Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wasabi Raspberry Cheesecake

I posted a picture, recently, of little mini desserts in shot glasses. I do them for work, and sometimes for parties. They're just the most perfect little portions of something sweet. I love dessert, but it's sometimes not a finger food. Cookies and mini cakes can be great, of course, but sometimes you just want a cup of cheesecake. Which brings me to the subject of my latest blog post. (And, coincidentally, it ties into my last blog post of gluten-free desserts, which the following is!)

This is from "Afternoon Tea"; I change their recipes all the time.
I like to think of myself as the creative type. In reality, I have this deep and crippling fear that I'm ordinary and un-creative and stupid. I want to be creative. But everything I do, someone has probably already done. All of the recipes I do are variations on other successful ones, or--worse--mediocre copies of another man's genius. I use cookbooks all the time. Chef Law dictates not to steal another Chef's dish for your own purposes. I think that's why I focus more on techniques. I feel like I don't plagiarize as much.

To tell you the truth, cooking is a sort of therapy for me. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that no sane person would ever go into the culinary industry. It is not glamorous. At all. It's hard. It's hard, there are long hours, you barely sleep, you get cuts and burns on your arms and hands, and kitchen floors are built on a very slight incline, all to drain water into--well--drains. What this means for you is that you're constantly balancing yourself on a non-level surface, which causes back problems, but also gives you really sick definition on your calves. So, you know, it's got its ups.

The point is that I choose to be in this environment because I feel like any other workplace environment would allow me to become too stagnant. I have a tendency to drag my feet. I have a tendency to sulk. I just broke up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years and I'm now in a weird mental limbo state where I just feel...lethargy. I don't feel hopeless. Not at all. I'm the one that broke it off. And yet I feel lost. So I seek solace in the only thing I understand: Food.

No matter what's going on in your life, you can absolutely know that,without fail, eggs are a thickener in baked goods. Butter is a fat. Sugar is a sweetener. That's what they are. That's what they were yesterday, and what they will be tomorrow, and the day after that. If you add egg yolks to melted chocolate and milk and a little bit of butter, it'll get thick and turn into a custard. Oh, is it ever a comfort! It's like your own little piece of paradise, one that you create. And when you bite into it, it's like you forget--for the tiniest of moments--all of the bad things in your life. The only thing that matters is that custard.

A dish is like a gift to your customer. You fill it with hard work and love. You want to give, you want to feed. But some dishes are just for you. Some dishes are just for the sake of you trying something new. I'm learning that there's nothing wrong with that.

This dish, Wasabi Raspberry Cheesecake, was inspired by Chef Christina Tosi's Liquid Cheesecake from my well-worn copy of Momofuku Milk Bar. It was also inspired by Making Artisan Chocolates by Andre Garrison Shotts, in a recipe for dipped chocolates called "wasabi raspberry." The Chef said that he loved this particular flavor combination, for that zing and heat of wasabi went so well with the tang of raspberry. And the chocolate ganache sounded superb. I didn't make the chocolates, but I took the flavor combination and put it into something I know that I make well: liquid cheesecake. Specifically, Wasabi-Raspberry Liquid Cheesecake:

It actually was really good. Seriously. 

Wasabi-Raspberry Liquid Cheesecake
  • +1 lb cream cheese
  • +2 large eggs, room temperature
  • +1 Tbsp +2 tsp cornstarch
  • +1 1/2 c sugar
  • +2 oz. Milk
  • +1 tsp wasabi powder (you can add more, if you like)
  • +a few dollops of Raspberry compote of your liking(can even be jam)


Using a paddle attachment, cream together the cheese and the sugar on medium speed for three minutes. Scrape down the bowl, and continue beating, adding the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated. Add the wasabi and cornstarch and continue to beat for 5 minutes in medium-low.
Bake at 300 degrees in whichever vessels you choose (I chose shot glasses and ramekins), swirling in as much or as little raspberry as you like, for 8 minutes, or until just set. Bake in 5 minute increments, making sure the tops don't brown. Enjoy!

The best part about this particular recipe is that you can bake it in advance and eat it like pudding. It can also be unmolded(I found that out yesterday) and eaten as a plated dessert! The original recipe states to cook it in a sheet pan/baking pan lined with plastic wrap at a low 300 degrees F. It sounds dangerous, but I've done it before(and so has Christina Tosi), so you should trust us. Just don't let it exceed 300 degrees. The plastic seemed to get a little crisp.

