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March 15, 2012

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Five-star hotel bakeries take the cake

COMPARED with independent bakeries, hotel bakeries tend to be more popular among bread lovers with higher standards for ingredients, service and ambience.

However, hotel bakeries seldom have that wonderful bakery smell of warm buttery bread fresh from the oven - that's more typical of independent bakeries.

"It's not because of pastry skills but the ingredients. Most of the good smell comes from a variety of additives used during the baking process, for example, margarine and bread enhancer," explains Lu Wudi, senior baker at Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai.

Five-star hotels, especially international brands such as Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton, source high-quality ingredients from around the world through its professional purchasing department and global chain.

"For our pastry kitchen, most products are imported from Europe, especially the high-quality Valhrona chocolate from Lyon, while the fresh fruits are from local farms," says Laurent Merdy, pastry chef at Andaz Shanghai Hotel.

In hotel bakeries, customers needn't stand in queues for service and the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed.


Andaz Shanghai Hotel

The bakery cafe, decorated in a pink "love" theme, is named after the signature confection, eclair, a classical French dessert made with light choux pastry filled with cream and topped with icing.

The éclair (18 yuan, US$2.85) comes in six flavors, including chocolate, raspberry, lemon and Grand Marnier. Customers can also choose a gift box containing six eclairs in all six flavors, in a small size.

French chef Laurent recommends pairing champagne with an eclair. The bubbling and refreshing taste of champagne balances the eclair's creamy sweetness.

Besides, the croissant (12 yuan), muffins and homemade jam may surprise customers since the chef slightly adjusts the recipe based on seasonal ingredients and customer feedback.

"This year, the world of baking will be more Asian-influenced. Some popular exotic ingredients are used to give classical Western pastry more flavors and character," says chef Laurent.

That's why their chocolate collection has various Chinese fillings, including black sesame, Sichuan pepper and Wu Liang Ye, a famous rice liquor.

"The flavor also tends to be more Asian-friendly, catering to a light palate. The amount of sugar and butter is also reduced, which makes it healthier," he says.

All pastry is made fresh daily, and 8am is when the bread and cakes are exactly fresh and warm from the oven.

Open: Daily, 7am-10pm

Tel: 2310-1720

Address: 88 Songshan Rd


Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai

This is the place to savor authentic Japanese-style pastry that's light in flavor, simple in presentation but based on very complicated recipes.

"For a Japanese pastry chef, making a mousse cake requires at least 10 steps to give the cake and bread a fine texture and balanced taste," says chef Lu, who has more than 20 years experience in a Japanese pastry kitchen.

"This year, the flavor and especially the sweetness of pastry, will be more Asian-influenced and lighter, while presentation tends to be more French influenced, in an elegant and delicate style," he says.

The bakery offers more than 20 kinds of bread and 30 kinds of cake; some have been popular among regular customers for more than 20 years, such as their signature strawberry cake, cheesecake and chocolate mousse. Some pastries include curry bread and taro cake.

The chef recently launched three new treats: raisin cookies (138 yuan/8ps +15%) with rich buttery flavor (best serving cold), brownies (28 yuan+15%) rich in hazelnut and walnut and cheese sticks (28 yuan+15%) with a strong milky flavor and soft, silky texture.

Consider the texture when choosing a beverage, the chef says.

"Some crispy and crunchy textured pastry goes well with the coffee while silky and creamy pastry goes better with tea."

Open: Starting at 6am for hotel guests, 10am for regular customers (available while stocks last)

Tel: 6415-1111 ext 5214

Address: 58 Maoming Rd S.


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