With colored balloons, heavy cream, and chocolate galore, it was pretty clear that the participants in Jacques Torres' "Chocolate Creations" class at the New York Culinary Experience last weekend were having way more fun than the other classes.
Torres is very encouraging to those who want to try difficult pastry recipes at home. He tells would-be pastry chefs who mess up a project the first time to just do it again until they get it right. He took a minute away from cracking jokes and teaching the class how to make his whimsical creations to share the top fives tools you need when you want to get serious about working with chocolate and pastry. It's true that you could make do without them, but then you'd just be "an amateur" said Torres.
One more note: Don't feel like you need to make every last thing from scratch. Torres acknowledges that if cooking becomes a burden, people won't do it. He uses frozen fillo dough and has no qualms about it, so you shouldn't either.
1. Laser Thermometer
To get a quick and accurate reading of the temperature of your chocolate, nothing is going to work faster than an infrared digital laser thermometer. Plus, getting to shoot that little red infrared light at everything in sight will provide you with hours of amusement.
For measuring ingredients, there is nothing more precise than using a scale. Wet and dry measuring cups leave way too much room for variability. In addition, most serious pastry recipes give ingredient amounts in ounces and grams, not in cups and tablespoons.
3. Immersion Blender
Got to puree raspberries into sauce for your flourless chocolate cake? If you've got one of these babies, you won't need to spend the time transferring ingredients from bowl to blender and back again.
4. Stand Mixer
Whether you're whipping up a double batch of chocolate chip cookies or some heavy whipping cream, nothing can touch this perennial kitchen workhorse. Bonus points if you have outlets in your kitchen that extend from the ceiling (like they do at The French Culinary Institute).
5. Heat Gun
You could use a heat gun to remove paint from the walls or (and really, how much fun is this) you can use the gun to blast your chocolate into perfectly tempered submission. It's also useful for getting you chocolate decoration to bend into just the right shape.