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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Pastry chef Luana Barboglio eats a pistachio macaron at Rembrandt's Coffee House.

Luana Barboglio, pastry chef for the Bluff View Art District, was born in Italy and raised in Mexico, two countries known for their scrumptious pastries. Consider Italian cannoli and tiramisu or sopapillas dripping with honey or Mexico's beloved tres leches cake.

"Because of my heritage, food was a big deal, so we all cooked together," she says.

But it wasn't until she entered culinary school, the Instituto Culinario of Mexico, that she developed an interest in baking.

Barboglio, a two-time bronze-winning team member in the Culinary Olympics representing the Mexican Olympic culinary team, moved to Chattanooga and began making all of the mouthwatering breads, cookies, cakes and other irresistible confections for the Bluff View Art District in May 2018.

"When my husband and I moved to Chattanooga from Mexico, Rembrandt's Coffee House was one of the first coffee shops we visited. I remember telling him, 'This is where I want to work,'" she says. "I love that they give me the opportunity to be creative."

Here's she talks about her lucky charm and how Mexican food is different in America.

Q: What's one of your favorite things to bake, and why?

A: I love making bread, but my favorite things are French macarons. I love how every time I make them, they are always a challenge. There are a lot of factors to consider when making macarons, like weather and humidity, especially here in Chattanooga. I love feeling challenged even after 13 years of baking.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Pastry chef Luana Barboglio holds up a plate of pistachio macarons at Rembrandt's Coffee House.

Q: Is it hard to resist the urge to sample everything you make?

A: Trust me, after smelling sugar all day at work, the only thing you want to eat is something savory. But honestly, the urge is always there. I'm not a pastry chef just because I love making pastries. I also love eating them!

Q: What's one of your favorite sweets to eat?

A: That's a tricky question. It probably depends on the time of the day. For breakfast, it's danishes, pound cake or Mexican sweet bread. For lunch? Chocolate chip cookies or French macarons. And for dinner, ice cream!

Q: What's the most difficult thing about being a pastry chef?

A: It's definitely the schedule — really early mornings and working on weekends and holidays. It's a very demanding career and also an up-and-coming career. There's a lot of competition and is becoming a really underestimated profession. People sometimes don't understand how much time and money we spend studying and improving our products to stay on the cutting edge and original, as well as the time we spend making a cake or pastry.

Q: Who's the one person you'd like to cook for if you could pick anyone?

A: This is going to sound cheesy, but my husband and my family. I always say my husband is my worst customer because he doesn't really like sweets, so he makes it challenging. My pastries have to be really good for him to eat and enjoy them.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton /Pastry chef Luana Barboglio adds a buttercream frosting to lemon tarts at Rembrandt's Coffee House.

Q: What's the one baking tool you could not work without?

A: Both a mixer and a good oven. And I do have a mini red spatula that I've had since I was a student. I took it to the Olympics both times. It is my lucky charm, but it stays at home because I'm terrified of losing it.

Q: What food is your guilty pleasure?

A: American-style Mexican food, and I'm not talking about Taco Bell. I love the way Americans have taken a very simple thing like cheese sauce and call it queso. We don't have it in Mexico, by the way. Americans put it on top of everything from rice and nachos to tacos and chips, and it's so good!

Q: Complete the sentence. If I hadn't become a pastry chef, I would have been a

A: Probably a nature photographer or a biologist — something related to animals and nature, and trying to make the world a better place through my work.

Q: How is working in the Art District different from working in a regular brick-and-mortar restaurant?

A: As crazy as our schedules can be, they will never be as crazy as a restaurant. We get the opportunity to have our own pastry kitchen where we can create, improve and do our job without the rush of having people actively waiting for a plate.

Here's one of her recipes for home cooks to try.

 

Passionfruit Curd

This can be used as a filling for tartlets, cakes, scones or as a sweet spread for toast. It's also the filling for April's macarons at Rembrandt's Coffee House.

1/2 cup passionfruit puree (homemade or available at Whole Foods)

3 eggs

3/4 ounces sugar

1 sheet of gelatin

3/4 ounces butter

Add passionfruit puree, eggs and sugar into a double boiler, whisk frequently until temperature reaches 170 degrees. Bloom gelatin. (See note.) Add gelatin to hot curd, then add butter. Mix thoroughly, strain, then cover with plastic wrap. Cool in refrigerator overnight.

Note: Blooming means to hydrate and soften, so submerge the gelatin sheet in some cold water for about 5 minutes or until it becomes a malleable, springy, jelly-like mass. Then add it to the passionfruit mixture and proceed with the recipe.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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Pastry chef Luana Barboglio holds up a plate of pistachio macarons at Rembrandt's Coffee House.

 

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