After winning the first season of Top Chef Desserts, pastry dynamo Yigit Pura set his sights on opening his own Tout Sweet Pâtisserie. The sweet shop is full of treats from caramels, croissants, macarons (named after his favorite folks, including 7×7 editor Chloe Harris Frankeny), marshmallows, cakes and other confitures and marks a partnership with Taste Catering’s co-owners, MeMe Pederson and Janet Griggs. Pura has a book in the works and was recently a spokesperson for the Chocolate Adventure Contest from Scharffen Berger®.
Pura started making sweets as a tyke in Turkey, where he would spoon up dark caramel with his mother. By age 20, he was training in San Francisco and headed east for stints at Le Cirque 2000, The Four Seasons and Daniel. That led to a promotion as executive pastry chef for Daniel Boulud in Las Vegas, and he eventually returned to SF to work for Taste Catering. Bay Area Bites caught up with Pura recently and his comments have been edited for clarity and length.
Bay Area Bites: How did Tout Sweet Pâtisserie come about? Yigit Pura: It’s been a twelve-year dream of mine. I’ve been really blessed to create something so wonderful in San Francisco, a city which I love. Though we opened two months ago, we are quickly growing and adding on different legs. We just started our celebration cakes and our wedding cakes, where I get to consult with people and create a one of a kind cake for each guest. This is truly a treat for a pastry chef.
Bay Area Bites: And your book? Yigit Pura: One would think I have ample free time… opening a store, writing a book. But this has been so much fun. It’s titled “Sweet Alchemy.” I wanted to break down the barriers for intimidation which people have when it comes to making really special desserts and show people that they can create really wonderful desserts at home, given they can be patient, follow some simple science, and of course put lots of love in it.
Bay Area Bites: Who are your mentors? Yigit Pura: Farmers, because they remind me to be humble in what I do, and respect what nature gives us. Our clients at Tout Sweet, because their constant desire for a great product inspires me to create every day. Oh, and of course my dog Maui. He teaches me to do everything with love, every single day.
Bay Area Bites: What are the best and worst things about being a chef and business owner? Yigit Pura: Ask any parent who just had their first child. Their answer will be the same as mine.
Bay Area Bites: You are relatively young yet appear to be a success. What are the lessons you’ve learned on the way? Yigit Pura: Success. Hmmm. I think success is the process. I wouldn’t ever want to consider myself successful, I think it’s the drive to be never fully satisfied with everything I’ve created and gathered is what pushes me every day. But I can’t lie, I do love seeing people’s faces as they get giddy with excitement when they look at the products in our store, and more so when they enjoy them.
Bay Area Bites: Do you have any favorite Bay Area food spots? Yigit Pura: Eric’s Chinese is great. It’s between my kitchen and my boyfriend’s house. Given my long hours it’s a magical place. Other than that, I still love going to the Ferry Building on a Saturday before 8am, before the crowds get there, so I can buy produce for Tout Sweet, and enjoy a coffee and sausage sandwich by the bay. It’s the small things.
Bay Area Bites: Where do you think the U.S. is for appreciation of other cultures? Yigit Pura: I think the U.S. has done a great job at celebrating other cultures’ cuisines. Culinary options — from Ethiopian to Korean to Indian — are readily available in cities across the United States. Challenging yourself to try different cuisines is important.
Bay Area Bites: Have you ever experienced discrimination in the kitchen? Yigit Pura: High-end, fine-dining kitchens tend to be really high-testosterone, macho working environments. As an openly gay chef, I had to work very hard to earn respect in New York kitchens early in my career. However, whether you are gay or straight, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, people love food and I’ve found that is a great homogenizing point. People love desserts and it’s a great way to break the ice.
Bay Area Bites: Tell us about the Chocolate Adventure Contest. There are ingredients that are definitely different — any tips for diving in for consumers? Yigit Pura: The Chocolate Adventure Contest asks bakers of any skill level to create an original sandwich cookie recipe using at least one Scharffen Berger chocolate product and at least one of twelve predetermined “adventure ingredients.”
