Hello! We're happy to have you!

Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Dump-it Peanut Butter Cookies

How in the world are these so perfect-looking? Read on...
This is going to be the easiest thing you ever make. You don't need a scale, you don't need standing mixer. You need a whisk, a wooden spoon, a big bowl, and some hands to make these. Because, hey, sometimes the world is a dumpster fire and you need cookies.

Dump-it Peanut Butter Cookies
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 1/4 c peanut butter**
    • If you have a peanut allergy, I highly recommend sunflower butter. It's just as good and will work just fine!
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 1/2 c cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/4 c potato starch
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c whole oats
  • Chocolate Chips, as needed
Combine the oil and peanut butter (or sunflower butter if you have an allergy) in a mixing bowl and use a whisk to combine them. Add both of the sugars and whisk together until quite smooth. You'll get a great workout! Add in the egg and vanilla paste, and whisk until it's absolutely combined. Now's the time to switch to a spatula or a wooden spoon.

Dump all of your dry ingredients, sans the chocolate chips, into your bowl and stir until wholly and fully combined. I advise you to let your batter rest in the fridge while your oven heats to 325 degrees F. I'm now going to give you an incredible tip on how to make the perfect-looking chocolate chip cookie.

As you can see, I used ghiradelli chips! And my kitchen is a mess!

Scoop out your dough and place them on your sheet pan in little mounds. Instead of mixing your chocolate chips in, you're going to carefully press the chocolate chips into the dome, almost like you're making a cute little porcupine. It may seem tedious, but I assure you that it's worth it. You can do this with chocolate chips, hershey kisses, M&Ms, whole pecans...pretty much anything you feel like you need your cookie to have. 

I learned this tip from watching a fabulous series on Netflix called "The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, a California-based artist that's a self-taught baker and DIY queen. Give her a watch!




Bake at 325 for 11 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 before moving to a cooling rack, or a fabulously stylish plate to accompany your tea party. Or you can have your tea party by the harbor while you throw the tea into the ocean. Just be sure to use the hashtag #resist when you post about it on Instagram. 

See that? That was so easy. You can literally throw it together in minutes. If you have small humans around you, you can also employ them to do this. Children are much more responsible and capable than you may think. Arguably, the best thing you can do for them is to teach them how to look after themselves, and what better way to start than to give them the ability to have good, fresh cookies whenever they want? But I digress.

Please enjoy the fastest chocolate chip cookies in the midwest. Even if you already have the oven preheated and only let this batter rest for two minutes, it'll still be great!

Thank you all so much for your patience while I figure out some things on the personal end. Writing gave me a sense of purpose, and in the senseless times in our country, the tumultuous and treacherous happenings, all I can think to do is keep going. 

I'm no Alexander Hamilton. I'm not going to write my way to revolution and I know that. I write letters to my state and government representatives about how I feel about the concentration camps, about the abuse those men, women and children are going through. I write letters about human rights, and about how women should be able to make private health decisions without the government stepping in. I write about how I think that guns should have common sense laws and tests and licencing, and how it shouldn't be so easy to kill and maim another human being. I write to them how I think that children shouldn't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. I guess that's my way of saying all of my writing motivation has been going to that, and not this passion project that I've grown to love.

This website has become my way to speak through food. I really love writing and I hope that you all enjoy reading what I write. Part of me doesn't want to ruin anyone's day by bringing up politics; the rest of me wants everyone to know and wants everyone to care so we can all rise up and make it stop. At least, that's the hope.

Thanks so much for always reading. Go make yourself these cookies and know that they're coming from not just a child of immigrants, but a place of love. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Vegan Chocolate Cake

The middle tier of my wedding cake was THIS chocolate cake recipe, modified to have a lovely orange flavor as well!
Hello, hello! It's Sunday, the 27th of January, which means that it's National Chocolate Cake Day. January 27th is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Since I just learned that apparently one third of all Americans don't believe it actually happened, it feels irresponsible to not at least give it a mention. In honor of that, I'm showing you my favorite chocolate cake recipe that's vegan and pareve. What's that? Well...

When you keep kosher, you have to eat in a very certain way. I'm not talking about the actual act of eating, but how you consume and prepare food and how you feed your family. Some agree that kosher eating may have been a first sort of 'health code' for the early world. Pigs, for example, which are considered unclean used to be more likely to carry disease. One of the big things, of course, is to not share meat and milk at the same table. This means if you have a steak, which you can have, you can't have cream or milk or cheese or butter with it. If you have french toast for breakfast, you can't eat even turkey sausage with it or later. You can't have it with the same meal, but you can have it later in the day. Of course, there's a lot of debate on how long you must wait, but you get the idea.

