Portugal inspiration

DSC_2480

MadCharlotte is inspired!

Crazy for Portuguese mosaics and a long awaited summer in Portugal MadCharlotte’s summer mosaics the saveurs of the meditteranean: mango, passionfruit, coconut and blue caraco .. it’s summer which means cocktails by the beach and sunshine all around. MadCharlotte’s off to Portugal this summer.

DSC_2479

I am inspired by a photograph hanging over our table – at Saudade restaurant, the very chic, cosy and sexy Portuguese restaurant in slightly bobo area of Saint-Louis Versailles – it’s a facade of a house in Portugal. The facade of blue and yellow mosaic square tiles.  It’s simple but ever so inviting. I’m curious. I’ve never been to Portugal but with these bright colours I’m feeling a holiday to Portugal is long overdue. This photograph of these mosaics.. what is it about the blue and yellow. There’s something about it.

 

Mosaïque, Mosaic …..

DSC_1963MadCharlotte is Mad for mosaics  and cubism (Mosaïques en francais). 

It’s been 2 months and I’m still trying to decide on tiles for the bathroom. There’s too much choice. I’m sleeping, dreaming, breathing, thinking “mosaics, mosaics, mosaics….”. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going out of my mind. So finally I employed an interior decorater.

It’s easier to take out my mosaic fantasies on patisserie. I got this idea, what if I just did cubes and arranged them like mosaics. No fancy macaron, chocolate or sugar decorations to fluff-up the cubes. Just cubes as they are but in mosaic. The texture and flavours of the mousse should speak for themselves. This new obsession for mosaics-cubism comes from the need to simplify patisserie in terms of its visual aspect. I’m feeling overwhelmed by patissiers over-designing their desserts, too much frou-frou for my taste… I’m needing to get away and concentrate on textures and flavours, to enhance them. In terms of design, I’m a minimilist. So for now it’s mosaic-cubism.

The white cube is a mousse cheesecake. A cheesecake I find is always a WIN, WIN. The Frenchies have really taken to the modern Philadelphia cheesecake. On a menu its often  the first to sell out. However, this is not a baked cheesecake. It’s a mousse cream made with a combination of French liquid cream at 35% m.g, and Philadelphia cream cheese. The white glacage is made with the principal ingredients of  Cacao Barry’s <<Zéphyr>> white chocolate, liquid cream and vanilla beans.

The caramel looking cube is a flavour of praliné made from Valrhona’s Gianduja chocolate. The glacage is made with the principal ingredients of liquid caramel, Gianduja and vanilla beans. Gianduja is what I call a Haute Couture product, simplified it’s a mix of milk chocolate and hazelnuts.  It’s incredibly rich in flavour and can get many addicted. Gianduja is really an amazing product and it’s also amazingly expensive! But for me it’s an investment because I believe it to be one of the best discoveries I’ve had since entering the pastry industry. Perhaps it ignites sweet memories of eating Nutella straight from the jar.

xxx
Miss Pirisi et MadCharlotte

Noix de Pécans Financiers, or Friands?

DSC_2022

The story of how the Financier got its name: Around 1890, the patissier Monsieur Lasne, recreates the original almond based cake once upon a time called Visitandines (the Sisters of the order of Visitandines in Nancy, the region of Lorraine, France).  Since his pastry shop was in proximity to the stock exchange, his clientele composed mainly of stockbrokers. This type of clientele preferred to eat something “on the thumb” meaning a cake between the fingers which does not make a mess when eating. In fact, the original shape was oval but inspired by the stockmarket and his clientele he changed the shape of this mini cake to a rectangle to represents a block of gold. And the Financier was born!

  • Vers 1890, le pâtissier Lasne remit les visitandines au goût du jour. Comme son magasin était tout prêt de la Bourse, sa clientèle se composait en grande partie de financiers désireux d’avaler sur le pouce un petit gâteau qui ne salisse pas les doigts. Lasne eut aussi l’idée de changer la forme ovale de la pâtisserie originelle pour évoquer celle d’un… lingot d’or. Le financier était né ! WIKIPEDIA

DSC_1920

So what’s the difference between Financier and Friand?

Here is a wonderful explanation on one of my favourite blogs: Eat, Little Bird : “The story goes that, in the early 1990s, a French chef working in Double Bay in Australia reinvented the financier by baking it in a metal aspic mould, thus producing a much larger cake which ultimately had more appeal to the Australian public. The friand was hence born, its name simply meaning “little cake” in French.”  Text written by Thanh of Eat, Little Bird.

 The recipe base of both Financier and Friand are of almond powder, butter, icing sugar, eggwhites and flour. There are of course more modern versions, such as non gluten. Flavour exhange I call it is when you replace the almond powder for hazelnut powder, or pistache powder, or addition of cacao powder …. Anthing you like!

