Essentiels de patisserie, Alessi

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Essentiels de patisserie, Alessi


Passe-moi la Maryse! 

For some time now I've been thinking about opening up the Encyclopaedia  Alessi to the world of pastry with some sort of important project, a big idea. So when matali contacted me to suggest a cake plate she had designed in collaboration with the Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé, I thought to myself, "Voilà. The perfect opportunity."

By now almost everyone knows that when we deal with specialised types of kitchen- or tableware, it's a general practice of ours to seek advice from, and collaborate with, some of the top professionals in the field: great chefs (from Chapel to Marchesi, from Troisgros to Ducasse), gastronomy experts (Alberto Gozzi), oil tasters (Lorenzo Piccione di Pianogrillo) and virtuosos of salt (Fabio Fassone). What most people still don't know, however, is that I usually get involved in these matters personally: a little bit because I'm a glutton myself and a little because it seems to me that without specific knowledge of what we're dealing with, I wouldn't be able to perform my role of design manager as well.

So in the cold, Parisian February of 2008, I decided to enrol in a pastry course conducted by Hermé at the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française "Ferrandi" on rue de l'Abbé Grégoire. It was a valuable, though thoroughly challenging, experience. You have no idea how difficult a pastry chef's job is! I gave it my all, learning many things that would later prove invaluable to successfully completing the projects presented here today. I must confess, however, that it didn't take long for my colleagues to realise that I, unlike all of them, was not a professional pastry chef: half-way through the first day, in the midst of frantic preparations, a 'classmate' on my left, the maitre pâtissier at the Metropole Hotel in Monte Carlo, ordered me to "Pass the Maryse!" I immediately panicked. There weren't any 'Marisas' around. Just two young Japanese confectioners who didn't really look like they'd answer to that name. What's more, I wouldn't even have known how to pass him one of my classmates. Moral: in confectioners' jargon, a "Maryse" is quite simply a spatula: long-handled with a flat silicone head at the end used for spreading creams on cakes and pastries and such. After a moment of embarrassment I was accepted into the group, even though from then on I was consigned to humbler tasks, like cleaning the floors or washing the utensils.

In the end, exhausted but proud, I passed through the gates of the school, diploma in hand from the Masters course of Haute Patisserie. And so, in this way I was able to collaborate more conscientiously and knowledgeably in the creation of the collection "Essentiel de pâtisserie".

It is hoped that, in the future, matali’s and Pierre’s collaboration with Alessi will lead to the design and production of other utensils: a Rolling Pin, a pastry chef’s Thermometer, Dessert Moulds and ... .

Alberto Alessi 2010

The designer and the pastry chef

In the present instance, it was two French people who hooked up: the designer matali crasset and the pastry chef Pierre Hermé. Their friendship goes back a long way. They have known and admired each other for many years and have shared a mutual passion for objects, design and rarities. It was from this friendship that the idea blossomed to devise a collection of utensils for making and serving pastries.

From utensil to essential

Regarding implements that aim at the essential, Pierre Hermé says: “In the pâtisserie the shape of an instrument derives from the use to which it is put. The upshot is not always very pleasing to the eye, but is quite simply functional. Now, what has always interested me about Matali, whose aesthetics I admire very much, are the links she creates between function and form. She does not make decorative items for the mere sake of it. Rather, she conceives objects by reflecting on their function and it is this which gives them their harmony”. To understand the mien and principal uses of pastry shop utensils, the designer observed pastry chefs at work in Pierre Hermé’s atelier. She studied this cosmos in minute detail, noting how everything, including gestures, proportions and deadlines, is precise and rigorous, while utensils are rational and extremely straightforward. “I decided to define a clear use scenario for each instrument”, explains Matali, “with the aim of maintaining the simplicity I had observed in the pâtisserie utensils. I therefore designed objects that are at once professional and munificent, by which I mean that they are also accessible even to non specialists”. This approach could not but seduce Pierre Hermé, who loves to make the art of pastries intelligible to a broad public. “Sometimes the pâtisserie is accused of being too intricate, whereas I love instruments such as these which help to make the skill accessible to everyone precisely by focusing on what is essential”.

