From my observations, the Japanese line of patissiers and patissieres can be broadly divided into two categories. There are those who innovate and improvise, bringing together familiar “oriental” elements be it in ingredients or technique with the art of French pastry making, adapting to bring forth and open up greater possibilities and potentials yet at the same time making the creations more “acceptable” and attuned to the palates and taste buds of the local crowd. Then there are those who choose to stay firm and close to ground zero, bringing what they have learnt and absorbed from their years of apprenticeship in France back to Japan and introduce to the home audience the very essence of French pastry making in an utmost unbashful and unadulterated manner. Both have their loyal fans and followers, and both must be commended for their efforts to scale greater heights and also preserve the pertinent traditions and methods that define the very soul of pastry arts. From what I see, Chef Norihiko Terai 寺井則彦 of Patisserie Francaise Aigre Douce エーグル・ドゥース belongs to the latter…
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…
It seems like a growing trend, that people are no longer satisfied with “just” being able to savour the desserts and pastries off their plates, but they’d also like to see how the desserts are being prepared right before their eyes. I see this as an extension of gastronomic experience which probably first stemmed from stepping into a sushi bar where a Jiro-like Japanese chef puts on a performance of, selecting a suitable cut, slicing the fish to precision, grasping the perfectly flavoured sushi rice so elegantly in one hand before clasping the two components together. It is a performance which many believe can invigorate the senses during the “omakase” as well as help one to gain a deeper understanding of the food in order to better appreciate what is being eaten. Such a dramatic show is a tradition is not unique to just Japanese of course, as a good crepe suzuette is often prepared from scratch right next one’s dining table, from the making of the lace-thin pancakes, to the final flambe of the orange juice and liqueur concoction. As such, “salons” or “ateliers” becomes an increasingly popular culinary concept which is replicated in many places now. During our most recent trip to Japan, we visited Salon de Dessert Toshi Yoroizuka in Tokyo Midtown , for a treat of not only their desserts but also the performance.
Yongkang Street 永康街 lies within the Da’an district 大安区 in Taipei, a semi-residential and business area. It is one of my favorite places in this bustling city as it is dotted with a variety of unique shops, restaurants, cafes and tea salons where one could simply hang out leisurely for a few hours amidst all the sight-seeing and shopping. It is symbolic of the kind of lifestyle which many younger Taiwanese now very much look forward to or are striving for, where one could afford the time to smell the flowers, admire changes of the seasons, rest the mind and tame the soul. Unfortunately over the last few years, no thanks to the opening up of tourism regulations for visitors from across the straits to visit Taiwan, Yongkang street is slowly being overrun by the Mainlanders, epitomised by the long queues outside 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung and 永康牛肉麺館 Yong Kang Beef Noodles, not to mention the noise and rowdiness they bring along with them. However, as the Taiwanese locals strives to live out their own lives the way they’d wanted, it is still possible for find quaint spots of serenity in the vicinity of Yongkang Street where 慢活 “leisure life pacing” is still the abiding philosophy.
The pastry scene in Singapore seems to be getting more interesting over the past year or so, with quite a number of new outlets opening up, sometimes in places least expected. Many of them operate as cafes or coffee shops, the seeming craze in Singapore now, offering cakes and pastries in interesting flavours and combinations to woo the crowd. This was especially so with the SG50 jubilee celebrations going on this year, which brought innovative creations like pulot hitam cake, orh nee tart etc, to stay relevant to the theme. I very much hope this stream of creativity is not just a sudden spur, but instead would continue to encourage our local budding bakers and pastry chefs to work harder to create a pastry enjoyment culture which would be here to stay.
Patisserie Platine joins the scene as one of the latest kid on the block and arrives with much pomp and circumstance, launched by the haute dining Japanese cuisine establishment Waku Ghin, under the helmage of celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda. Some like-minded pastry loving friends and I made a date to come here, not only to sample the wide range of pastries Patisserie Platine provides, but also to soak in the ambience it has to offer.
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.
Making these tartlets was a last minute decision, wait, make that an impulse! The initial intention was really to make some of Sugino’s fig tartlets since we finally managed to get some good figs in Singapore this season. Last year’s were horrid. But then came along feijoas, which were on sale at our local supermarkets. I’d seen them last year but they were very expensive, since only one (premium) supermarket carried it, the price was kinda monopolised. That is what happens over here unfortunately yes… But this year, the prices dropped by more than half! No more excuse for not trying them. They were packaged as “zeijoas” since this batch were not from their native South America but New Zealand, where they are widely cultivated and grown by the kiwis in their backyards as a fruit tree. No prizes for how the name “zeijoa” came about but I’m hoping that our folks over here would not take this name too seriously as the actual one! More curiously, these “zeijoas” were marketed as “Causasian guavas”. I wonder how many actually knew that the common guava we’d been eating originated from Central and South America as well. Despite the slight similarities in taste , I wonder why would anyone do that. Oh well, I guess the logic is functional, mapping the known against the unknown, the familiar against the unfamiliar. But sounds kinda silly if you ask me, likening one to brand fettuccine as the “Italian mee kia” and yes in case you are wondering, it is being done by one of the popular brands for electrical goods, on their latest noodle making machine! Anyway, we’d digressed.
