Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A (Mostly) Vegan Wedding Dessert Bar

(Mostly)Vegan Dessert Bar

(From top left going clockwise): Shoebox cookies(CabyBakes original recipe), sea glass candy, battenburg cake, Croquembouche(only thing that's NOT vegan!), cake pops, miniature pies in various flavors.

Thanks so much to the Shoemakers for letting us be a part of their beautiful wedding!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pancakes



So I feel like an asshole because I missed my deadline with my editor, Marie, on corn-based, whole-grain, healthful stuff. So here is my chance at redemption - or at least I hope it is.

Corn has a love-hate place in my heart, like spinach artichoke dip. I love it, but I hate it. I love corn's taste and texture and flavor, but I hate what it does. And I love spinach artichoke dip, but I really hate artichokes because they're basically thistles and a huge pain in the ass to clean. I do it, but I don't like it. I usually just end up buying artichoke hearts in that pickle brine stuff or in oil at the grocery store and call it good, but this isn't about that.

Post image for Cornmeal and Currant Pancakes & Paul Bunyan’s Flapjacks
The recipe is down below for these beauties!
I love corn because it has a wonderful sweetness to it. Corn is also interesting because most people think it's a vegetable and serve it as such, but in reality it's a grain, like quinoa or wheat. If you don't believe me, picture a giant wheat stick. Corn grows like grass, and the cool thing about it is that it stunts its own growth in times of drought, but that makes it more expensive for us in those times since it stops its own growing. I would think it's a neat evolutionary thing, if evolution really had anything to do with it. In reality, if we stopped planting corn as we know it and modifying it, it would eventually go back to how it would normally be.

The corn industry is huge. Not only do we use it in its raw form as a food source, we use it to make sugar, starch, as an ingredient in cereals, oils, et cetera. The biggest thing about corn, though, is that it's primary use in the US is to feed cattle. This is a good and bad thing.

Feeding cattle is awesome. But cows are the largest methane producers on the planet, and the concentration of that alone aids in the whole global warming crap. Taking care of the cows is a big deal, and unfortunately not a lot of them are treated the way we think cows should be treated. Beef cattle and dairy cattle are both treated/handled differently, but the point is that they eat LOTS and LOTS of corn. So if we cut out meats - say, one less meat per week, all at once, then the beef industry would suffer. Prices would go down because demand would go down, and they would have a huge supply. Profit losses are big deals in beef, and poultry, and pigs, so if we want to make meat - and corn - cheaper, then it would help if we started cutting animal proteins - little by little - out of our diet.

That being said, I really love corn. I know that I probably didn't do a very good job whetting your appetite for it, but living in Kansas City and seeing all this agriculture and lack of rain and expensive corn around me has gotten me to think a little more globally. Working in the restaurant industry and looking at rising prices of beef, dairy, and corn has gotten me to think more about it. And you guys should, too.

But wait, is this the bait and switch? Or are you going to tell us more about corn?

Blueberries and Pecans make these EVEN HEALTHIER - so you can use extra syrup
Why, yes, audience! I AM going to tell you more about corn! AND other grains! By the way...quinoa isn't actually a grain. It's a seed. I just threw that in there to see if you were paying attention. HAH!

So the benefit of introducing various grains into your diet is actually pretty awesome. Not only are most grains full of awesome fibers to clean your system out(which doesn't exactly explain corn poop, but it doesn't not explain it), but they're extremely versatile when it comes to cooking. Corn is a fabulously versatile ingredient, and can be executed in just about anything, from savory to sweet.

Don't believe me? Ever heard of cocoa puffs? Frosted flakes? Kellogg's anything? They have a lot of corn in them. Also, there is corn ice cream. And corn cake. And if you're ever feeling creative, cornmeal pancakes are an amazingly sweet and wholesome and NON-empty-calorie twist to your regular pancake breakfast. You could look up a cornmeal pancake recipe, or you could just do what I do and use the corn muffin mix you get from the store. Just use three eggs, some oil, and a little bit of milk to get a pancake batter-like consistency. Fry on a griddle with plenty of butter and serve with some breakfast sausage. I like it with cinnamon syrup(which is maple syrup warmed on the stove with a whole cinnamon stick for about 15 minutes). It's an amazing breakfast.

If you're in the mood for whole grain pancakes, simply make your normal pancake recipe with wheat flour instead. The only real difference is that you'll probably have to use a touch more liquid than normal, but please keep in mind that pancakes are a 'quickbread', so make them fast before all that fabulous baking soda dies!

Okay, okay, time for recipes!

This one comes to you from Cook and Be Merry.com! This pancake recipe uses cornmeal, yogurt, and currants. It's just as sexy as Paul Bunyan, only if somebody shaved him a little and put him in a nice suit after giving him a proper shower.

Cornmeal, Yogurt and Currant Pancakes

Serves 4
1 cup all-purpose four
½ cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried currants, soaked in warm water or brandy 10 minutes, drained
1 ¼ cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs
½ stick butter, melted
1. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, then stir in the currants.
2. In another bowl, stir together the yogurt and eggs with a fork, then stir into flour mixture with the melted butter, just until incorporated. (Don’t forget the butter)
3. Heat a lightly greased large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat until hot. Pour ¼-cup measures of batter into skillet in batches, forming 3 ½-inch cakes. Cook about 3 minutes until golden, then turn and cook 1 more minute, or until golden.
4. Keep warm in 250 degree oven if desired while cooking remaining cakes.
5. Serve griddle cakes with warm syrup.


