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Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Lucky Charms Pie

I think I was supposed to be a stoner. I think whatever deity made me just
sculpted 90% of a stoner and forgot to flip the final switch. 
I have no idea what this is and I frankly don't even want to talk about it. I have no idea why it worked out or how in the world it even crossed my subconscious, but it did. Strap in, my tchotchkes, because you're going to learn how to make one of the craziest pie recipes I've ever made. It's not really crazy because it's got some wild technique that I've invented - it's just....wild. Like, who in the world would ask for a Lucky Charms Pie? My subconscious, that's who.

Several days ago I woke up thinking of a Lucky Charms Pie. Somehow, it was in my dream the night before. It was such a weird dream, but I didn't tell my husband about it because I couldn't recall the actual plot of it. Fast forward through the day and it was easily one of the worst days at work in memory. I don't want to talk about it, so don't ask, but just know that I was already emotionally drained from returning home from Tucson after my great-grandmother's funeral. I basically didn't have it in me... And more and more was happening, even after the work day had technically ended. I was throwing things at this point and my husband asked me if he could do anything for me. I was so mad I couldn't think, so I just asked him to go get me a soda or a crunch bar or some kind of sweet, textured thing while I cooked dinner. He came back with sodas, a crunch bar, some OJ (for him) and a box of Lucky Charms. Naturally, I burst into tears.


It was like a sign. The Gods of the Good Kush wanted me to make this stupid pie. I was already up to my elbows in tortellini, though, so of course I wasn't going to make it tonight. I did, however, have the perfect opportunity to do it the following Sunday when I was having a brunch/dinner with my friends.

See, my friend had never had mimosas before. As a Crowned and Anointed Basic Bitch I couldn't let this stand, so I bought some cava and some pulp-y orange juice for the mimosas. I thought about making french toast but since we'd be meeting around dinner time I figured I'd make a quiche. And since I was making pie dough already...

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

I made a whole wheat pie crust to work with both the savory and sweet...and because I wasn't really doing anything truly healthy at dinner and we were having booze after, it somehow made me feel better to do a whole wheat crust on this thing. I kept it neutral in flavor so it would work for both. You can obviously use store-bought pie crust but feel free to use my recipe below.

Lucky Charms Pie
yields one ungoldly horror of a pie, 9" across, serves 8

Pie Crust
  • 350 g AP flour
  • 150 g whole wheat flour
  • 150 g vegan butter substitute (or dairy butter, whatever you like)
  • 150 g vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Rum, as needed
Lucky Charms Cereal Milk
  • 475 ml (or 2 cups) soy milk
  • 1 cup lucky charms plus more to garnish, divided
  • 1/2 c (100 g) granulated sugar + more later...you'll see
  • 1/4 c (31 g) icing/confectioner's/powdered sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Blue food coloring, if desired
First thing's first, you're going to make the pie crust. Start by rubbing the fat into the flours and salt using your fingertips. You can also place your flour in the bowl of a standing mixer with your paddle attachment and adding in all of your fat, stirring until everything is sort of incorporated and the fat looks to be about pea-sized. You can also pulse your pie ingredients in a food processor. Whatever. Everyone has their own way to make pie dough, you can use yours. 

I like to use rum in my pie doughs because it has a genuinely nice flavor and alcohol won't form gluten like water will. I like to have my doughs be rather short, so I kind of like to take every precaution I can to have a nice short crust. Yay! 

Either way, bring your dough together and allow to chill for at least one hour before rolling out. This will make enough dough for two pies plus plenty for decoration, so feel free to cut this recipe in half. I just always make this amount in case I need to make two pies. And hey! It's great to have extra on hand. 

While your pie dough is chilling, make the cereal milk by pouring a whole cup of this yummy marshmallow cereal into your soy milk (you can use dairy milk, if you want - it's your pie) and stir. Get everything wet and let sit for about 30 minutes in your fridge.You don't want to bring your milk to a boil and then infuse it in the hot way, like you would a tea. Just be patient and do it this way. In the meantime, separate your eggs and let them come up to room temperature. You can use all six egg whites, but I only used three since I didn't know how much of a sugar coma I wanted to put my friends into. Besides! You can freeze egg whites perfectly to make an excellent macaron later on.

Use cutters, use braids...use whatever you like! This is your pie.
Once the dough is chilled and rested, please feel free to go nuts with the decoration. You'll be par-baking this crust at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes before baking the custard in with it. This way, no soggy bottoms. We don't like soggy bottoms. I did end up using parchment paper and some baking beads. You can use rice, dry beans, and more - just PLEASE make sure to use parchment paper to line it with first, and poke some holes in the bottom of the crust to allow some steam to vent. Otherwise, this could turn into a big gloopy gross mess. 

After it's baked, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and place the pie pan on a cookie sheet. Then take the cookie sheet and place it in the middle rack of the oven. Go ahead and open up the oven to let the heat come out and pull the rack out about halfway so that the pie is sitting in the oven already. Trust me on this because you'll thank me later. You won't have to walk to the oven with a slippery and hot pie crust with sloshy liquid!