My first tasting of the feijoa I bought and I was blown away. The fruit had just beautifully ripened, with the core of the insides really gelatinous and sweet. The fruit was also highly perfumed, a bouquet of aromas which reminded me of bubble gum candy and a “grape-flavoured” soft drink called “Qoo”. It can be easily eaten by slicing lengthwise into two and scoop out the flesh as how one would eat a kiwi, with just a dessert spoon As we work towards the skin, the texture changes and becomes more… yes, you’d guessed it, guava-like, slightly fibrous and grainy in texture while the taste also developed from being sweet to sour. It is more juicy than the average guava. The progression of flavours was really interesting and I thought won’t it be great if I could put this into pastry?! And indeed I did! So here’s my little impulsive weekend baking venture, Tartelette au Feijoa et Chocolat Noir – Feijoa and Dark Chocolate Tartlets.
Springtime in Japan when everything is so beautiful. The weather is just starting to warm up a bit, when one can begin to embrace the earliest rays of the year while at the same time enjoy the cool from the remnants of the melting snow… The gardens are most lovely at this time of the year, as the ground awakens to the calls from the changing seasons and begins yet another year’s cycle. While we usher in the hanami season when cherry blossoms display their full regalia leaving all in their presence in awe, transfixed by their quiet beauty, the alluring fragrance from the plum blossoms still lingers in the air in some places and draws deep from within our soul, as we smile and sigh in the same breath, catching their final fleeting moments as the flowers dwindle and fade away to feed the sprouting soil…
Springtime is also a particularly important season for the Japanese. This is largely due to the availability of many fresh produce, bearing sharp contrast to much of the pickled foods which they would have eaten through the bitter winter months. The Japanese cuisine is one which is in harmony with the elements, changing with the seasons, tapping in the most opportunistic manner of what is the best to be eaten at what time of the year, depends entirely on what is available. While the cherry blossoms are most symbolic in Japan as the emblem of Spring, strawberries are also iconic and synonymous to this beautiful season in many ways. During springtime when strawberries are at their prime, most, if not all patisseries in Japan too roll out pastries themed after this much-loved fruit. Many of them do not take on fanciful and tongue twisting terms, but instead just a simple name like フレジエ Fraisier.
It has been several months since the news of the renowned Japanese patisserie Henri Charpentier (HC) has finally set up a dessert salon here in Singapore, making it their first overseas outlet outside Japan. Truth be told, that came as a surprise for me as most others would have made their presence in other Asia-Pacific regions, like Hong Kong or Taipei where the pastry scene is somewhat more vibrant than us here. Perhaps the pastry and dessert markets in these places are somewhat saturated already, making it more competitive to venture into. Perhaps HC saw the potential in establishing a joint or two here in this relatively untouched land. Whichever the case, a new player in the market is always welcomed. Hopefully the coming of HC signifies the escalation of our local pastry scene onto the next level. But that remains to be seen.
We‘’d tried quite a number of patisseries in Hong Kong over the last couple of years, from those who herald from France like La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin, to the local names like Petite Amanda. Some were reasonably good, like Passion by Dubois but some like Paul Lafayet seem to have fallen short of something. There is a lot of room for improvement and reflection, vis-a-vis the patisserie standards of its neighbours Taiwan and Japan. Yet we remain very hopeful as the pastry scene in Hong Kong is growing increasingly exciting yet at the same time. On our most recent trip, we made a point to visit a highly raved patisserie which we’d yet to try. They have been the Number 1 choice under the “desserts” category on a local Hong Kong food guide chart for quite sometime now. Is it as good as what’s been said?
Whenever we are in Taipei, we’d always make it a point to drop by Sadaharu Aoki’s dessert salons in either Bellavita or Hotel Regent Taipei, and sometimes both! There are always something new or seasonal, like a surprise that awaits us to uncover! Last year, we had Sensuelle, a Hotel Regent Taipei exclusive and our visit to Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris earlier this year was no exception. There were two new creations that were just waiting for us to sample!
Strangely whenever we are in Tokyo, we never really thought much about visiting Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris unlike the others be it local like Hidemi Sugino or Hideki Kawamura, or the “imports” like Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin. I think it is because we were already sampled quite a few of his creations during our trips to Taipei where he has two dessert salons, in Bellavita and Regent Taipei. However, perhaps due to the quality of the local ingredients used or the level of sophistication his local pastry team is imbued with, friends who tried his cakes from Paris, Taipei and Tokyo told me that one could quite literally make out a difference in the “quality” of the creations between these places. Unlike the macarons and other petit gateau pour sec which are all flown in from France, the entremets and petit gateaus we see in the local stores are made in situ. Tokyo turned out to be their favorite, whose standards of pastry surpasses even those from the 6th arrondissement flagship store in Paris supposedly. That got me very curious and we knew we had to try it to believe it!