When it comes to matters of being inspired, I always tell people go with your instinct. And if you find it’s a horrible pairing, at least you now know better. Sometimes the best combinations come out of lucky mistakes.
In my Chloe’s Chili-infused Mudslides recipe I chose to pair two adventure ingredients: pasilla peppers and Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs, which give the chocolate a flirty and mature twist.
Recipe created by Yigit Pura Makes 25 Sandwich Cookies
For The Ganache: 4.3 oz. (1/2 cup) heavy cream, plus more for reconstituting 3 cloves 2 cinnamon sticks 1 dried pasilla chili 1/2 vanilla bean 6.9 oz. Scharffen Berger® 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate 0.7 oz. (1 1/2 tbs.) honey 4.3 oz. (1/2 cup) whole milk 1.6 oz. (3 tbs.) egg yolks
For The Mudslides: 9 oz. Scharffen Berger® 62% Cacao semisweet chocolate 1.6 oz. (3 tbs.) unsalted butter 3 large eggs, at room temperature 7.5 oz. (scarce 1 cup) granulated sugar 0.15 oz. (scarce 1 tsp.) vanilla extract 2.1 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour 0.7 oz. (1 1/2 tbs.) baking powder 4 oz. Scharffen Berger® 62% Cacao semisweet baking chunks, chopped 4.3 oz. (1/2 cup) dried cherries, chopped 4.3 oz. (1/2 cup) Scharffen Berger® roasted cacao nibs
For The Shortbread: 11.8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour 3.4 oz. (1/3 cup plus 1/2 tsp.) Scharffen Berger® Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder 1.8 oz. (1/4 cup) almond flour 0.1 oz. (2/3 tsp.) table salt 9 oz. (1 cup and 2 tbs.) unsalted butter at room temperature 5.5 oz. (2/3 cup) powdered sugar, sifted 2 large eggs
Make The Ganache: Heat cream in a small pan over medium heat. Add cloves, cinnamon sticks, chili and vanilla and let steep for 30 minutes. With a hand blender, buzz cream for a few seconds to fully bring out flavor. Strain and reconstitute with fresh cream to original 4.3 oz. to make up for loss in the infusing process.
Melt chocolate over a water bath. Reheat infused cream with honey and milk. Temper yolks into hot cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and coating the back of a spoon, or until 180° F (like crème anglaise). Once the custard is cooked, strain into a pitcher and add to melted chocolate in three additions, stirring with a spatula to emulsify. Cool ganache in a shallow dish, with plastic wrap directly on top, at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours until it’s the consistency of soft fudge.
Make The Mudslides: Preheat the oven at 325° F. Sift together all-purpose flour and baking powder.
Melt together chocolate and butter over a water bath and keep warm. In mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar and vanilla extract and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add melted chocolate and butter and mix to combine. Add sifted ingredients and stir gently to combine. Add chocolate chunks and dried tart cherries. Allow to set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Scoop onto baking trays and roll generously with the cacao nibs. Place on a cookie tray lined with parchment and bake until set, but still soft, about 6 minutes. Then rotate pan and bake 2 to 3 minutes longer. The cookies should still be soft to the touch and barely set.
Make The Shortbread: Sift together all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, almond flour and salt.
In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating fully each time. Add sifted ingredients and mix slowly until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm enough to roll out. Roll dough evenly until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out small discs of dough, using a 1/2-inch wide round cookie cutter and bake until set around the edges for 7 to 9 minutes. Allow to cool at room temperature.
Assemble The Sandwiches: Place mudslides with the flat side up. Using a piping bag with a #3 plain round tip, pipe ganache drops on top of the cookie in an upward motion.
Lightly dust the chocolate shortbread tops with powdered sugar, and gently put “hats” on top of the ganache.