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L’Atelier des Chefs, Paris: Les secrets de la confiserie

L'Atelier des Chefs Secrets de la ConfiserieMany of you know that when I was in Paris this summer, I took advantage of having a couple of weeks to occupy myself filled this time with some macaron-making classes.  Since I (rightly) figured I might have macaron fatigue after a few classes (and, errr, a number of macaron-tasting sessions!), I also signed up for a class at L’Atelier des Chefs called “Les Secrets de la Confiserie” – Secrets of Candy Making.  Whilst this class did include macarons, we also worked on guimauve (marshmallows), sucettes (lollipops) and caramels mous (soft caramels).  With only five people in the class, there was a lot of hands-on learning with Chef demonstrating each step and then having us finish it up.

To be honest, I have always been a little intimidated by things like making candy. My recent experiences making marshmallows and chocolates are a testament to the fact that my skills, whilst they extend (sometimes) to macarons, definitely need some work in the area of more technically-challenging sweets and candies.  In fact, what I learned at this class (as well as in all of the macaron classes) is that one of the most important “secrets” is having a decent candy thermometer. And guess what? They just happened to be selling these “en promotion” at the end of the class. So, of course, how could I resist?  Yes, some people bring French delicacies back from France, I bring candy thermometers back in my luggage. All right, who am I kidding, we had French treats, wine AND odd things like candy thermometers in our suitcases ;)

Because making candy is really all about making sure that your ingredients (mostly sugar and water) are at the right temperature and if you can make sure that you get that right, c’est simple comme bonjour (it’s as easy as ABC).

I mean, really – how easy do these lollipops look?

Cook the sugar, roll it into a ball…

Cut it into lollipop-sized pieces et hop! Voilà, lollipops!

So easy, even a child (highly supervised, of course!) could do it!

What about marshmallows?

Well, again, Chef made it look SO simple….

Whilst it’s important to cook the sugar syrup you will pour into your egg whites to the correct temperature, Chef also showed us how to tell whether the mixture was ready by the feel of the bowl. And introduced a concept that is really so easy that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before – piping the marshmallows out so you don’t get in a huge mess. Ahem…

And we had a lot of fun with that….

Aren’t they simply gorgeous?

A beautiful texture and an unusual taste – violet – that made me think that you know what? Marshmallows ARE do-able. Will definitely try again with this recipe – oh, and my new thermometer!

Lastly we made perhaps the least successful recipe of the day – soft caramels…  The process is again, so easy…  You cook up the sugar syrup, add the flavouring (we added raspberry) and leave it to set in the fridge until it’s able to be removed from the pan and cut up..

Our caramel never quite set in the short amount of time we had (2 hours total making four recipes) to cut into squares so it was VERY soft.  The idea is to wrap them in cellophane. Or, you know, just eat it off a spoon…

I really enjoyed this class – again, all in French (some of it quite kitchen-technical) so it was stretching me not just in terms of vocabulary but also put me out of my culinary comfort zone. I would never have tried these recipes on my own at home but with the safety net of a Chef standing right there, it all seemed so do-able. So we’ll see how I go once I am back into my normal routine and have time to cook again. These look like they might be fun to try on a dark winter afternoon!

Congratulations to Fiona (not on Twitter and does not have a blog but a long time reader of this blog!) who won my Le Dolci macaron class giveaway.  For all those of you who entered, so sorry it wasn’t you but hey, you can always sign up at Le Dolci anyway!

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48 Responses to L’Atelier des Chefs, Paris: Les secrets de la confiserie

  1. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen August 24, 2011 at 07:33 #

    Love this post – sounds like it was a wonderful course! Great photos. I am looking at my sugar thermometer and thinking I should really make some soft caramel!

  2. penny aka jeroxie August 24, 2011 at 08:39 #

    Chefs always make it look easy until we try it ourselves.

  3. Curt August 24, 2011 at 09:09 #

    I’ve made candies a couple of times, and it was always a struggle. This looks very difficult indeed.

    Never stop learning, right?

  4. cat August 24, 2011 at 09:50 #

    i love making caramels at Christmas time and have experimented in recent years with sea salt, both in them and on them. a good caramel is a lovely thing. :) i am still intimidated by marshmallows, but perhaps this winter we’ll give them a try – would be a fun little hostess gift in the winter with some homemade cocoa mix, no?

