Learning how to cook like a Parisian – an amazing experience at La Cuisine, Paris

When I was in Paris last year, I desperately wanted to do a cooking class, but as we were travelling for a long time on a tight budget, unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. However, I was very lucky to be going back to the city of love for a short visit this year, so there was no doubt in my mind that I would be doing a Parisian cooking class this time! I chose to do the class with La Cuisine as they had excellent reviews, and boy, am I glad I went with them! They really were fantastic. We chose to do the Market Class, where the group met at a local farmers market to choose the menu and buy the ingredients for the lunch. We then took a short stroll to the kitchen, in the hot Parisian summer sun, via the Notre Dame.
Fish
Fruit
Cheese
La Cuisine gave our group freedom to choose what we wanted to eat – there was no set menu. We chose sea bream for the main, and some ripe peaches and apricots for dessert, along with some beautiful cheeses, vegetables and baguettes.What I loved about the market was that our wonderful chef, Emilie, explained everything to us. She showed us what to look for when choosing fish, how to tell if fruit and vegetables are ripe, and gave us a thorough run down on different types of French cheeses and breads. One of the cheeses we had was a special cheddar type, where, in the process of making this cheese, little cheese mites (yes, little bugs!) huddle around the outside of the wheel, protecting the cheese from bacteria. Some people thought this was pretty disgusting, but I thought it was kind of cool that little bugs could help produce a delicious cheese! And delicious it was! (FYI – the mite cheese is the orangey one at the bottom).
Cheese2
When it was time to cook, everybody helped out and did their bit – it was certainly a team effort. Emilie showed us how to fillet a fish, which I did for the first time – it was a pretty horrible effort though, I pretty much hacked the poor thing to bits! Lucky I wasn’t the only filleting virgin. To go with the sea bream, we made a cauliflower puree, mini roasted carrots, onions and radishes and a buerre blanc sauce. This sauce was easily my favourite part of the whole lunch, and I could have drank a whole bowl of it. It was delicious – but let’s face it, anything with a truckload of butter, white wine and onions is bound to taste pretty damn good.
Main
For dessert, we made an almond and hazelnut financier, with roasted peaches and apricots and chantilly cream. This was a really delicious dessert. The peaches and apricots were sliced up, brushed with butter, and roasted with brown sugar and rosemary, an unexpectedly delicious addition. The financier was dense and buttery, and with the chantilly cream, it was really great. I am definitely looking forward to making this again.
Dessert
If you are going to Paris in the near future, and love food, I really recommend you check out ‘La Cuisine’. They have lots of other classes to do with pastry, bread, chicken and more. If I had the time, I would have loved to do a pastry or macaron class! Oh well, next time! Thanks to La Cuisine and Emilie, for an unforgettable day 🙂
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Chocolate Passionfruit Macarons

It seems I’m developing a bit of habit of combining chocolate and fruit lately. This macaron flavour was inspired, or recreated, I should say, from my visit to Paris last year, where I had the most amazing macarons, unsurprisingly. Pierre Herme had an amazing Chocolate Passionfruit macaron, and the middle was the yummiest combination of creamy and bitter chocolate combined with that zingy and sweet hit of passionfruit, it was delicious. I did my best to try and recreate this wonderful moment, and I think I did quite well, but of course, nothing will ever compare to Pierre Herme!

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The ganache didn’t go quite as I hoped it would, as I think I made it too late. Ganache can take a long time to set properly. Next time I would probably leave it overnight. Then, I put too much liquid into the butter, and it split. Luckily, that was easily fixed, with more butter. But there’s not much that butter can’t fix. The flavour of the ganache was very full on when I made it. It was very sour and the chocolate was very bitter – I used 75% cocoa, next time I would probably use really good quality milk or a regular dark chocolate. You couldn’t really distinguish the chocolate from the passionfruit, it was too strong. However, as macarons tend to do, the flavour did develop, and they were much nicer the next day. Also, I’m super happy with these shells! One giant positive of colder weather = less humidity, prettier macs 🙂 Oh, and FYI, I have slightly changed my macaron recipe. It’s only the cooking times, but I’ve found the shells to be sturdier and chubbier since I’ve made the change.

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Macarons:

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • 1/4 tsp colouring gel, yellow
  • 1/4 tsp colouring gel, orange

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around the edges, and line with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, over a low-medium heat, until the sugar completely dissolves (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If you do not want to burn your tongue, Zumbo suggests investing in a candy thermometer and heating the syrup until it reaches 118 degrees C (244 degrees F). If the syrup becomes thick and powdery in appearance, you will need to start again. This is because the sugar has been heated too much, too quickly, and instead of dissolving, it has cooked.

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add flavouring/colouring, now’s your moment. So add the colouring now. Just lightly beat it into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Tap the bottom of the trays on the kitchen bench and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 135c, fan forced.

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Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn trays around, and bake for another 9 minutes. To check if shells are cooked, gently lift one off the baking paper. If it peels of easily, they are done, if not, keep checking at 2 minute intervals. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 -15 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons. Macarons keep really well (about 5 days in the fridge) and some say that the longer they are refrigerated, the more the flavour is likely to develop. Macarons taste best when they are stored in the fridge, then brought down to room temperature to eat.

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Chocolate Passionfruit Ganache:

  • 100g good quality chocolate, dark or milk, depends how strong you like your chocolate
  • 170ml thickened cream
  • 170g can passionfruit pulp, strained from seeds OR depending on size, 4-5 passionfruits, strained of seeds

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan, and stir over a low-medium heat until smooth. Pour into bowl and refrigerate. For best results, make ganache the day before serving. Ganache should be of a pipe-able consistency. OPTIONAL – if you like your ganache quite creamy, feel free to beat up 70g butter and add to ganache.

