Born to bake

Bbc Life­style chan­nel’s bak­ingMad star Eric Lan­lard shares the se­cret of his bak­ing suc­cess.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By S. INDRAMALAR

IT is a lit­tle af­ter three in the af­ter­noon when French mas­ter patissier Eric Lan­lard walks into the culi­nary stu­dio at starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur for his pas­try mas­ter class, the sec­ond one of the day, with mem­bers of the Malaysian me­dia.

“Do you like to bake?” he asks, and then laughs when his ques­tion is met with ner­vous laugh­ter.

De­spite hav­ing been on his feet since nine that morn­ing, con­duct­ing in­ter­views and mas­ter classes for the Malaysian me­dia, Lan­lard shows no sign of fa­tigue. in­stead, he flashes us a big, warm smile and makes small talk, shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence eat­ing at a ma­mak stall and his en­counter with the in­fa­mous Malaysian bean, petai.

“it has a very ... strong smell. i had it last night with some beau­ti­ful prawns. it was very good but i made sure i brushed my teeth thor­oughly be­fore go­ing to sleep to get rid of the smell. But when i woke up this morn­ing, the smell was still in my mouth! i didn’t know what was go­ing on ...” he says, still a lit­tle per­plexed.

One of the perks of trav­el­ling so much, he ad­mits, is get­ting to try new and dif­fer­ent flavours from around the world. Travel, he says, is one of the great sources of culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion for him and the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the Matcha and Yuzu Tart which we were about to make.

“it is a vari­a­tion of the clas­sic le­mon tart us­ing Asian flavours of green tea pow­der and yuzu, a Ja­panese cit­rus fruit that tastes like a mix of le­mon and man­darin,” he says as he starts to guide us through the recipe.

Lan­lard, 44, was in Kuala Lumpur to pro­mote his show on BBC Life­style, Bak­ing Mad With Eric Lan­lard, in which he shares his tips on pro­duc­ing mouth-wa­ter­ing (and beau­ti­ful) cakes and desserts with ease. The show also pits am­a­teur cooks against each other in weekly bake-off chal­lenges aimed at dis­cov­er­ing home-grown bak­ing tal­ent in Bri­tain where he lives and runs his cake bou­tique, Cake Boy.

The two-time win­ner of the pres­ti­gious Con­ti­nen­tal Patissier of the Year award (at the Bri­tish Bak­ing Awards) has a clien­tele of A-list celebri­ties like Madonna (he made a mas­sive cro­quem­bouche for her wed­ding to Guy Ritchie), El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley and Claudia schif­fer (for whom he made their wed­ding cakes), the Beck­hams and the Queen Mother (he made her 101st birth­day cake in the shape of a hat topped with two cor­gis wear­ing tiaras made from su­gar craft!).

“The press loves it ... the fact that i’ve made cakes for all th­ese celebri­ties but i don’t want it to seem like i only make cakes for celebri­ties or that my cakes are too ex­pen­sive. At Cake Boy, we treat ev­ery cus­tomer like a celebrity,” he says.

While his dessert master­pieces earn him high praise, Lan­lard stresses that the first rule for any baker is to make sure that a dessert tastes as good as it looks.

“A lot of peo­ple want to make beau­ti­ful look­ing desserts but it is im­por­tant to know the ba­sics first. You can cre­ate beau­ti­ful dec­o­ra­tions but if the cake is not good ... it’s not go­ing to work.”

Born to bake

Land­lard says that he knew he wanted to be a patissier early in his life, jok­ing in past in­ter­views that he must have been born in a mix­ing bowl with a whisk in one hand and a rolling pin in the other.

“My par­ents claim that i was five years old when i an­nounced my in­ten­tion of be­com­ing a pas­try chef. i can’t re­mem­ber that but i did start mak­ing cakes at a young age.

“i used to love go­ing to patis­series with my dad and mum when i was a kid. it wasn’t about eat­ing the food i saw be­cause i don’t have a sweet tooth, re­ally ... but it was all about the glam­our of those patis­series.

“in France, patis­series are like jew­ellery shops ... beau­ti­ful cakes and pas­tries are wrapped up in a pretty box with rib­bons and peo­ple are pre­pared to pay a lot of money for them be­cause they are of such high qual­ity. The French ap­pre­ci­ate that, and they walk in the street proudly with their patis­serie bag. i loved that sense of oc­ca­sion you get when you step into a patis­serie,” he gushes.

At home in Brit­tany in France, with the en­cour­age­ment of his par­ents who also loved to bake, cook and en­ter­tain, Lan­lard would ex­per­i­ment in the kitchen and his cakes of­ten won the praise of his neigh­bours and his par­ents’ friends.

“At one stage when i was 10, i got a small bak­ing busi­ness go­ing. Ev­ery­one used to tell me how nice my cakes were so i de­cided to sell them. i put a ta­ble out­side my house and sold the cakes that i had baked. And i was mak­ing so much money that my mother threat­ened to start charg­ing me for the in­gre­di­ents be­cause i’d used up all of hers,” he says with a laugh.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing as the sec­ond best ap­pren­tice in France, Lan­lard joined the navy for his com­pul­sory na­tional ser­vice where he not only got the chance to travel and ex­pose his palate to new flavours and in­gre­di­ents, but also where he got the chance to cook for the French pres­i­dent at the time, Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand.

“i was on the French Navy’s flag­ship fleet as the cap­tain’s pas­try chef. Only in France does the cap­tain of the navy have his own pas­try chef!” he jokes.

“it was a beau­ti­ful ship that would go all over the world and i would get to cook for peo­ple on board in the places where we docked. it was a tremen­dous ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause it was just me – i was just 18 at the time – and two ap­pren­tice chefs on board.

The first time we had to cook for an of­fi­cial func­tion on board was for the pres­i­dent. And he was very im­pressed with the food ... he came into the kitchen af­ter the meal and thanked us for the food and he gave me some gold cuff­links, which i still wear to­day,” he says with pride.

Bak­ing with the best

For Lan­lard, bak­ing with the best in­gre­di­ents is cru­cial in cre­at­ing good desserts. if there was one valu­able tip he can of­fer am­a­teur bak­ers, it is that they have to use good qual­ity in­gre­di­ents – real but­ter in­stead of mar­garine, good qual­ity choco­late and pure vanilla ex­tract in­stead of flavour­ing.

Another, he says, is to fol­low a recipe to the very last de­tail – which is some­thing he still does – be­cause bak­ing, un­like cook­ing, is a pre­cise sci­ence.

“Bak­ing is not like cook­ing where you can just throw in in­gre­di­ents and re­place one in­gre­di­ent with another if you don’t have it with you. Bak­ing is very pre­cise and you have to fol­low a recipe,” he cau­tions.

When asked if he found any dessert still a chal­lenge, Lan­lard doesn’t hes­i­tate for a sec­ond.

“Mac­arons! They are a night­mare. And, if any pas­try chef tells you that mak­ing mac­arons is not a night­mare, they are ly­ing. You never know what might go wrong be­cause there are so many fac­tors to con­sider when mak­ing mac­arons,” says Lan­lard.

By this time, we had com­pleted the Matcha and Yuzu Tart which Lan­lard had mas­ter­fully dec­o­rated with fresh fruit dusted with ic­ing su­gar.

“shall we taste it?” he asks, cut­ting into the master­piece which was, need­less to say, ex­quis­ite.

Pas­sion­ate patissier: Eric Lan­lard in­sists on us­ing only the best in­gre­di­ents for his desserts.

— RAY­MOND OOI/The Star

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