DSC_1915

MadCharlotte is loving this particular recipe of Noix de Pecans (Pecans). Pecans are toasted to get maximum flavour then in a casserole are caramelised in a sugar syrup. Pecans are hammered to rough pieces which become the garnish over what is to be a very light, fluffy and moist cake, called the Financier! Friand! 😉

Bon appetit!

xxx

“Figue” meringues

DSC_1721

Growing up in Australia I’ve known meringues in only one way and that is with a crunchy exterior and a gooey marshmellowy interior, bah… just like a Pavlova. The preparation however remains French, or Swiss to be exact. The Swiss method is simply caster sugar and egg whites whisked over a waterbath and then removed from the heat and whisked continuously to achieve a glossy meringue.

Don’t they look like figs to you? (in French, figues). These colourful and playful petits meringues have been an instant success for MadCharlotte. But of course how can anyone refuse something as playful as these! 😉

DSC_1813

A little playful, a little sophistication.
Miss Pirisi & MadCharlotte xxx

MadCharlotte: les sacs, la marque

 

You can imagine my excitement when I received my first order of MadCharlotte bags from the manufacturer. Visualising your brand is one thing but when it’s brought to life it’s another thing altogether.

But wait….let’s not get too excited (even though I can’t help it!!!), MadCharlotte is still in her infancy. She is at a very fragile stage. It is only last October of 2015 I registered MadCharlotte as a French brand. Then, the next step was to make her an official business and I did this in March of this year (2016). MadCharlotte’s menu is still very much in conception, that is, choosing the very best recipes, testing them and creating a personalised look that is MadCharlotte. It’s a start-up and I’m all alone to do this project so I need to create a menu that’s in my capacity. MadCharlotte is launching into a very competitive market so it requires savy thinking: How can she be different? What can she offer that’s different or done better!?

Over the last two years I’ve been delivering my patisseries in no-name white bags. Larger orders caused a problem. I’d have to bag the patisseries in the competitors bags! Because these bags are large, rigid, of good quality and are made exclusively for heavy cake boxes. So when I’d arrive at chez le client, they’d react with instant excitement but confusion, “Cafe Pouchkine!” or “Pierre Herme!”  or “Patisserie des Reves!” Depending on which bag that day I used to deliver MY PATISSERIES. You can imagine I was annoyed by this and I knew it had to stop. So I thought if I’m really serious about launching on my own I’ve got to get serious.

What I make and why I make it is special because my heart is in it 110%. I hope that when the client receives something from me/MadCharlotte, that they for a moment feel truly special, or at least feel they have received something special. The same feeling I get when I receive a little gift from Chanel, perhaps it’s only a lipgloss but it’s super special because it’s Chanel! or a petit gateau from Ladurée. A petit luxury even if it’s for a moment, if we can do that for you when we hand over a MadCharlotte bag then we are the happiest gals ever!

Miss Pirisi et MadCharlotte.
Des petits plaisirs, un petit luxe.

For more MadCharlotte eye-candy come over to http://www.madcharlotte.fr !

CAP patissier – practical exam for Mlle Pirisi, 18 June 2015

So how did it all go on the big day? Any conclusions? Final words? Advice. 

DSCN1177_2

The 7 hour practical exam was the 18th of June, 2015. I didn’t sleep much at all the night before. I arrived 6:45am and I was surprised to see my colleagues already in the parking lot. We were all anxious. We arrived in civilian clothes (you must) and changed rapidly in the women’s locker room. I brought my own KitchenAid even though new Kenwood machines had arrived a week earlier. I’m familiar with my machine, it gave me just that little more security I needed.

The examinators were made up of: Three male judges combined of patissiers and ex-professeurs who observe, take notes and are even there if you need some assistance. Sometime during the exam they will ask you to stop work when it suits you to take out 15 minutes to ask you a series of food technology questions related to your recipes. A fourth member of the jury was a woman from the department of health and sanitary or something to that extent. She asks the questions on bacteriology, toxicology, hygiene, good work practices and some food technology. Her questioning is 15 minutes also. Then there was our Chef. He was there simply to assist, for example we need something washed he’d be our dishman, or if we needed an ingredient. Having chef there was comforting. Familiarity on the day helps.

7:30am we start the theory in another room (not lab). We have 30 minutes to complete the organigram. It’s during this time we find out the theme for our patisserie. It’s Route du Rhum. Note: before the exam, months before you know the three possible themes, for 2015, we knew it to be either: Route du Rhum, Fetes des Meres (Mother’s Day) or Haute Couture (high fashion). For example, my friends who had exams on other days, they had any one of these three. We did not all have Route du Rhum. Also, you know in advance there will be 4 things to make in the categories of: Pate a choux, Viennoserie (anything with yeast), a tart and an entremet. So for pate a choux, you don’t know if you’ll have eclairs, religious or paris-brest. You just don’t know until the day. Same for viennoserie, you may get croissants or brioche. It’s a surprise!

