Star chef Jean-François Piège owns six restaurants in Paris and the Luberon region, and has been a judge on the French cooking show Top Chef for ten seasons. This year, he has partnered with Ladurée to design a collection of desserts for the holiday celebrations.
Adapting the signature dessert from Jean-François Piège’s double Michelin-star eatery Le Grand Restaurant in Paris into macarons and yule logs was quite a feat. With a lake of vanilla custard encased in a floating island, the Blanc Manger dessert is as fragile as it is elegant. “This is my Proustian madeleine,” says the Valence-born pastry chef. “As a child, I loved the floating islands coated with caramel my grandmother used to make. But she passed away before sharing the recipe. I have never been able to recreate this memory, and so I used the same ingredients to make a similar dessert.”
© Courtesy of Ladurée
His Blanc Manger is what made Jean-François Piège a celebrity — countless bloggers and amateur pastry chefs have since tried to reproduce his “inverted floating island.” More recently, Ladurée saw his creation as the ideal Christmas dessert on the theme of classicism. “We wanted to reconnect with our native French culture,” says Elisabeth Holder, president of Ladurée in the United States. “Jean-François Piège’s name immediately came to mind, and adapting his dessert was an obvious choice.”
Mission accomplished. The Blanc Manger macaron opens to reveal a caramel core, while the yule log — a sponge cake soaked in vanilla syrup and topped with a caramel mousse — is as light as expected. “We went even further,” says Jean-François Piège, who developed the dessert in collaboration with the Ladurée teams in Paris. “We added an opaline sugar tuile and a white chocolate flower on top. Now people can take home the delicate character of Blanc Manger: At the restaurant, people break it with a spoon to discover the liquid core.”
© Courtesy of Ladurée
Another dessert by Jean-François Piège inspired Ladurée this year: A creation made with baba cake — infused with saffron, rose, and clementine syrup instead of rum — served with a clementine sorbet and candied clementine pieces, and dusted with saffron-flavored sugar and rose petals. This triptych was adapted into macarons and a sweet cake. The roses were picked in Southern France, the clementines came from Corsica, and the saffron flowers were grown on the rooftops of Paris via an initiative from Bien Elevées, an “urban farming company.”
“I love the United States. There is an incredible diversity of ingredients here and the Santa Monica market is more than a match for the Parisian markets,” says Jean-François Piège. “However, just like Ladurée, I want to embody French culture in my cuisine. Enjoying one of my desserts, even if you buy it in New York or Los Angeles, is already a trip to France in itself!”