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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Culinary School - Session 24: Tarte Tatin, Chocolate Banana Tart and Chocolate Napoleon

Culinary School: Session 24 (10.10.14)

Tarte Tatin, Chocolate Banana Tart and Chocolate Napoleon... and Papillons

Chocolate-covered, chocolate-filled cocoa chocolates...

Too much of a good thing? It is possible...

Enter Chocolate Puff Pastry (Pate Feuilletee au Chocolat). Chocolate Puff Pastry is a modified version of Inverse Puff Pastry (Pate Feuilletee Inversee) in which cocoa is added to the Beurrage.

The result? A very dry, intensely chocolaty puff pastry with no trace of inherent sweetness. Suffice it to say that a little goes a long way.

So what happens when you use Chocolate Puff Pastry to create a Mille-feuille au Chocolat... a chocolate version of the classic Napoleon?

It's chocolate overload! Chef warned us at the beginning of class that even the most ardent chocolate lovers tended to leave this treat unfinished.

No, it's good... it's just... well... it's REALLY chocolaty...

The proposed solution: swap out some of the Creme d'Or filling (a 1:1 mix of melted semi-sweet chocolate and whipped creme or Creme Fouettee) with a straight pastry cream. You know you're desperate when pastry cream is used to provide relief for the palate.

It was a noble effort, but after a couple of bites of the finished product, I too surrendered. I would have waved the white flag, but it was covered in chocolate. I'm not even certain that a 100% pastry cream-filled version of this Mille-feuille could withstand the chocolate puff pastry.

Fortunately, another one of this session's efforts, a caramel and Calvados soaked Apple Tarte Tatin, could not have been more delicious.

Chocolate Napoleon (Mille-feuille au Chocolat)

- Ingredients Running Tally -

An eggless day... has that happened before?

Ingredients used to date (10.10.14):
  • Flour: 9,035g
  • Eggs: 4,650g (93x)
  • Sugar: 5,250g
  • Butter: 6,125g
  • Milk/Cream: 5,000g

- The Recipes -


Tarte Tatin

An upside-down apple tart in which apples are browned and caramelized in a frying pan, then covered with docked puff pastry and finished in the oven. The final tart is inverted as soon as it is removed from the oven resulting in a puff pastry crust filled with soft, caramelized apple halves.

The Tarte Tatin is yet another case of a French pastry with a fabled past. The tart supposedly originated at the Hotel Tatin in the 1880's. Stephanie Tatin, one of the two sister proprietors, is said to have been caramelizing apples for a pie. When the apples began to burn, Stephanie covered the frying pan with the pie crust she was rolling and transferred the pan to the oven in a desperate attempt salvage her mistake. Satisfied enough with the end product, she served the upside down tart to the hotel guests who reportedly loved it... and the Tarte Tatin was born.

Focus Techniques:
- Developing flavor by browning the apples in butter before baking. Since the eventual baking process will completely cook the apples, the browning time should be short or the apples will be too soft. 
- Completely sealing the cooled, browned and caramelized apples with a docked piece of puff pastry before baking.
- Inverting the baked tart shortly after removing the frying pan from the oven. Waiting for the tart to cool will cause the caramel to set and the apples will stick.

Browning Apples for the Tarte Tatin

Dough Covered Apples for Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin


Chocolate Banana Tart (Tarte aux Bananes et Chocolat)

Delicious in concept, but a total disappointment... even a number of on-the-fly enhancements couldn't transform this tart into something truly craveable.

The Chocolate Banana Tart is simple pastry made of thin, bruleed slices of banana on top of a compression-baked chocolate puff pastry. After warning us about the ensuing barrage of chocolate that would be the Mille-feuille au Chocolat, Chef noted that this particular tart was also likely to fail to impress. 

We even added a layer of peanut butter enriched pastry cream in desperation. Chocolate, peanut butter and bananas! How could this not be amazing?

... and yet, it was definitely not amazing. It was little more than a waste of a good banana. The chocolate puff pastry base, even when rolled very thin and compression-baked, makes for a lot of crust in proportion to the banana and peanut butter pastry cream topping. 

Focus Techniques:
- Cutting puff pastry to size before the dough is compression-baked (previous pastries using compression-baked puff pastry were cut to shape after the dough was baked). Cutting the dough before baking is possible only when the final size and shape does not need to be exact, because the dough will shrink in the oven.
- Caramelizing bananas using turbinado sugar and a blowtorch. Sugar should be added to fruit that will be caramelized just before the fruit is bruleed. When sugar is dusted on fruit, the hydroscopic properties of sugar immediately begin to draw moisture from the fruit. The fruit becomes wet, and it become increasingly difficult to properly brûlée. 
- Making a peanut butter pastry cream as an example of how pastry cream can be flavored in different ways.

Assembling the Chocolate Banana Tart (Tarte aux Bananes et Chocolat)

Chocolate Banana Tart (Tarte aux Bananes et Chocolat)


Chocolate Napoleon (Mille-feuilles au Chocolat)

The infamous chocolate bomb, a Mille-feuille au Chocolat is a layered dessert of compression-baked chocolate puff pastry and Creme d'Or (a 1:1 mix of melted semi-sweet chocolate and whipped cream or Creme Fouettee). The pastry is topped with chocolate ganache (a 1:1 mix of semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream) and white chocolate, scored to create a chevron pattern.

Focus Techniques:
- Cutting the layers of chocolate puff pastry to size after baking in order to create perfectly sized layers (the dough shrinks by an unpredictable amount when baked).
- Cutting the puff pastry while the crust is still warm. When the crust cools, it becomes very brittle.
- Assembling the first two layers of the pastry on a pre-cut board to make moving the pastry easier. The top layer, which is covered in ganache, is assembled separately.
- Lightening the chocolate intensity of the pastry by also using plain pastry cream as a filling.
- Starting the piping of the filling before the edge of the crust so that each layer is completely filled (unlike the image below).
- Using a paring knife to score the top layer of chocolate ganache and white chocolate in alternating stripes to create a chevron pattern.
- As a finishing option, dusting the sides of the pastry with chocolate Feuilletine made from scraps of chocolate puff pastry. The Feuilletine should always be applied as the last element.

Assembling the Chocolate Napoleon (Mille-feuille au Chocolat)

Chevron Pattern on the Top of the Chocolate Napoleon (Mille-feuille au Chocolat)

Chocolate Napoleon (Mille-feuille au Chocolat)



Cinnamon and sugar coated twists of dough that resemble butterflies when baked.

Along with Cheese Straws and Palmiers, Papillons are a way to use every last bit of rolled puff pastry, even the scraps or Demi-Feuilletage. Using Demi-Feuilletage limits the waste of a very expensive dough (think of all that high-quality butter... not to mention the time spent making multiple turns of the dough over the course of a couple hours). 

Demi-Feuilletage can be used for any pastry where a perfectly even rise is not important.  

Focus Techniques:
- Using Demi-Feuilletage to create additional products.

Unbaked Papillon

Take a look at the full syllabus

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  1. So, I want to know, was it tough cutting the giant mille-feuille into portions without messing it up?

  2. Surprisingly, no. The crepes are so delicate that a good chef's knife sliced right through without any problem!