Afternoon Tea | April 20, 2016 | Food
Choux, biskies & pimped-up éclairs:
meet the new cupcakes in town
Perusing the Maître Choux menu is like stepping into a cream-stuffed explosion of Wes Anderson palettes.
Rose pinks, pistachios and burnt butters decorate delicate pastries, piped with globetrotting flavours such as Arabica coffee, Tahitian vanilla and Spanish raspberry.
The French patisserie shop and small cafe in South Kensington is the brainchild of pastry chef Joakim Prat, holder of three Michelin stars and a constantly innovating mind.
His state-of-the-art kitchen transforms gourmet éclairs, choux and chouquettes (empty choux casings topped with pearl sugar and baked) into something quite extraordinary.
“We started off the brand with everyone’s favourite flavours,” he said, “In 2016, we’re playing with combinations while striving to keep the flavours intense and pure.”
As well as the hazelnut and milk chocolate eclair, the pâtisserie’s new MacNChoux Red Love éclair (filled with vanilla cream and raspberry puree and topped with a raspberry macaron) is proving most popular.
Image source: Maître Choux
Other flavours include a blend of 60%, 70% and 80% chocolate, lightened with whipped cream for a comforting, indulgent cocoa hit. Then there’s the Persian pistachio: a pastry work of art filled with a mousseline-style cream and topped with candied pistachios and small dots of textured meringue.
But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Joakim is determined to keep giving customers the unique and unexpected.
As he says, “People want to discover new things and be surprised, so I try my best to make this my focus when I develop a new product. How can I make something that tastes very pure and very good, while making sure it is something unique to the bite? And that, of course, looks great.”
With the cupcake recipe bibles exhausted, we’re more than ready to tackle the new trends in pastry cheffery. And it’s what Joakim – always to be found at the shop – is quizzed about by his customers.
“It’s all about practice – developing an eye for when to stop adding liquid to your mix will make or break your recipe,” he told us. “That’s the beauty of artisan-made stuff: we’re not in a controlled environment, so factors like humidity or temperature impact the development of your mix.”
Harpreet Baura, who runs luxury cake makers Crumbs Couture and recently starred in the BBC2 series Victorian Baker, is also glad to see choux pastry back in fashion.
“Now that the craze for cupcakes and macarons seems to have abated a little, people are revisiting those classic baking skills that have been forgotten in recent years.” she says.
“What makes an eclair or a choux bun so magnificent is that it allows the pastry chef to display a range of skills, and allows the person devouring it to experience a variety of textures. You have the crisp pastry, the luxurious creme patissiere, then the sweet glaze and finally the toppings. A sweet taste journey in the form of one dessert. What’s not to love?”
New bisks on the block
Image source: Cutter & Squidge
Another innovative pastry brand to break out from Britain’s cupcake avalanche is Soho’s Cutter & Squidge. The new store’s moreish, soft, chewy, cakey and creamy creations are almost too pretty to eat (we’re happy for you to take that as a challenge).
Taking centre stage of the Roald Dahl-esque menu, created by food-obsessed sisters Emily and Annabel Lui, is their unique creation – the biskie.
A one-of-a-kind fusion of biscuit/cookie/cake filled with lightened buttercream, handmade jams, award-winning caramels and other delights, biskies are made using only the finest natural ingredients. And they’re proving popular with local sweet tooths.
The Lui sisters told us:
“The most popular biskie flavours are pistachio roseberry and salted caramel smore. Our raspberry ripple dreamcake is also a winner. The biskie is a combination of everything me and my sister enjoy, biscuit, cookie and cake. It took 10 months of solid work to get the unique texture of all three!”
Other biskie varieties include key lime pie, green tea and crazy pink raspberry biskies – be sure to wash them down with a glass of chilled Oomph-ade (Willy Wonka, eat your heart out).
The sisters’ enchanting store features a magical secret garden created by designer Callum Lumsden (Warner Bros. California, Tate Modern); offering a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Soho.
Over to you
Making choux buns at home really doesn’t deserve that reputation for being tricky. If you feel like trying it out for yourself, Delia Smith has a reassuringly straightforward recipe, while My Taste has a dishful of fillings inspiration, both sweet and savoury.
Craving more playful, experimental pastry? Read all about the fabulous sketch: Mayfair’s dream-like afternoon tea experience.
*Lead image source: Maître Choux