 And now, to end the blog on a humorous note.


http://www.epiclol.com/cdn/pictures/2012/06/372-844-he-made-372-844-pancakes_1338542678_epiclolcom.jpg
Yeah, I don't know either...


Thursday, July 26, 2012

India-Themed Wedding Cakes

This will be another visual blog, similar to the Rainbow Cake blog. I don't know what else to say other than India-themed wedding cakes are fantastic. I mean, really, they are. Do you guys remember that post I did about the desserts from pastry chef Nick Wesemann? He did an India-themed dessert based off of an Iced Mango Lassi. It had a cardamom bisquit, some pistachio elements, frozen yogurt...all the good things.

India has amazing flavor profiles. When I was studying India in my World Cuisine class, the thing that shocked me the most was that the Indian food I've had in my life was absolutely nothing like the Indian food I'd had before. You get new things like 'hot/warm' flavors and 'cool' flavors, versus hot and cool temperatures.  You introduce yogurt as a savory, tangy element - like sour cream only way better. And Indian food isn't always ridiculously spicy. In fact, it is more about balance than anything.

Curry is a fantastic flavor for a cake when thinking about a unique dessert. Yogurt cakes are wonderfully moist, and using yogurt in your frostings and fillings can be fantastic ideas for cakes. Pistachio is a great Indian flavor, as are things like cardamom and mango and coconut. Things like these are amazing flavors and far too often overlooked when desserts are  thought of. But enough of my intro - check out gorgeous photos!


Blue and gold are great, but not necessarily evocative of an India-themed wedding.


Thank you, passionate-cakes.blogspot.com!




Peacocks are a GREAT theme, as are elephants when thinking of doing henna designs.



This is my favorite wedding cake EVER! I love the details and purple ribbon, probably enough to have it for my own wedding someday.

So who else is amazed at these awesome cakes? Henna itself is an artform, and there is no reason you can't incorporate an element like that in your own wedding. Want some more inspiration? Go to Pinterest or TheKnot.com! Happy cake-eating!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy

I'm subscribed to this channel on YouTube called MoleculRFlavors. I would watch their videos and be amused about them. I always thought it was cool, but a lot of work for egg nog or chocolate or whatever. I actually used to think it was kind of pretentious and stupid...until I tried it for myself.

Honestly, I've never been so blown away by food in my life.
Insert picture caption here.

The picture on the right is a peekytoe crab summer roll with avocado puree, soy air, cilantro leaves, and a yuzu vinaigrette. Aside from the soy air(soy sauce + soy lecithin + immersion blender), what else is unusual about this dish?

Well, the rice paper it is wrapped in, for one, is not your average rice paper. It's made by using the water from washing and cooking rice(all white and starch-filled) combined with agar agar and a few other tasty things to make it gel in sheets. We used a big circle cutter to create the 'paper' sheets, which were basically super-thin rice gelatin discs. Fill, roll, serve...that was it. The texture was really amazingly delicious, and it was nice and cool. It also didn't get greasy or slimy like normal rice paper might have when absorbing the fatty goodness from the spicy crab aioli that was binding the crab meat together.

Here's the cool thing about molecular gastronomy: it's not the pretentious crap you thought it was.

I actually would used to think that it's a lot of work for nothing really that special...in fact, I used to think it was a lot of work for something that was just plain weird. But it's not. It's 100%, totally, absolutely not! It's actually a handful of really cool techniques that create something totally new...i.e., cooking.

Being a Chef is all about mastering a bunch of techniques that can be applied to any and every ingredient known to man to create something new. It's about combining flavors and textures, making a new experience. That, in short, is molecular gastronomy. It's techniques plus ingredients plus flavor combinations. It's cooking, at its very base.

Picture caption. Not all of these can be witty, guys.
 Take this dish to the left, for example. Do you know what it is?

No? C'mon, take a guess before I tell you! That's the fun of it!

Still no? Okay, it's a root beer float.

What? No it's not, you crazy ho.

No, seriously! It is! That's vanilla ice cream with root beer pearls. Or root beer caviar. Same difference.

It's a classic dish/snack/night cap that's presented with a new technique in a new way. It's not in a glass with a red and white striped straw or topped with a cherry(though it could be), or is it served with a burger(though it could be). But it has root beer and vanilla ice cream...so it's got the same flavors of a root beer float!

It's made with a technique called 'spherification.' Wanna see what it looks like? Check this video out!


This is a version of what we did. This is obviously with mint and not root beer, but you get the idea. The entire channel has actually a REALLY cool bunch of stuff you can watch.



 

Anyway, the neat thing about molecular gastronomy is how much you can do with it. Encapsulating, spherification, aeration, foams, gellification... It's the new saute, braise, chill, and bake. (Kinda.)
TURTLE
 This is a Turtle Bite. It has flavors of caramel, chocolate, and pecans. The caramel is powdered by making caramel sauce then pulsing it in a food processor with a CRAPTON of maltodextrin, which turns anything you want into a powdery sand. It basically saps out all the fat and liquid out of stuff and makes everything dry...yet keeps the flavors and color. The chocolate is made into a 'jelly cube' which, to be honest, I didn't love. It had such an amazing chocolate flavor, but none of that tasty snap-and-melt quality that is my favorite thing about chocolate...but hey, this technique is awesome! 

Oh, and the pecan is a laquered nut with a beautiful maple sugar kind of syrup thingy. It's tasty and delicious and deep. I think it was salted, but I can't remember, since I only ate six of these things.

