KRANTHI KIRAN Pastry and Confectionery ,Chef instructor Culinary Academy Of India
The Pastry and Confectionery department thrives upon the bridging of both the fields of art and science and is therefore, a department that evolves constantly. From timeless classics like the traditional wedding cake with marzipan to the more contemporary glazed dessert, every innovation in the world of pastry-making and confectionery is inspired by the desire to impress the guest more. An artist that understands the science behind this art will produce a dish of superior quality both in appearance and in taste.
‘Fusion’ art, or the fusing of two or more different cultures, play a dynamic role in the realm of pastry and confectionery innovation, unlike in its counterpart: the hot kitchen. Whether it be the introduction of exotic fruits like passion fruit or the trendy yuzu fruit, to the popular Japanese pastry technique Namelaka, the art of ‘fusion’ has birthed many innovations in the realm of pastry.
Finesse is a skill every pastry chef strives towards throughout their lives. The perfection of this skill has led to numerous scientific and gastronomical innovations such as compressed choux or choux sphere that has surpassed earlier choux pastry buns by achieving a perfectly round shape. By restricting the growth or rising of the delicate or choux (light, airy) pastry, one can successfully create compressed discs of pastry or perfectly round shapes. Reverse lamination is a similar innovation in technique to do with the constant layering and folding of the pastry batter. Thereby successfully adding not only layers to the dough, but also an innovative layer of sophistication to the world of Viennoiserie. The layers of Viennoiserie pastry have never before been so fine. This has also led to the creation of pastries like brioche feuilletine, a delectable cross between bread and pastry. Furthermore, tarts and pie shells have moved away from their signature fluted, angled side patterns to the more modern and contemporary straight and sleek styles.
It is well known that caramelization improves the flavour of sugars in a complex way. Perhaps too complex a scientific process to comprehend, but simple enough to apply in practice. Sugar is cooked or boiled at high temperatures, turning the clear crystalline sugar into liquid golden and caramel brown texture and colours. Curiously, the same technique been applied to white chocolate in recent years, and even stranger, to cream cheese! Who knows what will come next?
An older trend that has had renewed interest in contemporary times, and thereby increased its scope as well, is the creation of life-like or realist desserts. From human busts to inanimate objects, every detail is crafted with utmost finesse and precision. However, the tools to accomplish this task have always existed. For example, innovative ingredients superior to sugar paste and gum paste are employed, like rice paste which tolerates higher levels of humidity gives the artist more space for a pastry chef to work on and innovate with.
The culinary world is constantly moving forward and producing newer innovations. The ancillary industries to the pastry department have in like vein have created new ingredients and tools to give more scope and creative opportunity to the pastry chef. Ruby chocolate is one such example, or the novel 3D printing equipment that allows a pastry chef to craft and pre-design moulds or cut-out stencils and decorations, instantly giving new structure to one’s desserts.
Pastries and confectioneries are generally the indulgence-worthy, guilt-free foods where one would typically shutdown that voice in one’s brain that overthinks one’s waist-lines. Yet, as the contemporary world would have it, the health bug has bitten pastry chefs too. Gone are the days where refined sugars, refined flour and processed ingredients are the major players in desserts. Diet restrictions and health trends have led to the evolution towards a health revolution where desserts are made with unrefined sugar, low and unsaturated fat, gluten and lactose-free variants. Even the ‘egg’, which we all know is one of the most important ingredients in the pastry and confectionery domain, serves a myriad of purposes. Not just the promotion of free-range egg farming, but even the promotion of movements like veganism and vegetarianism has led to the creation and development of desserts that are eggless and gelatine free. Many modern ingredients like sea-weed, which essentially functions as hydrocolloids and proteins, allows one to receive the same benefits from sources other than the egg.
Another innovation trend that is clearly seen in modern times is the fusing of two desserts, and no this is not to be confused with the previously referred to fusion desserts. Many great chefs with the intention to make their mark in the world of pastry have created modern desserts like BRIOCOOKIE (Brioche and Cookie), BROOKIE (Brownie and Cookie), CRONUT (Croissant and Donut) or Croissant tart, wherein two different products have been integrated from their bare bone structure and fused to create an entirely new product.
Whilst wedding cakes are by no means a new trend, nor the concept of building large tiered cakes, a renewed interest in the large cakes is witnessing the application of modern cake trends on a large scale. Whether it be glazing or velvet spray finishes, butte- cream painting, fault line or geode structures, these techniques are now being applied to the traditional large tiered cakes effectively moving wedding cakes away from their plain white finish into the segment of colourful themed cakes. What's the icing on top? They come with a variety of figurines which is a tradition that originates in Mexico instead of the more sophisticated names or toppers.
Flavour development has taken the high seat when it comes to pastry and confectionery innovations. Nowadays, one can see choux batter flavoured with fruit pureés, chocolate present in croissant dough- all of these experiments with flavour done to ensure the richness of the flavour in pastry from its very foundational elements and not just as an addition. Another ideal medium for a pastry chef to display their skill in both flavour delivery and visual appeal have been entremets and petit fours. The modern entremets are stunning to look at with the most creative and alluring garnishes and finishes that consist of layer upon layer of flavours and textures resulting in the most pleasant mouth-feel. And yet, despite all these innovations, the pastry chef has never ignored the presence of natural ingredients like fresh fruits. Fresh fruits and fruit-based product usage are at an all-time high in pastries and confections.
So, what’s next? Perhaps we will see an increased presence of natural flavourings through microbial synthesis, a technique that will allow the pastry world to further increase its flavour repertoire. One thing, however, is for certain: there is so much more to be seen, and so much more to come in the pastry and confectionery realm.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 BrandCai
Ankit Mathur on January 17, 2021:
Very nicely explained chef...