Baking with Chef Pfeiffer


It was a brutally cold day when Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer and I made Bostock Brioche (aka twice-baked brioche) together. The French Pastry School was closed due to subzero temps and, while there were no signs of students, the staff was working away like busy bees. That’s what happens when you work for someone like Chef Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, MOF, co-founders/owners of The French Pastry School.

Chef Pfeiffer quickly prepped for us to make brioche…in 60 minutes, he did what takes most chefs a few hours. He had the raw ingredients measured and labeled precisely, lining them up perfectly in the order of use. He had the brioche dough ready in every different stage – ready to be proofed, perfectly proofed, shaped, egg-washed and baked. He even had two finished brioche loaves ready to be sliced and ‘bostocked,’ or baked again.

When I graduated from The French Pastry School in 2003, I had no idea that this talented, hysterical and all-around likeable man would be my pastry mentor for the remainder of my life. He was at my pastry store on his hands and knees fixing our chocolate tempering machine when it broke, and he stood over me with a stopwatch as he helped me and my partner, Sunny Lee (who’s now an instructor at the school), train for our appearance on the Food Network Challenge. His words, “If you don’t win, you can’t come home,” echoed throughout our heads, even in our sleep.

Today, Chef Pfeiffer makes brioche with his typical easy-breezy attitude that makes you think there’s nowhere else he has to be…like resuming his countrywide book tour for his incredible book The Art of French Pastry (Knopf, $40) that was nominated for a cookbook award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Explaining a common mistake people experience when making brioche, Chef Pfeiffer shares, “A lot of my students don’t mix the dough long enough. They always want to make the brioche in three minutes – like they have somewhere to be.” Offering a tip, Chef Pfeiffer notes that you can take the finished product (a slice of brioche, complete with almond simple syrup, raspberry jam, almond cream, sliced almonds and powdered sugar), freeze it, then re-flash it in the oven when guests come over for an impromptu breakfast. Just pop them in at 400 degrees for two minutes and voila!

For you sugar addicts who don’t want to commit to the full pâtisserie program, you can dabble in a variety of guest chef classes, like creative sculpted cakes or chocolate candies. Visit

Natalie Probst Photographs

Sarah Levy

About Sarah Levy Imberman

Sarah Levy delighted millions as the owner and proprietor of Sarah's Pastries & Candies, one of Chicago's most popular confectionaries since its opening in 2004. A graduate of Northwestern University and the French Pastry School, Ms. Levy is the author of Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion and the winner of the Food Network Challenge. She’s been featured in USA TodayBetter Homes and Gardens and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. Ms. Levy's now doing business as S. Levy Foods, and is a leader in the airport food concession business.