At-Home Baking Tips From Local Pastry Chefs

Sweets Online Extra: Try these tips from some of Indy’s top pastry chefs to give your baked goods professional flair.
Our February 2018 issue features our very favorite treats, from iconic Indy desserts to the tastiest trendsetters. In tackling the difficult task of trying Indy’s sweets, we spoke to some of the city’s best pastry chefs to get some helpful insider secrets on making delectable desserts at home. Here’s what they have to say:

“Sprinkles and other store-bought toppings can get boring, but you can easily make your own chocolate decorations. Pour melted chocolate over bubble wrap, crinkled parchment paper, scrunched-up plastic wrap, or aluminum foil, and let crystallize. When set, peel off and use as garnishes for your cakes and desserts.” —Laura Lachowecki, pastry chef at Woodstock Club

“To add a deep, complex flavor to your sweets, try making your own caramelized sugar. It contains no moisture, and can be substituted ounce for ounce in any recipe calling for sugar. To make, roast 8 cups of sugar in a glass casserole dish in an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring after the first 30 minutes and then every hour. Roast for up to 5 hours, then cool and pulse in a food processor if it’s clumpy. Excellent in angel food cakes and meringue.” —Pete Schmutte, former pastry chef at Cerulean, now pastry chef at the soon-to-open The Beholder

“Don’t limit your pastry-flavor palate to traditionally sweet ingredients. Try an interesting savory ingredient, such as adding a small amount of hoisin sauce to chocolate as a drizzle for crepes or cheesecake. Cheese is an excellent ingredient for baking. Roast figs stuffed with Stilton, or wrap camembert with puff pastry and brush with honey. You can even bake such aged cheeses as parmesan and pecorino with walnuts and serve them with a fruit and chocolate sauce.” —Bridget Horan, pastry chef/sous chef at Four Day Ray Brewing

“Nothing wows like a great pie crust. But getting them to brown properly and look pretty can be challenging. If you want a pie crust that’s easy to mix and guarantees flaky layers, grate frozen butter using the coarse side of your cheese grater. And be sure to blind-bake your pie crusts—that is, bake them without the filling—for fruit tarts and cream pies. If you don’t have pie weights or parchment paper, just fill a coffee filter with whole coffee beans. This ensures your crust won’t puff and will look fabulous after you add the filling.” —Hattie McDaniel, pastry chef at Vida