Baba au Vieux Rhum

The "baba au rhum" is a well known and very well old french dessert.
It is composed of an enriched brioche-like dough which has been 
dunked in a pot of hot syrup and rum, and usually garnished with
chantilly cream, or in this case "crème légère" which is pastry cream
lightened with a good dose of whipped cream.

This dessert marked the beginning of our journey through superior pastry!
The generous imbibing of the "baba" gives it a texture of.. well..
soggy bread. But in a good way!

This dessert was first invented by one Nicolas Stohrer, a clever
patissier to the exiled king of Poland Stanislas, who resided in 
Alsace, France in the 18th century. There are a few myths and 
legends floating about, of how this dessert was first conceived. 
But my favourite one is the one where Stohrer decided to dip
the brioche dough into syrup so that the aging ex-king 
with no teeth could still enjoy his favourite pastry
even with his lack of chewing ability.

Awesome story, huh.

You definitely need a bit of quirk to be a pastry chef ;)

Bon appétit!

x Tal


Intermediate.. what a blast it was.

It hasn't sunk in yet.. that I am now in the third and final stage of my
cuisine and patisserie studies at Le Cordon Bleu.
Two more months and I will have to leave one of the best experiences of my life, 
and go forth in search for more new and exciting challenges.

Both my cuisine and patisserie exams went quite well..
Apart from forgetting to place the parsley garnish
atop my "Basque-country-stye" chicken dish in the flurry of trying to 
present everything in time for tasting by the juries.. 
I was happy with the way my offering tasted. 

For the pastry exam, I was lucky enough to score
a dessert that I was very comfortable in reproducing..
The delicious Tarte Passion-Framboise
I was a little unsure come decorating time however, 
as Chef Cotte has said that the decor I did in the practical for this tart was
"un peu trop".. and "un peu big-mama comme moi". 
So I tried to tone it down a LITTLE BIT and hoped that it was still classy 'nuf. 

But the decor must have been just right, as at the graduation ceremony
when they were announcing the top 5 achievers in patisserie,
it was my name that was called up to receive the highly contended 1st place!
I was very honoured and grateful, as I have seen the calibre of
products my classmates continually produce week by week.
I knew I had to work doubly hard to keep up with the pastry students,
whilst also making sure my cuisine studies are up to standard.

By the end of exams I was pretty mentally exhausted. 

But I'm glad that I gave it everything I had, 
as now I can honestly say that 
YES. I do deserve that top spot!

Me with Chef Patrick Caals, Chef Marc Thivet and Chef Xavier Cotte

4 of the top 5 in pastry with the chefs 

Chef Xavier Cotte (patissier, chocolatier, cuisiner, glacer, confectionair) and I

Again, I hope I've made you proud NZ friends. 
Thank you for always reading my jibber-jabber..
I always think of you guys when I'm in class finishing up my creations :)
Missing you all!

(especially you Chelsea, Liz, Dave and Sarah.. 
Thanks for always reading my nonsensical ramblings)

And thanks to MARTIN for being so patient with
his highly "on-edge" girlfriend during exam periods.

Now here's to superior!!

xo Tal


Dessert Dissection

A cold and wet day in Paris..
Martin and I didn't really feel like exploring the city today..
But a little voice inside of me would not let me stay inside all day 
on a perfectly good saturday afternoon.
Oh, don't misunderstand.. I'm not talking about the voice of reason..
I'm talking about the sound of 
my spoiled stomach. 

So I woke Martin up from his nap, put on a scarf, beanie and jacket
and it was not long until we were on our way in search of something sweet.

Not wanting to deviate too far from our warm, dry nest of an apartment
we decided to go to a nearby establishment called
"Des Gateaux et Du Pain" on Blvd Pasteur which is a mere
two metro stops away from home.

However, its close proximity was not the only reason 
why I chose to go there..

this chocolate egg is the reason:

What.. but it's just a chocolate egg, say you.


Look inside.


Check out the detailing on the seed!!

It has never crossed my mind before,  
but Easter in Paris is going to be rather rockin'.
Back in Auckland, my idea of an easter egg fix was 
a quick trip to the neighbourhood "Warehouse" and picking up 
a couple baskets full of marshmallow eggs or caramel filled mini-eggs.
But I am sure looking forward to the plethora of creatively
conceptualized lenten embryos that Parisian patisseries will
no doubt offer their religiously loyal patrons.

While I was there at the patisserie/boulangerie/chocolaterie
that looked more like an art galery.. 
I thought I may as well pick up a couple of pastries
to tie me over 'til dinner time.
(And I justified my gluttony by saying it's for blogging purposes.)

This one is a "Pomme tatin au sirop d'érable"
(apple "turnover" with maple syrup)

The tarts at "Des Gateaux et Du Pain" share a distinguishing feature,
their protruding fillings which seem to magically suspend themselves
over the usually vertically constraining tart shell.

When I read the description of the tart at the shop,
I was filled with question and wonder
as to how they manage to fit all its components
into this conservative looking package.

Ok so here's what's inside:
Sweet short pastry base with chopped pecan, 
cream and maple syrup layer on top...
followed by ladyfinger biscuit imbibed with caramel
and finally a "disc" of caramelized apple flavoured with more maple syrup.

And yes. It was really good.
Although I didn't get as much a maple syrup flavour 
as I did a strong smack of caramel and apple as I would've liked.
And it was a smidgen too sweet for my taste. 
I'll give this one a rating of 7.5 out of 10!

