NPR Taste Test: Pastries To Sweeten Your Holiday Party Pastry chef Aggie Chin showed up at Weekend Edition with a box of scrumptious bite-sized desserts. She talks with NPR's Ailsa Chang about sweet treats to prepare for your holiday party.
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NPR Taste Test: Pastries To Sweeten Your Holiday Party

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NPR Taste Test: Pastries To Sweeten Your Holiday Party

NPR Taste Test: Pastries To Sweeten Your Holiday Party

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That is good.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Oh, this is really yummy.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Pastry chef Aggie Chin joined us in our offices last week with a box full of bite-sized desserts perfect for your next holiday party.

AGGIE CHIN: Here you have gingersnaps, a cranberry-orange compote, yogurt-white chocolate cremeux and then more gingersnaps on top.

CHANG: It's like a little dessert cocktail or a dessert shot, really.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: And then...

CHIN: These are chocolate truffles. I added a little bit of peppermint extract to it, but you can really change these up however you want. And then same with the meringues. I did espresso and cocoa nib for - with the gold leaf, and then I did crushed candy canes for the silver leaf.

CHANG: That's really pretty.

CHIN: Thank you. I want a little truffle.

CHANG: So we just gorged on a bunch of amazing desserts you just brought in. Tell us what you made for us today.

CHIN: So I made two different types of meringues, crunchy meringues, one with crushed candy canes and then the other with espresso and cocoa nibs. And then I made chocolate truffles, also with a little bit of peppermint, rolled in some powdered sugar. And then little dessert cups with candied cranberries and crushed gingersnaps.

CHANG: Those are my favorite.

CHIN: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: How did you decide to make this particular combination of desserts?

CHIN: Definitely whenever I have any sort of party or menu or anything, there has to be something chocolate. So that was an easy part. And then for - like, personally, I love the winter months because of - and also the fall - the warm spices like the ginger and the cinnamon and all that. But, you know, it's kind of hard to have a lot of fruit type of desserts unless it's dried or citrus. But for a cocktail party, like, I feel like sometimes citrus desserts are kind of hard...

CHANG: Yeah.

CHIN: ...Because of the acidity. It kind of clashes with the...

CHANG: Oh, with the alcohol?

CHIN: ...Drinks.

CHANG: Oh, interesting.

CHIN: So I chose cranberries because those - like, once it's sweetened, it's not as acidic. But it's also a beautiful color. You have that pop of red...

CHANG: Yeah.

CHIN: ...Which, you know, with the holidays and everything it goes really well.

CHANG: It looks very - it looks very Christmas.

CHIN: Yeah. And then for the meringues, it's - I always like to have something light. And meringues are just whipped egg whites with sugar.

CHANG: So did you always plan on becoming a chef?

CHIN: No, this is completely different from what I had planned on doing.

CHANG: What was the original plan?

CHIN: I was going to be a lawyer (laughter).

CHANG: Oh my goodness, we can share so much with each other.

CHIN: Really (laughter)?

CHANG: I was a lawyer...

CHIN: Oh, really?

CHANG: ...But for just a few years.

CHIN: Yeah. So the plan was to work at a law firm for a year or two and then go back to law school.

CHANG: Oh, OK.

CHIN: And so I was working at a firm downtown.

CHANG: As a paralegal?

CHIN: As a legal assistant.

CHANG: OK, yeah.

CHIN: You know, working with a lot of the attorneys and the partners, they were - kind of all said the same thing. They were like, if you are passionate about the law, go for it. But you need to love that. So I was like, well, you know, I'm not really sure that that's what I want to do.

CHANG: Yeah.

CHIN: But - so...

CHANG: Wait, wait, wait. But what happened when you told your Korean parents, I'm not going to be a lawyer anymore...

CHIN: I know.

CHANG: ...I want to be a chef? How did that go down?

CHIN: Well, I didn't tell them (laughter).

CHANG: Oh, all right. So how did this happen?

CHIN: I didn't tell them for, like, three months. And then finally I was like - because I just, like, deferred enrollment. And then I finally had to tell them, like, by the way, I don't think I'm going to go to law school anymore.

CHANG: Oh, so you already got in. You took the LSAT. You went on and you got in.

CHIN: I did. Yeah...

CHANG: Oh, wow. OK. OK.

CHIN: ...I went on that path completely. And then I found a job part-time at a restaurant that's now closed. But I was making, you know, salads, cold appetizers, plating desserts, that kind of thing. I had no idea what I was doing when I first went there. And so to kind of keep them from getting frustrated with me or to kind of score some brownie points, I would take in sweets every day I went in to work.

CHANG: Oh.

CHIN: And so the chef there kind of pushed me towards pastry. He was like, you know, you have...

CHANG: ...Meaning dessert.

CHIN: Right.

CHANG: OK.

CHIN: Desserts, breads, things like that. He was like, you have a knack for this. I think this is something that you should try out. And he kind of put me in contact with a couple pastry chef friends of his to talk to them and kind of get a feel for what their day was like. And I just - I really fell in love with restaurants and the pace and working service.

CHANG: You weren't scared by the stress?

CHIN: You get that adrenaline rush and you have that instant gratification of, like, each plate that goes out. And so every one that goes out you want to be better than the last, as perfect as possible and as quickly as possible so people aren't waiting a long time. And I just - I fell in love with that.

CHANG: That was Aggie Chin. You can find her recipes at npr.org for treats like gingersnaps, chocolate truffles, meringues and cranberry-orange compote with yogurt-white chocolate cremeux. Next week, she'll join us in the kitchen to bake a family-style dessert perfect for a big holiday gathering.

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