By 8ish-8:30am you begin in the lab. The organigram completed earlier is photocopied by the judges. They have a copy to mark and you have a copy to follow your production, because that’s what the organigram is for, it’s a method or your organisation of all your recipes.

It’s against exam rules to take photos. Yet one guy took photos anyway in secret and almost got himself kicked out of the exam. So I’ve re-made my exam (the 4 photos below), it’s as close as I could get it. I think my work was actually better on exam day. Amazing what pressure and stress does.

Theme: Route du Rhum 

Viennoserie: Brioche a Tete et brioche tresse (no photo for the moment)
MPN_9690

Tarte: Tarte chocolat banane. I went really simple with my tart by powdering cacao powder over the ganache, feathering over gold powder and leaves of gold over the tart and on the two slices of banana. MPN_9649

Pate a Choux: 16 Paris-Brest (7cm diameter)
DSC_7626

Entremet: Charlotte aux Poires et Framboises. For the exam I placed a plaque in pate d’amande in the shape of a scroll and in chocolate I wrote Route du Rhum.
MPN_9676

My fellow colleagues made a lot of fuss over their patisserie. I explain: tempering chocolate to make chocolate decorations, piping elaborate fancy whipped cream decorations which were not done well. I chose not to do this because I did not think it’s wise as it’s time consuming and if not done right it’s a disaster. You don’t need to do fancy elaborate decor to get more points, it’s not what the judges are looking for. I have to say when looking at the work of my fellow colleagues I would have advised them also NOT to do it. The judges want something that they can see in the “vitrine”, in the display cabinet of a pastry shop. So it’s important to stay exactly to the theme, simple and beautiful if you can. If you try to venture off into the world of “Michalak” creativity you must be sure that when you execute you do it well, 100%! And remembering, the CAP is not a competition.

I found also that my fellow candidates rushed through the recipes with the goal to get to their decorations . So what happened? When you rush the basics or the foundations of patisserie it will be obvious in the end result. For example, I saw brioches of my fellow candidates in all shapes except what was asked for, for a couple of candidates their brioche dough didn’t even rise. For the entremet, I saw whipped cream over whipped into what looked like lumpy ricotta cheese. One candidate her Charlotte looked more like a Saint-Honore because of the Saint-Honore cream piping. I also saw chocolate decorations gone wrong and then covered up with some other horrid decoration. Tart bases burnt, too thick. One candidate, her chocolate tart was decorated with a chocolate sail like to resemble a catamaran but the end result looked like a shark fin and the judges in fact commented on that.

The CAP are traditional recipes and are the basics of patisserie. If you are supposed to make a Charlotte, make sure your entremet looks like a Charlotte and not a Saint-Honoré.

My colleagues took vacations while I was studying. I simply couldn’t have this luxury when I have trouble with the French language. I studied my theory and French. I practiced the practical at work whenever the lab was available to me. I had aching feet and my brain felt as it was going to explode. Imagine all the translating I have to do just to understand one paragraph. Lots of tears, lots of worry came along with lots of work. I was sure I’d have to repeat the CAP the following year.

I passed the 7 hour practical. In fact, I got the highest mark!!! Imagine, I’m not even French.

As for you, if you are in the year to do your CAP I wish you all the best of luck. If you are going in as a Candidat Libre I advise you to know the kitchen/lab where you’ll be doing your exam. I’m sure if you ask the school and the Chef they will be more than happy for you to familiarise yourself with the lab. The  more efficient you are moving around the lab, the more efficient you’ll be in your exam and keep to time.

Also, last advice. Be super nice, patient and calm with the examiners. Don’t be annoyed with them even if they are starring at you and your work and asking you bullet questions. A couple of colleagues in the exam reacted in an offended way against the examiners. Also, don’t talk to your fellow candidates!!!!!  Ask the examiner to hand you something if you can’t reach for something. And do not, do NOT take photos!!!! One guy was sneaking taking photos and he was caught! Not sure what happened after that, but it did not go well for him. Okay. The examiners are there to get you through. They are not there to fail you. They understand it’s nerve racking for students so they try to stay back a little, let you do your work. Then they ask, “are you ready for some questions?”. If you are not, you just ask, “Can I have just 5 minutes, I finish what I’m doing here (maybe you need to put something in the oven)”, and that’s okay.

Bon, send me an email at gabriella@pirisi.com if you have any questions regarding exam day or preparation, I’ll try to best advise on the experience I had.

A toute.