Sweet dreams

When it comes to recipe development, my creative process has always included a series of problem-solving steps. Often, the end result will be completely different from what I set out to solve. It always starts with a round of “What if… Then…” statements.

For example, a co-worker once asked: “What if I made a chocolate molten cake with a caramel center?” My response: “Then I would have to freeze the caramel so I could insert it into the cake batter.”

However, it never ends at one step. Every “Then” statement usually leads to another “What if” question, and this process continues on, sometimes for weeks or even months.

Occasionally, a problem embeds itself in my subconscious and the solution comes to me in a dream, although until a few months ago, I hadn’t had a dream for almost two years.

My dreams always start with me working in a kitchen doing something mundane. A few months ago, my dream started with me pulling filo dough to make a strudel. When I had pulled the filo to the point where it looked like a tablecloth draped over my workbench, I dumped out the apple strudel filling onto the filo and proceeded to roll the strudel. From there, the scene changed to where I was peeling and coring apples. I cut the apple in half and placed it on a square piece of puff pastry dough. I planned on wrapping the apple with the puff pastry to make a baked apple, but then I realized I had cored the apple and there was a hole in the middle. This is where my “What if… Then…” statements came into play.

What if I have a hole in my apple? Then I have to fill it with something.

What goes with apples? Almonds. Solution: I can fill the hole with marzipan. Now I have a baked apple wrapped in puff pastry filled with marzipan.

What if I serve it with a soup? Then it should be an autumn soup because apples are an autumn fruit…. Butternut squash grows in the autumn… Roasted butternut squash soup.

I have a warm baked dessert with a warm autumn soup. What if I serve it with ice cream? Butternut squash soup is sometimes served with crème fraiche. Then I can serve it with crème fraiche ice cream.

Now I need a crispy garnish for texture. Apple… Almond… Marzipan… Butternut Squash… Squash… Pumpkin… Pumpkin seeds… Spiced pumpkin seeds!

I woke up with a completely mapped out dessert: a baked apple wrapped in puff pastry filled with marzipan served with a roasted butternut squash soup, crème fraiche and garnished with spiced pumpkin seeds. Moments later, I realized that the trigger for this dream was probably the roasted butternut squash soup I had from the Melt food truck at the previous night’s Eat the Street.

It’s odd that I didn’t realize I had stopped dreaming until I had one. Thinking back, I realize the dream coincided with my worker compensation case finally being settled after two years. It’s amazing how I could have gone so long without dreaming. I used to dream so often that I’d keep a pad and pencil by my bed to write down details of the dream while they were still fresh in my head. No doubt the stress resulting from the uncertainty of my pastry chef career affected my creative process. With no outlet for my creativity, what’s the point?

I’m still uncertain what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, but the prospect of returning to the food industry in some capacity is once again in my realm of possibilities. Now that things are finally settled, I can move forward after being creatively stagnant for two years. Although I’m not dreaming as much as I used to, it’s nice to know that I haven’t lost that part of me.