Module 5: French Classiques
I felt stupid
I felt ridiculous
I was standing in class on Wednesday wondering why I wasn’t really feeling like myself, felt hot and bothered and my leg was becoming more and more painful. I was restless in class, unable to stand still comfortably and working fast cause all I wanted to do was get out of there. In the morning we had finished our chocolate module and in the afternoon began the so called “French Classics” that we weren’t all that excited for given our previous run-ins with many of them.
In the end I walked gingerly home with every step hurting my increasingly reddening leg as it began to swell. I called my emergency hotline, my incredible cousins, who managed to organise me some French antibiotics for what I realised was my first case of cellulitis.
I returned to school the next day in the morning hoping to miraculously make it through the long hours at school. But, with a pained expression on my face I couldn’t think of surviving a day of standing on my leg and working hard in the kitchen. Everyone told me to go home or that they would be happy to perform a free backyard amputation in the kitchen with a cleaver.
I went home after just an hour at school, hoping to rest my leg and return for the afternoon.
I had a swollen red leg, fevers, severe leg pain and could not focus. So a day was spent at doctors, with vaccinations and wondering what it all would have been like if only I hadn’t tripped.
In the end, I missed out on an entire day at school due to quite worrying leg cellulitis from a small cut sustained due to absent minded clumsiness.
But I had the will power to get over this little malady and get back to patisserie.
And on Friday after the fevers had broken and the pain became just bearable, I returned to class ready to tackle the final elements and the assembly of the cakes.
We got straight back to tackling the classics – employing all the Ritz’s know how and getting practice with Advanced French Pastry foundations – as always with a little twist.
Crème Patissier + butter = Crème Mousseline
Crème Patissier + whipped cream = Crème Légère
Crème Patissier + Italian meringue = Crème Chiboust
These three very important elements to the classics were used to their best along with practice at feuilletage, pâte foncer, génoise and jaconde.
My wonderful classmates had continued my work for me.
So by Friday we had assembled our cakes and were ready for a degustation and to pack them away ready for transport.
And so on Friday afternoon, I left class around 6:15pm and was picked up in Rue Cambon by my cousin given I had brought home 4 huge bags filled with classic cakes and hand-made chocolates.
It was a well coordinated mission for extraction and recovery of the loot – I felt like a calorie collaborator, I am bringing more and more cakes every week and it is becoming excessive.
Walking into their apartment for our usual Friday night family dinner was slightly different – also a first, my parents had finally arrived in Paris and were ready to meet the family.
So here for your purvey are the French Classics…
Lets start with the simplest and my least favourite… the Praline Success Cake formed by an almond meringue piped with a nougatine buttercream
Onto the Opera – a true French Classic, one that I have been really really looking forward to making for a very long time. The coffee syrup, the chocolate glaze, the almond jaconde, coffee buttercream, extra-bitter dark chocolate ganache every element was perfection and made a heavenly dessert that I really could eat every day with a cup of Australian Espresso. (let’s clarify that I still crave a great coffee from back home – but as of yesterday I may just have found my first awesome coffee in Paris – I triumph after 4 months of disappointment!)
The Millefeuille Diablotin made use of our ever improving puff pastry skills – originally conceived as a vanilla pastry cream, we made a last minute change to a Pistachio pastry cream, yet it was the fondant spiderweb design on the top that was the key feature to this classic.
Caramel and Chocolate Charlotte will be very important soon enough, you will see why, sadly I missed the entire construction of this cake, only luckily I had previously made a pear charlotte at my old institution of learning so I had the general idea. This Charlotte consisted of the meringue biscuit, imbibed with a cognac syrup, with a layer of caramel mousse, a layer of almond nougatine, and a layer of decidedly rich dark chocolate mousse.
A Fraisier is an instant hit at any French tea party. The freshly cut strawberries that shine from the edge of this cake hide genoise sponge soaked with fresh strawberry juice syrup, lashings of vanilla mousseline cream hid yet more French strawberries and every single bite tasted of sunshine and sweetness.
The Moka cake with nougatine was made with a moist genoise sponge, imbibed with rum syrup, layered with coffee buttercream and decorated as only a classic should be!
Paris Brest Cake the height of brilliance when choux is combined with a praline mousseline cream. A favourite of many Parisians, including my esteemed cousins, when served it disappeared so quickly that I never actually got to taste it!
And last but not least my fourth St Honore since moving to Paris. It was slightly more complex than last time with a chiboust cream rather than a simple chantilly. It was really light but stiff, the choux too dry for me, but the pâte foncer was sensational and will likely replace my normal pâte sucree for the base of my St Honore.
Thus the trials and tribulations of the week came to their conclusion; and henceforth the classiques shall be remembered as the culmination of tradition and tears – at least they tasted sweet!