Autumn-Winter Hot Chocolates


bc7469f74bad6b023a9b414dd4ec459bEn Francais, Automne-Hiver Chocolat Chaud. 

During the colder months in Paris the thing to do is to find a cosy place where hot chocolate is served. Angelina’s on Rue Rivoli would have to be the favourite amongst hot chocolate lovers. But it’s not the only place for a good hot chocolate. It’s funny, the French are reputed for serving up some seriously bad coffee but when it comes to serving up hot chocolate they excel, so much so that customers are willing to do some research into what makes a good hot chocolate such as that served in places like Angelina’s on Rue Rivoli or at Chocolatier, Jacques Genin.

My own research has gathered that a good “Parisian” hot chocolate is made with milk and a couverture chocolate (Valrhona, Cacao Barry or Callebaut) and perhaps the addition of a spice such as Tonka, cinnamon or vanilla.

Jacques Genin explains it the best: “it’s not necesarry to use cream when making hot chocolate. When you’re using a good quality chocolate and you have a good density of cacao butter and a beautiful elegance between the cacao butter and cacao you have a creamier sensation in the mouth, you don’t need to add fat content.”

The high quality of French or even Belgium couverture chocolate means you already have a texture that is what the french call “enrobing”, as it does that, it enrobes your tongue like silk to your skin. Couverture chocolate means you have a percentage of natural fat that is the cacao butter, therefore, using cream in the recipe is as Jacques Genin says, unneccessary.

Here’s a few recipes I pulled together.

Pierre Herme Cinamon hot chocolate
Pierre Herme chocolat chaud a la cannelle 

I’ve translated this recipe from it’s origin, L’Express Styles – Saveurs – Recettes. The instructions are altered as I’ve added my own notes.

550ml (grams) of full cream milk (lait entier)
60ml (grams) of water (de l’eau)
70 grams of caster sugar (sucre semoule)
1 to 3 cinnamon sticks (cannelle)
115 gram of bitter chocolate (cacao 67%)

1. Bring the milk and water to boil.
2. Caramilise the caster sugar with the cinamon stick until the sugar takes on an amber colour.
3. While mixing, pour the milk/water over the caramel, do this in parts and not all at once. If the liquid has reached boiling point then remove from the stove to add the chocolate. Whisk.
4. Remove the cinamon stick/s, mix the hot chocolate with a hand held mixer. Feel free to add back the cinnamon sticks to infuse.
5. Serve immediately if you like the hot chocolate more a thinner liquide. Alternatively, if you like a thicker creamier texture then leave the hot chocolate on the stove on low heat. Stir every now and drink when you have your desired texture. Before serving I strain through a sive to get a hot chocolate liquid that is creamy and perfectly fluid. The hot chocolate is even better the next day!

Jacques Genin vanilla hot chocolate
Le chocolat chaud a la vanille de Jacques Genin

Milk has the minimum fat content you need to envelope the palette. Remembering we’re using couverture chocolate, 71% cacao percentage, this is what will give you that creaminess, desnity and fluidity.

1 litres of full cream milk (lait entier)
300 grams of chocolate (chocolat 71%)
Grains of 1 vanilla pod (vanille)

Bring the milk to boil with the vanilla grains and vanilla pod. Add the chocolate and whisk. Once boiled turn down heat and continue to stir until it thickens. Once thickened remove off stove and continue to stir. Don’t forget to remove the vanilla pod.

Note: if you can’t get exactly 71% couverture chocolate, it’s possible to use a higher or low percentage of couverture chocolate, it really all depends on your taste (saveur).



Who cares about your cup sizes! How much do they weigh?

cup sizesI’d love to chit-chat with you girls about bra cup sizes but this post is not about that. Boyz, this is definitely not the blog for anything that you’re thinking of.

It’s just a note for anyone thinking about writing recipes.

In France, French patissiers language is in grams, always in grams. Not cups. Rarely in mililitres (mls). Even if the contents is liquide the measurements will be in grams. Why? Liquids depending on what they are, if they are in mililitres can weigh differently so it’s better to always include in grams.

