Into the labo
Friday, September 2, 2011

We finally got to do some real baking in our labo (kitchen), as our Chef calls it. I was a little disappointed that it was only for an hour but I was still happy to bake again nonetheless. It’s been more than a month since I last baked in my kitchen in Toronto, way too long!

Our Chef, Thierry Jamard, told us about his past experiences in the pastry world, beginning from the time he was an apprentice in his early teens. Chef used to get to the bakery at 2 or 3 am to start his day. He has worked and travelled on almost every continent before coming to teach at Ferrandi for the past 22 years.

My tools, disinfected with D-10 and ready to use!

After an extensive 4-hour tour of all the equipment in the kitchen, we finally got to work on our first pastry dough, pâte à foncer (shortcrust dough), which will be the crust for our apple tarts on Monday. Chef did a demo first, in which he made it look extremely easy of course. Afterwards, we all went back to our stations to make our own doughs.

Ingredients for pâte à foncer: 250g flour, 125g butter, 50g water, 1 egg yolk, 25g sugar, and 5g salt.

Step 1: Dust the butter with a little flour and pound it with a large rolling pin until it's softened. Then, pour the flour onto your work surface and cut the butter up into 1cm cube pieces with a dough scraper.

Step 2: Sabler the flour and butter by rubbing between your fingers until you get a uniform sandy texture.

Step 3: Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water. Make a well in your flour and butter mixture and pour the egg yolk and water mixture into your well. Mix the liquid ingredients with your fingers.

Step 4: Slowly incorporate the flour and butter mixture into the liquid by gathering and mixing with your fingers. When all the ingredients have been mixed together, you should get a ball of dough.

Step 5: To make the dough more uniform, push bits of dough against the table with your palm. This is called fraser or fraiser. This will ensure there are no irregular lumps of flour or butter in your dough.

Step 6: Gather all your dough, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Store in the fridge to relax the dough for at least 30 minutes.

I learned today that butter used in French pastry is very different from the butter I use back home in Canada. As you can see in step 1, you can easily pound and roll your butter into a thin sheet without it breaking into large pieces or melting it. Making pastries that require layering sheets of butter and dough, such as croissants and mille-feuille (puff pastry), becomes much more easy and doable.

Chef also explained that there is a higher content of butterfat (compared to North American butter) and the fat molecules in the butter are more elastic. I’m not sure how you change the characteristics fat molecules. Something to research about another day.

There are 2 types of butter used in pastry. Regular butter that you can buy in rectangular blocks at any grocery store and special butter (shown above) used in bakeries which is only available wholesale.

And if you’re wondering, I can’t comment on how it’s going to taste until Monday when we bake it into an apple tart. Stay tuned and I’ll provide my first taste test report!

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