Franck Point, owner of the Faubourg Paris bakeries and cafés in Vancouver, says his cuisine begins with a long legacy. Some of his recipes have been passed down from his grandmother, and from her grandmother.
One of his specialties is macarons. Faubourg sells some 150,000 perfect macarons per year — “How do you make the macarons perfect?” a baker friend once asked Point (the two are amicable competitors for Vancouver’s baked-goods connoisseurs). Point replied, “I have a secret for you: the ones that aren’t perfect, we don’t sell.”
He tells us his criteria for the perfect macaron. The shape must be plumply curved, like a mushroom cap, not flat. The macaron must be perfectly toasted, a mere 30 seconds too long in the oven will land a macaron in the “not perfect” pile. The shell should be crisp, but the inside moist.
Faubourg’s gold standard extends beyond macarons to its many other treats, all imbued with a quintessential Frenchness. Last year, it sold 9,000 lemon tarts and 280,000 croissants, including cheese, plain, and pistachio flavours, to name a few of its goods.
“We make all of them by hand; we are very artisanal,” he says. One of Point’s greatest challenges was figuring out how to make French-quality food outside of France, with local Canadian ingredients.
Finding butter with high enough fat content was the first hurdle. He uses three types of butter: regular butter for soups, quiche, and sandwiches; a second one with more fat for pastries; and the most expensive, highest fat butter for croissants.
“That’s why they’re very rich,” he says.
Finding the right flour was even more difficult. In Canada, the wheat has a high gluten content, which makes the bread strong, not soft like French bread. Importing French flour for everything wasn’t the most practical solution, so Point flew a respected French chef to Vancouver who helped him develop a recipe that produces the French effect using Canadian flour.
“For me, food is the link between us,” he says. “Food brings all people together around the table, and you share the food as a gesture. In France, [as] in the Bible, you break the bread, and you share the bread.”
Polar Bear Cakes
By Chef Franck Point
Makes 8 polar bears.
For red velvet sponge cake: 1½ cups (186g) all-purpose flour / ⅔ teaspoon (3g) baking powder / ⅛ teaspoon (1g) baking soda / 1 pinch of salt / ½ teaspoon (2g) lemon juice / 3 tablespoons (15g) cocoa powder / 2 teaspoons (10g) red liquid food colouring / 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract / ¼ cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened / ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (116g) sugar / 1 egg / ⅓ cup (83g) buttermilk
For chocolate crémeux:
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon (93g) whipping cream / ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon (93g) milk / 2 tablespoons (37g) egg yolk (about ⅔ of an egg yolk) / 1½ tablespoons (18g) sugar / 1½ ounces (43g) melted 74 percent dark chocolate / 1¼ ounces (37g) melted milk chocolate
1 teaspoon (3g) gelatin
For passionfruit ganache:
2½ tablespoons (40g) passionfruit puree / 1 rounded teaspoon (5g) sugar / 1 tablespoon (22g) egg yolk / 2 tablespoons (28g) butter, softened / 2½ ounces (73g) melted white chocolate
For vanilla white-chocolate mousse: 1½ cups (72g) whipping cream / 2½ tablespoons (37g) milk / 1 tablespoon (20g) egg yolk / 2 teaspoons (8g) sugar / 1 rounded teaspoon (4g) gelatin / 5½ ounces (152g) white chocolate, melted / 1 cup (220g) whipped cream / 1 vanilla bean
You will also need white chocolate chips for the bear’s ears, and melted dark chocolate to draw on the bear’s features.
You’ll need a 13″x 9″ baking pan and two sizes of bowls to make the dome of the polar bear’s head. The larger bowl should be the size you’d like the polar bear’s head to be (approximately 7cm diameter). The smaller bowl should have a diameter approximately 4.5cm; if you don’t have a bowl that size, you can use an ice-cube tray. It will be used to make the filling inside the bear’s head. A candy thermometer is recommended.
Red velvet sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the lemon juice, cocoa powder, food colouring, and vanilla extract. Add the butter and sugar, using an electric mixer on medium speed to cream it until it’s light and fluffy.
