During a cooking demonstration last Friday in San Francisco, TV "Top Chef" Yigit Pura shared his best strategy for baking while unemployed.
His cooking demo capped a San Francisco bakery crawl promoting the Elevate a Classic Dessert with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Contest, which launched last week and is accepting entries until January 2. (Its $10,000 grand prize would buy a lot of spatulas and zip-loc bags.)
The crawl included visits to Anthony's Cookies (home of the Double Chocolate Chunk with Walnuts), Kara's Cupcakes (conscientiously green home of the caramel-filled CandyBar Cupcake), Miette (home of the Scharffen Berger Triple Chocolate Cream Cake with roasted cacao nibs), and Citizen Cake, whose chef/owner Elizabeth Falkner -- an Iron Chef America and Food Network Challenge competitor and Top Chef judge -- wielded liquid nitrogen to create chocolate gelato sundaes with chocolate-cake crumbles and house-made marshmallow cream.
He recommended sifting flour patiently, using room-temperature eggs, mixing batter gently, and avoiding the urge to open hot ovens while pastries are baking inside. And he urged his audience to consider the use of mayonnaise in desserts.
"Don't be scared off by devil's-food-cake recipes that call for mayo," Pura warned, explaining that mayonnaise is basically eggs and oil, which go into most cakes anyway.
"People like to think that pastry chefs have unicorns in our kitchens and that we work magic," he said. "But really we don't."
A trip to my local Dollar Tree revealed hundreds of kitchen implements selling for only one buck each. Bonanza! Save your cash for the crème fraiche.
Images courtesy of Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson.