If you are a farmers market fan, chances are you have run across the white van with the blue letters, Arno’s Pastry. With a craving for delicate French pastries, you have stopped by to scan through Arnaud Herodet’s glamorous goods, from the delectable French macaroons to the tiered chocolate Decadence cake. Once sampling his wares, you and his many customers become dedicated followers.
No stranger to the pastry business, French native Herodet hails from Orleans in France, but spent his childhood living in the tropical paradise, French Polynesia, where his father worked for the military. As a young adult, Herodet returned to France and attended culinary school in Vichy, after which he worked in numerous hotels in Europe as a chef. He helped his brother for a year who, opened a restaurant in Moulins, called Le Bercy.
When it closed, Herodet returned to French Polynesia, where he worked for four years in the hotel Kia Ora on the island of Rangiora, a luxurious destination at which the clientele expected top-of-the-line meals throughout the day. Because the then pastry chef quit, Herodet was assigned to create and produce elegant pastries every single day. “I rolled out croissants every day for one-and-a-half years,” he said. “I finally gained confidence with making them.”
That hotel experience proved to be the foundation for his later work experience in the United States. He moved to Washington, DC in 1992. “My Vichy connection was very useful,” he said. “I was hired to cook at the Brasserie on Capitol Hill.” He subsequently cooked for several other DC restaurants, including La Chaumiere and La Cote d’Or.
And then, his lucky break. “I went fulltime as the pastry chef at the French Embassy,” he said. “It was a lot of work because of all the entertaining.” After 17 years, Herodet decided to retire, but of course, he could not really leave behind a life of baking. For that reason, about one year ago he set up his new mobile business, baking nearly seven days a week to sell at five farmers’ markets. “I have lived in the area for 22 years,” he said, “so I know what people here like.” The most popular goodies, he said, are the lemon meringue tarts and the Chou au Caramel and Chou Chantilly.
So what will you find as you study his truck’s display is a range of tarts, pies, cakes plus petits fours and quiches. To whet your appetite, however, it’s worth studying his “La Carte” section on his website to really appreciate what awaits customers at markets. It is certainly telling that he usually sells out. Although his goods are not featured in retail stores, customers can place their order and pick up the baked goods at his home kitchen.
Speaking of home kitchens, his licensed set up is daunting, featuring a commercial-sized mixer, and several freezers and refrigerators. “These are all empty by Monday mornings,” he said. All this fits into a compact space, an impressive arrangement for someone who bakes almost constantly.
You can find Herodet at the following markets: the Reston Smart Market on Wednesday, the St. Veronica Smart Market on Thursday, Saturday in Stoneridge and at Gilbert’s Corner, Sunday at Gilbert’s Corner. For more information, visit http://www.arnospastry.com/.
Gateau de Crêpes
Chef Arnaud Herodot remembers back in his years in French Polynesia when working at a premier hotel having to make this cake every day because it was so delicious. Surprisingly, he reported that each slice cost $18. This delicate cake originated in Vichy, France. “We used to do that cake in a 1- star Michelin restaurant, back in 1984 at le Violon d’Ingres in Vichy,” he said. “We were serving it with a fresh coulis of framboises and a creme anglaise!”
8 large eggs, separated, room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar plus 1 pinch
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for cooking the crêpes
Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and flour in a large mixing bowl, mixing well. Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool slightly. Slowly stir the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, mixing well.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and the pinch of sugar until stiff. Gently fold the whites into the egg-sugar mixture. Heat a 7-inch nonstick crêpe pan over medium-low heat and add about 2 teaspoons butter. When the butter starts to sizzle, add about 3 tablespoons batter to the pan, swirl the batter around, and bake the crêpe slowly. When it puffs up and turns golden, slip out of the pan onto a plate and sprinkle it with a little sugar. Repeat until there are 5 crêpes.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, and add about 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter starts to sizzle, swirl in the remaining batter, and bake until it puffs and turns golden. Slip out of the skillet onto the stacked crêpes. Cool the skillet, and put it upside down on top of the crêpe stack to deflate them. Slice, and serve while hot.