ALBERT KUMIN made eight chocolate bunnies, two chocolate eggs, two chocolate boxes and a woven, pulled sugar basket for Easter, "just in case."
"Just in case something came up, we'd have something," the new pastry chef at the White House explained.
For a man used to supervising 22 pastry cooks in a kitchen where 400 pounds of chocolate are kept in the melting box at all times, making a few bunnies is hardly enough to keep him busy. But, as his fellow White House chef, Hans Raffert, commented, "With him, without Easter bunnies there's no Easter."
And there wasn't one at the White House: The Carters had gone away on vacation. Amy was scheduled to take one of the bunnies with her; the rest of the chocolate was to be melted down. Recycling at the White House is de riguer , so even though Kumin has more leisure time now than he did when he worked 16-hour days as executive pastry chef at New York's dining aerie a top the World Trade Center, Windows on the World, he isn't likely to experiment with fancy desserts if they aren't going to be eaten.
"You can't do all these fancy things all the time here. You run up high food costs," Kumin explained. "If you can't use it, what good is it? The chocolate is one thing. If you don't use it, you can melt it down."
Swiss-born Albert Kumin, one of the most respected pastry chefs in the world, has had enough of mass production. "You have to meet the payroll. You have to produce enough to make the salaries, rents and the company has to make a profit. You have to mass produce." Sometimes that meant going into work at 11 p.m. because "a piece of machinery broke," or at 4 a.m. "because two guys don't come in."
All that has changed now. Kumin hopes to spend the remainder of his career in the usually less-frenzied White House kitchen, working with his friend, executive chef Henry Haller. For his part, Haller is delighted to be working side by side with a man he has known and admired for more than 20 years. "We're more like a big family here. People have been here for many years. It's important that you fit in."
Kumin's days now begin at 7:30 and finish by 4:30, unless there is a large evening function. There is no typical day. "There are never two the same," Kumin says. "There could be three days when I make Danish pastry in the afternoon for the next day. The next day it can be cookies for a big party. "Today," Kumin said in a interview earlier in the week, "the Carters are away and there is no party, so I use it for putting things in the freezer. Next week is very, very busy."
It's taking the 57-year-old chef, who has been plying his trade for more than 40 years, some time to adjust to the saner pace. "Over the years you are going, going. Certainly, I adjust, but it is pretty hard. It's like you are in a newsroom and everything goes click, click, click and then you go in an office it gets quiet." But he added, "It's nice here. I couldn't say a bad word."
Says Raffert, who has gained 10 pounds since Kumin's arrival: "He hasn't tuned down yet. He was tuned for high gear. Here you have to tune down."
Even the dinner last month for 1,300 to celebrate the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was normal by Kumin's previous standards. "We have that on a daily basis in the other place," he said with a smile and a shrug.
That doesn't mean he didn't worry about the dessert, a hazelnut and chocolate mousse, served out on the lawn on a cold and wind March night. "We made a sample. We figured out it should be a 50-to-60-degree day. In the kitchen itself you have control. Outside it was cold like a son of a gun. I was afraid the chocolate might tighten up because it was so cold."
Kumin worried needlessly. Even though the temperatures that night plummeted below freezing, the hazelnut mousse, like all of Kumin's other creations since he arrived at the White House Feb. 1, was a triumph.
Kumin, like Haller, is a perfectionist. "We are from the same school," Haller says. "We care about details. Albert takes as much pride in making a cookie as in making a sugar basket. Each cookie should look the same."
But even Haller is amazed at the speed with which Kumin works: "Albert will say, 'There's a luncheon coming up. I don't have much to do. I'll make a sugar basket.' For some," Haller explains, "making a sugar basket is a day's project. They don't do anything else."
In addition to these fancy specialities, Kumin also makes all of the pastries, the rolls and cheese straws for White House functions. The breads are made commercially. "For really professional bread," he said, "you need a professional oven."
Even though the First Family eats very few desserts, every day some pastries must be made. And there is a large emergency stock for any unforeseen event: in the freezer there are unbaked crescent rolls, puff pastry, dough for Danish pastries, cream puffs, chocolate rolls, coconut slices, brownies and frngipane.The "cookie keeper" contains enough icebox cookies for 200 people.
