“The best dessert” according to my Cuban teacher

I never went to Pastry School, I assume you also never did or even if you did, you’re still trying to learn and improve. When in Cuba, I attended classes with a well-known Pastry Chef that was about to retire. My interest was always put in savory dishes, and cooking, and grilling and sauces. But this great Pastry Chef would give his last classes before retirement, so I’ve heard, and enrolled in a Pastry Course with him

He had published many Baking books and mini-books, he’s the guest of honor in a Cuban TV show about Home and Baking and he’s a total character! Many years have passed since I took those classes, around 5 years or so. The other day, in my boyfriends’ kitchen, I find by chance a collection of his mini books. It seems I brought them from Cuba when I moved here and totally forgot about them. I open one of them, the second one and mainly went fast through all of his little “collection” of recipes. In the back cover of all of them you could read:

“When we talk about a good dessert -the best dessert- there’s no doubt that is going to be a homemade one”. As we call it “un buen dulce” . . .

Jorge González Gulín, from Cuban Culinary Association

I realize instantly that I never thought this way. We normally don’t see it this way; cause one tends to think the best dessert is the one in the corner café, the fancy pastry shop one or the one in the famous food court of an elegant Hotel -like the Plaza- where I used to pay an astronomical sum of money for a little slice of cake

What is it behind my teacher’ mentality? After all, he was trained by French bakers mastering all the classics, all the types of breads and cakes, all the Cuban classical desserts, he had a wide reference point in flavor, textures, recipes, colors, possibilities. He had created many super-hit recipes that were like a piece of art, combining the Classical techniques with the local Caribbean flavors and so forth. He still considered that “the best dessert” was the homemade one, then one you implement in making yourself

I don’t know exactly why he would think that, but I know that my trip to the Pastry shop around the corner lasts 10 minutes, the picking and choosing a slice of something takes few seconds. It’s pretty straightforward cause I know what I’m going to get and there are not surprises. I’m gonna eat it quick and then I’m gonna archive the experience and come back for more soon, to repeat

On the other hand, the process of creating you own dessert starts like this: You wake up thinking in some dessert or idea is hunting you. There’s already a creative seed developing. You keep thinking about it, many images come to mind, you feel pretty inspired and you plan to share it with somebody else you’ve been thinking of as well. You even coordinate a little reunion with that person, you’d pass by and drop it at its place or office, or you’d find a way! The recipe you want to nail, you probably want to make changes to it, or master it. It’s a total mystery what’s going to come up, what will be the final result. There’s some lack of certainty and control which is so exciting! Picking the ingredients brings new ideas, new possibilities, it’s also a dreamlike experience what goes in the mind. You finally make it! Your people love it!

You find many faults in it though.  You want to do it better, make changes, do it again differently. People tell you to shut up, it’s perfect already, it’s SOOO good. But you know your stuff, this needs to be improved! And you keep going, inspired for the rest of the day. . .

Maybe this is what he meant -the teacher- maybe not even, he was referring to home flavors and how they are humbler and more authentic that anything else. I guess I won’t know. But I know what it means to go to the supermarket with something in mind. . .there’s nothing like it!

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