Breizh Café, Paris
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Sunday (yesterday), one of my friends got us a reservation at Breizh Café for a late brunch. A week ago, we had walked by early in the evening in hopes of securing a table but they were booked full for the entire evening. I was excited to try my first real Breton-style crêpe. I’ve noticed by now that in France, crêpe actually refers to the sweet variety while galette refers to the savoury buckwheat type.

To accompany our galettes, we ordered a jug of apple cider to share. I was surprised to discover that it was not sweet or tart like what I've had back home, but more like a fruity, pale beer. They did have a list of over 10 varieties so maybe I'll try something sweeter time. (€8.50)

My galette provençale: gruyere cheese, tomatoes, ham, sunny-side up egg, tomatoes, anchovies and herbs. The galette was crisp, light, and it had the earthy, nutty taste of buckwheat flour. The ingredients inside were fresh and the egg cooked just right. A perfect meal for a Sunday brunch. (€8.50)

For dessert, we ordered a caramelized banana crêpe with vanilla ice cream. This was also very good, but I wish there had been more ice cream, and maybe a thicker caramel sauce. (€6.50)

Overall, it was a good meal and the prices were reasonable, especially for a dining-in place. I was happy that there was no overflow of ingredients like the other crêpes I’ve had in Paris so far. However, my favourite place for crêpes, savoury or sweet, still remains as Crêpes à GoGo in Toronto. Their crêpe skins are addictively crisp and chewy and unlike any other that I’ve had. Their ingredients are simple but paired together perfectly, and in just the right amounts.

Today, at school, we did the mise en place for the cakes we will be making this week. We have finally moved up to making cake! We made a coffee génoise, 2 types of chocolate génoise, sheet of ladyfinger cake and 2 types of meringue, all in one afternoon! Génoise is a sponge cake made without any chemical leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder). It is one of the most basic cake recipes in the repertoire of French pastry.

Ingredients for génoise include just eggs, flour, sugar, and coffee extract for our cafe génoise.

The first step is to beat the eggs and sugar until it's pale, and thick enough that you get wide ribbons falling from the whisk. This takes a surprisingly long time, about 5-7 minutes. Our Chef taught us to begin beating whites at medium-low speed so you get stable, small air pockets. Then, after 5 minutes, increase the speed to medium-high and add the sugar gradually as you finish whisking.

Then, we fold in the flour gently, trying not to deflate the air that we've incorporated into the whites, and pour into a well-buttered pan or cake ring (not necessary to butter) and bake.

The finished génoise au café.

The ingredients for the next chocolate genoise we made had the addition of cocoa powder, ground almonds, and cornstarch. It is the same procedure, whisk the egg and sugar first, then fold in the rest of the ingredients (pre-sifted and mixed).

My completed génoise au chocolat.

Here is a side view of my génoise au chocolat. If you bake in a cake ring, you don't need to butter it, just run a knife along the inside of the ring to release the cake. Be sure to bake on a silicon sheet or parchment paper.

After the coffee and chocolate génoise, we made a sheet of ladyfinger cake or biscuit which will be rolled with jam inside. This time, we beat the egg whites and yolks separately.

For the ladyfinger batter or biscuit, we begin by beating the egg whites with a small amount of sugar until firm peaks, as shown in the picture. Chef was going to show us how to judge if your peaks are firm by placing the whisk over a classmate's head. Right before Chef put the whisk over her head, the egg white fell out onto the marble table, close call!

After, we whisk the yolks with the remaining amount of sugar, and add this to our whites on medium-low speed until just combined. Then, we fold in the flour by hand, spread evenly on a silpat sheet with an offset spatula, and bake.

After baking, the edges are trimmed before spreading raspberry jam on top.

After trimming the edges, we apply a thin film of raspberry jam on top.

Then we roll it up and freeze for the next day. I think these will be sliced thin and used to decorate the exterior of a cake.

On a side note, I have finally received my ImagineR pass in the mail for the Paris Metro system! The ImagineR pass, for students under 26, allows you to buy the monthly metro pass at 50% of the regular price (that’s €33 for 2-zone travel within Paris). On top of that, it’s unlimited travel between zones during the weekends and holidays. Now I can do even more pastry research!

Well? Let me know what you think. Write me a comment below!