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Pastry chefs master the art of innovation

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-01-30 09:26
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Chef Wang Zhiqiang [Photo provided to China Daily]

Wang and his apprentices recently created dried nuts by filling a red, wooden Sudoku board with nine different types of nut, including peanuts, hazelnuts and pistachios, which had one thing in common in addition to their tempting appearance — they are all made with flour.

For the dried nuts, Wang used puff pastry to create the outer casing, and placed the nuts inside.

He believes that pastry innovation should reflect the times, the development of society, seasonal changes, and diversity of ingredients.

He emphasizes the three points that must be followed for innovative work: items should be handmade; the work has to be unique; and it should be performed with precision and care.

"In China, pastry is used to celebrate traditional festivals, including dumplings for Spring Festival, mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and zongzi sticky rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival," Wang said.

He thinks the first skill that aspiring Chinese pastry chefs need to master is learning to make five wrappers — for dumplings, steamed stuffed buns, shaomai dumplings, wontons and spring rolls. "The shaomai wrap should have pleats like a ballet skirt," he said.

According to Wang, in addition to wrappers, potential pastry chefs must be able to make different types of dough, as well as sweet and savory fillings.

"I'm not against mechanized production, but we must inherit craftsmanship, and also be innovative to attract young customers. Decades ago, people ate pastry to fill their stomachs, but nowadays young customers want to try something delicate," Wang said.

He is planning to make small, cute versions of traditional Beijing snacks such as sweet pea cake and red bean cake, which can be put together by using a method similar to creating a mortise-and-tenon joint in woodwork. Wang also wants to make sesame deep-fried noodles in a small butterfly shape, and traditional flour tea.

"I want young people to try around 20 snacks without feeling full, and also to learn about the stories behind each snack," he said.

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