People often ask me how I keep coming up with new ideas for desserts, especially because I just finished my third cookbook in five years. The inspiration for my desserts comes from so many places.
One of the joys of my work is that I get to travel all over the United States and beyond to promote my cookbooks and teach baking classes for Jewish institutions. I am often asked to come to cities that have no kosher bakeries at all, so when I show up, they make me feel like a celebrity. I do not need to be treated like Oprah; I am just happy to meet people who enjoy baking as much as I do and see how much they appreciate the work that I do. Sometimes the bakers I meet give me ideas or send me recipes for desserts.
Every few years I get to Los Angeles, a city full of kosher supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries. Being there is like living a dream where every place that has delicious and beautiful food just happens to be kosher, like being in Jerusalem. Last fall I did three baking events in Los Angeles so I had time to eat my way up and down Pico Boulevard. One morning, I went to Les Délices and enjoyed flakey croissants. Another day I ate at Eilat Bakery and tasted a pastry like the blintz one featured below. I am a big fan of blintzes, a Jewish classic that surely needs a revival. I love how the filling of this pastry reminds me of my grandmother’s cheese blintzes but made with puff pastry, these are clearly much easier and faster to make than making crepes one at a time.
My favorite place for dessert inspiration is Paris, France, a city that boasts 80 kosher pastry shops. Although I am trying my best to visit all of them eventually, I am satisfied if I get to a handful on each trip. It’s a hard job, but I do best to research the best recipes for my audience.
One of the places I went to this past January, Le XXV located near Trocadero, had separate dairy and parve sections so I could buy dairy pastries for breakfast and parve ones to have on Shabbat. On the dairy side, they offered cannelés, a custardy pastry bakes in a special mold, which I featured in The Holiday Kosher Baker’s Shavuot chapter. I can still recall the smell of butter wafting through my house while developing dairy desserts for that book. The Shavuot chapter is full of French desserts, inspired by years of travel and studying pastry there.
I keep folders of ideas in my office, but I will always be open to suggestions. If you have a dessert you wish you knew how to make or prepare parve, let me know. You could be my pastry muse and find yourself credited in the next book. Have a sweet Shavuot and enjoy all the dairy baking.