January and it is strawberry season. Specifically Korean and Japanese strawberries that is. This is practically the only time of the year that I eat strawberries. Apart from the erratic French gariguettes that come a couple of months later. IF they ever come that is. Fraises des bois and Mara des bois…I can only dream. Yes we do get strawberries on the supermarket shelves almost all year round. Call me picky but I don’t buy straws from Australia, New Zealand or the Americas, be it North or South. They just don’t dig as well as the Korean, Japanese or French fellas. Neither do I eat Driscoll’s
crappy strawberries. No offence guys but they just make you think that you are eating strawberries. So in reality and as snobbish I may sound, the “real” strawberry season is actually very short. For me at least. As seasonal as how these fruits had been in the past and should rightfully be so. Apart from buying and savoring them as it is, we often crack our heads to find ways to extend our days to enjoy them before the season closes. And what better way to lock in these flavours through making jams out of them, an age old method to “immortalise” the delicate sweetness the current season bequeaths upon us which alas, come so swiftly yet ends all too shortly.
Hello everyone! Kindly excuse us for the long absence! Just realised that it had been 3 weeks since we last posted, only because we had been terribly busy trying to clear our work and run errands before we take a much
deserved awaited break to Tokyo! The trip was planned to take place ahead of the hanami season as it was the only time when both of us could make it! Alas thanks literally to the freak weather, the cherry blossoms bloomed much earlier in Japan this year, allowing us to enjoy their beauty, amidst other spectacular floral displays along the way. The downside is, we had to cut back on several pastry joints which we had slated to visit. Nonetheless we had a really good time in Tokyo!
This trip to Tokyo is all about pastries, ramen and depachikas! We absolutely love depachikas in Japan, so they are surely a “must go” whenever we are in Japan! J lamented that we didn’t get to try any ramen joints during our last trip so I made sure that we had enough ramen this time round for J to remember by! And 5 years ago during our first trip to Tokyo, which incidentally marks the commencement of this blog, I wasn’t much into fine pastry making then. But I do remember being much in awe with what I saw at the display windows of dessert boutiques and patisserie sales counters at depachikas. The level of artistry and presentation in trhe Japanese patisseries then was already quite impeccable and very impressive. Over the years as I grew to appreciate and get involved myself in the French art of pastry making, the desire to return to Tokyo fueled on. So after a long wait of more than 4 years, we are finally back! I will be writing and sharing about the various patisseries and ramen joints we’d visited this time round over the next couple of months or so but here’s a sneak preview of what we’d tried and sampled in Tokyo 2013!
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.
Ah what luck! Just last month, when I reconstructed Pierre Hermé’s Macaron Jardin Enchanté, I also lamented on the very near impossibilities of potentially sampling the real stuff from the French pastry master. Macaron Jardin Enchanté was reconstructed with some brainstorming with Swee San and Chef Nicholas, but based entirely on sheer imagination. As I was piping the lime ganache over the shells, I couldn’t help but yearn to know how close these would taste to those made from the kitchens in Alsace. Alas, some greater being of higher order up there must have heard my prayers! How lucky am I, for the celestial bodies must be aligned, as I got to know a new friend recently who shares the same passion for macarons from PH and caramels from Jacques Genin as me! What more, she couldn’t have been more generous to help lug back a couple of boxes of macarons from PH and Laduree! Yes, I know Macaron Month is just over, but I certainly don’t mind a bit of “seepage and spillage” of some macaroning action to continue to in the months to come as I bring to you some reviews of these delectable French almond biscuits sandwiched with the utmost bizarre combinations of ingredients and flavours! So if you would allow me to indulge a lil’ bit more, let me show you just how crazy these dainty lil’ Parisienne confections can be!
Bakerzin launched four new tarts a couple of weeks ago but they most certainly beared resemblance to some of the familiar favorites we know. Utilising some Bakerzin dining vouchers we had, we’d got some for a sampling.
My first encounters with anything overpoweringly “rosy” is probably “Rose Floral Water ” 玫瑰花露水, which was the “SK-II Esssence” in my grandma’s era. The wafts of familiar yet deathly pungency of rose water brought back memories of my grandma’s dressing table, and the macabre scent of rose water can only be less dreadful when compared to something even more ghastly, 夏士莲雪花膏 Hazeline Snow Moisturising Cream.
I attempted Pierre Hermé ‘s Macaron Ispahan about half a year ago and I must say, its a pinnacle to this hobby for me . Looking back, it is not without problems and fears. I remembered being really skeptical about the use of rose water and rose essence as I’d associated them with the “unpleasant”. Curious on how Pierre Hermé ‘s Ispahan would turned out, I restrained all that cynicism on these “condiments” which reminded me of sickly old women (no offence ladies!) and forged on. Thankfully I did, literally blown away by the flavours when I took the first bite. Not sure if my scent receptors have “matured” over the years or the impressions of these “fragrances” have waned over time, I grew to enjoy the intricate subtlety these flavours impart, yet deepening the complexity of the work by so much.
This month’s Aspiring Bakers’ theme is Tarts and Pies, and needless to say, the perfect opportunity to reprise those flavours which I’d grown to like, in this case, Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan.
Talk about french baking and macarons easily comes to mind. And the one name that is almost synonymously equated to macarons is Pierre Hermé. The celebrated French patissier is renowned and worshipped around the world by dessert and sweets afficionados for his edible masterpieces. Enshrined as the “Picasso of Patissiers”, the one creation which is most often tagged onto him is the Ispahan.
7-cm wide macaron shells in brilliant pink enclosed with a mélange of fresh raspberries, canned lychees and rose petal buttercream, this must had been one of the most bizzare-sounding desserts on the menu that Pierre Hermé created when he was still with Laduree. He is afterall a revolutionary in the French culinary scene, constantly introducing mind-boggling ideas for desserts and patisseries which come in bewildering combinations of flavours or presentation that inspires to astound the world both visually and gastronomically!