The Sweet Life: Pastry Chef Brian Mercury Shares His Dessert Toolkit

As the executive pastry chef at Harvest, Brian Mercury knows how to cultivate a first-class last course. Here’s what he relies on to get the job done.

By Leah Mennies | Boston Magazine |

pastry tools dessert toolkit

Photo by Ted Morrison
Styling by Jessica Weatherhead/Team

1. Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery mascarpone cheese
“I’ll use it in mousses in place of whipped cream, because it gives you a really smooth and rich consistency that you can’t get out of heavy cream.”

2. Japanese steel knife
“I got it from Crate & Barrel. Pastry chefs are well known for having dull knives. I’ve gotten more and more into keeping my knife sharp—we try to be precise with cutting.”

3. Taza dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa), made in Somerville
“I live in Somerville, so that’s how I rep my city. It just has such a floral and fruity flavor—it’s what chocolate should be.”

4. Homemade Maine sea salt
“It has a mineraly flavor to it, which makes it spicier in a way. I call it ‘white gold.’ I use it where it will be recognizable and noticeable.”

5. Long pepper
“It’s much more complex than regular pepper, and blends well with rich flavors.”

6. An antique spoon
“It’s nice to have something that has stood the test of time, that you can now salvage and use for another purpose. I guarantee people weren’t making quenelles with the spoon I have.”

7. Hazelnuts
“They’re great as an ice cream base, for making tart shells out of, for toasting, and for garnishing. They have that savory, buttery aspect.”

8. White granulated sugar
“It is crucial in making desserts, and is flexible. It can become caramel, be a sugar syrup for buttercream, and caramelize crème brûlée. It’s more versatile than people give it credit for.”

9. Ateco Offset Spatula
“We use it for moving things from one place to another on sheet pans, we use it for spreading sauces. It has more uses than you think…you can use the tip as a screwdriver.”