I'll find a better graham cracker recipe for you later. This recipe sucked.
And these little guys? Okay, they're s'mores. But how many times can you say you've made your own marshmallow and graham cracker and chocolate jelly before?

Ole'  Space Yeller? How is that a thing???
These dudes are encapsualted pears with grated Chinese Long Pepper and olive oil in eucalyptus gel...accompanied by Nergentoff's notebook. (Her name isn't ACTUALLY Nergentoff, by the way...it's just what she's saved as under my phone's contact list.) This was my favorite dish of the day, because of both technique and flavor profile.

The crunch of the pair could be replaced with a nice crisp apple, and the lemony-tastiness of the eucalyptus gel could be replaced with ginger, or lemongrass, or something else. Instead of olive oil you could use sriracha. You could do anything! And the best part about this kind of thing is that it's really cheap and easy to do...but looks amazing and expensive. It's a neat way to wow guests at a party, or get those picky, awful children of yours to eat vegetables without them thinking they're eating vegetables! Just lie and say they're space food, from the movie "Ole' Space Yeller." (They're kids. To a certain point, they'll believe anything you tell them.)


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The American Pastry Chef

So yesterday in class was pretty awesome. (Sorry I haven't been blogging as extensively as I should, by the way, as finals are coming up so I must concentrate!) Chef Rush's colleague Nick Wesemann of The American restaurant in Kansas City came to show us plated desserts. It was pretty awesome, since this opportunity doesn't come often to most, especially for such a kickass Chef. You would be hard-pressed to find this good of a Pastry Chef anywhere in the Kansas City area, if not the state.

Smoked Strawberry Pie(deconstructed, obviously)
We knew a few weeks in advance, and I think that I was the most-excited out of my group. Savory chefs and Pastry chefs are an entirely different animal, in case you didn't know. There is a mutual respect between the two classes, one would say, as well as a slight confusion and disdain for the other.

A pastry chef I know once said "Everybody likes pastry, and it's science and art that should be respected."

A savory chef I know once said "Those pastry guys wouldn't know a good steak if it hit them in the face."

While I will not name names, I will tell you that both of the chefs said the respective things are both awesome at what they do. With pastry you can take your time(time is actually something needed for a LOT of things like dough proofing, baking, custards setting, chocolate tempering, etc) and with savory there is often a big rush of adrenaline going on all the time. If I'm wrong, please correct me - I'm just making observations that I've seen so far.
another plating example of Smoked Strawberry Pie


I love pastry. My grandfather was actually a baker for a very long time. He ran a bakery for a very long time in Lake Arrowhead, CA, and the family joke is that his Cinnamon Rolls(which you could smell baking ALL over the tiny mountain town) were the clincher that made grandma fall in love with him. It makes sense, since my grandma had been a widow for a long time before she and grandpa met. I think I was three or four when they did meet.

So pastry has always been near and dear to my heart. From Grandpa's bakery to Mom's gourmet cupcake business(one of the biggest reasons I came to Kansas City), I will probably always love it. Come to think of it, when it comes time to take things home from school, I almost always make a dash for the sweets first. I guess it's lucky that nobody in my group really 'likes sweets that much.'

Anyway, Chef Rush sent us all of the recipes we would need for the plated desserts. They were the Iced Mango Lassi, the Smoked Strawberry Pie, and Black Forest Cake. We have three groups and each group picked from those which they wanted to do. I was immediately excited for the smoked strawberry pie, so we got that one. We actually were lucky enough to get a big Doc file of ALL the recipes.

I was super-excited to have all of them, and when I sat down to copy them on notecards for school, I noticed something odd:

No bake times. No temperatures. Simple directions such as "Creaming method" or "Combine all and cook". Most pastry chefs I've learned from have been extremely meticulous and OCD about directions. They usually will walk a person step-by-step through each recipe, because baking and pastry is a science. The next day when Nick came in, total beanpole, all arms and legs(and really hot), I found out:

"I actually started out as a Line cook. I'm not a classically trained pastry chef. I don't bake breads at all, it's just not my thing."

Wait, what?

Iced Mango Lassi(inspired by India!)
Well that explained it. It's actually brilliant if you think about it - savory chefs notoriously write their recipes in weird ways(at least the smart ones do) for one basic reason: Job Security. If someone can't understand your recipes, then that means YOU have to stick around to make delicious food! Makes sense, no?

So we got started doing our desserts. Each plated dessert had, like, eight different components on each plate, but here's the fun thing:

"Instead of doing ten different flavors and confusing your diners, pick, like, three or four main flavors and think to yourself: "Okay, so how many different ways can I showcase these?""

So, for ours, the components were:


Smoked Strawberry Pie
  • ·         Compressed Strawberries
  • ·         Smoked Vanilla Gel
  • ·         Strawberry Fluid Gel
  • ·         Instant Angel Food Cake
  • ·         Honey Crème Brulée
  • ·         Pie Crust
  • ·         Aerated Honey
  • ·         Burnt Milk Gelato

That's cake. From a microwave.
Sure, it's a lot for ONE plate,  but remember that The American is mostly prix fixe(which means fixed price, coursed-out menus that come in six or seven different courses) that has smaller portions.  Our basic flavors, as you can see, were strawberry, vanilla, and honey. The neat thing about all of Nick's recipes is that they are easy and fun things to do. The Instant Angel Food Cake, for example, is baked in a microwave. A MICROWAVE!

