Hello! We're happy to have you!

Showing posts with label culinary school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culinary school. Show all posts

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pomme Frites

Look me in the eye and tell me that fries aren't amazing. America is the only country I've spent considerable time in, and I know that they're a staple here, but they're definitely a staple in many other parts of the world. From Canadian Poutine to American Chili Cheese Fries, we love us some deep-fried starch. I knew that they originated in France, so imagine my excitement when I learned that making them was going to count as a traditional French dish in culinary school. I thought "I get to actually focus on fries for school? I was so excited that I started dreaming about writing an essay on fries, knowing that I was going to tear it up. Tragically, I didn't write a thesis on fries (my thesis was on American Regional Cuisine) but I still remember learning to make them.

Now, there are several different preparations and all yield different results. Everyone has their own opinions on which potatoes are best, whether to blanch or not, whether to soak or not, whether to freeze or not before frying. I'm going to show you the simple method that I learned in culinary school and you can go from there. Cool?

Here's one thing before we start:

While there are over 4000 different varieties of potato, they can be sorted into two categories: waxy and starchy. A waxy potato will be the yellow or red kind you might find at the grocery store, with skin that's quite thin and that peels easily away after boiling. A starchy potato is, well, rather starchy and stick-to-your ribs, your standard Idaho potato, which is often the chosen kind to use for baking and for pasta applications. Gnocchi, for example, are often made with starchy potatoes. A lot of folks like to use the starchy kind for mashed potatoes as well as gratins. They're sturdy, and that's why I personally think that they're the better kind for fries. That being said, I've seen Gordon Ramsay make a Chip Butty using waxy potatoes, called desiree.

Pomme Frites
yields enough for 2 people, or just 1 if you're feeling a tad hangry

  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 quart frying oil
  • Salt & fresh chopped parsley to taste

Fill up a medium saucepot with cool water. Take two starchy potatoes and peel them, making sure to compost the peels, right along with your coffee grounds and your eggshells. Use a knife to slice thin batons of potato, a little bigger than 1/8" of an inch. You can do 1/4", if you like, just know that cooking is going to take much longer. It doesn't matter what size you choose, so long as your batons are the same size. Place them all in the pot and use your hands to swirl them around. See all of that cloudy white stuff? That's the starch. Drain the water and fill it up again, swirling and rinsing until the water is clear, then bring up to a boil. Since they're so thin, they barely need to cook for more than 1 minute before you take them off the heat and drain them. Lay them flat on paper towels to let dry out a bit while you bring up your oil. Do not have wet fries when you put them into hot oil; you will make it splatter up and you will get hurt. Seriously.

Protip: Use a bigger pot than you think you need. Seriously. I use my 4 qt stock pot when I'm barely going to be using a quart of oil. Oh, and let's talk about oil while we're here!

See, no two oils are alike. There's such a thing as smoke point, which is just a fancy way of saying "hey this is really hot, all the water that was ever in here is now 100% gone and the flavor profile of this is now changing because it's cooking a bit too high. It might catch fire if you keep it going. For real. Because like, I'm oil. And I'm hella flammable."

I use the lard that I render from beef, combined with coconut oil. This is because it's just the fat that I have in the jar in my fridge. Yeah, I have a dripping jar. Yeah, I reuse it and filter it when I can. It's flavor. So whatever you choose, be it shortening or grapeseed oil, be careful and heat it to 350
degrees F. Make sure that you have plenty of room for expansion, otherwise you could start a fire.

Once your oil is hot, gently drop your fries in and fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes for me. I drained it by using a slotted pasta spoon (I couldn't find my spider) and tossed with parsley and salt. You can season it with whatever you want, of course, but I wanted to keep it simple.

You can use steak seasoning, truffle oil, whatever you like!

Serve these fries with a steak, with a burger, in a bowl with cheese and gravy and veggies...the possibilities are endless! Use these fries just as you'd use any fries. They always say that you should eat whatever you like so long as you cook it yourself. So? Wanna eat fries? Make them yourself!

Thanks so much for joining me. Happy cooking and happy eating.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Date Mint Scones

I'm currently in the middle of rebranding my Instagram to reflect my blog versus my business page. I've come into a different job that requires 100000% of my attention, so my farmer's market stall has taken a back seat. I'll still take orders, of course, but when one is called to service, one serves. That being said, pushing things more towards my blog allows me to do this at leisure, which will put me in an entirely different mentality; it's for fun! When things are done for fun, I'm far more motivated to keep up on the maintenance of it. (Piscean attention spans, amirite??)

On a personal note, I've been pushing away my "Yes Man" tendencies and practicing more realistic goals for myself. This means letting go of the farmer's markets so I can have my weekend off, to relax from work. This also means that I have much more time on my hands, and when I bake for fun instead of production, I get to goof around a little more without worrying about breaking even. Just yesterday I got the urge to bake, and so I did! I have, after all, a fully-stocked pantry of goodies to use...

B was going to his grandparent's new apartment to help them set up their new TV. I knew about it late Friday night, but since it was our gaming night, I didn't think to make something for them until that morning. What's quick, though? Why, quickbreads!

