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Wednesday, Mar 2 2011

The Rebel Within

Know it or not, you're living through a golden age of San Francisco pastry. A generation of talented patissiers with the entrepreneurial urge is saying no to restaurant kitchens and working solo, in shops of their own or — because this has always been a cold, cold city for the undercapitalized — at pop-ups or farmers' markets.

Take Tell Tale Preserve Company's William Werner. The ex-Quince pastry chef has plans for his own shop, a space in Maiden Lane, and even an investor, but finds himself stuck on the fly strip of start-up bureaucracy. Thankfully, it hasn't kept Werner from firing up his stand mixer. Tell Tale sets up a stall twice a week at Ferry Plaza, stocks cases at Coffee Bar and Sightglass, and mans Trunk Show, a cafe pop-up-without-end-date at Potrero Hill's Big Daddy's Antiques, where you can score Werner's savory pop tarts and caramel-filled brownie sandwiches, jars of fruit curd and confiture au lait, a sort of dulce de leche. And on Tuesdays and Saturdays, usually — Ferry Plaza market days — he bakes the astonishing savory muffin he calls the Rebel Within ($6).

It's the same Parmesan- and Asiago-cheese batter Werner uses for his savory cake, only studded with little nubs of Boccalone breakfast sausage and — here's the astonishing part — a whole Glaum Ranch egg, poached so delicately that its yolk oozes like thick hollandaise when you cut into it. How does he keep the egg from overcooking as the muffin bakes around it? "It's just calculating the bake so the outside cake is just cooked through," he says, "and it's a matter of cooling it down quickly. It's not as hard as people think." Of course, Werner also has a fancy oven — a Rational CombiMaster — that can both steam and bake at superlow temperatures. It's where he poaches the eggs first, for five minutes, before peeling and embedding them in batter.

Not hard at all.

Tell Tale Preserves Company: Trunk Show at Big Daddy's Antiques, 1550 17th St (at Wisconsin). The Rebel Within is available most Tuesdays and Saturdays at Trunk Show, and at Tell Tale's stall at the Ferry Plaza market.

About The Author

John Birdsall


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