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European and Asian Breakfast Pastries


pastrygirl
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Every now and then we'll get a complaint from a guest (generally French-speaking) that the food at the hotel is 'too American'. Considering that all six chefs including myself are American, there may be something to the complaint, but unfortunately none of us have spent enough time in Europe or elsewhere to really understand what these guests want. I didn't bring Ducasse's Grande Livre or my French cake book (Healy/Bugat), so I have only American cookbooks and the internet for reference.

I would love some input and ideas on how to make things more Euro-friendly, and how you would interpret the directive to make things 'less American'. What does 'more European' mean to you in terms of baking and pastry? I'll leave it to the other chefs to figure out what it means in terms of chicken and asparagus.

At breakfast, we have a pastry basket with croissants, muffins, and scones. I can keep trying with choux (I haven't been happy with it here, blaming the altitude) for some cream puffs or eclairs. The croissants are enough of a PIA, I don't really want to do another laminated dough. I'm considering a homemade nutella type spread on toasted baguette, and I do have a not too sweet cheese brioche at one lodge that I could probably repeat. What else do people eat for breakfast?

Then there are the cookies. Are European cookies a lot less sweet? This Swiss woman complained that the cookies were too sweet. We're talking pretty typical chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, shortbread. I'm kind of blanking on what typical French cookies would be, besides macarons, which have also been disastrous here, and madelines, which I think are dumb. (Sorry. It's just cake, it's not a cookie!)

As for desserts, I guess its more of a style question. What is European? Less sweet? More meringue and mousse? The French classics? Italian classics?

I can also go more Asian, too, being in Asia, but I haven't found a whole lot of Asian desserts that I think would sell well on the menu. I do have The Sweet Spot, and I have gotten a few ideas from there. If sweetness is the problem, I don't want to get too much into Indian desserts, they are usually way too sweet for me, but something here or there might be OK.

Any ideas or cookbook recommendations? If it's on Amazon, I can get it in about a month!

Mini rant: We all just wish that we could really spell it out to the guests sometimes. Many of them realize how many challenges we have here and appreciate the food, but a few of them just don't get that the cream won't whip, the fruit is usually mediocre and bruised, imports don't always get here on time, the staff doesn't always get the point, etc etc. We'd love to import better varieties of mango trees, plant them, wait 5 years, then give you the best mangoes ever for your breakfast, but right now it's just not going to happen - this means you, unsatisfiable British guy from last week!

Help! And thank you!

Edited by pastrygirl (log)
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I think it's true that American recipes tend to be too sweet. I usually cut down the sugar amounts in most US recipes by 20-35%, and I know a few other Egulleters do as well. I generally don't have to make the same adjustment with my Japanese baking recipes (same items: cookies, cakes, etc.).

As for the breakfast pastry basket, "croissants, muffins, and scones" does sound very American to me, with the obvious exception of the croissants. Unless I were really missing muffins and scones (ex-pat hunger pangs), I would personally be happier seeing something like brioches, pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins, in addition to a well-made croissant. Fairly pedestrian choices, but more European and up-scale to me. I think of muffins and scones as more of a home baking item, maybe that's just me.

When you say Asian desserts, you seem to be referring to indigenous desserts, but some parts of Asia like Japan and HK have a strong tradition of Western-influenced pastry. You don't think a dessert with yuzu or matcha, just to name some obvious ingredients, would do well on your menu? How about lychee, coconut or lemongrass flavorings?

My $0.02.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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A very worthwhile $0.02!

Is pain au raisins a brioche pastry or laminated dough? I could certainly do more brioche based pastry for breakfast, that would be good and pretty easy.

I do use tea, coconut, lemongrass, black sesame, baby bananas, pineapple, tapioca, lots of ginger, mango, among other things and have gotten lychee before. I'm not sure if I can get matcha or yuzu, it may be possible. We've been back and forth with the corporate office and accounts on whether we import too much. I'm finally getting almond paste, so that should help on the petit four front.