Quickbreads are categorized by the speed in which they can be thrown together, without the need for yeast to rise them. Muffins, scones, biscuits, etc., all count as quickbreads. I didn't feel like muffins, so I thought scones would be a nice thing for me, for them, and for later. I ended up making enough for B to take to his grandparents' place, for us to keep, and for me to take some to my friend's birthday party later that evening.

A scone is a wonderful vessel can be sweet or savory, and you can put virtually anything in them. Being the responsible wannabe-homesteader that I am, I wanted something to use up some of the stuff that I might have a little too much of, and when I saw the container of dried dates in my cabinet, I just couldn't resist.  Using what you have is not only being financially smart, but it makes you sometimes be a little more creative. Trying new things in the kitchen and figuring out if something works or not is a sort of exciting gamble that lets you eat your experiment. So what if it fails? You only lost a little flour and sugar; not your house.

I love peppermint!
Dates are a wonderful fruit that have a ridiculous amount of sugar. There's a wonderful company that I've worked with called The Date Lady which makes caramels, syrups, sugars, chocolate spreads, and more from dates! I simply adore their date syrup on pancakes, because it's just as sweet as maple syrup but has so much more depth...and I can feel a little better about it because it's made from fruit. Seriously, check them out!

What goes with dates? Why, mint, of course! Mint grows like a weed, and I've got an honestly ridiculous amount all around my garden, in various locations on my property, too, as I've planted it, forgotten about it, and then seen it pop up randomly the next spring. Mint is a perennial, which means it comes back every year. Mint flowers are also extremely popular among foraging honeybees, so you can definitely feel good about having it in your garden, be it for tea, for baking, for making oils, natural shampoos and air-fresheners...the list goes on and on. Anyway, time to bake!


Date Mint Scones with Honey Glaze

yields 12 scones
Adapted from "The Afternoon Tea Collection"


  • 30 g coconut oil
  • 55 g honey(you can use date sugar, though!)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375 g AP flour
  • 7 g baking powder
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 115 g chopped dates(this is an estimate, as I just grabbed a handful)
  • 10 mint leaves(I used peppermint, but spearmint or apple mint would be fine)
If you can invest in a marble slab, do it. They keep doughs cool
when you need them to be (Hello pie dough) and you can even find them at reclaim stores.
Honey Glaze
  • 120 g powdered sugar
  • 15 g coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Combine your flour and baking powder in the bowl of a standing mixer and fix with a paddle attachment. Mix for about 30 seconds, just enough to make sure everything is combined. Add the honey and the coconut oil, and mix until the mixture looks just crumbly. Add in your chopped dates and fresh mint, then stir for about 10 turns, just to coat everything with flour. Add your coconut milk and that's it! This is an extremely quick recipe that produces a rather wet dough, but you can use a nice ice cream scoop or two large tablespoons to make dollops on a baking sheet, lined with parchment or a silpat mat. You can attempt to roll it out and just cut off pieces that you think you'll want for the size, but I didn't want to risk over-working it with a floured surface. Quickbreads should be just that: quick!

Bake at 425 for about 17 minutes, or until the bottoms are crisp and color on top is set. You can also give the tops a bit of an egg wash, but that's up to you. While everything is baking, clean up and make the glaze. If you're feeling a little crazy, you can even add some fresh mint in to the glaze, for some of that pretty color! Garnishing with candied mint leaves, as well, is a good way to use up that quick-growing mint.

All you do is combine everything with a whisk until it's smooth, and then set in the fridge to chill just enough to be pourable but not solid. Simply let your scones cool for about 10 minutes before you ice them, and you're good to go. 

I hope you've enjoyed the recipe! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and look for my tags, #wannabgourmande! Of course, you can get more info and more fun content on my Facebook page. Thanks for hanging out with me! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spicy Garden Pesto Pasta

I love pasta. I am safely pro-pasta. In fact, if I were to run for President of the United States of America, I'd say "Hello, I am WannaBGourmande, I am pro-pasta, and I am running for president." I'd clearly get elected because there are literally zero qualifications at this point to run the arguably most-powerful country in the world. (I hope I get to look back on this post and laugh.)

I'm an avid gardener, and wannabe homesteader. I sometimes think about changing my name to Wanna B. Homesteader, but that doesn't quite have the fun ring to it as 'gourmande' does. Plus, if my initials ended with "H", I couldn't call myself "Notorious WBG." Ultimately, I don't feel truly right calling myself a homesteader if I'm still living on the grid, but I try every day to live a better, more wholesome life through my food, through the ways I consume products, and the ways I live. I've sort of decided to call myself a lifestyle blogger, without the excessive posts on pinterest and falling into the trope of 'rich girl pinterest'. You know, chia seed smoothies in mason jars with organically-grown kale from the co-op? I want to write about cooking and being a chef and eating well on a tight-ass budget, because that's the truth that I know and have lived. Anyway, on to the eating.

