A less busy week with fewer kueh orders means more time to play and practice on pastry making. I return to play with french tarts this week, after one round of mixed fruit tarts last week. It is tarte aux citron et fraise frais this time round…
I’m on a tart making spree! This happened once several years back when there was an online tart and pie bake-along event where I did Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan, Ladurée’s Tartelettes Croustillantes Abricots ou Cerises and the classic Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires all in a short span of just days apart from each other. It was crazy but fun!
Days back, I saw good figs at our local supermarket, and was determined to reprise Hidemi Sugino’s Tartelette aux Figues which I also did at the end of that same year back in 2011 but alas came feijoas and I got distracted, out of which Tartelette au Feijoa et Chocolat Noir was created. However, determined not to let those beautiful fresh figs, and the extra pâte sucrée in the fridge go to waste, I made yet another round of of tartlets, this time a pairing between figs and rosemary, Tartelettes aux Figues et Romarin, inspired by flavours of the Mediterranean Aegean Sea.
Apart from being defined by discernible differences in taste and textures, many cuisines are also distinguishable by looking into the ingredients and condiments used in their recipes. Miso is uniquely Japanese just as one would associate oyster sauce with Chinese cooking. Mention fish sauce and one immediately relates it to Thai and Indochinese cuisines. Middle Eastern cuisines, be it Arabian, Jewish, Turkish or Persian also have their own special range of ingredients. Turkish apricots and figs, Iranian pistachios, rose water, sumac etc… are just some of the things that reminds me of this group of cuisines which have influenced the structuring and development of one another for centuries. And just as with the sauces and pastes I’d mentioned earlier, Middle Eastern cuisines too have their own unique concoctions adopted to boost the rich and piquant flavours many dishes from this region are well-known for. Pomegranate molasses must surely be one of them.
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.
This “summer” brought us a guest and boy o’ boy did she appear in all pomp and circumstance fanfare! Donned in a fiery sanguine number, all so thinly cladded, only to reveal her succulent, creamy bosoms in brilliant sunset yellow, alluringly seductive and inviting for one to sink his teeth in, to draw upon all her nectary essence and suck the very bone marrow out of her life. No, I’m not about to embark in some B-grade erotic horror flick, but indeed the taste and textures of Ai Wen Mangoes AWM 爱文芒果 from Taiwan can most certainly be described as being orgasmic, probably something which many of you out there have not experienced for a rather long time. *chuckles*
My virginal concurrence with AWM dated many years back at a dessert parlour in Taipei which boasted to serve 挫冰 shaved ice topped with chunky morsels of it. And it was not just any AWM, but the crème à la crème ones grown in 玉井 Yujing area from 台南县 Tainan County. One mouthful and I was sold!!! Unlike the other asian mango varieties we had back then, the textures of AWM was something which I’d not encountered. The flesh was creamy yet oddly, was also imbued with a bouncy gelatinous like texture, so you can imagine the
foreplay interplay with the tastebuds! The experience was so surreal as its almost like eating fruit jelly. It was also on the dot on the Brix scale with perfectly controlled sugar levels. And the best part was, unlike many other versions available elsewhere, no condensed/evaporated milk or mango puree/concentrate/syrup was added. All naturel! Subsequent trips to Taiwan were all in the “wrong” time of the year and did not coincidence with AWM season. So you can imagine the excitement when I chanced upon them again recently and quickly snapped up half a dozen first. A few were eaten the first moments after reaching home with them. A reprise of fond memories. But what better way to glorify their magnificence than to encapsulate all of its essence in one of the creations by the great Japanese patissier 杉野英実 Hidemi Sugino, Tartlette aux Mangue et Fruits de la Passion, which he aptly named Tahiti タヒチ.
When news of a new Ladurée publication “Sucré: The Recipes” broke out more than a year ago, it created quite a stir amongst the culinary scene. The pre-orders were selling like hotcakes leading to the title selling out before it was even published! Opportunistic resales on amazon and other online bookstores at astronomical prices but yet it didnt seem to deter hardcore pastisserie afficionadoes from snapping them up at 3-digit prices. Thankfully I didn’t yield to the temptations then or I’d probably be banging my head against the wall now. Resale pricing fluctuated over the next couple of months and that meant quite a bit of “price watching” over the major online bookstores, not unlike market share prices. When “the price was right”, I went in and made the kill. Finally got a copy for myself at a very satisfying 42 bucks including shipping. I last checked with a local Japanese bookstore in town and it was going at a whooping 71. I can only say that I’m a very happy man…
Which recipe should I try first? So many delectable recipes from macarons to petits gateaux, viennoiseries to entremets, there’s even a recipe for french waffles which’s so intriguing!!! Well, for me at least. But I settled for a individual tartelette recipe which calls for two fruits which are in season now, cherries and apricots. Ladurée’s Tartelettes Croustillantes Abricots ou Cerises it shall be.