If you’re an amateur baker, you watch the Food Network, right? And Joshua Livsey, executive pastry chef at Harvest in Cambridge, Mass., is grateful.
Livsey is currently owning the show on “Best Bakers in America” after earning a finalist spot in 2017’s season of “Holiday Baking Championship.” The baking whiz chatted with Dailybreak about how his experiences have shaped his career. Lesson number one? Expect fierce competition.
“This is definitely more of the elite pastry chefs. I’m going up against people with James Beard nominations and people working at five-star resorts,” he said. “It’s just a much more intense competition [than "Holiday Baking Championship].”
Instead of appealing to the amateur bakers watching and learning from the Food Network (like me, hi, hello), as was the case during the holiday-themed show, Livsey revealed that “Best Bakers in America” is more concerned with letting established chefs show off their talent.
“What drew me to this one was the fact that it showcased pastry chefs and what we’re capable of and not so much how can we relate to the home baker,” he said. “This one is more about what people have dedicated their lives to. We’ve definitely been able to see some really cool techniques and flavor combinations.”
Livsey's takes on a volcano cake, bombe Alaska and a royal baby celebration cake:
Livsey explained that even though he’s smack dab in the middle of a hotbed of talented chefs working in Boston -- the city is rife with James Beard-winning restauranteurs -- he feels that competing with other chefs isn’t on anyone’s minds.
“Boston has a really fun pastry community. It’s not so much that we’re competing against each other than [it is] competing against ourselves and tying to elevate everyone around us,” he shared. “I enjoy seeing what other people are doing and being inspired by that.”
And that’s a philosophy he’s brought back to his menus at Harvest. The farm-to-table venue opened its doors over 40 years ago, and Livsey has been able to use the local ingredients at his disposal to replicate some of his impressive creations from the show.
“It was good to have people tell you what to do and give you a framework, and then you just have to create something on the spot. Then I was able to take those ideas and elaborate them,” he said, using the example of a piña colada-themed smash cake that turned into Harvest’s coconut cream pie.
New to Harvest's menu? Poptails, classic cocktails with a yummy popsicle plopped right in. The restaurant concocted popsicle recipes to complement their classic libations (margaritas, mojitos, and espresso martinis included) for a spin on a summertime classic that's all the rage right now.
“We’re always looking for new ideas that keep us relevant without straying from who we are,” he said. His personal recommendation? Their signature mimosa with an orange creamsicle pop, made with blood orange juice sweetened with heavy cream.
As the weather gets warmer, Livsey recommends getting creative with berries.
“Growing up, strawberry picking was a big part of my childhood, so there’s the nostalgic aspect,” he said. “We are just around the corner from strawberry season!”
Finding your favorite combination of berries is just the beginning when it comes to creating the perfect summer dessert. Perhaps you’ll start with Livsey Lemon Pistachio Tart.
Yield: 12-inch rectangle tart
Time: Mix (15 minutes.), chill (1 hour), bake (15 to 20 minutes)
- ⅓ cup pistachios
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 ea large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (for rolling)
- Blend the pistachios and flour in a food processor or blender until fine
- Cream the butter, salt, sugar and pistachio mixture in a mixer fitted with a paddle until light and airy
- Scrape often with a rubber spatula
- Add egg until combined, scrape again
- Add flour and mix until combined
- Wrap dough and chill for at least 1 hour
- Roll dough on a lightly floured surface, transfer to tart pan
- Bake at 350 degrees F with weights for 10 minutes
- Remove weights and bake until done, dough will start to brown
Yield: 10-inch rectangle tart
Time: Cook (10 minutes), cool (1 hour)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 ea lemon zest
- ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 ea egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt
- In a saucepot, combine lemon zest, water and juice
- Whisk in sugar and cornstarch
- Bring mixture to a boil until starch flavor is cooked off (1 to 2 minutes), stirring constantly
- Temper the boiling mixture with egg yolks
- Return to heat and allow eggs to thicken the mixture -- do not overheat and curdle eggs
- Remove from heat and add butter
- Strain mixture and pour into prepared tart shell, place plastic directly on the surface of the tart
- Reserve remaining filling for later use
Yield: 10-in rectangle tart
Time: Cook(5 minutes), whip (5 minutes)
- ½ cup fresh egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Place whites and sugar in a mixing bowl over a double boiler
- Heat and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches 140 degrees F
- Remove from heat, add confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch
- Whip until cool and stiff peaks have formed
- Mix on slow speed for about 1 min to remove large air pockets
- Pipe meringue immediately
- Once meringue is piped gently hit the meringue with a blow torch
Catch Joshua Livsey on “Best Bakers in America” Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on the Food Network for more expert baking tips. I’ll be at Harvest, sipping on a poptail.