Heaven in a Glass
Janet Fletcher - June 9th, 2014
It’s basic math: verre + terrine = verrine. A layered dessert in a glass. Like a parfait, you might think? Not quite.
A verrine produced by pastry chef Belinda Leong is like a parfait made by an angel: considered, detailed, artistic, exquisite. Leong, the co-owner, with Michel Suas, of B Patisserie in San Francisco, constructs her verrines from sketches, like an architect. The heavier components on the bottom, the lighter ones on top.
“You have to think about density,” says Leong, who worked in pastry at Gary Danko and Manresa—Bay Area all-stars –before opening her shop in 2013. “If you have something heavy on top, it will break the structure.”
Leong is quick to credit Philippe Conticini, a French pastry chef, for the verrine concept he introduced 20 years ago—essentially the notion of presenting traditional plated desserts in layered form, in a glass.
“All my verrines are inspired by my plated desserts,” says Leong, who demonstrated two astonishing creations at The Greystone Flavor Summit, an invitation-only conference for volume foodservice professionals hosted by Food Arts with the Culinary Institute of America at their campus in St. Helena, California.
The taller the glass, the better, says Leong. “Philippe wanted multiple acitivites in your mouth.”
Her Mont Blanc verrine riffs on the classic French dessert of baked meringue, chestnut cream and crème chantilly. Leong’s sophisticated transformation features layers of vanilla crème brulée, caramelized pears, chiffon cake, chantilly, meringue sticks and pear-orange sorbet. (Frankly, we may have forgotten a few layers.) You dip your spoon into the deep glass and bring up an indescribable mouthful: crisp and creamy, soft and crunchy, smooth and icy.
“Every component has its purpose,” says Leong, whose refined philosophy of the pastry art encompasses three types of crunchy: cookie crunchy; airy, crispy crunchy; and crackle crunchy.
We’ll have one of each.