During her time in the Crescent City, 2016 Chef to Watch Ruby Bloch has become known for her whimsical creations that use less traditional flavors and techniques. After years of heading the pastry kitchens at Cavan, Meauxbar, and Sylvain, the New Jersey native struck out on her own last fall with her custom desserts business, Salt and Light Pastry Co.
Ruby enjoys highlighting the flavor of seasonal ingredients in her desserts, and with the Bayou State’s abundance of summer crops like blackberries and blueberries, the possibilities are endless. We caught up with Ruby to learn more about her new endeavor and how to make the most out of Louisiana’s seasonal bounty of fresh berries in an unexpected and delightful way.
The inspiration for starting it is definitely a long time coming. I’ve worked only in restaurants for the past couple years, and I’ve known that I didn’t want a long-term restaurant life, but I also think that there was something missing in the event space and dessert world on that side. I think there is a space for some more-interesting flavors and modern design in the event space that we have.
Q How has your transition from executive pastry chef of a restaurant group to business owner been?
It’s been interesting. I did not expect that I would like owning a business as much as I do. I really love learning new skills, so getting to work with numbers, learning what makes a business successful, and trying something new has been great.
Q How would describe your pastry philosophy?
Something I learned, especially from originally working in the types of restaurants I worked in, is finding the beauty in the ingredients. I like to use the beauty of the ingredients that I’m using inside the recipe to decorate the dessert itself and to highlight what’s inside of the cake or the cookie. So it’s definitely using flavors as the inspiration for the design.
Q How are you inspired by Louisiana flavors?
Well, Louisiana is such a great place to work in this field because we have so much produce available. We have so many interesting herbs and seasons of fruit. That is really exciting to me, that there’s a never-ending season for really interesting ingredients. You never get bored.
Q Tell us about this Black Sesame Pudding.
I really like creamier desserts, and this one I love because the toasty sesame flavor can go well with so many different things. In my opinion, no matter what season in Louisiana that you’re in, the fruits that are available will pair well with sesame, as long as you’re using other things to mellow it out.
Q What other seasonal fruits would pair well with it?
Melon would probably go well with it. Strawberries, for sure. Strawberry, black sesame, honey. Those three things go great together. If it’s citrus season, doing satsumas with it is really, really good. You could do it with fall flavors like pumpkin and sage.
Q How do you like to use Louisiana berries in other types of desserts?
I love using them in pies, and galettes specifically because they’re a little bit more rustic. They’re less common, but they’re really easy to make, and you can use any kind of berry in it and top it with anything, too. I love doing those.
Q What do you look for when you’re choosing berries?
You definitely want there to be a little bit of shine because the juices inside the berry are pressing up against the skin because it’s fresh. As soon as they get old, they’ll start to shrivel and deflate. You want it to look like a full balloon. The brighter the color and the fuller the berry is probably what I look for most.
Q Do you have any tips for making this dessert?
Toasting is really important, and if you’re using black sesame seeds, you can’t look for color, so you really have to look for that change in scent when you’re baking them. It’s also important to strain multiple parts of the recipe. You definitely want to strain the curd, especially if you have any egg bits that cooked—and it’s natural to have a few of those.
If you use a really fine strainer for the pudding, you’ll end up with very few seeds, or you could use a wider strainer and have more chunks. I like it somewhere in the middle. If your berries are really ripe and super tasty, don’t do anything to them. But if you have some that are a bit underripe or not as sweet as you’d like, you can toss them with sugar and let them macerate in the fridge, and that will draw out the juices and make them a little sweeter.
Q What tips would you give a home baker to take their plating to the next level?
A lot of plating is in the details. Even if it’s just being very careful when you’re pouring your pudding and transferring it when it’s chilled so that it doesn’t slosh against the sides of the bowl. This way you’ll have a much cleaner edge. Use any herbs that you have, either in your garden or that are in season, in the decoration and on top. I like to do things a little off-center. If you’re putting berries, cream, and curd on top, pick an area and focus on it, and taper out. It gives it a little bit more dimension in the look.
- ⅓ cup black sesame seeds
- 1½ tablespoons cold water
- 1 (0.25-ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Browned Butter Streusel (recipe follows)
- Lemon Curd (recipe follows)
- Sweet Cream (recipe follows)
- Garnish: fresh berries, fresh pineapple sage or basil variety
- Preheat oven to 325°. Spread sesame seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool completely.
- In a small bowl, stir together 1½ tablespoons cold water and gelatin; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
- In the work bowl of a food processor, place toasted sesame seeds and sugar; process until finely ground.
- In a medium saucepan, bring sesame mixture and milk just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and stir in gelatin. Strain mixture, and whisk in cream. Let cool over an ice bath, stirring frequently. Once cool, place mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour ½ cup pudding into each of 8 (10-ounce) bowls or ramekins. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Place a few tablespoons Browned Butter Streusel on surface of each bowl. Spoon or pipe Lemon Curd and Sweet Cream onto crumble and surface of pudding. Garnish with berries and herbs, if desired.
- ⅓ cup salted butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup quick-cooking oats, toasted
- In a shallow heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine butter and salt over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until butter turns a golden hue and has a nutty aroma; immediately pour into a heatproof container. Let cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat browned butter and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk flour and baking powder. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined. Add oats, beating just until combined. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Spread dough in crumbles on prepared pan.
- Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 14 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, eggs, and lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a candy thermometer registers 185°. Press mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl; let cool until mixture registers 113°.
- With a mixer at medium speed, add cold butter to curd mixture, beating until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
- ⅛ cup sugar, plus more if desired
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream and sugar at medium-high speed until medium to stiff peaks form. Add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter whipped cream.