When other people travel the world, they go sightseeing and bring back photographs and souvenirs of their adventures to share with family and friends. When pastry chef Antonio Cerrato travels, he goes to school and brings back adventurous new flavors and techniques to share with his customers.
|Cerrato’s Bakery uses fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, including fresh fruit from nearby farms for its tarts.|
In Italy, Cerrato learned to bake the traditional way, using time-tested techniques and no-skimp formulas. He makes everything at Cerrato’s Pastry Shop, the West Springfield, Mass. bakery he and his wife, Rosa, have owned since 1988, from scratch, including the shatteringly crunchy shells that encase his cannoli cream and the flaky, multi-layered clamshell pastry base for his sfogliattelle.
Both of these classics are filled with ricotta cheese that Cerrato purchases from a small, local supplier. The butter in the bakery’s pastries is a special triple cream produced at a nearby dairy. He gets apples from a neighboring orchard for his fall pies and berries from local farms for his summer tarts.
While Cerrato believes that old-fashioned pastries are timeless, he’s also open to new ideas that he discovers in his travels. That’s why now, amidst the very traditional cream-filled profiteroles and custard-stuffed éclairs, the refrigerated case displays fresh fruit mousses in seasonal flavors, such as strawberry and raspberry, and unusual and downright exotic varieties, such as black currant and mango; and lime or lemon curd tarts topped with fresh blueberries.
“There’s no substitute for fresh fruit,” Cerrato says. “The colors alone give extra ‘wow’ to the display case.”
To maintain the freshness of his mousses without adding preservatives, he applies a light sugar glaze to the exposed surfaces, which also adds a nice shine.
Cerrato prepares some of his mousse and whipped cream desserts in semifreddo, or half-frozen, form (naturally prolonging their shelf life). Two of his most recent semifreddo introductions have been cinnamon coffee with caramel and a spumoni combination of pistachio, strawberry and white chocolate mousses topped with a white chocolate glaze.
“Because you store them in the freezer, they last much longer than refrigerated desserts,” he explains. “But the texture is still extremely creamy.”
Long-time customer favorite tiramisu maintains its just-made flavor and texture integrity in a special European-style lidded serving cup. When it’s time to present the dessert, the lid attaches to the bottom of the cup to transform it into a table-ready serving dish.
Cerrato also is having fun experimenting with fusion flavors, such as stirring green or chai tea into his basic mousse or pear and cardamom into mascarpone cheese. One of his most popular pairings is a bittersweet chocolate ganache with a surprising cayenne pepper kick.
Every year, Cerrato goes back to Italy for an annual gelato, confectionery, pastry and bakery exposition to find out what’s new from suppliers and other international bakers and to fine-tune skills at educational workshops and seminars.
“Many of the ideas and products I’ve found at this exhibition have been at least two years ahead of what I have seen here,” he says. “So what I bring back helps me keep my display cases filled with exciting things that most of my customers have never seen before.”
At one previous show, he was introduced to the “pastry in a glass” concept that has allowed him to add a dynamic new dimension to his product presentations with layered cake, mousse and cream creations prepared in round, square and oval shot glasses.
“I liked the idea of customers being able to take the containers home, but if I used real glass I would have to make the desserts too expensive,” Cerrato says. “Plastic ‘glasses’ have the same visual effect and they allow me to keep my costs–and the prices I charge my customers–lower.”
Customers look forward to Cerrato’s “vacations,” knowing the bakery will soon have new and exciting products.