As some of you know, I was recently working at Aziza again as their pastry chef. As a fruit-inspired pastry chef I found it difficult to start in the middle of winter. Although here in the Bay Area we are lucky enough to have bustling farmers' markets year round, the fruit we see for months on end is not the easiest to work with in a plated dessert context.
Plainly said, winter fruit is not sexy. Sure pears are sensual and pomegranates are exotic, but the average restaurant goer orders chocolate desserts in winter. Pastry chefs look to nuts and tropicals and ingredients they forget about as soon as cherries and peaches hit the scene.
At Aziza, where the food is rich with intense spice activity, meats are braised for days and the traditional dish, B'stilla, is made with and covered in sugar, the dessert menu can be a tricky one. I tried to come up with desserts that would be refreshing after Mourad Lahlou's California-French influenced modern Moroccan cooking.
When I worked at Aziza before, from 2003-2004, I turned one of my favorite things, the Redwood Hill goat yogurt into sorbet. This year I wanted to turn it into something else. I'd made pannacotta and goat cheese mousse at Citizen Cake, incorporated it into an Alsatian goat cheesecake at Bouchon, and now it was time for a new frontier. A new texture.
In my perfect world I would not have sweetened it at all. But I know those who love the taste of plain yogurt are few among the American populace. So, as a compromise, I sweetened it with Agave syrup, both in an attempt to stay away from corn syrup, and to educate my palate on this "new" sugar.