The result is basically like a pudding-ish cheesecake. You can eat it with a spoon, or let it set a little more and eat it with a fork. The wasabi is biting, and the raspberry adds a pleasant tang. The fat of the cream cheese works great against the crazy heat of the wasabi(which should be noted isn't REAL wasabi, just the powdered stuff we get here in America). All in all, it's a really pleasant dish. And it should inspire you to push the boundaries, too. Right now, I'm in a tough spot in my life. Pushing boundaries must be how I cope. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mini Party Parfaits

From top to bottom: Lemon bar parfait with raspberry compote, topped with poached strawberry slices and whipped cream; chocolate fudge cake with lavender caramel, cocoa powder and fresh blueberries; wasabi raspberry cheesecake with pretzel.

These little dudes are also known as tasters, and can be the star of your next party. You can bake mini cheesecakes into little shot glasses (as pictured here), or just buy some of your favorite pastries and give them a makeover. They look fabulous, and they look like they were hard to do!

Honestly, though, they're more time-consuming than difficult, but well-worth the wow factor. I mean, seriously. Little shot glass desserts are SO much cuter than mason jar desserts! And if you're a 20-something like me, you jabber more shot glasses than you do mason jars lying around.

Method:

Crush any baked good into a chunky-ish mess, scoop and layer into a glass vessel (these were shot glasses),.interchanging with found if your choice. Then garnish and serve on a platter, to be the most fabulous host(ess) ever.

Happy Summer, and Happy Entertaining!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Healthy Desserts: A Tribute to Avocados

des·sert
diˈzərt/
noun
noun: dessert; plural noun: desserts
  1. the sweet course eaten at the end of a meal.
    "a dessert of chocolate mousse"
I always liked to think of a meal as a sort of literary device. Perhaps a paragraph, or a short story, or even a sentence. Just a single sentence. The more the courses, the longer your written piece.
 
Say you were hosting a dinner party with friends. Your party would have canapes or passed hors d'oeuvres, maybe cocktails to start. Then a salad or a soup. Then the entree. Then the dessert. The 1st course would be your thesis statement, be that your first bite of a pickled quail's egg on a canape, or a salad of tomatoes and frisee. It would be the start, the indicator of where your diners(readers) would be taken on their journey. Your entree would be your body, the main paragraph or paragraphs of your short story. Your curry or pan-seared duck or roast beef would be your whole story. The dessert, no matter what it is, is your closing statement. Your question mark. Your exclamation point. I don't always think it's proper to end a sentence with an exclamation point--I honestly think it's a bit like laughing at your own joke--but it can be appropriate to do so.  
 
This cake from Succotash was NOT an afterthought.
So often, dessert is an afterthought. There are far too many restaurants, in my humble opinion, that take dessert seriously. Don't get me wrong, it is of the utmost importance that your entrees and salads are tip-top, but dessert is so often shoved to the side. You'll see restaurants shove desserts over to the pantry cook or the sous chef, or (worse) over to Sysco or US Foods to send them cheesecakes or overly sugary and fatty chocolate layer cakes. I don't see too much wrong with it. Just like I don't see too much wrong with teaching a donkey to wear a top hat; there's just not much of a point to it.
 
I actively participate in a Twitter livechat called #Foodiechats, where food lovers can unite and talk about food, what they do with it, and what they like or dislike about it. It happens every Monday night at 8pm EST. I sometimes am not so active with my tweeting, but that's usually because I have work. If Monday nights are slow, however, I get to go home and tweet to my heart's content. The topic of Healthy Desserts came up, somehow, and thus it became the subject of my blog, today.
 
Healthy desserts? Oxymoron, don't you think?
 
I see nothing wrong with making adjustments to your dessert lifestyle by substituting coconut oil for butter(when appropriate), but I don't think that a cake is where you should get your daily fiber intake. So let me just tell you right now that this is not a blog for someone wanting to lose weight. Don't cut desserts. Cut cheetoes or crappy TV dinners or fast food out of your diet before you cut out a well-made chocolate cake. Eat anything you want, just make it yourself.
 
Let me repeat that: Eat anything you want. Just make it yourself. People cook differently from the way that companies do.
 
This flourless chocolate cake, for example: ENTIRELY GLUTEN-FREE
Also, you're probably not gluten-intolerant. There's most-likely no such thing. You either have Celiac's disease, or you don't. The whole Gluten-free thing is more of a fad than anything. You have Celiac's, Gluten ataxia...but you're not gluten-intolerant. It's been debunked by the scientists that discovered it, pretty darn recently. And you shouldn't go gluten-free without talking to your doctor. Actually, you shouldn't try any real diet without talking to your doctor. But you don't have to be on a diet to enjoy gluten-free desserts that were gluten-free before it was cool, or be vegan to enjoy vegan desserts. You'd be shocked as to how many desserts were gluten-free already. And let's not forget that gluten-free doesn't even have to mean healthy. Chocolate is gluten-free. Butter is gluten-free. Pesticides are gluten-free. So is cyanide, arsenic, and anti-freeze. All gluten-free! I realize that cyanide isn't necessarily meant for human ingestion, but you get my point, don't you? Fad diets are dangerous. Unless you're the one profiting off of all of the latest labels. In which case, good on ya, you slimeball.
 
