Of patisseries and pears

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just as I was lamenting the cold and grey of winter, Sydney turned on one of those stunning blue-sky days (a ‘corker’, in Aussie vernacular). As I took the ferry into the city, I savoured the sunshine and counted my blessings.

The famous harbour was dotted with an improbable number of yachts and boats. Tourists around me clicked cameras and waved madly to people on other watercraft.

yachts on sydney harbour

Once docked, I met up with my friend YK, and we headed into The Rocks for a quick lunch and a long chat. Apres lunch, we ended up at Sydney institution La Renaissance Patisserie (47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW) for coffee and cake.

la renaissance patisserie
This café has been going strong for over 30 years, and while the décor and furniture have seen better days, it’s all forgotten when you’re face-to-face with the dazzling array of sweet treats in the glass-fronted counter. (All the goodies are made in-house and you can view some of them online).

We endured a small (yet growing) queue, but tables turned over quickly and service was brisk and efficient. A few more smiles wouldn’t have gone astray but, to be fair, it was a busy Sunday.

We decided on a trio of macarons to share ($10 per 100g), including a dark chocolate ganache version (Valrhona), a salted caramel (Fleur de Sel) and an olive oil macaron with white chocolate ganache. We also ordered a couple of (very drinkable) coffees, which took the bill to $14.70 - pretty reasonable considering a similar selection at some of the franchised ‘chocolate cafes’ in town would set you back much more.

macaron trio
(From front to back: dark chocolate, olive oil and salted caramel)

YK and I split each macaron in half and savoured every bite, dissecting the flavours as we went. I thought the texture was perfect, but YK had higher standards. We both agreed, however, the flavours were superb and it was a hard call picking a favourite. We decided that the dark chocolate was the winner in the classic division, and the salted caramel the winner in the contemporary division. YK commented that the salty caramel reminded her of childhood lollies – butter toffees.

All too soon, my afternoon of indulgence ended, and I headed back home, watching the same joyful parade of boats, yachts and tourists, but in reverse. To celebrate, I decided to end the day with an homage to sails and French food.

coconut boats pear sails

Coconut boats with pear “sails” and chocolate sauce.
(A Test with Skewer take on Poire Belle-Helene)

Pear “sails”
(Method based on one found in Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes)
Slice a pear as thinly as possible (I wish I had a mandolin for this), and brush both surfaces with light sugar syrup. Dry on a wire rack in a slow oven (120˚C) for about 40 minutes or until crisp.

Chocolate sauce
Use your favourite recipe. I used ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup cream, roughly 60g dark chocolate and a cinnamon quill gently heated together. Stir until melted.

Coconut boats
Shape a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (store bought for me) using two spoons until boat like. Roll in dessicated coconut and freeze on baking paper until needed. (Yes, again with the coconut. I was using up leftovers you see).

To serve:
Pour chocolate sauce onto plate, top with coconut boats, then arrange pear sails over that.

(Well, so they don’t look very boat-like but they tasted great)


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ooh great way to spend the day I have to say! Was this on the Sunday just past? We had the same urge to get near the water this last Sunday too :) I love your homage to the boats too!

shaz said...

Yes, it was this Sunday. There were so many boats on the water, it seemed like every Sydneysider had the samae idea :)