Sophisticated treats for the dessert crowd
A NEW wave of passionate and talented young Singaporean pastry chefs are making their mark with their refined, sophisticated treats. We track them down.
MAD ABOUT SUCRE
27 Teo Hong Roadd
Open Tue to Thu, 11.30am-10.30pm; Fri to Sat, 11.30am-11pm;
Sun, 10am-5pm; closed on Mon
Step into cake shop Mad About Sucre in Teo Hong Road, and you will see a petite woman kneading dough or laying slices of sponge cake on top of blocks of cheese mousse.
That woman is Lena Chan, Mad About Sucre's cake couturier. Ms Chan, 40 and a mother of two, has been baking actively for the last 15 years. Back then, she was working in a bank and baking was her way of de-stressing.
Ms Chan and her older brother, Eric, together with two other partners, set up the cake shop, which opened on Feb 8.
She began making allergen-free cakes and breads, so her children could enjoy the goodies.
Often, she would be working in the day and baking at night. But knowing that her passion was really in baking rather than crunching numbers, she decided to give up her job and went to train at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
She spent some years working at Sugarplum Cake Shop, where she was head decorator at the top wedding cake specialist. After living in Paris for about two years, she decided it was time for her family to return home.
Mr Chan felt that at her age, his sister might have a difficult time finding a job and encouraged her to pursue her passion. The result is Mad About Sucre.
Ms Chan has about 40 cake recipes but she is introducing five for now. "The five are my family's favourites," she quipped.
There is the Passionne, a very light passion fruit cheese cake, and the San Domingue, shaped in a ball topped with a dainty chocolate box. This cake has mousse made from 70 per cent single origin chocolate, with caramelised plantain, vanilla cream and a crunchy base made from butter from Brittany.
Another favourite is the Coco Citron, a coconut mousse on top of lemon curd, with sprinkled crystal drops made from melted sugar on it.
She makes sure the sugar level is kept low and only unbleached raw sugar is used. Ms Chan also uses only organic, unbleached flour and Himalayan pink salt. She does not use any premixes, artificial flavouring or stabilisers. Her cakes tend to be in muted colours as no artificial colouring is added. Instead, she uses fruit puree to create colours.
She declined to go into specifics, but said that her pastries and wedding cakes are sold to a few top hotels as well.
333 Kreta Ayer Road #01-14
Open Mon and Sun, 12pm-5pm; Wed to Sat, 12pm-9.30pm; closed on Tue
Most first-time entrepreneurs would take the safe route: Spend some time working in, say, a bakery, before starting their own business. Georgina Sim is one confident woman. Together with her sister Glenda, she recently opened European-style patisserie Les Delices in Kreta Ayer.
Georgina, 26, does all the baking while Glenda, 30, runs the front of the shop. The younger woman's passion in baking started five years ago.
"I'm into French pastries and come up with my own recipes," said Georgina. "The French value their pastries and pastries make people happy, which is what I want to do too."
Georgina trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she learnt the basic techniques for making pastries and cakes.
She returned to Singapore and started an online cake business with Glenda selling American cakes, also known as layered cakes. She stuck to her dream of opening a patisserie and the opportunity to do so came last year, when they found a suitable space in Chinatown.
Rather than offer customised cakes, Georgina has focused solely on French pastries to showcase her skills.
Choux pastries are her speciality. For now, her choux pastries come in three flavours: earl grey, matcha and chocolate. There are plans for more flavours.
Georgina said the Heavenly Chocolate Dome is a real test of her skills. It comes with a five-layer Valrhona Guanaja, 70 per cent chocolate and hazelnut mousse, crispy praline coating, hazelnut dacquoise and a dome glazing. "It's a time-consuming process to put all the five layers together," she explained.
Where possible, Georgina adds surprises to her cakes. For instance, popping candy makes an appearance in the base of her Berry Popping Cheesecake to give it an extra element and crunch.
The sisters also worked with a tea expert to come up with pairings for their cakes. They do not pair the cakes with just the usual English teas, but with Chinese teas as well. For example, Shuixian tea goes well with the Heavenly Chocolate Dome.
Inspired by French cafes, Les Delices resembles one. A long bar table by the window allows diners to people watch while enjoying their cake. More seating will be added in the next month. On the walls are photographs of Paris, taken by Georgina.
SELFISH GENE PATISSERIE
40 Craig Road, Level 2
Open Wed to Thu, 6pm-10pm; Fri to Sat, 12pm-5pm, 6pm-10pm; Sun, 12pm-5pm. Closed on Mon and Tue
It has been six years since Gene Mok began his career in the F&B industry, and things have come full circle as he returns to his first love - sweets and pastry.
"My initial goal for learning how to cook was to become a pastry chef, but I got redirected by my chef at the time," said Mr Mok, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Australia before getting a job at a French restaurant here.
"He encouraged me to try savoury first then go back to pastry, to get more exposure, so I just ran with that," he said.
So it was just two weeks ago that Mr Mok finally started his own dessert restaurant - Selfish Gene Patisserie, on the second floor of the shophouse in Tanjong Pagar that also houses his three-year-old cafe, Selfish Gene Cafe. Unlike the cafe, which offers counter service and a more laid-back, casual vibe, the patisserie is cosier with its wooden furniture and is more suited for slow post-dinner conversation.
"We don't just put a scoop of ice cream and serve it to people, it's plated desserts where we have different components that we make ourselves," he said.
Which is why his menu is a specialised one of just seven plated desserts ($12 to $14), most of which are his original creations.
Most customers do not know what to expect when they place their order, which is why Mr Mok keeps the desserts as uncomplicated as possible, and simply names them after their main ingredients.
For example, Lime Lychee is made up of lime ice, lychee ice, lime ice cream, lychee and nata de coco. Soya is made up of soya components like tofu cheesecake, red bean, mochi, red miso, and green-tea ice cream, while Chocolate is made up of dark chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, orange confit and orange ice cream.
All seven items on the menu are carefully arranged from the lightest flavours to the heaviest, beginning with Lime Lychee, then Lemon, Pineapple, Coconut, Soya, Ginger and Chocolate. Mr Mok also intends to add a special item that will be renewed every now and then.
THE BUSINESS TIMES