I guess as far as Asian desserts not being appealing on the menu I did mean the more traditional ones, the grass jelly family of things that scare a lot of westerners. We do a Thai menu at one lodge and always have a Thai dessert, but the lodge chef there does that, and it's usually tapioca with canned rambutan or something kind of lame because he doesn't care. I think there are kaffir lime leaves for the Thai menu, I should steal some of those for a dessert. I haven't looked into Japanese desserts much, that is a good idea.

About half of our guests are American, so we do want to keep them happy as well, it's sort of a delicate balance. Half chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins, half canneles and chausson au pommes.

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Like sanrensho, I cut sugar from US recipes by about 25% and even with that, some of my (Japanese) co-workers still find some of my baking to be quite sweet.

For cookies, oatmeal, chocolate chip, and especially peanut butter defintely scream "American" to me. I would still offer them, but perhaps make them smaller--bite-sized (I don't know how big your cookies are, but most NA cookies are quite large). And I would add more sablé-type cookies. I'm sure Dorie Greenspan's Korova Cookies would do well, and perhaps even her Coconut Domes.

Desserts--it depends on which part of Europe, I guess. When I think of French desserts I think of tarts and mousse-y creations. But when I think of Central European desserts, I think of tortes. What kind of desserts do you already have?

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I think offering savoury bread and pate, meat, and cheese for breakfast is very European. I remember in Hanoi that "le petit dejeuner" offered at most cafes included a baguette, butter and local sausage. Porridge, muesli, and yoghurt with mixed fruit also seem like popular with European travellers.

Baked beans, mushrooms, and grilled tomatoes also elicit cheers of joy from most Brits I know.

I've gotten used to going without scones and muffins in Asia, clearly I need to travel to Bhutan more. :biggrin:

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Sorry if this is not what you are looking for, but can you do European style pancakes? They're quite different from American ones. Great fillings could be lemon and sugar (very British), chocolate and strawberries (very European, especially Nutella) or even strawberries and whipped cream.

As for Asian desserts, what about Asian style rice pudding? Indian kheer or payasam is divine, and thai recipes using coconut milk are delicious too. And I agree, Indian sweets are often WAY too sweet, but if you make them yourself you can adjust the amount of sugar. Try shirkand; very thick sweetened strained yoghurt with cardamom, saffron and often pistachios.

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Is pain au raisins a brioche pastry or laminated dough?  I could certainly do more brioche based pastry for breakfast, that would be good and pretty easy.

Pain au raisins would be made from a brioche-like dough (less butter). How about mini-kugelhofs (raised yeast dough)? Pre-made Liege waffles (like the street vendors sell)?

I have to agree with Rona, sable-type cookies or cookies with a crispy/sandy texture are more European (and Asian) to me. You could search for inspiration all over Europe, from florentines and langues de chat to speculaas and rugelach, off the top of my head.

By European and Asian, maybe the key is "less sweet AND lighter." Not sure what you are making now, but maybe more cup desserts featuring layers of mousse and cake, or combinations of mousse/gelee/fruit. Perhaps something as simple as a coffee jelly (Japanese dessert) or a cappucino/mocha version with layers of coffee gelee, choc. mousse and whipped cream.

Sorry, I didn't clue in to your location when I posted late last night. Also, I should have assumed that you are already working with a diverse palette of flavors. Instead of going for pure Indian desserts, how about doing (less sweet) adaptations or Indian-inspired desserts using just elements of kulfi, etc. For example, a plated dessert with kulfi as just one of the elements. Although I'm sure you've thought of this stuff already.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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For baking books, Bugat and Healy have a French cookie book (not sure if it's still in print) and another book might be Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers, which does a lot of Austro Hungarian pastries, cookies, crepes, etc.

I always thought pain aux raisin was made with a laminated dough, but I'm sure it could be adapted to brioche.

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I always thought pain aux raisin was made with a laminated dough, but I'm sure it could be adapted to brioche.

Hmm, I guess it could be made with both. I use the recipe from Ortiz's Village Baker, based on his pain au lait. (The recipe for both can be "previewed" using Google Books.)

