Amandine Finger (Le Cordon Bleu) talks about gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free pastry
Amandine Finger is a pastry chef and instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Madrid, she is French and she has been teaching students of the oldest and most important haute cuisine school in the world for four and a half years.
On this occasion, we talked with her about how the bakery has modified the basic recipe for butter and sugar by adapting to these “without” and vegan diets.
In the following lines we will know a little more about Amandine, the Le Cordon Bleu and about these challenges of the bakery and its evolution in line with good health.
By Fabiola Gálvez
Tell us, what part of France are you from?, and how is the bakery there?
I’m from Strasbourg, Alsace, north-eastern France, near Germany and Switzerland. We have a very traditional pastry culture, at breakfast, we have coffee and brioche or croissant, and at lunch, we usually eat dessert at the end.
How did you start in the world of baking?
When I was little I went to a bakery and I was fascinated by looking at the desserts. My first job was in a small bakery in a village, where everything became very traditional: bread, pastries and pâtisserie. Then I went to the pastry Relais Dessert international, that is, high-end, to learn a little more about the fineness and the demands.
I am 34 years old and in total 18 years of experience in the world of baking and I started to teach since 6 years ago
How is Le Cordon Bleu for those of us who are not chefs, that is, what particularities do you think the institute has that other schools do not offer?
The pastry training offered by Le Cordon Bleu is of a very high standard. The focus is on the technique and students’ skills development. The Pastry diploma is composed of certificates of three levels: Basic, Intermediate and Superior. It is an intensive and very comprehensive training of 9-month, although the certificates can be taken individually. We start with the most basic French techniques, we go through the techniques of modern pastry and we finish with signature pastry and artistic works made of sugar and chocolate, among others.
Personally, I see it very well because people are ready to work. We have a degree of demand that maybe other schools don’t have in Madrid.
On the subject of the pastry, how is the sugar handled?
You see that the food industry abused of sugar, and now the trend is less sugar or sweetener, nutritionists are beginning to be famous…
It is complicated to completely remove the sugar because the characteristics of the initial product will change: the texture, the flavor. Indeed, for me, the pastry of all life is made with butter in my culture, we could replace butter with margarine or oil.
Can it be substituted for another sweetener?
Yes, for example honey is more natural and helps the product to dry less,we use honey but we do not eliminate the sugar, we substitute one part for honey.
In INTERSICOP International Bakery, Pastry, Ice Cream and Coffee Show, you were presenting “Gluten-free design pastry”. Can you explain what this demo was about?
Every year we do a demonstration for Madrid Fusion on a subject that we can choose. INTERSICOP saw it very interesting and asked me to do this same demo. It is a brownie cake and a milk chocolate mousse infused with Earl Grey tea.
It is called “design” because it has a more elaborate image. I have done many gluten-free tests, but you can not remove wheat flour and put rice flour with the same measure, that is if the recipe has 100 grams of wheat flour can not be replaced and put the same amount for rice flour, because the characteristics will change, for example, the rice flour absorbs more and does not integrate, it melts and cracks.
Therefore, I use xanthan gum, which is a thickener but also gives a lot of elasticity, so when we do not have the gluten in flour, it does not fall apart, but we must be careful if we use a lot, because it can totally modify the recipe. What it does is help to improve the gluten-free texture and it is quite natural because it is the fermentation of corn starch by bacteria.
What flours do you recommend for gluten-free pastries?
Personally, I use a mixture of rice flour and cornflour that is corn starch, are two things that are easily found. Now, about the whole gluten-free topic, you find already prepared mixtures for this purpose, in the end it is a mixture prepared from different flours without gluten and with xanthan.
However, I generally do not use this, I prefer to make my own mix.
And in the case of vegan, how to replace eggs in baking?
There are many ways. My favorite one is the water that results from cooking chickpeas or flax seed, you will have a consistency very similar to egg but without much flavor. Besides, they are very easy to prepare.
We’ve talked a little about vegan, gluten-free, are they trends?
Of course, because there are a lot of people who have food intolerance or food allergy, I am lactose intolerant but I am lucky that there are pills that I can take for it, which can not be done with gluten.
I was able to prepare a vegan brioche with more than one satisfactory result, and I have shared it with my students to listen to their opinions, and they answer me: “if you do not tell me it is vegan I would not know it”, but in fact, a brioche with oil and without egg can not have the same taste, it is impossible, but we can achieve a result that didn’t exist before.
Would you say that chocolate is a trend in bakery?
It is not a trend, but we can do something very elaborate and very fine with chocolate. We use it a lot for decoration at institute because it is more appealing to the eye, it is a matter of taste.
How do you see the bakery in Spain?
There’s more to be done, but there is a good evolution, there is a lot of desire to learn, the process is on the right track.
In Barcelona, there is a lot of French pastry, in Madrid the most recognized are Moulin Chocolat, La Duquesita and Mama Framboise.
I put you in a bind. What is your favorite dessert, Amandine, and why?
I do not think I have a favorite dessert, because I like everything in the bakery, I am very sweet-toothed and that is why I have chosen this profession.
Thanks for the interview, Amandine. Without a doubt, the happiness of eating a dessert is still available for everyone, even if they follow a different diet.
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