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Pastry Chef Alexandra Shinkarenko

Alexandra Shinkarenko is a Pastry chef from Southern Russia. She started creating desserts when she was just 18 years of age. At the age of 25 she has  her own pastry online school and several months ago she published her first pastry book for young chefs. Born in a small city called Belaya Kalitva, despite her young age has already made her pastry online school extremely successful. She came through different difficulties, opened her own pastry shop during the year 2020 and has finally found her place in the world of pastry.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef? You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?
My deep love for desserts started during early childhood. I couldn’t live without eating something sweet, especially when I had stress at school cause I studied really hard. My grandma spent long hours working as a chef and sometimes I visited her to see how she managed everything. I liked her food a lot and I think I really look more like my grandma.
I studied languages at University and thought that I’m going to be an English teacher at school but when I met my future husband I wanted to surprise him and started to bake my first cakes. While I studied at university I also started taking orders for cakes, so I had my own small pastry shop at home. During the end of University years I decided to continue baking and in a year I and my husband opened a small pastry shop.
I went through an extremely tough time in the year 2020 year. We had a lot of work and no time off at all. I didn’t have a lot of people to help me with pastry making and at the shop. I couldn’t exert myself anymore, I was 22, but I looked like a 40 year old woman and then i decided to sell my pastry business as a brand and stopped baking completely.
To be honest it was the most difficult decision ever and for the next 6 months I didn’t do anything, I was emotionally unstable and exhausted, but then I decided to start a new blog on Instagram and share my knowledge of pastry making with others. This is how a new chapter in my pastry life started and I became a teacher exactly as my mom wanted but I teach people to make desserts, not children at school.