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Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Spoon ganache into a piping bag fitted with a wide round nozzle. Pipe rounds onto shells, and sandwich with another. You can dust with cocoa, if you like. Store macarons in an airtight container, in the fridge, and bring down to room temperature to eat.

Happy Baking! 🙂

 

Paris: my foodie heaven

I have recently floated off cloud 9 which consisted of a week in pastry paradise. It was hands down, one of the best weeks of my life so far. For a very long time, I have been almost obsessed with Paris, for reasons fairly obvious, even having never been there. So, to actually be there and see the sights right in front of my eyes was pretty amazing for me. I had a little bit of a heart attack the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower!
Eiffel tower
Now, to the food. We were really lucky to have snatched up a great little studio apartment in the bustling neighbourhood of Bastille (for Melbourne people, this would probably be the equivalent of Fitzroy/Brunswick), which was just to the east of the city. We could not believe our luck when we realised the Bastille Market – one of the biggest foodie markets in Paris, was literally at the end of our street. Winner! We headed down on a sunny Sunday morning to find delights such as crêpes, baguettes, cheeses, fresh fruit and veg, fresh seafood, curries and souvenirs.
Bastille market
The great thing about Bastille is that it is out of the main toursity area of Paris. This means great local restaurants, bakeries/patisseries on nearly every corner, and super-friendly French people – something we were not expecting. We had been told by so many people that the French did not like tourists at all and were quite unwelcoming. These people obviously stayed in super touristy areas in the city that are overcrowded and full of horrible, overpriced restaurants. Out of every country we have visited so far (6), we found the French to be the friendliest, which was fantastic. Our local bakery, Maison Laudemaine Voltaire, was our go to each day. It had the best baguettes we had ever tasted, and some pretty amazing desserts and pastries, too.
4 cakes
Baguettes
Two places I just had to try in Paris were, of course, Pierre Herme and Laduree. If you are not familar, they are both extremely well known around the world for their macarons and pastries (Pierre Herme also has amazing chocolates). I can safely say that I had the best macarons in Paris, which really is not a surprise at all. For me, Pierre Herme won by a mile. We bought a box of 7 macarons (we couldn’t afford any more!), and we were both in heaven. The flavours we chose included Salted Butter Caramel, Chocolate Passionfruit, Citron Praline, Rose, Violet Yoghurt and Giandjua Chocolate. My favourite flavour was Violet Yoghurt, and I think it was because I was not expecting it – it was such an interesting flavour, but so delicious. I will definitely try to create this flavour when I get home!
Pierre Herme
Pierre Herme shop
In comparison to Pierre Herme, Laduree’s macarons were unfortunately a bit disappointing. The flavours were pretty standard, but the fillings were quite runny – they just didn’t have the same finesse (sounds wanky I know, lol) as Pierre Herme. The pastries on the other hand, were amazing. We got a Saint-Honore Pomme Facon Tatin – which was a bit of take on an apple tarte tatin. It had this amazing caramelised puff pastry with tiny choux filled with salted caramel, caramelised apples and caramel chatilly whipped cream. Wow! I also had something I had been wanting to try for a long time – Ispahan. Ispahan is a big macaron filled with rose cream, lychees and raspberries. It was delicious.
Laduree collage
Finally, I also had my first French onion soup experience. It was definitely as magical as I imagined it to be!! It was so yummy, and was complete with gruyere croutons. Another one to try when I come home!
Onion soup
So, that ends our foodie adventures in Paris. There is still so much I want to see and do, and so much more food I want to try. Lucky I’m going back next year 😀 Follow me on Instagram for more travel photos – GemmaAsh

Parisian Red Velvet Cupcakes

Before I say anything else, I believe red velvet cupcakes are the world’s greatest invention. Ever. I. Love. Them. So. Much. I’m not sure exactly what it is, maybe the cream cheese frosting or the fact that the cake itself isn’t too sweet, or the combination of the two. Whatever it is, I love it!

It was my best friend’s birthday, and she loves all things Paris-y, so when I saw this kit with the cases and the little toothpicks, I knew exactly what I was going to use them for! I have tried a few red velvet recipes in my time, including the one for the giant cupcake, but I think this is the best one I have come across. It was delish-i-ohso.

Red Velvet Cupcakes: (by Martha Stewart):

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (if you don’t know what cake flour is, read this)
  • 2 tbs good-quality cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (yes, you read that right!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Wilton’s red colouring gel
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 175c (350F). Line two cupcake trays with cases. Place the flour, cocoa and salt together and mix, then set aside. With an electric whisk or a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and the oil until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is fully mixed in. Beat in vanilla and red food colouring gel.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches, and the buttermilk in 2 (3 dry, 2 wet additions – begin and end with dry). Whisk well after each addition. In a separate small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar – it will foam. Add mixture to the batter, and whisk all together for about 10 minutes. Fill each cupcake case about 3/4 of the way. Place in oven for 10 mins, then turn tray around and bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tins for 5 mins, then transfer to wire rack. Makes approx. 22 large cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Icing:(also from Martha Stewart):

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 340g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia), softened slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar mixture (confectioner’s sugar)

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until pale and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar to taste, I used just over 2 cups, but you might want more if you like it sweeter – it’s really upto you 🙂 Beat in the vanilla.

Fill  piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe a swirl on each cupcake. Decorate however you like!

I was originally a little worried about the amount of oil in this recipe, because you could really taste it in the batter before it was cooked. However, these cakes were so fluffy and moist – seriously one of the best I’ve ever tried. If you’re a fan of red velvet, definitely give these a go…you will not be disappointed 🙂

Have a great weekend and happy baking! X