Ever since starting my current job, I’ve been thinking a lot about classic desserts. Obviously there are reasons why they never go out of fashion and why they are so often repeated ad nauseum on many menus around town. Having spent quite a few years working in establishments that strive to provide an experience beyond what is typically expected or what is considered familiar (and that really only feed 5% of the restaurant-going population), it seems I’ve forgotten that most of the people who eat out, seek what they know and what is comforting. Apple pie and lemon tarts are familiar; sticky date pudding is comforting, chocolate fondant is indulgent and creme brulee is just one of those things people always order because they don’t make it at home. So while my first menu change was considered a success by some, it turns out that management didn’t completely share that opinion. Some of the dishes were apparently a little bit strange and too unusual, which came as a complete surprise to me.
Alice Waters said recently that we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing food as entertainment, and instead of needing it to function as an amusement, we should be focusing on making it gratifying, satisfying and delicious.
From the point of view of someone who cooks for a living and bakes at home for pure enjoyment, I think it is possible to achieve both. Dishes can be elevated yet sound and taste familiar. With that in mind, I’m working towards a new menu change and it’ll be interesting to see what people make of it this time. The custard will still hug your spoon, a rubble of soft caramelised apples is offset by crunchy crumble, and the chocolate cake doesn’t look like one but if you were at home, you’d be eating it in your pyjamas.
And since what I do at work always influences the things I bake at home (and vice versa), I’ve been spending a lot of time baking with the classic combination of chocolate and caramel. The Millionaire’s Shortbread (a very fancy and incredibly tasty version of the Twix chocolate bar) comes from William Curley’s Couture Chocolate.
The Pastel Imposible, also known as Chocoflan or Impossible Flan comes from Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico. A custard mixture is layered on top of chocolate cake mix and during the baking process, the dessert does the seemingly impossible by switching sides so the cake rises to the top and the custard sets below. To make this (how could you possibly not want to!) I recommend using David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Fany Gerson’s recipe.
(Also in other news, I am going on a one week holiday to Hong Kong very soon. It’ll be my first trip there and at the moment there hasn’t been much time to organise anything, so I would LOVE some recommendations!)