I’m noticing as I research recipes, American, Australian, English recipes often are noted in cups….. “2 cups of sugar”, for example. I’m comparing my measuring cup I bought one place to another and they ain’t the same when you measure the contents in grams. So I end up with weird asse measurments. Your liquids, your powders, your sheets of gelatin are always in grams, grams and grams. This is how I learnt French patisserie in Paris and it’s how I’ll continue to practice.

Sheets of gelatin. I’ve seen recipes (shockingly written by one French chef for his book) that asks for 3 sheets of gelatin. In the supermarket to the professional suppliers the sizes of gelatin sheets vary, where one brand has it’s gelatin at 2 grams the other brand is at 3 grams. So for the sake of clarity and achieving the perfect recipe, a recipe is best achieved when the language is universal, in grams.

Forget cups, forget OZ, mls and whatevers and just make everything in grams. I speak also from working in various well-known patisseries and restaurants. I was almost shot once for counting the mililitres. “Balance!!!  Toujours avec un balance!” Scales!!! Always with scales! yelled the Chef!

That’s all I have to say about that matter.


P.S Bugger I hope all my recipes are written in grams. I give you permission to scorn me if anything has a cup or mls in it.




How to make a ……. ? In patisserie.

Paris-BrestDid Chef ask you to make a Pâte à Bombe today? Are you confused when the recipe says make a Parfait? If your level of French today is what mine was a year ago then you’ve understood Chef asking you to make a Dough Bomb and a Perfect. Perfect what? And if you are new to French pastry then it’s even more confusing.

The language of a French pastry lab is introduced during the Ferrandi program via the recipe book we receive. Recipes are written in English, however the professional titles of the recipes remain in French. And when I say recipes, I don’t just refer to the finished cake, I refer to the recipes within the recipe.

Here are some recipes names (within recipes) you should know off by heart and more importantly practice making:

THE CREAMS (CREMES)  or for cream preparations-

Pommade? Normally referred to a beurre pommade. It’s softened butter. Keep it out of the fridge for more than half an hour and then mixed with an electric beater or hand whisk.

Crème au beurre? Butter cream is sugar and water cooked to 121C and slowly poured over beating egg yolks (sometimes it’s eggs + egg yolks). Then a softened butter pommade is incorporated. You continue beating until you have a volume.

Sirop 1260? It’s sugar syrup that’s 50% sugar and 50% water melted together to make a clear syrup. Many times the recipe will just ask you to make a syrup and it’s not necessarily 50/50 ratio.

Syrup 1260, 120g (60g of sugar to 60g of water) melted over the stove. 

Pâte à Bombe? (also referred to as Sabayon) egg yolks and syrup. While beating eggs yolks in an electric mixer you pour the hot syrup in a thin stream onto the egg yolks (down the side of the bowl). Pouring down the side of the bowl prevents a thermic shock to the eggs. The eggs will become frothy (after 4-5 mins – touch the bowl it should have cooled down). A recipe may require you to add melted chocolate or a fruit puree. However, there is another way of doing Pâte à Bombe and that’s over the stove in a double boiler, syrup already made and you whisk the eggs together with the syrup, then you transfer to an electric mixer to cool down the mixture.

Crème Mousseline: Pastry cream (crème patissiere) and butter cream (crème au beurre ou beurre pommade).

Bavarois:  Crème anglaise and whipped cream.

Chiboust (crème Saint-Honoré): Crème pâtissière and meringue italieene. Traditionally used for the French dessert, Saint-Honoré and Soleil Indien.

Crémeux: Is a crème anglaise preparation with softened butter added when the preparation has cooled down to say around 45C. The recipe may ask you to make for example, Cremeux Citron for a lemon tart.

Crème Diplomate (mille-feuille cream): Crème pâtissière and crème fouettée (whipped cream).

Parfait: It’s made of a Pâte à Bombe plus whipped cream. Usually a parfum (an alcohol) is added, some examples Amaretto, Grand Marnier, limoncello.

Sabayon: egg yolks and sugar whisked at high speed to form a cream texture. Usually an alcohol is added. It’s also used for Tiramisu recipes.

