Having spent her life working with pastry in the kitchens of renowned hotels around the world, Exquisite Taste talked to Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta’s Executive Pastry Chef Smita Grosse to find out about her fascination with the sweet life and what she’s been baking in Jakarta for the city’s discerning gourmands.
E: Your whole career has been in pastry, what do you love about it?
Smita Grosse: Honestly, I love the way different cultures impact on food. In Mauritius my background was sweet foods in the French culinary style, but in Dubai the food culture was for even sweeter foods, like dates. When I moved to the US, I discovered it was all big portions and heavy foods; while Macao and Singapore were different again. At first I found it very difficult in Asia, the people prefer balance so I had to change all my recipes and concepts. You have to be creative every day.
E: What made you decide on a move to Jakarta?
S: I thrive on challenge and I wanted to learn another culture and find another challenge. I’m always looking for opportunities to develop myself, not just my team. I’ve started to work with Indonesian flavours, which is fun for me. I love to travel and learn about local products and tastes.
E: What are some of the more interesting local sweet dishes you’ve discovered in your career?
S: Here in Jakarta I tried some of the local sweet foods and drinks, like es doger and es cendol and martabak. People here still love their local sweets, so I’m using these influences to create items like dadar gulung and nastar macarons, which are very popular. We also do monthly signature cakes, so I created a Rainbow Es Doger Cake using all the ingredients that are in the drink. Another signature was Es Cendol Cake, while for Christmas I made a Martabak Log Cake and a Teh Tarik Log Cake. It’s fun to create something new and unique and the local staff help me get the proper taste.
E: What new recipes have you introduced at Sweet Boutique by Kempinski?
S: So many! Our Fondant Cheesecake is new; it’s a cheesecake outside with a chocolate filling. We’ve also introduced Red Velvet Chocolate Fudge Secret Crunch, which is a chocolate cake mixed with praline and soft sacher sponge with a glaze and flowers on top. There are so many new flavours in all our outlets. We also do 3D cakes now in Sweet Boutique; these are especially designed based on the guests’ description.
E: Is it hard keeping up standards with all these new products?
S: Yes, I have to work hard training my team and help them to maintain standards all the time so they can produce these products at the right standard day in and day out.
E: What is the most extravagant dessert or cake you’ve ever made?
S: It’s not my best dessert, but the biggest thing I made was a celebratory cake in Macau for a hotel’s first year anniversary. It weighed 600kg, had six tiers and was almost 2.5m tall. The sugar decorations all had to be made in advance by hand and dried. We spent about 400 hours on it and it took two full days to decorate. Maybe next year, I’d like to make the longest log cake!
E: Your creations are very attractive, what inspires you?
S: When I think about pastry, I think about art. My desserts and cakes tell a story, they’re more than just a dish. My theme for Valentine’s Day is falling in love in Bali, as I’m using a new chocolate from there and the island is a romantic place; I’m using angel’s wings for decorations.
E: What career advice do you have for people working in pastry?
S: Working in pastry is not easy; you need passion and to be willing to learn. If you work from your heart then it’s much easier to bake delicious food and create great designs. There are always ups and downs, but keep going, there will be a time when you have chances to grow and be appreciated.
Falling in Love in Bali
Lime Cream Leaf
- 462g cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 6g lemon zest
- 10.4g gelatine powder
- 61.6g water
- 20g Valrhona white chocolate, chopped
- 2g vanilla paste
- 462g whipping cream
- Boil the cream with the vanilla bean.
- Combine gelatine powder and water.
- Stir dissolved gelatine in cream once cream has boiled.
- Pour cream over white chocolate, mix well.
- Leave to cool a little, then add whipping cream
- Pour into leaf moulds and leave to set.
Cuvee Bali Chocolate Cremeux
- 382g milk
- 382g cream
- 163g egg yolk
- 127g sugar
- 446g dark chocolate
- 6pc gelatine
- Combine milk and cream, bring to boil.
- Combine egg yolk and sugar.
- Make anglaise sauce with milk and egg mixtures, cook to 83C. Stir in gelatine and dark chocolate, set aside.
- Pour into a heart-shaped mould and leave to set, then cover with strawberry compote.
- 246g butter
- 224g cake flour
- 248g almond powder
- 248g muscavado sugar
- 4g sea salt
- 25g Valrhona cocoa powder
- Combine all ingredients well, keep in chiller.
- Grate and bake at 170C for about 10 mins.
- Splash the chocolate soil on the plate.
- Place the heart shape in the middle of the plate surrounded by the lime leaves.
- Sprinkle edible flowers and decorate with chocolate wings
- and leaves.