BasqueStage: How it all began

A little less than a year ago, I found myself on the cusp of returning to Le Cordon Bleu Paris for intensive intermediate pâtisserie for a month. Quelle bonne–another sweet month of aventure in Paris! But something was missing. A plan of action was needed. Continue reading

J’Adore la Fraise

Des Gâteaux et du Pain. Cake and bread. Like guns and butter? Yes, for some odd reason this reminds me of my Boston College professor who loved using the macroeconomics guns and butter theory. In this case, the nation will have to decide the level of cake and bread to best fulfill its needs. Well, nation, let me give it a shot. After all, j’adore la fraise:

J’adore la Fraise

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Mille Feuille

Pour la derniére demo, Chef JJ a fait le mille feuille:

Crème Praliné

I was sad that there is no practical to go along with the last demo because this is one of my favorite desserts! Crispy puff pastry, creamy mousse sans gelatin, crunch caramelized hazelnuts and chocolatey praliné! It’s to die for.

Mille Feuille

Surely I’ll be practicing this leçon back home. Guinea pigs welcome!


Finally, the Cordon Bleu lesson I’d been waiting for…baguette!

Pour la dernière pratique, nous avons fait baguette.


Mais, je pense que les baguettes du chef sont plus jolies. Donc, ils sont ici.

Baguette et Pain de Mie de Chef JJ

It’s too bad we only bake baguettes once at Le Cordon Bleu. There isn’t very heavy emphasis on breadbaking. We just get a glimpse of brioche in basic and baguette here in intermediate. That’s it. C’est tout. Superior Pâtisserie is all about chocolat et sucre. To be honest, I don’t think a homeless frenchman would even accept our baguettes. They lacked the crunchy exterior and large-air-bubbly interior that every baguette should have. The bread too had little taste which I also think was because of the recipe we were given, which called for fresh dough versus starter dough (often found in sourdough). Oh well, I suppose we signed up for Cordon Bleu and not Cordon Pain.


Traditionally, the French celebrate weddings with Croquembouche, meaning “crunch in the mouth.” This week, we celebrated sizzling hot caramel and nougatine, meaning profanity in the kitchen.


This was a two-day ordeal. During the first practical, we made the nougatine and piped the royal icing. After Chef Walter demonstrated during practical and we got the hang of handling hot nougatine, it wasn’t so difficult, it was just a matter of working quickly and efficiently. The piping of the royal icing strings was also easier than I had imagined. The tough part was moving the piece to storage for the next day.

Pièce Montée

During our second practical, we made pâte a choux, filled them with pastry cream and then dipped them in caramel on each side. This we had done before in basic, when we made the Saint-Honoré. Again, no gimmicks here. The challenge was to speedily assemble the choux into a non-leaning tour before your caramel solidified, all the while taking care not to burn yourself or break any icing strings or nougatine triangles.

Royal Icing

Not too shabby, eh? Mine was slightly crooked but I’m rather satisfied nonetheless. I wouldn’t mind making it again if it was requested of me. I think Croquembouches look a lot more difficult to make than people think. We didn’t even do the hardest part! Read on…

This was our last practical with Chef JJ. Je suis triste 😦 Doesn’t he look like a grown-up Daniel Radcliffe?

Chef Jean-Jacques et Moi

Chef JJ made a curvy nougatine piece and pulled sugar décor for his Croquembouche, as a sneak peek into what we will be doing in Superior Pâtisserie. Ooolala!

Typical Expression

Imagine caring those down the stairs.

Divorce et Mariage

Chef joked that the larger piece was for a divorce and the smaller for a mariage. Hohoho so silly.

Entremets Passionata

I love passionfruit. That is an understatement. J’adore fruit de la passion.

Entremets Passionata de Chef JJ

This practical in particular was the most fun we had thus far. My buddies, Vanessa and Neha, and I  teamed up to make our joconde biscuit, and various fruit purées to compile the Entremets Passionata. There’s no better way to spend a friday night practical than with your best pastry buddies, piping, scraping and decorating tasty Entremets passionata. Aren’t they beautiful?


Dôme aux Marrons

Since the internet at our apartment has not been working for the past few days, and the French don’t work on le weekend,  Catherine and I have been without contact with the cyber realm. So here’s a short and belated post of last weekend’s chestnut dome cake:

Dôme aux Marrons

I wonder if it would taste better with fresh chestnut paste and chestnut cream, rather than the canned goodies. Perhaps there is a cultural or a generational disconnect, but I couldn’t understand why Chef Bernardé kept sneaking tastes of the canned chestnut paste and creme. I thought, “I suppose if the MOF likes it I shall give it a try.” Ick! I tried both. Ick encore! I’ll keep trying…just because he’s a MOF.

It’s not that I have a disdain for chestnut. The chestnut, like the adzuki bean or the matcha powder or other flavors of Asia, is my friend! Je ne comprends pas les Français. It’s such a big deal here at this time of year. Perhaps it will grow on me as I become more French…

At least this was enjoyable to make and we got to use the chocolate paint sprayer! Hence the ‘velvety’ effect.

Trésor Vanille Fraises de Bois

Here are a few photos of the strawberry ‘treasure’ cake. It has an almond dacquoise base with strawberry mousse and a vanilla chiboust. What’s with all the gelatinous mousses lately? Gelatin + mousse = texturally unappealing (with a few exceptions). At least it was fun to make and decorate!


As much as I relish the rush and adrenaline at the start of class, I also enjoy the therapeutic moments at the end where I can slow down and channel my inner artiste.

Trésor Aussi!

Devils on Horseback

For the first time in pâtisserie class, we made something savory! And it includes pork! Yes, salty pork in place of all the sugar, chocolate and cream we’re always playing with. To celebrate, Catherine drew Mr. Piggy  and his bottle of cognac:

Devils on Horseback

Why do they call these ‘devils on horseback’ and not ‘angels on unicornback’? What makes bacon devilish? Je ne sais pas.

We learned to make inverted puff pastry. It’s quite similar to puff pastry so it was a basic review of dough work. Inverted puff pastry however is even richer!! Flaky, buttery goodness can only mean one thing: food coma. It’s all too easy to over-pop these addictive, savory petit fours.