Our recent trips to Hong Kong have been more exciting than ever! The local pastry scene has picked up considerably over the last couple of years and it has never been short of new joints to try or places which we’d enjoyed to revisit. Passion by Gerard Dubois is one of the latest addition to the growing number of new places to go for fine pastry in Hong Kong. Being a patisserie, boulangerie and confiserie all at once, it opened in 2012 in Wanchai, the heart of the CBD district in Hong Kong. So for our latest trip in 2013, it only seemed right to pay them a visit.
Yes, finally we begin the reviews on our visits to Pâtisserie Hidemi Sugino. If you are familiar with French pastry, Hidemi Sugino is a name that hardly needs introduction. And I would dare say that you do not know French pastry until you know Hidemi Sugino. Trained and apprenticed at Patisserie Peltier (now defunct) in France and most noted for winning the prestigious Coupe de Monde de la Pâtisserie back in 1991, he quickly became the spotlight upon returning to Japan, first opening an atelier and patisserie in Kobe before starting his own dessert boutique in Tokyo. Since then Hidemi Sugino created a wave of sensation within the Japanese gastronomic scene, attaining popularity like few had before him, with a strong and loyal following of fans and dessert aficionados both locally and abroad. (more…)
Yes we are back here again! We’d visited them back in 2011 and were quite impressed with their creations then. Hence, we’d decided to come back again on our next trip to Taipei. Found out through a fellow blogger Chelle that their selection changes periodically. Well, we kinda figured that out as what she sampled looked entirely different from what we’d tried!
Ladurée, an old guard in the long-withstanding tradition of French pastry-making is a name that hardly needs introduction. It is due to open its first outlet in Singapore in a week’s time. We’d visited Ladurée’s flagship store in Japan just last week. Hopefully this would be a “sneak preview” of we could expect when it hits town soon.
Truth be told, the visit to Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie was quite incidental. I was at Plaza Singapura to pass some knitting books to Eelin which I’d gotten for her at the recent Big Bad Wolf Book Sale 2012 when it started to rain. The original plan was to visit Robinsons’ annual sale but the downpour dampened the shopping spirit quite literally. Plaza Singapura’s new shopping annexe houses quite a number of F&B joints, some familiar faces and some new kids on the block. Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie‘s latest joint is located on the first level, in a rather strategic location, being very near the MRT exit as well as the latest bus stop and just next to the escalators. So rather conveniently, I packed three petit gateaus from their current sweet menu back home.
Interestingly, I noticed quite a number of pieces in the chiller display which are fruit themed. It seemed like Canelé is in for a rather fruity festive season. And I personally love to include fruits in my own bakes as well!
Gosh it has been so long since I last updated anything on our dessert sprees in Taipei and Osaka last year as well as Hong Kong earlier this year. Been really lazy recently with blogging, not to mention a writer’s block, evident in the recent Belachan Beehoon post. Anyway, we’re going Taiwan again (yes again!) in less than 2 months’ time, so upon some “
stern firm reminder” from J, I thought I’d better clear as much backlog as possible before the two rounds of dessert sprees to come. Yes! we are going Taiwan again next May as well! Alas, Taiwan has become more or less an annual pilgrimage for us. Hoping to steal some time for Japan as well since we’d missed it this year! How I wish it would be an annual pilgrimage for Japan as well! Anyway I’d digressed!
Our trip to Taiwan last year brought us for the “first” time to Taichung. Well, our last trip to Taichung was many many years ago and that was more of a “turn around”, since our local friend drove us down from Taipei and we’d “toured” Taichung for barely 2 hours before scurrying back to Taipei that same night. Thus, impressions on Taichung had always been blurry and non-descript, to say the very least. Despite our brief encounter, we’d never really been motivated sufficiently to visit Taichung again. In fact, there had always been a lot of impedence to visit this city located in the middle of the island country, owing much to the lack of a properly built-up transportation infrastructure. Unlike Taipei or Kaohsiung, Taichung does not have an MRT system within the city itself. Public bus routes are not easy to navigate, not to mention the irregular waiting times. Sparse and erratic bus service frequencies ain’t of much help as well. However, we’d been wanting to visit Fengjia Night Market 逢甲夜市, reputably the largest night market in Taiwan for the longest time now. Also there’s been a steady development in patisseries opening up in Taichung over the last 2-3 years which made me very curious about the quality of the bakes and makes produced by the growing crowd of young, budding patissiers in this city. Alas, the inevitable is finally here, so Taichung here we come!
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.
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!