There is a method to Canvas Cake pastry chef Choi Yoon-young’s nectarine crumble, a dish that appears deceptively messy at first glance but, after that first bite, proves to be a studied interplay of textures and flavors.
The veteran baker keeps the skins on the summer fruit to give the dessert a “pinkish hue.”
Heaps of brown and white sugar and plenty of butter are used unsparingly to give the topping sprinkled over the juicy nectarines its crisp sweetness, while toasted almonds and Tahitian vanilla elevate the treat to a state of fragrant cream-like richness.
Choi likes to serve it free-form, in a shallow dish, crowned with a dollop of hand-whipped, full-fat cream, so that each spoonful combines gooey fruit with a crisp crumble crust and cool, sumptuous dairy.
“I like to mix textures in dessert,” said the Culinary Institute of America baking and pastry arts alumnus.
That toothsome summer crumble is just one of many sweets that Choi has up her sleeve.
Choi held stints at Bouchon Bakery’s NYC outpost and Mercer Kitchen before returning to South Korea and working for a prominent bakery. Having amassed plenty of experience, Choi was ready to fly solo.
|Canvas Cake pastry chef Choi Yoon-young’s zesty lemon cake sports a fine, fluffy and moist crumb and is chock full of tangy citrus zest. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
This May, she launched Canvas Cake on the second floor of a newly renovated house-turned-collaborative lifestyle shop Atelier and Project.
“I was always interested in what she did,” Atelier and Project art director Kim Jee-eun said of joining hands with Choi.
Choi’s Canvas Cake is one of three shops nestled inside the space that Kim hopes to grow into a gathering of artisans “where people can mingle and connect.”
Choi, too, wants her place to channel a very warm vibe, to act as a sort of “homey pastry kitchen” where she can spin out “hearty desserts” crafted from “fresh ingredients.”
The pastry chef’s repertoire includes American-style treats like savory-sweet pretzel chocolate chip cookies ― an indirect nod, it appears, to the years of her childhood spent in Texas and California.
Choi’s take on chocolate chip pretzel cookies are “crispy on the outside” and “moist on the inside.”
Intent on achieving the ideal salty-to-sweet ratio for her cookies, Choi made them just big enough to accommodate two small, salt-crusted pretzels.
Uber-crisp, buttery edges, gooey chocolate chips and that crunchy salinity of pretzel down the center makes for an addictive treat.
Then there is her zesty lemon cake, a dessert she has been baking since middle school.
Small wonder the deceptively simple-looking buttermilk Bundt cake, chock full of tangy citrus zest, boasts a fine, fluffy and moist crumb, testimony to the years Choi, 36, must have spent perfecting the dish.
Choi is already busy working on some new additions, including a mocha brownie cake along with seasonal treats that will incorporate figs and peaches.
“I like working with fruit,” she said.
Choi’s dessert menu tends to change almost daily, making it wise to call in and check in advance.
Cookies come out when the spot opens, and from noon on, the cakes start to come out of the kitchen, says Choi.
|Canvas Cake is located on the second floor of the lifestyle shop Atelier and Project in Seoul’s Cheongdam-dong. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
● 113-13, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
● (02) 548-3374
● Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, closed Sundays
● Cake by the slice costs 7,000 won to 13,000 won, cookies cost 3,000 won to 5,000 won, coffee costs 6,500 won to 7,500 won
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)