Using a spatula, mix the egg yolks with both the powdered and granulated sugars. I like a spatula instead of a whisk because I don't want too much air in this. Basically, I stir and press to make a smooth sort of custard-looking texture, and this way I won't get a foam on top. I then strain the cereal milk liquid into the eggs, slowly, and stir in until everything is incorporated. Make sure you scrape from the bottom and try not to agitate it too much! Next, add your salt and - if you like - the food coloring. I noticed that the dyes from the cereal turned my milk a faint blue color, and I just felt like going fully psychedelic with this. Again, you don't have to! I just chose to. 

Discard the soggy cereal and strain this entire mixture into a pitcher. Push the rack back, the pie shell directly in to the oven, while sitting on the tray, and pour your custard into the shell. Now simply bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is just barely set. My oven took about 40 minutes, but yours might take more or less time. I'd say just check it at 30 and then see.

When the custard shows a slight wobble, in the middle, turn your oven off and open the oven door a crack. Let the custard sit in the oven for another 20 minutes to gently carry-over cook. This will give you a smooth-as-silk finish. If you had bubbles or foam on the top, it might have browned slightly. This is okay, as we're covering the whole pie with meringue later.

Once it's all done with it's pre-cool, remove your pie from the oven and pop it straight in the fridge. I'd let it cool for at least an hour, but give it two if you can. When you're ready to serve, get your mixer ready.

Using a very clean bowl and a very clean whisk attachment for your standing mixer or hand mixer, pop in as many egg whites as you like. The rule for me is that a perfect meringue is about 1/4 c granulated sugar per large egg white. This means that, for three egg whites, I used 3/4 c of granulated sugar. To make a perfect meringue, make sure your equipment is super clean and super dry. I like to have a pot of simmering water at the ready, and set my bowl - egg whites inside - over the heat. Using a whisk, I like to stir in the sugar by hand, whipping gently to foam and dissolve the sugar. Once it's a fairly warmer than body temperature and all foamy and dissolved (I think 160 degrees F/71 degrees C if you want to be precise) remove it from the heat. Then use your electric mixer to bring it up, on high, until the peaks are stiff, glossy, and about tripled in volume. The meringue shouldn't slide out of the bowl at all and should hold its shape. Delicious!

This is another way you can get really creative. Once my cooled pie was ready, I heated the oven to 350 again. I used a piping bag to make the designs around the edges for mine, or at least for half of it, and then dumped the rest on in a pile just to cover the top of the custard. You can really just go nuts on how you want to decorate this, so long as at least half of the meringue is baked. I baked mine for about 5 minutes in the oven, just until the tips were lightly brown. You can also use a torch, if you like! Either way, I baked the custard, piped on some fresh meringue to help stick the garnishes, and then topped my pie with a big fat handful of the Lucky Charms cereal. You can add some white chocolate bits, some chocolate candies, and even some rainbow sprinkles, if you like! Just please don't go too crazy with other flavors. You want to have the real flavor of this crazy cereal as much as possible!

Serve to your friends and watch them begin to giggle like schoolgirls at the taste of this crazy thing...which is straight-up cereal. Hilarious and fun! It's a great treat for a party or for your holiday fun. Speaking of which, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I might just make this crazy thing again for Tuesday. We'll see!

A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hemp Milk Banana Pudding

Get ready for this all-American dessert!

Banana pudding is one of those dishes that don't seem like they can be elevated. You think of them for potlucks or maybe something your grandmother might toss together for a family dinner. Most think of them as the kind with the vanilla wafers (you know what I'm talking about) with the Jell-O banana pudding mix and some cool whip. And hey! There's nothing wrong with that. But if you're in the mood for something that's homestyle and yet a little more nice, keep going...

A banana pudding as we Americans know it is mostly - for all intents and purposes - a sort of trifle. Trifles are often a star on The Great British Bake-off with a 400-year history. Trifles have to have compatible flavors, as the great Mary Berry says, but to me the flavors of banana pudding are just...banana, vanilla, and sweet cream. My fiance, B, is highly lactose intolerant and eating dairy-free is kind of the only saving grace I sort of give myself for not keeping kosher. 

So, for my Jewish readers, this is pareve! Woohoo! 

American regional cuisine and the study thereof is a sort of passion of mine. I think it's so interesting to see how we, all in the same country, can be so different. We've got a beautiful melting pot of cultures that has evolved because of the many different cultures that came from other places. If you ask me, the American South has one of the most-interesting ethnically  historical stories to tell. New Orleans alone brought ethnic diversity from all over - all because the nobility of a certain time shipped criminals and enemies of the state off to another land. Hilarious! 

Alton Brown has a fun skit to tell you all about it...

(Start the video at 9:01 - my html player is being weird)

Speaking of Alton Brown, we're adapting his recipe today for the custard. But! We're of course using my recipe for spongecake, as spongecake is what this particular banana pudding is using. Here's why I like spongecake in trifles instead of cookies/biscuits:
  • Cookies/biscuits are for dunking
  • Cake is a same-textured lovely thing that's ideal for soaking
  • Cake can be cut into many different shapes, be they cubes or strips
  • I'm going to eat half the sleeve of cookies before I eat half a cake, so I know that I'll have enough for the recipe
See? Plenty of good reasons. Here's how to make a basic - and I do mean basic - spongecake:

Basic Spongecake
yields one half-sheet pan or a perfect square cake in a 12" tin
  • 240 g whole eggs(4 or 5)
  • 120 g sugar (granulated cane OR coconut sugar)
  • 135 g AP flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp flavoring**
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. A spongecake is different from your standard cake in the sense that it needs to not be greased in the tin, as the bubbles need somewhere to climb. I used my square pan, so I lined it with ungreased parchment paper. And, yes, this does mean that you can use this recipe to make cupcakes, but I'd recommend adding in half a teaspoon of baking powder if you do so, just for a little insurance.