Now! Pareve is the sort of neutral zone of food. These foods are neither meat nor dairy and can be consumed with either one. These include, eggs, grains, vegetables, etc., and part of that etc. can include - if you do it right - chocolate cake. It's very easy to make a cake without dairy. Dairy provides fat and some lactic acid - if you replace that in the right way you end up with a wonderful-tasting result. The fat makes cakes tender, and the acid cuts glutens to keep it from getting stodgy and gross. The mixing method is, of course, just as important as the recipe.

This recipe is my absolute favorite, and it's the chocolate cake that I made for my wedding (as you see above)! It's wonderfully versatile, so feel free to use it as you see fit and got nuts with it. Heck, ADD nuts to it! It's your cake, do you.

 You'll notice that this particular recipe is in cups, not grams. This is just because I've made this cake too many times by volume and haven't ever done it by weight, so I haven't really measured it out in the way that you'd likely need to do it. If it bugs you too much, comment below and I'll do my best to convert them to grams in a timely manner.

I've used this particular recipe, which I've modified from MAC (Man About Cake's recipe) to fit some things. I just love this one because it's excellent for decorating and absolutely the most-versatile cake recipe I've ever come across. I'll put in ** my favorite variations!

B's Favorite Chocolate Cake
yields 2 9" cakes, perfect for stacking, or one large sheet cake
  • 2 c cane sugar
  • 2.5 c AP flour
  • 3/4 c dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c soy milk
  • 1/2 c strong coffee, left over from the pot that morning is fine(**if you're making a chocolate orange cake, you may substitute orange juice instead of coffee! If you're wanting something a little sexier and more decadent, substitute for a good red wine like a pinot noir or a cabernet sauvignon, but nothing too sweet like a shiraz. You can also substitute this liquid for a strong mint tea if you'd like to make a chocolate mint cake!)
  • 1/2 c tofu sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3/4 c canola oil
  • 2 tsp good vanilla
  • **You can add chopped dried cherries that have been reconstituted in wine for a chocolate cherry cake
  • **You can add orange zest if you're making a chocolate orange cake, in addition to the orange juice substitute
  • **You can add miniature chocolate chips, but please make sure to toss them lightly in flour in the beginning so they can be suspended throughout the cake instead of all sinking to the bottom
There are two ways you can prepare this, one is faster than the other, but it's all going to depend on what kind of equipment you have available to you. Either way,  you'll choose your pans, lightly grease them and then dust the inside with cocoa powder, especially on the corners, to make sure you get it all out nicely, but to also make sure that the cake can climb the sides with ease. Don't grease and then not flour this. Trust me. 

Oh, and preheat your oven to 375.

Method One:

Take your sugar, baking soda, flour, cocoa powder, and salt and process it in the bowl of a food processor. You're pulsing it together just to get it to be fine and fully incorporated. In a large pitcher, combine your soy milk, the liquid of your choice, sour cream, oil, the extract/flavoring of choice, vinegar, and whisk it together to create one homogenous mixture. 

Add about a third of the liquid mixture to your food processor, and pulse for 2 or 3 seconds each, five or six times. Add another third, and repeat. With the final third, make sure you scrape the inside and bottom of the bowl before you do anything else. Pulse a few times to get it integrated, but then mix for about 10 seconds. Your batter is now ready! It should be shiny and smooth and beautiful.

Method Two

Take all of your dry ingredients into a very large bowl and stir with a whisk. Mix all liquids together as per the previous method, except for the oil. Pour the oil in to the dry mix in a thin stream, tossing it around to make it sort of a crumbly texture. Add in the rest of the ingredients by the third, stirring in a well in the middle slowly, no more than five or six turns on each addition, and stirring until well combined. Try not to slosh everything, but be sure to scrape the bottom and sides. The batter might be a hair lumpy, but that's okay, so long as everything is generally homogeneous. You're looking for uniformity, but honestly don't worry too much about over-mixing as you've got some acid to play with, considering the vinegar and your liquid of choice - be it coffee, wine, or orange juice - all have acid in them. Acid cuts glutens, so you're definitely helping yourself out. 

Pour into your prepared pans of choice.  You can use either round cake tins or a sheet pan. Whichever you've chosen, be sure to pop your cakes in to the center rack and then turn the oven down to 350. You wanted it at 375 because you wanted the oven nice and hot before you started. You may have noticed that you're using baking soda, which reacts quickly. You'll want to really let these bubbles form as quick as you can, but not burn everything.

Check your cakes at 25 minutes. It should be fully set in the middle and have pulled gently away from the sides. If it's not quite there yet, cook in 5 minute increments. Obviously, the pan you've chosen will determine the amount of cooking time, so just stay nearby. 

