"Brake on through to the other side" Pastry and Savory

Joined Jul 31, 2000
I have been thinking what ways to bring together pastry chefs and savory chefs. Even on cheftalk to a degree, we post in our own forums. This is fine...I would just like to see us cross over and share our ideas. I see so many posts in the pastry threads that I learn so much from. I also see so many great posts in the "savory world"
So I ask, pastry chefs, What is your top three savory dishes? and I ask to all the chefs or non pastry people, What are your favorite sweets?
For me, Tempature and texture play the most important role in the dessert/pastry world.
Any thoughts?
Joined Sep 21, 2001
I do occasionally eat dessert. My favorite is Linzer Torte. The raspberry-hazelnut combo does it for me. What I look for in a dessert is the texture and the flavors- the ones that blend and the ones that counterpoint.
Joined May 26, 2001
I look for the same things in sweets as I do in savories: clean flavors, and unexpected delights. I spent one summer searching for the "ultimate" blueberry pie -- that is, one that was clearly made from BLUEBERRIES. Never quite found it, but didn't really mind. And while I'm not a big fan of pears except as themselves, I thought the pear sorbet with a hint of star anise that we had at Craft was pretty astonishing.

I'll be surprised if there's really much of a difference between what we look for.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I'm not much of a baker but I think my favorite must be Tart Tatin. I use Julia Child's recipe (Julia & Jaque Cooking at Home.) it's not the original as created by the sisters Tatin but it is very good.
I also like Creme Brulee and Rice Pudding (with a swirl of raspberry jam like my mum used to make.)



Joined Apr 4, 2000
My favourites are:

* Pear almond tart. Try it Suzanne it will make you love pears.

* Chocolate clementine tart from In The Sweet Kitchen.

* Fruit pies and crisps.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Cooks are different from bakers
By Clea Simon, Globe Correspondent, 1/30/2002

Maybe it's a question of liking salty or sweet. Perhaps the issue splits on whether we like to dabble and play or are scrupulous about following rules. Wherever the underlying divide lies, a plain truth exists: those who enjoy spending time in the heat of their kitchens tend to fall into two camps. They cook or they bake, and rarely does anyone do both.

''I'll tell you why I never bake,'' says Chris Mesarch, a creator of tagines and stews and a Boston artist. ''If I'm going to put all that work into something, I want it to have some nutrition in it.''

For other home chefs, the decision is less of personal choice than lack of skill. ''I just didn't inherit my grandmother's baking gene,'' laments Kris Fell.

Fell, office seneschal for Harmonix Music in Cambridge, can throw together a marinade for shrimp without thinking, but, unlike her proficient relative, ''can't bake a decent loaf of bread.'' When it comes to cakes, the South End resident admits, the results have been memorably horrible. ''I remember when I wanted to make a devil's food cake and I was trying to combine several recipes,'' she recalls. The final product looked good, but the first person to taste it asked, ''How much baking soda did you use in this?''

''I was trying to make it light and fluffy,'' she explains.

Fell's dilemma points out another major difference between cooks and bakers. Cooks, most admit, are wont to taste and change and taste again. They improvise and substitute ingredients; they are taken by the thought of a new herb or the overabundance of a friend's garden, rather than a line-by-line prescription for a dish.

Fell's attempts at bread and cakes - as well as her talent with savories - may have less to do with a genetic anomaly than with her own inability ''to follow recipes precisely,'' she realizes.

It's a refrain one hears again and again, ''I love to taste as I go along,'' acknowledges Mesarch. ''Mmmm ... is that meat ready yet?'' The cooks, it seems, like to think they're more creative, whereas the reality may be that they can't color inside the lines. And baking, with its element of chemistry, only admits that kind of improvisation among the very skilled or the very experienced.

''Cakes are hard,'' says Tony Tommasini. The longtime Bostonian now delights in serving hot, tasty meals to friends in his Upper West Side apartment in New York, but he rarely bakes. ''You try and follow this recipe so exactly and it still doesn't come out the way you hope it will.''

Like Mesarch and Fell, Tommasini admits he's ''not a recipe person.'' Cookbooks may inspire him on occasion, but their instructions rarely get followed from beginning to end. ''I've tried,'' says Tommasini, who is now chief classical music critic for The New York Times. ''I always find it too much work for not enough result.''

For Tommasini, early training - if not genetics - may play a part. He remembers his grandmother trying to teach him homemade ravioli. ''She would make a pile of flour on the kitchen counter and make a crater in it, and start breaking eggs into the hole. I asked her, how much flour do you use? She said, `Until it's nice.'''

