The magic of meringue loses mystery when you make it every day. With time and routine, it’s easy to forget the suspense of watching your first soufflé rise or the satisfaction that your buttercream came out snowy white.
When I first started at the Culinary Institute of America, I felt like I’d enrolled in wizarding school. Every new nugget of information was an incantation and each technique was the recipe to a new potion – powerful magic that eventually would become a craft. But with time – like a new phone, or learning to walk – all new things become expected and ordinary. Assistant teaching for the past three weeks and seeing the newness of a fresh palmier in the students’ eyes reminds me of just how exciting a cookie can be.
When I arrived in Singapore, I couldn’t wait to eat all of the local desserts from yam cakes to pandan chiffon, but I was also excited to work with Chef Schorner and recreate the European classics for a class full of eager students.
I was also nervous. This would also be a test of my own knowledge – not to mention that the chef I’d be working with made Jackie Onassis’s birthday cakes and monkey bread for Nancy Reagan….The Savoy Hotel in London and Le Cirque are just a couple of tidbits on his resume. “Big deal,” doesn’t begin to cover it – Chef Schorner is a walking encyclopedia of pastry.
So, here I am with inquisitive students on my left, while a Pastry Hall of Famer listens carefully to my right. Granted, the questions don’t generally involve rocket-science – “No, you don’t generally whip the cream until it becomes butter,” “Yes, you should mix the bread for longer than two minutes,” “Yes, the hot sugar is hot, please do not touch it.”
If the questions are not entertaining, they are thoughtful and curious and demonstrate a tremendous desire to learn – “But, why do we mix the bread longer and how can you tell when it’s done?” “What happens if we cook the sugar to a higher temperature when we make buttercream?” “But why do we whip the cream to a soft peak when we make the mousse?”
Wanting to give the students as much as I can, I’ve found myself reading more and researching more, so that I’m able answer questions as correctly and comprehensively as possible. So, while I teach, I am also pushed to learn. I have several more weeks of working with the Chef and the students and once again, I find myself excited about meringue.