Evacuate your cake and allow to cool completely before handling. This is a very moist cake with a nice crumb, and should be treated as such. My favorite part about this cake is that it freezes  beautifully. Believe it or not, the freezer is the pastry chef's best friend, next to the oven. 

Once you've decided on a design, you can really let your imagination run wild.

You can make a buttercream using butter flavoring and vegetable shortening, you can make a ganache using 2:1 ratio of coconut cream to good chocolate...it's really all up to you! Earth Balance makes my favorite substitutes for butter, and Daiya makes my favorite cream cheese substitute, so you can make a cream cheese frosting. You can also make a vegan mirror glaze recipe using agar agar instead of gelatin!



You can decorate with candied flowers and mint leaves. You can even do something as simple as layering your cake with jam between each layer and dusting it with cocoa powder. Do with this recipe what you will. And remember that the Holocaust happened. 



I hope you've enjoyed this recipe! I hope you get out there and share this with friends; it's unhealthy to eat alone. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pareve Chocolate Cream Pie for Hannukah

Disclaimer: You do NOT have to be Jewish or to keep kosher to enjoy this pie.

Hannukah is a minor holiday, and it is not Jewish Christmas. That being said, I freaking love it, because it's all about deep-fried foods and it actually encourages a dairy-free lifestyle(that's pareve, by the way!). No mixing of meat and dairy means you get to see a lot of dairy-free stuff mixed in with kosher stuff when looking through Jewish cookbooks. There's freaking dairy-free gelt, for god's sake - and it's delicious.

It's currently the 3rd night of Hannukah, so you now have five more days to make this delicious chocolate cream pie that hasn't a drop of dairy in it. Yum!

A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on


And, yes, my sweater does say "Let's Get Lit."

Pareve Chocolate Cream Pie 
yields a 9" pie

Pie crust

  • 500 g AP flour
  • 250 g vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 10 g sugar
Custard
  • 1 egg plus 4 yolks
  • 113 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 litre (500 ml) coconut milk
  • 65 g good cocoa powder
  • 20 g vegan butter(I love Earth Balance)
Garnish
  • Dairy-free whipped cream (365 makes a coconut milk whipped cream in a can!)
  • Pareve gelt
Roll out your dough between two greased sheets of parchment paper
for a mess-free baking situation! 
Make the pie crust adding the sugar to the flour and then cutting the fat into the flour with either a pastry cutter or your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. When the fat is pea-sized, add the egg and allow to mix until everything comes together. This actually makes enough crust for two nine-inch pies, but you might want to have extra crust in case you want to do something cool for the decorations around the edge. I stuck with a plain pinch finish on my own pie. Don't forget, though, to let the pie dough rest gently in your shell for a little while before trimming - this allows any glutens that may have formed to relax!

Poke a few holes in the bottom and then bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown. Allow to cool.


To make the custard, add the coconut milk to a saucepot and heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and the egg and yolks. This will be very thick, so don't be alarmed. Add in the cocoa powder using a spatula, spreading it as evenly as you can get it. Bring the coconut milk to a boil then splash about half of the hot liquid over the egg-cocoa mixture to warm it and slacken it out a bit. Whisk well, then all of the liquid to the saucepot. Turn on the heat to medium high and whisk constantly until it thickens, or when it reaches 185 degrees F/85 degrees C. Remove from the heat, add in the chilled butter, and scrape into your pie shell. Give the pie custard a solid shimmy or two to remove any bubbles and let chill in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours.

Once the pie is set, you can go ahead and garnish the pie with a dairy-free whipped cream and gelt coins. It sets up quite nicely, thanks to the whole egg, but you can add an extra bit of security in the setting realm by adding a vegan gelatin to the custard. Frankly, I think it works great just on its own.

Serve for dessert after eating a bunch of deep-fried latke goodness. I actually had this for dessert with a friend after he made us some deep-fried beer-battered fish tacos for the 1st night of Hannukah. Fun times!

Happy baking and happy eating - and Happy Hannukah!

Now get out there and wear an ugly Hannukah sweater. You won't regret it. 

Seriously. I've never gotten so many compliments on a sweater in my life. Get out there and do it. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie was my shining star at the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale on October 7th, 2017!
We all need a standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This particular recipe is the modified version of my pistachio chocolate chip recipe for smaller batches, which is excellent when I'm baking for just myself. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes can be easily modified, so long as the dough remains consistent and the add-ins are accounted for properly. Baking can be art, so long as the science and chemistry of such are respected along the way.

The No Kid Hungry bake sale was a total success! The bake sale itself raised over $8000 against childhood hunger in the United States. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the USA don't know where their next meals are going to come from? Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I work as the chef for a hunger relief network, now, and the amount of hungry people in the United States is pretty staggering, especially considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese. What we see is a huge amount of inequality, and you can do something about it.



