February 17, 2008
Learning the art of pastry has made me a better cook all around. For example, I have learned that it's really not that hard to make things look beautiful. Whether it's a simple arrangement of fruit on a plate, or a glass of wine served in just the right glass, or a billowy meringue on top of a chocolate and lemon pie, it's all about beauty for me lately. Of course, taste is important too, but I really appreciate the way things look in my cooking and presentation--something I was not aware of before I started this year of cooking and learning...
My natural attention to detail is probably also an advantage to my work as a baker. I love it when things turn out perfectly and to me, a rounded and golden puff of brioche that has risen smoothly and gloriously out of the pan on all sides, is an example of simplicity of form. I guess that's why I am in a meringue phase these days. I am fascinated by the way it comes together because of chemical properties in the sugar and egg white, and produces this textural wonder of snowy white and softly shaped peaks. I love the way it tastes on top of a custardy- yellow-chocolate pie too. It's hard to come up with a better topping. I guess that's why those Southern ladies always made the best meringue pies. (By the way, the best pies in Nashville are made at the Sylvan Park Cafe).
I am going to be cooking for a friend in the next few days so will be pretty busy. Four meals in a day and then delivered to her ready to heat and serve. It's a new challenge, but I'm up for it. The menu for five includes a Moroccan chicken tagine; a Southern Italian lamb stew; a turkey sausage and rapini lasagne; and roasted sea bass with rainbow chard (which will have to be replaced with kale as chard was not available). Wish me luck!