What Sweets Make Pastry People the Happiest Possible Versions of Themselves?

Pastry people make me happy.

Maybe it’s the fact that at culinary events their offerings are usually plated and ready to go, so by the time attendees come in they’re at ease and able to mingle. Maybe it’s that their life mission (in food, anyway) is to provide a sweet celebratory ending to a meal. Maybe it’s our shared appreciation for attention to detail, and order and repetition. Whatever the reason, spending time with and asking pastry people questions makes me particularly happy, whether we’re focused on one of their plates or stories for a client or I’m hoofing it at a big event.

And so when clicking around the International Culinary Center’s Pastryland Bake Sale for City Harvest, I turned my happiness back on them to ask: “What sweet-eating experience makes you the happiest possible version of yourself?” Their quick videos went up on my Instagram story feed, some industrious folk headed back to work, and the rest us went for wine… because that happens sometimes, too.

I’ve been pondering and researching and exploring happiness a lot lately, and figure it’s never a bad question to ask: “What makes you feel the happiest version of you?”

Whatever it is… go out and get more of it.

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Chef Ron Ben Israel at PastryLand

“My favorite thing when eating cake or pastry is SPONGiness. It makes the pastry melt on my tongue and dissolves into tiny little speck of PLEASURE!” – Ron Ben-Israel of RBI Cakes. For more of me + Ron love, check out How 3 of NYC’s Top Pastry Chefs Helped Me Make a Wedding Cake (he taught me how to decorate with fresh lowers and some neato tricks!) and Ron on Love Bites Radio!

Chef Thomas Raquel at Pastryland - Jacqueline Raposo

“For me, it’s the smell of baking caneles; the first 45-minutes or hour in the oven, the SMELL of the caneles. It brings me back to being a cook because we used to bake them right before service, and so they’re that feeling of getting ready for work and getting into service. So it brings me back to that feeling of hunger and getting ready. So it’s always that for me: caneles.” – Thomas Raquel of Le Bernardin

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“I like desserts that are not super-sweet and have a little bit of salt in them as well. And so with fall and autumn coming up around now: Apple cider doughnuts with cinnamon sugar, but a little bit of salt in the cinnamon sugar on the outside (is how I usually make them). Yeah, a good fresh doughnut right from the fryer makes me very happy. So much so that I usually put them on a menu somewhere just because I want to eat them every day.” – Daniel Skurnick of Le Cou Cou

Chef Tyler Atwell at Pastryland - Photo Jacqueline Raposo

“The dessert that gets me the most excited = pretty much any kind of ice cream. It could be Ben & Jerry’s. It could be Häagen-Dazs. Or fresh made in a restaurant. Pretty much any of those work for me. It’s the best thing ever!” – Tyler Atwell of Lafayette

Chef Jason Licker at Pastryland - photo Jacqueline Raposo

“One of my favorite childhood sweets that makes me feel giggly bubbly happiness is Nutterbutters, the peanut butter cookies in the shape of a peanut. I’d eat a box of them and be smiling all day. That’s NUTS!” – Jason Licker of LickerLand: Asian Accented Desserts

Chef Jen Yee at Pastryland - photo Jacqueline Raposo

“There’s this little Chinese pastry you can find in all the Chinese bakeries in Chinatown called a Red Bean Pancake. It’s mochi dough encasing red bean paste, pan fried. I love that chewy texture with the slightly sweet red bean. Every time I pass a Chinese bakery, I will get one and feel as happy as I possibly can.” – Chef Jen Yee (in transit to a new gig. Here’s my We Chat With column when she was at Lafayette.)

Chef Zac Young at Pastryland - Photo Jacqueline Raposo

“The thing that makes me the happiest in the world is eating a pint of ice cream… in bed… alone.” – Zac Young of Craveable Hospitality Group

Niko Triantafillou at Pastryland - by Jacqueline Raposo

“When I was in kindergarten, we made Baked Alaska because we were studying Eskimos and they were trying to show us the igloo effect – how you could put ice cream in the oven. I was like, ‘Wow this is really cool, and also really delicious!’ And I think ever since then I loved baked meringue, especially baked Italian meringue with vanilla. I think it’s probably my most favorite thing.” – Niko Triantafillou of DessertBuzz (and one of my favorite fellow food writing people.)

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