I’ve been asked that question quite a bit these past few weeks. It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot before this recent influx of inquiries. I’ve touched on some reasons here but it’s still hard to quantify clearly. Imagine trying to explain why your favorite color is what it is. I’m sure many have a reason but for most people it just is.
So why pastry?
Lately we’ve been going over plating desserts and something that comes up often in class is the idea of finding your “voice.” I think that’s a good place to start. If you’ve been following along I think my “voice” is clear but still hard to explain, which is just how I like it. A while back I came across a French literary concept known as “jouissance.” Without turning this into a blog on literary theory let me briefly explain. Jouissance is the sense of enjoyment and pleasure that occurs when an experience falls outside of the cultural norm. Basically it’s the “oh wow” moment you feel when you see a pirate ship made entirely of chocolate. It’s the sentiment that keeps the heart of “Play With Your Food” beating.
So. Why pastry? (We’re getting there!)
As I learned how to cook I learned two things. The first is that pastry has a ton of rules. The scientific foundation required is immense. The second is that all of those rules can be bent or broken and in doing so the “oh wow” moment is achieved. With some creative thinking anything is possible! Seriously, right now I’m working on a fully functional farm wagon showpiece that moves.
It’s that freedom of creation that drove me to pastry even before I fully understood what was happening. I’ve traded the Legos of my childhood (and early teen years that I’m totally not embarrassed about at all) for pots of 320F sugar. Play-Doh is now sugar paste and modeling chocolate. Finger paint is still paint, only now I won’t get yelled at for eating it.
I know I’m new to the industry but I really believe that you need to still be a kid somewhere inside to push it in pastry arts. That youthful exuberance in the face of discovery and breaking from tradition is crucial.
So here’s a traditional recipe for Apple Slab Pie!
Here’s the deal. It’s apple season. I love apple pie. It’s one of the only traditions I refuse to mess with much since you can’t really fix something that is already perfect. But you can make it brownie shaped for maximum face cramming.
Stand mixer with paddle
Pistachio Pate Brisee Dough
- 360g all-purpose flour
- 125g cake flour
- 50g pistachio flour (grind shelled roasted pistachios until very fine)
- 21g sugar
- 8g salt
- 339g butter, cold ~1/2” pieces
- ice water
Combine all of the dry ingredients and the butter in the stand mixer and paddle everything to cut the butter until the mixture is sandy.
Slowly add the water until a loose dough just forms. Mix for a few seconds to fully hydrate, then add more water if it’s still too dry. It should be loose, moist, and crumbly. Once there, turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and bring it together by hand.
Divide the dough in half and shape two rectangles. Wrap both in plastic and chill 20 minutes (during filling prep), or up to 3 days.
- 6-8 apples, firm flesh (Granny, Golden Delicious, Snapdragon, etc), 1” pcs x 3/8” thick
- juice of 1 lemon
- 60g sugar
- 25g brown sugar
- 1T cornstarch
- 3½t cinnamon
- ¼t ground ginger
- pinch of allspice
- pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and macerate while you shape the dough.
Assemble and Bake
- 50g maple sugar
- apple cider
- apple juice
- 65g powdered sugar
- 240g heavy cream
- 50g powdered sugar
- 30-50g maple syrup
Lightly grease a half sheet pan and line it with parchment. Heat oven to 450F.
Roll one piece of dough 19×14, place it in the pan and dock it.
Strain the filling (save the juices!) and evenly spread it over the dough in the pan.
Roll the second piece of dough 19×14, place it on top and tuck the seam under into the pan. Brush the top with heavy cream and sprinkle with the maple sugar. Cut vent holes in the top.
Place the pie in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 375F. Bake 60-75 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a shade past light golden brown.
As the pie nears its proper doneness prepare the glaze and the whipped cream.
For the glaze, combine the juice from the filling with a splash of apple cider and apple juice. Reduce it by about half. Whisk 65g powdered sugar with 1Tbsp of the reduction. Adjust the consistency with more sugar and/or reduction until it is just thin enough to apply with a brush.
For the whipped cream, whisk the cream and powdered sugar to soft peaks. Add about 30g of maple syrup and a splash of bourbon. Taste and add more syrup if needed. Whisk to stiff peaks. Keep chilled.
Once done, glaze the pie and cool it in the pan on a rack.
Slice the pie any way you like and serve with the whipped cream.
As of this writing I have 13 days of school left. Which means I have one entry left in me. For one last time, stick around!