Easy Homemade Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Cool water, as needed

Making your own pasta is rewarding in both the culinary sense and the emotional sense. When making pasta, you can use the dough as a sort of worry stone. You'll have to knead the dough to be quite glutinous(no gluten-free pasta here; sorry, guys) and chewy, so you can use this moment to have your own version of tactile therapy. Go ahead; take the opportunity to imagine strangling your annoying coworker as you work the dough into the counter...because yes, Janet, I'm sure in your day you did just 'deal with it' even though the reality of anxiety and depression is that nobody ever got diagnosed properly, but sure, my generation totally invented mental illness.  But, seriously, there's no Netflix in prison, so just take your frustrations out on the dough and it'll be ready in no time.

You can combine this dough in the bowl of a standing mixer or do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I prefer. Simply pile your flour in the middle of your impeccably clean counter and make a well in the middle. Dump your eggs and oil in the center of the well, and use a fork to sort of break it up and beat it together. Using a dough scraper and your hands, fold the flour over and over each other to mix, then knead. Knead this for a solid five minutes, and remember that it's totally okay that you skipped arm day at the gym because of this.

Wrap your dough and let it rest for about ten minutes. If you have a pasta machine, take the time to set it up now. If you don't, you can easily just use a rolling pin to create long sheets of pasta and cut tagliatelle strips with a knife that you've rubbed with flour. Otherwise, once your resting time is up, roll and use your pasta machine as needed. Don't have these neat beechwood pasta racks? You can use plastic coat hangers(no seriously) or just pile them in 4 oz nests like these for easy portioning. If you don't intend to use them that evening, simply allow them to dry overnight, pop them in plastic bags (with a silica gel pack if you're feeling fancy), and then store them for up to 6 months in your pantry.

Green Garden Pesto
(rough estimates; use what you have!)
  • 2/3 fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup nasturtium leaves
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 9 small hot chile peppers, pan-roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
So here's the only bit of cooking that you have to do for this recipe: blister the peppers. I have so many tiny cayenetta peppers from my hanging basket planter, it's not even funny. You can wait until they turn red or use them green(which I like to do for this recipe), but be advised that they are spicy, so use with discretion if you're sensitive to that! I like lots of peppery bite, so I used plenty. This is easy: just take a saute pan, heat it up - without any fat in it, mind you - and blister the skin of the peppers. Just cook them until they're soft inside, and then remove the seeds by popping off the tops and just squeezing the insides out, like you might for a tube of toothpaste. 

This is the easiest pesto ever - just pop everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. You can add more mint, more basil, more parsley, whatever! I like lots of spinach in this because it gives such a nice sweetness and a bright green color to it. The nasturtium is used because I have lots of it, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. I've got more mint than I have basil, so I used that, as well, but not too much as to prevent it from overpowering anything. You can substitute the nasturtium for tarragon, chives, or olive oil instead of coconut/grapeseed. Use what you have; this recipe is meant to be easy!

For this recipe:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling water. (90 seconds for fresh, 7 minutes for dried)
  2. Drain your pasta.
  3. Toss your pasta in a spoonful of pesto sauce and a dab of butter.
  4. Serve.
Thats. It. 

I served mine tonight with a center-cut pork chop, and some braised swiss chard with corn and leeks. It was a simple meal, and the only thing I really had to buy was the pork chops, which were from a BOGO(buy one, get one free) sale at the Hen House down the street. You don't even need the extra stuff; just a few shaves of parmesan or even a poached egg will do for a light dinner.  This, obviously, can be very easily made vegetarian, and even the most-discerning guests will appreciate something that you grew and made by hand!

A post shared by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

In reality, I spent about $5.49 for a nice meal for two people, considering everything else was already available in my home and garden. I know you won't be able to buy a house with that kind of savings, but you can certainly splurge on one more avocado toast at brunch when you're only spending roughly $2.25/per person, per meal, in your own home. The only real investment here made was time, which took - roughly - 40 minutes from start to finish. It might take the average home cook a hair longer, but it's still a simple meal that's economic, has a teeny-tiny carbon footprint in comparison to going out to a restaurant, and is very tasty. 

Oh, and you don't have to have a big garden to grow the herbs in this recipe; a sunny window box with mint, basil, nasturtium, etc., in it will do just fine. You can garden. I believe in you. You can empower yourself and homestead in a tiny apartment, in your own quiet way. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pan-Asian Burgers

I make no qualms about my ethnic background, especially because there's no use hiding it. I've got a big round face and slender, almond-shaped eyes, and high-ass cheekbones. Strangers have always made it a point to remind me of my ethnicity, often before introducing themselves or asking me my name, so I've used my ethnic make up as armour since a young age. It doesn't help that I was the product of an Asian woman and a white man, and then later raised by the white half of my family, so I had absolutely zero cultural identity growing up, aside from Catholic church services on holidays, golf, and passive-aggressive comments about each other's life choices behind each other's backs.  You know, standard stuff.

Anyway, I love burgers. Like most Americans, the classic ground beef base for a burger is my go-to. I am, however, of a multicultural persuasion, so I always feel the need to give everything a simple twist here and there. Coming into my own brand of adulthood, one of the most-liberating things I've discovered is just not giving a damn about what anyone thinks of me. It especially comes in handy when people make offensive comments about race, especially mine. I've stopped being self-conscious at making a "what the actual fuck" face when someone implies that the burgers from the McDonald's in Japan are made from dog meat. I don't give a frog's fat behind in calling someone out on offensive behavior. I am alive in the time of an American revolution; I feel lucky to be here, and - as the great Lin-Manuel Miranda said: "I am not throwing away my shot."

