December 27, 2010
Eating and Paris. No matter how much you might try to dissociate the two, a stay in Paris without its fill of delicious treats could be a holiday in any other northern European capital, albeit one with some pretty nice architecture. Letting yourself be tempted by the window displays in patisseries and the cozy banquettes of corner brasseries is all part of the charm of living in Paris.
You won’t be blamed for spending your time here eating your way through neighborhood markets and various restaurant guidebooks, but you may find upon returning home to a routine of simpler meals (what, no Coq au Vin for dinner tonight, Mom?) you wish you had brought some of the mythical recipes back with you.
To answer the ever more popular dream of the food-blogger/cook/tourist, scores of great and not-so-great cooking schools have opened up in Paris to teach eager visitors la cuisine française. If you are not serious enough to book a semester at the Cordon Bleu, though, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the options out there. Lucky for you, Ariel and I recently tried out a class at “La Cuisine”, a wonderful cooking school geared towards visitors and locals that we feel confident recommending to anyone looking to delve a little deeper into the secrets of French cuisine.
Oliver and Jane started “La Cuisine” just over a year ago, and its popularity has already supported their move to a fantastic location right next to the Hotel de Ville. Tired with the demands of her banking job, Jane decided to drop it all, work her network, put together a group of serious culinary professionals and open a cooking school. With a soon-to-be degustation room and cellar, in addition to the two lovely kitchen/classroom spaces, La Cuisine is a great place to soak up a few recipes & tips in a welcoming environment.
On our recent visit, Ariel and I learned from the lovely Nathalie how to make the elusive Crème Anglaise. As side dishes to this queen of creams, we also learned how to make a perfect Tarte Fine aux Pommes and a traditional Tarte Tatin. Ariel has the scoop on the recipes below… – Geneviève
Mmmmm, I could just live off of Crème Anglaise alone! I miss that sweet ambrosia when I’m back in the states, since Americans tend to prefer the frozen version as a garnish to our pies and cakes.
For someone like me, an abysmal cook who can’t even fry an egg, the idea of actually making Crème Anglaise from scratch was madness, something best left to professionals for fear of botching one of the complex intermediary steps.
Au contraire mon amie! After taking the class at La Cuisine, both Genevieve and I have been able to recreate the sweet sauce (to the amazement of our family and friends)!
Here are Nathalie’s foolproof steps for a perfect Crème Anglaise:
500 ml whole milk
5 egg yolks
80 grams of sugar
½ vanilla bean
- Split your vanilla bean down the middle and add it to the milk
- Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, constantly stirring the pot and being careful not to scald the milk.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar together until the mixture is thick and pale.
- When the milk has reached a boil, pour just a bit (about a cup) into the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture and quickly whisk it in. This will temper the eggs. You can repeat this step if you’d like, pouring some more milk into the egg and sugar mixture and whisking together again.
- Reduce the heat on the milk to low heat.
- Pour the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk.
- You will need to stir the mixture in the saucepan constantly (in a figure 8 motion) to prevent the mixture from burning.
- Be careful never to let the crème come to a boil as it will cook the eggs.
- Stir until the crème coats the back of the spatula. You will know it is just right if you run your finger across the back of the coated spatula and the line your finger makes in crème holds and does not run.
- Then, take the pan off of the stove and place it in a cold water bath. Continue to stir the mixture. The cool water surrounding the pan will cool the Crème Anglaise down.
- Once it has cooled just a bit, strain it and put the mixture into the fridge to finish cooling completely. (Nathalie had a great tip here, she puts her mixture into a shallow cake pan so that it is spread out evenly over a larger area. This allows the mixture to cool evenly and quickly)
- Crème Anglaise can absorb smells from your fridge so make sure you cover it with plastic wrap (touching the surface of the plastic wrap to the liquid) or put it in an airtight container.
- Crème Anglaise is also the base for ice cream! If you have an ice cream maker at home, you can use this recipe for perfect homemade ice cream!
Now, you might think you would be in need of something to soak up your perfectly made Crème Anglaise. Nathalie had a few ideas for that too….
