Decisions. It's never easy on your first visit to Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie, the newest haven for sweet tooths that opened in Alexandria less than a month ago. There's been a stampede of fans since the doors first opened, and no wonder. The army of glossy airbrushed desserts in the display cabinet - garnished with silver leaf, antennae of tempered chocolate and shields of macaron shells - would defeat any I-quit-sugar convert.
Cake display cabinet
The visual consistency in every dessert is the first thing that strikes you, a feat underpinned by their pursuit for "textbook" precision, and the reasoning behind the patisserie's name. Textbook is the brainchild of pastry chefs John Ralley and Steve Anderson, who first met when they worked together as apprentice chefs in 2001.
The breads and sourdoughs take up one wall, gathered into hessian-lined bannetons or perched precariously on a niftily designed dowel shelving system.
The brioche bun - studded with plump raisins and nuances of citrus - is so soft and fluffy you could replace it for cake.
White sourdough, rye sourdough and sourdough with seeds and grains
Of the sourdough breads, I come away with the seeds and grains loaf ($6.50) made with purple wheat flour. There's a springy density to the bread, with a terrific crust laden with nutty roasted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseed.
The sandwich fillings at lunchtime rotate from week to week but they also do pies (braised beef and red wine or chicken, mushroom and truffle), quiches and sausage rolls (pork and fennel or lamb and rosemary). Lighter options include shakshuka baked eggs or granola with yoghurt and fresh fruit.
The range of viennoisserie is broad and impressive, starting with the classic croissant and expanding to five kinds of Danish pastry (the hazelnut and chocolate one sounds particularly good).
And if their almond croissant isn't decadent enough for you, they also offer the cruffin, croissant-muffin hybrid that changes flavour each week.
Restocking the dessert cabinet
But all eyes eventually gravitate toward the display cabinet of desserts.
Lemon meringue with raspberry compote $7.50
It's hard not to feel like a kid in candy store, pressing your nose up to the glass. The lemon meringue, ringed with blow-torched rosebuds of Swiss meringue, is a rink of tart lemon curd on a vanilla sable breton base with a raspberry compote surprise.
Caramelised pear and roasted walnut $7.50
The stark white glaze on the caramelised pear and roasted walnut is mesmerising, off-set by a two-tone orbit of chocolate sable breton crumbs and roasted walnut crumble.
Chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut $8.50
And then there are the insect-like chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut cakes, a chocolate pain de genes (almond cake) contrasted with hazelnut crunch, raspberry cremeux and chocolate mousse, topped with an antennae of dark chocolate.
Vanilla, strawberry and mint $8.50
The sweeping curves of the vanilla, strawberry and mint hide layers of vanilla bavarois, strawberry mint jelly, strawberry cremeux and almond dacquoise beneath its airbrushed dome.
Jaffa cake $8.50
Chocolate pain de genes, chocolate crunch, mandarin cremeux and milk chocolate mousse
The jaffa cake is far evolved from the sweets you used to roll down the aisles at the cinema. Instead it's a sophisticated construction of chocolate pain de genes (almond cake), chocolate crunch, mandarin cremeux and a lighter-than-air milk chocolate mousse.
White chocolate, mango, kaffir lime and coconut $8.50
Robot with ear muffs or white chocolate, mango, kaffir lime and coconut? It's hard to tell. We're drawn to its appearance and tropical sensibilities.
Cross-section of the white chocolate, mango, kaffir lime and coconut
It's only when you view the cross-section that you get to appreciate the level of detail in each piece. A disc of mango compote hovers within its silky white chocolate bavarois surrounds. This one's a mild and elegant affair, the creaminess of white chocolate barely interrupted by the kaffir lime cremeux. Amidst the floaty softness of it all, the flakes of coconut in the coconut dacquoise provide a snap back to reality.
Apple crumble $8.50
The apple crumble isn't one like you've ever seen before but it's fast emerging as one of the shop's most popular desserts. Squat and elongated in shape, it looks more like a lime green Volkswagen camper van with a surfboard on top.
Cross-section of the apple crumble $8.50
There's a lot going on in here but its considered design means you easily get a little bit of everything with every forkful. Light-as-air apple custard mousse, a velvety dulcey chocolate bavarois and pain de genes almond cake all meld together sweetly. Passengers of poached cinnamon apple give a burst of apple freshness but it's the speculaas crumble - the Dutch spiced biscuits warmed with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamon - that gives a heartwarming sugary crunch.
It's no surprise they do a huge trade in both eat-in and takeaway, including large scale versions of
their desserts that would sweeten any celebration. Textbooks mightn't have been my favourite thing in high school and uni, but I'd happily book in a study session with these any time.
Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie
274 Botany Road, Alexandria, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 6156
Open Tuesday to Sunday 7am - sold out
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8/19/2015 07:05:00 pm