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European sweets in a French village

Liege waffles, salted caramel éclairs, madeleines and more


Nearly 30 years have passed since the residential area called Seorae Village began to earn itself a reputation as a charming French neighborhood.

Drawn to the baguettes spun out by the landmark Paris Croissant, and to the quaint wine shops and pastoral vibe running throughout the hilly roads, weekend visitors flocked to the village, spurring its transformation into a gourmet mecca.

Now the main road is saturated with restaurants and cafes and an ambitious crop of small eateries are spilling out into the side streets, giving foodies more turf to tread in their search for great grub.

Among those harder-to-find spots are two excellent dessert places that specialize in European confections.

Hotel Douce

Owner and pastry chef Jeong Hong-yeon’s Hotel Douce spins out desserts that are near perfection.

Sure there are a few questionable creations here and there, leaving customers to reach their own personal verdicts, but credit must be given where it is due, and no space is wasted in this small two-table establishment.

Hotel Douce nails almost everything, from the candies to the cake, from the eclairs down to the cookies and even the chocolates.

Classic chocolate cake is rendered slightly bitter and not too sweet. The crumb is moist and straightforward. This is a cake whose every delectable inch is devoted to chocolate. The whipped cream topping becomes a mere afterthought, a cloud of whimsy that the fork slices through in a race to gobble the whole thing up.

Madeleines are citrusy, buttery and rich, while salted caramel is worked artfully into the eclairs, which combine thin, ribbed shells with a sugary icing and a decadent, custard-like filling.
Hotel Douce’s Creme de Anjou marries a cloud-like consistency with the earthy tang of cream cheese. A shockingly red raspberry filling makes for a pleasant surprise (Chung Heecho/The Korea Herald)
Hotel Douce’s Creme de Anjou marries a cloud-like consistency with the earthy tang of cream cheese. A shockingly red raspberry filling makes for a pleasant surprise (Chung Heecho/The Korea Herald)

Chef Jeong drew inspiration from le cremet d’Anjou, a French dessert from Angers traditionally made with creme fraiche, egg whites, to create the toothsome Creme de Anjou.

A mound of snow white fluff is served up, ringed with framboise (raspberry)-and-cranberry sauce. Gingerly dip a spoon in for an experience that walks the line between meringue and cheese.

It is utterly otherworldly, like eating spun mist yet the cream cheese within it gives the dessert its distinctly earthbound zest. A surprising and visually shocking ruby filling of framboise jelly adds a sweet punch. The tartness of the cranberries adds another layer of flavor.

According to director Kim Sue-jan, Jeong ― who masterminds all the recipes at Hotel Douce while also running the neighboring L’Ecole Douce (a homebaking school) ― will soon be bringing his delicious sweets to Gwanghwamun in early October.

Hotel Douce is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Cakes by the slice and eclairs cost around 2,300 won to 5,500 won. Handmade ice cream and sorbet cost 6,000 won to 8,000 won per tub. Macarons cost 2,000 won each, chocolates 1,700 won to 2,000 won each.

To get there enter Seorae Village from the road where the JW Marriott Seoul hotel and the Seoul Palace Hotel are located. Walk straight for approximately four blocks. Turn left. Hotel Douce will be on the left.

For more information call (02) 595-5705.

Didier’s Gaufres

Waffles have become a dessert du jour in Seoul.

One can often enjoy them heaped with ice cream, fruit and whipped cream, served as huge discs large enough for two, and accompanied by a small jug of maple syrup. 
Didier Gaufres Seorae Village outlet owner Kim Jeong-lan spins out authentic Liege wafflesmade from Didier’s delicious batter. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
Didier Gaufres Seorae Village outlet owner Kim Jeong-lan spins out authentic Liege wafflesmade from Didier’s delicious batter. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

Yet, in Belgium, the sweet is also enjoyed as a simple street snack known as Liege waffles.

Done up much smaller, this style of waffle is thick, doughy and boasts a candy-like crust, making it the perfect dessert for someone on the go because it tastes good without a tower of potentially messy decorations and fits right into your hand.

Didier-and-wife first started selling this Belgian snack to Koreans in the Belgium native’s eponymous waffle shop in Hongdae. Then, Kim Jeong-lan fell for the cake-like sweet and opened a second Didier’s Gaufres in Seorae Village.

“Waffles got very popular as a sort of dessert-meal alternative and women really liked it,” the 46-year old owner explained.

“I visited famous Belgium waffle places here and really enjoyed the fact that you could eat waffles that taste good without any toppings.”

Her passion for Liege waffles led to the opening of the Seorae outlet in December 2010, where Didier’s delicious batter is used to create the classic snack-sized desserts.

In addition to waffles, Kim also serves up excellent coffee, a South American-and-Ethiopian blend that is domestically roasted and bears nuances of chocolate, and runs an adjacent establishment called Cafe Maison Du Coin.

Didier’s Gaufres and Cafe Maison Du Coin are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Liege waffles cost 2,500 won to 7,000 won. Mini vanilla waffles cost 1,300 won. Coffee-based drinks cost 4,000 won to 10,000 won.

To get there enter Seorae Village from the road where the JW Marriott Seoul hotel and the Seoul Palace Hotel are located. Walk straight till you reach Paris Croissant. Turn left. Walk straight until you hit the end of the road. Turn right and walk approximately four blocks.

For more information call (02) 595-5868.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)
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