Marco Röpke's homemade doughnuts make a sweet treat
It’s safe to say that Marco Röpke was born to bake. The owner and head instructor at the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver (818 Renfrew Street) is a fourth-generation pastry chef. After spending his youth in his family’s pastry shop in Hamburg, Germany, Röpke baked his way through France, Scotland, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Japan, before landing in Canada a decade ago.
“I have close to 30 years in the pastry world,” he tells the Georgia Straight during an interview in his classroom. “Growing up in a pastry shop and just seeing it day in and day out, there was never really a question I would do something else.”
In Vancouver, Röpke was the executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel for a year before he decided that he wanted to give teaching a try. He was the head pastry instructor at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver from 2004 to 2007 before opening his own school over three years ago. At the Pastry Training Centre, classes are offered at every level, from cake- and bread-baking for beginners to chocolate-making and pastry-decorating for more advanced students. Röpke also teaches courses on gluten-free baking, candy-making, and canning jams and preserves.
He notes that even professional cooks can benefit from a pastry course because cooking and baking require very different skills.
“As a chef, you rely on your taste buds, tasting constantly, but I think for pastry, you really have to understand what’s going on in your recipe. You can’t take a little of this, a little of that. You really have to scale it down to the smallest quantities to make sure everything’s in the right ratio and works out properly,” he explains.
At home, Röpke makes his pastries and breads from scratch for his family, and on weekends, he often treats his kids to crullers—airy doughnuts that he sprinkles with cinnamon sugar and dunks in salted caramel sauce.
“I always tell people: if you need to have two gadgets at home, one should be an ice-cream maker and one should be a deep fryer. You will never be bored again,” Röpke says with a laugh. “If you deep-fry properly, it’s not fattening. It’s tasty; it’s crispy and awesome.”
The key to deep-frying choux pastry is to make sure the oil stays at the specified temperature before adding the batter.
“If it’s too low, then your baked goods will absorb too much of the oil and it’s really greasy and not nice,” Röpke instructs. “If you go too high, it’ll burn too quickly. Controlling the temperature is very crucial.”
He suggests adults pair the crullers with a Hefeweizen, as the banana note in the beer goes well with the pastry.
Marco Röpke's crullers with salted caramel sauce
1 cup (250 mL) milk
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1 pinch orange zest
1 cup (250 mL) bread flour(not all-purpose flour)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) Grand Marnier
4 cups (1 L) canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon sugar, made by combining ¼ tsp (1 mL) cinnamon powder with ¾ tsp (3 mL) sugar
Salted caramel sauce (see recipe below)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and orange zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and butter is melted.
- Increase heat to bring liquid to a boil. Add flour and beat with a wooden spoon until combined.
- Remove from heat and quickly stir in eggs and Grand Marnier with a wooden spoon until batter forms a ball.
- Pour oil into a large heavy pot and, using a candy thermometer, bring oil to 375° F (190° C) over medium-high heat. Once the target temperature is reached, monitor heat to ensure temperature stays consistent and oil does not get too hot and burn.
- Pour cruller mixture into a piping bag with a star nozzle. Pipe 3-inch–long strips into the hot oil, leaving space between them. (Do not overcrowd the pot.) Carefully flip the crullers as they brown to ensure even frying. When they’re golden brown on all sides, remove crullers from oil with tongs and place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Repeat until all batter is used up.
- Dust crullers with cinnamon sugar and serve with caramel sauce for dipping.
Salted caramel sauce
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
½ cup (125 mL) cream
2/3 cup (180 mL) unsalted butter
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar until dark amber in colour, stirring constantly. Add cream. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for about two minutes, or until mixture reaches 225° F (110° C), stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and add butter and salt. Mix well and cool before serving.
Yield: 12 crullers.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.