I would like to dedicate this post to all past, present & future schmooers…
Walk into any professional kitchen, and I am willing to bet a unique language exists, known only to those in that particular culinary establishment. Bisousweet is no different. I was having a meeting last week with a new co-worker, Jen, in the break room when one of the bakers came in and asked a question about schmoo. I quickly gave her the information she needed and turned my attention back to what Jen and I had been discussing. I asked a question, and when she didn’t answer, I looked up. The look on her face said volumes: it was mixture of confusion and surprise mixed with a healthy dose of ‘did I really just hear what I think I just heard?’ Clueless, I asked if she was ok. Her answer? I’m sorry…did she just say…shh-moo? (heavy inflection on the last part of the question).
Ten minutes later, I finished my brief schmoo 101 course. The encounter still makes me chuckle, and so, in honor of all professionally made up baking & cooking terms, I would like to introduce you to Schmoo.
- a professional baking term…it’s definitely legit at this point
- the almond meringue mixture that is hand-piped around the perimeter of each heart cookie at Bisousweet
- a mixture of almond paste, cage-free egg whites and sugar
- the material that causes Bisousweet bakers hand cramps
ex: We need to make the shmoo before we can finish the Linzer Heart Cookies.
ex: Not sure what happened, but this batch of schmoo has lumps in it.
ex: I am not a fan of the smell of shmoo.
- the act of piping the almond meringue mixture
ex: Are you going to schmoo, or should I?
ex: I’m a really good schmoo-er. Are you?
ex: Today we’re going to practice the art of shmooing.
The word ‘shmoo’ has many different spellings, depending on the person holding thein charge of labeling the container. For example, I have seen it written in the following ways:
Many of you know my story of the Linzer Heart Cookie. How I used to purchase these cookies at a bakery down the street after working all day making cookies in a different bakery.
How the pastry chef wrote down the recipe on a scrap piece of paper. How I’ve been making them ever since. What you may not know is the history of the word that is integral to the Linzer Heart… shmoo.
I wish I could remember if that scrap of paper used the word shmoo or not. I cannot remember this vital piece of information for the life of me. What I can recall, however, is that the recipe had three parts: The cookie base. The piped border. The filling. The border is made by mixing together almond paste, egg whites and sugar. The result is a very thick paste that naturally begs everyone to call it schmoo. Ask anyone who has worked with me since 1998 about schmoo, and just wait for the reaction. It’s a love/hate relationship, and the reactions, whatever they are, will most definitely be strong. Love, because a beautifully piped heart cookie can’t help but make the baker happy and proud. Hate, because schmooing tray after tray after tray challenges all, even those bakers who possess the strongest hands and the most patience.
Linzer hearts are the most labor intensive cookies we make at Bisousweet. We make the dough, chill the dough, roll the dough, cut out the hearts, make the schmoo, fill the pastry bag, pipe the shmoo, re-fill the bag, keep piping, hand is about to fall off from piping but tough luck kid…keep piping, get new pastry bag, fill with raspberry preserves, fill center of each cookie with jam, bake, package, eat. Rolling out dough and cutting out hearts is easy compared to schmooing. Shmooing is hard because it requires major hand strength, steady/solid piping techniques, and most of all, patience. Occasionally, a batch of schmoo can be lumpy. There is nothing worse than lumpy shmoo because the lumps clog the pastry tip which require the pastry chef to un-clog/clean the pastry tip. The process can be agonizingly tedious and frustrating. The best schmooers are those who are steady, strong in body and in mind. Schmooing a lot of hearts also can take a toll on the muscles in your hand. Schmooers have hands of steel and probably missed their calling to be a massage therapist.
While some recipes evolve over the years and morph into better variations of the original, schmoo remains entirely untouched. The only change is that one brilliant person figured out that the schmooing experience is greatly improved if the shmoo is warm.
I would love to hear some of your equally professional culinary words….please share!