Pastry Chef Tip #2 ~ "Cutting clean" and retaining your tools
We've all heard of "eating clean", but let me introduce you to "cutting clean" and a few other tips and tricks. Also, the reason behind the crumpled parchment paper.
Let's start with first things first ~ our tools! During the first days of pastry school, we were all issued the same tool kit in a black nylon bag. The kit contained every main tool required for the duration of the program. Enter 25-30 IDENTICAL tool kits in my class alone and all the dirty tools were sent to the same dishwashing station throughout class. It was only a matter of time before the frantic "Is that my knife, spatula, peeler, etc.?" started.
So when I got a Dremel with an engraving bit for a present later that year, I engraved all my knives and tools on several sides. Upon graduation, I walked away with all my tools securely stored in the same black nylon bag. (Almost leaving it ONBOARD my final train ride home is another story.) You may not find the need to engrave every tool, but it completely eliminates any confusion over ownership when they do venture outside my kitchen.
So what's the purpose of the crumpled parchment paper?
I've baked the pictured Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake ~ GF a bazillion times! It's an extremely rich, gooey cake that inevitably some part of it will stick to the non-stick pan. My mind would go into overdrive with creative ideas to unmold it without destroying the entire cake. So I started covering the bottom of the pan with parchment paper then locking the pan bottom to the springform collar. Viola!
There's no pie in the picture, so what's the pie marker for?
After I take the springform collar off, I take the pie marker and firmly press it into the top of the COOLED cake. Sometimes every spike of the marker leaves an impression on the cake, but usually it leaves just enough lines to guide my cuts.
Exactly what does "cutting clean" mean?
Chef Maria definition ~ it means you don't want your finished dessert to look like a kindergartener cut it with a spoon! Take a look at the cake in the picture. The lines are precise, the slices are even, nor is the surface of the cake torn. Why, because I cleaned the knife between EACH cut. YES, it's tedious and takes forever, but the result is worth it! You can use a water bath, but I typically just cut it next to the sink and leave the water running. You'll need a sharp knife, a clean towel, hot water, and patience.
1. Heat up your knife by holding it under the hot water.
2. Use the clean towel to dry off the knife.
3. Cut the first line in ONE motion.
4. Slowly pull the knife up.
Repeat until the entire cake is cut. Blot off any excess water on the cake or let it dry.
Remember the parchment paper? Unless I was overly aggressive with my cutting, the parchment paper protected the non-stick springform bottom from knife marks. Now I can easily peel all or any of the 12 slices off the parchment and reclaim the springform bottom.
Want to serve it whole and not mark it?
Use the flexible plastic piece under the knife and pie marker. With the springform collar removed, place the flexible plastic on top of the cake, flip it over, peel off the parchment paper, then flip it back on to a serving plate. Don't forget to say "Viola!"