This past winter Pat my wife and I were in Paris, France for 6-weeks, part vacation and part business. Sometimes the business part of the trip is more fun than the vacation part, at least for me! The reason; because it almost always includes food; sometimes talking with a chef, sometimes just trying different dishes, often trying to identify ingredients in the dish to reproduce it when we arrive home.
The most special part of business is when I get an opportunity to attend a cooking school or sometimes just lessons. Ferrandi, The French School of Culinary Arts offers some 5 and 10 day courses, but usually I confine myself to the 1 or 2 day events. This past trip I took 2 classes from La Cuisine Paris; the first was Le Croissant and Traditional Breakfast Pastries and the second was French Macaron Class, more on the topic of the French Macaron in a later post.
I want to apologize to Jane and her husband for taking so long to get this post on our Blog, but it was not because of desire it was because it took so long to get the Détrempe correct. This was not in anyway a reflection on the excellent instructions and expert guidance received in the class but more a short coming of the flours readily available here in the USA. I was determined to get this RIGHT before I got everyone excited about baking their own croissants.
The key to a good Détrempe is in the flour, you see in France they use what is called Type 55-flour, which is around 8.5-9.0% PROTEIN, however, the ash content of european flour is about 1.5% in the US it is much lower. Ash content has to do with the difference in processing and storage in different parts of the world.
But just what is this “non-flour matter”? “Mineral content” some sources will tell you, “material related to fiber” others say. Both of those terms are essentially true, if non-specific. “Ash” is really a catch-all term for all sorts of non-harmful, non-starch items and/or impurities in the flour, which range from the naturally-occurring minerals in the tissue of the wheat itself to pieces of wheat stalk, bits of dirt and flecks of stone, right up to things like insect parts and rodent hairs. What…disgusted? Don’t be, because American flours have all those things too (if you don’t believe me, read this sometime…just do yourself a favor and do it on an empty stomach). We just don’t like to talk about it, which — at least I theorize — is the reason we talk about things like protein levels and extraction rates instead.
So after much experimentation** and mixing flours I gave up! I began my search for a european like flour and came up with two sources: the first was L’Epicerie in NY, but I really do not need 50-lbs of flour, the second was King Arthur Flour in Vermont. King Arthur sells a European Style flour (11.7% protein) in 3-pound bags and you can order online. (I’ll include the resources at the end of the post)
Problem solved! Now I can make Croissants that look, and more importunely taste and texture just like the Croissants we made in class and very similar to those that you find around Paris. Just remember that every boulangerie and pâtisserie will have their own recipe and style.
So the bottom line is go to Paris and attend any of the classes at La Cuisine Paris, believe me you will learn a great deal, but when you get home you may have to do your homework and learn more that you ever wanted to learn about simple ingredients that we take for granted.
Yhe classes, the owners and the instructors are wonderful people and I highly recommend this school to anyone visiting Paris and those who wants to invests a few hours in there culinary education whether your in the business or not.
One word of caution, plan early because the classes fill up quickly.
** What you can do is try mixing some all-purpose (plain) flour into bread (strong) flour. Bread (strong) flour on its own is probably too strong for any French recipe. The highest protein content you’d want in a flour for French bread would be 12 to 12.5%, tops. You may also want to mix in some Fava Bean Flour (aka Broad Bean Flour), but only a very small amount: French flour has no more than 2% of Broad Bean Flour in it.)”
use this to get the % expressed as decimal
h = percentage of protein in the bread flour
l = percentage of protein in the all purpose flour
f = percentage of protein in the fava bean flour
H = amount of high protein flour (weight or volume doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent)
L = amount of low protein flour
F = amount of fava bean flour
A = target 10.5-11.5%
B = targer 0.5 – 1 %
C = final target 12-12.5%
H*(h – 0.10) + L*(l – 0.10) = A
F*(f – 0.10) = B
A + B = C
106 Ferris Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Toll free: 866-350-7575
Monday-Saturday: 9am-6pm – EST
King Arthur Flour Company
2 Fogg Farm
White River Jct., VT 05001