An invitation came from Toulouse, France, to participate in the Coupe du Monde Chocolatine (CDMC) or the World Cup Chocolatine Championships from the organiser, Geraldine Laborde. I accepted the invitation and the challenge of the competition and used the invitation as a great reason to motivate me into top-level competition mode once more. I had not competed in over 25 years, but I decided to rise to the challenge and practised daily from April until the end of May. I travelled to Toulouse and enjoyed the company of Geraldine and her little dog Marvel. She brought me to the old city where she went to the hairdressers, and I went off with her dog Marvel to do some sightseeing. Toulouse is a beautiful old city with a massive square which houses the Townhall and many architecturally historic and important buildings. There is much to see and do in Toulouse, beautiful open-air spaces where one can dine alfresco, and people watch as well as century-old churches and a great choice of shops. We met up with some friends of Geraldine and later went for a meal and to a Scottish bar for a drink.
Geraldine took me to the centre of Toulouse, where the yellow jacket protesters were in full swing. ‘Robo-cop’-type police wearing full riot gear in the hundreds were also present, and the vans which had transported them to the city were parked as far as the eye could see. It was a surreal experience. I kept away from all the battles which were breaking out between police and protesters, and took refuge with Geraldine in the first floor of an Irish pub as water cannons and tear gas were used by the police. I witnessed many baton charges and could smell the sickly tear gas as it permeated the building. Outside was a warzone, and I wondered how long it would take to be safe to leave. Two hours later, after a light lunch, the crowds had dispersed, and we walked through the city. All the banks and multinational companies such as Burger King, McDonald’s and many others were closed and boarded up with wood. It was sad to see this, but the French, even back to revolution days been very vociferous about political matters and are prepared to fight for what they think is right.
The following morning, I went back to a local baker called David, who opened his production facility to some of the competitors. We prepared our doughs and ingredients for the world championship the day before the competition. It was at David’s bakery I met with fellow competitor Christophe Secondi from Corsica, and we hit it off as buddies straight away. Christophe would travel to Galway later in the year to visit me with his family. Having completed preparations for the event, all candidates were invited on a walking tour of Toulouse, and we even got to sample a special local delicacy of chocolatine ice cream. We all had dinner al fresco in a square off the main thoroughfare and got to chat and meet with members of the jury and other competitors. I returned early to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep and prepare for competition, the world championships beckoned, and I wanted to be on top of my game on the day. The Coupe du Monde Chocolatine is a true artisan competition. It tests one’s manual skills and abilities to the limit. Apart from mixing and ingredient preparation, all lamination, butter preparation, cutting and shaping has to be done by hand with a rolling pin, and mechanical lamination machines are not allowed. Very stringent rules regarding the quantity of dough and the baked weight of the pieces are strictly enforced, as well as each candidate being assigned a supervisor to ensure that all work was following the rules and to a very high level of hygiene and professionalism. Over 40 bakers from several nations competed on the day (in two shifts as there was limited equipment and space for all to work at the same time). I had rehearsed the production of my pastries many times and launched into my 4 allocated hours of production time. I finished with 10 minutes to spare, and was very pleased with my results. I would miss the tasting and marking by the 48-jury member panel and the prize-giving ceremony as I had to fly to the UK for some classes. I left for the airport in Toulouse and took the first leg of my flight to Brussels airport, where I decided to get a bite to eat. As I was eating my pasta in the restaurant, my phone rang, and it was Geraldine Laborde who called to inform me of my silver medal placing in the world championships. I was over the moon with excitement; I had not expected a podium finish. I was absolutely delighted with my result and felt joy, privilege and success had come my way. Here’s an outline of what I prepared that day.
The chocolatine classique is a masterpiece of French ingenuity and creativity. Also incorrectly known as pain au chocolat globally and in France, this viennoiserie is on a par with the croissant worldwide as an iconic French classic. It is enjoyed not only as a breakfast pastry globally but also, at any time of the day, as a sweet treat by millions of people. My recipe makes two dough heads at 700g, and adds 200g butter for lamination of each dough head. This recipe gives 2 x 12 pieces. I use the same base recipe for both doughs.
An external aspect includes the light crispy crumb combined with the natural brilliance of the egg wash on the hand-laminated butter pastry. The addition of malt to the dough accelerates the Maillard reaction during baking, giving a pleasing chestnut colour to the exterior crust and enhancing flavour. Finally, a layer of chocolate croissant dough highlights the flavour, colour and lamination in the inside honeycomb texture. The baked chocolatine is allowed to cool and is then carefully stencilled using a small sprinkle of icing sugar with a 4-leaf clover design for greater visual appeal.
Full recipe and more tips are available in my book, The Art of Lamination: Advanced Technical Laminated Pastry Production.