“Croquembouche”, a sophisticated arrangement of profiteroles, is made from small, round, custard-filled pastries, which are held together in the shape of a pyramid by caramelized sugar. It looks very much like a house of cards or a mountain of glasses of champagne. Take one, but cautiously. It almost reflects a philosophy of life, risky to handle but at the same time a sweet delicacy to enjoy. The word literally means, “crunches in the mouth”. The name inspired Frederic Caillon and his wife Laurence when they opened their first patisserie in Botany, in Sydney, 12 years ago.
But, in their pastry assortment, my attention is drawn to the more accessible and less risky to pick up macaroon. Croquembouche and macaroons belong to the same family of classic, traditional, secular pastries you offer at celebrations. Croquembouche was invented in 1800. Macaroons in their current form were developed not much later, although the original recipe was found in the 8th century in Venetian monasteries. Its name would come from the Venetian language “macarone” meaning fine dough. The well-known house of Ladurée, in Paris, has transformed the speciality into a colourful pastel palette. Still crunchy on the outside, mellow on the inside like the Croquembouche, it is prepared from egg whites, almonds and sugar. And now, the macaroon has gained a new youth.
Its popularity has spread all over the planet, from France to Japan, to South America. This is greatly due to the range of colours and the infinite blend of flavours. “It is a soft meringue that is cooked very carefully. It requires a knack to get it right”, explains Frederic Caillon. Macaroons can be dry, sticky like a caramel bar and dull, if not prepared with art. “For the last 3 to 4 years people have been just crazy about them, but I have been doing them for 20 years. Flavours have changed a lot. You now find coconut, raspberry, and caramel… I offer 25 different flavours.”
However, he admits, his savoury preparations, with the cheese tart and the very distinguished petits fours, are perhaps more appreciated. In the kitchen, Laurence prepares the sandwiches and the marinated meat used in the savouries. She is the one who imagines the menu.
As for many Europeans, their move to Australia started as a longing for wide spaces. “I like to go riding on my motorbike in the bush. I like it here. Australians don’t make their life difficult.” Still, tradition counts. In his shops, there are no muffins, that typically English cake. The trade of French Patissier is also a family tradition and Frederic does not disown his origins. Frederic trained as a pastry chef in Niort in the West of France, before starting to travel around France first and New Caledonia, working mainly at five-star hotels. He keeps up some very French habits, such as playing soccer, the national French sport, in a team… and with his kids.