Let them eat creative cake!

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Sweet ending: Pastry chef Mangesh Sangpal brings his sculpting skills to mouth-watering desserts.
Sweet ending: Pastry chef Mangesh Sangpal brings his sculpting skills to mouth-watering desserts.

Artistry in genes can be an important ingredient for a pastry chef, as Mangesh Sangpal of Courtyard by Marriot, Chennai, finds. Inspired at a young age by master chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s TV shows, Sangpal decided his career lay in the kitchen. He undertook a diploma in Hotel Management, then followed it up with a one-year specialisation in pastry. With a father and uncles who are sculptors, Sangpal’s flair for intricate design is obvious, especially when you see him bent over a delicate decoration for a yummy pastry.

Ask Sangpal why pastry chef, and he says it is a challenge to delight diverse people with an offering that is attractive, delicious and appealing. Here is where creativity kicks in, and he says that too is a challenge. Sangpal is in charge of the deli Muffin Tree, but also plans the offering for the buffet. His brief includes costing, people planning, and training. Even as he speaks, Sangpal is consulted by colleagues, and they seem to get quick, concise instructions. His creations for the buffet filled much of the small bakery shop in the hotel’s kitchen area — and if taste matches looks, a big treat awaited the diners. Sangpal spends much of his free time sculpting, as he feels this shapes his creativity when baking speciality decorative cakes.

Having spent time in the pâtisserie departments of top hotels such as Le Royal Meridian, The Orchid, and The Grand, as also on a cruise liner, Sangpal brings taste and speed to the muffins, cakes, and other delicacies. He says he mastered the art of chocolate and margarine carving on the cruise liner, where he also learnt to deliver volumes. He mentions with pride a voyage where he was asked to do a live dessert workshop for 3,000 passengers.

Sangpal keeps experimenting, and his offerings include innovative blends of Indian sweets and Western pastries that sound and appear delightful. He is all for fusion desserts as he can try out new combinations to get around the problem of repetition. He calls his favourite fusion pastry Desire — a chocolate creation with rich vanilla creme roulle filling.

In the mango season just past, he created a variety of cakes, pastries, salads, drinks and Indian desserts that caught the eye and imagination of the Chennaite, a willing slave to the king of fruits.

Want to have the cake and eat it too? Seek out Mangesh Sangpal.

Just desserts!

Most cultures include a sweet dish in every meal. The gastronomically inclined French thought of serving the sweet dish at the end of the meal, and aptly called it desservir - which means “to clear the table”, and “to serve”.

The first desserts, according to Wikipedia, were candies made from raw honeycomb and dried dates. It was not until the Middle Ages, when sugar was manufactured, that real sweet desserts were thought up. But even then, sugar was so expensive that it was only for the wealthy and for special occasions. Popular frozen desserts such as ice-cream can also be traced back to the Middle Ages, when royalty would indulge in fresh ice, flavoured with honey or fruit syrup. There are accounts of Mughal kings bringing ice from central Asia to Delhi and Agra.

Today, at most restaurants, a wide range of sweet dishes borrowed from various cuisines make up the dessert menu. Indian sweets like Kubani-ka-meeta jostle for the taste buds alongside Turkish Baklava or Western desserts such as puddings, pies and cakes. But, easily, the most popular are the rich pastries. Traced to the Mediterranean, they were brought to the West by the Crusaders and perfected by French chefs. More than just a baked mix of flour, sugar, milk, butter, baking powder and eggs, pastries are works of art - delicate and delectable.

(This article was published on September 20, 2012)
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