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Pascal Lac, son entremet fromage blanc et fruits rouges et un CAP pâtissier en apprentissage

[On Pascal Lac, his fromage blanc and berry entremet, and pastry apprenticeship]

A couple of weeks ago, I made it back home with the secret aim to find a place to be an apprentice at next year.
I got to spend a day in a dreamy laboratoire, being shown around by the young chef, decorating tarts and making beautiful loaf cakes; all with a view on the gorgeous black-walled chocolaterie room.

The next day I headed towards La Trinité, a small town, north of Nice, where the renown pâtisserie Lac has its laboratoire. The place is huge, probably ten times bigger – I mean, walk-in freezers! – that Pierre Hermé’s.
Pascal Lac, the chef, decided to make the move from the busy city back-shop laboratoire to this large open one for reasons that are quite understandable.

After the short interview, I asked my dad – who held the position of pastry-chef-in-the-being (=me) driver for the week end – to drive me to the city centre, so I could have a look and taste of Lac’s pastries.

Just as the pâtisserie from the day before, pâtisserie Lac had that gorgeous sleek look. Very chic. But as I entered, I had that overwhelming feeling that conducted me to choose Lac over any other pâtisseries I had applied to. Don’t laugh, but I totally felt connected with the various entremets, cakes and macarons. Those had my touch in them.

So well, here it comes. I HAVE AN INTERNSHIP FOR NEXT YEAR!
And I’m damn happy.

While we’re talking about internships, it fills me with joy when you guys let me know that you’re planning on become a pastry chef – and thus interning at a French pâtisserie.

However, I must admit that I’m getting bored of those many ‘how did you secure an internship at Pierre Hermé’ emails, as if I was the sesame to Pierre Hermé’s very own private paradise pâtisserie. I am not.

But because I do my best at being a lovely person, here is the answer.
I am passionate about pâtisserie, and I guess that if you do mean it when you tell me about how much you love pastry, then you might actually be passionate too. And this is just terrific. Passion is the key; the so-wanted sesame.
Thanks to my passion, I strive to make my dreams come true. It might take days or years, I don’t mind. All I want is to be satisfied about myself; and so should you.

What about this whole how-to-get-an-internship thingy then? Well, people, just get on it; be proactive; make your best to get what you want. If that means emailing Fanny about her Pierre Hermé internship, then do it. But do you really think that’ll fulfil you? Don’t you want to struggle for it? Or more accurately, are you even ready to struggle for it?

What you want will never come onto a silver plate, which is especially true in the fine food industry.

You want something. Then make it happen.

I understand that some of you might need a little more guidance – I mean, even I, living in France and speaking fluent French, find it difficult sometimes; or actually, all the time. I struggle; making phone calls back and forth; emailing restlessly.
You want an internship in France; then follow this quick step-by-step.

1. Learn the basic principles of French grammar and orthography. You needn’t be an advanced French speaker and writer, but definitely have to be able to understand when people talk to you, formulate a coherent answer, and express your feelings and motivations in a cover letter.

2. Put together a resume in French. By all means, if you don’t have the knowledge to make it look pretty, just keep it simple.
In France, resumes must contain:
– a picture of you
– the basic info about you<
– your telephone number and email address
Plus, all of the usual stuff: education and work experience.
Never worked at a pâtisserie before? I hadn’t. But I managed to highlight how I included my passion into the different projects I conducted.

3. List the places where you want to apply. Use google maps, or les pages jaunes; for contact info. Do make an actual – written on paper – list! Write down the name of the pâtisserie, name of the pâtissier, phone number and email.

4. Write a two-hundred-word cover letter– if you’re not fluent, make it clear at the beginning, but say you’re definite about improving your French; in this case, keep it short and simple.
Basically, just try to convey your passion and enthusiasm through your words. Briefly expose a project you worked on and during which you managed to place pastry into the limelight.

5. Take a morning off (not Mondays, since most of the shops are closed), and call each of the listed place. Make the effort to speak French. Don’t try and speak too fast if you’re not confident; I much rather someone that talks slowly than someone I can barely understand.
Ask for the chef pâtissier. And don’t hesitate to make people repeat if you don’t get something.

