If you haven’t heard of Jacques Genin yet, don’t worry, you are not alone as he spent years and years as a reclusive chocolatier making little gems of deliciousness for the bigwigs of French cuisine. More comfortable out of the limelight in this celebrity-chef driven world, Jacques Genin probably aspires to perfection on his own terms, and this philosophy comes through in his chocolates and desserts. So, at great risk to personal health and financial well-being, I visited his new shop in Paris and tried some of his desserts. As you can read, its hard to be snarky and sarcastic when the experience was good!
Mille Feuille Vanilla and Raspberry
Mille Feuille (MF), or thousand leaves as it means takes its name from the endless flakes of pastry that resembles a pre-composting backyard party at fall. Usualy, MF’s are a disappointing, soggy affair from too many hours spent in the pastry showcase as moisture from mousses, creams and what have you slowly migrate into what was once crispy and buttery pastry.
Here at Jacques Genin, its different, for the smallest details count and he wants you to enjoy the MF as it was supposed to be enjoyed. Light, airy, crunchy, flakey in all its buttery goodness.
Assembled to order to preserve its crackling textural qualities, this MF had a vanilla pastry cream and raspberry jam layer in a puff pastry sandwich, which I have to say, was the best I have had.
The puff pastry, as you can see, was very flakey, very light and crunchy and though it was obviously pre-baked before assembly, it is miles better than MF’s you buy in pastry counters as previously mentioned.
The pastry cream had a gentle vanilla flavour with a texture that was thickish in a classical creme pat. kinda French way. Personally, I’d prefer it a bit ‘creamier’ and not so thick, and it would be interesting to try Enric Rosich’s eggless pastry cream and see if the texture/taste is superior. God I need to buy his book soon……
The raspberry confiture was perfectly balanced in acidity and sweetness. Spread thin enough, it provided a beautiful berry flavour without dominating the whole confection, serving to cut the richness of the pastry cream and thus, bringing the whole confection into equilibrium.
Eating this makes the brain start ticking…..how would I get past this ‘sogginess’ factor of pre-assembly and preserve the remarkable texture of a-la-minute MF? This is a challenge, but one that deserves some serious thinking.
Eclairs are one of those classical confections that are so hard to get right, even though they are so damn simple to make. Its like trying to do a Beatles cover, basic chords and melodies, but somehow….just so hard to make it all click togather….
The chocolate fondant coating was impeccably shiny and dense and sticky as it always is. I may not agree or like this ‘classical’ touch to the eclair, finding fondant an unnecessary, sickeningly sweet diversion, but this one got 10 out of 10 for looks.
The choux pastry was nice and crisp, with a melting tenderness when chewed. The chocolate cream looked really rich, but was not really that intense in taste. It had a refined chocolate taste but my tastebuds are not that finely tuned to single out anything else other than a chocolate taste.
However, this chocolate pastry cream was too dense and sticky for my taste, but it would be a really awesome eclair nonetheless for customers. Personal tastes affects our decisions, and the problem in this industry is that we have a much wider palette of eating experiences to draw from and compare that it is unfair to label something good or bad. There was nothing wrong at all with this eclair, just that at this moment in time, due to past experiences and preferences, I like a lighter interior.
La Maison du Chocolat’s Chocolate Eclair falls into such a category, as it is filled, I think, with a chocolate Bavarois, which is basically a light custard base lightened by whipped cream and stabilised by gelatine.
There are so many variations on a theme for this filling that its so difficult to please everyone. Its been a hard day’s night…………
The thing I absolutely loved was that there were no fanciful, over the top patisserie items with flavour combos that sound better on paper than they do on the tongue. Jacques Genin chose to do the classics, and do them better than anybody else. This takes lots of courage, but is also a testament to his confidence that he and his team can pull this off.
Tart Citron, one of my all time favourites, a simple marriage of lemon, sugar, butter and eggs. In this instance, a lemon curd with lime zest which was just a hair on the sweet side, but thats just picking at straws. The tart shell was perfectly formed and crisp and not overly buttery to trouble one’s hips. The lemon flavour was nice, with the lime giving a a different citrus dimension to the overall flavour profile. This was refreshing, surprisingly light (After what I ate before it), and a great way to cleanse the palate.
Jacques Genin shows here that he may be renown for his chocolates, but he can stand with the best when it comes to the classics. Assembling MF’s a la minute….thats the mark of a true chef seeking perfection in every little thing he does. Absolutely amazing.