Hedy Goldsmith helms the pastry program at Michael Schwartz's Michael's Genuine Food and Drink restaurants in Miami and Grand Cayman, and is now stepping into the spotlight with her first cookbook, Baking Out Loud (order on Amazon). The book is an exploration of flavors not usually associated with pastry: curry, chipotle, and bacon all make their way into her dishes. In the interview below, Goldsmith discusses the importance of assertive flavors, the parallel flavors of pastry and cocktails, and the importance of having an elevated pastry program because it's "the last impression people have of restaurants."
How do you go about translating your philosophy of pastry into a book?
When you have a whole career's worth of recipes, it's hard to envision. So the process was I came up with the chapter ideas that I wanted to really have in the book, and from that point on I just started selecting recipes. It's really challenging to add and then subtract, like you have to choose a favorite child. I think that I really selected the recipes that really represent me as a pastry chef and me as a person.
How do you decide which ones make the cut? Do you go for the Hedy Goldsmith classics, or dishes you don't often see recipes for in other cookbooks?
It's a little bit of both. There are a lot of classics in there, there are a lot of recipes that people of the years have asked to have. I'm not that chef that doesn't share recipes. Someone said to me, "Wow, now all your secrets are exposed." You know what? I'll come up with new secrets. I feel like it's my duty at this phase in my career, to really just express who I am and have people bake without intimidation. Have them bake a pastry chef-quality dessert at home without all of the pretense. That's really what I wanted to do.
What are the hallmarks of your recipes, what sets them apart?
I think the fact that it's flavorful, taste, texture — all of those play a real important role in my career and my pastry. And just the fact that I'm using ingredients that aren't necessarily thought of as pastry ingredients. Bacon and curry and elements that aren't considered pastry and I incorporate them in a lot of my desserts. I want the consumer, I want the home baker to realize if you can dream it you can bake it. There are no rules in terms of flavor. I want flavors to come forward and be pretty assertive. I mean, Baking Out Loud is just about screaming flavor. Don't be afraid to be bold.
Pastry cookbooks are often much more exacting and precise than savory cookbooks. Do you think the book allows for chefs to play with flavors in the same way you do in the restaurant?
Absolutely. I really want the recipes to be open for interpretation. I'm giving basic ideas, and sharing those techniques with the assumption that the baker is going to be able to just go, "Wow, I can actually do that, and then add that, and it's like a completely different thing." Just don't take it so seriously.
People say to me all the time, "Oh, I can't bake that." Yes, it is measurement and weight in baking, but it's also understanding a recipe fully. Just reading a recipe and I walk everybody through the steps of it. I've taken the risk of creating these things, and I want the home baker to just be able to say, "Oh, cool, I can make this peanut butter curry ice cream." I want it to be a little whimsy, a little out there, not intimidating, but pretty in your face. I'm trying to encapsulate all of those things in this book.
So what cookbooks to you look to, either for reference or for inspiration?
My go-tos are always something quite unique. I'm really very much loving Mourad [Lahlou's] book, his Moroccan cookbook that came out last year. It's a wonderful source of inspiration for me in terms of combinations of flavors. I love the palate of Morocco, that kind of vibrance with the cinnamon and the saffron and all of these cool, kind of exotic flavors. I always look to Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques, that is perhaps my most favorite go-to book.
I get inspiration from everything around me. Certainly savory plays a big factor in my desserts, and the way I compose a dessert. I find inspiration in cocktail books. I loved the PDT book. I love the way the mixologists work. I love that creative layering and blending of classic cocktail flavors and newfangled, newly imagined riffs on classics. Going into a really cool bar and watching the mixologists, there's so much passion in that. I find inspiration quite often in cocktail books, seeing how they're layering flavors.
In my mind it makes perfect sense: there's quite a bit of alcohol used in what I do on a daily basis. I just love the way the flavors play together in the sandbox. A great bourbon paired together with a wonderful chocolate, pecan and maple: that to me makes perfect sense, intellectually and certainly on the palate.
2012 has been the year of the pastry chef's cookbook. Do you think things are changing for pastry chefs, in terms of recognition?
Oh, absolutely, and it's also been the year of the ice cream cookbook, which is also very exciting. I really think that pastry chefs now are coming into their own in the world of cooking. Forever we've been the backbone of a restaurant, supporting all the savory elements of a restaurant. We're the last impression people have of restaurants, for the most part, and I really believe that if you're an enlightened chef, and enlightened owner, you're going to do everything that you can to have an elevated pastry program so that it's a continuum. The guests are having a wonderful experience from start to finish.
What do you find exciting within the pastry world these days?
I think we're doing some great things in Miami. Miami's really become such a culinary destination. We're going right into our growing season right now, and I'm really inspired by the farmers who are growing some great things. We're growing great herbs, great spices. We're working with a lot of kaffir lime and a lot of lemongrass. Flavors that really excite me. Mixing a savory element always into what I do.
I'm working with a lot of smoked products. We smoke, of course, all of our own bacon in the restaurant, but I'm smoking quite a bit of nuts, dairy and I'm incorporating those into desserts. Smoke adds a layer of flavor and a new energy. It's interesting, because men's magazines are picking up on that with me and all those elements you would consider more masculine or assertive.
Interesting. Do you think there's something inherently masculine about your food?
Well, first of all, I'm thrilled about it because I have had more guys in their 20s and 30s come up to me telling me that they can't wait for the cookbook. The flavors are pretty assertive. I don't whisper, I don't whisper. I think those bigger flavors, the salty tones, the smoky tones, the more assertive things that I'm doing are appealing I think to a more masculine type of crowd. I think it's really cool. I'm not doing little feminine desserts, although I do beautiful, little, delicate things. I think my bold statements are what people are really excited by right now.
Do you change your approach to the desserts between the restaurant in Miami and the restaurant on Grand Cayman?
I do a lot of changing up the menu in Miami, as far as the growing periods and what's happening. Grand Cayman is a little bit different. They are very definitive in terms of what they like and what they want on their dessert menus, and I'm very respectful of that. There are a lot of ex-pats on the island. I'm doing a sticky toffee pudding, which I did many years ago and was kind of in my repertoire, and I didn't know if we'd ever serve it again. But now it's the most asked-for dessert because of the ex-pats.
They're really into ginger flavors, they're really into Jamaican-inspired dessert, a lot of coconut. I'm having a much more tropical experience in Grand Cayman which is a lot of fun for me. Guava season's right now, so there's tons of guava ideas that my pastry chef down there is working with. I have a South American palate in Miami as well as the American palate, and down there it's very much island. It keeps me on my toes, let's put it that way.