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Can you make pastries too nice looking?


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I totally agree that if a pastry looks too perfect, I might be inclined to think it might not taste that good. Often the things that make pastries taste good don't often make them look good. Consider the amount of butter in a pate sucre...my recipe has a lot of butter which translates into slightly slumpy shells (even with all the freezing, resting, etc. precautions), but I would rather them taste good then look perfect. When I see a perfect shell, I know it's probably going to taste like a crumbly dry cookie, not a buttery rich crust, so I avoid them.

Another thing that comes to mind is if something looks overly complicated, then I know there's a lot of steps and engineering to construct it, so it may not have that "fresh baked" taste. But this is only a general rule of thumb I use. Not every bakery I've tried with perfect looking pastries has tasted over processed, and not every bakery with rustic looking pastries has tasted fresh and delicious.

With your croissants, that is an interesting comment you get. Maybe change your sign to read "freshly baked croissants", and use it as a selling point by responding (or having your staff respond), that "yes, those ARE real, we take a great amount of pride in making our croissants and we think the best looking croissants actually taste the best."

I think this is a very interesting thread.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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When I see a perfect shell, I know it's probably going to taste like a crumbly dry cookie, not a buttery rich crust, so I avoid them.

You know this isn't always the case. If you're like me, and most people aren't (thank god), it IS possible to make a lovely buttery tart shell and have it retain it's shape. You just gotta work at it....perfect and refine. I am never happy if something doesn't look perfect. I don't care if people are put off by "perfect pastries", because I, as a professional, care a great deal. I SHOULD be able to make the perfect pastry because that's my job. And if I don't then I'll work to make it better. There's always a solution.

At the job I had before the one I have now, I was actually asked to make things look a little more "homemade" and I wouldn't do it. I have since moved on, since that obviously wasn't the job environment I was suited for.

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I think that people are scared off by what some call a "European Bake" , an almost caramelized color which I love and go for.

But a lot of people get used to that pale underbaked look.

I've been around people who had never egg washed a croissant, that's frightening!.

See...I just don't get this. If its not dark, its not done. I'm not making my croissants out of a can with a plump little cartoon dude. And yes, the egg wash makes it look fake - correct - fake - whatever!

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Really interesting thread. I can see a lot of different, mostly related issues. Many have been raised already.

I can sympathize ... some of the time ... with people who want rustic/imperfect instead of polished/perfect.

Some reasons:

1. Mood. Sometimes you're more in the mood for one of grandma's cookies than one of Pierre Hermés. It's a comfort food thing.

2. Clientelle. Some people are probably actively suspicious of anything that looks too urban / European / New York / Androgynous. People gave John Kerry a hard time because he mentioned drinking wine!

3. Looks mass produced. It's an irony of the industrial age that perfection and uniformity--once the hallmarks of high craftsmanship--have become associated with cheap mass production. Now the same craftsmen who bragged about their precision and consistency point to the same qualities in machine-made products and dismiss them as lacking soul. They now brag about the imperfections ("human touches") in their own work. I haven't seen this among pastry chefs, but have among photographers, woodworkers, potters, and musical instrument makers.

3. Function following form. This is the most disturbing to me, because it reflects actual failings of chefs, not just perceptions. I've had a lot of desserts that look like modern sculpture, and don't taste much better. So much attention has gone into form and ornament that the fundamentals (flavor, texture, coherence) have been neglected. Sometimes this seems like a symptom of a chef over-reaching. Other times it seems more cynical: an assumption that people will buy something pretty or impressive, but won't even notice that it tastes mediocre.

Here I'm certainly not talking about a perfect croissant ... more likely cakes, pastries, or plated desserts with multiple elements. In other words, fancy stuff. I'm hesitant to buy fancy stuff unless I know the reputation of the chef or the establishment. It's hard enough to get the simple stuff right.

Notes from the underbelly

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