Being a Pastry Chef – Day 29

“Hey, T-Bear. Want some crack?” I ask tonight as service slows down a bit.

“Uh. Yes!” comes the expected response.

Out comes the six pan of lemon bar edges and such and the moans are heard around the kitchen.

When I say ‘crack,’ I don’t mean literal crack. Just like when I talk about cocaine clouds in my poetry. (which is just powdered sugar clouds from roulade cakes) I literally can blame all of this on Coffeeman.  Wednesday I was trimming down the edges of the lemon bars so they  were all pretty to plate and so of course I am not going to toss those edges. Into a pan they go and get passed around for anyone with a sweet tooth. (practically the entire kitchen)

Suddenly, an hour or two later, Chef is shoving the pan back at me and saying “get this crack away from me!”  Yes, it is that addictive and YES! I know I have done my job when Chef says this.  Let me blow on my nail and buff them on my jacket… Preen like a bird. Damn straight.

There are some serious perks to being able to call myself the pastry chef. Mind you, I am not classically trained. At all. Most of my baking has been rather haphazard over the years. The job was shoved at me because the first ‘chef’ decided he needed his wife to not be carting their 4 month old child around the kitchen. Don’t ask. Long story.

So job shoved at me, making boxed everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cakes and such and I am suddenly the  pastry chef.  But I digress way too far down that rabbithole.

So, perks to being pastry chef.

  1. Sugar.  I mean, come on, everything is sweet. How can you go wrong?
  2. Sliding sweet things over to your coworkers as you bake. It is seriously fun to be chopping a block of chocolate and shards get passed over to this person or that person.
  3. Seeing the look of ‘moaning’ delight on anyone’s face when they taste something good.
  4. Do you know how delightful it is to tell a guy you are the pastry chef and see this insta-perked up look of fascination? Um, yeah, there is serious power in that. I say that to a guy, not to mention pizza chef and whatnot, but serious interest is suddenly there. Why just a week and a half ago as the kitchen was filled with all of us on a off day to prep, here comes a very seriously cute/handsome/adorable new FedEx delivery guy and the look on his face as I went to sign his tablet but had to stop because I was chopping a big ole block of chocolate and had it on my hands. Power. There is serious power in being a pastry chef.
  5. Sending out good things to friends who come in……
  6. Handing out spoons for people to sample chocolate mousse, lemon bars, creme brulee, apple pear cranberry crisp (today I treated our hostess to a delightful bit) Ah yes, again it’s power… Good power. The power to create happiness.
  7. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Come on, no one can be in a bad mood after desserts.
  8. Your hair, skin, clothes smell like vanilla and cinnamon and sugar cookie dough, and almond, and yumminess. I have taken showers after baking and the scent that wafts off of me as the hot water hits my hair is literally what I was baking and the essence of whatever was baking in the oven.
  9. Power.
  10. Did I mention power? It’s a really sexy power.

So, yeah, I stress a lot about screwing up desserts. I mean, my lemon bars were too wet this time around, needing to have baked them a hair longer, and that roulade cake through the summer, but there are some amazing perks to this job.

Kate

Advertisements

Lemon Curd and Swiss Meringue – Day 15

The halfway point. I’m already feeling it. Probably because I don’t have any backup posts now. Now I have to write every day because I’m not caught up and I’ve lost a little of what I should write about. This always happens.  I do have a few things I know of, but I like to see what inspiration strikes me at work.

Today it’s two areas that a few months ago I would have said no way and no how was I ever going to be able to make them. I definitely would have said it a year ago. I don’t know why I was so worried.

Whisking lemon curd away

I’ve always wanted to make lemon curd, but everyone warned me it was time consuming and you could really screw it up. And I would have never tried a different type of meringue.

Lemon curd has got to be one of the easiest things to make. Oh sure, it takes a bit of time, but it’s like super easy to make. Seriously, I will willingly make it for anyone that wants some, provided they spend the money on the ingredients. It does use a fair amount of eggs, butter and lemon juice/zest….. <—see, zest!  But in a double boiler, bain marie, it’s a breeze. I make it almost every week. And the exploding lemon flavor is heaven. Seriously, I love lemon tarts now. Not that I would have ever balked at it before. In fact, now that I know how to make it, I want to make it for my family.

Filling a piping bag

Swiss meringue

Swiss meringue came after my standard meringue fell quite quickly at work. I’m not an expert at it and it was causing trouble. You either have a touch for it or not. I can’t say as I have a touch. So research began and swiss meringue became the solution. The first trial was too sticky and gooey, but an improved recipe { Rethinking Swiss Meringue: Lighter, Fluffier, and More Stable} made this marvelous concoction that I want to spread and eat and just consume.

It worked every time I made it and lasted days, much to Lucifer saying, “no it won’t” and “see how much time it takes you to make!” Gasp and horrors, 15 minutes for three to four days of it lasting versus 5-10 minutes each day… Gee, I wonder which one was more functional?

A finished lemon tart with swiss meringue

That being said, my swiss meringue has been separating lately. Too much humidity? Too much beating? Not enough sugar? Something is off and it irks the heck out of me. It was decent for the weekend. And I sent out a couple luxurious desserts to guests late at night. I got to plate. I loved it.

Sometimes it’s the silly things I’m afraid of, but Chef seems to think I’m up to the challenge and in the scope of things, I’ve ruined very little. The roulade cake not cracking for weeks was an issue, but I have it solved. I should probably modify the kitchen bible.

I love that I have lemon curd and meringue in my head and I can whip them out without even questioning myself. I love that food becomes almost ordinary in fixing it. Someone says, “can you do —-?” and I can say, “Why yes I can!” Skills…..

“June, you’ve got skills…”   from Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

I guess I have ’em.

Kate