There are times, however, when the cooks must turn their attention to sweets. Sometimes it happens because they're asked to bring a dessert to a party. At other times, they decide that a cake or a pudding will be expected to top off a fabulous homemade meal.

It is then that ingenuity is called into play as they try to find cook-friendly recipes. They make bread puddings, which can be tasted and fussed with until right before they go into the oven. They unveil clafoutis, which rely as much on their combination of fruits and nuts as on the simple batter poured on top.

Although it may not stop her repeated attempts at baking, Fell pulls out a recipe for chocolate pudding that she discovered years ago in a magazine (she thinks it might have been Bon Appetit). Gussied up with whipped cream, chocolate shavings or a few raspberries, the pudding provides as fancy a finale as one could desire. Tommasini relies on that other staple of home chefs - the fruit crisp. He varies the filling the season.

Mesarch, however, holds the line. Asked to bring dessert somewhere, she says without shame: ''I just buy it.''

Foolproof fruit crisp
Serves 6

Butter (for the pan)
About 4 cups seasonal fruit (apples, peaches, nectar-ines), peeled, cored, and quartered
Juice of 1/2 lemon (if using apples)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or to taste
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

2. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie pan or dish. (Note: This recipe adjusts to a smaller or larger dish easily, just make sure you use enough fruit to almost fill it.)

3. If using apples, toss them with the lemon juice. In a bowl, toss the fruit with cinnamon and nutmeg. Add more to taste, if you like. Arrange the fruit in the dish.

4. In another bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and butter. With your fingers, work the mixture until it is crumbly.

5. Spread the topping on the fruit.

6. Transfer to hot oven. Bake the crisp for 45 minutes or until fruit is tender when pierced with a skewer and topping is crusty. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Boston Globe
[emoji]169[/emoji] Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
This is an interesting question indeed, especially in this age where the crossovers are found in just about every course: cultures, sweet and savoury, hot and cold, everything is "fusioned" to some degree.

I think one big ingredient to make the crossover from sweet to savoury is vanilla.. I would really like it if one of you could present a mini-essay on how to use vanilla in your mains. What are the "rules" to make vanilla's introduction to a dish successful?
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Hi, Anneke, I posted a recipe in 'exchange' last night, for Orange-Vanilla salad dressing!!!! It was awesome; the vanilla was there oh, so subtley, and pointed up the orange. Yum!
Joined Mar 4, 2000
I know this kind of veers off the original question, but I have to say that savory ingredients added to a dessert (such a hot trend in the past 10 yrs) can really make the flavors sing. Especially herbs. However, I'm not a fan of sweet in my savory dishes. Duck a l'orange, sweet and sour shrimp, sweet potatoes, marshmallow and turkey. Yuckkkk!! I don't see the attraction.

But, in response to the question, I love foods that have natural complexity, without much else added. The reason is, that the way it is cooked must then shine through. A perfectly cooked skate in brown butter, with a crispy crust is outstanding on its own. Slather it in a 10-ingredient sauce, and it's no better than before. I like to taste everything that I'm eating. If the palate gets too confused, it's kind of a wasted effort.

The same holds true for pastry, not to mention drinks. I'd rather have a complex wine, or even a cognac on it's own, than a fancy cocktail with a creative name. Food should be identifiable.

That's not to say it shouldn't be exotic, or that we should never venture into unknown territory, but keeping the flavors simple is much more interesting than mucking it up with too many components.

I'm a painter, and that credo translates into my artwork. I try to keep my colors pure and distinct. I find that they are so vibrant on their own, where if I were to blend them, they'd get muddy.

This is a great topic, CC.

It's almost impossible to pick out what the best flavors are in savory. There are so many!!
Joined Mar 4, 2000
PS- no offense to Indian or Middle eastern spice blends that contain a hundred thousand ingredients. Someone out there must love them. Just not me.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
What I find interesting is that some of the best chefs started ub pastry adn moved on to savory....Warren LeRuth for one.
I think in flavor palates....pecans, orange, bourbon, caramel

Seasonal combos....wild rice, roots, winter herbs, richer meats.
Joined Mar 12, 2001
I am definately of the savoury camp.
I love to eat sweet food, but i just haven't mastered it enough for it to be a natural thing for me to make.
I know enough to be able to follow recipes and i have worked in some restaurants were i had to make quite complex desserts, but i always follow recipes.
If asked to make a curry, marinade, stew, sauce or dressing for savoury food, i can come up with a million variations....
So, having identified myself as firmly from the savoury side of the world, it is interesting that my favourite desserts follow the same lines as my favourite savouries: clean, strong flavours with a complimentary opposite.
Hot Tarte Tatin with cold thick cream
Summer pudding with clotted cream
Pavlova with lots of fruit and whipped cream
( maybe i just have a cream fetish )
Warm Peaches poached in brown sugar syrup with cold thin cream
( i'm really giving the wrong impression here)
meringues and cream
Thai sticky rice and mango
Prune and armangac icecream
I'll have to stop now, i just like making lists.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Wow alot of interesting posts, loved the one you posted Isa! For some reason it makes me feel more then it makes me think, been there sort of.

