A decade ago, Tali Pinnolis had an epiphany. The 30-year-old baker was working for Finale, a now-defunct high-end dessert restaurant in Boston, when she realized she wanted to combine her love of baking with her enduring interest in art. “Dessert is definitely an art,” Pinnolis told JewishBoston. “It’s not restricted to baking cookies, cakes and brownies.”
Pinnolis cultivated her passion for baking at Johnson & Wales University, a well-known training ground for aspiring chefs, where she discovered the art of French pastry. After graduation, she pursued her culinary interests at The Ritz-Carlton Boston and The Country Club in Chestnut Hill, where she was the pastry chef for four years.
Last fall, Pinnolis decided it was time to open her own pastry business with the goal of offering kosher French pastry desserts. “I wanted to bring my background and expertise to making French-style pastries you won’t always find as kosher,” she explained. “I offer these desserts in pareve and dairy versions.”
In this entrepreneurial phase of her business, Pinnolis secured a residential kitchen permit to work out of her parents’ Newton home. “It’s my cooking space for now, but I’m hoping to grow the business in the coming year,” she said. As for how her venture is going so far, she noted she already has regular customers. “People are eager for the website to come out at the end of the month because it will be easier to see my options and place an order.”
Many of Pinnolis’s baked goods have been inspired by flavors associated with Jewish holidays. She started Beech Tree Sweets just before Sukkot, offering a glazed pumpkin cake with candied pumpkin seeds, an apple-honey frangipane tart and a gluten-free honey ginger cheesecake.
This year, she’s ramping up the traditional Purim menu with bold and modern hamantaschen flavors like chocolate-raspberry cheesecake (recipe below), chocolate salted caramel, cookie dough and s’mores. “The s’mores hamantaschen have a graham cracker dough that is softer than typical hamantaschen dough and goes well with fluff and chocolate,” said Pinnolis. “The cookie-dough hamantaschen have a funfetti dough that has a whimsical feel with the rainbow sprinkles.”
Pinnolis hopes to open her own kitchen where she can expand her offerings and even venture into Passover baking. Wherever her business leads her, her goal will remain: “To create desserts that people have been craving and wanting, but haven’t been able to find in a kosher version.” She added: “I also love the challenge of customizing a dessert, such as making it pareve. The bottom line is that I love making something that someone has not previously had.”
Tali Pinnolis’s Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Hamantaschen
Makes 18 cookies
For Chocolate Dough:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
- Combine all dry ingredients. Set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar together until white and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and milk. Mix until evenly incorporated.
- Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until there are no lumps. Do not over mix. The dough should be soft and sticky.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or up to two days. Use extra flour to handle the dough if it’s too sticky.
For Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
- Whip cream cheese until smooth.
- Stir in sugar.
- Add egg yolk, vanilla and salt. Whip mixture together until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Place filling in the refrigerator if you’re not using it right away.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll out dough to ⅛-inch thick. You can sprinkle flour on your work surface to avoid having the dough stick to it.
- Use an upside-down glass or jar to cut 3 ½-inch circles out of dough. Gather the scraps and repeat until you have used up all the dough.
- Wet the circumference of each circle of dough.
- Place approximately 1 teaspoon of cheesecake filling and 1 teaspoon of raspberry jam into the center of each circle.
- Pinch the dough inwards to form three corners and shape each hamantaschen.
- Bake on a cookie sheet for 7-8 minutes. Cool before serving.
To order hamantaschen from Beech Tree Sweets, email Tali Pinnolis. The bakery’s official website will be live at the end of March.