Paris: Le Chef en Box Patisserie Class Review – An Intoxicating, Mind Blowing, Chocolate Experience (Recipes)

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On a recent trip to France, I decided to revive my inner chef and participate in a recreational Pastry Arts class, what better region to learn the art of crafting sumptuous, mouthwatering and sinfully delicious pastries than Paris.

Having participated in recreational culinary classes in New York City, at the International Culinary Center, I had an idea of what I wanted and what teaching style and method works best for me.


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First stop, the world famous Le Cordon Bleu, which offers recreational classes similar to those in Manhattan. Unfortunately, the wait list for those classes are months in advance and I didn’t want to observe. I wanted to participate, to mix, and make, create, pause, photograph and lick the bowl.

I had heard the home sharing service Airbnb had added local experiences to the options, so that was my next stop. The options were populating in my search – learn to make French pastries in two hours, leave with treats, from a real French pastry chef. I was sold.

Le Chef en Box, a subscription pastry/dessert service, owned and operated by Anais Hody, who studied chocolate with the famous chocolatier Cyril Lignac who along with French pastry Chef Benoit Couvrand created the La Chocolaterie, a chocolate shop dedicated to entirely to cocoa. From the one store six more have followed in and around Paris.

Hody and Chef Anthony Maupou, who also studied culinary and pastry arts with great chefs like Cédric Grolet, Cyril Lignac and Benoit Couvrand, teach the classes at Le Chef en Box passing on the techniques with as many as possible.

The classes are limited to eight students, who work in teams of two. The stations were already prepared with all the dry ingredients pre-measured and set on trays. The recipes, which are originals created by Chef Anthony, reveled that we would be creating two types of chocolate tarts, The Liegeois Chocolate Pie and The Gianduja Tartelette.

Soon we were at our stations, dressed in aprons, ready to begin the process.

Of course, for anyone making any type of pie one knows there must be a crust. With Chef Anthony explaining, in English, the step by step process, the teams were responsible for measuring the liquid ingredients and adding them to the dry ingredients in the mixer. This would become the crust for the tarts.


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The classes are very hands on and with only eight students each chef manages four students. After creating the crust, we wrapped the dough in cellophane, and they were placed in a special refrigerator to chill. Which led to a few minutes of chocolate introduction, as they explained the ingredients in chocolate, we sampled each flavor.

Soon the dough was ready to work into the tart shells. Tarts, just like one sees in any patisserie shop, are mini pies shells. The shells are held together with a ring. So the shells fall away from the ring without cracking or breaking, they must be greased with butter. Then, we cut the dough in half, one for each team members and then cut the half in half for two tart shells.

The tart shell ring has no bottom. The shells are baked on a silicon baking sheet, so it doesn’t touch the pan and the heat rises through the weave of the sheet. Of course, the store-bought tarts have smooth edges and no unusual bumps in the dough.

Chef Anthony also taught us the method of manipulating the dough, so it doesn’t have a traditional pie pinch but smooth sides. Of course, after the bake when he returned the shells to us the edges were a bit rough, so we were also taught the hidden secret of sanding the edges with a baking sander, which is a very fine grater with a handle, until the edges were smooth.

The next step in our afternoon baking adventure began with melting the chocolate as it is impossible to have chocolate tarts without the chocolate.

As with the dough, Anais and Anthony began the process of melting the chocolate as we learned the term ganache. The filling of most cased chocolates, where there is a hard shell on the outside and a center flavor, is a ganache.


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Chocolate tempers so as it melts down, it can’t boil or overheat. For the first pie we warmed crème and mixed gelatin with water, beat in yolks with sugar until the mix whitened, we brought the crème to boil and poured part of it on the sweetened yolks, and then put everything else into the saucepan and cooked it like a custard crème.

Then we poured the entire mixture over the chocolate and gelatin and mixed it together. It was too hot to use, as the center of the tart needs to have some firmness. So, the entire mixture was covered with cellophane and the plastic wrap was pushed down in the bowl to the very top of the chocolate mixture to stop any air from getting into the mixture.

While this mixture was cooling, we began the process for the second tart. The chocolate was different as we were creating a Gianduja Tartelette.

Gianduja is a sweet chocolate spread which contains hazelnut paste. As we had already made the shells for the Tartelette, the only missing ingredient was the center. To create the center we melted the Gianduja in a water bath, brought the crème and the milk to a boil, adding all the ingredient to create a ganache, after mixing, folding the mixtures together, fold over fold, we then poured the mixture into the pie shells.

After which it was time to decorate. Chef Anthony had also roasted hazelnuts and explained each team would remove the peel and cut them in half to be used on the tarts. We also made fresh whipped cream which would be piped on one of the tarts.

Be the end of the afternoon, as promised we had competed two exquisite and delicious French tarts. Beautifully decorated, sprinkled with cocoa and shaved hazelnuts, the treats were ready to be packaged for travel.


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For me the delicious mouthwatering treats would make it as far as the Gare du Nord Train station as I waited for the Eurostar to whisk me back to London, where I would begin another adventure. Even as two weeks have passed, my afternoon learning to create French Tarts remains the highlight of my trip to Paris.

The Liegeois Chocolate Pie

Shortbread dough

120g butter

250g flour

100g sugar

3g salt

50g eggs

Mix the butter, the flour, the salt and the sugar together to obtain a shortbread mix. Add in the eggs and beat to obtain a homogeneous dough. Make a dough ball with your hands, cover it in cling-wrap and save it in the refrigerator. Once it’s cold, grease the pie cases with butter. So read the dough with a rolling pin to obtain a 4mm-think dough and line the pie cases. Put everything back to the fridge for 30 minutes and cook it at 180C/350F until the dough is golden brown about 15minutes.

Chocolate “cremeux” Chocolate Cream

33g milk

33g sugar

2g gelatin

158g crème (30%) fat

10g Juvara Chocolate

12g water

40g egg yolks

30g Guanaja Chocolate

Mix the gelatin with the water. Beat in the yolks with sugar until the mix whitens. Put the crème to a boil with milk and pour part of it on the sweetened yolks, the move everything into the saucepan and cook it like a custard cream (82C/180F). Pour everything onto the mix of chocolates and the gelatin, mix together and cool the preparation before using it.

Chantilly Cream – Whipped cream

150g Cream (30% fat)

15g sugar

Beat ingredients together with an electric whisk until you obtain a firm whipped cream.

Montage

Fill in the pie cases with Chocolate creamuex. Let it solidify for a little while before piping the whipped creme on top of it Sprinkle cocoa power on top.

Gianduja Tartelette

Chocolate Shortbread Dough

145g butter

278g flour

7g salt

121g sugar

80g eggs

29g cocoa powder

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder and butter to obtain a shortbread dough mix. Add the egg to obtain a homogeneous dough. Make a ball with hands and cover it clingfilm, then save it the fridge. Once its cold, grease a pie case with butter. Spread the dough with a rolling pin to have a 4mm-thick dough, then line the pie cases. Save it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes then cook it at 180C/350F. for about 15 minutes. Until golden brown

Gianduja Ganache:

205g Milky Gianduja

65g Creame (30% Fat)

20g milk

Melt the gianduja in a water-bath. Put the cream and the milk to a boil. Make a ganache with all the ingredients. Pour everything immediately into the Pie cases.

Roasted Hazelnuts

50g plain Hazelnuts

Preheat Oven to 180C/350F

Cook Hazelnuts for about 15minutes, until they change color. Half for decorations and shave for additional topping.

 

Recipes courtesy of Chef Anthony Maupou and Le Chef en Box. Images and Art Direction by Janet Walker.

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