I'll stop now. On to the burgers.

Pan-Asian Burgers
(yields 5)

  • 1 lb 86% ground beef(I like loin, but chuck is fine, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 Tbsp wasabi sesame seeds(or just 1 tsp wasabi powder and 2 tbsp sesame seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scallion, diced fine, all the way up to the greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cheddar, shredded(B & I are both lactose intolerant, so I used Daiya cheddar shreds for mine!)
Combine all ingredients (except for the cheese) in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Cover a piece of your counter with plastic wrap and take out a round cookie cutter of your desired size. It can be small for sliders, or large for big jumbo-sized quarter-pounders. I had a nice 3.5" round and it worked fine for my needs. 

Using a spoon, fill the mold you've chosen full of your burger mixture, and tamp it down well. These will help you create perfect portions for yourself, get that nice restaurant shape, and ensure that everything will cook evenly. Plus, it's fun for kids to help you with, if you have those sorts of little dudes in your house. 

Protip: If you have picky eaters in your family, invite them to help you cook! A sense of ownership will ease their troubled minds(and tummies) and they'll be more-likely to try something new.

Damn. Look at that sear. 
Heat your saute pan and turn your oven to broil. Lubricate your pan with grapeseed or coconut oil, and let get hot. Salt your patties with kosher salt while the pan is heating; waiting and letting it draw out a bit of moisture is how you get a nice crust on your burgers, so long as your pan is - again - crazy-hot. Once your burgers are in the pan, seasoning side down, season the other side so that you'll get the same effect when you flip them. 

I like a medium-rare burger, so that means about 3 minutes per side. Once all of the burgers are cooked, pop them on a small sheet pan and top them with a sufficient amount of cheese. I'm with a severely lactose intolerant partner, so I use Daiya's products for my cheese substitutes, which are honestly some of the best I've come across thus far. Despite the fact that I am an Asian woman, I am - oddly - not lactose intolerant. (About 90% of East Asians are lactose intolerant.) I can have cheese when I'm alone, but it's basically my dirty little secret that makes me only mildly bloated from time-to-time. Anyway, go ahead and pop those bad boys underneath your broiler for a nice melt.

I make bread for my bakery, so I had a wheat loaf lying around. I cut 1/2" slices and toasted them for strength and crunch. I've got a fully-working garden, so I grabbed some red leaf, nasturtium and curly green varieties for my burger situation. The rain has been crazy lately, and combined with the nice warm sun gives me the biggest nasturtium leaves I've ever seen. Seriously, it covered the whole burger patty! I just love its peppery zing, and it's so visually stunning. I'm in love with its hydrophobic qualities, as well, and take every opportunity that I can to photograph it. 

I mean, seriously. Look at that gorgeous nonsense. 
Burgers are a perfect canvas for doing anything you want. You can make this even more ethnically flavored by omitting the cheese and topping with some kimchi. Turn this burger around by exchanging the oyster sauce for white miso paste, or maybe adding some fresh ginger and fish sauce instead. I promise you that it'll taste great; the majority of the world's population seems to adore these flavor profiles, so there's certainly no harm in giving it a go.

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Peachy Keen Pie

Summer is slowly ending, and the fruits of our summer labors are waning. Peaches, tomatoes, etc., are all nearing the end of their season. The true end will be marked by Samhain, of course, but with Lammas passing, it's reminded me that autumn is coming, and so now is the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

I live my life seasonally, as per my religion, and as per my career. Being a chef has taught me, more than anything, that food is the biggest untapped power we have. The abundance in our country is just absurd, so we don't necessarily have to think about seasonality. We have strawberries in winter, for Goddess' sake. Fortunately, many of us are becoming more and more aware of seasonality, locality, and just being more in tune with the way the world works.

One of my favorite summer crops is peaches. I went a little crazy at the Overland Park Farmers' Market and bought too many peaches. I know, I know, how can someone have too many peaches? You really can't, but I sort of did; I made that fatal error of shopping hungry, despite the Wiener Wagon's best efforts.

I spent $15 on peaches. I only meant to buy the little $5 baskets, but then I realized that I was probably going to eat half of those on the way home, so it would be best to buy more. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the farmers' market with more peaches than anyone should have, and by the time I had gotten home, I was practically slathered in peach juice.

After I crawled out of the shower, I knew I needed to do something with the rest of these peaches. Sure, I could eat them, but I probably shouldn't, at this point. I considered making preserves, but then I realized that I didn't have any free jars, and would have to go out and buy some if I wanted to do that. Once I realized that I still had half a case of puff pastry in my freezer(leftover from the millefeuille), I couldn't think of a better thing to make than a pie. Besides, this gives me an excuse to use the designated pastry station in my new kitchen!

Don't you just love the color?
Peach pie says "summer" to me like no other, and it reminds me of my great-grandmother's peach cobbler. Over the years, I've developed my own take on the pie, and even gave it a name to honor her: Peachy Keen Pie...because for as long as I can remember, whenever asked how she was doing, she would always say "peachy keen, hunky dory." If that's not the most adorable grandma thing ever, I don't know what is.