Three utensils and a cake Plate

The Essentiel de pâtisserie collection consists of three indispensable instruments for the pastry chef’s “panoply” — the Cul-de-poule mixing bowl, the Whisk and the Spatula — and a Plate for serving cake.

The Cul-de-poule mixing bowl

The Cul-de-poule is a semi-spherical stainless steel container that comprises an amusing round bump which allows you to mix the ingredients in small quantities at first, in particular at the beginning of a recipe, hence before increasing the proportions to be mixed in the main container. “I began with a gesture, that of blending the ingredients, with the idea of devising a universal instrument that would allow you to avoid having to split the tasks excessively”, says Matali. “With two containers in one you no longer need to change the bowl, since the complete mixing operation is done in a single movement. The addition of the bump bottom can be seen as an analogy, in the sense that it represents a material that is transformed in the image of the ingredients, which themselves change state during amalgamation. I love the image of the pastry chef embracing the utensil with a gesture that is both fluid and carnal. In contact with the non-slip silicone, the movement is more distinct and effortless and you can use the bump as though it were a handle. Finally, by blending steel and silicone I sought to transform the professional universe of the pâtisserie into a more domestic one”.

The Whisk

This utensil combines two elements: a whisk with elastic wires and a corolla equipped with rigid wires wrapped in silicone. The corolla threads onto the handle and locks around the whisk in such a way as to rigidify the wires secured into the end of the handle itself. A silicone loop is placed on the end of the handle for hanging. It is thanks to the corolla that this Whisk can be used in two different ways. In the flexible version, i.e. without the corolla, it can be employed for light operations, such as beating egg whites. With the corolla, on the other hand, the utensil becomes more rigid and can be used for thicker blends such as creams and pastes. “Bestowing two distinct uses on the same instrument is a way of simplifying and rationalising the work of the pastry chef”, says Matali. “The design facilitates the fluidisation of two actions using only one utensil. I have tried to make it so that the transformation of this object is effortless, almost instinctive. I have utilised a type of very common bayonet locking and even here have combined the archetypal form of the whisk with a corolla of vegetal inspiration”.

The Spatula

The Spatula is the upshot of the fusion of a plastic spoon and a silicone blade. It therefore has two functions: the rigid part serves to mix the ingredients at the beginning, while the soft part allows you to finish a mixture and scrape the container empty. “This is a hybridisation”, says Matali. “We sometimes think that it is no longer possible to modify certain types of utensil which, over the course of many years, have become increasingly more essential, shedding all their contrivances. For this particular item the idea was to mingle a spatula with a spoon, hence to bring about mutation rather than evolution. It is the union of two materials, plastic and silicone, one soft, the other rigid. The two colours, cream for the spoon and orange for the silicone, have been chosen to make the distinct uses more legible”. 

The Cake plate

This Plate is used to serve a dessert or a cake. It consists of three parts: a round central section, one small ring and one large ring. The edges are chamfered to aid the insertion of one part into the other and to facilitate grip. The three melamine elements can be pieced together to form a single object, but can also be separated at any time, while their thickness means they can take on the features of a dense and compact support base. Each element has its own specific colour; brown, orange and cream. These show that the item is evolutionary and can be modulated. “This plate is a pedestal”, explains matali. “As a matter of fact it is there to put the spotlight on the cake, to show off the high quality pastries, and in this sense is an invitation to become a gourmet. It is a domestic object for everyday use. To serve two people, you can use the central part alone, for four you just add a ring and for even greater numbers there’s the second ring to hand. The idea came to me while I was pondering concentric circles in pastry making. In this case, too, the range of colours has been developed precisely to radiate a harmony that is both lively and stimulating”.




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