Éclairs, madeleines the 'best in town,' at Roselle Desserts in Toronto's Corktown
Roselle Desserts is located on 362 King St. E. in Toronto
2018 has been a great year for people who love sweets; all across the GTA we've seen several sweet shops, bakeries and cafes open.
My favourite place to visit for something sweet in the city is Roselle Desserts, tucked away in Corktown on King Street East.
I'll stand by this statement: I believe that Roselle is the best in town when it comes to French baking, and the owners maintain a consistency that is unparalleled in the city.
Roselle is headed by husband-and-wife duo Stephanie Duong and Bruce Lee.
Duong and Lee both graduated from the Culinary Arts program at George Brown College. They then travelled, gaining a significant amount of experience in some of the most prominent Michelin Star kitchens in China and France. Duong spent some time in the kitchen at the acclaimed L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
With such an impressive pedigree you'd expect this couple to open a fine dining establishment and focus on tasting menus. But for as long as I've known Duong and Lee, it is clear that their passion is sweets.
"We are a classic French bakery. This is what we like to do," Duong explained.
I live near Corktown, so when I first heard Roselle was opening it was an exciting moment. It's been open four years.
I walked into a quaint, but brightly lit space that's scented of all things you would associate with a Parisian bakery. The first thing I was introduced to was Duong's take on the French classic éclair.
The éclair was foreign to Toronto until recently, a dessert translated from "l'éclair," which means "flash of lightning," because people eat it in a hurry.
But at Roselle I suggest you do the opposite. All of Duong's baked goods have been perfected with years of practice and training and the éclair is the best example. In its most basic form the éclair is oblong shaped pâte à choux pastry that is sliced lengthwise and then stuffed with a variety of creams.
Duong has a signature line of fillings that are incredible, but the pastry itself is worth noting. She takes the basic pâte à choux pastry and then adds a layer of craquelin on top — a piping of dough made from brown sugar, butter and flour, which then creates a sugary crust on the final product that adds a textural accent.
Most times when you have an éclair, the dough itself can leave a lot to be desired — it's puffy and soft and giving but the filling does most of the work. With Duong's, the pastry alone is pleasing to eat. There's a slight sweet crunch on the exterior, followed by the soft bready dough and filling. The crackling topping changes everything.
Some of my favourite fillings have been the banana, which is cooked down with rum. There's also an éclair with chocolate pastry cream, roasted hazelnuts and a wonderful whipped black sesame ganache.
As wonderful as the eclairs are, I suggest you save room for the madeleines. These soft tea cakes, shaped like scallop shells, may look simple but they're tough to perfect.
"The nine minutes are crucial," Duong says, referring to the time the cakes are supposed to spend in the oven.
Most madeleine bakers I know obsess over the rise and texture of their cakes and spend those critical nine minutes staring into the oven to watch the batter lift as it bakes.
"It's the dough, the pan, the oven. Getting the right rise out of the batter," Duong said, staring through the oven's window.
Once out of the oven the madeleines are coated in a simple lemon or raspberry glaze. They're best enjoyed as fresh as possible.
We don't see a lot of madeleines in Toronto, and few are perfect. Duong bakes just a dozen per batch so I suggest you order them in advance.
Go to Roselle, enjoy an éclair and patiently wait as the room fills with the smells of warm butter and raspberry.