A pastry chef talks about finding her way
I can remember I've always loved food and loved to watch it being made. It’s how my family was and what I grew up with. I loved desserts; it was my favorite part of a meal. I didn't start baking until quite later on. It's something I just picked up and realized I had a real knack for it. Not for once, however, did it cross my mind that this can be something I actually do in the future. It was always recreational.
During my first year at university, I had over-exerted myself with exercise, lost a lot of weight and also developed an eating disorder. I started habitually cooking for myself to regain control and became obsessed with desserts. I loved how versatile, creative, and beautiful they could be, and I wanted to be someone who was able to do that. To put art to food and just, create. Halfway through my university, I realized that I could actually take this on professionally and I researched my options.
The most important thing here was that I had a really supportive environment in my friends and family. I never faced an obstacle in pursuing my dreams. I also met like-minded people and went on to start Order of Knives. This was essentially a food blog that I had set up with my friends, who were food enthusiasts too. They had a huge hand in motivating me to go that extra mile regarding my dreams. But first, I needed to graduate. So I did. I have a degree in Economics but I knew halfway into my degree that this wasn’t my path. And so off I went to France to culinary school and dived headfirst into the whirlwind that is the culinary world. It was super difficult. But the thing about doing what you love is that, even if it gets so difficult that you break down into fits of tears, you always pick yourself up and get ready for the next day. And that's what happened and is still happening.
Now ever since I realized my food dream, it's always been my wish to have my own little thing, a dessert place in Bangladesh that doesn't just serve the populace but actually works on introducing new palates to the people and changing the industry. When I came back from France, I was at a loss at what to do. I had previously interned in a Michelin starred restaurant in France, but when I came back to Bangladesh, I was disheartened by the state of the restaurant here. This phase in my life was quite de-motivating and I questioned myself and my goals. That I even managed to come out of this exasperation is all credits to my family and my friends, who constantly believed in me.
One such friend was Kazi Naveed. Now this guy, not only was he super business minded, he also firmly believed in quality. It was honestly like two pieces of a puzzle. I needed to do something on my own, as did he. I had my desserts and he had his business intuition. And while we'd been talking about having our own thing for a long time, Pastryarchy was founded in one night, in one swift impulsive decision, and we just plunged right in. And we have no regrets.
My name is Elma Arifeen, pastry chef and co-founder of Pastryarchy: a business and passion project that works to re-conceptualize and refine the idea of desserts in this city.
• 6 egg whites
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 5 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup sugar (separate to the first)
• 100 ml milk
• 100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
• 1 tbsp orange zest
• 1 cup flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
Pre-heat oven to 160C . You will need a non-stick angel-cake pan for this cake. There is no need to grease the pan or line with baking paper.
Beat the eggwhites with your mixer until they start to get fluffy, and slowly, add in the sugar and continue to beat until firm peaks form.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and other 1/3 cup sugar until light and pale. Add in the milk, juice, and zest and mix through. Sift in the flour and mix until there are no lumps. Now add in 1/4th of the stiff egg whites and slowly fold it into the batter to loosen it. Continue to fold in the rest of the egg whites. Be careful not to mix too vigorously or you will let the air out of the egg whites. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Now, as soon as the cake is out of the oven, invert the pan and leave it upside down on a cooling rack until the cake cools completely. When the cake is cool, slide a butter knife along the sides to loosen it and it should come off.
This cake is super fluffy and moist and is great on its own but you can also glaze it or frost it however way you like. I put on just a thin layer of cream-cheese frosting. The recipe is also very versatile and can be altered to suit other flavors: vanilla, lemon, chocolate, coconut, etc.
• One pineapple, centre removed, and chopped up into small pieces
• Handful of mint leaves, chopped
• 2-3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup flour
• 200 grams butter
• ¾ cup icing sugar
• 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
Beat the flour, icing sugar, and butter and rosemary together until the dough comes together. Wrap this in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge while you make the filling.
In a pan, cook the pineapples with the sugar, stirring frequently and adding in a bit of water every time to prevent burning. Do this on low heat until all the pineapple is cooked down, soft, caramelized, and jam like. Take it off the heat and add in the mint leaves.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Now, this part needs to be done entirely by eye, take a small piece of dough and roll it into a ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Halve this piece and flatten both out. Put a small bit of filling in the center of one and close it with the other half, sealing down the sides. Place the cookie on the tray. Continue doing this until all the filling is used up. Leave some space between the cookies because they expand a lot in size. If you have leftover dough/filling, you can store it in the freezer.
Bake the cookies in a pre-heated oven at 160C until the sides are golden brown.
This recipe is very close to my heart and one of my best. It’s the very first recipe that I can call mine completely. It’s also always been a hit to whomever I served it to, whether they were a fan of carrot cakes or had never had it before. You can serve this cake on its own as a snack or frost it with cream cheese frosting (next recipe) like I do.
• 2 and ¼ cups flour
• 1 and ¼ tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground nutmeg
• 3 cups shredded carrots
• 1 and ¼ cup oil
• 4 eggs
• 1 and ½ cup sugar
Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and line two nine inch cake tins with baking paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside. Whisk the eggs and the sugar with a hand-mixer or in a stand mixer until they’re really pale and in fluffy and then whisk in the oil. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients (don’t overwork the batter) until there are no lumps and the mixture is homogenous. Lastly, fold in the carrots until they’re mixed through. Divide the batter into the two tins and bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
This frosting is the most complicated out of all the recipes I’ll be giving today but trust me it’s totally worth the effort. If you bake often, you can also make a bigger batch and store it in the freezer for later use on any other cake. It literally goes with almost anything.
• 3 egg whites
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• ½ tsp lemon juice
• 200 grams butter (cut into cubes)
• 1 and ½ block of Philadelphia cream cheese
First, leave your butter out, and cut it up into cubes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you have one), or in a heat-safe mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla together over a bain-marie (over a saucepan of simmering water). Whisk this until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is white and doesn’t feel thick anymore or until it reads 70C on a food thermometer (you should totally invest in one if you haven’t, they’re readily available and cheap). When this is done, take it off the water and beat in a stand-mixer or with the hand mixer on high (with the lemon juice) until the meringue comes to together with really stiff peaks.
Now, lower the mixer to medium and continue to mix while slowly adding in the butter bit by bit. Keep on mixing, because the frosting will turn grainy at first and then come together into a luscious fluffy buttercream.
Transfer this into another bowl and set aside in the fridge.
In the now empty bowl, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary. When it’s done, add in 1/4th of the buttercream you made and beat it in. Slowly add the rest, beating in intervals, until all of it is incorporated and you end up with a fluffy frosting.
Take note that this is actually quite tricky and the best results might not be achieved on the first try. If it ends up too runny, pop it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before whisking again.