Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier set the bar high for hoteliers and restaurateurs who followed them.
Thanks to Michel Roth, the chef at Ritz Paris for past decade, we are invited to celebrate the hotel's rich history with Ritz Paris (Flammarion) released on October 25, 2011.
In addition to Michel Roth recipes, in opening pages of Ritz Paris Jean-Francois Mesplede, former director of Michelin Guide- France, sheds light on the main actors in this story, starting with Cesar Ritz then the Cesar Ritz-Escoffier partnership and concluding with Michel Roth.
He opens his introduction to Cesar Ritz with these words by a certain Monsieur Escher, Ritz first employer when he was 13:
"You'll never come to anything in the hotel business. For that, you need talent amd special flair. And I have to tell you, you don't have either."
To open a door on Ritz Paris culinary world, I had to start with a plaisir gourmand, a favorite pastry.
Vanilla Mille-Feuille, Ritz-Style
1 generous cup (3 ½ oz./100 g) cake flour
3 sticks (12 1⁄3oz./350 g) butter, minimum 82-percent butterfat
½ cup minus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) cold water
1 ½ teaspoons (7 g) sel de Guérande
7 oz. (200 g) stoneground organic flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (1 oz./25 g) melted butter
½ vanilla bean, ½ cup minus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) milk
2 teaspoons (10 g) butter, 1 egg yolk
1 ½ tablespoons (20 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (10 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) cake flour
5 sheets (10 g) gelatin (see page 2)
½ cup (120 ml) whipping cream
A day ahead, prepare a beurre manié: use the dough hook of your mixer to combine the cake flour
and the butter. Spread out the beurre manié to form a square. Cover with waxed paper, and chill. To make the détrempe (the dough before the butter is incorporated): still using the dough hook, combine the water and salt, and then the flour with the melted butter. Do not overmix. Cover in plastic wrap, and chill.
The next day, envelope the détrempe (the second mixture) within the first (the beurre manié). Roll out, and fold over twice. Leave to rest. An hour and a half later, roll and fold two more times. An hour and a half later, repeat.
An hour and a half later, roll out the dough to make an even sheet of puff pastry (less than 1/16th in./2 mm thick). Place this sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of waxed paper on a baking sheet. Set a wire rack over it, and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden color.
When done, cut out 12 rectangles, 6 x 1 and 1⁄3 in. (15 x 3.5 cm). Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar
through a small strainer, and bake at 465°F (240 °C) for 2-to-3 minutes to caramelize the pastry. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Scrape out the vanilla seeds into the milk, and bring the milk and butter, with the vanilla seeds and
bean, to a boil. Whip the egg yolk with the sugar until pale and thick. Add the cornstarch and flour. Mix again until smooth. Pour the boiling milk over the egg mixture; then return mixture to the saucepan, and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and add the gelatin, whisking so that no lumps form. Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry dish. Cover with plastic wrap flush with the surface, removing any air bubbles, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. When the pastry cream is cool, transfer it to a bowl, and whip again until perfectly smooth.
Beat the whipping cream, and carefully fold it into the vanilla pastry cream. Chill until needed.
To assemble the mille-feuille
Spoon the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-in. (12-mm) tip, and pipe out two lines onto a rectangle of caramelized pastry. Repeat the procedure a second time, and sandwich four layers together. Top with a layer of puff pastry.
(* Vanilla Mille Feuille recipe from Ritz Paris released by Flammarion on October 25, 2011, recipes by Michel Roth, text by Jean-Francois Mesplede, photography by Grant Symon....Reproduced by permission of the publisher, all rights reserved)