One of the first things that people ask me when they find out that I'm a pastry chef is, "What's your favorite thing to make?" Even though pretty much everybody I meet has been asking me this question for YEARS, it continues to be my least favorite question, and also kind of hard for me to answer! You see, I love it all! Seriously. I got into pastry because I love to create. Most of the time, it doesn't matter what it is. It can be something challenging, like a perfect, delicate French macaron. Or it can be something incredibly simple, like my grandma's sugar cookies. Sometimes, I want to make something that requires planning and lots of steps, like croissants, or molded chocolates. Other times, I want something that I can whip up and eat right away, like brownies. To me, it's all fun.
Baking at home vs. baking at work, while both fun, are usually slightly different. For me, the main difference between work baking and fun baking is that when I'm baking for work, I'm looking for a very specific product with a very specific outcome, while baking at home for fun can be a little more free form, a little more off the cuff and unplanned. I'm ready and willing to experiment at home, even if there's a chance my product doesn't come out. Failures are bound to happen during experiments, even as a professional. It doesn't upset me. In fact, it keeps things interesting. It makes my mind work harder, because I want to figure out why it failed, and how I can try again and get a better result. I really enjoy developing new recipes, or redeveloping old recipes. Even my tried and true recipes get tweaked- I'm always trying to determine if I can make something better than it was.
I am a voracious reader, and that includes cookbooks as well. Cookbooks are a huge source of inspiration for me. I can remember poring over my mom's cookbooks and magazine in middle school, marking recipes with sticky notes. Not much has changed, except that I buy my own cookbooks and magazines these days. Bon Appetit is a favorite of mine, and when my new issue arrives in my mailbox I start planning when I can make each featured dish. I own tons of incredible baking books, and my collection is always growing (kind of a problem if you move around as much as I have...). Right now I'm loving The Violet Bakery book, and I'm sooo excited for Stella Parks' upcoming book, release TBD (please hurry!). I'm also guilty of owning some cookbooks that are really beautiful but I don't cook from (The French Laundry and a handful of cake decorating books...). I love trying new recipes from my books, but I'm also usually making adjustments as I go to make the recipes "mine." And I can't forget about the books that are more reference than recipes- The Food Lab, Flavor Bible, How Baking Works. Those books really help me, especially when I'm in experiment mode.
My cabinets and fridge at home are ALWAYS well stocked with baking supplies. The mood to bake strikes me pretty much every day, so I need to have stuff on hand constantly! I go through phases of types of baked goods. Recently, I had a macaron phase, a croissant phase, and a sour cherry phase (cherry pie, cherry bread, cherry jam...). Currently, I'm tending to a sour dough starter in the hopes of conquering sour dough breads (actually, to be more specific, sour dough cinnamon rolls!!). When we get invited out, I'm more than happy to volunteer myself to make the dessert for the dinner party, or a cake for the birthday guy/girl. And I almost always have some type of cookie dough in my fridge or freezer, ready to bake for a last minute snack, or if I'm going to meet up with some friends. I have even been known to take freshly baked cookies to share with the staff at bars, restaurants, or even bookstores (they LOVE that!).
With it being summer right now, my favorite things to make have recently involved the fruits and veggies I pick up at the local markets. Sour cherry season is my favorite, and now I'm really loving the flavor of blueberries with corn. I've also been making homemade ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I'm trying to savor the summer flavors while they are here because they seem so fleeting. Before you know it, we'll be drowning in pumpkin spice everything (Cheerios?? Really?).
I get the feeling that when people ask me about my favorite thing to make, they are looking for an answer that is exciting and cool, maybe a product that they've seen on a fancy cooking competition, or something that uses an exotic ingredient. But the reality of it is, that when it's all said and done, my go-to recipe, the thing that I will make time and time again, is a good old, completely satisfying, chocolate chip cookie.
What's YOUR favorite thing to make?!