When you’ve finally been put through the chef, make it brief. Say you want to apply for a stage [stah-ge]. Ask whether they accept stagiaires [stah-gi-air] or not. If they do, give your availabilities; then politely ask for an email where you could reach him for further communication.

Be warned, they will most likely ask for a stage conventionné, for which you need a convention – a sort of insurance contract – issued by your school or university. So if you’re not currently a student, I suggest you get some info elsewhere.

6. Cross the pâtisserie name off the list. And immediately send an email.
Thank them for the earlier conversation. Repeat what you called them for: stage, availabilities. Attach both your resume and cover letter, but still mention them in the email body.

7. Wait for seven days, then either call or email, asking about the processing of your application.
Don’t hesitate to call again and say you’re very motivated. Tell them you’re highly interested in meeting them for an interview. Actually make it to the interview, even for just one day.

Congrats. You are [insert your country’s name] next pastry chef.

On happiness, CAP pâtissier and a tart – Tarte chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion, ananas rôti

tart-passion-fruit-chocolate-pineapple-front.jpg

This past Monday. Yesterday, in fact. I made a choice. One of the most critical choices I’ve ever been confronted to. The kind of choices that leaves you in an uncanny state of uncertainty; but definitely one that makes you happy, one that you can’t help but think about – days and nights and every second in between -, one that comes with a CAP (Certificat d’Aptitude Professionelle) pâtissier, chocolatier et glacier.

Yes, my dearest friends, you read it well. From next September, I’ll officially start studying pâtisserie and might even pass the final exam (cross your fingers and you friends’ as well, for me).

tart-passion-fruit-chocolate-pineapple-close.jpg

Little happy dance and song. Champagne, ahem, not quite yet. I need to find a place (either a pâtisserie or restaurant) to be an apprentie at. And trust me, this doesn’t seem to be easy a task.
Since I’m wanting to stay on the Côte, I’m scouting places like renowned hotels and restaurants, and great pâtisseries. So if you happen to know anyone around, let me know and I’ll make sure to send you a box of macarons!

And this is the appropriate moment to thank you who support me, give me fantastic-est advices and help me to find my way. You know who you are and I’m immensely grateful to count you as friends.

Bring. It. On.

tart-passion-fruit-chocolate-pineapple-yum.jpg

The tart. What can I say? An insanely delicious passion fruit ganache encased in a crisp pâte sucrée shell and topped with syrupy pineapple dices.

One of the best desserts I’ve ever made. The flavours interact. The textures oppose. My mouth loves it. Yours will too.

tart-passion-fruit-chocolate-pineapple.jpg

Tarte chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion, ananas rôti
Inspired by Pierre Hermé.

A quick look at the long list of ingredients and steps might – but shouldn’t – lead you to think that this is a long and complicated recipe. It isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it is quite time-consuming, but if you plan things well ahead, then all is a left is the final and rewarding assembly job.

This tart is inspired by Pierre Hermé’s collection Mogador. Inspired. I’m eternally grateful for his pâte sucrée and for the impossibly luscious roast pineapple – I could and do eat this with my fingers as soon as the syrup isn’t hot enough to burn me to the bone.
The ganache is slightly different. Pierre relies on passion fruit, while I use both passion fruit and cream. Better stability, no splitting. Pretty decent, really.

As you might notice from the picture, my ganache is on the soft side. I like it better that way since I love that melt in your mouth feeling.
It will, however, get firmer if you leave it in the fridge for too long.