It's not what you think. You basically take the batter and put it in something called an isi canister, which you charge with N2O(the same stuff whipped cream cans have) and it instantly "whips" it. You do get super-big bubbles if you don't let it sit for awhile in the fridge, so it's best to let it hang out for awhile for a finer cake result. Once it's ready to use, you pop it in a plastic cup(he likes it because you can just tear away the cup and not worry about the cake too much) and microwave it for about 25 seconds.  It comes out, amazingly cooked, and the neat thing about it is that it doesn't stale as fast, nor does it get that weird pellicle that some things get when cooked in a microwave.

Chef: "Do you have plates like that at your restaurant?" Nick: "No, I just like this plate."
A lot of the things in the desserts are sort of unexpected. Smoked sugar, agar agar, burnt milk... It's a deconstructed strawberry pie with flavors and textures to really give you an experience. It wasn't just our dessert that had all the fun components, either. The Black Forest Cake had chocolate cake, milk chocolate cream, sour berry jam, vanilla sauce, cocoa nib streusel, blueberry whip, iced sweet cream(an ice cream!), torched cherries...

It's all sorts of delicious fun. It's like all the awesome things that a black forest cake should have with a new look. Revamped. Deconstructed. WOOT!

Anyway, what I really want to say about this blog is that pastry is an exciting and accessible thing. It can be beautiful and fun, and have a bit of a sense of humor. I think that pastry can  be exciting and you don't always have to plate compact and high.

Notice the platings on the desserts. Notice that they're sparse and kind of not so 'perfectly' placed. Ever hear of wabi-sabi? It's about finding beauty and harmony and perfection in things that are imperfect and natural. Everything that Nick plated that day was just on the fly. He just kind of picked things up and put them where they went. And that's okay! Not EVERY space has to be filled(something that 1st year culinary students often freak out at) because negative space provides an extra element. It's that extra want of something more.

Did I get a chance to plate something fancy with this? I SURE DID! And here's my attempt:


 I've never actually plated anything like this before. All the components are on the plate and kind of sparsely strung and flung about. I used to think this kind of plating was pretentious. But now I get it! It's just...fun. It's rule-breaking fun! It's about joy and giving your guests a bit of a 'wow' factor in an unexpected way. And isn't being American just that? Not playing by the rules and forging our own way? Sure, while it would be SERIOUSLY awesome to go to France and become a Pastry Chef there, if I end up as an American Pastry Chef someday, I think I'll be cool with it.



Friday, May 4, 2012

First Review for Pancho's Villa! (Familiar restaurant names and faces take residency in Parkville

Familiar restaurant names and faces take residency in Parkville


...is the title of the article "The Pitch" wrote that featured us in it! I'm very excited. Even if he did say our salsa was boring, it's still good to get press.

Heh. Shortest blog post EVER.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sugar Mamma's at Briarcliff

Okay, so let me reiterate - I really don't give a crap about cupcakes. I'm freakin' sick of them. Wondery why? I've explained it all here(GO #TeamSavarin!!!). That being said, I actually like Sugar Mamma's bakery. I like them for various reasons, and also dislike them for a few, too. But I will go on to explain that later on.

First off, their location is nice - right in the hills of Briarcliff off of Mulberry Drive. This is a fun area because it's like Beverly Hills meets The Wild and Wonderful Whites of the Midwest - on the hill is Chanel, where down the hill is patchouli imitation. I love it, to be honest. I love the juxtaposition of Riverside with Red X and the classy Briarcliff Village. I'm probably going to get crap from my boyfriend about what a snob I am for saying such things, but I don't really care because he can be a butthead too. Anyway.

You walk in to the bakery and it's got a GORGEOUS robin's egg blue/black accented decor. Like the kind you'd find in a fancy jacquard fabric. It's like what you imagine a Cupcake Bar should be in a fancy area like that, and it always smells good. It somehow seems to me like it's a perfect setting for "The Real Housewives of Kansas City." Truth be told, there are lots of good cupcakeries in KC. (Is that a word?)

Stole this from their website
So the decor is great, and the staff - at least in my experience - have always been friendly. It's a family-run business, and the people there seem to take it seriously enough, but with that same fun tongue-in-cheek humor that cupcakes have to have. The one thing I love about them is that they have both the regular flavors and their fun off-the-cuff flavors that change. Today, they had a "Taste the Rainbow" cupcake which was vanilla with skittles mixed in. I didn't get that one, but it was extremely tempting. They have everything from a classic Red Velvet to a fun Raspberry Merlot, German Chocolate, or Vanilla Chai. Best part about their cupcake menu is that it is updated just about every day(at least that I've seen) on their website, Sugar Mamma's Bakery.com. Seems like Butterlicious is the favorite flavor of most reviewers I've seen so far on them! (Still haven't tried it yet, though.) In fact, a solid 90% of the people reviewing Sugar Mamma's (both on Urbanspoon and Yelp) seem to love them.

Another awesome thing I like about them is that they serve coffee from The Roasterie, which is a wonderful specialty coffee company that's based here in Kansas City. I love it when local things are supported, and you should, too! Read all about them on their website here. Oh, and another cool thing? They have really great ice cream! I even asked where they sourced it - it was a local-ish place, I remember - but I forgot. Either way, they have good selections, and are also open much later than other bakeries normally are.

