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Portland's Pix Weighs In (On A Scale!) With French Tea Cakes


“American desserts are two-dimensional and overly sweet,” like the frosted birthday cake you cut up and share, said Cheryl Wakerhauser, author of the new cookbook “Modern French Pastry.”

"Modern French Pastry" by Portlander Cheryl Wakerhauser (also known as Pix) is filled with reimagined dessert classics crafted with bold flavors and textures, from citrusy macarons to the Oregon Get Down tart, which features hazelnut cream and carmelized pears with pear brandy, naturally.

“Modern French Pastry” by Portlander Cheryl Wakerhauser (also known as Pix) is filled with reimagined dessert classics crafted with bold flavors and textures, from citrusy macarons to the Oregon Get Down tart, which features hazelnut cream and carmelized pears with pear brandy, naturally.

Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.

Not surprisingly, the French-trained baker prefers French desserts, for their complexity of composition, flavor and texture. A single-serving pastry might have up to five components, including “a light, airy mousse and a crunchy tart shell. Take a bite and it all comes together in your mouth.” 

But “this book is not about the classics,” cautioned Wakerhauser, who also answers to the name Pix — as in Pix Patisserie, her eastside Portland bakery and tapas bar, which also boasts a long Champagne and drinks list. Her cookbook “is filled with one-of-a-kind desserts you’ve never seen before,” she said. Included are Patisserie favorites like Blue Cheese Truffles and the Royale — “a simplified mousse in a bowl.”

The book guides home bakers in mastering key techniques and using quality ingredients and proper equipment. “The trick is that it’s all metrics, no cups and spoons,” she said. “This is science” and precision is paramount. If you needed a nudge to buy a simple grams-and-ounces digital kitchen scale, Pix is offering a carrot along with the stick. 

So isn’t French pastry — well, intimidating? Wakerhauser advises studying the book’s reference pages and reading the entire recipe before starting, to avoid surprises. “I just went into my kitchen with my equipment and wrote down exactly what I did. It will work” with a little practice, she said.

Online you can find a culinary conversion calculator for grams and ounces so you can buy the right amount of almond paste and other ingredients. For further guidance, check modernfrenchpastry.com. “Don’t be shy,” said Wakerhauser. “If you have questions, email me on the website. I’m happy to help.”

Wakerhauser will demo from the book at Kitchen Kaboodle stores Dec. 7 and 8 and Powell’s City of Books Dec. 12 (details at the MFP website).

Tips for measuring eggs in metric

1 large egg equals 50 grams (yolk: 20 grams, white: 30 grams)

For the Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes, crack two eggs in a bowl and break them up with a fork, beating lightly until they are pourable. Set a small empty bowl on the digital scale and “zero it out”; then carefully pour 70 grams of eggs into it. The additional egg yolk called for should weigh 20 grams.

These Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes are "easy" (earning only one-half macaron out of three) and can be filled with frozen berries out of season. As with all "Modern French Pastry" recipes, this requires a simple digital scale; you'll crack up when you learn the trick to measuring eggs in grams.

These Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes are “easy” (earning only one-half macaron out of three) and can be filled with frozen berries out of season. As with all “Modern French Pastry” recipes, this requires a simple digital scale; you’ll crack up when you learn the trick to measuring eggs in grams.

Alan Weiner/Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.

Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes

“Cute as a button. But tastier. These little almond cakes burst with flavor. That’s why they work so well as petits fours. Serve them at room temperature, but make sure you try one fresh out of the oven. It will melt in your mouth! For this recipe, you will need two 4-centimeter (1-1/2-inch) silicone demisphere molds with 15 cavities per mold.*” — Cheryl Wakerhauser

*Find these at a specialty shop like Sur La Table

Prep: Less than 10 minutes (plus baking and cooling) | Easy

About 30 (1-1/2- inch) petits fours

Ingredients

  • Pan release (cooking) spray
  • 50 grams frozen raspberries
  • 32 grams pastry flour
  • 320 grams almond paste
  • 70 grams eggs
  • 20 grams egg yolks
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 85 grams (30 berries) fresh raspberries*
  • Powdered sugar, as needed

*Use frozen out of season, straight from the freezer

To prepare

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place 2 (4 centimeter [1-1/2-inch]) silicone demisphere molds with 15 cavities per mold on a half sheet pan and spray them with pan release.
  2. Place the frozen raspberries in a food processor. Pulse the food processor briefly to break them up into small segments. Do this quickly and return them to the freezer.
  3. Sift the flour and set aside. Place the almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Start mixing on medium speed. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and egg yolks and then slowly add them to the almond paste in 3 parts, making sure the last part is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour and mix just until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds. Fold in the frozen raspberry pieces (make sure they are fully frozen).
  4. Using a small offset spatula, spread the batter into the mold cavities, making sure the batter gets smeared on the bottom well so there are no air bubbles. Sink a fresh (or fully frozen) raspberry into each cavity and smooth the batter over it to fill the mold. If the raspberries are too large, you can break them into pieces that fit in the cavity.
  5. Place a second half sheet pan under the first to prevent browning on what will be the cake tops when inverted. Bake until the batter is dry to the touch, has puffed slightly and the cakes have just started to brown around the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the mold cool for a few minutes. Then, quickly flip the mold over onto a sheet pan and slowly roll the mold off the cakes, pinching the top of the cavities slightly if the cakes are sticking. Cool completely and then dust with powdered sugar.

Quick cake variation: Wakerhauser said she hasn’t done this in a while, but you could try spreading the batter in an 8-inch cake pan instead of the molds. Then scatter and push the whole berries in with your fingers. Her tips: Use a circle of parchment paper if the pan doesn’t have a removable bottom; watch the time and check for doneness. Cut up for brunch and serve with rosé Champagne.

Excerpted from “Modern French Pastry, Innovative Techniques, Tools and Design,” copyright 2017 by Cheryl Wakerhauser. Republished with permission from Page Street Publishing Co.

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