Tant pour Tant? 50% almond and 50% icing sugar. It can even be 3 ingredients, again all in equal amounts.

BISCUIT SPONGES – the bases of cakes

Genoise: A sponge cake made of eggs, granulated sugar, sifted flour and butter is optional.

Joconde: Like a Genoise but with added almond powder and icing sugar. We remember it as an “almond based” sponge. We have joconde recipes with added pistachio paste or cocoa powder for entremets, and even adding colouring for our sorbet/ice-cream cakes.

Pain de Gene: It constitutes the ingredient Pate d’amande (almonde paste) (50%) or (70%)  – In Australia I know it as Marzipan. G.Detou in Paris sells 50% concentration, supermarkets sell it at 30% concentration and if you want 70% that’s just available to professionals. I’ve used 50% and my pain de gene turn out beautiful.

Dacquoise: It’s a sponge made of French meringue and almond powder.

Sable: Sable means sandy. A sandy biscuit. It can be the base of a tart or entrement.

Ganache: Consists of cream and/or butter.

Craquelin (or la pâte a crumble): It’s cassonade sugar, flour and butter. It’s translation is cracking. One use is to put over choux for crunchiness.

Imbibage: is a coating for the sponge cake (genoise, joconde, pain de gene) to make it moist and add taste. An imbibage can be made of syrup and an alcohol, or flavouring. For example, the Italian dessert Tiramisu, the biscuits are “imbibe” in coffee and a coffee alcohol. The biscuits soak these liquids up.


Now, let’s have a look at an example of how we would read a French recipe:

To make the famous French classic, Paris-Brest, you need to make the following recipes: La pate a choux, le craquelin (also known as la pate a crumble) et la creme mousseline. You’d think you are making 3 recipes but in fact we know for a creme mousseline we first need to make a creme patissiere and then a creme au beurre and together they make up our creme mousseline.

Michalak Masterclass – Autour du Saint-Honoré

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Yann Menguy is our Chef for the themed French dessert, Saint-Honoré. In 2013 Yann met Christophe Michalak during the filming of Frances latest food reality show, Qui Sera Le Prochain Grand Patissier? (Who is the next big Patissier?)  where he was not only a contestant but the runner up. This reality show jumped started his career enormously and for good reason. Yann is an exceptionally talented patissier and passionate. Today, class of 12 students are all ears, pencils to paper, aprons to waist, spoon to cake (we have a little tasting before the class) and of course it’s smiles all round. Christophe Michalak pops his head in from time to time which has the ladies quick to grab the iPhones for a celebrity photo snap.

A Saint-Honoré by tradition is round, the base is a mille-feuille (puff pastry), then 3 choux (profiterols) filled with a pastry cream sit on the base, whipped cream is piped between the choux and something decorative like fruits decorate the top. “Autour du Saint-Honore” means in the theme of Saint-Honoré, creating new and fresher versions of the classic. It also means using the components of the Saint-Honoré to create new desserts. Patisserie is very much like fashion, it evolves. To avoid your classics becoming extinct you need to keep them interesting, fun and appealing for today’s and tomorrow’s market.
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Michalak Masterclass
60 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière – 75010
Tel: (33)1 42 46 10 45
Metro: Line 7 Poissonnière or Cadet
Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 (midday) to 7pm

La Patisserie des Reves, Part 2, Welcome to the dream

Philippe Conticini when asked why he wants to share the adventure of La Patisserie des Rêves, he explains that he has the desire to honour the grand classics of patisserie, such as Paris-Brest, Saint-Honore, and with his creativity, experience and knowledge of ‘goût’ (taste) he can create his own interpretation, he calls it ‘re-visiting’ the classics. The dessert of his childhood is something memorable and pleasurable and everything he puts into his desserts – the composition of ingredients, flavours, aromas, textures – is about reliving those tastes we loved so much as children. Transmit this emotion and sensation through every bite that is pure gourmandise.