Recently I published my first pastry book, at the moment it’s available only in Russia and some more countries, but I hope that in the future my books will be available globally. Looking at my journey I would not have changed anything, because all these mistakes helped me to become a person who I am now. We should not be afraid of making mistakes, it’s just the one of many ways we come through in life. If I would have not opened my pastry shop at 2020 when I was 22, I’m not sure I would be so experienced in the field of pastry production which helps me now to offer consultations to other aspiring bakers.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
As I teach others to bake, my philosophy is to teach easy. I don’t like when it’s too complicated to create desserts because it looks more like art but not like a practical dessert for selling. Most of my students live in small cities and they can’t at times even find some products for making a cake. My philosophy is to create great taste with very few difficult techniques involved. I never forget the fact that my students want to earn money by baking, it’s not their hobby so creating a dessert should be easy to make and should be sold at an affordable price so that people can buy these desserts.
 What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
It’s really difficult to talk about new trends, as they are different in all countries. Speaking about my country- it’s mochi, a  Korean style dessert. The main problem with it is that our chefs try to make it not it’s original form, but to transform it to suit the taste of Russian people. But in my opinion desserts should be in their original form. Another trend which i wish would go away is making of layered cakes. In the process what happens is that you get 10 textures in one dessert and no one can understand what it is actually all about.
 What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
I’m not sure that I have a really distinguished pastry style, because I continue growing and improving my skills every day. This year I traveled to 4 different countries in the pursuit of learning more about pastries and it also changes and evolves my own style. But in general I like simplicity and naturally vibrant deserts. I don’t use a large amount of golden elements and very complicated chocolate designs in my pastries.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product ?
 At home I like simple and healthy food. I can’t live without greens. vegetables and fruits.  I try to combine healthy products at home with sweets that I eat at work or when I go for a walk with friends. So I think I have 80/20 balance : 80 percent is healthy food and 20 percent is something sweet or fat. And I’m sure it’s the best variant as it’s impossible to live a hundred percent ‘clean’ life . We all are ordinary people and sometimes want to drink a glass of champagne and eat a carrot cake
About my favourite dessert, i am a huge fan of almond croissant with almond frangipan, carrot and banana cake during autumn/winters and ‘dough pastry’. I create mostly creamy desserts which is why i don’t have strong wish to eat them, it’s enough just to look at them and taste a little bit while baking.
 What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
My advice to aspiring chefs is ‘don’t be afraid of anything’. If you want to be in this field – just continue all your attempts and do not listen to anybody. Only you know what you want from life, only you know your mot valued dreams and that’s the reason why only some people get what they want, because others care too much about what their relatives and society thinks.
So just go your own way and believe in yourself
Future Plans?
My future plans are rather simple. I want to continue to develop my online pastry school, I hope to translate my classes in English, because there are a lot people, who write to me everyday about it, but my classes are in Russian so far. I want to continue to study, visit other chefs to exchange knowledge, ideas and our experiences. Hopefully next year I will start writing my second pastry book. I have a few offers to be a brand chef in some new pastry projects, but I need to rethink it before i finalize those projects.
Would you consider yourself as an artist? Are you inspired by artists when you create your pastries? When you create different products everyday where do you get inspired from?
I think I’m more of a pastry artist than a pastry maker, because it’s so difficult for me to create one and the same product every day. I need to create new things every time I cook. My inspiration can be other artists in general, just the environment or nature. Inspiration is everywhere, you just need to interpret it into desserts.
The topic of local food, from smaller, specialized and personally known producers, is becoming more important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source?
It’s wonderful, that now we can use products from local producers. I’m a huge fan of Russian brands for pastry making. I use purée, cream, chocolate, almond flour, butter that is made in our country. These brands are : fresh harvest, gp chocolate, melnitsa shop and others . It’s really cool because i can be in contact with them and if something is wrong with the product we ca provide feedback in order to get a better product from them next time.  Buying from local producers also helps to get products at a reasonable price
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations ?
The key/winning feature of my creations is just me and my own view on desserts. We are living in times when people not only look at your product but also look at who you are . And if you are a good person, you work hard, then it is half the battle won already.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
 My most important considerations when crafting my menu are :
1. understanding for whom you are making the particular dessert (from what country are your clients, what they expect from you : something simple or extraordinary?)
2, where (if it’s a small town or big city)
 3. am I making this desert just for fun to create something new?
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
I have never wanted to be a vegan chef, though this year I studied such type of desserts at Jordi Bordas pastry school in Barcelona. I’m sure he is the best in making vegan desserts. His concepts are so structured and clear, that you never need anything else to create new vegan desserts. I enjoyed my time there, but that’s not my type of dessert. I like to make lighter versions of popular creamy desserts, but not vegan ones.
What’s your signature dish?
I’m a big fan of macaroons, but not classical ones. I prefer macaroons with egg white powder only (it’s the best way for huge productions) and with not classic whipped ganaches. My recipe of whipped ganaches are not ordinary, it’s really different proportions than usual ones. my macaroons are creamy, not very airy, perfect for freezing for several months and not too sweet as classic ganaches usually are.
Some my favourite flavours are :
  • -elderberry with lemon
  • – Honey cake with buckwheat flowers and buckwheat honey
  • – Carrot cake with caramelized carrot
  • – Dark caramelized Russian “Borodino” bread with dor blue cheese.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
I’m not sure if this approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food should be translated to all types of chefs. We should not forget that each person has his own point of view so we cannot generalize. If the person want to make only vegan/ plant based food let him do it. But one should not impose their point of view to others and let people decide what they prefer for themselves. .
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I am really proud of my ‘honey cake’ macaroon, because it is inspired by my childhood memories.
It consists of an amazing whipped ganache with buckwheat honey and sour cream ( sometimes it’s also called cream fresh), in the centre – whipped caramel based on demerrara sugar and finished with buckwheat honey crumble. It tastes like sweet and carefree children’s time .
Recipe of Apricot Tonka beans flavour for 1 tart 20 cm diameter:
120 grams butter
240 grams of wheat flour
65 grams of powdered sugar
45 grams eggs
20 grams almond flour
Grind the butter with flour, almond flour and powdered sugar and cold butter. add the egg and mix. Immediately roll out the dough to a thickness of 2.5 mm and put it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. distribute into a 20 cm mold
60 grams butter
60 grams of sugar
60 grams almond flour or ground almonds
50 grams of eggs
mix soft butter with sugar and flour, add egg, combine. Put into tart shell and Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Additionally, you can sprinkle with whole or crumbled almonds before baking.
Apricots in honey:
Drizzle the apricots with honey and bake until soft and the first signs of browning.
Apricot custard with tonka beans:
50 grams cream 33%
100 grams of apricot puree
45 grams sugar
30 grams of yolks
15 grams cornstarch
2.5 grams of gelatin (1 to 4)
45 grams butter
1/2 grated tonka bean
Place the cold puree, cream, sugar, starch, tonka beans and yolks on the fire, bring until thickened, remove from the heat, add the swollen gelatin. Blend the mixture with a blender until smooth along with cold butter. Place in the refrigerator to stabilize for 6 hours. Afterwards, knead the cream and use it in two ways:
1- just beat at low speed with a mixer and set aside in its pure form
2- beat 200 grams of cream until it forms whisk shapes and combine both creams. This option will have a more delicate taste. I use it in the recipe
Apricot gel:
200 grams of apricot puree (store-bought, homemade will be too thick)
30 grams sugar
3 grams NH pectin
Pour sugar and pectin into the puree, bring to a boil, boil for a minute and remove from heat. Cool for 2 hours and before use, blend with a blender until it becomes gel-like and slightly lightened in color.
-apricots in honey+gel
-fresh berries
The shelf life of the tart is short, 24 hours after assembly, no more due to the presence of custard in the composition and fresh fruits



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