Specters of pastry kings flaunt towers of pate a choux, buttressed of European-style butter, fondant and cream…
French almond macarons, Paris-Brest and petits fours are three seductive pleasures I’ve always associated with the best European bakeries. Macarons, the most-royal orbs of tender flavor and color, occupy three dimensions in a pastry shop window like no other confection. Paris-Brest, the French idolator of Italy’s mascarpone, never excuses itself as the best breakfast companion. Petits fours were the visual emblem of my childhood, each the perfect little package of intense, jammy sweetness. Et voila!
With an alchemist’s hand, Advanced Baking at OCI came to a close, the execution of these gems the act preceding intermission.
The second act, Intermediate Pastry Arts, has as its entre a fantastic carrot cake with coconut, crushed pineapple and walnuts, a silky marbled cheesecake, a goddess-like tiramisu, Charlotte Royale and lemon buttercream roll cake.
Buttercream… The memory of the first Viennese Dobos torte I made 30 years ago is etched indelibly in my psyche. The day I made it was one of those turning points that sneaks up and screws itself into your consciousness in a way that can never be undone. The shape of the traditional torte is round, and I remember spreading the batter thinly on the back of a 9″ pan. Seven times. Thin layers of chocolate buttercream inside and out. A beautiful layer of deep golden caramel as the crown.
These desserts are not naive. They reverberate the names of their creators and those courageous enough to be their current standard-bearers.
Each day a new skill or technique or solution is carved out of rigorous practice. The lineage of great pastry chefs of the past lives on in the next scored torte, the next filigree, the next perfect rosette.