Eclair au Chocolat (below) – Conticini’s interpretation of the eclair is with one goal in mind and that is to give ‘gourmandise’, a real want, a need, an envy, a fantasy, that eating this eclair is the most pleasurable experience you’ll ever have. It’s the chocolate wrapped around an already generous size eclair that hooks you, that there is the start of gourmandise. This choux eclair is filled with an intense chocolate pastry cream. And when your teeth crack that outer layer of chocalate the broken pieces fill your mouth followed by that “onctueuse” cream. When I took the first mouthful my first thoughts were, “Now this is a real eclair”, at least my inner child thought so.


Paris-Brest (below) –  The origin of this French classic is a patissier who created a dessert to pay homage to the cycling race, Paris-Brest-Paris. Conticini’s philosophy is to always integrate the principal elements of the original recipe but also to give a more intense experience through the main ingredient, in this case it’s the praliné. Conticini has kept the original circular form of the Paris-Brest but added his own identity, creating what I can describe as a necklace (beads of choux joined together). He adapted the filling creating a lighter butter cream and incorporating more air into the pastry cream.  To give a really explode in the mouth experience a ball of pure praliné fills the centre of each choux so when you bite into the Paris-Brest you have a texture that’s like caramel except it’s the intense flavour of pure praliné. A very pleasurable experience.DSC_0912DSC_0908

Tarte au citron meringue (below)- Possibly the most unique modern take on a tarte au citron. Turned upside down into a tray of meringue then lifted to give this soft peak before finally being torched. Clever. The base is built with a lemon confiture to bring out the flavour of the lemon curd cream which fills the centre under the peak of meringue.

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Grand Cru Chocolat (below) – Conticini describes this as not just a chocolate cake but a “gourmand” chocolate cake where the inside of the cake is a firm but “moelleux” ganache composed with a chocolate biscuit. There is also a hint of fleur de sel which always goes well with chocolate. The idea of this cake is as you eat it you are taken through a journey of textures. He describes, when we eat this cake once, we eat it again.


Lemonta au Chocolat (below) –  two shells of citrus infused meringue encased in what I can conclude are various type of creams chocolate and praliné: a butter cream, light mousse creams and ganache. Conticini succeeds in giving us an exploration of textures in one bite. This crunchy creamy ball of delight is surprisingly light.  I’m not familiar with this dessert so I can’t say if it’s traditional or an original creation of Conticini. However, I can compare it only to the French dessert classic called a Merveilleux.

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Cakes were bought at the Beaugrenelle boutique and travelled with me by train. Thankfully they survived the journey. Photos taken by me just shortly after.

Patisserie des Reves Salon de Thé

111 rue de Longchamp
75016 Paris (16th arrondissement)


93 rue du Bac
75006 (6th arrondissement)

NEW Paris boutique!
Patisserie des Reves BEAUGRENELLE
Beaugrenelle Commercial Center

La Patisserie des Reves, Part 1, Modern patisserie

If you know who Philippe Conticini is then you’ll know he’s an icon for modern patisserie in France and if I can even go as far as saying he’s a celebrity, frequently appearing on various reality television programs likened to MasterChef. His boutiques alone pull in an audience – a decor of circus meets art gallery, that is, it’s entertaining, playful yet serious for the work is masterful and artistic. Desserts are displayed inside glass domes or bells, cloche in French,  which are attached by wire from the ceiling. The pink theme of the boutique definitely says that the world of patisserie through Conticini’s eyes should be fun. La Patisserie des Reves is that, it’s the pastry of dreams and who likes to dream more than ever than the child within all of us.

Being a chef of modern patisserie means adapting the grand classics to today’s tastes. For example, using less sugar, less butter, less heavy creams, sourcing higher quality natural ingredients such as a Tahiti Vanille, using aromas normally unfamiliar to the traditional French palatte like lychee or yuzu and marrying aromas to create new saveurs like a mix of lychee and raspberry. Like perfume, the grand classics of patisserie must stay true to their origine but to be in demand it must evolve with the period it lives. French patisserie must also recognise that it has a larger international audience with a new growing market, Asia. Philippe Conticini has two stores in Japan, in Kyoto and Osaka.

