Winter in the northern hemisphere brings some ingredients which I’d been waiting for the whole year. Persimmons, honey apples and chestnuts just to name a few. Despite being in tropical Singapore, I prescribe to the old Chinese ideology of “不时不食” which basically means that one eats according to the seasons. The winter fruits are always worth the wait as the cold impedes the ripening process allowing the fruits to store more sugars before reaching their prime. One fruit I’d always try to lay my hands on during this time of the year are kumquats, not because they are good for eating, but for making marmalades.
The grand masters of French pastry arts seem have to shifted their attention to the East and this comes as no surprise. With an already intensely saturated populace of macaron lovers back home and the vast potential of an ever-growing market from China, it makes perfect sense for these big names in French cuisine to stretch their tents and earn the Asian dollar. Ladurée, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon are already here and it is timely that they are now joined by one one of the most esteemed colleague, Pierre Hermé.
Pierre Hermé has been in Japan for quite a number of years now, with boutiques in several of her cities, most notably a flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo. But interestingly when I’d visited his boutiques in Tokyo, I chanced up not local Japanese but tourists from China and Taiwan who have specially come to sample his creations. A sort of culinary pilgrimage I’m sure it was for them as it is for me. Surely Monsieur Hermé would have noticed that too. And a store in Hong Kong was nothing short of being strategic, with visitors from all over Mainland China flocking here at all times of the year. The potential would have been too great to miss and so presents the temptation and desire to venture into the Mainland China market. Hong Kong would be the ideal gateway.
This is a guest post at Veronica’s blog “Quay Po Cooks” whom I got to know through the numerous Aspiring Bakers bakealongs. From a fellow blogger to a friend, this lady beams with so much postive aura and sunshine, it is infectious! I love reading her blog, where every recipe entails a story, heartwarming tales of her family and friends which often reminded us of our very own. Through the lines, she shares with us her moments of euphoria and sorrow, causing one to can’t help but let out a giggle or shed a tear as we read along. Her words are often simple, yet enriched with much sincerity. In short, this woman writes from her heart. When Veronica invited me to do a guest post on her blog, I knew I couldn’t say no. In fact, it would be such an honour, as a repayment in kind, for the very many wonderful reads. Thank you for letting us in your life. 🙂
I asked Veronica if she had any preference for the recipe and she indicated that she’d hoping for something sweet, since pastry is my forte. I am flattered but surely sweetness cannot be the only dimension presented, especially for a woman who has led such a colorful life, After much deliberation, I’d decided to share with all of you a recipe which I feel aptly encapsulates the essence of all that Veronica’s been through. Oh yes, if you have gone through her blog like I did, you would know that this woman has gone through quite a bit over the years. Read on and you would know why…
Ladurée hardly need introduction. They are the old guards of the French school of pastry-making, founded in Paris 150 years ago back in 1862. Not only have they been associated with the art of pastry-making for the longest time, but also tagged with big names like Pierre Herme, who worked to expand Ladurée’s chain of dessert boutiques and developed the “Ispahan” during his stint there. I was lucky to get a box of Laduree macarons recently, so here I am to share with you my take on them. I start with two simple and yet familiar flavours, lemon and raspberry. Incidentally these sharp flavours are some of my favorites too!
So I begin my macaron tasting adventure with Pierre Herme’s macarons, and it’s a piece which does not need elaborate introduction, one whose name and fame precedes it. Macaron ispahan has been synonymously associated with Pierre Hermé for the longest time, though this unique combination of flavours were actually developed by Christine Ferber, a fellow French patissier whom I hold with the highest esteem for her ingenuinity of creating flavour combinations and art of making confitures. I had a brush of luck when I encountered her confitures in Taiwan but I decidedly gave it a miss. A bludy stoopid blooper now in retrospect. but that’s another story for another time.
Ispahan was incidentally, one of Ferber’s confiture creations which inspired PH so much that he created a “Fetish”, a whole line of delicious pastries out of it, from giantic petit gateau-sized macarons to tarts to croissants.
Rose, raspberries and lychee… who would have guessed.
Its blood orange season again! Around this time last year, I’d experimented with blood oranges, making a confiture out of the lot I bought. They tasted really fantastic, with very intense citrusy flavours and not to mention the alluring ruby red appearance! I’d been waiting for them to appear again this year and thankfully they did! More jam-making as usual since the marmalade taste really good and goes really well with scones, toast etc. Their versatility is also extended to making Macaron Satine, an orange-passionfruit and creamcheese concoction devised by none other than Pierre Herme. I had plans to use them in a macaron again of course, but this time round, its gonna be for something I made up., Macaron Sanguine. 🙂
I remember watching Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge exactly a decade ago during my undergrad days, bedazzled by the fascinating sets and exuberant costumes. This razzle-dazzle like fantasy on the life of a young Parisian socialite, Satine leading a life of absinthe-dripped extravagance (Yes! thanks to Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy!), swooned by men from the streets of Paris, enchanted by her flamboyance, all flocking to the renowned cabaret just to be gleamed by her beauty. ‘Gorgeously decadent, massively contrived, and gloriously superficial‘, are just some of the words used by critics on the movie but I say this is a mere understatement. Filled with song and dance, laughter and tears, this must have been one of the most refreshing musical films we’d seen in this century, since the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Hilariously funny and at the same time, heart-pouring empathic, the movie is quite literally a roller-coaster ride. I particularly enjoyed the large scale scenes of song and dance, bearing overtones of a Bollywood production! And how cleverly used it was, such a classic! Now in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense to me the French artistic and haute coulture scene during that era must have been extremely curious and captivated by influx of Oriental and Asian elements, fueling ideas for Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles and Massenet’s Thaïs. And hence the elephants, saris and turbans we saw in the Maharaja scene. Entertaining and at the same time thought -provoking, at least for me!
When I first learned of Pierre Hermé’s Satine dessert series a couple of months back, I couldn’t help but feel extremely curious about the association of the PH’s confections with the Moulin Rouge. Paris, decadence, sugary indulgence, flair and flamboyance… the resemblance between the two is just too uncanny. I’m also very curious to know what it tastes like. Needless to say, very little is mentioned over the internet. ph10 has some recipes of desserts from the Satine series but being a rather technical and clinically written publication, no word on the source of inspiration. Alas, the recipe for the Macaron Satine could be found in PH’s Macaron and I had to get myself a copy and hopefully solve the puzzle. But wait a minute, since when do we ever need
an excuse justification for buy PH’s works!?
So did I solve the mystery?
The world of pastry making is undoubtedly dominated by the French patissiers. Big names like Pierre Herme, Gerard Mulot and Phillippe Conticini easily comes to mind. Last year, I read a listing for the “10 Top Patisseries in Paris” on another blog and two things struck me the most. Firstly, Pierre Herme is missing from the list. “OMG!!!??” I exclaimed to myself. Why was the Picasso of Patissiers left out from the list!? Only upon reading further did I realised that the author had done that after much deliberation, as names like Pierre Herme, LaduRee and Lenotre would be stating the obvious. I couldn’t agree more.