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Apple man’s core beliefs

Prime apple season is the perfect time to speak to the pastry chef Christophe Adam about his passion for baking with pommes

By the time he was sixteen years old, Christophe Adam knew that he would be a pastry chef. Born in Brittany, in the Cornouaille area, he received his basic training at the Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Le Grand in Quimper as soon as he had finished school.

Two years later, he was in London, in the pastry kitchen of the triple-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche restaurant. He had set out on his quest to master his niche of refined gastronomy.

Back in Paris, he worked at the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon with Christophe Felder, honing his art and becoming ever more demanding of himself. After a three-year stint with Laurent Jeannin, one of France’s most talented pastry chefs, he continued on to the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne to work as its pastry chef.

In December 1996 Adam moved to Fauchon, the Paris food emporium. There, he began asserting his individual style, his energy and creativity taking him to the position of head pastry chef in 2001. He overhauled the classic éclair, transforming it in a multitude of shapes and flavours.

When Fauchon opened its bakery in 2007, he was in the vanguard of the creation of le snacking chic: upmarket, easy-to-eat nibbles for people on the go. With Adam overseeing operations, Fauchon opened a string of stores in Monaco, Bordeaux, New York, Moscow, Beijing, Dubai, Tokyo, and Casablanca. After this fifteen-year adventure, Adam decided to embark on his own ambitious enterprise, focusing on new themes.

Discreet yet determined, he worked on a boutique focusing on a single genre. L’Eclair de Génie (literally, “a stroke of genius”) was born, with his first boutique opening in the Marais district in Paris. Here, he worked on his concept that included éclairs of all types, chocolate bars, spreads, and chocolate candies. There are six Eclair de Génie boutiques in Paris and a number of others spread throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kyoto, as well as Hong Kong and Seoul.

Adam has authored several books, including Éclairs, Tartelettes, Very Important Pots, L’Éclair de Génie, Caramel, and Workshop l’Éclair.

In collaboration with Christophe Michalak, another star on the French pastry scene, he founded the Club des Sucrés, a club that brings together chefs from the top echelons of French pastry-making so that they can exchange their savoir-faire.

Adam is also a member of the jury of the weekly TV show, Qui Sera le Prochain Grand Pâtissier? (Who’ll be the Next Great Pastry Chef?)

In addition, he is a commentator on Stéphane Bern’s weekly radio show, Comment Ca Va Bien!, where he reveals his chef’s secrets.

 

Why write a book about apples?

Mr Adam explains: “This cookbook is all about apples, nothing but apples, in every form and shape imaginable. In my recipes, I put this fruit through every transformation a pastry chef – and food lover – can imagine.

“Apples are the fruit most widely grown and consumed in the western world. The apple is also the basic fruit of every pastry chef, the one grandmothers and mothers turn to first when they bake for their loved ones. In fact, it’s the go-to fruit for most homemade tarts. Sad to say, the number of regional varieties has diminished, but there is still a wide range to choose from.

“You can select from those apples generally available in mainstream stores and the heirloom varieties you might stumble upon at a farmers’ market or while on a walk in the country.

“This book of apple recipes will open up new horizons to you for a familiar, appealing, easy-to-find, and easy-to-bake orchard fruit. We may think we know everything there is to know about apples, but there are surprises in store. The fascination grows when you learn that there are some twenty thousand varieties of apples around the world, each with its distinctive features and uses.

“There are dessert apples, cooking apples, apples for hard cider. Apples have varying degrees of crispness, softness, firmness, and juiciness; they are sweet or sour, or both. Their palette of colours ranges from grey to red, with hues of green, yellow, and orange. The recipes here include all the textures that the art of pastry- making can imbue: soft, crunchy, smooth, liquefied, or quite simply, crisp to the bite.

“I have included classic recipes such as apple upside-down cake in its well-known French version of Tarte Tatin, traditional apple pie, candy apples (pomme d’amour, “love apples” in French), apple cheesecake, and several types of tart, but I have extended the repertoire to create more unexpected recipes, both from home and abroad: a trompe l’oeil apple ice cube, peel tempura, apple gratin dauphinois, Hungarian apple soup.

“A few of France’s finest pastry chefs, like Christelle Brua, Laurent Jeannin, and Cédric Grolet have entrusted me with some of their secrets to share with you.”

 

Roasted Apple in Chestnut Milk

Apples and chestnuts are not often paired, but they make a fine duo, with chestnut honey adding a note that is rustic yet refined. All of the Pippin varieties, the Chantecler, and heirloom apples may be used for this recipe.

Serves 4
Ingredients

  • 4 Pippin apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g chestnut honey, or other richly flavoured honey
  • 125g almond flour
  • 80g butter
  • 10 fresh chestnuts
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 100ml whipping cream, 35% butterfat
  • 200g chestnut spread (crème de marrons)
  • Olive oil to taste

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Peel the apples and core them with a corer.

2. Whisk the eggs energetically with the honey to dissolve it completely.

3. Dip the apples into the egg-honey mixture and then roll them in the almond flour to coat.

4. Place the apples in an ovenproof dish and dot with a few knobs of butter.

5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size, until softened. You will need the oven at the same temperature to roast the chestnut chips.

 

For the chestnut chips

While the apples are baking, remove the outer shells of the chestnuts with a small kitchen knife. Blanch them in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes and drain.

When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin with the knife tip. Cut the chestnuts into slices about 1⁄8-inch (3-mm) thick and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until nicely browned, then remove.

 

For the chestnut milk

Bring the milk and cream to a boil and pour over the chestnut spread.

Whisk until combined and place each apple in the centre of a large bowl. Pour the chestnut milk around, drizzle with a little olive oil, and garnish with the chestnut chips.

 

Apple-Calvados Cake

A tart-tasting apple is ideal for this recipe: Belle de Boskoop, Reinette Grise du Canada, Granny Smith, or any tangy heirloom varieties you might be lucky to find or just go ahead and use your favourite.

Makes one 7 to 7½inch (18 to 20cm) cake for six (use a springform pan)

 

Ingredients

  • 2 large apples
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 30g butter
  • 3 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy

 

Batter

  • 80g almond paste, 52% almonds
  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 80g sugar
  • 11g baking powder (if you are using French sachets, 1 sachet)
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 20g butter for the pan

 

Topping

  • 80g lightly salted butter, well softened
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

 

Method for the apples

1.  Peel the apples and cut them into thick slices, then into small dice.

2.  Drizzle them with the lemon juice, tossing them well, so that they do not brown.

3.  Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the apple cubes for six minutes, until golden, stirring carefully from time to time. Pour in the Calvados and carefully flambé the contents of the skillet.

 

Method for the batter

1.  Cut the almond paste into small cubes. Sift the flour.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the sifted flour, sugar, and baking powder and beat just to combine. Add the eggs, one by one, then 1 tablespoon (20 ml) of the milk.

3.  When smooth, swap the paddle attachment for the whisk and pour in the remaining milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a scraper or flexible spatula to ensure that the milk is evenly incorporated. Whisk in the melted butter and stop when just combined.

4.  Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter the base and sides of the springform pan. Cut out a disk of parchment paper the same diameter, butter it, and place it, butter side up, at the base of the pan.

5.  Pour the batter into the pan, then arrange the apple cubes evenly over it, without pushing them down. Bake for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on the colour.

 

Method for the topping

When the cake is almost baked, combine the salted butter with the light brown sugar and cinnamon. As soon as the cake is done, spread this mixture over the top.

 

 

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