Chickasaw CC’s Justin Hughes and Hammock Dunes Club’s James Guzzaldo offer their takes on the best pastry kitchen equipment for getting the job done.
Behind every Insta-worthy pastry recipe is the place where it all comes together. Pulling off a picture-perfect creation requires not only the right supplies, but the proper space for where it can be prepared. These club chefs share their vision of a dream pastry kitchen design that takes the cake—and gives them a place to bake it, too.
Dessert by Design
For Pastry Chef Justin Hughes of Chickasaw Country Club in Memphis, Tenn., working in a shared banquet/pastry kitchen means doing his best work in an always-active environment.
“Thanks to the club’s well-established kitchen, I’ve been able to showcase my skills to the fullest potential,” says Hughes.
After cutting his teeth at the revered Peabody Memphis and now spending the last two years at Chickasaw, Hughes has been able to put his multitasking talents to good use and make the most of his current setup.
To ensure that his plated specialties turn out well, Hughes relies on fully functional equipment. His necessities include a double-decker convection oven, not only for baking bread and desserts, but heating up sauces; rubber spatulas for scraping the remains out of mixers and bowls, along with adding creams and whipped items into pastry bags; and a chocolate tempering machine, which he uses to melt chocolate and keep it at the desired temperature.
“[The tempering machine] is essential in my line of work throughout my entire day,” Hughes notes. He also praises Kitchen Aid mixers (in lieu of mixing by hand) for helping to save time and labor, while employing pastry-only refrigeration units to hold baked goods without acquiring any off flavors.
Topping Hughes’s wish list of pastry kitchen equipment is a dough sheeter, which he praises for its consistency and mobility. “This machinery decreases the time [compared] to using a rolling pin to get an item to the desired length and width,” he notes.
Another preferred item is a blaster freezer, which Hughes is fortunate to have at Chickasaw. He lauds the benefit of being able to freeze mousse that would be piped into a mold.
“If one were in a rush, they could pop it into the blast freezer and wait five minutes, [instead of waiting] an hour for the mousse to congeal and take shape,” he says. “Then you could continue onto glazing the dessert and presenting it in a timely manner.”
Trustworthy brands are also an important component of a well-operated pastry kitchen. For Hughes, those include the Escali digital scale, which provides precise measurements that ensure a consistent product; Kitchen Aid’s versatile mixers and accessory attachments; and Dexter-Russell’s knives, spatulas and dough cutters.
“Working with these brands helps me with precision cuts, handling my goods with care throughout the operation, plus dividing dough and cleaning my station to perfection with ease,” says Hughes.
Breaking the Mold
Running a one-man show at Hammock Dunes Club in Palm Coast, Fla., Pastry Chef James Guzzaldo knows how to make the best use of his space inside the club’s main kitchen. Having sharpened his pastry-making skills over the years at various points in his career—from a private club in Chicago to restaurant, catering and retail baking jobs—Guzzaldo has been able to draw on all of these experiences to serve him well in his current gig.
“In my setup, my pastry space is strictly a production space, from which I stock the service spaces in our two kitchens for a la carte service,” he notes.
Working alone, Guzzaldo has designated a four-foot stainless table as his primary workstation and uses several speed racks.
One equipment essential that Guzzaldo keeps on hand are molds in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. Having a well-rounded assortment boosts creativity and helps to make his desserts even more interesting, he says.
“I could probably produce everything on sheet pans and cut out squares and rectangles—triangles, if I really wanted to get crazy—but that would get boring pretty quickly,” he says.
Metal rings and flexible silicon and rigid polycarbonate molds provide choices for assembling unique creations, including golf ball candies and three-dimensional chocolate golf balls. Guzzaldo also uses silicon edible lace molds to line the plate with edible lace in his Irish coffee Tira Misu.
“I picked up a set of varied designs and have had a lot of fun toying with them,” he notes.
Down the road, Guzzaldo plans to expand Hammock Dunes’ in-house bread production, and has ordered a steam-injected deck oven for that purpose. “Making bread will also bring us closer to maximizing our 60-quart Hobart mixer,” he notes.
While Guzzaldo is not wedded to particular brands—if used and maintained properly, they all perform reasonably well, he feels—he has a clear picture of what makes a productive pastry kitchen.
“You don’t want to have more space than you need,” he says, because having too much leads to more clutter. Close proximity to the mixer, oven and essential tools is paramount for efficiency, he adds. And because Guzzaldo primarily works alone, having all of his equipment within arm’s reach saves him a lot of time, instead of having to track down needed supplies.
Because his pastry kitchen is strictly for production, Guzzaldo stocks the service space in Hammock Dunes’ two kitchens for a la carte service. Preparing banquet pastry calls for expanding into a larger production space.
“If I have something intricate on the plate, I work ahead and put the plates on two plate racks,” he notes. This technique, he adds, was used when airbrushing plates with the logo of a winery for a wine dinner at the club.
To maintain production in close quarters, Guzzaldo makes large batch sizes whenever possible and makes good use of his freezer for preserving pastries.
“Some people balk at freezing pastries, but I think it’s the best preservation method, given it is done correctly,” he says. “Thomas Keller, in his Bouchon Bakery book, says that the freezer is the second-most important piece of equipment. Who am I to argue with Thomas Keller?”