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.
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!
Apart from the Asian Pastry Cup, the Food & Hotel Asia 2012 also played host to a series of culinary events like the Imperial Challenge, an international Chinese banquet culinary competition highlighting the finest of Chinese cuisine where top chefs specialising in chinese cuisine pit their skills against each other. There’s also the FHA Barista Challenge which aims at advancing the barista profession. And there’s FHA Culinary Challenge which has several categories – Dress the Cake, Free-style Wedding Cake, Petit Fours and Pralines, Plated Desserts, Plated Hot and Cold Appetisers as well as Chocolate and Sugar showpieces. All the competitions were going on concurrently so there’s no way one’s able to attend all these altogether. The FHA Culinary Challenge is held in the same hall as the Asian Pastry Cup so it seemed the most logical for me to swing over for a look. And I’m so glad that I did! Many many inspiring creations which one can analyse and admire up close, literally just inches from the competition pieces. Jamming my lens into them as I shot away, I could literally smell the aroma of all that chocolate and fruit, raging those salivary glands, on the brink of an outburst. Alas its can see, can smell but cannot touch. So near but yet so far, life can be such a bitch!
There’s very description on the pieces as I did not take photos of the tags that came with them. But do enjoy their designs, some of which are the most intricate that I’d seen so far. Hopefully you would be inspired by them as I have. 🙂
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!
First and foremost, a big Thank You to all our fellow sisters from the Aspiring Bakers’ family who had participated in “March Macaron Madness!!!” All this would only be possible because of you! So give yourselves a big pat on the back yeah?! Some of you could not make it in time for the event due to personal commitments but still made it a point to drop me a note over facebook, emails or comments on the blog to show your encouragement and support. I’m truly touched and overwhelmed by all the kind words. Seemingly a trivial gesture, but it really meant loads to me! What a fun and funky month it had been!!! Macaron madness all over town!
Macarons must surely rank amongst the top in the list of the most versatile foods in the world, with two almond and sugar biscuit shells to be filled with an infinite number of possible fillings from sweet to savory. This became the drawing board for patissiers all around the world, drafting all sorts of flavour combinations from the familiar to the exotic.
It all started from monochromatic flavours like the ever-popular vanilla buttercream, raspberry confiture and chocolate ganache. These fillings, withstanding the test of time, are indeed delicious, but can be rather boring at times. The constant desire to innovate the mind and invigorate the tastebuds motivate patissiers to experiment with “pairings” of flavours, in attempt to add depth and dimension to these petit fours. And these bold attempts to produce something unique and astounding is found in none of than the works of Pierre Hermé.
pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris ‘s dessert boutiques in Taipei were THE places which we were looking forward the most to visit on our trip to Taipei last year. Having read so much about him and his works, we were in dire need to sample some of his creations. It is our closest call we could ever get to pastry heaven. Pierre Herme is still another 3 hours away in Tokyo but going to Aoki is by no means settling for second best! With his macarons highly raved amongst fellow dessert afficionadoes online, little deliberation is required when we were considering takeaways back to Singapore on our last day. So here on Macaron Day, we share them with you!
This is the beginning of a series of reviews meant to be up much much later. Well, they really ought to have been done up long time ago. Life’s such an irony I know. Just earlier, I read an entry on someone’s visit to Pierre Herme in Paris and his take on the French pastry master’s macarons, analogising it to one of life’s many first times, those viriginal encounters which change one’s perspective of things and never to look back at the old ways again. That most certainly struck a chord which resonated deep within as I recall those precise moments, one of which was fairly recent. Not with Pierre Herme though, but at Sadaharu AOKI’s dessert boutique in Taipei last year.
We planned the trip way before the actual date, as we do with most of our overseas excursions, ensuring that our itineraries would allow us to maximise the experience with the minimal amount of time we had. Been to Taiwan for a number of times now, this was my first visit to experience the country’s pastisserie scene. We had a number of places in mind, from smaller and more local dessert shops and cafes, to international names like Joel Robuchon and Jean Paul Hevin’s joints which recently anchored in Taipei. However, top on our list were the two dessert salons by Sadaharu Aoki. As some of you already know, I’m a big fan of his work, with attempts to reconstruct some of his creations. But his pastries and desserts remain elusive and somewhat mysterous, with very little recipes in circulation. Even those which are going around the internet and even publications are somewhat dubious in terms of their genuinity. So this trip to Taipei was the perfect opportunity to experience firsthand how his masterpieces are like. And sampling we most certainly did. This would definitely go down as one of life’s many first times. Konnichiwa Aoki san, Hajimemashite, dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
I’m “fast forwarding” my Japan posts to bring to you guys the Le Cordon Bleu Macarons from Kobe! “Nan desu de?!” some of you might ask. ‘Cos in barely 2 weeks’ time on 20th March is Le Jour de Macaron aka Macarons Day! This day which celebrates the popular French confectionery was initiated by no other than the man who revolutionised macaron gastronomie, Pierre Hermé. Since its inauguration 7 years ago, Macarons Day is celebrated by many patisseries around France, with notable names like Sadaharu Aoki, Dalloyau, Laurent Duchêne and Jean-Paul Hévin, just to name a few. It has since spread across the Altantic to NYC and Toronto, as well as the rest of the world! And over at Aspiring Bakers, we are having celebrating it for one whole month with “Aspiring Bakers #17 – March Macaron Madness!”
