Be Your Sweet Self in Bali: Palm Sugar Technique from Pastry’s Golden Boy

by Sean Kenniff
September 2014


  • Room4Dessert
    Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud Bali, Indonesia
    Ubud, Bali 80571
    +62 361 553-2598

Canelé, caramel, crème brûlée, macarons, even cherry pie, these foundational classics have there archetypal color, flavor, or texture because of sugar—the very lifeblood of the pastry kitchen. Pastry sage, scholar, and bespeckled dreamer Will Goldfarb is giving the pastry kitchen and cannon of centuries old technique a transfusion of new life and rocking its very foundation. He’s banishing refined, white, granulated Western sugar and brandishing palm sugar.   

Goldfarb creates beautiful, delicious, idiosyncratic dishes that achieve a certain level of simplicity and authenticity. Nine years after his New York City pastry bar Room4Dessert opened to much cultural and culinary commotion (and seven years after its closure), he’s opened a second incarnation of the innovative Room4Dessert in Bali, Indonesia—part of the world where palm sugar is the norm. He says The Sugar Refinery dessert in which he experiments with palm-sugar based meringues is “an essay on a literary subject transformed artfully with an innovative technique.” While we may not always understand the rarefied mind of Goldfarb, we can examine and understand his inventive, tradition-challenging technique. A technique that he’ll be sharing at next month’s ICC: Cooking Honest, the Power of Authenticity in the Kitchen

The Sugar Refinery 2.0

The Sugar Refinery 2.0

Pastry Chef Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert

Pastry Chef Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert

Goldfarb’s original Sugar Refinery dessert was made entirely by hand—no juicer, no dehydrator, no stand mixer or ice cream machine. The Sugar Refinery 2.0, however, has been in development for six months in Goldfarb’s decked out Bali laboratory, which feeds into bar KU DE TA, restaurant Mejekawi, and now Room4Dessert. It’s an evolving dessert consisting of soursop (a large, acidic tropical fruit), belinjo nut sable, and palm sugar four ways: Toblerone-style, in chantilly, melted, and for a “Balinese” meringue. It took Goldfarb about a year to get the Balinese meringue technique right. “We wanted to make a low-sugar meringue featuring palm sugar, using the extraordinary acidity to create a high, overrun whip-meringue, without loss of stability.”

Goldfarb and his crack team of 16 pastry technicians start the Balinese palm sugar meringue in a blender with egg whites, superfine palm sugar, and water. This trinity is puréed and then transferred to a tricked out (practically self aware) Trittico machine, which “contributes to the success of the technique by controlling the heating and cooling,” says Goldfarb. (A Trittico is a multi-purpose piece of equipment for gelato, pastry, and chocolate.) The meringue base is processed in the Trittico and heated until its temperature reaches 84ºC. Then the temperature setting is flipped and reversed, and the hot base is processed and chilled to -9ºC. The chilled meringue exits the polar vortex and swaggers over to the stand mixer, where it’s immediately whipped into a frenzy. From there, the meringue may be piped into molds or groovy shapes and sent to the blast chiller, where they lie in wait for their entrance into The Sugar Refinery 2.0. The meringue is also spread into rectangles and dehydrated at 43ºC, adding contrast in temperature and texture to the dish.

“I like to use palm sugar because it represents Indonesia,” Goldfarb says. “It’s more flavorful and the low pH allows for greater stability at lower concentrations. It’s also a sustainable, low-glycemic-index sugar.” Goldfarb uses palm sugar from the coconut palm, and for his pastry program he employs it in all its various incarnations, from superfine to syrup. He also does some in-house processing. But the yield is very low, so the team relies on local markets and Bali’s Big Tree Farms for most of its palm sugar supply.                                                
When following his method for the tested and re-tested meringue, Goldfarb advises: “Measure the ingredients carefully and follow the temperature guidelines accurately. The meringue should be light, fluffy, and firm when whipped, and light, bubbly, and evanescent when dry.” 

The Sugar Refinery has been called a Goldfarb classic, but even Goldfarb himself isn’t sure exactly what that means. “I would like to think the political and historical nature of the inspiration [sugar refineries], coupled with the obsessive pursuit of ingredient-based technique, delicate textures, and personal meaning are hallmarks of mine.”

As a singular voice singing the sweet song of his adoptive archipelago, Goldfarb also offers some counsel on cooking honest. “Make something beautiful. Something that’s your own, by refining your technique, listening to your ingredients, and understanding the great chefs who’ve inspired you. Most of all, be yourself.”

Balinese Palm Sugar Meringue:
1. In a blender, combine 210 grams egg whites, 178 grams superfine palm sugar, and 212 grams water and purée.
2. Transfer purée to Trittico machine and process according manufacturers instructions until mixture registers 84ºC.
3. Process again to -9ºC. Transfer mixture to stand mixer fitted with whisk and whip to stiff peaks.
4. For use as with The Sugar Refinery, transfer meringue to piping bag and pipe into twelve 9-centimeter-long cylindrical molds or other cool shaped molds.
5. Freeze and reserve in blast chiller.
6. Spread remaining meringue onto 4-centimeter x 9-centimeter acetate rectangles and dry in 43°C-dehydrator.