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German pastry chef Holger Deh has launched a range of vegan patisserie-style desserts. Formerly head chef at the Rosewood Hotel Hong Kong, he has devised a selection of sweet treats designed to reduce sugar content and eliminate animal products. The Essentia range will be available at Pacific Place on Hong Kong Island from December 2 with the pop-up remaining open for three months.
Little did Deh realise, when he attended a Christmas party in 2020, that he would be inspired to drastically adapt his restaurant career. As the head pastry chef at Rosewood Hong Kong, he was accustomed to creating beautiful dishes but not for vegans. When a couple attending the party pointed this out, he took it as inspiration to challenge himself. The result would be a newfound appreciation for plant-based ingredients and his dessert range Essentia.
Trial and error
Accustomed to working with conventional butter, cream, and eggs, Deh admits that he found it more difficult than he initially assumed to transition to vegan ingredients. “It was a lot of research and trial and error – a lot of error,” he told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Sourcing plant-based ingredients proved to be an initial stumbling block, with texture and taste proving equally as challenging. Add in a desire to reduce sugar content and the professional chef, with 22 years of worldwide experience under his belt, found the project challenging. “You think ‘this cannot be so difficult’, but it was really difficult in the beginning, and I’m still learning every day. I’m always on the hunt for what I can do better, what I can replace,” he told the SCMP.
Butter was a serious issue, with three months of failure finally leading to the sourcing of a vegan alternative. It came from the UK and helps recreate delicate pastry, without the risk of collapse. But despite finding a new appreciation for plant-based cooking and ingredients, Deh has not made a personal transition to vegetarian or vegan eating. He has switched to oat milk in his hot drinks, however. Deh notes that he has lost a significant amount of weight, which he attributes to eating less sugar since leaving Rosewood.
Designed to tempt
For the Pacific Place pop-up, Deh has created five Essentia pastries plus cakes, single-serving chocolates, and sable cookies. Amongst the line-up is a giant Ferrero Rocher-like dessert expected to be the best seller. Filled with a gourmet and healthier alternative to Nutella, it is finished with gold leaf and chopped nuts. For fruit dessert fans, he has dreamt up a raspberry tart complete with flaky pastry, mango creme, and coconut confit.
Keen to be a disruptor in the patisserie sector, Deh has deliberately sought to break out of mainstream pastry design and he is not alone. Vegan pastry is on the increase worldwide. This is particularly true in Hong Kong, thanks to a surge in demand from sweet-toothed consumers. The UK is also stepping up to the dessert plate, with Sainsbury’s announcing a range of plant-based patisserie treats earlier this year.
The Essentia pastries are set to be priced at around HK$60 (US$7.70) with cakes starting at HK$480. Chocolates and cookies are still TBC.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.