The classic French apple tart is so much more refined than our deep dish American version. The elegantly arranged apples make it look like the chef has spent hours creating this masterpiece. As Nathalie showed us, though, it is actually a really easy desert to make! You can even create individual tarts as a special touch at dinner parties. Here’s how:
Tarte Fine aux Pommes:
1 puff pastry dough (come on, we know you’ll buy the pre-packaged version and we don’t blame you!)
3 large apples that are roughly the same size (Granny Smith work well)
70 grams salted butter (melted)
40 grams sugar
- Roll out the dough and cut it into individual circles with a cookie cutter. Place them on a cookie sheet so they are not touching.
- Peel and core your apples, then cut them into very thin slices. Arrange them on top of your dough circles in a “flower” pattern.
- Drizzle lemon juice over the top of the apples to keep them from turning brown.
- Pour the butter over your individual apple tarts, making sure you have distributed it evenly.
- Sprinkle each tart with the cinnamon (to taste) and sugar; making sure the sugar is also distributed evenly to all of the tarts.
- Cook for 12 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure not to open the oven door while they are cooking or else your dough will fall!
- When they come out, let them cool and serve them with the Crème Anglaise!
If you want to step it up a notch, you can always go for the Tarte Tatin, after all, there are few things better than the caramel-apple combination. This French classic is not only easier than it looks, but you can also make individual servings for your friends and family with this simple presentation…
1.5 apples per person (Royal Gala work well)
100 grams of butter (room temperature)
Short pastry dough (pre-packaged is fine, we won’t tell!)
50 grams sugar
1 orange (optional)
- Butter individual ramekins using about 25 grams of your butter.
- Start by making a “dry caramel”: place ½ of your sugar into a pan to melt. Stir it frequently and make sure it doesn’t burn.
- When the sugar melts and starts to turn brown (not too dark), add in the rest of your sugar. Keep it on the heat, stirring frequently until it is fully melted and has turned a golden brown.
- Take it off the heat and add in 50 grams of butter, stirring it in thoroughly until the mixture is cloudy.
- Put one tablespoon of your caramel into the bottom of each ramekin
- Peel and core your apples, making sure the apple is kept whole. Cut up one of your extra apples into thin strips and stuff those into the core of each of your “whole” apples to fill in the core.
- Put one apple in each ramekin adding a dollop of butter on top of each one. This should use up the remaining 25 grams.
- Place all of your ramekins on a baking sheet, and put the baking sheet on a shelf in the middle of your oven.
- Broil the apples on high for 20 minutes checking frequently to make sure they don’t burn or turn black. You want the tops to caramelize.
- After 20 minutes, remove the ramekins and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Return your ramekins to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes. (You can poke a toothpick into your apples to make sure they are tender all the way through, when they are, they are done!)
- Roll out your pastry dough and cut it with a cookie cutter that is roughly the same size as your ramekin. Poke little holes in the raw dough with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up and place your individual circles on a cookie sheet. Bake them as directed by your recipe or the package.
- When your apples are finished, let them cool just a bit. You may need to run a knife around the end of your ramekin to loosen the caramel. Place one pastry circle on the top of your ramekin and flip the entire thing over on a plate so the dough is on the bottom and your apple is sitting on top. Remove the ramekin and you’ll have the perfect little Tarte Tatin. Garnish with Crème Anglaise!
For more information on the wonderful classes offered by La Cuisine, feel free to check out their website. Many thanks, also, to Julien Hausherr, the wonderful photographer who captured these moments.
- Paris By Mouth: Tarte Tatin at the Bistrot Paul Bert
- Eat Boutique on Les Petits Mitrons tart shop in Montmartre
- Dorie Greenspan’s (via David Lebovitz) recipe for French Apple Cake
- Kitchen at Camont cooking classes in Gascony
Written by Ariel Kocourek and Genevieve Sandifer for the Hip Paris blog. Julien Hausherr is a photographer based in Paris, specializing in architecture, still-life and reporting. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
Written by Haven in Paris
Haven in Paris is a short-term luxury apartment and villa agency with properties in Paris, London, Provence, and Tuscany. We hope you'll enjoy reading our updates on food, lifestyle and travel happenings on our blog, Hip Paris.
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