It feels good to be back in baking again, after an almost month-long hiatus. Been busy with a trail of Asian delights from Cantonese claypot rice to Hainanese Pork Chops, and not to forget a couple of Asian desserts along the way. Quite a walk down memory lane to prepare dishes which I’d learnt to prepare years back, but have not gotten a chance to reprise them over the last year or so, well since the passing of my mother actually. So it felt really warm and nostalgic to get in touch with my culinary roots again, with dishes that ignited my love for food and cooking many moons back. But life has to move on, so here I am back again, having fun once more with flour, eggs, butter and sugar! First off with a simple petit four, Ladurée’s Financier Pistache…
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.
Pâtisserie Henri Charpentier (PHC) is easily the most “accessible” french bakery in Japan, with many takeaway outlets in depachikas of the major departmental stores like Isetan, Daimaru and Takashimaya, all over Japan. In fact, I don’t recall not seeing them at any of the departmental stores we went to! If one is forced to draw comparisons, PHC is like BreadTalk in Singapore, only that the former is much much much much much much…better, especially for a pastry junkie like me!
As we were on our way, leaving Gion to cross Kamogawa for Takashimaya Kyoto, we chanced upon our first french pastry shop in Kyoto, Pâtisserie Gion Sakai. Amidst the traditional Japanese architectural infrastructure of this part of the ancient city which beared two-storey shophouses with wooden framed doors, this establishment seemed like the most unexpecting and perhaps awkward juxtaposition. Nonetheless, we are glad that we have found it.
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!