We’ve been chatting to Claire Wood, the co-owner of Carême Pastry, to discover the secrets of making buttery puff pastry that ALWAYS tastes this good!
What makes good pastry?
Pastry needs to appeal to both the eye and the palate – think of those irresistibly dreamy pastry displays in French patisseries. The world of pastry incorporates both art and science – nothing excites our senses more than the sight of a classic tarte au citron or a golden homemade rustic pie.
Is there a secret ingredient?
Great butter is what gives our dough its colour, mouth feel, rich full flavour and texture. There are many different types of pastry, and different types of fat are used to produce high-quality dough. For us, that fat has to be butter and the starting point is always the quality of the butter. Butter melts at body temperature, which results in that ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ sensation of the best pastry. Our speciality at Carême is puff pastry and quality butter is integral that.
Puff pastry is very complicated and labour intensive. What technique do you use?
There are several different methods, which affect the number of layers, the texture and lift. Without giving away our trade secrets, at Carême we adopt a hands-on approach to making our dough. We take the same level of care that a pastry chef would in a restaurant or patisserie. Carême is as good as homemade, or chef-made. Oh, and did we mention the butter?!
How, when most of us struggle to make pastry for just one pie, are you reliably making large quantities that always work and always taste great?
We started Carême with one person, making puff pastry for restaurants in Adelaide in 2005. Since then, we’ve grown organically, increasing supply Australia-wide, while maintaining our core values to deliver superior butter pastry. Our focus remains firmly on quality – any change in process or machinery comes with the paramount requirement that quality should never be compromised. Our staff are our most valuable asset – systems, processes and training are critical to ensure consistency and quality.
When new staff start, we always focus on quality over speed, nurturing our team to understand the dough intimately so they’re able to recognise variances with changing seasons and respond accordingly. Our staff take great pride in producing Carême, and we all love nothing more than seeing our pastry used in recipes on the pages of food magazines!
How did the company start? (Was it like Dinner Ladies? Two people making pastry in a shed?!)
My husband, William Wood, was a chef with a strong background in pastry. He recognised that very few chefs made their own puff pastry (it’s time-consuming and challenging to get right) and what was available commercially was very low quality. He wanted to make a dough that chefs would be proud to use.
I worked as a marketing manager in the wine industry by day and developed the Carême brand with William by night. We rented a small warehouse that included a large cool room. With no cooling in the warehouse (critical to making pastry), William would put on a beanie and an insulated jacket and step into the cool room to make those first few kilos of dough manually.
Then he’d load 5kg rolls of puff pastry into a big esky in the back of his little Peugeot 306 and drive around the streets of Adelaide, knocking on restaurant doors to see if the chefs wanted to try his pastry.
A year later I gave up my day job in the wine industry and joined William full-time in the business.
So, yes… it does sound a little like the start of the Dinner Ladies!
Are you all good home cooks? And do you have pies every day?!
Ha! No, we don’t eat pies every day, but sometimes it's hard not to!
We employ a mix of professional chefs and avid home cooks, me included. Living in the Barossa it's impossible not to be connected to food and, by extension, wine. There is never a shortage of good food (often pastry!) on the tasting bench at Carême. It's something that new staff always comment on!
Is the Barossa a lovely place to work?
The wine and food industry brought us to the Barossa 20 years ago and it felt the obvious place to begin Carême. In the early years we had a stall at the local Farmers’ Market (an incubator for new and emerging food businesses). The community embraced us and supported us, and they loved indulging in buttery pastries every Saturday morning at the market!
We baked delicious French-inspired pastries for our stall at the Farmers’ Market for the first 5 years while we built up Carême.
Although the region is now dominated by grapevines, there’s a connectedness to the land and food, derived from the early settlers who brought their Silesian traditions for baked goods, preserved foods and smoked meats. Up until a few decades ago, many landowners operated mixed farms, growing their own fruit and vegetables, rearing their own meat, growing vines and making their own wine. ‘Bakehouses’ or ‘smokehouses’ – small stone buildings with a cellar – can still be seen on older properties, where meats were smoked and preserved and jars of summer harvest laid down for winter.
The Barossans love nothing more than to cook up a feast for friends and family over a bottle of Barossa red!
Craving Carême pastry? Pick up delicious pastry pies, sausage rolls and more on the Dinner Ladies menu.