Hampton pastry chef brings a traditional French pastry home to the Seacoast
By Rachel Forrest
October 25, 2009
HAMPTON -- Toot Sweet Pastry Shoppe, a new patisserie has opened in town, offering traditional French macaron pastry and more.
These aren't the cookies we call "macaroons," the dense, heavily coconut-laden confection of Christmas time. These sandwich-like cookies are delicate and light as a meringue from whipped egg whites, and come in the flavors and colors of the season.
Executive Pastry Chef Leander Krulis also offers authentic éclairs, glazed apple tarts and artistically accented individual chocolate mousse cakes, to name just a few.
The shop opened Oct. 8 in a small converted train signal station in Depot Square in the heart of Hampton, the name a play on the French phrase toute suite, meaning "in a hurry." The new patisserie is a venture from chef Ron Boucher, owner of the Chez Boucher Culinary Arts and Training Center in the square. Boucher first discovered Krulis at the center, but not before she travelled from South Dakota to France and found the macaron, with plenty of sweet adventures in between.
"I was born in Maine — an Air Force brat — and my dad was shipped to South Dakota," Krulis said. "I always loved to bake. My mom baked. I had wanted to be a lawyer, but one day I woke up and said, 'I want to cook!' My dad said, 'You cook?' And I said, 'Yes, I do.'"‰"
Krulis looked at schools in South Dakota, but decided on The French Culinary Institute in the heart of Soho in New York City. She entered a six-month program in 2004, and studied the art of pastry with some of the world's best.
"I'd never been to New York. I was waiting to feel homesick, but it never happened," she said. "I got to intern at Jean-Georges, and I was so fortunate to have had that experience. I was going to school six days a week, working five days a week."
Krulis went on to work in more New York kitchens, such as Oceana, where she met one of her most important mentors, pastry chef David Carmichael, and worked with him at both Oceana and later at the newly reopened Russian Tea Room.
"I got tired of New York, though, and by then my parents were back in Maine, so I moved back and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," she said. "I worked at The Dunaway with Mary Dumont for about a month before she left, but then I got another opportunity."
Friends of Krulis' were friends with a pastry chef in Nice, France, and six days a week, from 6 a.m. to 3 in the afternoon, she learned the art of French patisserie in their shop. Now, she brings what she's learned to Hampton.
"The culture was so different. Everyone is home for dinner and at night we couldn't eat until everyone was there," Krulis said. "We'd go out and get a macaron and chocolate. They take time to appreciate the food. Instead of a slice of cake like we have here, each person gets an individual cake. It's food turned into art."
Krulis came back to the area and began working as the pastry instructor at Chez Boucher a year ago. She said she is happy to bring the techniques she learned in France.
"I've had to make some adjustments. The chocolate mousse cake had a shiny glaze, but people didn't like that. I think mentally it made it look too heavy," she said. "And the quenelles and gold leaf on the Autumn ganache tart took getting used to. I need to offer familiar ingredients and find the balance. Keeping seasonal is important."
Which is why the tarts, cakes and macarons include ingredients like pumpkin, pecan, cranberries and apples. There are ginger snaps, and a decadent French almond cookie with layers of chocolate and slivered almonds. The shop also serves tea and coffee, gelato and Italian sodas.
When the weather warms again, Krulis will install a patio area with seating in view of Jon Mooers' mural, "Provence," which is painted on the wall outside the Chez Boucher dining room. Krulis will also make wedding cakes and others to order, and for the holidays she'll make more traditional sweets like apple pie and pumpkin, but with a French twist as in a pumpkin tart with chestnut cream.
But the "must try" at Toot Sweet is, of course, the delightful little macaron, including one specialty of the house made with raspberry. And why the macaron?
"Because they're my favorite!" Krulis said. "I'm all about texture, and with macarons especially you get crunchy, creamy and chewy. It's a wonderful delicate cookie."
Toot Sweet Pastry Shoppe is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday at 32 Depot Square. For more information, call 967-4696 or visit www.twitter.com/TootSweetPastry or www.chezboucher.com.
Owner: Ron Boucher
Where: Depot Square, Hampton
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am. to 6 pm
Contact: 967-4696 or www.chezboucher.com