I've been there twice, actually - once alone, once with my boyfriend - and haven't necessarily been disappointed, but not yet been wowed, if you know what I mean. And keep in mind, this is probably just because Culinary School has made me such a jaded bitch that only professionals like me would notice the tiny errors or little things they do that keep it from being that extra-wow-over-the-edge kind of thing. Even things like spelling errors or bad kerning or poor grammar on their website irks me. (Truth be told, though, I don't think I'm jaded or a "Grammar Nazi" because I'm bothered by that - I just think that language has rules for a reason, and "daily" is a word that most third-graders should be able to spell... Sadly, nobody noticed.)

For one, some of their decorating techniques are good, and some are kind of haphazardly done; it's usually a small thing that's easy to do, like an not-so-well-tempered chocolate ganache, or a not-so-great piping job on their frosting. Oh, and speaking of frosting? WAY sweet. I mean, diabetically sweet. But let me tell you why that's a good and bad thing:

When it comes to buttercreams, there are generally four types: American/Common, Italian, French, and Swiss. Swiss, Italian, and French buttercreams are very different from the American buttercream that we are all used to, which is that sickeningly-sweet stuff that we sometimes end up pushing off to the side.With our American buttercream, it's just a crapton of butter and sugar with a pinch of salt and a little flavoring in it. Sometimes you can add an egg yolk for color, or egg whites to 'soften' the buttercream's texture. Most people are super-freaked about the health risks of raw egg product with the FDA and othersuch health departments...but we in the Culinary Field know that things will be refrigerated or sugared and any bacteria will probably be killed in the process. So we're not freaked.

Swiss, French, and Italian buttercreams are essentially meringues with butter in it. They take a bit of skill to create properly, and are oftentimes not appreciated here in America, which is sad for many reasons:

Although American buttercreams are fine, they're usually HOLY CRAP sweet. Swiss, French, and Italian buttercreams are sweet but not in an overpowering way. They usually make a textural difference and flavor difference, versus another element of sweet-sweet-sweetie-times. They are buttercreams that are dimensional and interesting, but we Americans like our sweets, for better or worse, so many places just like to stick with the usual Common/American buttercream.

So. What does this mean? It means that the frosting is WAY freakin' sweet at Sugar Mamma's, and it's also a bit heavy and thick...but then again, it's an American buttercream. Kind of just the nature of the beast.

The flavors of the cupcakes themselves are kind of hit and miss. Sometimes they're really fantastic, and sometimes they're a bit subtle. The raspberry merlot cupcake I had was a bit tough and the ganache was average at best - and they did kind of a poor job coating it, to be honest. Their lemon cupcake with lemon curd was tasty, but the texture of the cake itself left a bit to be desired, as it was a bit inconsistent from top to bottom. The frosting was way too thick and sweet for me, and didn't really taste like lemon at all...just was colored bright yellow. The lemon curd they used was actually fairly good, but tasted kind of pre-made versus a fresh curd.
Cake balls and truffles are also on their menu

I have had their coffee in both House brew form and Iced Mocha form, and they were both good. The Mocha was like chocolate milk with coffee and chocolate syrup in it, and that was actually kind of cool...but it wasn't quite strong enough for my tastes. Their chocolate chip cookies are stupid good. Choc-full of good dark chocolate chunks and really chewy and tasty. Nice and tender, and big-sized. I will say, though, that their chocolates look gorgeous in the case - and I can't wait to go back to try them! That, and the lemon bars - which are apparently amazing. (They must be, since I've been in the store twice now and they're always out.)


Sugar Mamma's on UrbanspoonI wouldn't say I like or love Sugar Mamma's bakery, but I definitely don't dislike them.

I can tell you, though, that I like that they're a family business, and I like that they've got a nice big handful of imagination when it comes to their flavors. I mean, who knows? I could just be jaded because I've taken so many pastry classes and my grandfather was a professional baker for years and years and years. The little mistakes I've seen at the shop are probably only things that someone like me would notice. So what am I saying? I'm saying I'm indifferent towards it. I probably won't ever go out of my way for them, but I do like what they do and I like what they have to offer. Either way...

Go check it out for yourself! At very least, go for the coffee - because you know I love coffee.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cereal Milk Custard(Momofuku)

So we were studying Chef David Chang in school last week. He's my new favorite Chef(sorry Alice Waters). I love him so much I have Momofuku on my phone now so I can read it during long flights or waits at the DMV or on my downtime at work. It doesn't look like I'm doing anything suspicious...just like I'm dicking around on my phone. Don't you love that phrase, "dicking around"? I do.

Anyway, I'm actually sitting at the airport right now, and my flight has been delayed twice. I figured that now is a good a time as any to talk about my new favorite Chef. (Also, TSA made me throw away my Vitamin Water. So now I'm all hopped up on over-priced Starbucks. Time to work off that energy!)

David Chang didn't start out as a Chef or as anybody actually interested in the Culinary field. In fact, he majored in Religion. But he spent many years working in restaurants and worked for another Chef I have great respect for - a certain Chef Daniel Boulud - in his restaurant in NYC. Do you know why David Chang is awesome in my eyes? He soon found the fine dining scene pretentious, unapproachable, and overall unsatisfying. So he did his own thing! How awesome is that? Another thing I love is that his book, Momofuku, is hilarious - he actually writes like he's talking to you. I mean, really talking to you. Like you and he are sitting outside a noodle bar having a cigarette and he's just bullshitting with you. I admire that.

Anyway, I don't want to go on and on and on(okay, I kind of do) about how awesome he is. I want to talk about a dish of his that I find to be - quite frankly - fucking ingenious: Cereal Milk Custard.

