Dédé Wilson: Gesine, every time I pick up your new book, Let Them Eat Cake, I find something knew to read. The book is packed with information! How did you come up with the idea of creating a base recipe and then a vegan, gluten free and healthier version for each one?
I had a pastry shop for years and I had more and more customers requesting options that addressed their food sensitivities. When you’ve got a kid standing in front of you, a kid you’ve watch grow up and adore to bits, and all they want is a birthday cake they can eat without putting them into anaphylactic shock, you get to work making that kid a cake. I also have students requesting alternative versions to my recipes because they’ve got allergies or their family members have food issues. After years of jury rigging recipes, it just made sense that there should be a resource for bakers who are thrown dietary curveballs in their baking lives but still want the “no holds barred” version at the ready too.
I also grew up vegan (not by choice). Once I got over my deep seated resentment at being raised in such a cruel and butter free manner, I started appreciating that there were new fangled Vegan products out there that I didn’t have access to as a kid. As pastry professional, I can help children living in similarly harsh culinary conditions and make their lives sweeter.
Did the basic recipe always come first?
Yes. Always. Some were signature items from my old pastry shop in Vermont that customers really missed and I loved the idea of putting their favorite treats back in their hands. With others, I always asked the question: Is this a recipe I’d want in my baking line-up with all the bells and whistles in play and would this be a treat I’d miss if I had food allergies?
Any surprises? Any recipes that just didn’t want to be 4 different things?
Some were already, by their original natures, gluten-free or vegan. I didn’t bother shoving flour or animal fats back in. I had a ton of extra recipes, like savory items, that I had to leave out. That was a bummer.
What inspires you to develop a recipe? Do you get turned on by ingredients? A concept? How does the creative process work for you?
All of the above. I’m in a constant state of dessert creation hyperactivity. Cravings are a huge driving force as is nostalgia for things I miss from childhood.
A reader made the vegan version of the Chocoholic and told me that she couldn’t wait for the mousse to set up due to an extreme case of chocolate lust. She said it was still delicious but it wasn’t the tidy cake she’d wanted. So let that mousse set! With the vegan & healthier versions of the mousse, you also have to be Johnny on the spot with the mousse because there’s a moment when it’s PERFECT and then a second later it can get granular. There’s an easy fix, you remelt the mixture and start whipping again, but that’s time consuming. Also, with any ganache, there’s a miniscule chance that the emulsion will break. This is due to an imbalance in the fats from overworking the mixture or simply tipping the fat balance scale. Most think this is impossible to fix but I add small amounts of low fat milk to up the protein quotient and get it back into shape. And with the Samoas, you need to make sure that you watch that caramel so that it doesn’t burn or reach too high a temp so that it’s hard to incorporate into the coconut and dries out the topping. Bottom line, patience and mindfulness are the key.
OK, now I have a compliment and a beef for you. My fiancé and I are a bit obsessed with your Chocolaty Chippy Chunk Cookies. They are, quite simply, Amazing! Capital “A”! They are browned buttery and crispy and chewy and jam packed with bittersweet chocolate and that necessary butterscotch-y brown sugar flavor. They have become our favorite chocolate chip cookie. Yes, this is a tease for our readers because they will have to buy the book to get the recipe, but the shaved unsweetened chocolate in the batter is brilliant. Here’s my beef. Grating all that chocolate on a Microplane zester as you recommend is a pain! I have to think that if you do these in bulk that you have a tip for us as to how to get that chocolate grated as easily as possible. Any shortcuts for us? Or do I just get a helper with the promise of feeding them cookies? By the way we like to make them in the gargantuan size as you suggest.
Oh those Microplaners, making our life easier and more painful at the same time. How many knuckles have to be eviscerated before we find a solution! I briefly freeze the chocolate to make it easier to handle. Also, if you can find a high quality chocolate that’s in a thicker block versus those crazy thin bars, it makes the chore simpler (I’d still freeze it!). You can get nice hunks of Valrhona and Callebaut chocolates at grocery stores these days that are perfect. The other option is to use the grate function in your food processor but it doesn’t really grate the chocolate finely enough. This is how we made our hot chocolate mix in my pastry shop. We’d flash freeze our chocolates and then run them through our industrial processor.
Gesine, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. You keep us inspired with your wit and wisdom in the kitchen.