**In this recipe I used about half a teaspoon of key lime essence, which came in an oil form.You can use vanilla extract, orange zest, just about anything! This is such a basic sponge that you can even pulverize some nuts in there and fold it in. The sky is the limit.

Whip your eggs and sugar together using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, and when I say whip it like a cyclone, I mean whip it like a cyclone. This should take about four minutes in your standing mixer, starting on medium and ending on high. The volume should triple, of course, and while that's whipping, go ahead and measure your flour and salt together.

Fold in the flour in little shimmy-shakes, ideally through a sifter/strainer. Fold them in gently, please, as we don't want to disturb the bubbles too much. Add in your flavoring and pour into your prepared pan.

If you've spread this evenly in a sheet pan, you'll only need 10-12 minutes tops for this. I had a square cake tin, so I did 20 minutes, or just until it was set. I'm not going to be rolling this cake, though, for a roulade so I'm okay with having it be a hair drier than the average bear. The cake will bake beautifully, but please be sure to allow it to cool before removing it from the tins for at least 15 minutes while you make your custard. Otherwise, the bubbles could risk popping and you could risk your cake deflating.

Now for the custard!

Warm Vanilla Custard

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour(gluten-free flour is fine, or 3 Tbsp cornstarch if you prefer)
  • 2 cups hemp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract, whatever you have)
Clean out your standing mixer bowl and whisk thoroughly and dry. Separate your eggs so that the yolks go in the bottom of a saucepot and the whites go in the bowl of the standing mixer. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and vanilla paste to the pot as well and whisk until homogeneous. This will take a hair of elbow grease, but I believe in you - you're strong and you can do the thing. 

Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking in until everything is quite smooth. Introduce some medium heat and whisk constantly, being sure to get the corners. You're going to want to cook this custard without boiling it, so make sure that you keep a thermometer around to watch for 180 F/82 C degrees. You'll know when it's thick, of course, to turn down the heat while you check. Once it's ready, remove from the heat and set aside. 

Whip the egg whites and the 1/4 cup sugar together on high to create stiff peaks. What do stiff peaks look like? Well...

They should be glossy and smooth and should not be lumpy or look dry. If you do, however, overwhip your whites, don't panic. Just add one more egg white and stir/whip in. It will salvage the meringue enough to use it. Presto! Keep that oven on at 400 degrees while we assemble this pudding!

Banana Pudding
  • 1 batch Warm Vanilla Custard
  • 1 batch Basic Sponge cake, cut in strips or cubes
  • 5 -6 bananas 
  • A dash of rum, if you like
  • Meringue
Glass bowls are preferred for this endeavor because you can both see the layers and most glass is extremely durable. Your standard pyrex bowls that you get at the grocery store is oven-safe, but please be diligent and check the bottom of the bowl to see. You may also use a metal bowl, but let's be honest, you want to see the layers.

Mmm caaaaaaaaaake

Take your sponge cake from the tin and peel away the parchment. I sliced mine in half lengthwise because I didn't want large cubes, but you can cut them however you want. I cut mine in about 3/4" strips to fit the bowl. I did have some leftover, but that's okay - you can spread jam between the layers and eat it like a sandwich later this evening. 

Drop a wee dollop of custard in the absolute bottom of the bowl just to keep the spongecake in place. Layer on the sponge, then the bananas, then the warm custard. The reason you want to layer this on while it's still warm is so the bananas will cook. By letting them cook, you get away with using less sugar, and you don't have to soak the cakes in rum if you don't want to. If you want the rum, however, sprinkle it on each spongecake layer while you build up. Live your best life.

I mean, don't add booze if you're going to be serving this to kids. Or do. Whatever your laws are.
Keep layering up and up and up until you reach the topmost point of the bowl with custard being your top layer. You want moisture, of course, but if you must have that extra kick of rum, please layer with a thin bit of spongecake and give it a good solid drizzle now.

Oh yeah. Seal in that goodness. Do it. 

Spread the meringue thick atop to cover. It is of the utmost importance that you scrape the side of your spatula to secure/seal the sides of the bowl. You're creating a protecting layer of meringue, here, to keep your custard safe. Give it a few swirlies, though, with your spatula for the aesthetic. While you can broil this with a torch, I think you should keep it classic and just bake it for 5 minutes.

I think this lovely dessert should be served warm, so it's excellent to make ahead and then bake for dinner parties. I just want you to remember something:

Glass, while extremely durable, gets fragile and will explode with drastic temperature changes. So please, oh please, do not take your glass bowl from the fridge and then immediately put it into a screaming hot oven. I know that most Pyrex bowls are safe for this, but the last thing I need is a lawsuit. Let the glass come up to room temperature before you bake it. Or just make this right before your party, cook everything else, and then bake. You'll be fine, especially because it's nondairy.

