Sultans of Sweet
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Sultans of Sweet

Namita Kohli in Delhi and Lalita Iyer in Mumbai hunt down the country’s top pastry chefs and their favourite confections.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2009 23:04 IST

Taste is in the detail

Ravindra Verma
Trident, Mumbai

At the moment he is obsessed with a Raspberry Chestnut Madagascar. It’s a combination of various flavours of chestnut with raspberry and chocolate and tastes as exotic as it sounds. “We have introduced it at the Frangipani as well as at Gourmet Shoppe; the roaring sales at both the places are proving that guests are liking it,” says Chef Ravindra. Yet, ask him for his personal favourite and you find that it isn’t this exotica. It’s his White Chocolate & Brioche pudding, served with vanilla sauce.

Ravindra says making desserts is technically challenging and artistically demanding. “A lot of detailing is involved in setting standards and ensuring they are maintained,” he says with not a little pride.

So, how does he live up to his high standards? “You have to review where you have gone wrong and start from that end again. At times, it’s irreversible and you can’t do anything but start again. Salvaging a dessert gone wrong can alter the original intent altogether.”

He reveals that his special Valentine’s confection includes champagne, strawberry and chocolate. But that’s all he would let on.

Served with slices of forbidden fruits

Rohit Sangwan
Taj Land’s End, Mumbai

He gets a kick out of watching people eat what they are not supposed to. “Desserts bring out the child in adults... especially if they are forbidden... it’s so much fun to see the joy on people’s faces when they are eating your desserts on the sly,” says the jolly chef.

What works the best for him is combining various textures — like his sinful-sounding eight-chocolate platter, or an equally dizzy ensemble of strawberries, custard and chocolate that he thinks makes for the perfect Valentine’s dessert.

The best dessert he has ever eaten was in France. “It was a Napoleon slice at Alain Ducasse’s pastry shop in Paris. A very simple dessert, a layered pastry, made with puff and French custard… but the taste was memorable,” he says. And we drool.

Where East meets West

Ramachandra Kumar
Shangri-La, New Delhi

Ramachandra Kumar, or Chef Ram, likes his gulab jamun and gajar halwa so much that they often find their way into his cheesecakes. So does the masala chai into his bread-and-butter pudding.

“I have to ensure there’s a balance. So, for the gulab jamun cheesecake, I use a little lime juice to lessen the sweetness,” says the 28-year-old while spinning a fine sugar mesh for a garnish.

Ram, who has worked for four years in Italy, loves the Italian classic desserts — from the simple tiramisu to the Cassata Siciliana, a traditional ricotta cheese delicacy that has diners eating out of his hands.

But his heart lies in working on Indo-European fusion. “My chocolate cake with curry powder got me rave reviews.” We are still waiting for something with rasmalai.

Molecules for our molars

Daniel Koshy
Radisson MBD, Noida

Daniel Koshy wanted to be a doctor but failed the entrance exams. Which is actually all for the good, since the scientific training helps Koshy as he plays around with chocolate and sugar. “Pulled or blown, at different temperatures sugar can achieve different effects,” explains Koshy, referring to the ways of making sugar sculptures.

Chef Dany’s specialty is a black forest pastry wrapped in a multi-coloured chocolate mould and topped with edible gold-painted truffles, or a mille feuille (layered French pastry) with ghewar. “The secret lies in the flour and the art of rolling out the layers,” he says.

It has taken Koshy a three-month course at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and hours of “standing in the bakery” to get here.

Now, he is almost an artist, working on chocolate with his spray guns, a guitar-cutter, cocoa butter sheets and bottles of edible food colour.

Sugar surprise

Soumya Goswami
Oberoi, New Delhi

Soumya Goswami likes to surprise — whether with the hint of five-spice in his chocolate pastry, or the claim that he made 400 croissants every day as a trainee. His latest is a chocolate stiletto, made of chocolate gunpaste, marzipan and cocoa paste, displayed to great effect next to a chocolate handbag in a glass box at the hotel’s pastry shop.

But Goswami, 37, is more than a showman. “I like to perfect my classics and then add a twist.” By which this graduate of the well-known Lenotre School in Paris means a Jasmine tea-flavoured, handmade chocolate, a chocolate cake with a crème brulee filling; and champagne mousse with pear compote inside.

So what next? “Asian influences are the latest trend, so maybe a wasabi chocolate.” We’ll wait for that one, for sure.

Team texture

Manish thakur and co.
ITC Grand Maratha, Mumbai

Having just got a root canal done, he is probably the perfect poster boy for a pastry chef. He agrees that presentation is the most complicated part in a dessert — angle of placement, focal point, garnishes. “Everything has to be 10 on 10, desserts have to look good or else it’s a disaster. If you need to get it right, you have to get it right the first time, with clinical precision,” he says.

This 28-year-old’s personal favourite is a maple and pecan nut baked cheese cake with rum raisin coulis.

His pastry team has a very contemporary approach towards the desserts, innovating very mundane and old fashion desserts, like crème brulees. “We have tried to juxtapose textures in it, by putting popping crispies in it or berry nuggets or butterscotch nuggets, coffee beans in the creamy texture to add crunch and or using a layer of creme brulee inside a stratification of mousse, giving it a new dimension.

First Published: Feb 14, 2009 22:54 IST