New pâtisserie brings French flair
by Katie Kalk
When Barbara Walraet was a small child in France, she always looked forward to Sundays when her mother spent hours mixing, sifting, stirring, tasting, pouring, blending and baking, her hard work in the kitchen creating delicious, decadent creations. Now, Walraet is giving a taste of her childhood to Eugene with the Aug. 1 opening of her new French pâtisserie, Caramel.
“The reason I’m doing this in Eugene is because we don’t have those authentic French desserts around,” Walraet says. “We have a lot of variety, but we don’t have that real authentic dessert.”
Deserts in France are smaller, she explains, not as heavy — a pleasurable part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle that doesn’t leave the eater feeling guilty, too full, sluggish or on a sugar high.
Her expansive menu includes chocolate mousse, chocolate volcano cake, coconut flan, crème brulee, tiramisu, raspberry mousse, fruit tarts, baskets (a pastry filled with fresh fruit and vanilla custard), éclairs, cream swans (shaped to look like miniature birds), many savory pastries and Walraet’s personal favorite, the Floating Island: a very traditional French dessert consisting of “an island of soft meringue on a sea of vanilla sauce, topped with crunchy caramel strings.”
Walraet uses local and organic ingredients with the aim to make her creations “as healthy as possible.” She says, “I try to carefully select my ingredients to make it a good quality and a healthy product.”
“When I make certain things, it reminds me of certain moments from childhood,” she says. “The floating island brings back a lot of memories — it used to be my brother’s all-time favorite. We’d have it not too often, but often enough. My mom would make this huge bowl, and you’d have this huge sea of vanilla and crunchy caramel on top. She just made it spectacular.”
For Walraet, baking has been a lifelong passion, but it always came second to her passion for teaching children. Over the last seven years, she’s been able to share her love of desserts with her students at The Little French School in Eugene, a French immersion preschool. Together, Walraet and her students baked pastries from her family recipes. The children learned about the senses of touch, taste and smell; learned to measure ingredients; and learned about healthy eating. (The swan pastries were a big hit: “They didn’t last long!”)
After supplying the desserts for the school’s French Night Out celebration and getting much positive feedback from the community, Walraet decided to embrace her passion for baking whole-heartedly and take her desserts to the public. The last few months have been a flurry of preparation for the new pâtisserie; Walreat’s mother even flew in from France to see Caramel get up and running.
Caramel doesn’t yet have a storefront, so the entire menu is baked to order, with pick up or delivery available. Caramel also caters parties, weddings and all kinds of special events.
See www.carameleugene.com or call 514-2227 to order or for more information.