I can't ever respond to choosing favorites with-in limits. So many savory dishes or desserts are so perfect in their flavors or combinations or even their simplisity. I can't compare apple to apples with any of them. Each is unique. For me (perhaps it's my personality) but I find my list of what I don't like easier to hold and view then my likes which are too many and too vast to even remember sometimes.

If I had to narrow my selections down I'd probably select less complex items and choose items with pure flavors. Which is opposite from the things that attract someone like schroomgirl who loves complexity in her flavors. Sweet crab legs, veal marsala, steamed lobster, lamb chops all thrill me. On the sweet side I like a clean vanilla pudding, grapefruit sorbet, homemade ice creams and the junkiest of junk pure sugar candies like smarties or neccos for the pure hit of sugar.

But I have to talk to Momoreg....my hubby is just like you when it comes to Indian food. I think of Indian food like a fine wine the more I eat the more I want to explore and know about it. I adore food from my favorite restaurant and drive for an hour each way just to get a fix.
It's strange how certain flavors tickle peoples palates and the same flavors drive others crazy and how it could all be tied to a tangible physical sensitivity or lack of in each persons tongues and noses.

I saw a t.v. show last week (I think) and it showed people whos brains were kind of crossed wired. So when someone said a word they experienced taste, or when they saw certain colors they experienced words in their minds, etc...

Anyway in my crazy round about way. I sort of think we pastry chefs think differently then savory chefs and vs versa. For some it's easier to cross over back and forth in thought pattern, that's how I account for the differences. The more I bake the more I lack skills in cooking, I don't think they dissapear they just receed? Sometimes it's just all about practice.

I don't see baking as something 'technical' or literal as other do any more, it's like learning the alphbet once you know the realities you then put together your own language. I read the recipes as others read novels, I taste them when I read them.....

back to one of cape chefs original points, I really do wish there wasen't a gap between the two sides. I think it really hurts us as a team.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Funny you should mention Indian food, Wendy, because I started thinking about the fact that I love Indian food, but the dishes that I typically choose are the simpler ones: Chicken tikka or tandoori; dal; raita; yummy rice dishes, and of course breads.

And what's as refreshing as kulfi?

But when most people think of Indian, they mean very complex sauces. Just too much going on on the palate!!
Joined Nov 20, 2000
I always walked the savory/pastry line. Because of my ability I was always pulled back to the hot side because I was needed there more so than in pastries. So I still have an affinity for both and don't think I could ever forsake one for the other you know the jack of all trades master of none bit. My parents were my original cooking inspirations. Their foray into gourmandise of the 1960s which involved either French cooking or chinese restaurants gave me a love for both. Also summers at the Chesapeake bay. So I'd have to say classic french technique is my number one in savories. I enjoy the classic natural flavors and methods. That's not to say I don't like or appreciate some of what's out there being passed off as haut cuisine. Many of the combinations seem to be done for the sake of being different though. I refer back to Brads recent post on Lardons and such as a perfect example. So give me classic meats, the simplest seafoods as Momoreg described. Vegetables that shine on their own and simple country values in food.
Foreign cuisines and flavors I love as I love to learn new cultures always interest me. I don't want to find the different spices and methods myself, I want to read up on them, study them and then have someone who is from that country and culture make me something that is truly representative of themselves. In return then I will try and interpret what I've learned and try to make them something historically accurate and not pt my own spin on it. I prefer to celebrate the history of the food and culture and not reformat it.
Sweets? Okay here's where I fall down. I like sugar! Natures fine but where I can get off on a piece of plain broiled fresh fish, a lone pear doesn't do it for me! I want a chocolate cake, pears? Poach 'em, stuff 'em, bake 'em in something! Strawberries and chocolate? No! White chocolate cheesecake with strawberries? Ok! I want Crepes Suzette, candy bars, ice cream! Classic desserts are great, modern desserts inside little cups with a pulled chocolate ribbon in 18 colors thats 1/16" of an inch thick, served in a demitasse spoon made from a tuile? No thanks, give me a big bowl of chocolate mousse and whipped cream!
Okay I'm done now, I'm tired, I think I'll go take a nap (after I have an M&M chocolate chip cookie!:D

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