No News Is Good News

Admittedly, it’s been a little quiet over here at The Pastry Department. A fact that can only mean one thing, we have been anything but quiet in our kitchens! I’ll give you a little update on the team here, as we have all been doing pretty wonderful things in our absence from this blog. Which literally translates to no news is good news!

Ron has opened an ice cream shop! It’s called Revival Ice Cream and it’s in Monterey, California. The flavors are unique, and thoughtful, with the touch of a seasoned pastry chef, like Bee’s Knees, an ice cream infused with beeswax before ribbons of burnt honey, bee pollen, and honeycomb candy are folded in. I’ve been stalking the menu since it opened! He wrote about it as he made the transition from employee to chef-proprietor, and then immediately started spending all his time making ice cream.

Danielle has taken a job as a pastry cook with a newly opened restaurant in Chicago called Bad Hunter. The restaurant has a strong focus on vegetables, with some meat and fish scattered through out the menu. Because if you were a bad hunter, you’d get some meat, but you’d also have to eat a lot of vegetables. At least that’s the story I made up in my head! What I didn’t make up is the delicious vegetable and herb focused desserts that are coming out of this pastry kitchen, helmed by Emily Spurlin, a young talent taking this unique angle to the next level. I recently had a root vegetable macaroon, similar to the coconut mounds we know and love, but with grated root vegetables standing in for the tropical flakes.

Harry has settled himself into an enviable position at Smyth and The Loyalist, a dual concept opened by Karen Urie Shields and John Shields in Chicago. With two pastry menu’s to learn from, Harry is helping make some of the most forward thinking desserts in the city for Smyth, and simply delicious desserts for the subterranean bar below it, The Loyalist. On my last visit, I tasted a perfect brooklyn black out cake, sliced and plated unadorned, as well as a striking dessert of an egg yolk soaked in salted licorice over a frozen yogurt meringue.

Leigh is just flat out killing it at Nico, and in her spare time between running the hotel and restaurant, has started putting together a pastry chef exchange, where she brings in another pastry chef to collaborate on dishes on her menu, and simultaneously they do the same with her on their menu. It’s an incredible opportunity for pastry chefs to expand their style to fit another space, and a wonderful way to connect two working pastry chefs, who otherwise might be isolated under mountains of croissant dough and never get to share ideas and passion.

And me? Well, we opened a new restaurant called Publican Anker, which has been a wonderful experience. It’s transformed my job from a small insular trio of buildings all on one block, running cookies across the street and borrowing cream from one another, to managing a menu offsite, and shifting the production model of our kitchen to look more like a commissary. We have gone from making 50 biscuits to 300 at a time, and my sous chef Amy laughed that 6 months ago the 50 biscuits used to freak her out, and now we are driving speed racks of biscuits around the kitchen. The dessert menu is ice cream heavy at Anker, which makes me quite happy, and the guests too! We are also in the process of getting  a dairy license and pasteurizer, so one day soon I’ll be able to safely, and legally put ice cream in pints for people to take home with them!

Speaking of ice cream, I’ve also spent the better part of the last 18 months writing a book about ice cream! It’s called Hello My Name Is Ice Cream, and yesterday I held it in my hands for the first time. Folks, it’s beautiful! Large part in thanks to the incredible contribution by Anna Posey, illustrator extraordinaire and fellow pastry chef (check out her brand new restaurant Elske!). And large part also in thanks to  Ian and the art department at Clarkson Potter, and my patient and talented editor, Francis.

The book will be released march 28 of this year! I’ve filled the book with everything I know about making ice cream, with a chapter for each style of ice cream; egg-rich custards, dairy-rich philadelphia-style ice creams, fruity sherbets, and tangy frozen yogurts. There are add-in’s up the wazoo, all formulated to be the perfect texture when frozen, but that work well as sundae toppings too! And an entire section on scoop-shop style composed scoops, with two or more flavors swirled together, or ribbons, ripples, and chunks layered through out.

Each chapter on ice cream opens with a blank slate recipe, the mother for all the recipes that follow it. My hopes are that anyone who wishes to be the inventor, can use these blank slate recipe to make flavors beyond my own limited imagination.

Oh yeah, there’s also an entire section on the science of ice cream, if you want to know what’s going on in your ice creams.

I wrote the book I wanted to find when I started making ice cream, one that would walk me through my first batches, then give me the tools I needed to start inventing my own flavors, and finally one that would tell me what the heck was going on so I could better understand how to make perfectly textured ice cream.

Now, I should finally have some time to sit down in front of this computer again and talk about the exciting things we are making in the pastry department,  and a few of the things we are talking about.

Unless the new and time consuming world of book promotion swallows me whole!

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