Conticini’s Vanilla Grand Cru

Homemade Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - One slice

Conticini’s Vanilla Grand Cru (Grand Cru Vanille) is the best vanilla-based entremet dessert I have ever tasted. It is pure perfection from a pastry master. If you love vanilla you have to taste Conticini’s creation. If you think you know how vanilla taste, wait until you try Conticini’s creation. If you dislike vanilla, take a leap of faith and Conticini’s creation might just change your mind 🙂

Like a great wine the first bite is powerful, almost orgasmic, yet it’s subtle, with different sub-flavors and textures. The lowest layer, a vanilla duja, is crispy but still melts in your mouth. Then comes a spongy and very soft vanilla biscuit which gives a foundation to the layer above: a black vanilla cremeux, visually intriguing and beautiful, followed by a delightful white chocolate vanilla flavored mousse. If you ever visit Paris, London, Kyoto or Osaka, make sure to visit Conticini’s La pĂątisserie des rĂȘves and do yourself a favor: try his Vanilla Grand Cru.

Unfortunately, his real recipe is still secret, but a french magazine named Fou de pĂątisserie published a version of it to the delight of many, french, bloggers. The recipe i’m posting here is mainly based on the last link, with some corrections and precisions about both the ingredients and how to get the best aesthetic result. I wanted this dessert to be perfect for Christmas, so I had a first go the week before, so that I could make adjustments for the D-day. After two pastry sessions the quantities are still not perfect though and you might have some left-overs, but I’ll refine them each time I make this recipe again.

As far as I know this is the first english version published, and you can find the recipe, conveniently ready to be printed, at the end of the post. But first, I’m going to give some preliminary tips about this recipe.

Which vanilla to use and how

Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille HomemadeThis entremet is all about the vanilla, so obviously if you have any respect for the recipe and your palate, you shouldn’t use vanilla extracts (which in my humble opinion doesn’t taste like real vanilla at all). After all, good food starts with good ingredients 🙂

Following this idea, I visited Roellinger’s spices store in Paris, which has a really great vanilla selection. Olivier Roellinger is a famous French cook who closed his Michelin 3-stars restaurant for his spices passion. Therefore, if there is one place where you can have good advice on spices, that’s his stores. I was very well helped, not by Roellinger himself obviously since he’s not living in Paris, but I could tell that the person who helped me liked good foods/ingredients, cooked, and knew what he was talking about from a first-hand experience as well.

For instance, I learned that you shouldn’t cook Tahiti’s vanilla insofar as it loses some of its flavor in the process. But I wanted to use Tahiti’s vanilla because of its powerful and distinct odor: some recipe adjustments were therefore needed for that.

In my first version:

  • for the white chocolate mousse I didn’t use any vanilla in the cremeux base, but I let one Raiatea Tahiti’s vanilla infuse with the cream during one night and used it for the Chantilly cream base in the recipe. That way the Tahiti’s vanilla was not cooked and its flavor was preserved.
  • for the remaining 3 layers I used Nouvelle CalĂ©donie’s vanilla. One bean for the crispy vanilla duja, one for the vanilla biscuit, and two for the black vanilla cremeux.

The Nouvelle CalĂ©donie’s vanilla is a rare and very flavorful vanilla (but really expensive too…). Furthermore, it has some cocoa flavor to it, but I might have used too much, and it was slightly bitter (really slightly, my test subjects didn’t have any issues with it and actually my grand mother loved the black cremeux which contained the most 😛 ).

Since that wasn’t what I was aiming for, trying to convey a warmer and “rounder” taste (dunno if “round taste” means anything to you, but I don’t know how to describe it, and violinist players might relate to the “round sound” analogy 🙂 ), I did some adjustments for my 2nd version:

  • for the white chocolate mousse, I still used Tahiti’s vanilla with the same process (nothing in the cremeux, but infusing the cream with the vanilla for the Chantilly cream), but this time I used a Tahaa Tahiti’s vanilla. I guess you have to try them both to decide which one you prefer, it’s hard to described so I’m going to use Roellinger’s word: I find Tahaa Tahiti’s vanilla indeed more sophisticated.
  • for the remaining 3 layers I used the Gourmet version of Madagascar’s north east antsirabe. 2 beans for each one of them.

