Google Analytics

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Three-Star Desserts

A few weeks ago, I saw an article in the local newspaper that said Philippe Rigollot, the pastry chef of the three-star restaurant Maison Pic was coming to Taipei for a cooking class at the Sherwood Hotel. While I am very interested to learn about cooking, I actually have never attended a cooking class. Maria offered to pay for the class as my birthday gift and I happily accepted. The price for the class was NT$2500 and included lunch at the Italian restaurant at the hotel.

Maison Pic is located in Valence, France, just south of Lyon. The chef at the restaurant is Anne-Sophie Pic whose grandfather was a 3-star chef, and so was her father. When her father passed away in 1992, the restaurant lost a star. In 2007 she regained the third star and is now one of the few female 3-star chefs in the world. Rigollot has been the pastry chef at Maison Pic since 2000. Besides the work at the restaurant, he was part of the team that won the pastry world championship in 2005. In 2007 he was awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France; he gets to wear the red, white, and blue stripes on the collar of his chef jacket. In short he is one of the best pastry chefs in the world.

The class was held at a banquette room on the second floor of the Hotel. There were roughly twenty or so participants. As we entered the room each of us was given a package with the recipes. We were also handed a chef jacket and an apron to put on, which was a bit strange because we were not going to do any cooking. We mainly just sat on the rows of chairs in front of a table and watched Rigollot prepare the desserts.

The theme of the class was chestnut because the class was partly sponsored by Imbert, a French brand that specializes in chestnut products. Rigollot demonstrated two recipes: macaron marron and tarte marron framboise.

I was eager to see how Rigollot makes the macarons. I have made them a few times but never with much success. My batter was always a bit too soft and runny and I could never get the right chewiness in the macarcon. Rigollot’s recipe uses TPT or tant pour tant, a mixture of equal parts almond powder and icing sugar. Instead of French Meringue he uses Italian Meringue, which is more stable. His batter was not runny, more a lava-like consistency. I was surprised to find that he didn’t use a baking tray, simply a silpat on oven baking racks. He piped the batter on to the silpat like a machine, fast and evenly.

After piping out the batter, he tapped the rack on the counter to release any air bubbles and let the macarons rest for around 15 minutes, then they went into the oven.

While the macarons were baking, Rigollot made the filling. This was relatively easy, just involved using the Imbert chestnut products and mixing them up for around 5 minutes on the stand mixer. When the macarons were ready, Rigollot piped the filling and made the sandwich cookies. To present the macarons, he placed them vertically on a thin sheet of chocolate, using a bit of chestnut paste as glue. He then put a small piece of chestnut on top of each macaron and also a little piece of gold leaf for brightness.

For the raspberry tart, Rigollot didn’t demonstrate the whole process from start to finish. I suppose the basic part of making a tart shell and the filling is relatively straightforward that it didn’t need to be shown. Rigollot first demonstrated how to make the confit framboise. He then showed how to make the mousse marron framboise. The ingredients were mixed and spread into a spherical mold to be chilled. He brought out some that were pre-made and chilled and then sprayed the balls with red food coloring. He then showed how to construct the tart by spreading the confit on the tart filling, placing the ball in the center, which was surrounded by a ring of fresh raspberry dusted with powdered sugar.

The tart was finished off with a small piece of chestnut and raspberry on the top and accented again by a small piece of gold leaf.

After the class was over, Rigollot chatted with the participants and took pictures with everyone. He signed the recipe for me. We were issued certificates for the completion of the class. Since he didn’t speak English, I had to resort to my broken French to ask some questions. He was very patient and very engaging.

Lunch took place at the Italian restaurant, Toscana, on the ground floor of the Hotel. Lunch consists of the antipasto/salad bar and a soup, followed by the two desserts that Rigollot made. The mouse on the raspberry tart was amazing, great texture and flavor. The macaron was textbook perfect with “foot”, a crust like rings on the flat sides in contact with the filling. The outer shell is thin like an eggshell with a soft meringue-like inside.

While this was an expensive way to spend three and half hours, it was a memorable experience. It was a pleasure to watch Rigollot work. He had great techniques, and I suspected he probably could do some of these things with his eyes closed. There was no extra motion, no dripping or splatter. It was very efficient and extremely clean. The way he constructed the dessert was very much like an artist about visual composition through different geometries, colors, and textures.

Now I just hope I can recreate the two desserts at home.


  1. when are you going to make them at home. would love to see and eat the final products!

  2. Hope you perfect your technique by the time I get to Taipei in a couple of weeks!

  3. Hi Michael. I'm coming home on the 26th of Sept. When r u planning to make some. They look soooo delicious!!

  4. let me know when you re-create them....