November 2008


welsh-lady-cakeThe Welsh Lady is a bit of an institution in Brisbane.  This exclusive bakery in Rosalie produces beautifully rich celebration cakes laced with liqueurs, sandwiched with creamy delights, topped with lashings of European chocolate, and decorated like a piece of art.

I have been fortunate to sample a handful of these creations over the years.  Needless to say, all absolutely delicious!  So when I stumbled upon an opportunity to learn to create a wedding cake with Gwen herself, I jumped at the chance.

I enrolled in a class organised through Black Pearl Epicure and eagerly counted down the days.  So eagerly in fact I actually turned up a day early by accident.  (Whoops!)

The class covered many aspects of wedding cake making, from the basic cake to icing selection and decoration.  We worked with a basic mud cake as base and a number of icings such as fresh cream, ganache and meringue.  The cakes were decorated with curls, chards, chocolate collars, and of course, fresh flowers. 

I was allocated the meringue frosting for my cake, and was pleased with the drawcard when Gwen revealed it was the Martha Stewart seven-minute recipe.  I had worked with that particular recipe before and love Martha so the how could I go wrong? 

During the assembly of the cake, baking turned somewhat into carpentry as dowels were sawn down to precise measurements to insert into the cake and provide stability between the layers.  The cake was then covered with ganache, slightly cooled and then the meringue frosting was applied.  The cake was then decorated with simple flowers and greenery.

I managed get my cake home fairly unscathed.  After a few touch ups, I was able to snap off a few photos as a reminder.  The next day, I lugged the (very heavy after carrying for a while!) two-tier cake into the office for all my co-workers to consume.  A brief mention that the cake was created with the assistance of the Welsh Lady, and it was gone in a flash.   Thanks, Gwen!

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My macaron obsession was tested during a visit to Gérald Mulot at magasin La Glacière in the 13th arrondissement organised through a Meeting the French tour.  Oh, and my obsession was duly confirmed. 

I watched with intense curiosity as head pastry chef Patrick Leclerc demonstrated the making of the macaron.   Patrick has created many of the flavours at Gérald Mulot over the years and there certainly is quite an assortment – vanilla, coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, nougat, blackcurrant-cherry, raspberry, lemon, coconut, orange-ginger, passionfruit and caramel.

Patrick made the macarons using the French meringue technique.  He whipped the egg whites, added colour, then folded into the almond/powdered sugar mixture.  They were piped evenly with some assistance to ensure uniformity of size (and speed!).  And to the question of whether or not to let the piped batter sit before baking?…  These macarons went straight into the oven!

  

If that wasn’t enough, on top of viewing first hand the elusive macaron being made by an expert, I was able to munch on a few delicious offerings at the same time.  I was like a kid in a candy shop (literally!!).

Like many other people, I have become obsessed with the macaron.  I need to perfect them – and soon.  They are the trickiest little things I have ever attempted to bake and require such extreme precision…the age of the egg whites, the texture of the almond and icing sugar, the consistency of the mixture, the piping of the batter, the time required to rest the piped cookie, and temperature regulation of the oven.  Sacre bleu!

My notebook for baking these elusive treats resembles something a science student would take to class over a collection of jottings from the kitchen.  It contains copious details of all my macaron ‘experiments’, as my macaron obsession has become a science project in a way.  Yet at the same time, I cannot ignore the simple beauty and art of the macaron.

I am fortunate to have tasted many macarons from a number of Paris’ top patisserie houses…Gérald Mulot, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.  These macarons were perfect specimens.  Faultless in every way.  From the perfectly smooth top, the frilly feet, and the delicate texture.  The combination of the crispy exterior and chewy interior of these most perfect macarons was a delight to savour.

Being so very far away from these patisserie houses now does limit my options for ongoing sampling.  Perhaps a bit of a windfall for my waistline but not for curing my obsession.   A few small bakeries in my hometown sell macarons, yet not quite to the calibre I tasted in France.  There are limited options here.  Buy them or bake them myself?  Unfortunately, I can only see win, win?  How terrible.