Mont Blanc (below) – the white mountain so famous for its ski destination and why this dessert is made during only the European winter season. Chestnut cream outside perfumed with armagnac. The interior made up of a light whipped cream with X-factor aromas over a soft merinuge lying on a base of puree of chestnuts. I don’t think my description even gives it justice. If you are not a Mont Blanc fan, then I would say make an exception to try this one. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Vanilla Grand Cru (below) – Philippe Conticini is famously known for adapting the grand classics, but he’s also known for inventions, creating original patisserie such as the Grand Cru. It sounds like an aged wine but this pure 100% vanilla pleasure. The Grand Cru is built on a vanilla biscuit base, and the heart is a black vanilla cream, yes, black! The outer is a heaven of vanilla mousse cream. There is so much more to this dessert, but I don’t wish to give away all the secrets. I’ll leave it there. Just enjoy.

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 Saint-Honore (below) – It is possibly the adaptation of this grand classic (traditionally round) that has made Philippe Conticini known to a larger audience. This Saint-Honore’s mille-feuille is rectangular and not round, along the puff pastry base are 2 eclairs and 3 toffee covered choux each filled with a light vanilla pastry cream, and for the final signature is a ribbon of whipped cream running along the length of the mille-feuille . Conticini explains that this Saint-Honore should not be eaten too cold, this way you get the best of flavours such as the intense vanilla bean.

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Tarte à l’orange douce (below) – Conticini adapts the fruits to the season, for winter it’s Tarte à l’orange. The base is biscuits of hazelnuts (noisettes). The tart gives a soft acidity and light bitterness rounded by the orange cream. The idea with seasonal tartes is really to bring out the natural fruit flavours by choosing quality fruits at their maturity.

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Pamplemousse dessert – This is light, moussy and absolutely delicious, however I think this dessert is seasonal.


These cakes were bought at the Beaugrenelle boutique and took the train with me. Thankfully survived the journey home. Photos taken by me shortly after.

Patisserie des Reves Salon de Thé
111 rue de Longchamp
75016 Paris (16th arrondissement)

93 rue du Bac
75006 (6th arrondissement)

NEW Paris boutique!
Patisserie des Reves BEAUGRENELLE
Beaugrenelle Commercial Center
75015 (15th arrondissement)


FANTASTIK ATTACK “BOOM” (photo above) – hazelnut dacquoise, mango, passionfruit and milky caramel. A special edition created for the Christmas season 2013.

We know him as the celebrity Chef Pâtissier of the 5 star hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. Christophe Michalak, winner of the World Pastry Championships 2005 has however taken on a new gig, doing a Lady Gaga if you will by reinventing his image. His new logo MICHALAK says it all: loud, edgy, bold, rockn roll and fun. His style of packaging also dares to be different choosing a pizza box for the FANTASTIK cake take-aways. Does this sound very French to you?

All those years of hard work and dedication to prestigious 5 star establishments learning the discipline of haute couture patisserie and then to finally create a concept of patisserie that is more … if I dare say…. Playful, crazy?

Patisserie in France today is changing fast, it’s all about reinvention, coming up with new flavors, new looks and playing up to a more international audience.
I’m actually totally Gaga over this new MICHALAK concept and also a little jealous, I wish I’d come up with the idea but there’s still a lot for me to learn and I’m particularly curious on how Michalak and his team constantly reinvent the combination of saveurs and textures for the FANTASTIK range. I also want in on some creative cake design, it looks fun. So I’m signing myself up to the Michalak Masterclasses tout de suite. Notepad, pen and spoon ready!


Michalak Masterclass FACEBOOK posts the FANTASTIK collection of entremets and tarts regularly, plus if you want to know “les petites astuces” (tips and secrets) of the Michalak patisseries there’s the Michalak Masterclasses in Paris.


MICHALAK TAKEAWAY, 60 rue du Faubourg Poissonniere, 75010 Paris.

For those non-French speakers who want to take a class I recommend that you contact the MICHALALK team first. I do know that there are members of the team who speak English but that doesn’t mean to say they’ll hold the class in English. Good luck!