By Terry Trucco
He’s a chocolate lover’s dream – a child-size snowman concocted almost entirely from white chocolate (the carrot nose is marzipan). And he greets all who enter The Peninsula hotel through early January.
The holidays are an unofficial bake-off between the city’s big hotels with armies in their pastry kitchens. After sitting on the sidelines, the Peninsula entered the fray last year with the arrival of executive pastry chef Deden Putra, a master of monumental confectionery art.
Putra warmed up in 2012 with two large lollipop reindeer, an eye candy tribute to the fairy-lit reindeer that served as the hotel’s unofficial holiday mascots.
This year, he showcases a year-round Peninsula stalwart, the white-clad pages sporting signature pillbox hats, a look that originated at the hotel’s Hong Kong mother ship.
The inspiration was the hotel’s holiday video in which three Peninsula pages fashion a showman on the roof of the New York hotel and crown him with one of their caps.
For 27 hours, spread over three days, Putra and a team of five pastry chefs worked on the
snowpage. They brushed tempered white chocolate onto Styrofoam half-spheres layer by layer until it was an inch thick. “That strengthened it,” Putra says. Then each half was mated with its other half, piled high to create the body and sprayed with white chocolate.
The tree-branch arms are fashioned from dark chocolate modeling paste and wired invisibly onto the body. The scarf was cut from white chocolate paste livened with red food coloring.
And the hat? Sugar pastilage was rolled out, cut to fit a template and left to dry overnight.
Unlike last year, when the team had to remake Rudolf and friend after a strong gust of wind blew into the kitchen and shattered the candy reindeer, there were no mishaps. “That’s what pastry’s all about. Learn from your mistakes,” Putra says.
The big challenge was putting together the snowpage, the moment when each chocolate-coated half sphere was reunited with its opposing side.
And the easiest part? “Making him smile,” Putra says.
The Peninsula New York, 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street; 212 956-2888.