French chef and our very own Tour guide Gabriel Gaté chats to us on all things sweet and finally we find out whether he's cheese or chocolate once and for all.
Why are French pastries so darn good?
There is so much history with French desserts. Nowadays in France, pastry shops are extremely competitive. Pastry shops in the world have also become competitive - the bar has been raised. French pastry really is an art-form and what these chefs can do with chocolate, fruits, pastry and meringues is magnificent. Just look at the evolution of the macaron; it’s such a popular choice that comes in so many flavours and styles. They're not only delicious, they're also attractive to the eye.
Million dollar question... what's your all-time favourite French dessert?
This is often a young person's question because, if you ask a 12-year-old what’s their favourite dessert, they'll tell you - they know immediately. When you are older, you enjoy your desserts for different occasions - whether you enjoy them with your partner, in a group or on your own. That being said, there is something so beautiful about an apple tarte Tatin. Apple is a great fruit for dessert, anything with caramel is fabulous and with a crunchy pastry, well that is a bonus.
In three words describe your brand-new book So French, So Sweet.
Sharing sweet pleasures.
You have last minute guests... what is your go-to dessert?
I would go with crepes! We’ve always got milk, eggs, a little flour at home. Currently we have mandarins in our fruit bowl, so I would make crepes with mandarins. Or you could use any other seasonal fruits you have at home. Sometimes, I just make the crepe fresh, I spread the base with a teaspoon of marmalade or raspberry jam, put some slices of fruit in it and perhaps one teaspoon of whipped cream inside and then I fold it and serve with some vanilla ice-cream and dusted icing sugar to finish. You can caramelise it under the grill as another option but it works beautifully just as is. Get Gabriel's Brittany crepes with strawberries recipe right here.
How do you stay so French so lean?
If you don’t know my story, I’ve been a chef 46 years. When I was younger, there was a real revolution that if you are a chef and cook for someone, you feed them, nourish them and not go overboard. I love food and I will never refuse a slice of beautiful cake or a glass of champagne but I am not interested in six glasses of champagne or a very large piece of cake. I’m happy with moderation.
Is there anything you don’t eat?
I am not interested in a deep-fried Mars Bar.
How does Australia measure up to France when it comes to pastry?
Nowadays, there's so much to choose from. If we compare the traditional French bakery’s pastry with that of what we find here in Australia, I think the French have slightly more sophistication. That being said, Australia presents so many seasonal fruits. There are some very talented and very smart pastry chefs and with beautiful presentation and good quality produce, good quality chocolate, I think Australian pastries are getting closer and closer to the French.
You don’t have to be overly ambitious with your desserts because if it doesn’t work for you, it can be disappointing and desserts should never be that.
Does the butter shortage in France mean the end of pastry?
The thing with butter... let’s say if you buy a big piece of French cheese, the cheese would have aged, matured slowly, perhaps over a year or more. With butter, if you give me a little bit of fresh milk, I could make you a little bit of butter right now out of it. No, [the butter shortage in my opinion] it’s not like the aftermath of an earthquake. It doesn’t take long to make new butter and perhaps the current distribution is unbalanced - some pastry chefs aren’t able to access how much they would usually or what they would like. I can’t imagine this shortage will be lasting for a long time.
So French So Sweet – any recipe tips for the French pastry novice?
You don’t have to be overly ambitious with your desserts because if it doesn’t work for you, it can be disappointing and desserts should never be that. I think starting with crepes is simple and sweet. Even if they aren’t perfect in shape, they still taste incredible. I’m a fan of one-bowl mixing and preparing your cake tin and bake. Also in my book, I really focus on fresh fruits, fruit additions, fruit salads. Don’t forget that fruit can be an excellent dessert option. And if you are looking for something with a little more oomph, then my chocolate mousse is a must-make, must-eat.
Once and for all, are you cheese or chocolate?
At this stage of my life, if you put a cheese platter on one side and 10 chocolates on the other side, I will go for... cheese! Always so, so satisfying.
Tune in to Taste le Tour with Gabriel Gaté every night from Saturday 1 July 2017 on SBS and finishes 23 July 2017. Visit the Taste le Tour website to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes or find out more about the show.