Millet Soberano is a culinary magician who makes magical things with chocolate.
They stare up at me like seashells floating on a plate of white. Brown, like the color of chocolate smoke and as deeply aromatic. They’re called madeleines, individual scallop shells of sponge cake that are “…so strictly pleated outside and so sensual inside,” French novelist Marcel Proust once said.
A madeleine missing its partner.
Millet has made two Chocolate Madeleines that form a solid seashell sandwiching a dark chocolate filling. I guess I could nibble around the edges but I prefer my take my desserts head-on so I open my mouth wide; this is a madeleine for the macho.
Swarthy with a crackly bottom, it’s like eating a moist block of brownie. It bursts and bangs with chocolate flavor binding with its silky chocolate filling, a counterpoint to the richness of its exterior.
Millet, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has long maintained a commissary called Divine Desserts that supplies several establishments. But it’s at her year-old bakery-café, Bean & Baker, where her culinary imaginings take flight. She takes pride in putting a spin on her sweets which she calls, “Making them my own” by utilizing flavors that are both bold and familiar.
Consider what she calls her Ground Coffee Cake. “You would think that this cake has ground coffee in it,” Millet muses, as though she’s about to share a secret with me. Majestic on its silver cake stand, the cake is coated with a crushed walnut streusel mixed with a smattering of chocolate cake crumbs, its top a lattice of chocolate piping. When sliced into, the secret reveals itself. First, there are two types of filling – lightly whipped cream infused with coffee, the other a billowy coffee cream – that separate the double layers of chocolate chiffon cake. Discrete components all, but when eaten together resonate in dreamy harmony. Coffee and chocolate meld and mingle, never one overshadowing the other, then the occasional interruption from the walnut streusel and the cake crumbs that trick me into thinking they’re ground coffee grains. The cream binds it all together, fluffy little tufts of satisfaction. Mmm.
The second cake that Millet has made for the Dessert Comes First Christmas Gift List is something she calls Chunky Chocolate Reese, her take on a deconstructed peanut butter cup.
The first flavor that hits me is the roasted flavor of the peanuts. Smoky and nutty, its edges are rounded out with overlapping notes of butter and vanilla … and something else. Millet is a master at incorporating what I call that “touch of mystery” to all her creations, that unknown individual ingredient that makes me say, “More.” Here, it’s shattered almonds accompanying the peanuts in this butter brittle, a dramatic studded overlay for this sweet. The cake itself is chocolate-charged and softly seductive gilded in a thickly-textured chocolate icing. I have this strange urge to press my face into it and inhale like a (chocolate) addict.
Bean & Baker
SM Hypermarket, Tiendesitas, Pasig
(02) 913 9875 / (02) 439 3069