But almost everything is baked fresh, just as it was in the early years of Kumin's career. From those early days, Kumin has kept his recipes in a large book filled with lined pages. Some off them are his own creations, like the dacquoise and lemon tartes he has already served at the White House. The classical dacquoise-baked meringue layers-is traditionally filled with pastry cream: Kumin fills his with mocha mousse. He still has boxes and boxes of recipes he has never had time to transfer to the book. It's one of the tasks he hopes to get to now.
He certainly isn't going to wait until he retires because he doesn't plan to. "I couldn't. I couldn't just hang around and do nothing . . . twiddle my thumbs. Otherwise I'd get in a fight at home."
These are a few of the recipes Kumin has already made at the White House. As any professional chef, Kumin weighs his ingredients for accuracy. For those without scales, conversions have been made.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE
(12 to 14 servings)
Sponge Cake: 3/4 pint (6 extra large) whole eggs, room temperature 1/4 pint (6 extra large) egg yolks, room temperature 9 ounces (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) sugar 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) cake flour 2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) cocoa powder 1 ounce (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1 ounce butter
Whip eggs, egg yolks and sugar until thick and light in color and soft peaks form. Combine dry ingredients and sift together. Melt butter to lukewarm, not hot. Fold dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture. Then fold in butter. Spoon batter into two 10-inch greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks. Then remove from pans and cool cakes completely on racks. Freeze one cake for later use.
Mousse Filing: 1 pint heavy cream 2 ounces (1/4 cup) orange-flavored liqueur 1 1/4 pounds melted semi-sweet chocolate
Whip the cream until stiff. Melt the chocolate at 100 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer). If it is too hot, the mixture will collapse; if it is too cold, there will be lumps. Fold whipped cream into melted chocolate, working quickly so the chocolate doesn't lump. Fold in liquer.
Sugar Syrup: 4 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar 1 cup water 1/2 orange rind 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liquer
Boil sugar, water and orange rind until sugar is dissolved, to make simple syrup. Remove from heat; remove orang rind and when mixture is cool, stir in liquer. (There is enough syrup for more than two cakes. It keeps in the refrigerator.)
Cut cake into three thin layers. Brush the syrup on each layer with paint brush. Place one layer on plate; cover with mousse filling; top with seconc layer; spoon on more mousse filing; top with third layer. Cover sides and top with mousse. Place in the erfrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes to set. Will keep for one to two days in refrigerator.
(About 6 dozen) 1 pound (3 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons) flour 11 ounces (1 cup plus 6 tablespoons) butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar Pinch baking powder 3 eggs
Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs. Beat in flour to form cookie dough. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into bottom and one inch up sides of 11 by 7 by 1 1/2 inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, until dough is light golden and it begins to firm up. Set aside.
Filling: 1/2 pound butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar 3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar 6 ounces (3/4 cup) honey 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) heavy cream 1 pound pecan pieces
Melt the butter; stir in the sugars and honey. Bring to boil. Cook 2 1/2 minutes. Add the cream; return to boil and remove from heat. Fold in the pecan pieces. Spoon over cookie dough. Place pan on top of a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees about 24 to 28 minutes.Remove from oven and cool in pan. Cut into diamond between 3/4 and 1 inch long.
This is best if made a day or two ahead.
FROZEN AMARETTO SOUFFLE
(12 servings) 5 large egg yolks 3 large whole eggs 6 ounces (2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons) superfine sugar 1 1/2 ounces Amaretto 2 ounces (2/3 cup) broken almond macaroons 1 pint heavy cream
Beat the yolks, eggs and sugar together until very thick and lemon-colored. Whip heavy cream until stiff. Fold amaretto and macaroons into egg mixture. Then fold in cream.
Prepare collar for a 1 1/2 quart souffle dish. Use a large enough piece of aluminum foil to wrap around rim of souffle dish over twice. Grease inside of foil with butter. Attach foil to souffle dish so that 2 inches stands up above rim. The butter will keep foil securely wrapped around dish.
Freeze, at least overnight. If freezer is very cold, zero degrees or less, before serving, place souffle in refrigerator for a couple of hours. If freezer is about 10 degrees, refrigerate souffle before serving for about one hour. CAPTION: Picture 1, no caption; Picture 2, Albert Kumin in the White House kitchen, by Harry Naltchayan