Here's how to make my Peachy Keen Pie:

Peachy Keen Pie
yields: 1 delicious pie, serves 8

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, frozen - OR your favorite pie crust recipe...here's mine
    • 8 oz vegan butter substitute
    • 14 oz AP flour
    • 2 oz ice water
    • 1 tsp vinegar
      • Cut 'butter' into small cubes and pinch the fat into the dough. Add the vinegar and just enough ice water to come together. Divide in two and chill until ready to use! 
  • 4 large peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
    • You can also use 12 small peaches!
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup local honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp pure almond extract (you can substitute vanilla paste if you have an almond allergy)
Peel the peaches and core them by cutting in half, and gently prying out the pit with your hands. You can keep the pit to plant, or put it under your bed or on your windowsill to attract good fortune and love, if you're the superstitious type. (I popped mine in the four corners of my garden, because(really) how cool would that be if it actually sprouted??) I cut each half into six slices lengthwise, because I really like the way it looks.

I am in LOVE with my new kitchen!

Toss the sugar, spices, salt,  and almond extract together and let it sit for about five minutes, then grab your puff pastry from the freezer. Take this moment now, too, to preheat your oven, if you haven't already, to 350 degrees F. When peach liquid starts to form, add the cornstarch and toss vigorously.

I have a glass pie pan, and it was a little bigger than the one side of my puff pastry, so I rolled it out just a little bit thinner. The trick to pie doughs is that you must be a little rough, but not enough to harm it. Fluff it a little with your fingers from the bottom, once you're done rolling it, to get the glutens to relax. Gently lay your dough into your pie tin, and let it relax. Don't pull it, don't push it, and for the love of God don't stretch it...just let it relax and settle into its natural form, for no less than five minutes. Let it go. Drape it in and let it go. You know how sometimes pie crust will shrink away from the sides of the pan? That's because the dough has been overworked and didn't get enough time to rest. Quite the metaphor, eh?

See that? Just let it do that. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes. It'll naturally form to the pan on its own.
When the dough has relaxed, sufficiently, trim the edges. Keep the scraps for later, as those will become your decoration, should you so choose to utilize it as such...I would, because there's no reason to waste when you don't have to. Pour in your filling, and then give your pie plate a little shimmy-shimmy, to let everything sort of settle naturally. Now comes the fun part.

Take a handful of sugar and spread it on your board like you would spread flour if you were rolling out something. Gather your scraps and mush them all together, then roll them out on the sugar into one uniformly thin sort of disc. Using either a small knife or a pizza cutter, cut strips and lay over the pie in a sort of lattice pattern. If you have more scraps, like I did, repeat the rolling process, using more sugar as needed, and then cutting out shapes using cookie cutters. Get your egg wash ready by cracking an egg into a container and mixing it with a little water to make a sort of thin, consistent liquid.

I had this really pretty sugar maple leaf shape that I scored from Sur la Table some years ago for $0.40, so I used that, and then a small circle cutter for the tiny bits that were leftover. I had almost zero scrap left at this point, not even big enough to make another tiny circle, so I tossed almost no pie dough, of which I am proud. I used the back of a small paring knife to create "veins" on my leaves by freehand. This is an extra step that isn't necessary, but fun, and makes your pie all the more special.

Attach your shapes to the pie by using an egg wash(if you like) and a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, use your finger to sort of apply it like you would apply an ointment or lipgloss. Pop your pie into your hot oven and bake for 55 minutes, turning the pie 180 degrees halfway through the cooking process to ensure even baking, or until the pastry is cooked both on bottom and top. This is where the glass pie plate really helps you out, and why I will continue to recommend glass pie pans to this day.

My amazing stepmother made this towel! Let me know if you want one!

When the pie is cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest on the counter. If you have a wood countertop like I do, place your hot pie on a tea towel to keep condensation from ruining your countertops. If you have a cooling rack, use that. I actually have a cooling rack, but I'm in the middle of a move, so I hadn't quite gotten around to unpacking it yet...

Let it cool for at least an hour before cutting into it. I wouldn't stick it in the fridge to cool, though, as that would create steam, and steam equals a soggy bottom...and nobody likes a soggy bottom. Plus, the pie juices will get a chance to really soak and settle, and it won't turn into a big goopy mess when you cut it.

Now, go, enjoy the fruits of summer. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lemon & Raspberry Mille-Feuille

This is, by far, my favorite wedding cake that I've done so far!
Recently, I had the privilege to do a mille-feuille for a beautiful wedding down at Casa Somerset, which is a beautiful B&B in Paola, KS. The venue is run by some dear friends and colleagues of mine from the ACF(American Culinary Federation) and they were approached about doing a millefoglie, which is an Italian version of a mille-feuille. Since complex pastry isn't exactly the Chef's forte, he passed it on to me, knowing I'd be thrilled to do it. He was right!

