I asked, swiveling my head back and forth as I searched for the source of the now-familiar aroma. Katherine, also looking around, suddenly pointed across the street. “It’s a bread festival!” she shouted.
Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen, in our quest to climb the Notre-Dame tower today, Kat and I actually stumbled across a French bread festival! La Fête du Pain is a Bread Festival that takes place every year around May 16th, the day honoring Saint Honoré, the patron saint of bakers (This information is actually all off of the website…I had wanted to say that the bread festival was in honor of my visit, but I figured that I should attempt to provide reliable information).
In any case, it was just our luck that the bread festival was going on, because the line to the Notre-Dame tower proved too long, and we decided to return another day. Instead of climbing 400+ steps, we spent the morning looking on in awe as master bread makers demonstrated their craft for us.
(This is one of my favorite pictures…mostly because I feel like if I worked in a bakery, I would be the middle baker – aka the person sneaking a bite in the back)
Of course, after watching the bakers in action and breathing in the heady scent of freshly baked bread, we were practically salivating, and immediately headed to the bread tents to buy some for ourselves.
Lunch! Baguette with jambon and fromage
And then, of course, we had to have dessert! We split 3 different items:
1. Nutella liberally smeared on a baguette – so classic, so good
2. Palmier – This is a French “butterfly” cookie made from puff pastry. There were so many layers of pastry, I had a hard time keeping it together! Buttery, light, delish.
3. Mini pain au chocolat – you know how I feel about these
Later in the afternoon, we went to our first baking class at La Cuisine Paris!
In this class, we learned how to prepare a Café Gourmand. As Jenny (our wonderful instructor) taught us, a Café Gourmand is a popular French dessert selection offered in many different restaurants. It is generally composed of 3 mini desserts, along with a cup of coffee. The café gourmand is the perfect option for people like me, who tend to order one thing, but then stare enviously at another person’s food until offered a bite, or unnecessarily rebuffed. But I’m getting off track here.
Back to the pastries. Our Café Gourmand today included: 1) A mini crème brûlée with tuile cookie, 2) A tartelette with chocolate ganache et framboise, and 3) A pistachio financier.
My group first worked on the crème brûlée, which is one of my all-time favorite desserts (probably something to do with the violent sugar cracking). I’ve actually helped make crème brûlée before, but this was my first time using the seeds from a real vanilla bean, and measuring the ingredients using a kitchen scale, rather than with cup/tablespoon measurements. I actually really enjoyed the accuracy of the kitchen scale, and hope to incorporate this into my own baking when I get back.
Later, we worked on the fun ‘tuile’ cookies to accompany the crème brûlée. These are very delicate, thin little cookies often used to decorate desserts.
Because of size and purpose of these cookies, though, they can be a bit tricky to make, especially for beginners. I had a ton of fun focusing my energy (probably had some crazy eyes going on) in creating the perfect ‘tuile’ cookie.
Look, I rolled mine up!
Earlier on in the class, my group also worked on the financiers. Financiers are little French cookies made with both regular and almond flour, originally baked in rectangular molds to resemble bars of gold. Which would you rather have? We used a fancy pistachio paste that came in a can resembling paint…but which contained quite the intense flavor!
Finally, we also learned the art of the pâte brisée, or short pastry dough, to make our mini tarts with chocolate ganache, raspberry jam, and fresh raspberries. I learned for the first time about “blind baking” – when a pastry crust must bake at least partially before any filling is added. Fun technique time: we used beans to weigh down the pastry so it wouldn’t puff up before we could add filling!
All in all, the Café Gourmand was a wonderful experience – check out our end products!
(My crème brûlée may or may not be slightly burnt because I got so caught up in the kitchen torch that…my dessert accidentally caught on fire. Whoops).
I think all that food helped me grow (taller):
Til’ next time,