It sounds like Pastrygirl would prefer a brioche from a production standpoint.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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In terms of dessert, vietnamese have quite a few dishes that resemble rice pudding, like a sweet rice and black eyed peas dessert with a topping of a sweet syrup of coconut milk and palm sugar.

There is a strong french bakery influence on vietnam also, with the addition of pandan as a flavoring agent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandanus_amaryllifolius

A good dessert that a lot of people around me like is a soft tofu served simply with a syrup consisting of brown sugar (block form) and ginger.

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It sounds more like the 'menu construction' than the recipes that has the american accent!

In the US, it might be pretty normal to have sweet pastries at breakfast time.

But that's just plain weird to us Brits. And, I'd say it was for most Europeans.

In Britain, a hotel breakfast might be expected to be centred on something like bacon and egg. (Two fried eggs might be thought strange!) Possibly accompanied by a fried/grilled sausage (black pudding even), fried tomatoes, mushrooms, maybe baked beans, a small piece of fried bread perhaps... Alternatives might be scrambled or poached or (soft) boiled eggs. Or even smoked fish like kippers or haddock. Kedgeree might be the anglo-indian heritage, but nowadays its very, very rarely seen at breakfast. As with fried liver and devilled kidneys...

But ALL this is savoury. And hopefully (mainly) cooked to order and served hot!

Offer some fruit or juice and CornFlakes/Muesli/Porridge or Yoghurt before the cooked stuff, and follow it with some toasted bread for them to butter and then spread with jam or marmalade (or even honey), and British people would feel on familiar ground.

Do give them a decent pot of hot tea or the option of some sort of coffee.

Supporting evidence : (just one example) http://www.georgianhousehotel.co.uk/full_e...h_breakfast.htm

Scones, éclairs, cream puffs and american muffins would be served at mid-afternoon "tea-time" and would be thought distinctly strange at breakfast time. Pancakes? They are desert-course things, not for breakfast! (But 'scotch pancakes' might be served at tea-time.)

Bacon (rather salty, nowhere near as sweet as US bacon - think more like pancetta) and egg might be a cliché (reflecting a truth) but its the presence of the savoury/cooked element - and the near-total absence of sweets - that is the defining element.

The Dutch and Germans go in for cold meats and semi-hard (Edam texture) cheeses. Even hard-boiled eggs.

It was the Swiss that invented muesli...

The French might expect one croissant and a roll (or bits of a still-warm baguette) with a tiny amount of butter and some jam. They might go with something very slightly sweeter, but not often - though they might want some hot drinking chocolate as an alternative to the standard coffee.

And the mainland Europeans are likely to be more concerned about the quality of the coffee than the Brits. Or maybe the Americans... :cool:

As you go further south, I think the breakfasts condense towards bread and ever-stronger coffee!

I'd suggest offering a departure from the US sweet buffet framework, like eggs cooked to order, local yoghurt and honey, plain bread with an opportunity to toast it. If the local fruits are not of supermarket cosmetic quality, trim it, macerate or cook it and offer them as compotes that people could have on its own, with yoghurt or muesli, or even with both. Homemade jams that you can honestly claim are from local fruit ought to be well received - and don't depend on blemish-free fruit.

I'm sure that those intrepid tourists that go to Bhutan (at least the European ones) would prefer some local offerings rather than a very American eating experience!

I'd suggest asking the clients. Not necessarily "what would you like to be offered" but rather "which of the things on this list would you prefer to be offered?"... :smile:

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Rickster, I ended up ordering both those books last night! The Healy book is not in print, but various sellers on Amazon have it. I had bought a bunch of books and sold them to my most ambitious employee; she has a Scandinavian book (Ojakangas) and a couple of Italian pastry books that I will have to borrow.

Dougal, it is interesting to hear your thoughts on sweets at breakfast. So maybe it's not really the wrong pastry, more that some people just don't want pastry at breakfast. The pastry basket is just your table bread at breakfast, there is a whole menu of hot food, yogurt, muesli. I do have a couple of savory items in there, but could definitely switch a muffin or two for something else. And I do make jam. Lots and lots of jam, it's about the only thing you can do with some of the fruit. We offer a Bhutanese menu at dinner, and other times by request. There really aren't any Bhutanese desserts, except kopse, a plain fried type of cookie served with tea.

