The departure of the pastry chef Amanda Rockman from Balena (1633 N. Halsted, Lincoln Park, 312-867-3888) and the Bristol (2152 N. Damen, Bucktown, 773-862-5555) set the table for the arrival of Sarah Koechling, a French Pastry School graduate who returns to Chicago after a sojourn in California, sweeting at Quince in San Francisco and Patina in Los Angeles.
She brings back a farm-focused approach, born of California’s year-round growing season, and thrifty techniques such as squeezing apple skins and cores through cheesecloth to extract pectins. “I had never done that before,” she says, “the using-all-the-parts-of-the-pig approach to vegetables and fruits, not wasting anything.”
Her desserts have already begun to appear on the restaurants’ menus. At Balena, you can order her pear crostata with apple butter, pastry cream, and crème fraîche gelato. At the Bristol, you can get hazelnut cake with malted-rum ice cream, preserved cherries, and chicory anglaise. The popular Basque cake at Bristol will stay on the menu. Nice for Koechling to have a hit dish like that to build off, but still have room for her own desserts. She can have her Basque cake and eat it, too.