PASTRY ICON: The Opéra

The week of the Opéra at the Gentle gourmet Institute !

After a week of learning the building blocks of fine French pastries in our introduction to vegan pastry class, the second week sees our dedicated students producing some of the icons of French pâtisserie and one of them is the sophisticated and somewhat mysterious Opéra. The mystery stems from deciding who created this pastry , which was considered revolutionary in its combination of flavors and its sleek, minimalist design.

Although some claim that it appeared as early as 1899 and others that it was introduced at the Paris Culinary Exhibition in 1903, most everyone agrees that it was created by the head pastry chef Cyrique Gavillon  at the famous Maison Dalloyau in 1955. This still famous pastry house  has been  producing extraordinary pastries since its début in Versailles  in 1682 where they served the court of the sun king Louis XIV.  The actual name     “Opéra” seems to have been chosen by Gavillon’s wife  in honor of the French Opera house whose young dancers could  often found at their Paris boutique.

Dalloyau still makes a suprême Opéra – but what is eactly this pastry whose fame never seems to fade and why was it so revolutionary ?  This pastry is  one of the most technical in the classical pastry repertoire. There are six layers :: three layers  of  a joconde cake, each layer soaked  in a deep and rich coffee syrup. In between the first and second is a coffee butter cream, between the second and third a dark chocolate ganache and over the third again the coffee buttercream which is then topped with a sleek but not shiny chocolate glaze and a decoration of edible gold.

Despite the évident difficulty of putting this little masterpiece together,  from the examples of our students, one can see how deliciously possible it is !!

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