
  • Joel Reno, French Pastry School (IL)
  • Rocio Varela, The Fort Worth Club (TX)
  • Jordan Weston Snider, Fairmount Grand Del Mar (CA) 

“Since 1989 we have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the International Restaurant Show of New York in hosting the annual US Pastry Competition,” said Dominique Noel, Vice President at Paris Gourmet Inc. “We look forward to bringing the best pastry chefs in the country to the event to create true works of art, which will be evident in the theme of modern master artists. Our prestigious panel of judges from the Society Culinaire Philanthropique will critique and analyze each of the entrees in this advanced-level competition while the select the US Pastry Chef of the Year.”

The event is hosted by Paris Gourmet, a leading specialty food importer and distributor sourcing products worldwide with service throughout North America. The event is co-sponsored by Cacao Noel Chocolate, Pastry 1 (pastry ingredients), Beurremont Butter, Gourmand and Maison de Choix. For more information, visit



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Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie – Finale 2017

January 21st, 2017
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Every two years, the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie brings together the very best young pastry talents in the world. After a selection process involving more than fifty national rounds and four continental selection events in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, 22 teams have qualified for the final.

The 18th edition of Sirha – World Hospitality and Food Service event – will see fresh impetus sweep over the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie 2017. It will be placed under the sign of savoir-faire, excellence, refinement, technical mastery, all more necessary than ever to create these true yet ephemeral works art. Under the honorary presidency, three new nations will participate for the first time: Indonesia, India and Chile.

The trials

  • 3 chocolate desserts with Valrhona grands crus
  • 3 frozen fruit desserts from the Ravifruit range
  • 15 identical desserts on plate
  • 1 artistic creation made of sugar
  • 1 artistic creation made of chocolate
  • 1 artistic creation made of sculpted hydric ice

A new president of the i.o.c: philippe rigollot

For its 15th edition, the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie welcomes Philippe Rigollot as the new president of the International Organizing Committee (I.O.C.) under the aegis of Gabriel Paillasson, president founder. Holder of the ‘Meilleur ouvrier de France’ distinction for pastry in 2007, he was also a brilliant prize-winner in the 2005 edition of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie with his team members Christophe Michalak and Frédéric Deville.

New tests

The final of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie is typically structured into three major tests involving sugar, chocolate and ice-cream.

For the sugar test, the regulations of the final to be held on January 22nd and 23rd 2017, introduces an additional requirement: a flower made of sugar to be integrated in the artistic creation, this can be a rose, carnation or orchid. The participants will place extra emphasis on aesthetics for their presentation, as this is one of the aspects particularly appreciated by the public.

Also, the chocolate masters will be required to use hollow casting and no longer solid chocolate for their sculptures, which significantly increases the risk of breakage right up until the last minute.

Eco-responsible award

For the 2017 edition, true to its commitment in favour of sustainable development the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie has decided to significantly diminish the quantity of material used to create the artistic piece made of chocolate. Participants therefore have a much smaller margin for error. But, this also offers them an opportunity to demonstrate their eco-responsible commitment. A new prize will also be presented to reward the team that made the best use of the raw materials available and optimized its waste management.



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French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine

January 21st, 2017
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Amid calls for “chocolatine” to be added to the French dictionary, we take a look at a debate that has divided France for centuries – what is the name of the chocolate-filled pastry treat?
When you walk into the corner bakery craving that iconic, buttery, flaky pastry with a dark chocolate center, do you ask for a pain au chocolat or a chocolatine?
The majority of the French would say pain au chocolat, at least according to one website entirely devoted to the topic.
Its survey of over 110,000 people found that almost 60 percent would say pain au chocolat, with 40 percent going for chocolatine.
The website asks voters for their region of France, and has provided an interactive map that reveals the “chocolatine” voters are hugely congregated in the south west.
And the “chocolatine” crew feel they shouldn’t be overshadowed. In fact,
Pupils from the south western town of Montauban have recently penned a letter to France’s president in a bid to get the word chocolatine added to the French dictionary.
“It’s a word of our region, where a lot of people live, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south,” one pupil told La Dépêche du Midi newspaper.

So why the confusion?

One theory traces the origins of the ubiquitous French treat to the 1830s, when an Austrian named August Zang opened the very first boulangerie viennoise at 92 rue Richelieu in what is now the second arrondissement of Paris.
According to culinary historian Jim Chevalier, author of “August Zang and the French Croissant: How the Viennoiserie Came to France”, it was the schokoladencroissant, a crescent-shaped, chocolate-filled brioche that slowly evolved into the rectangular chocolatine.
As the French gradually integrated viennoiseries into their culture, laminating the brioche layers, chocolatine became one and the same with pain au chocolat, which historically referred to any chocolate-filled bread that children enjoyed as a snack at school. The southwest region, meanwhile, is supposed to have stuck with chocolatine due to its similarity to the Occitan word chicolatina.
Another theory floats around that, during a period of English rule over France’s Aquitaine region in the 15th century, the English would walk into bakeries and ask for “chocolate in bread, please!” which the French understood as, simply, “chocolate in.” However, this theory has been disputed due to the fact that chocolate did not arrive in Europe from the Americas until 1528.
Other countries all over the world have adopted their own nomenclature, with ‘chocolate croissants’ in the United States and ‘napolitanas de chocolate’ in Spain, for example. But on this widely controversial issue, France may never come to an agreement.
But one thing the whole country can agree on is that it’s NOT called a chocolate croissant.

