October 11, 2011

Sweet Confections

Thierry Busset’s shop and café transports the delights of a Parisian bistro to Vancouver.

BY MICHELLE HOPKINS

The minute the door opens at Thierry, the city’s newest chocolaterie, patisserie and café in downtown Vancouver, the aromas of dark chocolate and buttery rich desserts assault the senses.

Internationally renowned chocolatier and former pastry chef at CinCin and West, Thierry Busset worked alongside Vancouver-based interior designer Marc Bricault to create a shop/café/bistro that is modern, yet conjures up images of sipping café au lait outside a Parisian café.

Thierry is the newest eatery in the Top Table family, with Busset one of Thierry’s managing partners. Upon entering the bistro, a sizable table mimicking a grand piano with a dark chocolate marble top takes centre stage. It is laden with all sorts of confectionaries, as well as Thierry Espresso Blend organic coffee and cookbooks from Top Table sister restaurants, Araxi and Blue Water Cafe.

The sky blue walls are curved out of palm wood tambour, the floors of white marble and the seats and tables of reclaimed bentwood, all of which evoke memories of Thierry’s native France. Raised in Auvergne, France, Busset has dreamed of opening up his own patisserie for more than two decades. “The moment I started to work as a pastry chef in restaurants all over Europe, I knew one day I would have my own restaurant,” he says.

Busset honed his culinary skills with European masters, including prominent chocolatier Bernard Sicard in Auvergne — whom Busset calls his mentor — and later at Pilati Patisserie in the Loire Valley. He was also the pastry chef at two three-Michelin-star restaurants in London: Le Gavroche and Marco Pierre White. His former colleague, Hell’s Kitchen celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, says Busset is “one of the best pastry chefs in the world.” When he came to Vancouver, Busset instinctively knew this was where he was going to open his own café. “I kept building my reputation and studied the Vancouver landscape to know exactly what consumers wanted,” he says.

Busset spent five years scouting for the perfect location for his namesake café. Once he found it on Alberni Street, it took nearly a year to complete renovations. The 24-seat café/bistro and 12-seat patio can best be described as elegantly chic, with a nod to the environment. Busset is just as fastidious when it comes to ingredients for his sweet creations. He uses only fresh seasonal fruits, dairy products and the finest chocolates from France.

Arriving at Thierry at 5 a.m., Busset and his team of chefs handcraft timeless chocolates (an assortment of 20), pastries, cakes, and a variety of iconic French macaroons. “Since we opened, we have been going through 1,000 macaroons a day,” says a decidedly happy Busset. “I’ve had to hire more bakery chefs.” During lunch and dinner, Thierry also serves up spiked espresso, tea and hot chocolate, aperitifs, as well as a selection of wines, including Okanagan’s finest.

Raspberry Sablés with Raspberry Coulis

Serves 6:
Pâte sablé:
3 ¾ cups (900 ml) all-purpose flour, sifted
7/8 cup (210 ml) icing sugar 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded
1 2/3 cups (400 ml) unsalted butter softened and cut in 1-inch/ 2.5-cm cubes
1 tablespoon (5 ml) whipping cream 1 egg yolk Raspberry Coulis:
2 cups fresh raspberries
½ cup (120 ml) granulated sugar Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Pâte sable: Combine the flour, icing sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl using a whisk. Add the butter and incorporate, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal or wet sand. Make a well in the centre of the bowl, and then pour in the cream and the egg yolk. Combine gently until the dough just comes together, then transfer it to a clean work surface and flatten it into a round 1-inch/2.5-cm thick. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for one hour until chilled.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap the sablé dough, place it on the floured surface and roll it to a thickness of 1/8 inch/3 mm. Using a 3-inch/7.5-cm round cutter, cut out 12 discs. Place the rounds on the baking sheet and refrigerate them for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Bake the sablés for five minutes or until golden brown, then transfer them to a wire rack and allow them to cool.

Raspberry Coulis: Place the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Simmer for five minutes, or until the coulis begins to thicken slightly. While it is still warm, transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth, or blend with a hand-held blender. Pass the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

To serve: Place the raspberries in a large bowl and toss with 1/4 cup/60 ml of the raspberry coulis. Arrange a ring of berries, about the diameter of one of the sablé discs, in the middle of each plate. Top with a sablé disc. Repeat with a second layering of berries and a sablé disc. Lightly dust each serving with icing sugar.

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