Tarte chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion, ananas rôti

makes eight 8cm tarts

for the crust
8 baked-blind pâte sucrée tart shells

for the roast pineapple
125g caster sugar
one vanilla pod
220ml water
half a banana, mashed
one fat pineapple (approx. 1000g)

Put the sugar into a pan set over medium heat and make a dark amber-brown caramel.
Slice the vanilla pod in the length and dump into the caramel. Briefly mix and tip the water in. The caramel will seize, do not worry. Just keep heating and slowly bring to the boil. Off the heat, mix in the mashed banana and pour into a container. Keep covered, in the fridge, overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 230°C. Using a sharp knife, peel, quarter in the length and core the pineapple. Place into a 20cm cake tin and cover with the syrup. Bake for an hour, turning and basting regularly with the syrup. Allow to cool at room temperature and keep covered in the fridge.

for the ganache
120g strained passion fruit pulp (from 10 passion fruits)
400g milk chocolate, melted
80g butter, at room temperature
300g double cream, at room temperature

Bring the passion fruit pulp to the boil and pour over the melted chocolate. When the mixture reaches 40°C, mix in the butter until smooth. It might separated, but will come back together as you add the cream.

la finition
Using a laddle – or even better, an entonnoir à piston [piston funnel] – divide the ganache (preferably at 35°C) between the tart shells. Allow to set in the fridge for a couple of hours and when ready to serve, top with diced roasted pineapple.

pour huit tartelettes de 8cm

pour les fonds de pâte sucrée
8 fonds de pâte sucrée cuits à blanc

pour l’ananas rôti
125g sucre blanc
une gousse de vanille
220ml eau
une demi banane, écrasée
un bel ananas (approx. 1000g)

Mettre le sucre dans une casserole placée sur feu moyen et laisser cuire jusqu’à obtention d’un caramel de couleur ambre.
Fendre la gousse de vanille en deux et la jeter dans le caramel. Mélanger rapidement puis ajouter l’eau en une fois. Le caramel va durcir. Simplement poursuivre la cuisson jusqu’à ébullition. Hors du feu, ajouter la banane écrasée et transférer le sirop vers un tuperware. Réfrigérer toute la nuit.

Le lendemain, préchauffer le four à 230°C.
En utilisant un couteau aiguisé, peler, couper en quatre et enlever le cœur de l’ananas. Le placer dans un plat à bords hauts de 20cm de diamètre et recouvrir avec le sirop préparé la veille.
Cuire au four pendant une heure, en le retournant et l’arrosant régulièrement.
Laisser revenir à température ambiante puis réfrigérer jusqu’à usage.

pour la ganache
120g pulpe de fruits de la passion passée au tamis (env. 10 fruits de la passion)
400g chocolat au lait, fondu
80g beurre doux, à temperature ambiante
300g crème entière, à temperature ambiante

Porter la pulpe de fruits de la passion à ébullition, puis verser sur le chocolat fondu en mélangeant. Quand la ganache atteint 40°C, incorporer le beurre avec une spatule de façon à obtenir une préparation homogène. La ganache peut se séparer, mais elle redeviendra homogène avec l’ajout final de crème.

la finition
En utilisant une louche – ou encore mieux, un entonnoir à piston – répartir la ganache (de préférence à 35°C) dans les fonds de tarte.
Mettre au frigidaire pendant 2 à trois heures; au moment de servir, décorer avec l’ananas préalablement coupé en dés.

We’d lie around in bed all day – Tarte à la citrouille

pumpkin pie

I won’t lie. There are many advantages to having a boyfriend who’s a pâtissier.

First, he loves 6pm slumbers parties à deux since he – like me – knows how a 3am wake-up feels like.

Second, he whips some pretty nice dinners in a matter of seconds, leaving the kitchen deliciously shiny even though he is – like me – one of the messiest people on earth.

Third, he tends to get as excited as I do when the following words are mentioned in no special order: AFTERNOON, PÂTISSERIE, NEW FLAVOUR COMBINATION.

pumpkins

It all seems quite logical. I mean, we met while working for Pascal Lac, so it’s the very essence of our daily – exciting and sweet – routine.

This past Sunday we hence decided to explore the autumnal classic: the pumpkin pie.

pumpkin pie large

It’s a favourite of mine. But, well – let’s get it out straight away – not a favourite of Guillaume’s. Yes, you read right.

Guillaume. Does. Not. Like. Pumpkin pie.

pumpkin hand

I initially thought of finding another boyfriend, but I seem to be in like with him way too much to do so.

