Perth desserts: Lightning Puff pastry chef Robert Wu adds a modern twist to the humble éclair

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In a quaint Tuart Hill home, the welcoming smell of baking wafts through every room.

It’s a daily occurrence at Robert Wu and Scott Cain’s apartment, which doubles as Wu’s licensed kitchen for their thriving new dessert business, Lightning Puff.

The Perth pastry chef has managed to breathe new life into the humble eclair with a ‘modern and vibrant’ makeover, from its flavor to its exterior, creating what foodies are touting as the ‘finest eclairs’ ever. they have ever seen.

The 36-year-old’s passion for baking is one that was rekindled later in life.

While his earliest memories of baking come from his home country of Taiwan, where he often helped his mother in the kitchen growing up, Wu initially took a different path, spending a decade in the Taiwanese military working in the field of chemistry.

“After 10 years I wanted to do something for myself,” Wu said. “So I decided to come here (Perth, Western Australia).”

Camera iconLightning Puff pastry chef Robert Wu aims to release a new flavor of éclair every month. Featured is the mini flash option. Credit: Scott Cain, @lightning.puff Instagram

Wu arrived in WA in 2014 for a two-year working holiday, but enjoyed the Aussie lifestyle so much he decided to study English and put down roots. He then embarked on his dream job and started a baking course at the South Metropolitan TAFE in Bentley.

Thereafter, he spent time working in various cafes, bakeries and commercial kitchens across Perth.

Until this year, he thought, “I want to do something different, something special.”

With the Perth market saturated with cake, cookie and cupcake businesses, Wu was looking for a dessert that would stand out, but that he could also realistically make with basic ingredients in a home kitchen.

“Chou pastry came about because it’s really easy,” Wu said, given that you have the skill and the practice under your hat. “You just need water, butter, flour and eggs – and you can make puffs!”

After quitting his job at a commercial bakery in January, Wu began a two-month period of research and trial and error, “making every choux pastry you can imagine” until he created the perfect dough for a light but crispy shell, which does not have any cracks when it comes out of the oven.

“Oh my God, that was so frustrating…I tried so many different recipes,” Wu laughed.

Her small business is truly a labor of love, with Wu spending hours in the kitchen making “everything from scratch” – from choux pastry to fresh pastry cream fillings and tangy jams.

“Because I’m cooking from a home oven, it takes about an hour to produce just 10 éclairs,” Wu said.

His vision has always been to make “elegant” éclairs, so he opted to use icing to dress the puffs and add vibrant toppings.

Wu aims to release a new flavor of éclair every month, inspired by seasonal ingredients and fruits, Asian cultures including South Korea and Japan, and classic Australian favorites like lemon meringue and lemon cake. cheese.

The spicy citrus flavor has a fruity tangerine cream filling with bursts of cinnamon-cardamom spiced citrus jam, topped with whipped vanilla ganache and fresh kumquat.

While a favorite, lemon meringue, offers a silky, lemon-zesty freshness.

Each flavor packs a punch, but isn’t overly sweet, combining different textures in each layer to create a delicious sensation in every bite – let’s just say it’s an easy feat to devour an entire eclair in no time.

Which brings us to the apt choice of the couple’s business name, Lightning Puff.

It is said that choux pastry dates back to the 1540s, but it was not until the 19th century that the éclair became famous, under the impetus of Antonin Carême, nicknamed the pastry chef of kings.

Lightning Puff pastry chef Robert Wu whips up the perfect choux pastry.
Camera iconLightning Puff pastry chef Robert Wu whips up the perfect choux pastry. Credit: Scott Cain, @lightning.puff Instagram
Blueberry Ginger Cheesecake Eclair.
Camera iconBlueberry Ginger Cheesecake Eclair. Credit: Scott Cain, @lightning.puff Instagram

And so, Lightning Puff was born, expressing “traditional French technique with a modern twist”.

Customers would never think so looking at his wonderful creations now, but Wu recalled that he actually once failed an assessment to make a tafe eclair – a memory he can now laugh at.

“I failed because I didn’t fill in the eclairs correctly,” he explained. “So now when I’m making my eclairs, I always start thinking, ‘oh my God, I need to make sure there’s as much topping as I can fit in the choux’.”

Although launching the home-based business was a ‘scary’ step for Wu and Cain, it paid off, with the stunningly gorgeous, gram-worthy eclairs becoming a hit almost overnight after their box office launch. closed on Mother’s Day.

Cain, a freelance graphic designer, who manages the marketing side of the business, said the non-stop orders were pouring in.

“Robert only slept 40 minutes at a time because he cooked day and night,” he recalls. “It was crazy.”

Lightning Puff Pastry Chef Robert Wu Aims to Release a New Lightning Puff Flavor Every Month
Camera iconLightning Puff Pastry Chef Robert Wu Aims to Release a New Lightning Puff Flavor Every Month Credit: Scott Cain, @lightning.puff Instagram

Wu now takes up to 10 orders a day, Wednesday through Sunday, for full-size or adorable mini eclairs, using her free days to prep and experiment with flavors.

A “perfectionist,” Wu said he’d rather each éclair be flawless for each customer than overburden himself.

“With Cabbages, you can’t take shortcuts,” he said, adding that he was a believer in following the rules, a habit he incorporated from his military days.

“They [the eclairs] are all my babies. I just want to present them perfectly.

This weekend will be the first event at which Lightning Puff will make an appearance, with Lightning Puff set to go on sale at the Perth Upmarket at UWA on Sunday, September 18.

It’s a stressful and exciting time for Wu, who is busy cooking up a lightning overload.

But you better be quick if you want to try them because after tasting the eclairs they are sure to be sold out in the blink of an eye.

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