Succès au praliné, a classic French dessert, was the subject of my third and final class at Le Nôtre Paris. It requires some planning and make-ahead preparation, which stands one in good stead when it comes time to assemble this particular delight.
There were again three of us in the class. In addition to myself, a young 20-something Parisian woman (no English) who does a bit of baking at home and attended the class thanks to a gift certificate, plus a Japanese woman (no French) who makes pastries in Japan. This was another interesting dynamic with the chef at times speaking English to the French woman and French to the Japanese woman - a bit confusing to say the least.
Nonetheless there were lots of smiles and head nodding going around as we worked our way through the recipe.
I recall making succès during pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu and having my crème mousseline improperly set and oozing out of the sides - not a pretty picture.
However this time the whole process felt pretty straight forward, something that 10 years of professional experience under my belt aided tremendously.
The base of this dessert is essentially a meringue made with egg whites, sugar, almond flour, powdered sugar and a bit of milk. It's piped in two rounds and baked low and slow, resulting in a light, airy and crisp meringue.
It is filled with crème mousseline (blend of crème au beurre and crème pâtissiére) mixed with nougatine (chopped caramelized almonds). Separate preparation is required for the various components, and it all comes together in the end.
A note on crème au beurre: typically made with Italian meringue to which butter is added, Le Notre's recipe involves making a crème anglaise which is whipped until cool, then butter is blended in and finally the Italian meringue is added. It makes for quite a light (believe it or not) and delicious mixture.
Below is the large bowl full of crème mousseline and the chef working on his assembly.
After the crème is sandwiched between the two rounds of meringue, the edges are coated with more crème and then covered with pralinettes (more caramelized chopped almonds - yum!).
Crème coating underway . . .
and pralinettes going on! Just pick up handfuls and press lightly.
We all assembled and coated our respective succès, dusted them with powdered sugar and that was that!
The amazing thing about this cream filled meringue, so full of butter, is how light in taste and texture it actually is. Incroyable!
And guess what? Surprise, surprise, surprise - Steve loved it!