The reason I love hemp milk in this recipe is because it's very high in fat. It has a whopping 5 grams of fat per serving, and has a wonderful complex taste as well. I think that the depth of hemp milk is perfectly appropriate for this dessert, and I encourage you to try it out as well. Please experiment with all different types of milks and tell me how it went!

I had a craving for banana cream pie for some odd reason. 🍌🍌🍌 Oddly, though, I didn't feel like making pie, so I just baked a sponge cake and sliced it into strips to use instead of your standard vanilla wafers.☺ Banana pudding is very different depending on what region you're in. If you are north of the Mason Dixie line, you're probably used to the refrigerated kind topped with whipped cream. If you're in the South, however, you most likely prefer a warm banana pudding topped with meringue. The biggest difference is between England and France, who initially colonized those places. I prefer the French version a pretty much everything, so of course I did the warm version with the baked meringue. 🤩 (#dairyfree of course) #foodiechats #foodblogger #wannabgourmande #bananapudding #meringue #french #pudding #pastry #spongecake #cheflife #desserts #custard #banana
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Thanks so much for reading! Happy cooking 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!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen - An Ode to Urban Romanticism

I went to Tannin for dinner last night. It seemed the perfect thing to do after a successful showing at the Gathering of Pagan Souls for Witchcraft and Wellness, for whom I am the official Kitchen Witch! Here, you can read all about it! But more on that later...

It seemed wrong to go to Tannin without ordering wine, so I opted for a sweet gewurtztraminer(say that five times fast), even though I seldom drink. I had definitely heard great things about this little place in the Crossroads, so when B suggested it for dinner on a rainy Saturday evening, I just couldn't say no.

The decor was nice, intimate without being too dark or cramped. We sat by the big bay window and watched as the rain fell down around us. It was like being in a 40s Noir film, and felt very sexy and romantic. When I was little, I would imagine how fabulous I would be as a gorgeous grown-up girl, with my hair long, wearing a pretty dress, sitting romantically across from the man I loved at a perfect little bistro as the rain fell down around us. These feelings were magically conjured up as B and I held hands over our table at Tannin.

The wait staff was attentive without being overbearing, and the tables were small without feeling, well, small. The wine list was, obviously, quite extensive so I can't imagine there would be something there that couldn't work for a person. I am not a wine aficionado, of course; I'm more of a food person. Onto the food.

Sausage. Potato salad. What else do you need?

On the appetizer menu, we decided to split "the Local Pig sausage" while we decided on an entree. It came sort of 'shielding' a really tasty potato salad hidden underneath! The sausages from The Local Pig are always great, and seeing businesses that support them so vehemently are nice. Kansas City truly is the biggest small town out there!

Now, THAT, is how you sauce a dish. 

When it came time for entrees, I opted for the chicken, and B got the short ribs. The short ribs came with yummy, garlic-y mashed potatoes and green beans. It was fall-apart tender, but still kept its shape nicely, which is hard to do. It was seasoned perfectly, and he ate the whole thing before I was halfway done with my chicken.

The chicken, though beautifully seasoned, was sadly a little dry. It was flavorful, but it was dry, and swimming in a pan-sauce that really needed to be reduced. It was just a crap-ton of liquid on a plate, albeit tasty liquid, that begged for some bread to sop it up. I actually kind of regret not asking for some....

Though gorgeous, the chicken was(tragically) a hair dry.

The chicken came with brussel sprouts and oyster mushrooms, which are my absolute favorite mushrooms ever. There were plenty of brussel sprouts, all yummy and hard-seared, but I really wished that the mushrooms were more aptly presented and not just tossed in. But then B said something:

"Not everyone likes mushrooms as violently as you do."

Damn, he's right.

I love mushrooms! I love them grilled, and I could just eat nothing but mushrooms of varying kinds for a whole meal. I just wanted a big fukken wedge of mushrooms, just grilled, and on a plate......but not everyone likes mushrooms like that. Some people like them just as an accent piece. Some people don't like them at all, so it actually makes sense for the people of Tannin to make it a more accessible dish for people who don't want their mushrooms loud and proud like I do. I almost felt like the mushrooms were hiding in the sauce/broth/stuff, but it was probably perfect to a person who wasn't a total mycophile.

The rain was coming down really hard by the time we finished up with our entrees, and we, like idiots, didn't bring the umbrella. This was my excuse for ordering coffee and dessert, and boy am I glad I did!

*heavy breathing*

What you see before you is easily the best dessert I've had in a long time. It's French toast, made with challah bread, and served with whipped cream. Dear God, was it delicious. I can't even begin to describe how moist yet crispy, soft yet textured this thing was. I just wanted to shrink myself down and crawl onto the bread and snuggle up into a sleepy, sugar-coated slumber on it, and then eat it. The coffee was good, too, I guess. I got a few neat pictures of it. I was trying to get a solid, clear picture of the milk swirling in the hot coffee, but a lot of my photos ended up a little blurry. Oh well.

When the rain finally let up, we had just finished scraping the dessert off the plate and were able to pay the check. We didn't have to sprint to the car, which is good, because I was really full, but I did not leave wanting to run away from this place. Rather, I would like to run TO this place. It was a great little bar, perfect for unwinding, meeting friends, having a date night.... I cannot think of a single thing wrong with that place. Even if the chicken was a touch dry, I'll be back. I will be back for the sausage, the French toast, the wine list, the atmosphere...I might just go there tonight, just for the heck of it! Big thumbs up for Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen!  Great job!

Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best-Ever Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake gets its name from its signature color. Because of how the way cocoa was processed back in the olden days, it would color everything red. Nowadays, we have to use artificial dyes. Most dislike the taste of dyes in their liquid form, so I think that it is much better to stick with pastes or powders. You can find powders online, as well as pastes, but the Wilton color paste/gels can also be found with ease at any arts and crafts store. Since most of us have the liquid dye at their disposal, this recipe calls for that.

Best-Ever Red Velvet Cake
yields a 10" cake, serves 12-16
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups Buttermilk or almond milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 fat pinch of salt
  • 8 oz (BY WEIGHT) canola oil(it's pretty much 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red food coloring(this is liquid. If you use gels, use about half that.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, 320 degrees if you have a fan/convection oven. Prepare the pans of your choice with either fat and flour or a sheet of parchment paper. A full recipe will make either a full half-sheet pan or two 10" cake rounds. To make a personal-sized cake, simply cut the recipe in half and prepare two 6" cake rounds in the same way. 

Combine the buttermilk, vanilla, food coloring, and eggs and whisk until smooth. The dye will look very intense at this stage, but that's okay! I swear to you that it will calm down. 

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for 1 minute. Add the oil and blitz for 45 seconds. or until smooth. You're basically cutting in the fat like you would a pie crust...only the fat is liquid, not solid! This method is known as 'reverse creaming' and is suitable for a denser cake recipe. Next, simply add your wet ingredients in thirds, scraping down the bowl of your food processor/standing mixer after each addition. It will be an extremely smooth and very sexy looking cake batter.

Gorgeous red color!

Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, this cake recipe can be easily made by hand! Simply take a large bowl and whisk together all of your dry ingredients, and add in your oil the same as you would if you did have a machine. Stir gently by hand until smooth. Add in your liquid mixture, a little at a time, until everything comes together. Try not to over-mix; you only want to stir it until you have no more lumps.

Pour into prepared pans (I used two 10" rounds) and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Pop into your preheated oven and check after 25 minutes. My cake took about 30, but your oven might be different. Just be sure to use a skewer inserted into the middle, and that it comes out rather dry to test your cake. 

When trimming a cake, you must ensure you let it cool in its entirety, so that it's at least room temperature before cutting into it. It's better, of course, either cold or frozen. I'm not joking when I say that the freezer is the baker's second-best friend, next to the oven. Don't be afraid to use it in its entirety! 

Trim your cakes down to size using a serrated knife and cake wheel. Slice each layer in half lengthwise to create a total of four layers. Make sure your layers are even on top and save the scraps either for snacks or to decorate with! If you do want to use them to decorate, bake them in a low, dry oven for at least 15 minutes. You're basically creating croutons out of cake, which you will later crush or blitz in the food processor to create crumbs. The result will be lovely!

To decorate, start with a bottom piece and fill with buttercream, repeating each layer as you go. You can put the jankier layers in the middle, but be sure you finish with a bottom piece on top, flipped so that the bottom is facing upwards. My inner 12-year-old likes to call this a "bottom sandwich."

I used cream cheese frosting, which is basically 2:1 ratio of cream cheese to butter plus powdered sugar. I used 2 lbs cream cheese with 1 lb butter, all at room temperature, with 1 egg yolk and approximately five cups of powdered sugar, with a hefty pinch of salt and scant teaspoon of vanilla. For a small vegan alternative that works just as well, use 12 oz vegan butter substitute per 2 cups of icing sugar, and add a full spoonful of coconut oil. Add salt to taste, and there you are! Crush up the crumbs from the cake scraps to create a rather attractive garnish, which you can press into the sides of the cake as pictured. 

Et voila!

Every time I make this in a restaurant setting, people go nuts!
If you'd like to make something a little more fanciful, feel free to gather up your decorating supplies such as decorating tips and piping bags to give a little more pizazz. I like the 'naked' cake look because I like to see a lot of the layers within. I also like the naked cake look because - to be honest - I don't like to eat a lot of frosting all at once. What I do like are various textures, so I like to utilize sprinkles and candies for the top! I invite you to have a lot of fun at this stage and go crazy with any kind of decorations you may have on hand. Try to stay within one color family, if you can, so your cake will look like you put some thought into it.

I love this recipe because it's not only an American classic, but because it's something that everyone recognizes with ease. It's quite easy to make this cake a show-stopper with a little time and effort! Best of all, you don't need to have special equipment to make this cake. This is what I like to call a 'dump-it cake' because you can - if needed - make everything together in one big bowl and save yourself a lot of dishes.

Thank you so much for reading! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Beautiful red velvet cake, just because!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

An All-American Dining Experience(Happy Valentine's Day)

I must say that living your life while happy is a 10/10. I highly recommend a happy life. I also highly recommend allowing yourself to be loved. It's a very difficult thing in an American woman's life, especially for us Millenials, to really allow yourself to be truly loved. But I feel it. I feel love seeping into me. It's funny how that happens. It was a perfect and poetic time for this to happen to me for Valentine's Day at the American.