Anyway, healthy desserts, in the mind of this humble Pastry Chef, are simply things that are still that fabulous indulgence, still that wonderful "ahh" at the end of the meal, but not loaded with bacon or chocolate or topped with obscene amounts of whipped cream and caramel sauce. Honestly, the Pastry Chefs get shafted a lot because of how good the meals are when the Head Chefs do their jobs: because if you're so satisfied with your excellently prepared meal, why would you want something else afterwards? You're stuffed! You're "Oh my God so full" right now. Why would you want to eat more?
 
Trust me. You do. Especially if the restaurant you're dining at has an in-House Pastry Chef, you do. So give the poor guy/gal a break and order that cake. Or not. Since cakes aren't often gluten-free.
 
This Fabulously French blog has a vegan chocolate mousse made with avocado instead of eggs. And here's another great recipe, which I snagged from Tumblr:
Head to Tumblr.com for more great recipes and food porn!
 
Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Blackberries and Pistachios
This recipe can easily be doubled to serve more people. The mousse thickens as it refrigerates.
serves 2 to 4
Ingredients
  • 2 very ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted (60% cacao)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup or other sweetener
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh blackberries, for garnish
  • chopped pistachios, for garnish
Directions
In a food processor, add the avocados, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, honey, almond milk, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy. Taste for sweetness and add more honey if necessary. Spoon the mousse into ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The mousse will become thicker as it refrigerates. Garnish with blackberries and pistachios and serve.
 
Want something more than chocolate mousse? Oh, fine, you greedy pig. Try this recipe for Avocado Ice Cream, instead, courtsey of Alton Brown.
 
Avocado Ice Cream
  • 12 oz avocado meat(2 or 3, once pitted)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice(1 large lemon should do)
  • **Zest of said lemon(this is my own personal touch to it)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk(not skim, not 2%, whole milk, if you please)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar(but I have tried this with raw sugar, and it turns out pretty great)
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Pop the first five ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. If you desire, you can add a few cilantro leaves and get funky with it at this point(it adds fiber, a green color, and it just reminds me of my Southwestern roots), as well as a few grinds of black pepper. Transfer this to another vessel(a glass bowl, large-ish tupperware container, whatever) and whisk in the heavy cream until fully incorporated.

Like all ice cream mixtures, this must chill for a decent amount of time. Hot mixtures into an ice cream maker? Not a good idea. Let it chill for at least a couple of hours, or all day if you can, before processing in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. The avocado as an egg substitute sets up fairly quickly, though, so be prepared to let it process for a mere 5 to 10 minutes before ingesting. For a softer texture, go ahead and eat immediately, or scoop into a freezer-friendly container and let it harden for another couple of hours.

The texture is silky-smooth and tastes just like avocados, which is(freakishly) a good thing. But if you don't want a straight-up avocado dessert, use it as a component instead. Things like this were discovered in Culinary School for me when I studied Chef David Chang.

Wait, you say. Avocado as a component in dessert? Yes! Chef David Chang did it, with his Cereal Milk Custard dish,
which is a fabulous panna cotta made from the strained milk used for cereal. This is an idea which is fucking genius, by the way. I mean, seriously--the best part about cereal is the yummy milk you get afterwards! And this motherfucker made it into a dessert? Someone give him a Nobel Prize. Or just tweet at him to tell him how great of an idea it was. And tell him I sent ya.


This was a life-changing dessert, even if it was just done by me in culinary school.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Panna Cotta is gluten-free too. So start googling, guys. Maybe if my boss lets me, I'll give you my panna cotta recipe to try at home! But not for awhile. That Pistachio Panna Cotta of mine is what got me my job and this baby is staying secret for a good long while.

In the meantime, however, please enjoy the recipes. Happy cooking, and happy avocado-eating!

Oh, and follow me on Twitter @WannaBGourmande for more updates, and to ask me questions about desserts. Happy eating!

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gardening!!

I have tiny tomatoes! On a plant that I started from seeds! From SEEDS! I'm so excited, I can't even post a whole blog about it!