A question which I’d been getting from some friends and readers of late is, “What have you been baking lately?” Well knowing their kind intentions, I replied them with a honest “nothing much”, discounting the usual pandan chiffons, christmas fruit cakes and CNY pineapple tarts and cookies of course. Indeed, the direction of this blog has changed somewhat compared to how it was conceptualised years back when I first started to write about the confections I make at home. Don’t get me wrong, pastry is still my passion, which I am always ready to engage in fervent discussion with anyone who broaches the topic. But so is cooking. Which came first, cooking or baking? Not quite exactly a chicken or egg question but I think I had sufficient grounding in both since young. But the question from these friends and readers brought me back to the very reasons how this blog had begun, to share my passion for pastry and baking, so I guess it is also timely for a quick revision of my pastry 101s…
My story with the mango and passionfruit pairing started back in 2011, when I first made Hidemi Sugino‘s “Tahiti タヒチ – Tarlette au Mangue et Fruit de la Passion“. It was a beautiful creation which I hope to make again some time soon in the near future. Hopefully when miyazaki mangoes become more affordable(I wish!), or when I have access to the cheaper Taiwan grown variety. Then in 2012, triggered by the Diner en Blanc saga (read about it here), El Tropicano was born, a plated dessert comprising of a soya bean panna cotta and a fruits tartare with mango and passionfruit as the main components. It was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek and in a slightly spiteful manner if I might add, now thinking in retrospect but all in good fun. Then in 2014, I opted for something simpler, and made a Mango and Passionfruit Yoghurt Pudding which was simple but no less yummy. Needless to say, the matrimony of these two much loved tropical fruits is high on my favorites’ list. And now 2015, I’d cracked my head again, this time for a cheesecake-based entremet, named “Tahiti v.2015” after Sugino’s creation which got me all started.
We have our own list of “must go” places and eateries which we try to make it a point to visit whenever we are in Taipei. And Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki is definitely high on that list. Well, Aoki has dessert boutiques in Tokyo too but there are far too many other patisseries in this Asian Capital of French pastry making as well which we have been want to visit (yes, yet another very long list!), to a point of being literally spoilt for choices. So we were “forced” to limit ourselves to Aoki san’s joints largely in Taipei and keep the visits to his Tokyo outlets down to once or twice (such a shame I know!), until the Japanese list of patisseries has been properly exhausted. But I doubt we’ll see that happening any time soon!
永康街 Yong Kang Street in Taipei’s 大安區Da’An District is not merely known to many as a single road but rather, a collective network of interweaving small lanes packed with interesting restaurants and cafes to visit. Its famous for many things, most notably as the birthplace of 鼎泰豐Ding Tai Fung, known for the 小籠包 xiao long bao steamed dumplings. DTF’s flagship store still helms the entrance of Yong Kong Street, often seen packed not just the restaurant within but also along the corridors, with tourists from Mainland China brought here by the tour bus loads. But we are not here to eat xiao long bao. I’m sure there’s a better place and better occasion for them. Instead, we are to visit “Pâtisserie La Douceur 品悦糖 – 法式甜品专卖” one of the pâtisseries we’d come across quite frequently over our research for the last trip. Since we would be visiting them again in 2 weeks’ time, I thought I’d better roll out the write up for last year’s visit first!
Hong Kong is one of our favorite holidaying destinations, having visited the place close to a dozen times over the last decade or so. Good food, fantastic shopping are just some of the reasons that draw us continually to go back over and over again, sometimes to try out new dimsum joints, or otherwise to revisit eateries and restaurants we’d been before to get our fix of good tong shuei or wanton mee. 买东西，吃东西，买东西， 吃东西… just like the advertisement by the HK Tourism Board a couple of years back. Strangely enough, our itineraries over the last few trips have never really about hunting for pastries, partially because the days are often spent going about our usual routine “shopping circuit” from one factory outlet to other, and of course, there’s so much good authentic local food around its a shame not to do our rounds while we were there. Be it bargains hunting or cha can teng (local teahouses) hopping, there’s usually hardly enough time for anything else.
