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Raindrop Cake

Raindrop Cake (Tim Ireland)

I don’t see the appeal of the “Raindrop Cake”.  Pretty presentation aside, the dessert tastes like barely sweetened spring water. It is pleasantly refreshing, but I take umbrage with calling it a ‘cake’. (And that $8 price tag.) When I reminisce about the best cake I ever ate, a tepid watery blob that jiggles like a breast implant does not come to mind. How did such a misnomer come to be?

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…. No, I Don’t Make Crappy Desserts (or vegan desserts, for that matter)

“You’re lactose intolerant?!  How are your desserts any good if you can’t eat them?”

My job interview ended abruptly, yet again. Discouraged and disheartened, I’ve kept my condition under wraps for years. But worn down by a parade of cheesy, creamy family meals that resigned me to eating crackers for dinner, and the paradox of my dietary regimen and chosen métier was questioned again: “Exactly, how are you a pastry chef and you can’t eat dairy?” Let me explain.

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During the course of my research, I come across interesting tidbits that don’t always fit into the course of my writing. This doesn’t make them any less worthy of sharing so I am posting these randomly interesting links into a section titled “Pastry Round-Up”. 

(Opusculum) How to Make Chocolate: written by renowned pastry chef and creative director of ICE, Michael Laiskonis, this post explores the botany and science of chocolate, from its humble origins to the complex manufacturing process that transforms the bitter astringent bean into a prized and flavorful confection. After reading this article, you will start to unlearn the notion of an all-purpose chocolate and appreciate the flavor nuances (as well as the price differential) between chocolates of varying origins.

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Pastry Trends 2016

Food trends are a funny phenomenon. While some trends seem spectacularly silly in retrospect (hello, bone broth and paleo diets!), other trends, like organic food, morph into staples of our culinary conversation and help us connect to the food world at large. Food trends can fundamentally change the way we eat. I couldn’t buy coconut and corn flour at the supermarket if gluten-free foods hadn’t been one of the top food trends of recent years. Unfortunately, food trends are not tied to taste.  I’ve suffered through the proliferation of overpriced, dry cupcakes and Cronut wannabes simply because they were well, trendy.

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Baking With Buckwheat

New Flours, New Flavors

I’m bored with baking, baking with wheat flour that is. Last year, I stumbled upon a case of faro and chestnut flours in my work kitchen and played around with pound cakes, muffins, and sponge cakes. As wheat flour has formed with basis of baking traditions in the United States, it was hard to find reliable recipes and baking information. (It was even harder to explain to a dining public cultured on wheat flour that chestnut flour contains neither nuts nor gluten…never mind its name). Although I’ve experienced more frustration than success, the challenge of baking with alternative flours has made baking fun again as intriguing flavors and unusual textures breathe new life into old recipes.

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Bread Art

A rose sculpted from pate morte.

A rose sculpted from pate morte.

I created this rose as one of several pieces for a culinary competition. I used three different bread doughs to sculpt and assemble the final piece but pate morte (“dead dough”) was my favorite decorative bread medium to work with. Because it uses no yeast or diary, pate morte is easy to shape and lasts indefinitely after baking. The dough is made by mixing rye flour with a glucose-based syrup. The low protein content of rye flour makes the dough less prone to shrinkage which allows the dough to be shaped into a plaque to commemorate a special occasion, fashioned into branches and adorned with flowers, or woven into baskets and lined with patterned cloths—anything your creative talents can conjure.

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