That should be the motto for competing on a dessert competition show. After I found out that I had a place on Sweet Genius, and right after I screamed my head off to my twins who are obsessed with Food Network, I became extremely anxious. I am a home kosher baker and cookbook author; why did I think I could compete against fancy pastry chefs?
I know I can make stunning desserts given several hours, time to plan and knowledge of the precise location of equipment and ingredients. As a mom of four who runs a business, I am a planner. My lists have lists. On Sweet Genius, I would have to create on the fly.
After spending a few weeks in my own personal pastry boot camp, reading about every weird fruit out there (prophetic!), and walking the supermarket aisles and considering how I would make a dessert out of mustard, quinoa or Starburst candies, I was as prepared as I could be, and my anxiety shifted to pure excitement. What an amazing opportunity.
It was an exciting day for me. The first awesome moment was when we competitors walked onto the spectacular kitchen set. My jaw dropped. I thought to myself, “Ok, send me home now because I have already experienced something truly magnificent today.” I couldn’t believe I got to work in that kitchen. Yet, when I saw all the sophisticated equipment around the arena, I knew, with an uncomfortable certainty, that I was clearly out of my league. I would have found the inside of the space shuttle more familiar. I just told myself not to be intimidated and to just stick to using equipment I knew. So much for that plan. The child in me trumped the adult and I found myself looking longingly at the ice cream machine, thinking, “That looks like fun; I should play with that,” when I had never made sorbet or ice cream before in my entire life. I recall that I watched someone do it in a Swiss pastry shop in 1996.
|photo courtesy of Food Network|
We taped back in early July and I have spent these months wondering what the show would look like and how I would be portrayed. In the few hours leading up to the show, my heart started racing. I felt like I was about to be judged all over again – this time by family, friends and complete strangers. Ultimately, I was extremely pleased with the show and really enjoyed watching it. My intro profile captured my pastry philosophy as well as featured The Kosher Baker to the entire foodie world. I am thrilled for sweet genius Mauricio Santelice, who is truly talented and a really nice guy too. I wish him continued pastry success.
As I walked out of the taping into the steamy streets of NYC after a very long day, I had an epiphany that made me smile. I realized that I knew with certainty what I am uniquely talented at as a pastry chef. Maybe I kind of knew before, but never with clarity. I am GREAT at putting deep flavors into my desserts and combining interesting flavors. Ron Ben-Israel kept saying “delicious” as he ate my desserts. That was a huge compliment and made me feel great. It tells me what I do best and what I should continue to focus my creative energies on. I also learned what I am less skilled at and could improve. Maybe my desserts simply weren’t fancy enough. You know, I can live with that. I will always maintain that food is about flavor first, presentation second, no matter the medium.
Above is the photo of my sorbet cake from The Kosher Baker that served as the inspiration for my dessert during the first round of competition on Sweet Genius. The recipe appears below. My thinking was that making that dessert with homemade, fresh raspberry mint sorbet, and with a lemon rosemary sponge, would be fabulous. I never got to taste the finished product.
Makes one 9-inch triple-layer cake, 12 to 16 servings
Spray oil containing flour or spray oil plus 2 tablespoons flour for greasing and flouring pan
1 large egg plus 3 whites
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup parve plain soy milk
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup mango sorbet (from 1 pint container)
1 cup raspberry sorbet (from 1 pint container)
2 cups mango cubes
¼ cup hot water
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar
2 cups halved strawberries
¼ cup hot water
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch-round baking pan.
Separate the whole egg and place the yolk in one medium bowl and the 4 whites into another. Into the bowl with the egg yolk, add the oil, soy milk, sugar, flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat with a hand-held or stand electric mixer on medium-high speed or whisk by hand for 1 minute.
With an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Use a silicone spatula to fold half the whites into the batter and, when almost mixed in, add the rest of the whites and mix until combined and you don’t see any more egg white clumps. Place in the prepared baking pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack and let cool completely.
When the cake is cool, take the sorbet pints out of the freezer and let sit for 15 minutes to soften. You can also place the sorbet containers into the microwave for 15 seconds or until when you squeeze the container. Don’t let it melt.
Slice the cake across into three pieces so that you will have three layers. Place the bottom slice on a serving plate. Place the 1 cup of mango sorbet in the center of the cake. Use a spatula to spread it out to the sides as evenly as you can, moving the spatula back and forth. Place the middle slice of cake on top of the mango sorbet. Place the 1 cup of raspberry sorbet in the center of that cake and spread an even layer. Place the third, top piece of cake, on top.
Place in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight and keep in the freezer until you serve the cake. It can survive outside the freezer no longer than 30 minutes and then it will start melting.
Make the Mango and Strawberry Sauces by putting the ingredients for each sauce separately into a food processor and process until smooth. Add more water if too thick. You may strain the strawberry sauce, if desired.