Both version are good to be honest. But since I like to experiment, my next version will use the Madagascar gourmet north east antsirabe’s vanilla for the white chocolate mousse, the vanilla biscuit and the crispy vanilla duja, while using the Nouvelle CalĂ©donie’s vanilla for the black vanilla cremeux. Maybe I’m trying too hard… who knows but Mr. Conticini? I’d be very curious to know his real recipe for it. I’d happily accept anonymous tips if any insider wants to drop me an email 😉 (yes I’m that obsessed with this recipe)

Assembly tips

For my first try I followed other blogs linked earlier, but I wasn’t satisfied (aesthetically) with the end result. I therefore modified the assembly and you’ll find that the order is very important if you want to have a clean result with sharp and flat layers.

real Conticini's vanilla grand cru version
Real Conticini’s version

The trick to have very flat surfaces is to assemble the layers upside down on a perfect flat surface, e.g. a silicone mat. That’s why in this version of the recipe I put the black vanilla cremeux first while assembling the inside part. That way I’m sure I have a really flat transition from the black cremeux to the mousse. Likewise we start with the mousse at the bottom when doing the final assembly. This ensures to get a nice flat top.

The layer proportions are important as well for the balance of the entremet’s textures. As you can see on Conticini’s photo:

  • the mousse is 50% of the total height
  • the black vanilla cremeux is 12.5%
  • the vanilla biscuit is 25%
  • the crispy vanilla duja is 12.5%

So for the love of the pastry gods, please refrain from using everything you prepared and try your best to follow these proportions. Otherwise you might end up with something which we would call a cake, for the lack of enough white chocolate mousse, instead of the intended Conticini’s entremet.

Now if you pay attention to my own featured photo at the beginning, you can see I still made at least two mistakes:

  • the bottom side of the black vanilla cremeux isn’t perfectly flat unlike its top side. I should have put the vanilla biscuit upside down, using the biscuit’s flat side against the cremeux.
  • there is too much white chocolate mousse. It’s probably better to have too much white chocolate mouse than too much vanilla biscuit since most of the dessert’s taste comes from it, but still, I would have preferred to respect Conticini’s proportions.

I’ll be more careful next time. Practice, practice, practice…

Planning

To make thing simpler, I make this recipe over the course of 2 or 3 days:

  • the first day I make the black vanilla cremeux, the crispy vanilla duja, the vanilla biscuit, assemble them and let it rest in the freezer for the night
  • the 2nd day I make the white chocolate mousse, do the final assembly and put it back in the freezer
  • either on the same day after about 4-5h in the freezer, or in the morning of the day I need the dessert, I apply the velvet/velours finish and let it rest in the fridge for at least 4h (it needs to unfreeze)

Dont be afraid, it might be a little bit time consuming but it isn’t that hard to make. Anyway, enough, now the recipe!

 

