We sit down with accomplished Pastry Chef Laurent Grolleau who recently joined Soko Restaurant at dusitD2 Nairobi to discover the secret of making flaky pastry and how he intends to bring worldwide pastry trends to the menu.
A much-appreciated cool breeze hits me as I walk through the doors of the bright and airy Zing Bar at dusitD2 Boutique Hotel, Nairobi where I’m supposed to be meeting the new pastry Chef Laurent Grolleau. A chilled glass of tropical juice is the saving grace I needed after surviving the trip from the office on this extra hot Wednesday afternoon. We sit on the lounge area, away from the path of the servers who are up and about, preparing for a busy evening. The chef, fresh from our photoshoot and still dressed in full Chef’s regalia, soon joins me.
French national Chef Laurent Grolleau, has been at Soko for only three weeks, when I meet him for this interview. Standing about 5’4’, bespectacled, with streaks of white hair crowning his over 25 years of experience, Chef Laurent’s career spans the globe from France to Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar and then onto Cairo and Brazil. I tell him he doesn’t look like someone who has amassed all those years of experience and he confides that the shot of espresso and dark chocolate he takes every morning is the secret to his youthful looks.
A pastry chef by accident, Chef Laurent’s journey began when the restaurant where he was training in England faced a major crisis. The head pastry chef was away on vacation and the sous chef fell ill. Being the pastry chef in training, the responsibility of the restaurant’s pastries fell on his hands but as luck would have it, his supervisors were so impressed with his creations that they had him stay in the pastry section where his love for the medium began to grow.
“The secret to making the flaky pastry lies in following the recipe to the tee,” he advises. ‘While I may have created lots of pastry items, my favourite has to be the Opera, a French cake made with layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee butter cream and covered in a chocolate glaze”.
Admitting that there is no such thing as an easy pastry to make, Chef Laurent insists that the trick to churning out perfectly moist, yet flaky pastry also relies on the chef’s passion and creativity. “Simple recipes do exist but even these can go wrong,” he underlines, somewhat contradicting his earlier statement.
According to Chef Laurent, if you want to make a perfect flaky pastry you just have to follow three basic rules. The first, you have to be strict: from buying the right ingredients to making sure your measurements are right. The second is that you have to respect the process—there are no shortcuts to baking. Third, you have to be creative as food, is first consumed with the eyes. “If you see something sexy.” he confides in his French lilt, “you want it, right? The same applies to pastry – first
focus on the looks then the taste will follow”.
While desserts and pastries are presumed to have a substantial amount of sugar, Chef Laurent prefers his creations a tad less sweet but still bright and colourful. He is extremely excited to see the recent pastry trends leaning towards less sugar and more fruits and he fully intends to include this recipe approach into his restructuring of Soko’s dessert and pastry menu. He adds, however, that finding some ingredients here in Kenya is challenging with some that just have to be imported and that even these can get quite difficult to source when he is the only one in the country making the order.
Chef Laurent looks forward to taking these first few weeks to better learn the Kenyan market and customers’ tastes and preferences and promises to create a menu that will include both treats for sweet tooths and deliciously decadent, yet
sugar light pastries, to satisfy the more health conscious among us!
- 750g flour
- 360g water
- 105g caster sugar
- 15g salt
- 15g dry yeast
- 375g fresh butter
- Use eggs straight from the fridge.
- Knead all the ingredients except for the butter.
- Knead for 5 minutes with hook attachment in a stand mixer in 1st speed.
- Knead for 3 more minutes in 2nd speed until the dough stops sticking to the wall of the bowl.
- Roll out the dough at 8 mm high, size 30cm x 40 cm and keep in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours (or keep in the chiller overnight).
- Open the butter with rolling pin to make a square shape 6mm high.
- Pour the butter onto the cold dough and close the dough onto the butter.
- Do one book fold and open with the rolling pin, turn the dough for 90 degrees Celsius and repeat one more fold.
- Leave to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Roll out to 3.5 mm thickness. Roll length 300 x 400 mm and cut into a triangular shape with 80 mm on the base.
- Roll it, put the croissant onto a silicone mat or baking sheet and brush with egg wash.
- Leave to ferment for 2 hours in a hot room or local temperature at 25 degrees Celsius.
- Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 16 or 18 minutes
Photos taken by Peter Ndungu