A mille-feuille is a French pastry that takes a lot of technical skill. There are distinct layers and flavors, and good technique is a must. This pastry consists of layers of gorgeous, crisp and flaky puff-pastry, alternating with thick and luscious creme patisserie, and some sort of topping. This dessert must have distinct layers, and it must be consumed within 2 hours of creation, at absolute most. It must be cut gently with a serrated knife, using long sawing motions. More than anything, though, this dessert must be respected.

The couple I made this 'wedding cake' for was a beautiful couple, and the wedding was barely 30 people. I just love small weddings, and I think intimate ceremonies with close family and friends are often so much more meaningful than big events.

Aren't these cute???
When doing smaller events, I like to do a little something special for the wedding party. Since I had plenty of puff pastry(I cheated a little and bought the dough frozen to save myself some time), I chose to make some little elephant ears and layer it with lemon curd and pastry cream, making little morsels of delight for each of the wedding party. There were only a dozen, so it was easy to make!

For those unaware, puff pastry is a fantastic dough in which a solid, flat block of butter is folded inside an envelope of dough, and then said dough is rolled and folded, rolled and folded, rolled and folded again until layers upon layers are formed. It is this technique that is called laminated dough, and is the cornerstone of puff pastry, croissants, and all of those flaky delights that you love in the coffee shops you frequent. The stuff is hard to get just right, especially when time is not on your side, so please don't feel bad about buying a convenience product now and again. Besides, there's always time for good practice.

Are you ready to learn how to make this glorious pastry for yourself? It's easy!

Lemon & Raspsberry Mille-Feuille
for the pastry:

  • 3 sheets of puff pastry, frozen
For the creme patisserie
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1 oz butter, cubed, cold
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
    • OR 1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
    • OR 2 tsp vanilla extract PLUS 1 tsp good rum
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
For the lemon curd
  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz butter
  • 3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
To finish
  • 2 clamshells of fresh raspberries
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, for dusting

To ensure that your puff pastry puffs up correctly, make sure that it goes into a hot oven while the temperature of the dough is cold. Cold dough plus hot oven equals butter melting quickly, and creating steam. This steam will cause the dough to rise quickly, and thus give you the volume that you want. Since we don't necessarily want or need volume in this particular application, but we still want layers, you must use two sheet pans, sandwiched atop one another with the dough in the middle. The weight of the top sheet pan will keep the dough from rising unevenly, as well as still give you the layers you want. 

See those visible layers in the puff pastry? That's what you want!
To begin, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Depending on how many sheet trays you have, you'll have to bake in batches. If this is the case, don't take your puff pastry out of the freezer until you're ready to bake. Simply bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and fully done, with each sheet sandwiched between two sheet trays. Remove from the trays and place on a cooling rack to let cool completely. While steam was your friend in your first step, it is your enemy in all following steps.

To make your lemon curd, melt your butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar together. Combine the yolks and whole egg in a bowl with a whisk and ensure it is entirely incorporated. Line a sheet tray or baking dish with plastic wrap and set aside. When the lemon juice mixture has come to a boil, remove from the heat and whisk in about a third of the hot liquid to your egg mixture. Whisk quickly, and then combine all back into that pan. Return the pan to the heat and whisk-whisk-whisk over medium heat until the curd thickens. Remove immediately from the heat and pour into your plastic-lined sheet tray/baking dish. Cover immediately with plastic wrap, touching the plastic to the surface of the curd, so it does not form a skin. Laying it out in a thin layer like this will not only give you a faster cooling time, but an easier cleanup.

To make your creme patisserie, combine your vanilla, salt, a pinch of your sugar, and milk to a heavy-bottomed saucepot. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat, covering with aluminum foil and letting sit for about 15 minutes. Take this time to set up another sheet tray lined with plastic wrap, just like you did for your lemon curd, so you can quickly cool your pastry cream in the same fashion. Now whisk together your egg yolks, remaining sugar, and cornstarch and whisk briskly until it changes into a lemon-colored bowl of goodness. While you can use a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment for this step, I find it unnecessary.

Splash in a third of the warm milk mixture to the eggs, whisk until combined, and then scrape the egg mixture into the pot. Return all of this yummy liquid to the stove and heat over medium-high flame until it reaches 180 degrees F, or it thickens significantly. Remember to constantly whisk, and that the very moment that it thickens, remove it from the heat immediately and get the pot onto a cooler surface, such as your kitchen counter.

At this time, add that cold butter and whisk-whisk-whisk to stop the cooking process. Scrape your yummy pastry cream into your plastic-lined tray and press another layer of plastic on top so that it doesn't form a skin. Let this, and your lemon curd, cool completely before you begin layering.

To begin assembly:

Start with one of your puff pastry layers. Take about a third of your lemon curd and spread thinly and evenly over your first layer. Take a big handful of raspberries and sort of break them up with your fingers, spreading them evenly over the curd. Then take a heavy third of your cooled pastry cream and layer atop the berries. You can use a piping bag for this step, but you don't absolutely have to.

Top with another layer of puff pastry and repeat the process, ending with your third layer of puff pastry. You'll have some curd and some pastry cream leftover, and you may use this as you see fit. You may use this as a final decoration on top, as a glue for your berries(which is what I did), or just leave it as is and finish your pastry with a dusting of powdered sugar. Pastry cream and lemon curd store for up to a week in your fridge, and can both be used as fillings for cookies, cakes...or just eaten plain. (I eat the extra pastry cream like pudding and I'm not ashamed of that.)

