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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Citrus Cookies

Gluten-Free has truly become the buzzword as of late. While Celiac disease is a very real thing, the fad of not eating anything with gluten has taken the nation by storm. While my own feelings on this matter shall remain unknown, you may know that one of my dearest friends cannot do gluten for medical reasons. We celebrated Lughnasadh yesterday, and I baked these for such that occasion. It seemed fitting, you see, with it being the holiday of the 1st harvest and all! So, here are some cookies for my dear friend, Witchy Words!

Cornmeal Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups masa/fine cornmeal/cornflour
  • 1/2 cup polenta/grits
  • 2 oz (1/2 a stick) butter(you can also do coconut oil), warmed and soft, but not quite melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed tight
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest and juice of 3 limes(or lemons)
    • The juice should equal 1/4 cup. If you don't have enough, just add a little water...it'll be fine
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
You can substitute the sugars for turbinado/raw sugar, substitute the egg for a dollop of pumpkin puree or 1 very ripe banana, if you would like...there are many ways to make this work for a special diet.

Practice good mise en place by gathering all of your ingredients first, then preheat your oven to 325 degreees F. Combine all of the dry ingredients. You can blitz them in a food processor, if you have one, which does improve the texture, but is unnecessary. Whip the butter in the bowl of your standing mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a wooden spoon if you don't have a standing mixer. Combine the sugars and add to the bowl, and beat until light and very fluffy. Add in the zest of your limes, now, too. 

Scrape down the bowl and add the egg, beating well until combined. Make sure your egg is completely incorporated before adding the dry ingredients. Add the dry stuff about 1/3 at a time, then mix to combine. The great thing about this particular recipe is that you don't have to worry too much about overmixing...no gluten! No tough cookies!

Add your citrus juice, which should have equaled about 1/4 cup of liquid. This will create a very moist cookie dough. Scoop and drop onto prepared sheet pans. 

Kolika's Special Tip:  For cookies, muffins, biscuits and brownies alike, I like to let the dough chill in the fridge until cool, about 20 minutes, and let the fat in the dough set. This creates an excellently flaky biscuit, a wonderfully moist muffin, or a delicious and gooey brownie. This will also give the cornmeal a chance to absorb the liquid and make your cookie nice and moist. If you like a bit of a dryer, more crumbly texture, though, go ahead and bake them now.

There are many ways you can finish this cookie. For example, you could drop the unbaked balls of batter into a bowl of granulated sugar, roll it around, and bake it like that to create a crackly sugar crust. You could also press a fork into each dough drop criss-cross style for a nice look. You can even bake a whole raspberry in the center of each cookie dough drop for an extra pop of color and fruit. This recipe is EXTREMELY versatile and you can do many things with it to change the flavor without really ruining it. 

Bake in the oven for about 9 minutes, then check for doneness. You might need more or less time, depending on your oven and the humidity in the area. Let these cookies cool COMPLETELY, as they are very crumbly when warm and will fall apart. You can also freeze them and make ice cream sandwiches out of them with some very good vanilla ice cream.

Happy baking and happy eating! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Plating a Composed Dessert

This is going to be a super-brief blog about fancy plating.

Many components go into a plated restaurant dessert, especially if the restaurant is a nice one. This is a dessert I did last night! Check out all of the components.

Let's not forget about the chocolate sauce and toasted almonds, of course...

I'd never made successful macarons before, but these ones were really great! They had a shell, feet, and though they weren't the shiniest, they were still tasty. I think I might have over-baked them, or perhaps the oven was too hot, as some of them cracked a little...but otherwise, I'm very happy with them!

The bonbons were my first ever hand-dipped chocolates, and I think they turned out alright for my first try. I didn't have a dipping stick, so I just ended up using an offset spatula. Basically, it's set ganache and whatever other filling you like, cut into little squares, then dipped entirely in tempered chocolate. Yummy stuff!

They were honestly a little clunkier than I wanted, but that's going to happen when you don't have a dipping fork. I was able to trim the edges a little more nicely, too, with a hot knife. The added raspberries were a final "why not" touch to give it some more height and color. They were a big hit!