Okay, what? Cereal milk?

Hey, hey - hear me out!

You know how you wake up on a lazy morning and you pour yourself a BIG FUCKIN' bowl of cereal and watch tv? Enjoy the coffee, watch the birds fly and chirp around outside, look at the sun...the best part about that bowl of cereal is the sugary-sweet milk at the end of it. Slurping that up, wiping it off your chin with the sleeve of your bathrobe...it's just an awesome moment. It's a little moment too taken for granted.

So what did David Chang do? He made it into a dessert - he added gelatin to it and made a freakin' custard dessert out of that shit. And here's what it looks like:

untiss untiss untiss
(Sorry for the picture quality. My hand was shaking with excitement. )

So what you see pictured is the Cereal Milk custard, accompanied by - no joke, this is what he calls it - chocolate-hazelnut thing, avocado puree, and caramelized cornflakes. The cereal milk custard is amazingly smooth and tasty; the chocolate-hazelnut thing(which is basically a bark) is seriously like crack(he even mentions in the book to not make it til you absolutely need it, otherwise you'll eat it all before it gets to the plate), the caramelized cornflakes which add a pleasant crunch, and the avocado puree...tangy and smooth and citrus-y(from the citric acid you add to keep it freshly green) which add an interesting contrast to the dish.

Here's how you make it:

Cereal Milk Custard
6 cups cornflakes
3 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
Generous 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 sheets(8 grams) gelatin(I doubled the amount of gelatin because the original amount doesn't work)

Heat an oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the cornflakes on a sheet pan and toast for about 10-15 minutes, or until crispy-er. You just want to cook them enough to where you can smell them. Let them cool a little to about room temperature, and then combine them with the milk and heavy cream in a big bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to slice up a banana and get a big spoon.

After it's steeped, strain out the liquid and press out as MUCH OF THE MOISTURE AS YOU CAN into a large saucepot. You'll be shocked at how little liquid comes out as compared to before, but trust me, it's all good. Once you have strained it all out, add in your sugar and bring to a low boil, stirring near-constantly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your whisk. Turn off the heat once the sugar has totally dissolved - which shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

There's nothing wrong with creatively marking your goods
Meanwhile, bloom your gelatin in some cold water until it gets to a "jellyfish-like" consistency. Wring out any excess water and - while the milk is still hot - add in the gelatin. Whisk vigorously to ensure that the gelatin is dispersed evenly throughout the hot mixture. Pour/divide into whatever molds you like(we used silicone molds for panna cotta) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before transferring it into the freezer for holding. It can be an hour or so, but it's best to let it chill overnight if you have the option.

To serve, simply take the custard out of the freezer and pop them out of the mold while still frozen and defrost them in the refrigerator on a sheet tray lined with either plastic wrap or parchment paper - NOT wax paper! They need to defrost anywhere from 30 mins to an hour, depending on the size you froze them in. And be mindful that these are delicate - so when you plate them, don't mess around with them. Let them fall where they fall and plate around it.

For the garnishes, this is MY version of the chocolate-hazelnut thing and avocado puree. Keep in mind that I put a large amount for the chocolate-hazelnut thing FOR A REASON. You'll want to eat it all before you get it on the plate...this is called a preemptive strike, folks. Anyway:

Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing
1/2 cup good, dark chocolate(65%-70% is fine), chopped
1/4 cup Nutella
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 generous pinch of kosher salt
a few handfuls of Cornflakes, toasted and cooled

Prepare a parchment-lined sheet pan. And a muzzle for yourself.

Melt everything but the cornflakes over a bain-marie(waterbath/double-boiler) on a LOW-LOW-LOOOOOWWWW simmer. Be gentle. Coddle it. Tell it dirty things. Spread the mixture fairly thin(about a quarter-inch thick) on the parchment using an offset spatula and then sprinkle the cornflakes throughout, creating a bark.  Let it chill in the freezer. Wrapped. Under lock and key.

Avocado Puree
(don't make this til the LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE)
1 avocado, chilled thoroughly
a dash of sugar
a dash of salt
a squeeze of lemon juice

Mash everything together. Pass it through a tamis if you have it.

Serve everything all together on a chilled plate. Enjoy. Sprinkle caramelized cornflakes on top if you like. It's easy enough to make - just toast it in the oven til it's shiny!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pastries that are NOT Cupcakes(Savarin)

So I was going through my morning routine of sitting in my robin's egg blue/cerulean sequened mini papa-san chair and going through my feeds and blogs when I saw one of my favorite blogs, Cupcakes Take The Cake, did a post on "Far from Ordinary" pastries.

 

This made me kind of excited, because although cupcakes are awesome and fun snacks, they're still just cupcakes. They're cake with a paper liner around it, and frosting on top. That's all it is. Quite frankly I've been growing increasingly tired of the cupcake 'movement' and am ready to embrace a new favorite American dessert, but I suppose the time is not yet now.

Anyway I clicked on the link and read through - turns out "Far From Ordinary" was just the name of the bakery and not a description of what was to come. It was cappuccino cupcakes that smelled JUST like a fancy cappuccino in a coffee shop. And that's pretty cool! Aroma is such a powerful tool when it comes to a meal(or dessert in this case), and if you can evoke something in aroma before the first bite is taken, then that's a big win for you!

It got me to thinking, though...even though they're fun and flavorful, it's still a cupcake. It's still just a cake  in a small portion with frosting on top. No real technique or absolute mastery of a skill - I mean cupcakes are great, but anybody can make them. There are certain pastry skills, however, that not just everybody can do.