Add the egg, beating with the mixer on low speed until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk, still mixing on low speed.
Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature, then cut a circle the same size as the rim of the larger bowl.
Bloom the gelatin powder by placing it in 2 tablespoons of cold water and leaving it until the water is absorbed. Bring the cream and milk to a boil, then remove from the stove. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar together, then pour slowly into the hot cream-and-milk mixture, while stirring. Stir in the gelatin. Pour this mixture over the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.
Pour the crémeux into the smaller “dome” bowl, filling about 3/4 of the space in the bowl. Leave the other 1/4 for the ganache, which you’ll add later.
Bring the passionfruit puree to a boil. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar together, then slowly pour into the puree, stirring. Simmer until reaching 175°F (using the candy thermometer). Pour this mixture over the melted chocolate. Add the butter and mix well.
Pour into the smaller “dome” bowl, adding to the chocolate crémeux until full. Freeze.
Vanilla white-chocolate mousse:
Bloom the gelatin in 2 tablespoons of water and set aside. Bring the cream, milk, and vanilla bean to a boil. Whisk in the egg yolk and sugar, then simmer until it reaches a temperature of 180°F. Add the gelatin and melted chocolate, and whisk together. Let cool to below 104°F. Fold in the whipped cream.
Pour into the larger “dome” bowl. Push the frozen crémeux/ganache into the centre. Freeze.
Place the large frozen dome on top of the red velvet sponge circle. Insert white-chocolate-chip “bear ears” into the head, with their flat bottoms facing the front. Pipe on melted dark chocolate for the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Serve cold (not frozen).
You can also make a hat for the bear out of marzipan, if desired.
By Chef Franck Point
For the raspberry crémeux: 1 cup (225g) raspberry coulis / 3 egg yolks / Scant ½ cup (85g) granulated sugar / 1½ sheets (or leaves) gelatin / ⅓ cup (85g) cold butter
For the buttercream: 1½ cups (240 grams) granulated sugar / ¼ cup (60ml) water / 1 tablespoon (15ml) corn syrup / 4 egg whites / 1 teaspoon (5ml) caramel extract / 1½ cups (360g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened
For the sponge cake: 4 eggs, room temperature / ⅔ cup (120g) granulated sugar / A pinch of salt / 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour / ⅓ cup (50g) potato starch / 5 tablespoons (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder
A candy thermometer is recommended.
Raspberry crémeux (done the day before):
Bloom the gelatin by placing sheets in about 1½ cups of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Heat the raspberry coulis in a pot. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar, then add the hot raspberry coulis. Place the mixture in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Keep stirring until it reaches 180°F (use a candy thermometer to check). Remove from heat. Squeeze gelatin to remove excess water and stir into raspberry mixture. Mix the cold butter with an immersion blender to cut it into small pieces, then stir into the mixture. Refrigerate overnight.
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and corn syrup to a boil. Simmer to about 244°F. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and the caramel extract. Whisk with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. The sugar and corn syrup mixture should now be the perfect warm temperature to pour over the egg whites. While pouring, avoid the beaters. Whisk constantly until the meringue forms stiff peaks. Add the butter, one or two cubes at a time, beating until the mixture is very creamy. Take care to scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is mixed together.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Beat the yolks and sugar vigorously until the mixture is light and fluffy and noticeably lighter in colour. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt, using an electric mixer on medium-high for 5 to 7 minutes, then gently add it to the yolk mixture. Add the flour, starch, and cocoa with a strainer or fine colander above the bowl. Mix gently.
Pour the mixture on the baking sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes. Set it aside to cool, placing a thick cloth over it to keep it from drying out. When the cake has cooled to room temperature, remove the cloth and turn the cake upside down onto a board. Carefully remove the parchment paper.
Spread the raspberry crémeux over the cake, then roll into a log. Use a spatula to spread the buttercream overtop of the Yule log, then decorate as desired.
Photography by Hugh Zhao