Renowned American pastry chef Nick Malgieri smiled and said, “It’s been eight years…” He was referring to the last time he was in Manila, in 2008, for a baking demo for Food magazine.
He was back on center stage at the World Food Expo (Wofex) a few weeks ago at the SMX Convention Center, getting things ready for “The Art of Chocolate”—a demo on how to bake three cakes and how to do biscotti, all using top-quality chocolate.
Malgieri, author of several award-winning pastry and dessert books, is an outstanding teacher, said his student, pastry chef Jill Sandique, who assisted him that day along with her crew.
Malgieri has also written articles for many prestigious culinary publications such as Saveur, where his “Soul of Sicily” story transported readers to the Italian island and the history of its unique sweets. As an Italian-American, it was a heritage trip for him as well.
What I remember most from his previous Manila visit was his repartees—which he did again at SMX, relaxing the audience with his asides while imparting valuable lessons.
How to beat egg whites
For instance, when beating egg whites, he noted that most cookbooks will say, “beat until stiff.” Totally wrong, he pointed out, because doing so takes off all the air which is supposed to make the cake light. Instead it should be beaten “until soft peaks form.”
When Malgieri did the Chocolate Hazelnut Bourbon Cake, he said that one fruitcake recipe also had about two tablespoons bourbon as ingredient, and then recommended to drink the rest. If you do, the cake will most likely burn, he added.
He also had a tip: The best cinnamon is from Mexico because it is less harsh and lighter.
At the Wofex demo, several kinds of chocolates were used. For the Cocoa Raspberry Chantilly Cake and for the Crisp Cocoa Hazelnut Biscotti, it was deZaan Premium and Black cocoa, and one called Holland Cocoa.
Malgieri said the best cocoa powder comes from Amsterdam—by “best” he meant it is alkaline-free or has no additives. It was Patissier Bittersweet Chocolate for the Chocolate Orange Cake and the Chocolate Hazelnut Bourbon Cake.
The best part was that the audience was given tasting portions of all the recipes Malgieri did that day. We drooled over the raspberry cake when it was being made; thankfully assistants appeared from backstage bearing them along with the other cakes and biscotti.
No artificial anything
What does he think about sugar-free desserts, I asked him. He related how he and another famous chef-teacher, Peter Kump, tasted some of that stuff at an event in New York; and then Kump said that if you wanted to torture someone, you can make them eat those.
In his book “Perfect Light Desserts,” Malgieri wrote how he and co-author David Joachim “had one abiding rule… no artificial anything. We use real sugar, real butter and real eggs.” The recipes have been lightened, he noted, using simple techniques.
Then Malgieri surprised me twice. He still remembered what I told him eight years ago: “Filipinos like their food sweet but their desserts not too sweet.” I guess we must have been talking about Filipino spaghetti and the like, but the dessert part I still totally agree with.
The other surprise was the dedication that he wrote in his book: “Let’s see the low-calorie bibingka recipe.”
Too bad I didn’t remember that, as we ate bibingka and puto bumbong at a lunch hosted by Glenda Barretto at Amorsolo, the Via Mare branch in PICC. We also had kare-kare, and he thought the pako salad with the big shrimps and salted eggs were beautiful and good. He wondered why his salted eggs (processed in brine) never came out as salty as he liked. I hope Glenda gave him her recipe since Via Mare makes its own.
As Malgieri signed copies of his book “Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers” back at the Wofex exhibition hall, I recalled having lunch with him at Antonio’s in Tagaytay. The wild garden, with huge leaves around, made him blurt out, “Tarzan!”
I took that as a signal to relax and not be intimidated by this outstanding pastry chef. Malgieri surely knows how to put people at ease.