Friday, June 01, 2007

Sometimes the recipe finds you and sometimes you find it...

I never liked bread pudding except for the Figs' version, until I tried the brown butter bread pudding at Oleana, because Maura made me. She always persisted in asking me how I knew I didn't like something, and most of the time she succeeded in changing my mind.

She gave me that recipe and any other I cared to take, and I took many. And now that I know how it works, and why I like it, I've brought it here in adapted form. Vanilla custard bread pudding with cherries and peaches. The Acme pain de mie performs well. It's got the lightness characteristic of Maura's BP, but a summery taste. It's mellow but addictive, and if you don't like bread pudding, well, you should come try it.

I used to know the Sonsie recipe for chocolate bread pudding. Their hallmark. You'd see ads for Sonsie in the local papers and they'd feature the bread pudding with chocolate drizzle. Whose recipe was that? Chef Bill's? Not Michael's. The bread was Biba's biga. I once knew how many quarts of cream and cups of milk to how much chocolate. I finally mastered that recipe, but I never liked it, so I didn't try to take it with me. I knew it wouldn't have meant anything.

I made shortcakes today. Emily Luchetti's recipe. I don't like the farm's version, which uses hard-cooked egg yolks (just for texture? or is there some other purpose), and yields grainy, crumbly biscuits short on taste. I do enjoy using the farm's cream scones as shortcake biscuits, however. Tomorrow I'll bake them, and evaluate.

I'm on a quest now with the chocolate cherry cake. When I first started this job, I was working with a lot of David Lebovitz recipes, because he was someone my boss and I both admired, and because I wanted to start out small. Figure out what stock we had, what had been done before, ease into the role of being in charge so if things didn't go well, it wasn't entirely my idea (yeah, that's why I'm reluctant to actually call myself the pastry chef, see. And what I discovered in working with a bunch of recipes from Ripe For Dessertand a couple from Room For Dessert was that I found David's ideas to be really inspiring and accessible. It's sort of like reading an author's oeuvre. As I recently discovered, though Mary Gaitskill has some devastatingly brilliant short stories, she can't sustain a novel-length narrative and the two I've read seem to have the same plot (codependent relationship between two women, one ugly and one sexy)... But I was never satisfied with the results of my recipes...Bread Pudding with Pears, Cherries and Chocolate (custard too watery). Orange Poppyseed Cookies (good but got tired of them). Orbit Cake. (that was good). Chocolate Cherry Cakes (Pack a punch, too dense, fudgy, liquidy, but tasty). Finanicers (not as good as Cheffy's). Upside Down Cakes (strange texture). So today I went off-roading, freestyling on the cherry cakes that sold so well last week and that I do like, in principle. I took a basic flourless chocolate cake recipe from epicurious (if I remember the Sonsie proportions I would've done that, but oh well) and folded in some candied cherries and cherry syrup. The end result is, after banging around SF in my bag all day and making it home to Fruitvale, we got a crumbly cake that tasted good, though the cherries were more tough to chew this time around). Better, yes. My recipe, not yet.

Sometimes it finds you. The bread pudding from Oleana. If you ask me to, I'll make you another sort of bread pudding, but it won't be what I want to do at all. My manager told me the other day I could make bread pudding but I'd have to make a fruit sauce to go with it. ?That was how the farm served theirs. I'm not doing thatI said. I'm very particular about my bread pudding.

Learning from others, and learning from myself. It's always o much easier when someone else can show you the way. Let you in on their way, their secrets. But unless you've tried what you can find out there, unless you've gone to the sources you know and trust, how do you really know what you like, and how can you effect change when it is required?

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