  5. Val August 24, 2011 at 10:23 #

    What an excellent course for aspiring candy makers. Also thanks for the vital tip on buying a good candy thermometer

  6. Liz August 24, 2011 at 11:42 #

    If your suitcase seems extra heavy on your next trip, ignore it…it’s just me sneaking along on your adventures. What a marvelous class!

  7. RavieNomNoms August 24, 2011 at 13:34 #

    What a fantastic course! It looks like so much fun!

  8. claire @ the realistic nutritionist August 24, 2011 at 16:10 #

    What an incredible course!!! How fun!

  9. Dave at eRecipeCards August 24, 2011 at 18:26 #

    well, congrats to the winner (mummble mummble) but I thank you so much for all the detailed images. Daring to dream, sound like a sweet two hours!

  10. Mike@The Culinary Lens August 24, 2011 at 18:42 #

    A cool post. I cannot even imagine taking a class in a language other than English this is so impressive. Funnily enough the only French I do know is culinary.
    This is very interesting, so any things I’d like to try

  11. Emily @ Life on Food August 24, 2011 at 19:44 #

    I cannot think of a better way to spend my time in Paris. The pictures are fantastic!

  12. Fiona August 25, 2011 at 01:05 #

    Can’t wait for you to post your marshmallow recipe – they look delectable! Sweet making is so therapeutic – in the cooking as well as the eating!

  13. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 25, 2011 at 21:50 #

    I love to make homemade candy… I need to try those lollipops sometime. I have always been terrified of hard candy. I do love to make marshmallows, though. Yum!

  14. Stephanie - The Travel Chica August 26, 2011 at 07:23 #

    This looks so difficult to make. I’ll leave it to the experts.

  15. Ali B August 26, 2011 at 08:28 #

    What a beautiful post! You’re so lucky that you were able to take a class like this in France.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite September 7, 2011 at 13:44 #

      Thanks. It’s not difficult to organise and I had a little money stashed away for these classes.

  16. Jill@MadAboutMacarons August 26, 2011 at 08:30 #

    Great post, Mardi. What a fun looking course: particularly love the colour of these violet marshmallows and all the different shapes! As for the caramel, great idea just eating off the spoon. Who needs cellophane? ;-) Bravo.

  17. Kate@Diethood August 26, 2011 at 10:26 #

    The marshmallows look so pretty and fun!

  18. Kankana August 26, 2011 at 13:56 #

    i am not a huge chocolate fan or candy fan but i have always wanted to visit a candy factory or watch a chef making these in front of me. Lovely post and gorgeous photos.

  19. Vicki @ WITK August 27, 2011 at 21:31 #

    This sounds like it was such a fun class, your candies are great! And I totally agree with your french teachers, a good candy thermometer will get you far!

  20. Cathy/ShowFoodChef August 29, 2011 at 02:11 #

    Fun post and lucky YOU! It sounds like such a wonderful experience to me.

  21. Linda Polak August 29, 2011 at 14:23 #

    Mardi- you’re always making me drool. I want to eat caramel off a spoon, too! The marshmallows look so pretty- they’d be beautiful at Easter in all the spring pastels.

  22. Jen Laceda August 29, 2011 at 14:30 #

    Awww…i didn’t win :( But I’ll see you on September 30th anyway! I enrolled in your Macaron class at Le Dolci!!! Can’t wait!

  23. ck September 3, 2011 at 01:24 #

    I love this post and was so envious of your experiences. I loved reading them all, but was usually reading them in bed on my iPhone before going to sleep, which made commenting difficult, but made for happy dreams of macaron classes from Paris. I don’t have your experience or expertise, but I do love to make pistachio macaron, using the Italian meringue method. Fantastique! Thank you for sharing your experiences, for those of us unlikely to be ever in a position to do the same, it’s the next best thing :)

  24. A foodie February 26, 2013 at 12:59 #

    I am inspired! This experience sounds fantastic. Have you heard of similar classes taught in English? I would like to give it a go but my French is nowhere near good enough.

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