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Consider the Cannelé – Bordeaux’s Unusual Winemaking Pastry

January 21st, 2017
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Stroll around Place Gambetta square in the city Bordeaux and you may notice sizzling competition to sell pastries and candies. La Mie Câline retails beautifully gooey almond croissants near where Le Comptoir de Mathilde makes chocolate pizzas and strawberry flavored marshmallows. Inside nearby Baillardran, beneath a high ceiling and stained glass windows, doting ladies sell red boxes of spool-sized rum and vanilla pastries for which this city is famed.

This is the cannelé (pronounced kan-el-AY), a by-product of winemaking.

Choose cannelé or canelé; both spellings are correct. The double ‘n’ version is valid worldwide, while Bordeaux city ‘canauliers’—members of the Confrérie du Canelé de Bordeaux—adopted the single ‘n’ noun in 1985 to distinguish their city’s signature sweet.

Parallel fissures score the cylindrical circumference of each cannelé, evoking a vague memory of the Devil’s Tower rock formation in Wyoming (remember the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?). The crackly yet rubbery outer crust has a color between molasses and dark brick, while the golden honeycombed interior tastes like custard and rum.

It tastes even better than it sounds.

Inside the Baillardran store, uniformed ladies offer rum and non-rum versions of canelés, then instruct buyers not to refrigerate them at home. This visually blunt pastry is a hit: Baillardran has eight outlets just in Bordeaux city and another five nearby.

This historical pastry is respected throughout the region. Inside nearby five-star Hotel Burdigala, a complimentary tray of cannelés is provided in each room (prepared by their in-house pastry chef) together with a written history of this chewy treat. This is often the first introduction to French cuisine by visiting international travelers.

The association with wine is simple. Winemakers often add egg whites to their juice to draw out excessive polyphenols (tannins). This process, known as ‘fining,’ smoothens the taste of wine. Positively charged egg white proteins—albumin—react with negatively charged polyphenols, creating particle clusters that sink to the bottom of wine barrels for later removal. Despite alternatives, egg whites are still used by many smaller wine producers. Historically, surplus egg yolks from this process were used to create the first cannelés.

The centuries-old history of this pastry is uncertain, though is apocryphally associated with city nuns from Saint Eulalia church who honed their culinary bent by incorporating yolks to churn out these sweets (the shape apparently remained unfluted until the 20th century).

Less uncertain, though more complex, is the history of canauliers who make these pastries. They registered a guild with Bordeaux’s parliament in the 17th century, yet were prohibited from using milk or sugar—which were considered the exclusive domain of a competing pastry guild. It took one century and a state edict to change that regulation.

The simple ingredients include flour, brown sugar, eggs, milk and butter (vanilla and rum were added in the 20th century).

Renowned chef and co-founder of famed Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen and Great Northern Food Hall in New York, Claus Meyer has admitted to cannelés being one of his favorite foods.

“Crispy caramelized cake. Beautiful,” he said. “It’s magical in all its simplicity to get that flavor our of those ingredients.”

The lore on the internet is that the simplicity of ingredients belies the potential complexity of baking cannelés well. The batter should rest for a day (to better hydrate the flour), then be poured into copper or silicone molds previously seasoned with beeswax. Eggs should be mixed, not whisked, and of the right age to avoid any dreaded cannelé collapse in the oven. So run the stories. The truth is that once you have molds, making these is a cinch that will blast your kitchen with welcome aromas.

This simple pastry is evolving as more varieties are produced. The most popular choice at Baillardran is the Canelé d’Or (golden canelé), “blazed with rum at the end of baking,” Chloé Simard, communications assistant, told me. “Our bakers are very respectful of our products and make special attention to use matières premières (raw materials) by choosing the best vanilla and eggs,” she continued. “We are still looking for new ideas. For people who don’t like alcohol we launched a classic size Canelé Pur Vanille made with organic vanilla from Madagascar and slicked by vanilla syrup at the end of baking. Our latest novelty is a delicious medium-sized canelé topped with dark chocolate and stuffed with dark chocolate too.”

Another beauty of cannelés is versatility. They can be served for breakfast or dinner and as an appetizer or dessert—served whole, or sliced in half and stuffed with ice cream—and will complement coffee, tea, red wine or cognac. In the City of New York, Canelé by Céline sells hundreds of sweet and savory varieties each week, the most popular being vanilla, followed by dark chocolate. What is the reaction of Americans who have never tasted one before? “Very positive!” General Manager Gerald Huteau told me. “When people first taste, they enjoy. They love it.”

Source: Forbes


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