We visited Kobe as a day trip on our second last day in Kansai. It was an impromptu decision actually as we’d initially decided to stay put in Osaka after visiting Kyoto and Nara a couple of days back. But we kinda ran out of places to visit in Osaka, which is pretty much of a business and commercial hub, with much less character and history than its neighbouring cities and towns. So it was off to Kobe for more patisserie hunting!
March is here and its macaroning time! Time to whisk up those egg whites and get funky with colours and flavourings! Yes, it can be a challenge for those who’s not made it before, but its also gonna be fun! Be forewarned, it can get addictive! Challenge yourself by making a batch of basic macs and enthrall your family and friends with them! If others can do it, so can you!
For seasoned mac bakers, extend your repertoire from the run-in-the-mill chocolate and vanilla by trying out new flavours and designs! Fruits, spices and liqueurs are just some of the things I can think of now and hoping to see in your bakes! Pay homage to grandmasters of pastry making like Pierre Herme or Stephane Glacier by re-creating some of their masterpieces, so simply come up with your very own, which may become your very own signature bakes in time to come!
After dinner and the visit to Pâtisserie Kanae, we were positive bloated!!! Some of you would probably disagree, but I couldnt take another macaron. “What?! Alan cannot take another macaron? Impossible!” some of you would probably gasp in disbelief. Lol
Well, not being able to eat another macaron in situ certainly didn’t stopped us from taking away some with us. Pâtisserie Kanae is well known from its macaron selection and to leave here without some macarons would almost be like commiting a cardinal sin!
After our little tour at Nishiki Market, we found ourselves at Daimaru Kyoto, located in between Kawaramachi and Karasuma stations. Won’t miss the chance for a little “tour” of the depachika as well. True enough, the basement is filled with little takeaway corners representing various big names which have found themselves in Kyoto. The one that struck us most was a small little booth by the famed Belgian patissier cum chocolatier, Jean-Philippe Darcis.
Sorry for the lack in updates from our recent Osaka trip. These two weeks had been hectic as hell for me with students’ mid-year exams round the corner. Trying to cram in as much last minute revision as possible. But alas I’d better get this going cos we are going Taipei next week and that would mean a severe backlog to clear! So here we go!
Patisserie Alcyon is another home-grown brand under “Anjou and Alcyon” whose humble beginnings in 1972as a restaurant in Shinsaibashi Osaka, specialising in Mediterranean cuisine. The patisserie branch debuted in 1986 and has since grown not only locally but reached the shores of France, with dessert boutiques in Paris. We visited their takeaway outlet in Umeda, Osaka which is reputed to have a very good selection of macarons. And indeed they do! 30 flavours in all!
Before our trip to Keikanshin Japan, we did some reading up on the patisseries in the region which are accessible to us. The list was quite overwhelming frankly. But given the time constraint, we had to trim it down to a small compilation, mostly those with takeaway outlets within the depachika of major shopping malls like Daimaru, Takashimaya and Sogo. Jean Philippe Darcis, Michel Belin, Wittamer etc were just some of the international names that had landed in Japan over the last few years. But personally, I’m more keen on sampling creations by the Japanese patissiers.
From a recipe book “Monter au Plus haut du ciel” published by MOOK, I learned about Hayashi Syuhei 林 周平 a patissier from Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku and now currently based in Kobe with his own Patisserie, Mont Plus. The book title, literally meaning “To Reach for the Skies” was very intriguing and so were the creations within. Kobe wasn’t on our itinerary but thankfully, Hayashi san opened an outlet, mont plus PAYSANNE in JR Osaka Station in Umeda. I knew I had to pay a visit to sample his works.
It was love at first sight! I remembered when I first saw them a couple of years ago at Bakerzin, Millenia Walk, I was immediately captivated by the myriad of colours these petite pastries are available in. Especially those in pastel yellow, pink and orange! So pretty! Looking so curious indeed! Back then very few places made these and they were not as popular as what we see today!