Friday, January 3, 2014

Chef Series: An Interview with Pastiche's Pastry Chef Scot Stegmann

As seen in the January 2014 issue of Providence Monthly magazine

From a young age, Scot Stegmann worked in the restaurant business. Influenced by his mother, who is a baker, he went to Johnson & Wales to pursue a degree in Pastry Arts. Before he graduated, he started working at Pastiche. Twenty-six years later, he remains there, where he puts perfection and patience into the pastries.
Photo by Mike Braca.
Pastry chef Scot Stegmann was so passionate about his craft.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for some of my favorite sweets at Pastiche.
Can you describe the pastry making process at Pastiche?
There were a lot [of recipes] that were in place when I got here and we’ve created a lot since. They’ve been manipulated over the years as we see fit. We’re constantly tasting each component. Maybe it’s too sweet or needs something. I’ve yet to pick up a recipe where I haven’t seen some change I think it needs.

How long does it take to perfect a new recipe?

From start to finish it takes about 10-20 times to perfect a recipe. And that’s starting with two to three cakes and bumping that recipe up to 15 cakes. Everybody’s got to be able to do the same thing, so you want to have recipes that everyone can do.

What advice can you give to the home baker?
Perfection and patience equals pastry. You have to mix it perfectly and have the patience to allow the tools to do their job. You can’t rush things. You can’t use short cuts. Mistakes will always happen but what’s important is what you take out of it.

Do you use any local ingredients?
We’ve been buying local before there was a movement. Anytime we can, we do. In the summertime we use fresh fruit. We use Christiansen’s Dairy because they have a very high fat content. The cream whips easier and stays thicker longer. We get our eggs from Stamp Farm in Johnston. We’ve been buying from both of these places for over 25 years.

Can you possibly pick a favorite pastry?
Season to season I have different desserts I’m hooked on. In the summer, it’s the Passion Fruit Tart. In the fall and winter it’s the Pumpkin Cheesecake. So many of our items are year round so these are really special.
My favorite dessert is the Torta di Cioccolata. How did that recipe evolve?
This was one of the recipes I had worked on. It used to be a choco- late chestnut flourless cake. But we found that chestnut didn’t sell well. So we took the chestnut purée out and put almond butter in. It’s that dark, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth kind of thing. I use Callebaut chocolate in that; it’s a 64% dark chocolate.

How can two chocolates have the same percentage of chocolate yet taste different?
Dark chocolates with the same percentages will taste different based on where they get their cocoa beans from – South America, Mexico, etc. Each country has different flavor components and each company blends it differently. It’s like coffee beans. They may even blend beans from different places. They’ll also taste different based on what they add to the chocolate base.

Tell me about your vanilla sponge cake.
We use this for our Mascarpone Torte which is basically our version of tiramisu. It’s also used for the Lemon Mousse. It’s not like a pound cake; this is a lot lighter. We think it matches up with the mousse better. We always fold egg whites into the sponge base by hand.

Do you carry any gluten-free items?
We have several gluten-free items such as the Torta di Cioccolata. Another is the Raspberry Bomb, which is a flourless chocolate base, almond mousse in the center with a raspberry mousse around it covered in dark chocolate. We also make a flourless coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting.

What’s the newest recipe you’ve come out with?
We just experimented with a new type of caramel dessert. We use caramel nibs, salted caramel and caramel mousse between chocolate cake layers. It took us awhile to figure this one out. How much sugar do we take out because caramel is so sweet. January is the time we experiment.

What’s your secret to remaining passionate about your work?
I always take it to heart when a customer complains. I always wonder if there is something I can change. You can’t take the attitude of “it’s perfect.” You always have to reevaluate, to taste the product and make sure there is consistency. It’s an everyday thing. I like to taste things. You’d be surprised how many things you can catch just by tasting it. I think it’s important to let some criticism flow.
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