This is a direct quote from a blog that's quite interesting, called "The Quenelle." What's a quenelle, you ask? Well, technically, it's this kind of poached dumpling thing...but most people think of it as this little beauty:
We call it a quenelle because of its shape. A proper quenelle should have three sides and be even all around. Making them itself is kind of an art. Anyway, onto the quotes:


What makes a good pastry chef? No one in particular asked me, but I feel compelled to ask and then answer my own question.

I will tell you what I think it is. And the answer addresses the technical aspect only. The management part and all the other stuff is not relevant to this answer. It comes down to eight techniques. No more, no less. They are pass or fail.

These are the eight techniques, in no particular order:


Lamination. This includes puff pastry and a yeast risen laminated doughs. Can you execute a Napoleon and a croissant? Are the outer layers flaky and crisp and is the crumb structure regular in its irregularity? Is there any damage to the layers? Is it much lighter than it looks? is it buttery on the surface and does it make a beautiful mess when you break through the surface?

Pate a choux. Not the aberrations and monstrosities that we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Amorphous blobs of soft choux coated in dull condensation-pocked glazes. Can you make an eclair that is evenly tubular and completely hollow? A puff that is round, hollow and even?

Pastry cream. No scorch, no lumps, not overcooked, not undercooked. Proteins: yolks and starch coagulated on point). No pastry cream powders. Is it shiny, smooth and supple?

Brioche. Understand that it is an emulsion first and an enriched dough mixed to full gluten development second. Mix it as such without over-heating it. Is it soft, tender, buttery, airy... pillow-like?

Ganache. Speaking of emulsions. Can you formulate and balance a ganache recipe to fill confections and another for a slab to cut and dip? Do you know the difference between these types of ganache and what they are for?

Temper chocolate. So it shines and snaps. Thin shells in confections (throughout the entire shell, including the base... Is it uniformly thin?)

Thin sheets for chocolate decor. Can you manipulate it and keep it under working control for long periods of time? Not a speck on your coat. Not under your fingernails. Not on the wall or on your work table. Can you harness it?

Make a macaron. Can you mix it to just the right consistency, pipe it all to exactly the same size, let it dry just long enough, let it bake just long enough?

Spoon a quenelle. Ice cream, sorbet and whipped cream or creme fraiche. Small, medium and large. With any spoon.

If you can execute all of these eight items without mistake, with the true quality aspects they deserve, and with relative ease.... Then you are a good pastry chef. If you do seven of them, you are not quite there yet. I wonder if we took all of the pastry chefs we admire and respect, or perhaps do not admire or respect but we hear about a lot and give them awards, how would they fare? How many would pass?

I really, truly want to see any of these techniques be part of the challenges in cooking show competitions. Not who makes the sassiest cupcake. Frankly who gives a shit about cupcakes? Any home cook can make a decent cupcake.

Do these well, and you will succeed, perhaps not financially, but you will know deep down that you are not a hack, and that is one definition of success, which plays into your integrity , self respect and what you are made of There's nothing worse than a hack who doesn't know he (or she) is a hack. Perhaps the only worse thing is a hack who knows he's a hack and does not care he is a hack. God bless P.R. firms, right?
Okay so this is what we're pretty much taught in school. Just so the trolls know, I don't hate cupcakes. I just think they're beginning to become overhyped and we should look to new things! Puff pastry is awesome, but rarely is there a home cook that cares enough to master it...so that's probably out.

Another awesome thing is pies. Mini pies are cute and fun! Remember the blog I actually did about mini pies? Of course you do! Well, if you don't, it's a post called Move Over, Cupcake! So what's a new trend-er to do? SET A NEW TREND, THAT'S WHAT!!!!!!!

So you know what I think should be the next trend of pastry fun? SAVARINS!!!

Now you may be asking yourself, "What the hell is a Savarin?" Oh, I'll feed you, baby birds...

THIS is a Savarin!

Add caption
What the.... THAT? You think THAT is going to be the next big thing?

Yes, I do. And let me show you why.

You can find this on Food Network.com!
 See, a Savarin - also known as the Gateau Savarin - is basically a rum baba. Which means it's a small spongecake baked into a ring mold, soaked in RUM.

RUM.

A CAKE SOAKED IN RUM.

And do you know why else this is cool? The ring mold allows it to be like a BAKED DONUT.

A BAKED DONUT.


A HOT-DIGGITY-DAMN BAKED DONUT.
They can also be edible reading glasses

Who doesn't like donuts? I'll tell you who - terrorists.

So they're spongecakes(the kind of cake that's usually classified/used for cupakes), in a donut shape(who doesn't like donuts), soaked in RUM(insert witty Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow quip here), are small(so you can feel okay about eating one or twelve - er, two) and have a hole so they can be filled with ANYTHING(giggity) your little heart desires.  This could be chantilly(whipped w/ sugar) cream, pastry cream, chocolate, fruit... Anything you can imagine, really.
This opens up a good world of culinary exploration because cakes are awesome and can be made in any flavor...you can now experiment with different types of alcohol(even though I'm sure most pastry purists would tell me its blasphemous) , and lots of different types of fillings.

It's like a cupcake transitioning into a donut. And it's sophisticated! And sexy! And you can have lots of fun with it.

So who's with me? Ready to take down cupcakes? I'm starting a Savarin movement. Follow me on Twitter and tag #TeamSavarin on all your tweets! Let's get this trending! So have fun and happy baking.

