We are very excited to invite Paula Shoyer into the joyofkosher kitchen. Paula is a pastry chef who owns and operates Paula’s Parisian Pastries Cooking School in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She received her pastry diploma from the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise in Paris, France in 1996. She is the author of The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy (Brandeis University Press).
1 I am very excited to have The Kosher Baker around to inspire me this High Holiday season! What made you decide to write this cookbook?
I was working on recipe testing for Susie Fishbein’s great entertaining book back in 2004, and halfway through, I thought that maybe I could write my own book. I had been developing recipes for my classes since 1996 and started to feel that the kosher world needed and deserved better parve dessert recipes.
2 If I see molten chocolate cake appear on the menu at another kosher restaurant, I think I am going to scream! You can find bison, truffles, and wagyu on the menu at kosher restaurants, how come we don’t see more creativity and innovation on the dessert menu?
I ask that question all the time. I think many kosher chefs believe that delicious parve desserts are impossible to achieve and do not put the same energy into desserts as they do into food. They should travel to Paris and taste the amazing parve desserts there. It takes a lot of time, patience and science to come up with the right substitutions and combinations of ingredients to make parve desserts work. And then you still have to bake some things over and over again to get them right. With food, it is easier to make adjustments – even when a dish is done, you can add ingredients. Once a cake is baked, you cannot fundamentally change it. I am trying with The Kosher Baker to move parve desserts forward. Enough of that icky three-color rainbow sponge cake. We can do better.
3 Describe your best cooking moment as a chef?
When I have an idea in my head, create the recipe and then try it for the first time and I achieve exactly the flavor and texture I am after. That happened with my carrot cake with cinnamon honey cream cheese frosting. This has happened maybe three or four times in my baking life. My best moment as a chef: holding my book in my hands after five years of work; it was my longest pregnancy.
4 Tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
Five attempts at parve flan that ended up curdled and in the trash.
5 How have you tried to lighten things up and adapt traditional French pastry recipes for contemporary tastes?
I try to use canola oil instead of margarine wherever I can. I also try to reduce sugar where possible. Contemporary French desserts are actually lighter than the traditional ones, with many containing more fruit and less carbs.
Everywhere I go, I preach the concept of moderation. People often say to me that I don’t look like I eat desserts. Well I do. And only when they are WORTH the calories. Desserts should be so tasty that people are satisfied with one piece. My four children will keep eating processed cookies until the package is empty. When I make a rich, chocolate dessert, they eat one piece and then walk away from the table and never ask for seconds.
6 You live right outside of Washington, D.C. If Barack and Michelle handed you the keys to the White House kitchen what would you serve and why?
I would serve my favorite, healthy, weeknight meal because I imagine they get enough fancy food:
A zucchini basil puree soup, roasted salmon, quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and a cumin cinnamon vinaigrette, arugula salad, and string beans with garlic. For dessert, a fruit galette with whatever seasonal fruit is available. I would want Michelle to see that her message is getting out in the world. I would want her kids to try a healthy meal that my kids love, and Barack eats too many hamburgers.
7 I heard you compiled the 10 Commandments of kosher baking. We will do and we will hear... but can you share?
For the full 10 commandments you will have to buy the book! One commandment is to keep some sticks of maragarine in the freezer, it behaves more like butter for cookies, pie and tart dough.
8 What are your favorite ingredients?
Chocolate, coffee and raspberries.
9 What is your earliest memory of cooking?
Easy Bake oven, age five. I also used to place packaged chocolate chip cookies on foil on my radiator in the winter so they would taste gooey and homemade.
10 When you are not wearing an apron and standing behind the stove, what do you like to eat?
I like eating interesting food I do not have to cook myself. Unfortunately, I do not get that many invitations. No one wants to cook for a chef. I love Mediterranean and French food.
11 You spend a lot of time teaching children how to cook. What are some creative ways for parents to get their kids involved in the kitchen? Any ideas on how we can get them to clean up their room?
I start with getting kids to cook and bake what THEY like. Let them start with chocolate cake and cookies and then when they are comfortable in the kitchen, move them into their favorite savory foods. You have to give them some room to cook themselves; if they feel that the kitchen is yet another place where they have to do things exactly your way or a teacher’s way, they will not want to be there. I like to give kids cooking projects where they can create something themselves – homemade pizza where you put out toppings and they decide what to combine. You can do that with scones too and let them decide on the mix-ins.
As to cleaning up their rooms, bribe them with homemade cookies!
Thank you to Paula Shoyer for sharing some delicious dessert recipes with the joyofkosher community.