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Frenchness

Croissant Critique: Verzênay Pâtisserie

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Welcome to the fifth installment of our Croissant Critique series! Our team took a trip to Verzenay—not the town in north-east France, but Verzênay Pâtisserie in Lincoln Park! Pâtissière and owner Arshiya Farheen opened the bakery after studying French culinary arts in Paris, and thanks to her delicious skills, you can find the treats from Verzênay at the Green City Market, and in hotels, coffee shops, and about 15 Whole Foods stores. We just had to see what all the hype was about!

We rated each pastry based on six different factors: flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they look), and whether they’re more traditional or innovative. Sound tasty? Allons-y !

Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

Chocolate Croissant

How gorgeous is this pain au chocolat ?! It tasted just as great as it looked! The texture was fantastic – super flaky while preserving the butteriness that we need in a good croissant. It wasn’t an overload of chocolate, but just enough to give a lovely mocha flavor throughout. What makes this croissant perfect for a sweet tooth is the unexpected caramelization on top! The sweetness on top makes it taste a bit like a dessert, but if you want dessert for breakfast, we’d never blame you! With a beautiful and sleek presentation, Verzênay’s chocolate croissant is one of the best we’ve had in our 5 critiques!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 8/10
  • Butteriness: 8/10
  • Lamination: 10/10
  • Presentation: 10/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional, with a modern presentation

Classic Croissant

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or want something a little more classic for your petit déjeuner, we recommend this fantastic plain croissant. We loved the texture: very buttery and moist on the inside, but with a satisfying flaky crunch on the outside. It’s the perfect size for breakfast or a snack – not too big or too small – and with a beautiful golden color on top, this is truly a wonderful and authentic croissant!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 7/10
  • Butteriness: 9/10
  • Lamination: 8/10
  • Presentation: 8/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Pecan Almond Croissant

Here, we started branching into the more innovative treats at Verzênay. This almond croissant brings in a deliciously complementary pecan flavor for those who love an extra nutty taste! The bites with the almond slices were especially divine, and with its understated sweetness, this more crunchy pastry pairs very well with coffee!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 8/10
  • Butteriness: 6/10
  • Lamination: 5/10
  • Presentation: 7.5/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional, but with the fun addition of pecans

Raspberry Rose Croissant

If you’re living for the floral flavor trend, this croissant is calling your name! The first thing you notice with the raspberry rose croissant is how beautiful it is. With a tortoise-shell-like complexion, a strip of sugary goodness, and an edible flower petal, it’s the most photogenic croissant we’ve ever had!

But let’s stay on topic… onto the flavor. The raspberry filling throughout reminded us of a jelly donut in croissant form, but the balance between flaky and buttery gave us the traditional texture we’re always looking for. As for the rose flavor: you definitely have to like rose to enjoy this croissant, but we thought it complemented the classic flavors without overpowering them. It all depends on your preferences: our croissant critic who prefers less sweet pastries could have gone without the fondant-like strip on top, but the sweet-tooth critic wants the taste of this croissant in a candle!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 9/10, if you like rose flavor
  • Butteriness: 6.5/10
  • Lamination: 7/10
  • Presentation: 10/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: innovative

Take our word for it: Verzênay Pâtisserie’s croissants are as tasty as they are beautiful! Swing by the bakery at 2507 N Lincoln Ave to take advantage of this gem in Lincoln Park!

Thank you for joining us on our third Croissant Critique! For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events. We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Bastille Day Trifle with Chef Marc Sievers

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Let’s celebrate Bastille day with a fabulous trifle!

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)

  • Pound Cake – store-bought, sliced ½-inch thick
  • Framboise – ½ cup, divided
  • Raspberry Preserves – 12 ounces, Bonne Maman recommended
  • Blackberries – 12 ounces, divided
  • Raspberries – 12 ounces, divided
  • Blueberries – 12 ounces, divided
  • Strawberries – 8 ounces, ¾-inch diced
  • Heavy Cream – 1 quart, very cold
  • Lemon Zest – 1 large lemon
  • Sugar – 1 tablespoon, granulated
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Lemon Curd – 13 ounces, store-bought, Bonne Maman recommended

Directions

Using ¼ cup of framboise, evenly drizzle one cut side of each slice of pound cake.  Evenly spread the preserves onto the same cut side of each slice.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add six ounces of blackberries and six ounces raspberries.  Using a dinner fork, gently smash the berries.  Add six ounces of blueberries, the cut strawberries, and remaining ¼ cup of framboise and stir together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, lemon zest, sugar, and salt.  Cover the mixer with a clean kitchen towel (to prevent the cream from splattering everywhere!), and gradually raise the speed to high.  Whip for 45 seconds, or until the cream forms soft peaks.

In a small bowl, add the lemon curd and 1 cup of the whipped cream.  Stir together, then gently fold the mixture into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the trifle, spoon a layer of the lemon whipped cream into a large glass bowl.  Add a layer of pound cake, breaking the slices into pieces to fit.  Then add a layer of berries and their juices.  Continue to make 2 more layers, finishing with a layer of lemon whipped cream. 

Dress the top of the trifle with the remaining raspberries and blueberries to resemble the French flag.  Serve within 30 minutes.

Kitchen Tip: If you want to make your own pound cake, here is my recipe for Lemon Pound Cake.  The recipe makes two; one for now and one for breakfast during the week!

If you would like to get a signed copy of Marc Siever’s cookbook, click here.

To find out what else is happening at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago for Bastille Day, click here.

Take part in the Bastille Day new membership exclusive! Make sure to check here for the deal which will only last from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on today!

Tartiflette Recipe

By | Frenchness, Recommendation | 2 Comments

By Conery Hoffman

Food is always on the top of my list when traveling and some of my favorite memories include what was on the menu. During college, I spent a weekend in Manigod, a commune located in eastern France. While speaking with a friend about visiting this area, memories from long ago came flooding back of a rather simple, hearty dish made of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions that is eaten – and celebrated – in the Alps. It turned out my friend is from this area of France and is also quite the tartiflette master. You can imagine what happened next. I asked him to make it.

In 2015 on a crisp winter day, we decided to hold a dinner for 10 and dubbed it fête de la tartiflette. Who knew a regional dish of no significance at the time, from so many years ago, would become an important part of our lives. We now host this fête annually, which has turned out to be an extremely lively, and a little boozy, fun party. To learn how to make tartiflette, check out this video clip and when everyone is able to gather once again, invite your good friends and family over, pour some crisp Aprémont, put on some dance music and conjure up the Alps!

Note: Réblochon is unavailable in the U.S. It doesn’t fit the FDA’s pasteurization guidelines -substitute w/raclette.

Some more Frenchness in your life

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Needing a little more French in your life right now? 

We created a couple of photos that you can use as your screensaver, Zoom background or Microsoft team background that help you share the love of all things French. 

How to use our backgrounds:

Download your favorite images by clicking on them and saving them, then choose your image.

Here is the guide on how to add a Zoom Background.

Here is the guide on how to add a background on Microsoft Teams.

We can’t wait to see them in events, your French classes, or hear how you are using them at home. 

Want more French? 
Check out our upcoming events or check out our French classes.

Château de Chambord
Paris
The Eiffel Tower
Nice, France
The Alliance Française de Chicago
Inside of the Alliance Française de Chicago