Ooh! I almost forgot...you need to know "Well, Kolika, how can I do this savarin thing if I don't know how???"

It's pretty easy to make a spongecake(any recipe will do, but I prefer the one that comes out of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking), and get a good quality rum  to soak it in after the cake bakes and dries out a little. To buy molds, Bing.com has some great ideas/references here. You could also just hit up your nearest Sur La Table(easily my favorite store) and get some of the things you see here.

Have fun! GO #TeamSavarin!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rainbow Cake

Oh my GOODNESS it's so crazy-hard to be vigilant about a weekly posting with the kind of crazy life I have! But I'm pirating internet at the local library at the moment, and rather than listen to people snoring in the comfy chairs or librarians softly 'beeping' in each call number on the books, I'll listen to myself type and my own inner-monologue as I write you a new blog.

For those of you who keep up with me on Twitter, you'll know that I had a photoshoot with Jani Bryson a few weeks ago and I just got the prints today! So it's time to share a few of my favorite prints with my friends, and the subject was on something I've noticed trending a lot recently:

Sprinkles are awesome
Rainbow Cakes!

These are awesome because it combines two things I love: cake and color.

Color theory and design has always been an interesting subject for me. Not only can you get a tiny peek into a person's psyche by what their favorite color is, but you can evoke just about a thousand different emotions by using the correct color combinations or intensities. I love the rainbow, and honestly I don't understand why it's both loved and hated.

"What? People hating the rainbow? NONSENSE!"

No, it' not. Check THIS out. Yeah, somebody actually REFUSED to make a rainbow cake because the customer was gay. Or something. Either way it was really stupid. I realize that this story was awhile back, but the point is that it happened and gay-hating is honestly going back to the Dark Ages as far as intensity goes. (Actually, I take that back since A LOT OF PEOPLE DIDN'T CARE ABOUT BEING GAY BACK THEN AND I DON'T KNOW WHY WE DO NOW.)

By the way, Jesus never said anything about gay people. That's a fact.

Anyway, rainbow cakes are awesome. What is even more awesome is how much fun my fellow bloggers on Tumblr have with making and posting pictures of them. Ready for picture funtime? So am I!

Classic ROYGBIV without the I

This is a twist from the regular layering!

It doesn't look it, but that takes an AMAZING amount of skill to do

Layers are a great way to show gradients
Of course, amongst the awesome amount of layer cakes we find when searching for "rainbow cakes" on Bing or Google or whatever, there are a few that choose to get super-creative with the concept of a rainbow cake. For example, this blogger chose to make a cake in the shape of an actual rainbow, complete with marshmallow clouds! (I would have used a piped meringue, myself, but that's just me!)

Not the best photo quality, but still uber-cool




And what about this blogger? This is a Pega-corn! It's a combination Unicorn/Pegasus, with rainbow wings of awesome!!! And yes, this is a cake. Don't ask me how to make it, because I have no idea.

Ace of Cakes be damned..

Another neat thing I've discovered is that weddings(the ULTIMATE money-maker if you're a baker or cake decorator) seem to go all out when it comes to rainbows. These here are rainbow wedding cakes, for the bride that can't decide what color scheme to go with. (To be honest, this is what might end up happening to me.)

 What baffles me the most, I think, about rainbow wedding cakes is that they're automatically put in the category of gay weddings. I mean, seriously? When did the rainbow become a solely homosexual symbol? If you  like rainbows, you're automatically a fag - and that's really sad.

When I came home after the photoshoot with Jani and sliced myself a piece of the cake, I sat down next to my boyfriend(who was on his computer in the living room) and asked him if he wanted a bite.
This is a classic square-tiered cake with cascading roses in a rainbow!

He turns to me and gets completely wide-eyed and says "That looks awesome!" without a big of sarcasm attached.

"Really?" I ask.

"Yeah, rainbows are awesome." He turns to his buddy G at this point and says "I miss liking rainbows. Why can't I like rainbows because I'm a straight guy? That doesn't seem fair."

And that's when I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life with this man.

Citrus fruits and colorful ribbons are awesome
Sorry, I'm getting off-topic.

The point is that rainbow cakes are awesome, and I was lucky enough to get to shoot some with Jani, who is easily one of the best photographers I know. I brought along my friend Jessica and we had fun doing it. It drove her a little more nuts than me because - as Chefs - we're both trained to work quickly in the kitchen, but with food photography everything must be done very slowly so you can get the right shots. And since I've teased you for awhile on pretty pictures that are NOT of the shoot, here are the ones that we took!

Jani is awesome because she shoots the process from start to finish

While butter is 100% awesome, I personally like oil for cakes just because it turns out SO MOIST

We divided the white cake batter into seven separate ramekins for coloring

Although liquid dyes are fine, gels are superior to use for this kind of project

The colors get more and more intense as they sit, so give them a minute

Grease the pans and preheat the oven BEFORE YOU START MEASURING INGREDIENTS

Doesn't Jess look cute?

The semi-finished product. You can't see the terror of that thing falling over in my face, but I'm good at hiding that kind of thing...

The finished product!
Wasn't that fun? A journey of rainbows and happy times? I can tell you that it was awesomely fun for me. And I'm sorry that I got a little off-topic about the whole gay/fag/rainbow/homophobia thing, but it really needs to be addressed, because rainbows are for everyone.

So have fun making rainbow cakes, you guys! Submit comments or pictures to be featured on my blog!