Monday, September 28, 2009

Variety is the Spice of Life

One of the things I love most about being a pastry chef for a restaurant and hotel is getting to make a wide range of products. In addition to creating Grange's desserts, Jackie and I also produce flatbread, foccacia and brioche, banquet desserts, breakfast breads, chocolate amenities for hotel guests, celebration cakes for restaurant guests marking a special occasion, the weekly desserts for the Follow The Chef market tours, and more.

Today I went in early to bake off fresh breakfast breads for a meeting that Joie de Vivre's CEO, Chip Conley, was having in the hotel. We made sweet cardamom rolls, orange scones, coffee fruitcake, banana chocolate chip muffins, and almond brioche. I liked the cardamom rolls so much that I might put them on the brunch menu since they can be made a day ahead and left in the walk-in to rise overnight. It's a great sweet yeast dough that's spread with a cardamom, brown sugar and butter filling, rolled up, cut and baked. The rolls are glazed with a powdered sugar and milk icing ... YUM. I think the coffee fruitcake will go on the menu because it's perfect for the fall/winter season. It has coffee, molasses, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and is loaded with raisins and currants. It's delicious thinly sliced and spread with a little cream cheese.

Two weeks ago I designed a dessert for the Food & Wine Society, a gourmet group that's having a banquet in the hotel later this month. After looking at Chef's menu, which already featured sparkling wine and Sauterne, I decided to do a dessert with port. I made a pecan tart crust, put down a layer of fig and port compote, and topped it with fresh, halved Autumn Royal, Flame and Muscat grapes tossed in a concord grape and port syrup. I crumbled a little Pt. Reyes blue cheese on top and accompanied the tart with roasted figs and grapes, port-glazed candied pecans and lightly sweetened creme fraiche.

And of course we have some new desserts at Grange. We just introduced a Chai Creme Caramel, a Plum Galette and a new cookie plate. The Chai Creme Caramel is fantastic - the custard base is infused with cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, clove and black peppercorn. It tastes like fall! We unmold it onto a crispy shredded phyllo disc with a layer of date and honey puree underneath and a cardamom and coffee poached date half on top. The caramel flows over everything when it's umolded and then we sprinkle some sugared pistachios on the plate. The Plum Galette has a layer of almond cream, sliced Italian prune plums, cinnamon sugar and a raspberry-brandy glaze. It's served warm with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream, balsamic caramel and cinnamon anglaise. Our new cookie plate features maple pecan butter cookies, apple pie bars and chocolate chip gingersnaps.

My job keeps me very busy, but I absolutely love what I do and enjoy the challenge of coming up with so many different items for the restaurant and hotel. Now I think I'd better get back to designing a couple more new desserts for the menu this week!