Pastry Making at Basement Sate
On a dismal afternoon in the cool decadence of Basement Sate, a cocktail and dessert bar in Soho, a pastry lesson is about to begin. Led by dynamic French pastry chef Kelly Nadjarian, whose enthusiasm quickly spreads, we are guided through the ins and outs of making a Lemon Meringue Pie. The lesson begins with a brief history of pastry, some information about Kelly’s professional experience, followed by an introduction to the pie we will be attempting today.
We then made way into the Tardis of a kitchen, appearing small from the outside yet packed full of gear, comfortably accommodating six intrepid bakers plus the chef. We began by making the lemon curd filling, a delicate balance between sweet and sour that requires precise measurements for optimum results. We then cracked on with the sweet short crust base. It quickly became apparent that the secret to French pastry-making is lots of butter! This is a simple base that anyone can make, but again, attention to the measurements is of the essence to create a solid biscuit base. While that baked, we began making the meringue to top off the dish. We made an Italian Meringue, a sort of mid-level difficulty between the French and the Swiss. The only thing to watch out for here is the scalding hot sugar and continuous whisking of the egg whites until you have a thick-but-not-solid meringue.
The layers are then constructed through a piping back and even unsteady hands can create beautiful swirls for a professional-looking pie. The difficulty now is in using a blow torch, when the flame always lands slightly askew and the delicate meringue burns quickly, but if you take your time time, it is possible to manipulate a crisp surface out of the gooey puffs.
Finally – the tasting! The meringue is soft and melts in your mouth. It is perfectly complemented by the zesty lemon and lime cream. It is sublime with the perfect balance of sweet and sour all supported by the snappy base bringing the whole dish together.
The key issue in making pastry is the time factor. Both the dough and the cream filling are more malleable if they remain in the fridge overnight, which adds to prep time, and luckily Kelly had prepared some earlier for our usage. We were able to see the entire process of making the various aspects of the pie, but were then also able to put it all together with the pre-made ingredients and see what the final product was intended to look like.
This recipe and the lesson are designed to build confidence, so that you can undertake the task at home without the guidance of a top chef. We are told how some of the best mistakes in the kitchen have led to respected dishes and recipes today. Puff Pastry came about when a young chef forgot to add butter at a crucial stage and Tarte Tatin was a result of Stephanie Tartin’s clumsiness. Even if you are not confident in the kitchen, plough on, you may end up accidentally creating a culinary innovation!
Basement State is a cocktail and pastry bar open in the evenings. They now run pastry making lessons in the afternoon, for further information visit here.