Let the pastry "settle" for about 10 minutes before cutting. Again, use a serrated knife and use long, gentle, sawing motions. Pressure is your enemy, as you don't want to crack your gorgeous layered dessert of delicate-ness.

You must consume this pastry within TWO HOURS AT MOST OF ASSEMBLY. Otherwise, the pastry will soak in the moisture from the creams and curds and will go tragically soggy...and you don't want that. If you make this for a party, gather everyone around and have them watch you do it. It's a neat little morsel entertainment to have a bit of dinner theater at a party, unless you have a timeframe in which you'll be consuming it.

I recommend making this for a dinner party, as you'll know your schedule for meals. You can also make this for a birthday, anniversary, or because it's Wednesday. Really, you don't need an excuse to make this.

Sure, it's a bit labor intensive, but it is well worth it. Happy eating!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chicken Soup for a Friend

Nothing warms the soul quite like a nice bowl of chicken soup. Remember the kind your grandmother made? Or your mom? Or your dad? Or your other nondenominational parent-figure? Of course you do!

Soups are an excellent way to practice your knife skills, as well as practice some other basic techniques that shouldn't ever go out of style. My dear friend's husband recently had a surgery to remove some kind of nastiness from his person, so I brought them a container of chicken soup, made with love. Here's how you can make it!

First off, make sure your "station" is clean and organized. The top picture is of my new kitchen! The bottom is my great-grandmother's best stew pot. When making stews and soups, it's best to use a heavy-bottomed pot, as this will hold heat the best, once finally hot. This is good news for soups and stews.

All good soups start with a stock. A traditional French-style stock is made by roasting bones/carcasses and boiling said bones with mirepoix(a 2:1:1 ratio of chopped onions, celery, and carrot), herbs and spices in a big pot. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, then skim off the "scum" to make a very clear stock. I'd made my own stock with the carcass of a chicken I'd gotten the meat off of, a few stalks of lemon grass, and a bouquet of dried basil. In magickal folklore, basil is attributed to the element of Fire; it is also used in attraction of love, peace, and harmony...which is why it is excellent to make for a friend while healing. You can use any herb you like, of course, but I had a whole bunch of Thai basil from the Overland Park Farmers' Market leftover that I'd been itching to use.

What you see above is the stock once it'd been simmering for about 8 hours, then chilled overnight. The fat is from the chicken skin, and more easily skimmed off when cold. It has turned green from the basil, and the stock itself had an aroma of basil. If you don't have the time, of course, you certainly aren't obligated to use homemade stock. Store-bought stock is just fine, but try to go for the low-sodium variety, if at all possible.

In your chicken soup, you can add whatever you want. I wanted to keep it simple, though, and just use my chicken, and some vegetables. On hand, I had carrots, onion, and zucchini squash, so that's what I used. Again, soup is an excellent way to keep your knife skills sharp, if you'll pardon the pun.

See how my fingers are curled? That keeps me from cutting myself!

It's not a perfect square, but that's okay! So long as you've got right angles, you're in good shape.

Cut carrots into manageable pieces of length(I use the length of my index finger) and then square them off by cutting along the length to create flat sides. Mine weren't perfect, but they worked. In professional kitchens, you save those scrap pieces for stocks, but I just put mine in the compost bin for my garden, as I wasn't sure when I was going to make another stock. If you do garden, keep in mind that you shouldn't use any animal bones...not so much that it's bad of the dirt, but critters will find it and get into it...which can get really gross, really fast.

Veggie scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds
make excellent compost!
A small dice is 1/4" cube, a medium dice is 1/2", and a large dice is 3/4". I wanted a medium dice, as that would hold up well for my soup's long simmering time. Also, my carrot is a root vegetable, which grows underground...much like a potato. This means that I want to start it off in cold water to cook.

 The general rule for vegetables is that if it starts underground, start it off in cold water and slowly bring it up...if above ground, like my zucchini squash, I can add it while it's simmering and it'll be just fine. Keep in mind that you should start hard-boiled eggs in cold water, as well, for the next time you do that; this ensures even cooking time, which is a good thing.

When dicing, I use the initial cut I make as my measuring tool. Looking from above, I can see where the edge of the cut piece lines up with my big piece, and make a cut there. The same goes for dicing...this way, you'll ensure that all of your pieces are cut the same, and will cook for the same amount of time.

See my nice carrot sticks? Just cutting across will result in a gorgeous medium dice, which I can put in my stock!

*blub blub blub*
The stock has been skimmed of the fat and I've taken out the lemon grass and basil. I've left the bones mostly in, because I like it. I like the extra unf the bones give the body of the stock, and it reminds me of my grandmother's turkey soup...she'd leave the whole carcass in, and it was always sort of a game to see who could get a vertebrae. If you go to a butcher, you can buy the carcass bones for pretty cheap, and if you have a big enough pot, you can even boil the bones of larger animals...and suck out the marrow. Yum.