American on UrbanspoonThe American is the restaurant in Kansas City. It's the place to cut your chops as a Chef. The kitchen was designed to be a James Beard standard kitchen. The restaurant is so iconic that I don't think it'll ever go away. The American is so high on that list, so ingrained into the Kansas City psyche as the place to go to, or to aspire to go to, that it's easy to think that it won't live up to the hype. This young Chef says it does.

I didn't take any pictures at the American. The first reason is that I thought it was almost disrespectful, and almost...not right...in an odd way, to take pictures of the food, as I felt it was almost robbing someone else of that experience. The other reason is because my phone died. It died before I could even check-in on Foursquare.(By the way, if you aren't following my tips on Foursquare/Swarm, you're seriously missing out. I'm informative and hilarious.) I did make my boyfriend take a picture of me with the dessert. I'm squinting pretty hardcore because the flash was nearly blinding and the lighting in the restaurant wasn't exactly bright.

The journey itself to find the American is almost like a pilgrimage. We were staying in the Westin at the Crown Center and we had to walk through the maze of shops and escalators to find the entrance. The gilded elevator which raises you to the 4th floor, where the restaurant resides, seems to be a portal to another world. You know those fancy restaurants you see in movies, the ones with the grandiose staircases and chandaliers? The ones that you'll never, ever see for yourself? That's the American.

Walking around from the elevator to the host stand, you see before you a grand palace, while somewhat outdated (the fabric on the chairs wasn't my favorite) still had some kind of wonderful classic thing going on. A velvet-throated jazz singer's voice carries through the palatial room, respecting the four corners of a square, turning the nearly-intimidating space into the cornerstone of a man's monarchy. To tell you the truth, it would have felt lonely if she hadn't been there, singing, especially since we were practically the only ones there. I assumed that it was because it was a few days before Valentine's day, and everyone was saving it for the occasion...but B said that he rented out the entire restaurant just for us. (He didn't, but I believed him for a full 30 seconds, because that's how naive and trusting I have become.) I'm very happy I got to see it before they did their big renovations, which will be complete in March. I don't know what will happen, but I hope that I get to go again! (Maybe I can convince my boyfriend to take me for my birthday.)

Descending the staircase, the hostess leads you to your table, where she actually pulls out your seat for you. And then unfolds the napkin and places it in your lap for you. This was fancy to the point where I was oddly uncomfortable. Usually I'm quite comfortable with adapting to situations as such, but this was just weird. But nice! But still weird.

The server, whose name I (sadly) cannot recall, was so gracious and fun. The best part about him (was his name Josh? Jonas? Something...) was that he was not only knowledgeable, but passionate about food. A server, passionate about food! We even ended up talking a little bit about fresh Japanese wasabi, and how the import laws had changed over the past ten years. We even spoke about Wagyu versus Kobe beef, and he knew what I was talking about. This, in and of itself, is amazing. This really does speak volumes about the kind of people that they have working at this establishment. Chef Michael Corvino really knows what he's doing with this place.

The meal began, of course, with drinks and canapes. They were cute little shortbread cookies with quince gels and marscarpone, with brown butter financiers. B isn't quite what you'd call a foodie, and he'd never be caught dead in a place like this if he didn't know that I was so into it, and I swear I saw him sneer when he thought that every course would be this tiny little bite. After the sight of the first course, however, he began to change his tune.

We began with the King Crab, which had sliced black truffles(which he had never even seen before) and elements of turnip and passion fruit(don't knock it til you try it). To be honest, I'd never had fresh, raw black truffle slices before...only black truffle butter, truffles that had been roasted with quail, or white truffle oil, drizzled over potato or asparagus soup. I couldn't resist. I ate the first slice just on its own. I was shocked at how subtle it was...it almost seemed like paper. But the heat of my mouth somehow brought it to life, and I understood why it became an empire.

Our next course was oyster, which B had never had before. It was served raw, of course, and impeccably fresh. Accompanying the oyster was a beautiful cauliflower puree, fried quinoa(for crunch), and fresh dill fronds. I slurped it all in one mouthful, and it was like a straight-up bite of the ocean. It went down fresh, and every flavor was surprising, subtle, and expertly done.

The caviar came next, which was a beautiful sturgeon roe served on soba. Soba, for those who don't know, are basically a buckwheat noodle, which are all made in-house, and then cut to order. Fresh-cut soba is something they do in noodle-houses in Japan, and this practice immediately scored points with me for the Chef. (I mean, I know I shouldn't be impressed, necessarily...it's the nicest place in town...it should have crazy-high standards...but whatever! I'm allowed to be impressed!) The noodles were soft yet chewy, and served in an uni 'butter'/sauce that, upon tasting, I turned to B with stars in my eyes and asked "Can I just take a bath in this?" Oh, and he'd never had uni before either...but he loved it.

The abalone came next, which honestly wasn't my favorite, but B loved it. It had daikon, sliced in paper-thin sheets, with shiso, a Japanese cousin of basil. The abalone was, even though not my favorite, absolutely expertly prepared. I wish I had taken a picture of this dish, though, as it was just so darn beautiful.

Next came another highlight, which was a roasted hedgehog mushroom with walnuts, nestled happily on a bed of sunchoke puree. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are a giant pain to prepare for the average home cook, but are well worth the effort. It's a mild, wonderfully aromatic flavor, that goes down easy, and the kumquat element, which was really fun, made it pop all the louder.

