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. 🙂