Martin chose this next one.
I guess if you wake your boyfriend from a nap and
make him put on some nice pants and shoes to go out 
walking in the cold you'd better let him pick out at least one thing.

Tarte Mangue Vanille
(Mango and Vanilla Tart)

Martin loves mango eclairs from Fauchon,
drinks mango juice by the gallon, 
and always orders mango lassi when given the option.
So it was not a surprising choice.
Martin knows to play it safe when he's got a good thing going.

Upon dissection of the treat, I was most impressed
by the neatly composed layers of goodness.
Shortbread crust, almond cream base, roasted mango, mango cream,
and Madagascan vanilla bean chiboust cream. 

Chiboust cream is made of pastry cream and meringue.
I have no idea how they managed to get their chiboust this firm
and smooth. The one I made at school for the Tressor Vanille-Framboise
was not as successful. Hahaha.

Out of the three tarts, this one was the first to be 
consumed in its entirety by two jostling forks. 
Using the freshest fruits and high quality ingredients,
such a simple pairing becomes a pastry masterpiece.
I give this one a 9.5/10
(Sorry for eating lots of it, Mart)

Next treat. OK. Fine.. I'll admit it..
I am attracted to shiny things.

Look at how shiny this Savarin is!!

Of course I had to taste it.

This pastry is composed simply of "pâte à baba" which is 
a more buttery version of the brioche which is HEAVILY (and I do mean 
every sense of the word heavily) soaked with rum and citrus syrup, 
and topped with a little rosette of chantilly cream.

I am a big fan of rum, so I didn't mind the strong aroma so much.
But Martin was quickly overwhelmed by the alcohol and complained
that is overcame all the other components. (I think he was just 
grumpy because I finished his mango tart.)
But I think we both agreed that it needed more chantilly
cream to round up the flavours a bit.

I give this one a 7.9/10

I have decided that assessing and assigning pastries numerical grades
is something that I can get used to.

Maybe I will do more of this in the future.

I am so spoiled living here, I can't believe it.

x Tal

Des Gateaux et Du Pain
63 Boulevard Pasteur  75015 Paris, France
01 45 38 94 16


Initiation à la boulangerie.

In the kitchen today when we were pulling bread out from the oven,
I looked around and couldn't help but have a little giggle..
I couldn't believe I am at a cooking school in Paris learning to make baguettes.

But there we were, and here I am..
Very happy with where my life is at the moment.

Today was all about baguettes and sandwich breads.
It was our last intermediate pastry practical,
and I thought it was great to wrap up a chapter by being reminded
that there are still a whole vast world out there we haven't yet touched on..
The world of bread-baking.

And from the introduction that I had today,
I have a feeling that a new passion is about to sprout!

Chef Daniel Walter and I

As the aromas of the yeast and butter started to exit the oven constraints and into 
our fervent noses, I had a bit of a "deja-scent" moment..
a sudden flash-back to my childhood when I used to run about at my
grandmother's bakery in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
She had mixers the size of spa-pools, and ovens that looked like giant furnaces.
I was in awe at the perfectly formed golden-brown-crusted
creations that used to be expelled from them.

Une Marguerite de Pain de Mie

There's something really pleasing about holding and forming a ball of dough 
in your palm.. and watching it crust and rise. 
You're going to think I've gone silly.. but when I am working with bread,
I feel like I am working with a breathing, ever-changing, ever-developing, living thing.
There is true satisfaction in presenting something that used to be just a pile
of flour, yeast, salt and water before you started messing with it.

Pain de Mie

In the demonstration, Chef Cotte explained that
bread-baking is a major "métier" (craft) of its own.
It is not something you do once and you understand and be able to be done with.
Boulangers always look for ways to improve the look, taste and technique
of their products, and one should never be satisfied.

With such simple ingredients, there are many factors in which you need to 
take into account to produce the best possible bread for your clients.
Even using the same oven and recipe, you'd be surprised at how varied and 
different the baguettes and pain de mie were in our class of 13 today.

My baguettes!

But I was happy with my results from the class, 
Not too bad for the first go, huh! 

Check out the big yeast bubbles and the off white colour!

OK. Enough talk.. 
Now I gotta figure out what to do with all this bread..
Looks like it's going to be french toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the 
next couple of days.... ;)

x Tal


Croquante en bouche

The Croquembouche is a traditional French wedding cake.

Its name is derivative of "croquante en bouche" which means 
"crunchy in the mouth".

It is a conical assembly of choux pastries filled with "crème pâtissière"
and affixed by molten caramel.

We dipped each of the choux pastries cautiously into a pot of 180 degree-celcius caramel
and stacked them layer upon layer as evenly as we could.
Most people in my class managed to caramelize their choux
without much drama at all.. all but me for some reason.
I burnt my had MANY times. And received two second-degree burn blisters.

Too excited perhaps?

The tower of choux pastries is then placed onto a base of almond nougatine,
which we lovingly beat, moulded and cut into shape with our bare hands.
We had to reheat it several times in the oven as
nougatine can only be moulded and rolled while it is still

We piped decorations with royal icing..

And adorned our structures with little toppings of sort.

I had initially wanted to wait until the morning to take better photos
as the tungsten lighting in my kitchen at night is not very pleasing to the eye..


I was awaken by a heartbreaking sound this morning..


It seemed that the humidity brought about by the pastry cream filling 
had finally taken its toll on the caramel's holding power.
Ah well. C'est pas grave!

I'll just have to make another one soon..

x Tal