I'll look for some sable recipes, and the coffee jelly is a good idea.

I think also that people want comfort food when they are traveling, so part of the challenge is to try to provide a little bit of that for everyone. Clafouti like grandmere used to make? Our Brit/German manager was wistful for Christmas cake last year, maybe I'll try to make him one this year.

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I'll look for some sable recipes, and the coffee jelly is a good idea. 

Pierre Hermé's Viennese Chocolate Sablés (from the Chocolate Desserts book) are good ones. My friends raved about how elegant they were.

Edited by jumanggy (log)

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I think all of the suggestions have been great so far. While I don't think you need to cater to each and every ethnicity that arrives to order a meal, customizing certain things to be more acceptable to something other than an American palate is definitely at good thing.

Regarding the pain au raisin, there are some amazing old school things you can do with a brioche or lightly sweetened enriched dough that aren't too sweet and could add a lot of variety to your bread/pastry basket. Keep a bunch of streusel on hand, roll out the dough and fold in almond paste, streusel, jams, etc. The cutting and shaping are what make them fun and different. Use your imagination.

Petit fours don't always have to be almond paste based cake covered in fondant. Think of little things like palmiers, mini financiers, etc. that you can have the basics for in the freezer (don't know what your storage situation is like) and then throw together whenever. Don't sneeze at madeleines (you can use a financier batter for making madeleine shaped cakes, much better than actual madeleines in my opinion), they're great little "cookie" treats, especially when done in a mini pan.

And I'll echo the less sweet sentiment. I worked at a "fusion" restaurant and tried to make the desserts match the savory menu in intent and it was hard but fun. Using Pichet's book as a jumping off point, I think is great. If the fruit is of questionable quality, make desserts that incorporate cooked fruit, chutneys, etc.

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I am not from the pastry world at all, so perhaps my advice will be awful!! Where I come from muffins, cupcakes, those types of cookies are all considered very american as well. We also think americans prefer sweeter than us and bigger than us. Our cookies are much smaller. Although muffins are becoming very popular.

Anyway, that has all been said before. If I were visiting there, I would much prefer to enjoy the local menu, with perhaps an additional 2 or 3 options of continental just in case! Perhaps a theme of food such as local and Scandinavian or local and French, would be focused and culturally appreciated by tourists. But this is from a completely uneducated voice! Good luck anyway!

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I just returned from a month in France and have given the topic of breakfast quite a bit of thought. I think that breakfast is the meal that most people are less willing to try new / foreign things.

A good baguette, possibly sliced and toasted, with butter and jam is probably no. 1 on my list.

I’m sure that croissants are 'de rigueur' (required) though I don’t think the French eat them every morning. I was amazed by how often we were served poorly made croissants; yes, even in France. Overproofed, badly shaped, rubbery… we were staying at fairly inexpensive places but still… price point of the hotel seems to have no bearing on the quality of the breakfast.

Next, I’d add some good cheese: either for the guest to slice as desired or already sliced. Could probably add some sliced ham to that, as well.

After a couple of weeks, I was really missing some yogurt and muesli / granola. A couple of places had that available and I appreciated it.

Brits will probably want some eggs, sausage/bacon, toast. And Americans would probably enjoy it from time to time as well.

Love the idea of having some scones available; maybe some crumpets, too? Brioche (but not choux).

Porridge is nice but if you’re in a hot climate, that might not be as welcome.

my 2 cents... :biggrin:

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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(Two fried eggs might be thought strange!)

I can't see any reason why....there are plenty of lads in my family who would practically be offended if they weren't offered two fried egg with their brekkie!

Pancakes? They are desert-course things, not for breakfast! (But 'scotch pancakes' might be served at tea-time.)

Hmm...have to disagree on that. We definitely think of pancakes as a Sunday morning breakfast in my house, and on pancake day of course. Plus, people eat different things when they are on holiday, and I'm sure the chance to eat proper British pancakes (as opposed to the very different American kind) would be very welcome. When we have pancake day in my house, we always say that we should have pancakes more often!

