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Hybrid pâtisserie

Hybrid pâtisserie

by Clare Gazzard Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pastry consultant Daniel Fletcher helps sift through the hype surrounding hybrid baking, whether cruffins and cronuts are really worth their weight in pastry, or just another flaky fad that’s sweeping through kitchens across the nation.

Clare juggles a love of food and passion for spreadsheets as Content Producer for Great British Chefs.

There was a time when you could guarantee that every cake shop or bakery you walked into would have a Victoria sandwich, maybe a carrot cake or coffee and walnut, and probably something smothered in chocolate. Today’s bakery tells a very different story. There’s international influence in almost everything we see, with France and U.S leading the pack; a croissant or éclair happily nestling between brownies and muffins. So far so good, French pâtisserie has always been at the heart of any pastry chef’s skill set, and U.S has always been known for being ahead of the crowd, always aiming to do things bigger and better. What we’ve seen in recent years is the amalgamation of the two, a world of hybrids where you no longer have to make that tricky decision between deep-fried doughnutty satisfaction and the elegant, buttery flakiness of a croissant. Enter the cronut, quickly followed by the cruffin (croissant-muffin), duffin (doughnut-muffin), dangel (Danish-bagel), townie (tart-brownie) and many more. Along the same lines, a wave of cake pops (cake-lollipops) swept the nation, while cupcakes took on flavour combinations traditionally reserved for desserts and drinks – the tiramisu cupcake, the mojito cupcake, the Eton Mess cupcake, the green tea cupcake…

We all know that there’s a fine line between genius and madness: has the baking world crossed that line? Are these merely fads and fancies, or is there actual substance and clout to these creations? Pastry consultant and pop-up bakery owner, Daniel Fletcher, helped me sort the cruffins from the nuffins.

Popularity

Anything that is bringing interest into the world of pastry is a positive.

Firstly, Daniel points out that ‘Anything that is bringing interest into the world of pastry is a positive’. Which is true – TV programmes like the Great British Bake Off have generated a huge wave of national enthusiasm for all things baked, with the sale of baking equipment and ingredients constantly on the rise. It’s also made diners more receptive to greater creativity when eating out, allowing pastry chefs to spread their wings; ‘Looking at the current trends I believe these hybrids are popular as they are letting pastry chefs/bakers showcase their technical abilities, while also appealing to a wider audience by using not only familiar, but also really interesting flavour combinations.’

Daniel demonstrates this with several of the pastries currently on the menu of his pop up bakery, Sweet., including his personal favourite, a Nutella Kouign Amann – ‘a classic pastry from Breton in France of a caramelised laminated dough but I fill these with Nutella before baking to add an extra level of flavour’. As this particular type of pastry is less well known in Britain than many others, Daniel says that adding something popular and mainstream, like Nutella, is a way of introducing it to a much wider audience. There’s also a peanut butter jammy dodger, a lemon meringue doughnut, and he’s currently developing some kind of sticky toffee pudding pastry; 'When choosing flavour combinations I try to use flavours that work well together and in some respects are nostalgic. Putting a smile on people’s faces is something that I enjoy, pastry after all is supposed to be fun.'

 
Nutella Kouign-amann
Nutella Kouign-amann
Peanut butter jammy dodgers
Peanut butter jammy dodgers

Technique

As a classically trained pastry chef, the key for Daniel is the technique and the result. It’s not just style over substance if the final creation is worth it. ‘Personally I am a fan of these pastries - as long as the overall product is enhanced. For example, the cronut is using a classic technique of a laminated dough but creating a doughnut with a completely different texture, almost a refined version.’

In terms of technique, from the French pâtisserie side, it’s all about lamination. ‘Layering a dough with butter to create a light flaky texture is the key. It takes time and is something that cannot be rushed. The process from start to finish takes around 18 hours from making the dough, to the addition of the butter and the layering process to the finished product.’ The tricky development process evolves around trying to maintain this delicious flakiness when the pastry is baked in the confines of different shapes (e.g. a muffin tin) or filled with different substances (a custard, jam or meringue).

 
 

One of the most popular recipes on his current menu is his raspberry and custard cruffin; ‘a croissant dough moulded into a muffin tin and once baked, filled with a vanilla custard and a raspberry jam, then rolled in sugar’. This is apparently harder to do than it sounds as ‘they are two totally different products, my first try at this, compared to what I make today, is quite different I can tell you!’ It’s about learning to be ‘realistic… trying not to complicate things by using too many techniques or flavours’. Jam and custard are a classic combination, but their liquid nature obviously affects the crisp, laminated pastry, risking a solid lump, rather than a light, pillowy texture. If done correctly, the flavours and textures combine beautifully rather than overpower – a slight crunch on the first bite, a hint of caramelised butter in the flaky pastry, the creamy vanilla custard surrounded by soft, fluffy dough inside, all rounded off with a slight tartness from the jam. This is not an overindulgence or a sickly sweet overload; it’s still aspiring to the refined, elegant pastries of classic French pâtisseries.

The proof is in the pudding

Or rather in the pastry. I was willing to sideline the cronut, cruffin and their many siblings alongside the likes of test-tube burgers and cat cafés, PR stunts designed to shock and enthral all in one, but having tasted the raspberry and custard cruffin, and seen what goes into making it, I’m a convert. They are exactly the same as any other pastry; if done well, they can be delicious, delightful and even daring. Trying to over-complicate any cake, biscuit or éclair can result in a disaster, and to execute multiple techniques and include different flavours and textures in one handy morsel is something to be respected, and eaten.

 

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