To bake with the Parisians

 

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About a week ago, I had the pleasure of walking to the back of a pâtisserie called Leloup Gourmand on 129 rue du Temple in Paris. This was such an amazing treat, literally. Imagine learning how to make authentic French croissants in the heart of Paris. I can honestly say that this was an experience I will never forget.

The adorable chef, Bernard Leloup, was genuinely passionate about his pastry perfections. Speaking completely in French, he told us he wanted to bake since he was very young. What an amazing career choice…to bring joy to people everyday through perfectly flakey croissant crust.

Immediately, we walked back to the kitchen. It looked just like a kitchen I would see in any restaurant, but filled with smells of Paris. Decorating the walls were mixing tools, bread knives, spatulas, dough scrapers, lemon squeezers, measuring spoons, nutcrackers and anything else you can imagine in the kitchen of a French pâtisserie.

We were warmly greeted and couldn’t help but drool the entire time we were being introduced. Monsieur Leloup was so excited to welcome us in to his haven.

The first order of business was to take a taste of pain chocolat. Pronounced (pan chowkowlah.) Pain chocolat are a traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack option for any day of the year. Many of my lovely friends studying abroad have built a strong and long-lasting relationship with this simple treat.

M. Leloup carefully cut a pain chocolat in half to show us the importance of perfect layers. He showed us the small chocolate strips that are carefully rolled in to each one. He said the ingredients that make each pain chocolat is what gives us that satisfying moment of a first bite. This is not food to M. Leloup, this is artwork.

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We were given another demonstration with croissants. Because I was starving at 2:30 p.m., I couldn’t help but stare as he put the tray of freshly baked croissants on the counter top.

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We were taught exactly how to properly knead the dough, cut the pieces in to small slices and formally pull and roll the dough in order to wrap the slices into small little bits of croissant goodness. We learned to paint egg white on the top of each croissant before it is baked. This gives the croissants their crispy, tasty flavor.

My passion for food has always given me a reason to meet new people, travel and be more experimental in my life overall. I realized while M. Leloup was teaching us his ways, that spending time to care for the process of making something is just as valuable as eating what you make. Just like painters paint, writers write, and dancers dance…chefs and pâtissiers practice great patience in order to give themselves the opportunity to create something truly wonderful.IMG_3570

Among the first two treats we tasted, there were plenty of dessert recipes M. Leloup was happy to break down for us. He showed us how to make a lemon cake bar and fruit compote with fresh vanilla.

The fresh fruit compote was made with a small pinch of sugar and rhubarb. I could taste the fruit as if I had just picked it from the imaginary garden in the back.

IMG_3563M. Leloup showed us where he gets the vanilla for the compote and sure enough, he uses the freshest vanilla he can find. He pulls out the vanilla canes so we can smell just how fresh it has to be in order to evoke the best flavors.

The lemon cake bar was a simple recipe of fresh cake dough, pears and a splash of lemon juice. We watched the batter pour into the baking trays. Once baked, the cake is somewhat flat rather than puffed up like a traditional gateau. The dough was moist and sweet. I loved the addition of the pears because I feel like pear can be a underrated fruit. They really are delicious.

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I admire Europe’s love for dessert. I appreciate that Europeans seem to give themselves time to savor something, no matter if it might not be healthy for them. “Healthy” has become a relative term for me. Something “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy for the body, it could be healthy for the soul.

T.

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