Nancy Passions Sucrées

Alain Batt Chocolates

Conversation with Stéphane Batt – Chocolatier and candymaker

Stéphane Batt has been a chocolatier since 1985. He comes from a long line of pastry chefs that are well known in the region. His father Alain came to Nancy in 1974. The chocolate adventure of the Maison Batt began in 1985, when Alain Batt bought an old 19th-century industrial building near the canal for his chocolate workshop (the site on Rue du Tapis Vert is open to visitors and used for demonstrations). Ever since, the Maison Batt has continued to grow and expand, opening new shops in France and exporting to international markets. But the quality and the care given to the products have remained exceptional. The famous Marquises of Lorraine are made by hand, one by one, much to the delight of customers.

 

NANCY PASSIONS SUCRÉES SPECIALITIES

  • The Macaron
  • The Baba
  • The Marquise candy

“A skilled hand is something that can’t be taught. A spot-on recipe that works every time only comes from experience.”

 

Why did you choose this profession and what was most appealing to you?

I inherited it in a way. My parents have been in the business for a very long time, so I was born into it. When I was old enough to choose my own path, I turned to a profession that I knew, my father’s trade, who worked in pastry-making and chocolate.

How did you learn your skills?

I did my apprenticeship with my uncle, who is a pastry chef and a part of the Relais Dessert de France network.
Along his side, I learned good recipes and the correct skills. I finished school in the top 10 out of 250 students. Soon after, my father opened a chocolate shop. He put his name on it, because he had become well-known in Nancy over the previous 10 years. I made all the chocolates at the time.

How long did it take you to perfect your craft?

Macarons: Nancy Macarons are made using an ancestral recipe. The skill of hand is quite simple, because you just have to squeeze a pastry bag. There’s nothing really complicated about it. But you have to dose just the right amount of macaron dough on the baking sheet.

Baba: the skill of hand gets better and better the more you make the recipe. There are the basics, for example, using a pastry bag and knowing how to hold it, and then you adapt your grasp depending on how it feels to you.

Marquises: it took a very long time. I made them every day except Sunday for 5 years (laughs) so I’m starting to get the hang of it. For the skill of hand, you watch others do it and try to imitate them. Little by little you figure out your own way of doing it, keeping in mind that the Marquise must be beautiful in the end. It needs to have a beautiful shape and there can’t be too much meringue on the praline. Every step is very important, that’s why the skill of hand takes a long time to learn.

What has experience taught you? Do you bring a personal touch to your work?

Macaron: the recipe is an institution, so I’ve never tried to get creative with it. When customers come for a Nancy Macaron, they’re expecting a macaron of a certain size, shape and softness. So, we can’t deviate too much from the recipe.

Baba: our personal touch is to constantly reinvent the baba with new syrups. I’ve tested babas with several different syrups. Customers always come back to the traditional recipe, especially the rum baba, because it’s what they’ve heard of. But since we’re in Lorraine, we also make it with mirabelle plums.

Marquises: I didn’t change the original recipe, but I’ve perfected it little by little by using better quality ingredients. I also had a special mould made. The utensil is used to dip and turn over the Marquises to cover them with meringue. It gives the Marquise its unique shape and is adapted to my flick of the wrist.

Who do you want to pass on your expertise to? And how do you plan to do it?

I really don’t have any trade secrets or special ways of doing things. We welcome groups all year round, and I’m the first to share our recipes and techniques with them. A skilled hand is something that can’t be taught. A spot-on recipe that works every time only comes from experience.

Any tips or advice to share about preparing or tasting?

Macarons: they can dry quickly if left out. The best way to make sure they stay soft is to keep them in the fridge. The idea isn’t to keep them cold, but the macaron will absorb the humidity of the fridge, even through the packaging, and they’ll stay soft for longer.

Baba: the best advice is to always have babas in the fridge, because if people arrive unexpectedly, it’s a quick way to make a little dessert. To plate two mirabelle babas, make a whipped-cream flower next to it, serve with a small scoop of mirabelle ice cream and a few mirabelles in syrup, and you have a beautiful and original dessert that’s ready to go.

Marquises: they can be enjoyed cold or warm. In the summer, put the bag in the sun for 30 minutes, and in the winter, put it on the radiator, also for 30 minutes. The heat will warm the praline inside, which will become soft and fluffy, while the meringue coating will remain a solid shell. Enjoy them in a single bite.

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