Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Amendment to Previous Post

A few of you suggested adding sugar in one form or another to the list of techniques that make a good pastry chef. Specifically pulled sugar. Others mentioned cooked sugar products. After giving it some thought, I will add another technique to the previous 8, for a total of nine.

Sugar cookery. Can you cook sugar to the correct temperature and know what type of product each temperature is for? Do you know how to prevent crystallization? Can you pull sugar competently? Can you make caramels and cooked sugar confections?

I hesitate slightly with pulled sugar, and here's why: pulled sugar, while certainly a difficult technique, it is mostly decorative (notice that I said mostly... of course some hard candies require pulling, such as the wonderful items made at papabubble) and used in showpieces which no one eats, they are just pretty to look at, but that does not mean it should be discarded completely.

By including this, should I also include other mostly decorative skills? For example, a technique such as the Lambeth Method , that is incredibly complex and hard to master, but frankly out of style and antiquated... should that be included? I would say yes, but in more general terms (the Lambeth method, in my opinion, is not a make or break technique in of itself, but piping in general is). So here's number ten:

Piping skills. Do you have piping skills? Can you pipe with chocolate? Really, something as simple as writing "Happy Birthday" using a parchment paper cornet (or cone if you prefer) and melted chocolate, using a very thin strand, with evenly sized letters (not chicken scratch). Can you pipe ganache evenly? Royal icing? How about those macarons? How about the filling for those macarons? Pate a choux for eclairs and puff? Is it evenly extruded?

So there you have it, a nice even round number. 10.

On another note, someone mentioned Humility, and I agree, except that is not a technique per se, but it does make me think of what my next posting should be, and that is, what are the personality traits of a good pastry chef? Certainly, I will add humility to that list. Stay tuned.
P.S. I'd like to thank Tariq for this comment (whom I assume is Tariq Hanna from Sucre in New Orleans, unless there is more than one Tariq in pastrydom, which is entirely possible, but highly unlikely).

Finally, during the course of this year I will be posting recipes and methods for some of these techniques.


  1. I look forward to your next post. I was pleased to read you include personality traits as part of what makes a good pastry chef. I start Pastry school in a couple of months. I'm thrilled and ready for the challenge.

  2. Good evening Chef Migoya
    I was just recently turned on to your blog. Thanks for having it,it's providing inspiration for new ideas- especially in one of my favorite topics- laminated doughs. My comment, though is about your list of skills. I want to discuss #9. I read in a previous posting that you disliked show pieces. My view on pulled sugar is simple. It looks nice but when was the last time a customer wanted to pay for it? You can't eat it and most of your average customers dont understand it. Think about it. A customer walks up to a buffet, sees a sugar showpiece. They'll say "thats nice but I'll have a piece of that cake, there." On the other hand, make a chocolate piece and they will drool over it first. This is not to say I have any disrespect for those artists that can pull sugar. It just was one of those things I never thought was important. There are many really succesful Pastry Chefs that have never had to pull sugar but whose work is top notch.
    The other parts of number 9 I agree with- you do need to know how to properly cook sugar, prevent crystallization and you should know most basic sugar garnishes for dessert presentation. I just dont know if pulling is as important as it used to be
    Other than that I think I have the other 9 under control.
    Thanks again Chef and I look foward to the next installment.

  3. Thanks John. Keep in mind though that pulled sugar is not just for sugar pieces, it is also used for hard candies and such. I agree with the sugar pieces though for similar reasons: you can't really eat them and many are just plain tacky. However, I see the work if Stephane Klein and it humbles me, but I do not wish to achieve thatbaprticular level of skill.

  4. You are welcome, and yes, it's me from NOLA!