Shop 2/3 Hillcrest Rd, Pennant Hills, New South Wales
The next old entry that I have to clear otu from my review backlog is also located in Pennant Hills, just a minute’s walk from the previously reviewed Andrew’s Patisserie, although I visited this place several months later! Yes, also nestled in the old fashioned 1960s shopping centre here is the descriptively named Pennant Hills Hot Bread.
At least that’s all the sign says. A Google search indicates that the business is actually registered as Thai Son Hot Bread, but that name appears nowhere on the premises signage. Yes, as you can tell from the name, this is another in the endless supply of suburban Vietnamese bakeries that can be found all over Sydney. many of them are excellent, so let’s see what this one is like.
It has a typical unassuming and unpretentious shopfront, with glass display cabinets of baked goods and racks of bread behind. In the above photo, if you look carefully, you can see a tray of vanilla slices in the centre of the right hand display.
As it turns out, these are labelled as “French” vanilla slices. There is also another tray two to the left (on the other side of some caramel slices) labelled just “Vanilla slice”, but it is alas empty. I presume this is another of the places that differentiates between the “Aussie” vanilla slice with heavy yellow custard and a “French” one in a lighter style where the filling is more of a whipped cream consistency than custard.
But today my choice is made for me, as I order a sausage roll and a French vanilla slice. I take them to street outside the car park where there are a few seats, to sit and partake of this lunch.
The sausage roll appears okay, nicely baked, with some good flaking evident in the golden brown pastry wrapping. The meaty ends look perhaps a touch fry, but thet sometimes belies a moist interior. I do notice that the roll is leaving plenty of grease spots on the white paper bag as I take it out and position it for photography and subsequent sampling. Plenty of butter (hopefully) in that pastry!
Indeed, the roll is fairly greasy. The pastry is fair, but not really rising as far as good. It has some flake and crunch to it, but also a bit of limpness, especially in the inner layers. The meat is that horrible blend of smooth and grey. Not a great texture by any stretch. On the positive side, it has chunks of onion, as well as a hint of some exotic spice – perhaps coriander seed, mixed with… chicken stock? It has a lot of flavour, but it’s an odd an unexpected combination – not exactly what you want in a sausage roll. Flavoursome, but not especially nice.
Moving on to the dessert course, the French slice looks wondrous. It’s a huge, towering block of pale creamy filling, of that colour known as “cream”, rather than simply white. It doesn’t really look like custard, but it does have a bit of presence to it, that seems thicker than whipper cream. The pastry layers around this immense slab are thin and layered with a solid biscuity core topped and bottomed with peeling layers of thin flakes. The top is dusted with crystallised sugar, which is a novelty. It looks intriguing and promising.
It’s tricky to eat as it’s almost too tall to get a bite around. The pastry layers have a bit of snap to them, but are on the softer side, rather than truly crispy. The cream oozes everywhere and flakes and sugar fall off all ove the place, making a huge mess. But that cream is delicious! It’s thick and almost custard-like in texture, and tastes strongly of vanilla. The crystal sugar works well, providing a textural foil to the creaminess of the filling that the unfortunately soft pastry can’t give. It’s thick and filling and bite after bite fills the mouth with wonderful sweet vanilla flavour. It’s generous too, which is a good thing as it’s delicious. It’s just a shame about that soft pastry – with a truly crisp and flaky top and bottom, this would be excellent.
Sausage roll: 4/10
French vanilla slice: 7/10