Puttin' on the Ritz: Le Délice
In October, to celebrate my 30th birthday, some friends gifted me with a baking class at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier. The hub was perfect in choosing a 4 hour-long Saturday afternoon class dedicated to chocolate. (Yeah!) The combination of spending an afternoon with a real-life pastry chef in a veritable professional pastry kitchen at on of the most prestigious palaces in the city was enough to make me swoon. The only hitch was the wait. The class was scheduled for January which meant three long months of perusing their website and obsessing about what we might bake.
The day finally arrived and it it was one of those unseasonable warm days that have made up the majority of this winter season. With just a light jacket and the sun on my shoulders, I took the bus along the Seine to the Concorde and then walked up rue St. Honoré. I cut through a marbled shopping gallery that spills out on the Place Vendôme and came face to face with the Ritz. As I crossed the threshold of the main entrance I couldn't help but have one of those "I can't belive I'm here" blasts of happiness.
There were 10 of us in the class and we were split up into two groups which meant that we really were able to be hands on and not just silent observers. Each armed with a plethora of utensils and crisp white aprons we got down to business. Our chef was relaxed, easy-going and really interested in answering questions and teaching us just as much about technique as about the recipe we were preparing. The dessert in question was
Le Délice or
The Delight: a Sacher spongecake layered with chocolate mousse (saturated with a simple syrup) and a pistachio crème, covered in a chocolate ganache and painted with cocoa butter.
The best part though was all the little "pro" hints that make baking at home so much more interesting. For example, instead of using cake pans you can use rings which de-mold a million times easier. If your cake bakes in the shape of a volcano it means that you've overmixed. Although I'm sure that never happens to anyone. You can use a pair of square dowels set on either side of your cake to act as a guide when cutting it into cross sections. When making chocolate mousse, you can add your sugar as a boiling simple syrup to your egg yolks which gives your dessert a longer lifespan. When making a dessert like
The Délice, which has a caramelized cream center, you freeze it before assembly. Cool, right?
Now, the only thing I need besides a kitchen torch, a 10 pound bag of Valrhona 70% chocolate, and an airless paint sprayer for the cocoa butter finish is a spot in the Ecole's 6 week-long pastry program this summer followed by a champagne toast at the hotel bar!
5 1/3 oz almond paste
2 oz confectioners sugar
3 1/2 oz egg yolks
2 oz whole eggs
drop of vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz flour
1 1/2 oz cocoa powder
5 1/4 oz egg whites
2 oz sugar
1 1/2 butter
Whip the almond paste, confectioners sugar, yolks, whole eggs and liquid vanilla. Sift together the flour and cocoa and then delicately mix into the almond mixture. Whip the egg whites and sugar and then add the butter. Combine the two mixtures delicately and pour into a 2 1/2 in high circle. Bake at 375°F for 45 to 50 minutes.
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
5 2/3 oz sugar
12 egg yolks
3 1/2 oz pistachio paste
Boil the milk with the pistachio cream until the paste is dissolved. Add the cream to lower the temperature and then mix with the yolk and sugar. Pour cream mixture into rubber molds. Bake at 225° F until the cream is firm and doesn't wobble. However, make sure that the cream around the edges doesn't boil. Once baked, remove from the oven and cool. Place the creams in the freezer until hardended and then remove and remove from molds.
Note: The pistachio cream is divine on its own. Pour it in little shallow dishes, sprinkle the top with sugar and then caramelized with a kitchen torch.