The bread course came with a wonderful apple butter that was made from local apples here in Missouri. I didn't remember much else of what they were saying because I was too busy eating it. I'd never had apple butter before. Holy shit was that good.

The steelhead trout can only be described as miraculous, as the fish was so moist and so soft, yet had such a crispy skin, it made B like fish. Read that again: it made my meat-and-potatoes Midwestern man LIKE FISH. And you know what? He ate every bit of it. He ate it with the trout roe, with the cranberry bean, with the "naked" grapes, and with the big fried leaf of dinosaur kail. I swear to God, they called it Dinosaur Kale. I remember it because it blew me away. So did the fish. I think I would have said that was the highlight, had it not been for the steak that came next.

The ribeye with black trumpet mushrooms, fresh wasabi, and huitlacoche puree had both cut and cap of meat. I will have dreams of this perfect dish. I will have dreams about that huitlacoche and its perfect umami elements. I will never have any wasabi again unless it's fresh like this. I almost contemplated killing myself right after I ate this steak, because I felt like that it was so good, I'd never be able to taste anything better. I really didn't want it to end. Oh, and B ate up the huitlacoche, even after I told him what it was. He almost kieled over from how good it was, but he kept it together during the cheese course.

Asher blue cheese is much more mild than your Maytag or your Portland smoke would be. It was served with these adorable little gingerbread croutons that were perfectly uniform, and sliced radish and walnuts. The fact that this is where B sort of "tapped out" was borderline hilarious, considering that the most mainstream taste-having man I knew just slurped down raw oyster and trout roe without batting an eye. Don't worry, though, kids. I ate his cheese.

Dessert came with a "pre-dessert" little palette cleanser, which consisted of a bright lemon-y marscarpone cream-like thing, with lingonberries and graham crumbles on top. I really just wanted a tub of that after I tasted it. But oh my sweet merciful Jesus was I happy that I held on.
I'm squinting because the flash
was crazy bright. 

Nick Wesemann is easily my favorite pastry chef in the city. He and I had actually met on several occasions before that night, so he came out at a point during our meal to say a quick hello once he heard I was here. He's seriously one of the nicest guys ever, and is now teaching the pastry fundamentals class at the Art Institutes International in Lenexa, KS. It's hard to not go on and on about my glowing regard for this crazy-talented chef, so I'll just cut myself off now and get onto the dessert.

The dessert we had was called "grapefruit" and had beautiful, fresh, perfectly ripe grapefruit supremes cut and sprinkled in and out. It had a towering whisp of kataifi and a burnt honey ice cream, all with elements of olive oil and campari...and I can't even talk about it without drooling a little.

This is, of course, not to say that the other desserts on the menu were fantastic. The 3-course dessert options are crazy-good. The banana dessert is fantastic, with elements of rum ice cream and macadamia, towering up like some kind of Zion on the plate. The Pumpkin dessert had a toasted marshmallow ice cream that tasted so straight-up like a toasted marshmallow that I actually asked the server if they could just box up a whole tub of that for me. The pumpkin cake wasn't anything to shake a stick at, either, and I must say that I would think of the maple and pecan elements for hours after. The big boom at the end of the meal came, though, in what B and I will forever refer to as: the tangerine thing.

This was our final dessert. It came in a round black raku plate, all brown and orange and full of varying textures. A nutella-like chocolate hazelnut pastry cream was the foundation for a seriously unreal experience. The crunches of kettle corn and other textures of hazelnut were perfect compliments, and the tangerine granita was so intense. B said that it was probably going to be etched into his memory for the rest of his days. I can't even begin to relay how amazing it was without using cliches of elephantine proportions, so I just encourage you to get out there and try it for yourself.

And Nick, darling, from one pastry chef to another, you are more than welcome to come up to my restaurant, and I promise to give you the same treatment!

All in all, I can honestly say that the American lived up to the hype. At $95 per person for the Chef's tasting menu, I can tell you that it was worth it, and more than reasonable for what you're getting. Sure, it's expensive, but I honestly can't tell you that it's not a justifiable expense. It's seriously amazing. The fabric on the chairs could use a little love, sure, but the food is so stupid delicious that it's like your face will be blown out the back of your head. I could seriously say that you could put this restaurant and Chef Michael Corvino's food on your bucket list and not be disappointed with the results. Everything we had was great. Everything from the service to the coffee to the last crumb of macadamia financier that came as a mingardise  with the check was nothing short of quality. You can bet that I'll be a voucher for the American for a good long time, as long as they keep on cranking out this amazing stuff.

Here's hoping that your Valentine's Day was this great. Even if my company wasn't anything short of the most charming and gracious dining partner I've ever had, I still would have loved this meal. And you can take that to the bank.
Christopher Elbow's chocolates also help
Oh, but if you don't want to fork out the big bucks for the American, a box of Christopher Elbow's chocolates will do in a pinch. I was actually sad I didn't want any directly after those desserts from Nick Wesemann...but don't worry. I ate them after a 24-hour period of digesting. They were really great.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lidia's Kansas City - Tiny Tables for Two, Big Flavors for All

I had the privilege recently to dine at Lidia's, which is arguably THE nice place to go in town, next to The American. Located in the Midtown/Crossroads area of Kansas City, it's nestled near other great places such as Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop(a new-er kid on the block, in comparison) and Grunauer. This place is a very upscale Italian-style restaurant that does not disappoint. The parking is fairly expansive for the area, and you get a great view of the bridges and the skyscrapers all lit up if you get out of the car just at twilight.

