Walking into Sandrine Pastry, one is unexpectedly transported from Kelowna’s laid-back wine country to a welcoming and elegant patisserie in Lyon. I gasped in disbelief that this level of French pastries existed in Canada, both fresh in ideas and authentically respectful of the deep history surrounding the craft. Sandrine makes a classic mille feuille she adopted while at one of the Grandes Maisons de Pâtisseries in Paris. She refuses to alter the recipe, and as with all things perfected through time, the recipe has earned the right to remain perfectly the same.
Here’s a peek into Sandrine’s entertaining style, melding French roots and a down-to-earth, Okanagan style.
What was the very first pastry you remember making?
When I was a child, my parents used to entertain a lot and I loved helping my mom prepare dessert, I enjoyed having my hands full of flour and butter. The first pastry I remember making by myself was a Tarte aux Mirabelles from a fruit tree in our garden.
You had a different career before pastries. Why did you decide to become a pastry chef?
I loved my job as a consultant for start-up businesses, but I missed the act of creating. When my husband and I decided to move to Canada, I started my training in pastry, both at school and with my family. I was lucky to have uncles and cousins as bakers, pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
The most rewarding kitchen lesson you’ve learnt?
How to delicately fold egg whites into a batter without over-mixing to keep their airy texture.
What are some favourite French Easter traditions from your childhood?
My favourite Easter treat is an eggshell (a real one) filled with almond and hazelnut praline: you crack the egg and inside is a wonderful tasty, slightly crunchy, mix of caramelized nuts and chocolate…my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
My uncle, being a chocolatier, gave me a huge chocolate figurine each Easter (at least one foot tall) filled with mini chocolates and Easter candies in the shape of fishes, hens, eggs and rabbits; traditional Easter symbols.
Describe your perfect party?
The perfect party is one where I can prepare most of the dinner ahead of time so I can enjoy my friends, food and wine. Our dinners are usually quite long and I like to feel relaxed, spending the time to eat, chat, laugh and drink.
Do you have a go-to make ahead menu?
For a make-ahead menu, I usually make a savoury petit four for the aperitif. I prepare them a day ahead and just pop them in the oven for 5 minutes and serve them warm. Oysters or Foie Gras for entrée, duck confit with green salad as a plat de resistance, cheese and dessert.
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
A spoon, to taste.
What is your favourite dessert to make for a party?
My favourite dessert to make at home is Iles flottantes (floating islands), vanilla crème anglaise with lightly sweet meringues poached in milk, drizzled with crunchy caramel; fresh, light, tasty, soft and crunchy at the same time.
Poached egg whites:
8 Egg whites
¼ cup of Sugar
1 liter of water
Boil the water. In the meantime, whisk the egg whites and sugar until firm peaks.
With a large spoon, form a ball (double of the size of an egg) and poach in the simmering water for 1 short minute on each side (you can flip the egg white with a slotted spoon).
Delicately from the water and place in a colander to drain. Repeat this with the remainder of the egg whites. You may find the egg mixture at the bottom of the bowl if this is not firm anymore, in which case you can discard.
Once all the egg whites are poached, place them in the fridge.
800 ml of Milk
1 vanilla pod
8 Egg yolks
¾ cup of Sugar
Bring the milk and the vanilla pod to a boil.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until slightly lighter. Slowly add the warm milk to the egg mixture while whisking, tempering it. Pour everything back in the pot and cook while whisking continuously to avoid the egg yolks to overcook at the bottom.
Warm the batter until it thickens (up to 84 degree Celsius or until it coats the spatula if you don’t have a thermometer). Pour the finished mixture in a large bowl immediately and stir for one more minute.
Place in the fridge to cool down.
½ cup of Sugar
2 tablespoon of Water
Place the sugar in a pot and pour water on top. Place on the stove on high heat and do not stir. The sugar will boil and then progressively darken in colour to become caramel.
While crème anglaise and poached egg whites should be done in the morning, it is best to do the caramel just before serving. While the sugar is boiling, place the poached egg whites on top of the crème anglaise (individual servings or family style in a large bowl).
Once the caramel is of an amber colour, drizzle right away on top of the egg whites. Voila, this is ready to serve!
Recipe for 6 to 8 people
What would be your advice to a host doesn’t have time to make dessert?
Crème brulee: it’s easy and fast to prepare and bake and uses simple ingredients (eggs, cream, vanilla and sugar). It can also be made one day ahead.
In a word, how do you want your guests to feel after an evening at your home?
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Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate