Baking secrets of a Parisian pastry chef

By
Fanny Zanotti
Added
24 April, 2014

Ever wondered how to make whipped cream as light as air, or how to fill a piping bag without spilling a drop? Master pastry chef Fanny Zanotti shares her secret tips and techniques.

Perfect whipped cream

1. Ten minutes before you start, place a bowl and the whisk in the freezer to chill. Cream definitely whips faster and in a more stable way if everything around it is super-cold.

2. If you’re whipping cream for a mousse, whip it until it just starts to get to the soft peak stage. It might look under-whipped to you but, trust me, the just-whipped texture makes for the softest fluffiest mousse. In fact, cream has the most air in when it forms soft peaks. Under-whipping it ever so slightly ensures that when you incorporate it, the cream won’t become overworked and lose too much air.

3. You can most definitely whip cream ahead of time – up to an hour before you plan to use it. Simply give it another one-minute whisking before you do so.

4. Chantilly is cream whipped with sugar and a little vanilla to stiff peaks. I usually use 10 g icing sugar per 100 g cream.

Folding

In cookery terms, this usually means to combine two mixtures without deflating the batter. This can be done with either a whisk or a rubber spatula. I find the whisk to be the quicker method, but can only advise you to master folding using a spatula before moving on to the whisk. The correct movement is to start in the centre of the bowl – this is something I insist on a lot, ask any of my commis – then go up the side of the bowl and turn it counter-clockwise as you do so. Stop folding as soon as the streaks/traces disappear as you do not want to overmix and lose air.

Proving yeasted doughs

The best environment to prove a dough is around 25°C and with moist air. A friend, who used to make all the doughs at Pierre Hermé in Paris once told me he would prove his brioche at home in the bathroom after all of his family would have taken their shower. I, on the other hand, like to bring a cup of water to the boil in the microwave, then quickly stick my soon-to-be brioche in. In fact, it may well be the only time I ever use the microwave in our kitchen.

Getting a neat crack on a loaf cake

This is perhaps my favourite tip: to get a beautifully cracked loaf, the easiest way is to pipe a thin line – around 4 mm – of softened butter across the unbaked loaf. When the batter starts to rise, the butter will sink in, creating a neat crack in the crust of the cake. Voila!

Making ganache

Ganache is a fancy name for a mixture of chocolate and some kind of liquid, which can either be cream, milk or even water. To make the most perfect ganache, here is one trick that never fails. First, always melt the chocolate. Then bring your liquid to the boil and pour it over the melted chocolate, one-third at a time, stirring well with a rubber spatula after each addition. Once the ganache is ready, allow it to set at room temperature before transferring to the fridge. And make sure you cover the surface with clingfilm to avoid a skin forming.

Filling a piping bag

Piping bags are a must in the kitchen. Without them, I’m nothing. I like to use disposable bags as it just makes everything so much easier. Perhaps not the filling part though, if you’re not used to it. Simply follow these steps and pipe away:

1. Never cut the tip off a piping bag before filling it (if you are refilling, just twist the tip and snuggle it into your nozzle for a leak-free process)

2. Hold the bag in your left hand and fold the top over your hand.

3. Scrape the batter/mix into the bag, but make sure not to overfill, usually two-thirds full is enough.

4. Twist the top-end to make sure no batter can escape and swirl it around your right-hand thumb.

5. Use your left hand as a guide only, and apply the pressure with your right hand.

Find more of Fanny Zanotti's baking secrets, as well as her extraordinary recipes, in her book Paris Pastry Club.


FANNY ZANOTTI'S PARISIAN PASTRIES

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