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Pâtisserie Lac, part two – She who disclosed her secret, and ate chocolate and nuts and dried fruits in the shape of a Christmas tree

I realise I said the next pâtisserie Lac update would be about how I almost took part to a pastry challenge. To make one long story short, I had made an interesting entremet hazelnut dacquoise, cream cheese mousse, pumpkin crème brulée, and roast-slash-confit pumpkin – in the aim to submit it to a panel of experienced pâtissiers. But, after a couple of month without hearing from the school, I was called and told I’d start the classes on the exact same week the challenge was hold; read, with less than twenty-four hours of notice.
Not the right time, but definitely the right entremet. That’s why I so intended to share it with you. Sadly, it got eaten quickly and I haven’t found the time to re-make it yet. Soon (as usual).

Short story turned rather longish, and as you might guess, things are pretty busy at the pâtisserie at this time of the year. With more than a thousand of bûches to make, trust me when I say I feel slightly tired; although damn happy would qualify as well.

This Christmas is nothing like I’ve ever had. And totally feels like a new experience, which – needless to say – gets me pretty excited. Imagine how electrifying it is to see Christmas under a new light. Like the new kid on the block. Well, yes, that’s right; I’m that new kid and really enjoy it.

Plus, I’ve finally revealed my true identity – aka, crazily random person who talks way too much (this, they already know about), and takes pictures of the food she makes and writes about it on the internet (the – no-longer – secret) – so I got to photograph every single of the bûches (eight of them, write-up coming as soon as I’ll have found my mental sanity) and a couple of other things. Including those pretty chocolate sapins [Christmas trees] the chocolatiers made.

I also have pictures of the chocolatiers themselves, but you don’t want to see that since they can’t help making funny faces in front of a camera (at least I now have a way to blackmail them if necessary!).

Hopefully, you won’t mind about how random this post is. I’ve barely slept for the past couple of days (hence the don’t-make-sense factor), but I so wanted to give you a glimpse of what actually happens at the pâtisserie these days. And, perhaps most importantly, I wanted to show you how gorgeous nuts, dried fruits and chocolate are when they combine their forces. Delicious too, but I think it’s barely necessary to mention this.

Anyway, I might take a nap now and come back later with a bûches de Noël manifesto.

Coming up next, she who felt like she lived in a forest made of golden plastic trees where the snow would be chocolate mousse (this was clearly written under the influence – of sleep-lack, bûches-making and evident randomness, the title might change or not).

Réussir le Christmas cake, pas à pas – Mastering Christmas cake, step by step

With every year that fades, comes Christmas cake. Boozy and dense. Covered with bright-white fondant. Light and citrusy. Packed with almonds, both whole and ground. Topped with glacé fruits.

This is how we love Christmas cake around here.

No, we’re not going insane. We just like how versatile it can be over the years. Never the same, yet not entirely different either.

This year, I’ve decided to combine our favourites from the past to create a unique and delicate cake. Most definitely number one of the Christmas cake hall of fame.
Picture plump and fragrant dried and glacé fruits, and whole almonds, held together in the shape of a cake thanks to a rich and moist batter.

Do make it now and you’ll have a lovely cake to devour on the twenty-fifth.

To make this cake you’ll need:
250g raisins
125g sultanans
300g dates, pitted
250g dried apricots
50g glacé cherries
1 candied mandarine
1 andied slice of lemon
3 vanilla beans
250g boiling water
250g whole almonds

Finely dice the candied mandarine and lemon slice.

Place all the fruits into a glasse bowl.

Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans open, and scrape the seeds out. Add both to the fruit mixture.

Pour the boiling water over the fruits.

Cover tightly with cling film and allow to rest for a couple of hours, or until the water has been absorbed.

Do not forget to give it a gentle shake every now and then.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds. Heat a large frying pan and place the almonds in there. Cook over medium heat, shaking as you do so, until you can smell a definite almond aroma. Take care not to burn them, a couple of minutes should be enough to get the best from them.
I love how toasted almonds have that slight savouriness due to the smoky flavour. Try not to munch on them because they do add a nice crunch to the cake.

And get on with the batter:
170g butter, at room temperature
170g light brown sugar
200g flour
175g ground almonds
4 eggs
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 small apples

As usual, make sure you have all the ingredients ready: weighed and measured.

Start by creaming the butter. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never think of getting the butter to room temperature before making the cake. Luckily, I’ve developped a foolproof method. Place the cold diced butter into a heat-safe bowl and heat until half the butter is melted. Then quickly turn onto you’re stand mixer, which will do the remaining job.

Mix in the sugar.

And golden syrup.

Now, you need to peel and grate the apples. Discard the peels and cores. All you keep is the juicy flesh.
I don’t know about you but I love that first picture and totally think about printing, framing and hanging it onto my kitchen wall. Naked apples look good.

Mix in the flour and ground almonds, then the grated apples. It’s totally normal for the batter to look lumpy.

Finally fold in both the toasted almonds and plump fruits.

Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Fill two tins: one 16cm and one 18cm. As you can see from the picture above, I decided to go for a 18cm plus a thin 16cm and a tiny loaf. But really, do as you wish.

Bake the cakes for 1h30 or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tins.

Wrap in parchment paper, and foil. And keep until ready to decorate.

Hopefully, I’ll see you again next week for an update on marzipan and fondant. In the meantime, I wish you all the best for the holidays – and the year to come. xx