13 Oct. 2016
Both carried by the same passion for their trade, Thierry Mulhaupt, pastry chef, and Philippe Traber, master distiller, share the same fondness for fruits.
The former reveals them in his “tartes folles”, the latter makes them immortal in his eaux-de-vie. An encounter at the heart of Alsace, in a country of sweet tradition and orchards.
On the backroom of Thierry Gilg’s laboratory, the two start their tasting session with eyes rivetted to the transparent liquid. The glasses are tilted and brought to the nose. A few inhalations. Silence. Concentration is installed and senses informed. The exchange may begin, following the rules of the art.
Tasting an eau-de-vie should be done at cellar temperature, around 15 °C (60 °F). As Philippe just arrived from the distillery, glasses have been put in the freezer to compensate for the warming during transport. “The bottle must not be put in the freezer, he warns, as cold kills aromas.” Eau-de-vie is to be tasted before or after a meal, or with a dessert, never with coffee, of which acidity irritates the palate, making the water of fire sour. We are before coffee and at the time of dessert, the ideal moment.
“Selection of fruits is essential. They must be selected with care” explains Philippe, who selects them at the four corners of the world. “We then lay them by hand in fermentation or maceration tanks, not to damage them. Fermentation is natural, with no addition of sugar or yeast.”
Thierry also selects his fruits with great care. “We prefer local fruits from the terroir. End of August brings us mirabelles, damsons from Alsace and apples. First and foremost, the pastry chef works with pickers who supply him with wild fruits: blackberries, blueberries from the Vosges, rosehips, not to forget fruits grown around his laboratory, on a field of 20 ares. “In the morning, we pick small quantities of raspberries, blackerries and cherries. The fruits are solely used for the decoration of cakes.” As for the art of assembly, the chef follows the same procedure as for good wines, thinking of notes and their evolution through the various combinations.
And for Pastry?
To come back to our “water of fire” Thierry explains: “Today, eau-de-vie is used in pastry to fix aromas and enhance flavour. The addition of a bit of eau-de-vie is not necessarily felt when tasting, but it allows to fix the aromas, like with a few drops of raspberry eau-de-vie on a raspberry Chantilly.” Over the last few years, the tendency has been not to promote the alcohol in a cake. To the contrary, with the exception of traditional pastry associated with alcohol, such as the Forêt-noire, with kirsch, which remains a classic, or chocolate, as the tradition goes.
Thierry never adds alcohol to his yule logs, therefore, except for the minimum authorised proportion of 1%, which does not have to be mentioned. In private, however, he likes to add a bit of alcohol, like in his coffee yule log, which he enhances with cognac.
Whatever the case, the tendency is towards sprays, both friendly and playful, as Thierry calls them. They are part of the composition of the flavours of a dish, thanks to their bursting molecules, which immediately reveal their aromas. “They are perfect with light, airy and porous textures, which better absorb the dropleys of eau-de-vie, like in a faisselle, for instance, topped with Chantilly and cherries, be it natural or in syrup.”
An ideal ingredient to be used incidentaly, when you feel like it, in cooking or on desserts, even hot ones. “Panned strawberries and fruit soufflés can be enhanced; on an exotic fruit gratin, for instance, I recommend a spray of ginger eau-de-vie. ”
Nothing works better to awaken the palate as everyone is free to choose both flavour and quantity.
Some Storing Advice
By Philippe Traber
A bottle of eau-de-vie should be handled with care, like a good wine, with the knowledge that, once opened, you will have two years to drink it. A reasonable timeline, don’t you think?
Once your guests have been served, the bottle is to be closed immediately! Avoid leaving it opened on the table by all means!
To store and preserve the aromas of an eau-de-vie, keep the bottle straight, and away from light to avoid the development of too much acidity…
Keep fresh by all means, in the celkar, on the ground rather than near the ceiling, or in a wine cellar.
4 fetish agreements of Thierry Mulhaupt
1- Raspberry eau-de-vie and raspberry dessert or chocolate-raspberry ganache
2- Old prune or pear and black ganache
3- Hazelnut eau-de-vie and Tarte Tatin
4- Tones-on-tones: mirabelle tart and mirabelle eau-de-vie, damsom tart and damsom eau-de-vie.