By the way, I am British ;), and I'm not trying to put down all your ideas. I'm just trying to say that things aren't etched out in stone!

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Hmm...have to disagree on that. We definitely think of pancakes as a Sunday morning breakfast in my house, and on pancake day of course. Plus, people eat different things when they are on holiday, and I'm sure the chance to eat proper British pancakes (as opposed to the very different American kind) would be very welcome. When we have pancake day in my house, we always say that we should have pancakes more often!

What is a proper British pancake? So much to learn. The pancake issue came up with an Indian guest recently. She asked for pancakes (not on the menu at that lodge, but that is another story) hoping for something spicy, and got American pancakes. American, British, Swedish, Indian....so many pancakes!

This is a good challenge, I do want to be more well rounded and international in my work. I think I'll make financiers for tea today.

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I think it's true that American recipes tend to be too sweet. I usually cut down the sugar amounts in most US recipes by 20-35%, and I know a few other Egulleters do as well.

I automatically reduce the amount of sugar, when using ANY American recipes.

Also, depends what kind of European breakfast you're talking about. When I'm travelling in Southern Europe (France, Spain, Italy), I expect a croissant and/or toast with butter and jam, some juice and coffee.

When I travel in the Northern Europe (my native Estonia, Finland and the Scandinavian countries), I expect to find some oatmeal, yogurt and sliced black and white bread with a selection of cheese and ham, plus a coffee and perhaps some juice.

When in the UK, I enjoy a full fry-up :)

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Hmm...have to disagree on that. We definitely think of pancakes as a Sunday morning breakfast in my house, and on pancake day of course. Plus, people eat different things when they are on holiday, and I'm sure the chance to eat proper British pancakes (as opposed to the very different American kind) would be very welcome. When we have pancake day in my house, we always say that we should have pancakes more often!

What is a proper British pancake? So much to learn. The pancake issue came up with an Indian guest recently. She asked for pancakes (not on the menu at that lodge, but that is another story) hoping for something spicy, and got American pancakes. American, British, Swedish, Indian....so many pancakes!

This is a good challenge, I do want to be more well rounded and international in my work. I think I'll make financiers for tea today.

Well, from what I know, American pancakes are thicker and spongier than British ones, and are eaten with weird things like bacon :raz: British pancakes, the kind made on pancake day are thinner and have no leavening in them. They are more crepe like. The traditional accompaniment is lemon juice and sugar.

As for Indian "pancakes"....mmmmm....dosas, cheela, pudla, poora....they are all good, but definitely different from what I would call a pancake!

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Well, from what I know, American pancakes are thicker and spongier than British ones, and are eaten with weird things like bacon  British pancakes, the kind made on pancake day are thinner and have no leavening in them. They are more crepe like. The traditional accompaniment is lemon juice and sugar.

My mom, who is British and my dad, who spent several years there used to make these once in a while. I don't have a recipe, but I can only describe the ones they made as a thick large crepe. No leavening, as you mentioned, but the proportion of flour to liquid must be higher than for a crepe.

There's actually a pancake house chain here in Illinois that makes a pretty good replica, but they call it a 49er flapjack.

Edited by rickster (log)
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I learned a lot about Japanese pastry in, of all places, Chiang Mai, Thailand thanks to Nikom Tanawa. He told me that he had both European and Japanese patrons at the shop, and thus he kept a variety of pastries available that would appeal to both.

There were many remarkable laminated dough pastries -- there's one with banana in that topic -- but the ones that I hadn't seen at that quality before were the Japanese ones. He had a fairly sweet dough (that reminded me of a very good doughnut dough) that he filled with sweet red bean paste and fried, for example. I used "sweet" twice in that sentence, but the final product wasn't half as sweet as a typical American "danish."

Chris Amirault

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He had a fairly sweet dough (that reminded me of a very good doughnut dough) that he filled with sweet red bean paste and fried, for example.

Sounds like an "an donatsu" or "an donut."

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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