Yesterday I drove through Chilton County and bought several baskets of peaches (no that is not my truck) from my favorite peach farmers. Apparently, the owner of the competition also bought peaches this weekend. She's going to make peach upside down cakes; we're going to make Peach Melba Cupcakes. And probably peach gelato as well.
Peach Melba got me thinking back to my culinary school days, and then back to my long ago life in Paris. You see, Peach Melba is a dessert invented in the 1890s by French chef Auguste Escoffier to honor Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba. It consists of vanilla ice cream, peaches and raspberry sauce. (Melba toast is also named after her -- just a little food trivia in case you're interested...)
I lived, worked and studied in Paris in the late 1970's, almost always the only American among the kitchen staff. I peeled lots and lots of potatoes and onions, washed more dishes than I can count, and learned to deep clean kitchen equipment without scratching the shiny steel surfaces. And I watched... the cooks, the chef, and especially the pastry chef... asked lots of questions... and wrote lots of things down.
Fast forward about 35 years to culinary school in Birmingham, which was about the funnest thing I have ever done (and I'll be repaying that student loan for years to come...). The main chef for many of my courses was a Frenchman who reinforced traditions and the proper way to make many dishes. "Learn how to do it right, then experiment" he would tell us.
When you are learning to be a professional chef, you learn ABOUT food, as well as how to cook food because one EXPECTS a chef to know the proper way to make things. Once you have mastered and gained respect for the basics, you get to experiment. After the first semester, most practical exams include a "mystery basket" of ingredients to foster creativity.
There IS a point to all this rambling... And that is there is a difference between respect for food and food snobbery. We bake many things from scratch at the bakery out of respect for food but we are not food snobs.
However, it drives me crazy when supermarkets call their icing "buttercreme." There is probably no butter at all in it, and what is "creme" anyway? Certainly not cream. Buttercream contains butter, made from cream, which comes from cows. Italian and Swiss buttercream are made with egg whites, sugar and butter, and French buttercream is made with egg yolks, butter and sugar. Call it truth in advertising, or call it tradition, but please don't call it buttercream if there is no butter in it. It's decorator's icing. Here is a good source for recipes for these traditional icings.
Many of the items in our bakery case are traditional pastries, like croissants and pain au chocolat. And they are EXACTLY what you'd expect them to be, and made in the traditional way. Others, like the peach melba cupcake, are newer creations, based on the traditional ingredients found in the namesake, particularly peaches and raspberry sauce. We'll have a vanilla cupcake with fresh peaches cooked in, filled with raspberry sauce, topped with our vanilla buttercream, and drizzled with more raspberry. I think Nellie Melba would approve. Apparently she didn't eat ice cream because she thought it would damage her vocal cords.
So can you tell we're passionate about our food?
P.s. Don't forget to vote for us in the Get Back To Scratch contest. You can vote once daily, per email address.