I’m not much of a dessert person. Given the choice, I prefer a glass of port over the dessert menu. Most restaurant dessert menus are afterthoughts, lacking imagination, littered with crème brûlée, a flourless chocolate cake and selection of sorbets. Occasionally, a chef will throw in some flavor such as an espresso crème brûlée evoking a diner’s appreciative nod while whispering, “that sounds good”.
Pop Quiz: Name 5 pastry chefs.
Can’t do it.
Look at your bookshelf. How many books do you have dedicated to desserts? If your bookshelf looks like mine: zero. Among the books dedicated to bread, sauces, sous vide and celebrity chefs, you won’t find a single tome dedicated to desserts. The closest reference resides on a books to be purchased list that includes A Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. It’s on the reading list, just waiting in a Barnes and Noble somewhere.
Desserts may be making a comeback, or at the minimum a run at respectability. Top Chef: Just Desserts will be airing later this year in an attempt to give pastry chefs some credibility. I’ll predict the contestant that wows the judges with molecular gastronomy techniques such as lecithin foams, spherification and liquid nitrogen ice cream will prevail.
It’s rare to experience a truly remarkable dessert. Remarkable is every marketers dream, a creation that necessitates a comment about the uniqueness of the product. Every now and than I’m reminded how exceptional desserts really can be, such as “The Egg”. Michael Laiskonis, James Beard award winning pastry chef from Le Bernardin, has created a truly remarkable dish and posted the recipe on his blog (see below). I was fortunate to celebrate a friends birthday at Le Bernardin recently. Here’s a friendly tip: if you want to feel the wrath of a fiance‘s, skydiving is the appropriate birthday gift.
Any conversation about desserts and remarkable must include Christina Tosi from Momofuku. Not only are the desserts sinfully decadent but the marketing is also genius. Crack pie and cereal milk market themselves. Although I’m more likely to pick up the pork buns than crack pie, there is something about those desserts that are completely addictive. and the lines go out the door.
In addition to great desserts and genius marketing, I give extra credit for sensible business decisions and explaining them to your customers. On March 31st, Eater reported Momofuku Milk Bar will not be service slices of cake. Later that day, Fork in the Road/Village Voice provided additional comments from Christina Tosi:
“We want to be as fresh as possible,” she says. “We were running into issues with waste. I don’t want to say no to somebody at 10 at night who wants a slice of banana cake, even though I know that the chance of other people wanting a slice is slim to none.”
Plus, she adds, the time it took to cut slices was in part what made the waits so interminable. “Our biggest fear was that we don’t want to alienate our favorite customers who love the cake slices, but at same time, it was definitely making a longer line,” Tosi says. “I’d always look at the line and think, wow, who would want to wait in a line that long?
Talent, flair for marketing, and sensible business decision with a clear, logical explanation. Can someone arrange a date?
As it turns our, I have a date with Ms. Tosi already. She will be coming to a bookstore near you with the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook in the Fall 2011. This blog should be completed by the time it hits the shelves, but who knows, I may give that a whirl and challenge myself to learn how to make some desserts. There’s plenty of time to mull that one over.
One project at a time.
Making this dish was actually a little bit of an after thought. While visiting my parents over Easter weekend, I had planned to make the mussels with OS on Friday night, Bo Ssäm on Saturday, and sneak the pig’s head torchon in somewhere for an appetizer. My sister was making fondue for the nieces and nephew’s dessert on Friday evening.
Little did she know, Junkfood Joanie put the strawberries on a low shelf in the back of the fridge camouflaged by a multitude of assorted shredded cheeses. The strawberries missed the fondue dunking on Friday evening, so this was thrown together for one of the many Easter desserts.
Start with an egg and cream mixture to go with the mise en place. There is a mistake in here as well. So far, I’m 0-2 when in front of the standing mixer…
and the mistake… Why are baking powder and baking soda boxes both in orange boxes? This one confuses me now…
As I write this a week later, I’m not certain I made a mistake. The recipe calls for baking powder, however, when I saw these did not rise, I quickly thought it should have been baking soda. What happened? I’m not sure, but I do look forward to doing this again when rhubarb is in season.
Fairly simple and straightforward. The hardest part is finding them in the fridge.
This is pretty straight forward as well, but with a little sour cream twist.
The dessert came out pretty well. Both my sister, Beth, and I like salty flavors and the shortcakes themselves are fairly salty. The tang and sweetness from the whip cream balances the saltiness of the shortcake itself.
As a dessert, the macerating strawberries and making whip cream are about as easy as it gets. Getting the shortcakes to the correct consistency, well, that’s going to take a few more tries…
We did rearrange the fridge so the perishable items are on eye level.