The most recent trip, just 2 weeks back, was different, we’d decided to make amendments to our usual food itinerary and shopping guide to make time to visit some patisseries and bakeries, as well as shops that specialise in baking supplies. Thankfully, many of these were “along the way” to our usual eating places and shopping spots, so not much of a detour required! Before our trip, we did some “homework” by checking up on some of the dessert places to visit. Fieldtrip reviews by fellow blogging foodies as well as online eating guides and forums like openrice provided a vast amount of information. But we have only 4 days in Hong Kong, so being concise is really the key. After some painful but necessary trimming down, we are down to a handful of pastry joints which are more easily accessible by means of time management and public transport. So here we go!
Paul Lafayet (PL), one of the patisseries in Hong Kong which I’d been wanting to visit for sometime now. After adopting a more serious stance towards the art of pastry making, PL is a name that frequently pops up whenever I google for pastry related stuff in Hong Kong. So it would make perfect sense to visit them this time round.
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 our first walk down Shinsaibashisuji after we’d touched down at Osaka on our first day. It was exciting as we’d read so much about this shopping street, packed with all sorts of shops selling all kinds of stuff from facial masks to fugu. There was a cake shop that specialises in castellas, and a tea house with all grades of Kyoto Uji matcha. The wide corridor is also flanked with many eateries for all sorts of cuisines and desserts. And the one which made us stop and stare hard into their window the most has to be Dalloyau.
This is a review which is loooong overdue. Then again, so is the long list of things which I’d wanna write about! Photos were taken mid last year actually when I first visited Bonheur Pâtisserie, a little dessert boutique tucked along Duxton Road, in the heart of Tanjong Pagar. In fact, I’d made trips down in 3 quick successions all within a week, to try out their creations, many of which I felt exhibited novelty and innovativity. I’d once read somewhere, that a blog review becomes obselete after three months, as so many things could have changed, i.e. the chefs, the ingredients, the technique, etc…be it for the better or for the worse. But I’d decided to share it here, over a series of reviews nonetheless, as my tasting experience at Bonheur had been a rather pleasant one. I’m pretty sure yours would be too. Better late than never yeah? 🙂
Haven’t made macarons in quite a while now. I think I need to make it a point to go through it periodically. Macs are so temperamental and finicky that one can never be really sure he’s gotten them right. Going feetless, erupted tops, burnt shells, soggy bottoms are just some of the ways they would throw tantrums and get back at us in “silent protest” for the neglect and being all assuming with the “if you think you know me, well you don’t!” So drama huh? Well… ask a macaron maker and I’m pretty sure that he would have his own version of “Tales of Mac Macabre” to tell.
After a hearty dinner at the unagi don joint, we walked down Kawaramachi Dori towards our next destination. We usually end the day with a dessert and today’s no exception. However, we could enjoy the desserts at the comfort of a sit-in dessert boutique instead of takeaways which we had over the last few days in Japan. Shop space is so limited in downtown Kyoto and Pâtisserie Kanae is no different. But we were glad we’d managed to make time in our itinerary for a trip down here.
I’d read about pistachio paste being used in pastry recipes for the longest time and have been really curious to how it actually taste like. I even tried to make some myself, modifying Jacques Torres’ recipe for DIY almond paste and used it for Tarte aux Fruits Rouges sometime back but its definitely one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” kinda experience which I’m not too eager in replicating anytime soon. This is to much relief of Mr Food Blender who overworked and concussed twice while the homemade pistachio paste was churning furiously in his guts. Thankfully after some cooling down and ample rest, he sprang back to life, though i’m sure the old dog is not quite the same as before after his “near-death experience”. Surely is “diet” has become more picky, and wary of what he is being “fed” nowadays. I’ve heard of others of his kind “fuming mad” quite literally while in action, probably lamenting how they had been ill-treated by their owners. I can’t risk giving Mr Food Blender indigestion problems as he is a much valued asset in the kitchen, probably assigned simpler tasks now like purees and rempahs, so no more “hardcore” stuff, quite literally.
After some searching around, I’d managed to source some commercially made pistachio paste which was quite pleasing in colour and texture. But there’s a whooping 1kg of it to be expended so I’m finding every means to use it whenever I can. Since there were leftover raspberries from Tarte Ispahan, a fine opportunity for another Pierre Hermé’s macaron creations, Macaron Montebello.
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!