About two dozen people work at the Montreal headquarters of Want Les Essentiels, which has been known for its leather accessories since its founding in 2007 (and has since expanded into clothing for men and women). Helming the design team is the creative director Christine Charlebois, 34, a Central Saint Martins graduate who’s been working in fashion since she was 16 and who has just released her first collection, full of softer bags and a full apparel line inspired by the romance of travel.
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Want’s office has a cafe downstairs, where the staffers tend to eschew coffee in favor of matcha, and they’ve made Charlebois a convert. “You feel lighter but without the rush of the coffee,” she says. “It’s just a nice, steady level of energy. And after a couple of days drinking it, even silly day-to-day things like walking or running or hiking become a lot easier.” She’s begun to make matcha at home (“I’ve got the little whisk and everything”), and with the help of her friend Matthew Straupmanis — a chef at the Fiordland Lodge in New Zealand — she’s even learned to incorporate it into a nostalgic dessert. Growing up in Le Vieux-Longueuil, Quebec, Charlebois and her brother used to make crepes on Sunday mornings, “so our parents could sleep a little longer.” Now, as an adult, she uses them as the foundation for a pale green layered cake flavored with savory matcha and held together with whipped cream.
“It’s super delicate,” she says. “And it’s layered, which is nice because it seems simple — but you’ve got an intricate kind of look. It’s not too heavy. You don’t feel guilty when you’re having it. It’s not like an English pancake. It’s a French pancake. Thin.”
Christine’s Matcha Mille Crepes Cake
For the crepes
2 cups 2 percent milk
1 cup cake flour
3 tablespoons premium matcha
½ cup maple syrup
For the whipped cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup maple syrup
1. To make the crepes, add milk and maple syrup to a small saucepan and combine well. Heat on medium until milk is warm to the touch. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl. Then slowly add small amounts (½ cup at a time) of warm milk to the eggs while whisking. Set up a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and add cake flour, matcha powder and baking powder. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter while whisking until the dry and wet ingredients combine.
2. Set a 10-inch nonstick frying pan on low heat. Once the pan is hot, brush it with oil and remove any excess with a paper towel. Pour the batter just enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan, about ¼ cup. Cook for 2 minutes without touching. When the outside edge of the crepe slightly crisps, flip the crepe using a spatula. Cook the other side for 30 seconds and transfer to a work surface. Continue with the rest of the batter until you have about 16 to 18 crepes. Cook one larger crepe, about double the size — this one will be used as the cake’s top. Chill completely before assembling.
3. To make the whipped cream, beat together the cream and maple syrup together until stiff.
4. Prepare two long parchment paper strips, about 2 inches wide, on a work surface or a rotating cake stand. These strips will go under the first layer of crepe (for easy transportation). Place the largest crepe on the surface (this will be the top layer when you flip it). Dollop the freshly whipped cream in the middle and spread evenly, leaving a 2-inch rim. Place another crepe on top and spread cream evenly, leaving a ½-inch rim. Continue this process until the last crepe is placed on top.
5. Prepare a round shallow dish with a large piece of plastic wrap pulled across its top. Smooth out to remove any air pockets. Transfer the stack of crepes to the shallow dish by holding the strips you made. Once you’ve placed it in the center of the bowl, remove the strips. Wrap the mille crepe with the plastic wrap to make the final cake evenly round. Secure the remaining plastic on top with a clip. Refrigerate at least 2 hours until the cake is set. Once chilled, remove the plastic wrap and flip onto a serving platter. Dust the top with matcha powder and serve.
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