From time to time, a simple dessert can hit the right spot. Some, like the Opéra, take laborious effort and time to piece together, while others only require a little more than mixing the ingredients together and baking in the oven. I may be over-simplifying, but it’s a matter of relativity. Yet, simplicity does not excuse one from demanding creativity and skill. In fact, sometimes, the simplest of things necessitates the greatest of ingenuity.
It is always difficult to choose something from a pâtisserie, especially when most pastry chefs are more than eager to display their culinary prowess with an eye-dazzling array of pastries that line their glass cabinets. My rule of thumb: when in a dilemma, choose something with raspberries. I’m more of a “fruit person” than a “chocolate person”, and the raspberry has just the right taste over any other berry on my palate. That said, this time round, I knew what I wanted from La Pâtisserie des Rêves along Rue du Bac – the Grand Cru, which will come in the next post.
The more elaborate pâtisseries were illustriously presented on a podium in the middle of the boutique. Each of them were encased in a glass jar-like capsule (not that I liked it though,) with a description printed in readable, large print. On the contrary, the viennoiseries and the rest were tucked at a corner, somewhat un-appetizingly Having made a decision beforehand, I briefly glanced over the other capsules, and ordered a Grand Cru at the counter to take away. The sales-lady smiled and walked into the kitchen to get my order, and that left me exploring the boutique’s less-attractive corners. I found this, the Cake Framboise et Thé Matcha, sitting on a plate at a corner. It didn’t come across as strikingly beautiful of course, but I was intrigued to find something that married two favorite flavors of mine. It’s a simple cake; it was relatively cheap and so I succumbed to temptation.
A few weeks ago, I had to bake a traditional Cake aux Fruits at school. Previously, I’ve heard that some people have experienced the problem of having the cut fruits sinking to the bottom of the batter. Instead of having the colorful gems evenly dispersed throughout the pound cake, the fruits cluster in the lower half, to much disappointment. A chef from the school says this from time to time, “there are no problems – only solutions.” The solution we were taught, was to pre-mix the macerated fruits with some flour, which helps to suspend them in the batter. It turned out well for us.
It’s a different story for raspberries, however. Left uncut, the way they are best enjoyed, the berries are too heavy, and they will sink. Are pound cakes and raspberries destined to be incompatible? Apparently the chef at La Pâtisserie des Rêves didn’t think so, and came up with a slightly ingenious answer – cover the barren top half with matcha. It might be an accident, but so be it. The photo can be deceiving; the matcha powder isn’t incorporated into the batter, it is only sprinkled on the cut surface. So there we have, a blissful marriage between two uncommon partners. I thought they complemented each other well. It was a partnership of the freshness of the berries and the subtle flavor of matcha. The juicy berries made up for the dry matcha powder, while the excess acidity was neutralized.
“Awesome!” I exclaimed (silently, of course).
On second thought, and perhaps after a few more bites, an underlying discord disturbed me. The unusual combination was ingenious, it had potential, but it lacked some sort of “synergy.” With partial knowledge of music, I would say, these two flavors belong to different family of chords. Played together, they sounded good but wait, something’s wrong, sort of. There was a “twang” in their harmony; it didn’t work out that well after all… But I wasn’t disappointed; it was a good match; it was delicious. The cake was moist, the sides weren’t burnt and rock-hard. Simple is good. The flavors were great too, I enjoyed it, but it’s not a perfect “happily-ever-after” ending. Hopefully, one day someone would bring together a perfect ensemble of raspberries and matcha. Till then, I’ll have them separately.