Since I've decided on a medium dice for my carrot, I did a medium dice for my zucchini. I didn't keep it as uniform, though, mostly because I was in a hurry. Also, the density of a zucchini is less than that of a carrot, so it was okay that the dices were a touch uneven.

Once the stock was at a boil, I added the zucchini and the rest of my veggies(one medium onion, medium diced, and one head of garlic, minced) then reduced the soup to a simmer. If you get scum on the top, go ahead and skim it off. That's just fatty ickies from the bones that make the stock/soup broth cloudy. This isn't necessary, but a nice thing to do, and it's just one extra step that makes your stuff special.

Simply simmer your soup until the veggies are tender, and check for seasoning. Soups made with love are the best soups, and they're especially wonderful the next day, once all of your yummy vegetables have had the chance to soak up that yummy chicken flavor. Serve with crackers, some nice crusty bread, or with a glass of white wine...or in a tupperware container and take it to your friend.

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!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spiced Beet Gelato

I had a fun little contest on my Facbeook page to see who could guess the right flavor!

Good morning!

Summer is upon us, and the 1st harvest was marked by Litha. This means there was a bunch of stuff in my garden that was ready to be harvested to make room for the new stuff. In that harvest was a variety of heirloom beets, which grew like weeds all throughout the spring. In reality, I probably should have harvested sooner, but hey. I'm happy with my haul. I'm also happy with my garlic haul, this year! But this is not about the garlic; no, this is about the beet.

Beetroot is one of the absolute healthiest veggies you can eat. High in antioxidants, the root itself is delicious...but let's not neglect the greens, which are delicious, cooked in sweet cream butter and salt, maybe a drop of red wine vinegar.

You can slice beets thin to make a salad, eaten raw, or roast them as a delicious side dish. You can chop them and put them in rice to create a gorgeous pink color and surprise your kids...or just have them sauteed and buttered, which is my favorite way.  But did you know that a medium-sized beet averages at a whopping 9 grams of sugar per root? This is not a bad thing; in fact, this is a very good thing. Natural sugars from vegetables are very good for you, and much better than processed sugars. This makes this following recipe ideal for people who are looking to cut sugar without cutting taste; seriously, if you're a Diabetic, this won't be bad for you! Here's the recipe for making Spiced Beet Gelato!

Spiced Beet Gelato

  • 3 medium beets(or a dozen or so small beets)
  • 1/2 cup of the reserved roasting liquid(see below)
  • 4 oz egg yolks(about six or seven)
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus 1 Tbsp (seriously, only THAT MUCH!)
  • 1 scraped vanilla bean, or a scant tablespoon of vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Trim your beets of their greens and any little root-hairs you might have. Generally, though, leave them in tact. Put them in a roasting pan of some sort with high sides, such as a casserole dish. Fill with a solution of equal parts water and red wine, just to cover, and add a pinch of salt and pepper, along with 3 allspice berries. Cover in aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until the beets are very tender.

Drain the liquid and save about 1/2 cup of it. To peel the beets, you can simply use paper towels to wipe away the skin. It'll take a few minutes to do,but you'll save so much of the beet in the process. Trust me, you want all of this deliciousness. 

Once that's done, chop your beets into manageable cubes for your blender, and blend together with the poaching liquid until a smooth, almost custard-like consistency forms. It'll be thick, but you want it to be extremely smooth. 
If you have a Vitamix blender,  you're one step
ahead of the game! Otherwise, a regular blender
will do just fine. 

Add in the cinnamon, lemon juice, eggs and 1/4 of the the sugar, and blend again. Bring to a boil the heavy cream in a separate saucepot with the vanilla and the remaining tablespoon of sugar. 

Once boiling, immediately turn off the heat, and ladle in a splash or two of the hot cream to the beet mixture. Stir, but do not blend; just take a spoon and stir it in the pitcher of the blender, before dumping it all back into the hot cream. 

I am in LOVE with this color!
Scrape down the sides of your blender, ensuring that you've gotten everything, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Once boiling, immediately remove from the heat and run through a strainer into another container, which will chill in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours. If you're impatient, like me, however, you can use an ice bath to chill it quickly. One thing you must be sure of when making ice cream, gelato, or any sorbet, is that your mixture must be cold before churning. This will ensure that your machine won't work harder and longer than it has to, and that your finished product won't curdle.
Once churned according to the manufacturer's instructions via your machine, label it and set it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. You can eat it now, but I prefer my ice cream to hold its shape. This freezes beautifully, and it'll last at least a month in the freezer. If you're me, though, it's not going to last that long. It'll last until the week is up, if it's lucky. Because this is seriously delicious. 

This is an excellent way to get some great fiber in, as well as make a low-sugar/no-sugar dessert. Seriously, the amount of added sugar is so low in this recipe, it's practically no-sugar! This is honestly the healthiest, most-beautiful gelato I could think of to make...and I got the beets from my own garden! If you don't have beets growing, of course, store bough is just fine...although I would recommend going to your local farmers' market and buying a bunch. A small bunch of beets is about what this recipe calls for, anyway. If you liked this post, and want to see more like it, just click on the tag "Culinary school" for more!

Oh, and don't be alarmed if your pee turns red after eating half a quart of this stuff. It's completely normal.