Ask the Chef

Amy Bouzaglo of Amy's Baking Co. Has a Cookbook (Recipe)

As a self-taught home cook turned professional pastry chef, Amy Bouzaglo's perseverance and dedication to her craft is evident in every aspect of her brand and business. Bouzaglo says she and her husband, Samy, aren't satisfied with mediocracy and will stop at nothing to ensure their infamous patisserie and café, Amy's Baking Co., in Scottsdale, Arizona, maintains its reputation. Although the Bouzaglos will eventually retire their brick-and-mortar storefront — made famous by Gordon Ramsay's restaurant rehab program Kitchen Nightmares —  to convert their business into a wholesale operation, Bouzaglo's recipes will persevere through her debut cookbook, Baking With Amy: Baking Up Some Magic!!  

Bouzaglo's book strives to demystify the complexity of high-quality desserts. Offering more than 20 base recipes, such as pastry cream, chocolate mousse, and flourless chocolate cake, that are accompanied by Bouzaglo's favorite culinary memories, baking a dessert from scratch will become a piece of cake as long as you apply yourself.

Bouzaglo discusses the distinct philosophy of her restaurant, her secrets to success, and the base recipes you need to pay attention to in her cookbook. 

How did you teach yourself pastry arts?
When I was 8 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was an artist who taught me to never be afraid of using different flavors or color whenever we were baking, cooking, or painting. I learned from a very early age to work outside of the box and not be afraid to try different things. The worst thing that can happen is, I will fail, but I will try again and apply the lessons I've learned towards a new recipe until I get it perfectly. Eventually, you will get things right if you have the patience. It's just food, and if you know the basics, then a few minor setbacks should not stop you from trying again and again to create a really excellent recipe.

My desserts were much more successful than the professional pastry chefs we had hired in the past, and I fell madly in love with it.

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What's the philosophy behind your bakery and restaurant?
My husband and I have the mentality that people should take their time to enjoy sitting down to have a meal. A lot of people don't have the time nowadays. They're usually in a hurry, and they will just eat whatever is available to them quickly. I think we've gotten away from taking the time to actually savor beautiful, delicious, artisan food. We try to put that back into people's lives instead of just feeding people that are in a hurry. 

How do you develop new ideas for your pastries? 
I'm inspired by different things — it just depends on if I have beautiful batches of fresh strawberries, somebody comes to me with a special request, or if I'm feeling creative and want to go with something I haven't done before. I take inspiration from everywhere.

Why do you think your restaurant has become so successful?
When we first opened the bakery and restaurant, I didn't know that I would be the one who was solely responsible for all of the baking and all of the food. It's been hard to find qualified people that are consistent when it comes to maintaining standards. My husband and I believe consistency is the most important thing about a restaurant. If somebody comes in and orders something today, it should be equally as delicious tomorrow or next year.

I became really frustrated with paying a pastry chef $16 to $20 an hour and not having the desserts be what I wanted. So I decided I wasn't going to hire anyone else and try it myself. My desserts were much more successful than the professional pastry chefs we had hired in the past, and I fell madly in love with it. When I'm in the kitchen, I produce like a beast. I'm extremely organized, and when I work, I don't stop. If I'm going to stay in this business, then I want to be the one who takes care of all the desserts.

Your cookbook has a variety of simple base recipes. Which ones are the most important to understand?
It's so important to learn how to make the perfect chocolate mousse. When I was first learning how to make a mousse, I noticed that a lot of the recipes didn't give you secret details and tips in terms of technique. I've learned from my mistakes as a professional pastry chef and I've included those mistakes in the book so people don't repeat them. I'll give you a good example. 

When you make a chocolate mousse, most of the time you think you have to whip the egg whites until their stiff because you want a firm mousse. For the first ten times that I would make a mousse, I was doing the same ting because a lot of recipes were telling me to do so. And every time I did that, I was creating a mousse that was kind of grainy and a little greasy, and I didn't understand why. Then one time I under whipped the egg whites. I cut them very softly and I folded them into the chocolate mixture — it was the most perfect mousse ever. All it took was that one little technique.

Other techniques matter, too, such as scrapping and saving the vanilla bean pod to flavor the sugar. Or if you want to make the perfect meringue, like a marshmallow meringue for lemon meringue tarts, you don't want to have any kind of moisture near the mixture. If you don't make sure that the beaters are completely 100 percent dry and one drop of moisture gets into your meringue, the meringue will collapse. 

Crème Brûlée
Makes 14 ramekins (4-inch wide by 2-inch deep)

This crème brûlée recipe is perfect all on its own with fresh berries after being dusted with vanilla-bean sugar and then slightly torched with fire using a small handheld blowtorch to create a thin crisp shell of caramelized sugar.

It’s also perfect as a base recipe for ice cream. Simply pour the chilled crème brûlée mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn until thickened. You can spin thin ribbons of Base #1: Caramel Sauce into the ice cream after it has thickened.

This crème brûlée base may also be used as a filling for a cake or a delicious banana tart. For the latter, simply bake the custard in a large cake pan set in a pan of water just as you would small ramekins. Once it has set, allow the crème brûlée to cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Then take a spoon and fill a prepared tart shell with the cooled mixture. Place thinly sliced bananas on top of the tart, sprinkle with sugar, and burn slightly with a small blowtorch. You can do the same thing with fresh berries instead of bananas.

12 egg yolks (reserve the whites for other desserts)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons orange extract
½ teaspoon salt
6 cups heavy whipping cream (do not substitute milk for the cream)
Caviar from 1 vanilla bean (see page 5)


1. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract, orange extract, and salt until the mixture resembles thick ribbons.
*Caution: Be careful to not over-whip the egg yolks. If you do, the crème brûlée will be light and fluffy rather than rich, thick, and velvety.

2. In a saucepan, combine the heavy whipping cream with the vanilla-bean caviar and bring to a simmer on medium high heat until the cream just begins to boil.

3. Remove from the heat and slowly take a ladle of the hot cream mixture and add it to the egg and sugar mixture.
Tip: Adding part of the cream first in this way is called “tempering” your eggs. you need to warm up the egg mixture slowly before adding it to the hot cream. If you add all of the hot cream directly to your eggs, it will cook the eggs, and you will have a scrambled crème brûlée.

4. Add the entire egg mixture to the remaining hot cream in the pan. Turn off the heat and whisk until the mixture just begins to feel thickened. Pour the mixture into prepared large plastic pouring pitchers and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to scrape the entire saucepan to get all of the vanilla bean caviar that is still in the pan.
*Caution: It is very important that you allow the crème brûlée to chill overnight. This step is necessary to allow the mixture to thicken before you bake it in a bain-marie (water bath). If you use the mixture immediately after making it, you will end up with a fluffy crème brûlée. not good ...

5. When you are ready to bake the custard, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place round ramekins in a deep roasting pan and fill the ramekins almost to the top with the crème brûlée mixture.

6. Fill the pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to pour any water into the custard.

7. Bake for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Every oven is calibrated differently, so you may require additional baking time if the crème brûlée has not become firm in the center. Continue to bake it for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. While the crème brûlée does thicken as it sets, it does not set very much, so if you do not bake the crème brûlée until the center is firm when you shake it, it will be a very soft and runny. remember: Bake and Shake!

8. Remove the individual ramekins from the water bath, place on a new sheet tray, and refrigerate overnight.

Chocolate Crème Brûlée:

You may also add one cup (1) of high-quality dark chocolate chips to the custard while it is still hot. Thoroughly mix the chocolate into the custard and refrigerate overnight.

Elevate the cake!

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Gillian Speiser
Contact: Gillian Speiser