When pastry guru William Werner cooks his popular savory muffin at his San Franciscan contemporary pâtisserie, he hides an egg inside, and names it “The Rebel Within.” Maybe he’s being a bit rebellious, or maybe he’s just cooking up a few trends when it comes to running a chef-driven pastry shop. Werner joined a lineup of artists showcasing all of the “sweet” trends at this year’s StarChefs International Chefs Congress (ICC). Here’s a list of a few standout items:
“Surprise is always a great thing, especially when it comes to pastry.” Werner isn’t the only chef amazing guests—tucking hidden gems in dishes is a trend throughout the culinary world. But he executes it well on the sweet side at Craftsman and Wolves. “A lot of pastry chefs are moving out of restaurants and opening boutique pâtisseries. Surprises come along the way when we try to understand a product that looks and tastes delicious but will need to hold in the case, and in a customer’s kitchen,” he said.
Dishing It: The Rebel Within muffin—made with scallion, Asiago cheese, and pork sausage—not only houses an egg inside, but a soft-cooked egg. Break it open, and the gooey yolk spills out from inside. To keep the egg from hardening in the oven takes a long process, but Werner loves the surprise element of the dish. He enjoys it slightly warmed, with a slice of avocado and his homemade Tabasco salt.
The Savory Standoff
Savory has crept its way into dishes previously considered to be on the sweeter side. Items like salt, bacon, and olive oil play a supportive role in cakes, cookies, and breads. If The Rebel Within isn’t proof enough of Werner’s co-flavored approach, his co-working kitchen may change your mind. “In the Craftsman and Wolves kitchen, we are diverse with equipment and technique. Fifty-percent of my kitchen is chefs, and the other 50 percent are versed in pastry,” he said. And it doesn’t end there. “I make routine visits to the farmers market and find inspiration there. A lot of my savory tarts are created with what’s seasonal.”
Dishing It: More than a few savory items appear on Werner’s current menu: Thanksgiving “pop tarts” with turkey, cranberry, and sweet potato; chocolate-zucchini muffins; and coconut macaroons with pumpkin espresso pâte de fruit are all available.
Smoke Drifts to Dessert
To the palate, there’s a big difference between savory and sweet, but to chefs, it’s only a fine line. Not only are more savory items popping up on “dessert” menus, but savory flavors and techniques are making the crossover too. And while smoke is hot, infusing flavors like tea and spices in the smoke is even hotter. “Smokiness is big,” said Executive Pastry Chef Vanarin Kuch of The Gander (New York, NY). “The flavor balances out the sweetness of other ingredients.” Werner also discussed playing around with a pineapple mezcal to add a smoky note to some of his fruit tarts, and currently offers a smoked molasses gingerbread cookie on the menu.
Dishing it: Kuch, who is heavily influenced by Southern cuisine, whipped up a toasted meringue “Kiss” with spice-smoked ganache plated atop a salted vanilla graham cracker.
According to Antoinette Bruno, the Editor-in-Chief of StarChefs who opened the Congress with her Annual Culinary Trends Report, the industry has gone to funky town with fermenting at a fever pitch, Even pastry chefs are getting into the game, she said, citing Chicago's Little Goat Diner where Chef Mathew Rice makes a miso-butterscotch budino and Chef Junko Mine of Cafe Juanita (Kirkland, WA) serves guests shio koji gelato. At ICC, Monica Glass of Starr Catering Group (Philadelphia, PA) talked about perusing Chinatown and Asian markets for inspiration. She once made an umeboshi sorbet the star of a dish, pairing it with tograshi macademia nuts, aloe granite, hibiscus-poached pineapple, and a black sesame tuile.
Dishing It: Pastry Chef Mina Pizzaro of Juni (New York, NY) served a fermented oat cracker and tasty toasted oatmeal stout cremeux with a carrot glaze while at the Roland Foods (New York, NY) station, Kiah Ladd and Kristina Hoffman offered Chuka Soba Noodle Cake with a Gochujang sauce.
It’s Tea Time
Bruno also discussed the emergence of tea as a trend across all categories. “Savvy professionals understand tea as an ingredient and its varied applications,” she said and that includes tea. Bruno cited The Publican’s Pastry Chef Ana Posey (Chicago, IL) and her Sweet Tea Vacherin, Green Almonds, and Olive Oil dessert as one example; Robert Legget of The Guerrilla Truck (Philadelphia, PA) with his Tea-Smoked Pork Pastrami ladled with Soy Sauce, Sriracha and Rice Vinegar is another.
Dishing It: Werner uses matcha, the fine green tea powder, in his snickerdoodle.