Authors: Fanny Zanotti
I DON’T KNOW for sure when it all started. Perhaps on that early morning of an endless Paris summer, where stars felt like projectors on my dreams.
I pushed the door to the empty pâtisserie and walked down the stairs of what would become a home of some kind. A home where aprons are tightly knotted and tea towels never far from your fingers. A home where
(hot!) is the only spoken word and pastries get made all day. All night too.
Yes, from that very first step, I knew I’d never look back. This is where I belonged. And like a never-ending story, this is where I stayed. One pâtisserie after the other. One restaurant at a time, it would grow on me; it would make me grow up. As a girl, as a chef.
And yet, just like there is a hidden world behind puddles after a summer storm, there is also one behind the stainless-steel counters that we clean restlessly.
It’s a world where the little stories matter. The big ones too, in fact. That kiss you can’t wait to tell your best-friend about. That beach you can never – oh no, ever – forget. That road-trip you took with the fog as the only horizon.
It’s about imperfections. And glitter on my nails.
It’s about falling in love; and baking at two in the morning, or in the afternoon. Breaking up, and crying. Chocolate cake will happen. And flour in our hair too.
Because that’s what we do.
I grew up in France and no matter how clichéd this might be, I learnt how to bake with my
, her mother
and my mother. We would talk about what we were going to make over a breakfast made of baguette slices toasted until just so, butter from the neighbour and strawberry jam that my grandfather used to can every year around that time when bushes are more berries than leaves.
We rode our bicycles to the city centre, along a road – more of a path, really – where trees were paper-cut into the sky, clouds in the shape of waves and waves in the shape of clouds. With a basketful of fruits, we headed back home, where all the flour, sugar and eggs in the world would be waiting for us in the larder.
This was the one door in the kitchen that meant the most to me. I could spend mornings in there, looking at all the products, neatly aligned on shelves. There were pots and pans, cake tins too. And more canning jars than I could count.
I remember the tea towels. Mostly red and blue. White of course too, but only to dry the dishes. And I might have never admitted this to my
, but every year, as I packed my suitcase en route for the city, I would sneak one or two of them. It goes without saying that I still have them, twenty – or so – years later. Still as worn out, but nothing could ever match what they represent. Much more than just cloths, they’re a reflection of my dreams.
But I digress. And really, that’s sort of ok. Because, when we were in that kitchen, we sure digressed.
And somehow, without us even noticing, we forgot the difference between baking and life.
Ever since, I’ve chosen to keep on forgetting.
No matter how much I love a treasure hunt for obscure ingredients, this book is not about that. Most of the ingredients I use here are easy to find, and you’ll probably already have them in your cupboards. And just as I like having only square containers in my fridge, all labelled with the same felt-tip pen, I’m sort of a girl of habit when it comes to ingredients too. However I can’t stress enough that it’s ok to substitute. It might work, it might not work, but hey, that’s the way we create recipes. So go wild… or not!
I’m in love with French cream. It has 35 per cent milk fats, which makes it very versatile: mousse, Chantilly, custards, soft caramels …
And of course, when I moved to London, it felt like I was leaving the love of my life behind. Luckily, I’ve found that whipping cream makes a suitable replacement. It’s slightly richer, but works beautifully in all of my recipes.
I don’t, however, recommend using double cream, unless specified, as its simply too heavy for pâtisserie with its 50 per cent fat content.
Unless otherwise noted, all butter is unsalted. I like to use French butter – as we say in French
Not only because it’s French, mind you, but also because it tends to have slightly less moisture than other butters. However, you can use any high-quality butter and will still have perfect results.
I usually like to specify the cacao content of chocolate in my recipes: for dark it’s most likely 70 per cent and for milk, I’m addicted to Valrhona’s wonderful 40 per cent Jivara. But this is not a book about chocolate confectionary, so please just use these as a guideline. It won’t make a dramatic difference to most of the recipes.
Eggs can range between 40–70 grams (1½–2½ ounces) each, which can make a dramatic difference in most recipes. While I always weigh eggs at the restaurant, I’m partial to the no-fuss quality of home pâtisserie-ing. I use medium-sized eggs of around 50 grams (2 ounces) each. And for best results, you should too!
Even more than French fleur de sel, I’ve fallen in love with the large and delicate flakes from Maldon.
I’m especially fond of their crunch and the fact they won’t dissolve easily in doughs, creating happy bundles of saltiness throughout cookies and shortbreads. If using regular table salt, reduce the quantities by half to achieve the same balance of flavours.
I mostly use fresh vanilla pods because I love their flavour and also, because I’m lucky enough to have plenty stashed in my fridge.
I have a fondness for both Madagascar and Tahiti pods, which have very different flavours. Bourbon vanilla, from Madagascar, is the very essence of the vanilla of my childhood; while Tahitian beans have a more distinct floral note to them. I like to combine them to create my perfect vanilla flavour. Alternatively, you could substitute one teaspoon of vanilla extract for each vanilla pod. Or use a teaspoon of vanilla paste. I tend to keep used vanilla pods – cleaned under running water, then hung until dry – as they make the best vanilla sugar.
While you can stock milk powder from pretty much any supermarket, dehydrated glucose can be a bit tricky to come across. It’s a very fine sugar that has a slightly less sweetening power than regular caster (super fine) sugar. Using these sugars will increase the dry matter of the ice-cream mix without affecting the sweetness of the finished products. The brand I use is Louis François and they come in neat old-fashioned – white and red – one-kilogram (2-pound-3-ounce) tubs. When it comes to stabilisers, there are two different kinds: one for ice-creams, and one for sorbets. You don’t have to use them, but they do come in pretty handy for making the perfect texture.
I’m very fond of minimalism. And not only because my kitchen is as big as a shoe box. As a pastry chef, I have collected many utensils over the years, but back in the day I remember asking my dad to cut a pipe in half to make a bûche de Noël mould. And I can only encourage you to do the same. No rolling pin? Please, hand me the empty wine bottle! However, I must admit, your life will be easier with the must-haves I’ve listed below.
PYREX BOWL, MANY OF THEM
Two things take the most time in pâtisserie: weighing out all of the ingredients (which I can only recommend to do all at once before starting the recipe) and washing dishes (which I can only recommend to do all at once after the mess has been made and you don’t recognise your kitchen anymore).
Having plenty of heatproof glass bowls in different sizes will make those two key-steps a dream. And since you won’t run out of bowls, you won’t have to do the dishes during baking.
Metal whisks, wooden spoons, a good rolling pin, a set of round cutters, a Microplane grater, a few rubber spatulas (otherwise known
If you decide to go for silicone moulds, make sure to buy them in professional shops as they will last longer and are less likely to break or give baked goods a plastic flavour.
When it comes to regular tins, I’m genuinely fond of heatproof glass that makes it so easy to check if your tart or cake is baked underneath. But non-stick tins are great too.
If you don’t have the size called for in the recipes, don’t make it stop you. Simply use a size smaller, taking cake not to overfill the tin. And keep in mind that two-thirds full always seem to work!
When it comes to specialty tins, I’m using a few in this book, but all of them are easy to find. Think baba moulds, a madeleine pan …
Metal rings are my life. I’m not joking. I think I might have more rings than pairs of shoes.
Round rings usually come into different heights. For tarts, I go for the 2 cm (¾ in) high rings, and for entremets, 4–6 cm (1½–2⅓ in) is perfect.
At times, I’ll even bake cakes using them as they make for the prettiest straight edges ever.
In this book, I’ve tried to limit their use as they’re quite expensive, and I guess you’re probably not as besotted as I am.
You’ll need a 20 cm (8 in) ring for desserts like the the
If you don’t have the right size, once again, it’s more than ok. As my grandmother used to say, ‘If there is no solution, there is no problem.’
You’ll need it for caramels and mousses, sugar syrups … I like the old-school ones, but an electronic probe is perhaps easier to store.
From the caramelisation of
Scales are an absolute must in every kitchen. Home or professional. I might have said this book is not about perfection and tweezer-plating, but pastry without precision will end up in a disaster. Most likely, of the messy kind!
That’s why all the recipes in this book call for measuring in grams, including the liquids. To make it easy for you, when it’s ok to be a little bit rough, I’ve also included some measurements in teaspoons (5 ml) and tablespoons (15 ml).
But, yes, back to scales! Once you’ve started weighing out everything, it will feel like a breeze. You can thank me later, just run to the closest shop and get yourself some digital scales. I bought mine for 5 euros and they’ve been following me for years now.
SILPATS OR SILICONE MATS
Although they can easily be replaced by baking paper, they are wonderful to bake shortbreads and other dough as they diffuse the heat so much more evenly than baking paper.
You don’t have to invest in a stand-mixer, although I do believe it will change your life! With the paddle attachment it is super easy to make shortbread or cake batters; use the hook for brioche or other sweet doughs and the whisk for whipping up cream and egg whites.
An electric hand-held beater also does a fine job for these whisking and beating tasks, while a stick blender is perfect for emulsifying or puréeing.
Acetate is thin sheets of plastic used to support cream filling or butter cream. While I use it on a daily basis to make entremets, I know that acetate can be a bit tough to come across and is fairly expensive if you’re not planning on using three metres a day.
In this book, there are a couple of recipes that call for acetate but you could always replace it with a strip of baking paper. It might wrinkle slightly with humidity, but works just fine. You can also make-your-own-ish by layering clingfilm (six layers), making sure to chase any air bubbles and then cutting it into strips using a sharp knife.
I’ve always been amazed by how much ovens vary. In fact, I’ve been known to bake macarons at various temperatures – ranging from 145°C (293°F) to 180°C (356°F) – depending on the oven I’m using.
All of the recipes in this book have been tested in my home fanassisted oven – and if you knew my oven, you’d be pouring me a glass of crisp white wine right now – but if there is one thing I can’t predict it is the temperature of yours. This is why I strongly recommend you use an oven thermometer. It’s super cheap and it’ll help you to understand how your oven works.
And if your oven doesn’t have a fan, please remember to increase the baking temperatures by 20°C (70°F).