Oh, and the galaxy-looking stuff next to it is a chocolate chili bark that I make using citrus sugar, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. I crushed up some of that stuff and folded into the blood orange gelato for the flakes. Chocolate and citrus are best friends, and you should remember that!

As far as decorating plates with sauces, do that first. You can pick up disposable plastic squeeze bottles for pretty cheap at your local restaurant supply store, or at some grocery stores. If you don't want to splurge on the extra trip to the store, just cut out the corner of a plastic ziploc bag and go to town. Remember that flavors come first, then color. I try not to add unnecessary decorations, unless they're relevant to the dish, so don't put a random sprig of mint on a plate unless mint is meant to be in the flavor profile. My flavor profile for this dish was:

  • Chocolate
  • Citrus
  • Almond
  • Raspberry
  • Mint

Here's what the plate looked like before the macarons and gelato, which were the heavier items that I wanted to really stand out.

The citrus berry salad came next, then the macarons, and the gelato last. It turned out pretty great! The people were quite happy with the dessert, and so was I. If you're plating a set dinner for a party, just remember: keep it tight, keep it high. Negative space is also your friend, so don't be compelled to fill absolutely everything on the plate. You can feel accomplished, if you just get out there and experiment! Happy eating, and happy plating!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A (Brief) Love Letter to Staff Meal

Every once in a while, my restaurant does a Staff Meal. This is often when we are slow enough to make some thing decent, yet all hungry at the same time, which is oddly rare. Many restaurants, especially upscale ones, do Staff Meal, also called Family Meal.

When restaurants close between 3 and 5, often to change up from lunch to dinner, they will sometimes gather the entire staff, back- and front-of-house, and feed them all. This gives everyone a chance to sit, to chat, and take a mental break from whatever kind of spanking they'd had in the previous hours.

Usually, staff meal consists of leftovers from a special, a wine dinner, or even just stuff we have too much of. I remember we had a ricotta-mint pasta, once, when we had made just barely too much ravioli filling that we just didn't want to sell again. This could have been because we either needed to buy more things to recreate it for a special, or just wanted to be done with it and move onto the next, new thing. This ricotta-mint pasta was served with the leftover lamb ragout, which was so delicious, especially  because it had been sitting in its own juices for a few days.

Staff meal is not a right, it is a privilege. Many times, hungry FOH(front-of-house) staff slop up everything they can before the cooks can get in and feed themselves, too. This is some rude bullshit right here, because although FOH makes something like $3/hour, they still go home with exponentially more money than line cooks ever will, and the line cooks work such  grueling shifts already without some 20-something English major whining about how she only got $200 today and slurps up all of the food when she probably won't even finish it.

So, basically, if you are FOH, and you're reading this, please, take light portions first. If you want more, come back for seconds, if there are any; but first make sure that everybody gets a chance to sit and eat. Remember, the BOH doesn't have to feed you. They don't even have to do Staff Meal. This is a nice thing the line cooks do in order for the people they work with to sit down for ten minutes and eat.

If staff meal is just something shared with the BOH, that's even more special. Sometimes, we get to really have some fun and show off to our fellow cooks. Oftentimes, when eating versus "tasting", we are a lot less critical. Honestly, I'm happy whenever someone that's not me is cooking for me. Give me lumpy, leftover mashed potatoes left in the steam bath too long over truffle oil-laced puree any day. I like staff meal when it's just kind of thrown-together with a little bit of love; nothing too fancy, yet well-made.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of having some chicken enchiladas, that were so wonderfully familiar and yet so ethereal. The line cooks even rolled them for all of us working on the back lines, doing the prep, and to the dishpit, too.

I love Staff Meal; it's our way of saying to each other, you matter.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!!!

Here are some cookies that I made for the day...

My first real attempt at royal icing/flooding...

All finished! A few were a little messed up, but the flag ones turned out great!

Practice makes perfect!

Happy Birthday, USA!!!