Conticini's Vanilla Grand Cru
Conticini's Vanilla Grand Cru
Print Recipe
Simply the best vanilla entremet dessert ever
Servings
16 slices
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings
16 slices
Cook Time
20 minutes
Conticini's Vanilla Grand Cru
Conticini's Vanilla Grand Cru
Print Recipe
Simply the best vanilla entremet dessert ever
Servings
16 slices
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings
16 slices
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Black Vanilla Cremeux
Crispy Vanilla Duja
Vanilla Biscuit
White Chocolate Mousse (cremeux base)
White Chocolate Mousse (pĂąte Ă  bombe)
White Chocolate Mousse (whipped cream)
  • 351 g cream (at leat 30% fat, 35% is better, very cold)
  • 1 bean vanilla (optional Tahiti's vanilla, see the blog post for details)
White Velvet/Velours
Servings: slices
Instructions
Black Vanilla Cremeux
  1. Put the gelatin in cold water, stir and put aside
  2. Split the vanilla pods in half, using the unsharpened side of a knife extract the vanilla seeds and put them in the milk and cream along with the pods as well
  3. Bring to a boil, and let it infuse at room temperature for at least 10min (but per Conticini's book recommendations, 1h is best)
  4. Bring it back to a boil
  5. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow
  6. While whisking energetically add 2/3 of the boiling liquid , put everything back together and bring it to 83-84°C (182°F) while stirring at all time with a wooden or silicone spoon using an 8 figure to make sure it doesn't stick. (Obviously if you have a Kenwood Cooking Chef, this part is much easier)
  7. Add the gelatin, making sure it dissolves properly
  8. Pour this creamy liquid while still very hot, through a sieve, onto the white chocolate.
  9. Blend using a long neck blender
  10. Add the black powdered food coloring, and continue to mix until well blended
  11. Put aside in the fridge till cold
Crispy Vanilla Duja
  1. Blend the blanched almonds with the icing sugar until it becomes like an almond paste
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Almond paste
  2. Melt the white chocolate with the butter over a bain-marie
  3. Still over the bain marie, add the salt and the vanilla seeds, putting aside the unused pots, and stir until well mixed
  4. Add the almond paste, the feuilletine and stir carefully
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Duja dough
  5. Roll the dough between two parchment papers, about 2-3mm thick
  6. Cut it with a 22x22cm square dessert frame and put it in the fridge to harden it on a flat surface
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Duja square
Vanilla Biscuit
  1. Whisk the 135g egg whites at medium speed, adding a few drop of lemons
  2. When the foam is forming, add the 15g brown sugar to stiffen the whites until soft peaks form, and put aside
  3. Mix the almond flour, the brown sugar, the egg whites and yolks, the vanilla seeds (again put aside the unused pots), the cream, the sugar, the salt, and the melted butter still warm (so everything but the flour and baking powder)
  4. Add 1/3 of the whisked egg whites and mix
  5. Add the flour and the baking powder through a sieve and mix
  6. Add the remaining of the whisked egg whites, mixing gently to have a foamy preparation
  7. Pour in a 22x22cm dessert frame on a silicone mat and bake at 170°C/335°F for about 20min (until a knife tip stays clean when piercing the cake)
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Cooked biscuit
Inner assembly
  1. Apply a colloid strip inside the 22x22cm dessert frame (this will help to unmold once frozen)
  2. Using the 22x22cm dessert frame on a silicone mat, pour the black vanilla cremeux and level with a spatula as best as you can
  3. Triming the thickness if necessary first, layer the vanilla biscuit/cake on top of it, the biscuit's flat side facing downward
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Biscuit layer
  4. Likewise, layer the crispy vanilla duja on top of the vanilla biscuit. Be careful, the duja is very fragile. If it doesn't fit perfectly, don't force it. You can use a peeler or a knife to trim the sides slightly until it fits.
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Duja layer
  5. Put it in the freezer
White Chocolate Mousse (cremeux base)
  1. Make a cremeux using the same technique than for the black vanilla cremeux (except there's no sugar this time). If you want, you can use the unused vanilla pots put aside during the other preparations.
White Chocolate Mousse (pĂąte Ă  bombe)
  1. Mix all the ingredients over a bain-marie until it reaches 70°C/160°F
  2. Whisk/beat it at medium speed until cold
White Chocolate Mousse (whipped cream)
  1. Remove the vanilla pot if you used a Tahiti's vanilla
  2. Put the cream and your metal (balloon) whisk attachment in the freezer for 15min, and if you can the bowl as well (or put it somewhere cold)
  3. Increasing the speed every 30s, whisk the cream into a Chantilly cream. This won't work if the cream is not cold enough, or if you don't have a 30-35% fat cream. Furthermore, apparently UHT cream doesn't work that well either.
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Chantilly cream
White Chocolate Mousse
  1. Mix the cremeux and the pĂąte Ă  bombe
  2. Gently mix in the Chantilly cream
Entremet Assembly
  1. Apply a colloid strip inside the 24x24x3.5cm dessert frame (this will help to unmold once frozen) and put it on a silicone mat
  2. Pour the white chocolate mouse
  3. Unmold the inside layers (black vanilla cremeux+vanilla biscuit+cripy vanilla duja). You can use a spatula to help separating the colloid from the frame
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Inner layers
  4. With the black vanilla cremeux facing downward, layer it carefully in the center on top of the white chocolate mousse (the crispy vanilla duja should therefore be facing up)
  5. Press on it gently and evenly until the mousse fills the sides and levels with the crispy vanilla duja
  6. You can use a spatula to properly level the mouse
    Conticini's Grand Cru Vanille - Assembled entremet
  7. Put everything in the freezer for at least 4h
Velours/velvet finish
  1. Stir the titanium dioxide with the cocoa butter and the white chocolate. This is important to do that before melting, otherwise you can have annoying lumps
  2. Melt everything over a bain-marie. You'll need to use it at 30-35°C/86-95°F
  3. To be extra-careful, you can filter it through a fine siever
  4. Unmold the frozen entremet. You can use a spatula to help separating the colloid from the frame
  5. Make sure to protect everything around, because it's going to be messy 😉
  6. Using a paint sprayer with the melted preparation and spray over the frozen entremet on all sides
  7. Put it into the fridge to let the entremet unfreeze and VoilĂ , enjoy!
Share this Recipe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.