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.