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Was ist das?
François Payard is a third-generation pastry chef (his grandfather owned an acclaimed shop on the Riviera, Au Nid des Friandises) with a string of eponymous bistros as well as a chocolate bar. His gorgeous plated desserts capture the essence of seasonal ingredients in complementary pairings. His philosophy is in using only as many ingredients as are necessary and no more; a great dessert should reflect "the subtle interplay of flavor, texture and temperature, along with a streamlined presentation that conceals its complexity."
This gorgeous volume is clearly aimed at professional chefs (the serving yield is frequently 6-8 servings, and many of the desserts can't be held after assembling) as well as very ambitious home bakers (I would put myself in the latter category). Many of the recipes have multiple components that will need to be prepared / assembled in advance, and like any professional pastry book, a large number of special supplies are required (acetate sheets, chocolate sprayer, whipped cream canister with N20 chargers for creating molecular gastronomy foams, etc.). Similarly, many recipes call for specialty ingredients such as licorice powder, passion fruit puree, pistachio paste, hyssop, silver grade gelatin, etc.
The desserts, divided into frozen desserts, fruit desserts, pastries, custards, tarts, and crepes, soufflés and other desserts, are a combination of classical French pastry (vacherin, charlotte, napoleon, apple tatin, tuiles) married to Asian and tropical flavors (star anise, tempura, lemongrass, pineapple). Fresh, seasonal fruit is truly the star, as many recipes call for poached pears, quinces, roasted summer apricots, poached winter fruits, etc. (it would have been helpful to also have a quick index of recipes by season, as there is such an emphasis on seasonal produce for maximum effect). The basic recipes for various base sauces, creams, tuiles, garnishes etc. are straightforward; I liked his take on the chocolate tart dough, which uses a combination of all-purpose and almond flour to add a touch of flaky crispness. Some of the techniques could have benefitted from additional photos, such as the patterned tuile loops on page 27; I had a hard time picturing the steps and had to refer back to the plated photo before I finally "got" it (I had to rely on my standby The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry, 4th Edition and The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef a couple of times for a refresher on technique and plated desserts).
Overall, there are plenty of beautiful, delicious pairings to inspire budding pastry chefs; I particularly enjoyed the chocolate shell filled with coconut sorbet and star anise sabayon and the many creative interpretations of cheesecakes and cheese tarts paired with marmalades and roasted fruits, as well as Payard's ideas for the cheese course, including black olive macarons with Gorgonzola ice cream, apple tatin with aged white cheddar cheese, and feta cheesecake with red wine-poached dates. Even if you never make a single dessert, it is a feast for the eyes (and imagination), and the base recipes such as the caramel balsamic sauce, basil oil, and spiced fig pulp, will surely find their way into my kitchen in one form or another!
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Our kids were always sort of pudgy, and for years we wondered if it was because we did not know how to fit them proper desserts.
My father was an absent-minded scientist and would eat iron filings if you put them on his plate. My mom was a busy professional, and her idea of dessert was making chocolate or tapioca pudding, from the same mix Bill Cosby advertised on TV. She also liked to bake molasses cookies, and sometimes she walked to the corner store and bought the old fashioned boxes of ice-cream, in which chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream was molded together in stripes. As kids we could never figure out how they did that, or why, for you had to cut away every molecule of strawberry before the chocolate ice cream wasn’t gonna taste all “stwawbewwy,” we complained in that annoying Long Island lisps we sported as kids. influenced by the late Pee Wee Herman Playhouse show I’m sure., and Johnny Depp in Beetljuice.
Naturally as the years passed we took cues from the way our parents cooked, and also by the food revolution that has taken over here in San Francisco, but when I took up “Payard Desserts” on publication day—Halloween 2013—I felt like a lucky son of a gun. The message is largely about, don’t even try to make a dish in the wrong season, instead go for the ingredients not only if they happen to be available, but do like Payard. and buy them only at their peak, and base your dishes on that one factor. Well, what’s at its peak on Halloween? Candy corn, of course, and Vines, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and other trick or treat nonsense, but also pumpkin, squash, apples, beets, kale, broccoli, scallions, lemons and oranges, passion fruit, persimmon, cranberries, so I decided to concemtrate on Payard’s November recipes, starting with Citrus Terrine, in gelatin, with its secret surprose of a whole white peppercorn crushed with the bottom of a pan. My wife suggested, to save the pan use instead a small metallic kettledrum that my grandfather Doyle left me and which I use as a paperwright in the study. The sugar and the star anise build up an intoxicating aroma somewhat tempered by the jolt of the single white peppercorn, now in pieces due to the brass kettledrum’s dense, explosive shrapnel action effect.
In San Francisco there aren’t many trees whose leaves fall, red and brown, onto the ground, and the other traditional signs of November are likewsie AWOL, but we make do just fine at the Ferry Buiklding Farmer’s Market where we asked what leaves were edible and extant—at their peak, “At their peak,” I asserted, speaking in firm tones to the Romanian poultry farmer from Gilroy, whose simple stall was festooned with peak strands of garlic cloves, gray doves lustrous as coral, deciduous branches of young white pine, and baby pumpkins tied together in a net of crisp Romanian sugar. The orange tuiles, one of Payard’s singular attractions, ruled at the PTA potluck we attended with our teens. This forms part of a complex Feta Cheesecake wihich Payard pairs with wine-soaked dates and white pepper ice cream. He has a sort of thing about white pepper, white peppercorns, the way Julia Child had a thing for butter, and some of the younger children in the PTA potluck made ghsatly faces when they got to the ice cream portion of the dessert.
I look forward to February when chocolate is said to be at its peak, so I can make some of Fayard’s chocolate- based desserts, such as his cubes not of Kobe beef but of chocolate mousse, painted with chocolate down the sides into which the first entry of a fork tine will pierce to release s gushing blaze of salted caramel. Has Fayard realized how hard it is to escape in today’s market from sea-salted caramel? I think I will try the fleur de sel right now, without waiting for the other elements to kick in. My mother, who loved to make chocolate pudding the Bill Cosby way, is possibly rolling in her grave, and I’m not sure how much my own kids are going to enjoy working their way with me through Fayard Desserts, but I plan to roll with it all year round. Plus, you can freeze the four-hour baked apple napoleon (what Payard calls his version of American “comfort food”) and it will stay fresh and lively for as many as ten weeks, we discovered, during the recent drought here in California that slightly cut down on apple production. And each of the kids has lost on the average of two pounds per foot.