After a – not so – lond period of – not so – intense reflection, I went for the other option: eat a slice of tart by myself and bring the rest to my family.

I’m pretty glad I did.

Tarte à la citrouille
Indeed, this tart is perfect. Raw sugar and fresh pumpkin.

The raw sugar brings lovely caramel undertones, that in my opinion, brings out the earthy flavour of fresh pumpkin.

First you start by making your own purée, by roasting the pumpkin, then blending it. The roasting part of it helps to get rid of the moisture naturally present in pumpkin flesh, and thus, creates a smooth (bubble free) pumpkin flan.

In this recipe, I call for pâte sucrée which you can easily make in advance from the recipe here.

Tarte à la citrouille

makes one 28cm wide tart

for the pâte sucrée
a 28 cm wide fond, baked blind

for the pumpkin purée
500g pumpkin flesh
1 tbsp butter

for the pumpkin flan
2 eggs
70g raw sugar
170g double cream
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
seeds from half a vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Place the diced pumpkin flesh into a baking pan and roast until tender, approximately half an hour. Blend in a mixer, adding the butter. Then allow to cool until it reaches room temperature.

When the purée is cold, mix in the eggs, sugar, cream, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds. Pour into the blind-baked fond, then bake at 160˚C for 45 minutes, or until set.

Serve cold.

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).

Pâtisserie Lac, part one – She who called herself ‘le maître des fraisiers’

Bliss is a feeling which can be difficult to genuinely grasp unless you’ve actually experienced it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seen myself as a happy girl. Always smiling, laughing and ready to face life with excitement.
However, I never really knew I could be happier. But now, after a month spent at Pascal Lac’s pâtisserie, I truly have the feeling I’ve found what makes my heart alive.

So far my apprentissage at Pâtisserie Lac has been the most life-altering experience I’ve ever had. This time, I’m not doing this just for school. I’m actually working days after days to become a pâtissier. Something I’ve been dreaming about for years – literally – but am now living.

And as you would expect, living a dream is… well, dreamy.

Pascal, which I now call patron, is one of the most passionate and talented pâtissier I was ever given the chance to work with. He imagines outstanding flavor and texture combinations, and uses the best ingredients available. And despite his overloaded schedule, he does put an apron on every morning to get all the entremets, tarts and petits-fours ready for the daily shop-refill: the livraison.
Passionate, talented and caring.
And it shows: the pâtisserie Lac probably is the best pâtisserie around the Côte.

They say you can’t judge a book from its cover; I say, on the other hand, you can judge a pâtisserie from its laboratoire – the hidden part of the iceberg: the place where all the luscious pastries are made.

Here, things couldn’t be any closer to perfect. In order to have plenty of room, Pascal decided to move the laboratoire from the usual shop-backside to the north-east suburbs of Nice. Sure, this means I get to host a daily forty-minute off-key singing driving party in my car – consider yourself lucky not to be invited! But it also means I get to work on my very own marbre. Picture two metres of stainless steel, just for me.

But trust me, I make a full use of those two metres. Especially from 5.50 to 7, at which point the refrigerated car hops to town to deliver the pastries.

Because you see, during this period of time, my role – and mission – is to produce the fraisiers (something you should be acquainted with if you’ve read my previous post). Le fraisier is a gâteau composed of two layers of syrup-drenched génoise, encasing a fluffly vanilla crème mousseline, and plenty of fresh and juicy strawberries.

Believe me, making eight fraisiers does take time. More time than I’m actually given. And there is a joke amongst the boys – who are so very adorable, by the way – and the Chef – whom, despite his actual name Stéphane, we all call Chef! – saying that we’ll never finish our shift on time (read, before one pm) if I make the fraisiers.

Quite luckily I got faster and better. My génoises now turn out perfect every time I get them out from the oven. My crème mousseline is glossy and feathery. And I love the draw the arabesques with my chocolate cornet on top of the pâte d’amandes disks.

Coming up next, she who almost enrolled in a pâtisserie rally.