CRUSH CHATS TO Eric Lanlard
Award winning French master patissier and international baking star.
What is it about chocolate, and using it as an ingredient, that you love the most?
I love its versatility. It can be used for so many recipes and in so many different ways – it adds luxury and a bit of glamour to any dessert or cake. From the ubiquitous cupcake, a marble cake, a genoise sponge to an indulgent chocolate soufflé.
Your desserts are so exquisite to look at. Would you say that what you do is a form of art? What inspires you creatively when creating your desserts?
I am a creative person so, yes, so much of what we do in the kitchen, particularly for the private and corporate commission, is art. I take inspiration from many things. I love art and collect it – I like to travel so that can be influential, too. But for me no matter how beautiful a dessert or a cake looks, it has to taste as good.
You were a chef in the French Navy. What type of desserts did you conjure up then and was it difficult to get certain ingredients?
I was a chef on the top navy ship in France – the Jeanne D’Arc – so we had an incredible entertainment budget. We cooked for kings, queens and presidents as well as high-ranking diplomats. The chefs were the first people to get off the ship. We would go to the market and buy the freshest ingredients. It was an amazing experience and often I would have to adapt and be creative – ingredients were not the problem, it was the space and the heat in the kitchen. A bit problematic when it came to making chocolate Easter Eggs from scratch!
It has been said that you don’t have a sweet tooth – what is your favourite dessert?
My favourite dessert is one that I make at home and features in my Home Bake book – a pear tarte tatin. It’s simple and easy to prepare and delicious. I have a rule that when entertaining at home, I never bring desserts back from my professional kitchen.
Do you have any tips for working and creating with chocolate?
Know your chocolate – try to use a good quality chocolate with a maximum of 70% cocoa solids. I think anything higher than this can be too bitter. Avoid storing chocolate in the fridge but store in a cool, dark place away from spices and any foods with strong odours.
Can you remember the first dessert you ever made?
It was chocolate éclairs aged around six – it was an absolute disaster! I was far too ambitious. I knew that I wanted to be pastry chef from that age and was always experimenting at home. The breakthrough came when I realised that the key to successful baking is to follow the recipe and not to cut corners. That’s my number one tip – baking is a science, so it’s all about ensuring you have best quality ingredients, the correct quantities and that the oven is set at the right temperature.
You will be travelling to space in 2014. What first ever patisserie masterpiece will you be
making in space?
I will not be baking in space that’s for sure! The whole trip lasts two and half hours and we go just above the earth’s atmosphere – so thankfully I will be sitting tight and praying for a safe landing!
Do you draw inspiration from any other form of art when decorating your desserts?
From everything around me really – flowers, jewellery, fashion, film and travel.