Walking in, the hostess stand is immediately to your right, across from a rack of coats which, I can only assume, belong to the other patrons. To tell you the truth, the idea of checking your coat literally next to the door with no employee directly next to it was a little unnerving, so I opted to keep mine. (Plus I get cold easily.)

We were seated within five minutes of arrival by a gorgeous Black hostess who, I must say, had the most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen. Her perfect red lipstick almost matched the decor. She sat us at a table that was easily the tiniest I've ever seen meant for two people and began to explain the wine choices for the evening. She stopped mid-sentence, though, to ask if we were over 21. I, a healthy 26, and my date, a robust 28, exchanged quizzical looks and promptly laughed as we nodded. "You two do not look over 21!" she exclaimed with a smile.

"Seriously? Look at his beard," I said. B laughed, she laughed, we all laughed.

The bread sticks, foccacia and compound butters and water were quickly brought to the table by our server, who was very well-versed at his job. The butters were vibrant hues of green and purple(one herb and one kalamata olive, if I had to guess) and both were and tasty. The bread wasn't my favorite, to be honest, but the fact that they make it in-house should be commended.

B was feeling a bit adventurous, and I know his appetite is always huge, so we went for a caesar salad and the antipasti plate to start with. The cheeses were served at near-room temperature, for which I was unbelievably thankful. We as Americans know nothing of eating cheese properly! Cheeses should always-always-always be served at room temperature! It's the only way to really appreciate the cheese's flavors and aromas properly. But, anyway, there were olives, salumi, pepperoni...all things that were good. There was this fantastic goat cheese, too, that I just loved. There was even vitello tonnato, an olive oil poached tuna that's left to sort of confit for awhile in that fabulous, flavorful fat. It was a little funky for B, so I happily polished it off. Thumbs up on the antipasti and it is definitely big enough to share! I don't know if B necessarily cared for his caesar, though; he made a comment about how he'd never had a caesar without the 'creamy thick dressing' before; this was more of a transparent-ish-vinaigrette style. It was good, but I can see what he meant. My darling Midwestern man...

See that? That's a big food coma, waiting to happen.
For dinner, he had the osso bucco, which was a dish he'd never had before. The meat was fall-off-the-bone, cut-with-a-fork tender and oh-so-flavorful I wanted to just crawl inside that shank bone and just make a house out of it. Perfectly done, if I do say so myself.

I saw that they had stuffed quail and just couldn't resist. Quail is fantastic little bird and is fucking delicious. I honestly have no idea for the life of me why it's not more of a thing in the US. The very classical Mexican/Spanish dish of Quails with Rose Petal sauce is divine, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The mushroom-stuffed quail was pretty damn divine, too. The dish is just two perfect little quails, stuffed to the gourds with mushrooms, and served on a bed of roasted butternut squash and winter greens. The mushrooms were roasted well, as was the butternut squash. I loved the braised bed of greens that it was resting on, too. I really am a huge fan of dark, bitter greens, like kale or mustard greens, with game birds. I must say that my desire to be attractive and dainty miraculously kept me from sucking the meat off of those tiny little quail thighs in front of my date, so I made small talk and scraped it all off with a knife and fork like a lady.

It comes with two quails, forever entangled in a tango of flavor...
We were too full for dessert. I'm afraid we'll have to go back for it.

The service at Lidia's was excellent. We never saw the bottoms of our water glasses once; not even close. In fact, there was a point where I would take about three sips and a bus boy would come running with a pitcher of ice water. Our server was also cordial, professional, fastidiously groomed, and very knowledgeable about the menu.

The decor and atmosphere was great. Above us were these fantastic chandaliers of blown glass orbs all woven into, what appeared to be, some kind of industrial chicken wire.The lighting was warm and the colors were welcoming and friendly without being kitsch. In fact, it was very upscale, in my opinion. My only grievance was that the tables were tiny. Like, oh my god, so tiny.

Lidia's Kansas City on Urbanspoon
I understand that you need small tables to fit X amount into a restaurant, but B and I are long, leggy people that were a bit awkwardly cramped while people of a much more rotund nature walked by through the narrow aisles between the other tiny tables. Also, I felt a little low to the ground...but maybe that was because I'm so tall.

All in all, I give Lidia's Kansas City a thumbs up. Great service, expertly prepared food from a chef who clearly knows what he's doing, and a well-versed staff all make for a great meal. The Chef has been there for many years, now, and has clearly gotten his game down pat. I highly recommend Lidia's for a date night. It's romantic, intimate...and the food is to die for. But maybe skip the appetizers and save room for dessert, which is what I plan to do next time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Success Baby(Tiramisu)

Last night, one of the servers came back to tell me that she had just finished up with a 95 year old who was celebrating her birthday. Apparently, she had traveled all over and regarded herself an expert on tiramisu from all over the world.

And after eating mine, she said it topped them all. Manager overheard and gave me a high five.

I love my job. Recipe to come if anyone is interested! Or just tell me in the comments what you want to see next.

posted from Bloggeroid

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. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A (Mostly) Vegan Wedding Dessert Bar

(Mostly)Vegan Dessert Bar

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

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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