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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.



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