No Kid Hungry has made it easier than ever to combat childhood hunger. Did you know that you can host your own bake sale in your own community? Just sign up to host your own bake sale!

I realize that I'm a very privileged individual. Yes, I'm a woman of color, and a first-generation American...but I'm also from a good family, have a stable, salaried position, have a group of good friends, have a reliable mode of transportation, and I am a homeowner. I'm also privileged enough to own nice things like standing mixers, scales, fancy equipment and marble countertops, things that the average home baker might not have. In the spirit of checking my own privilege, I'm posting the recipe below in both weight and volume, so everybody can bake these cookies, because everybody deserves to have homemade cookies.

I love this recipe because you can do this one without a standing mixer and only the most rudimentary of tools. Yes, you do want either a food processor or a coffee/spice grinder for the oats, but you can honestly chop them by hand, or throw them in straight if you're feeling lazy. It's 100% cool.

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield 3 dozen 1 oz cookies
  • 6 oz butter, cubed(Earth Balance butter substitute works great, too, or shortening, for the dairy-free option!)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted (4 oz)
  • 1 scant cup rolled oats (3.5 oz)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips/candies, crushed
Melt half your butter in either a saucepot or microwave, and then pour it over the remaining butter in a separate bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to allow the temperatures to come together nicely in a smooth mass and set aside. 

Meanwhile, blitz the flour and rolled oats together in a food processor (or coffee grinder, if you have one) and whisk them together with the baking soda and baking powder. Take out your ritz crackers and crush them by hand ; stir them right in! Don't worry about getting the crumbs to be especially fine, because you actually want larger chunks dispersed here and there. You can also substitute potato chips for this part, and get a very similar result - I've used original flavor and jalapeno, and both are pretty freaking delicious. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this - the salty and sweet work!

Now that you've taken care of your dry ingredients, let's continue on the wet side! Whisk in both of your sugars, and add in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk-whisk-whisk until quite smooth and fluffy; yes, you can do this in a standing mixer, but the appeal of this recipe is that you feel okay skipping arm day at the gym after doing these by hand. Also, not everybody has a standing mixer or a hand mixer, so let's check our privilege, okay, Nicole? 

Once the sugars are fully incorporated, whisk in the egg until fully blended. Now, let's get rid of that whisk and grab a spatula (unless you want to be dealing with a club of cookie dough). Gradually add the dry mix in thirds, alternating with the chopped chocolate and toffee bits, until everything is incorporated. You can proceed two ways from here:

  1. You can scoop out teaspoons of your cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets(as in, they've either been greased or lined with parchment paper) and chill them in the fridge by the batch 
  2. You can cover the whole bowl and chill the dough all at once
Either one of these you choose is fine; I prefer option two, just because it takes up less space in my already-crowded fridge. Also, waiting to turn on  the oven to 325 degrees F will give you no choice but to chill your dough. So, hey! Turn on your oven and heat to 325 degrees F while you're waiting.

Bake your cookies for 11 minutes, or until just brown on the outside, and let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. I know, I know, it's torture, but trust me on this one - if you don't wait, this wonderful cookie will crumble and fall apart into a big gooey mess. You'll want to wait, so you can dip this in an ice-cold glass of almond-coconut milk blend.

If you wait even longer, to let them cool completely, you can wrap them in groups of five in cellophane packages, instagram them with a special hashtag, and sell them for your own bake sale endeavors. It can be to end childhood hunger, to donate to the ACLU, or even to show your own child how to run a business.


Please comment below if you try it - and tell me all about the results! Oh, and I'm hosting my own bake sale soon...follow me on Instagram to learn details!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberries



I've been focusing a lot on my Instagram lately. It's odd; I always get notifications for new followers, and when I check, the number almost always is the same, or possibly one or two lower than last I checked. I can only guess that - between the hours that I've checked - I've gained one and lost two, or some combination of that. I can't quite fathom why, but I can only assume it's because I don't post as often as a high-follower-having instagrammer might post. Eh.

I love Instagram because I think it's one of the most-pure social media outlets there are. Minimal ads, no add-ons for the interface, just captured moments with a caption, and that's it. You can like it or not. You can follow or unfollow. There's not a huge amount of drama that can happen in that simple space, and I think that's why I love it. It just captures moments and that's it. It's a beautiful way to experience and savor our reality, and I'm 100% for it.



For those of you that may follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my life revolves around three things: my work, my pets, and my garden. Sure, I'll post the occasional style photo of what I'm wearing and what kind of makeup I'm doing(sometimes in my pink wig), but not as often as the food stuff. That being said, I like to think of myself as more of a lifestyle blogger than a food blogger. I try my best to live sustainably and do my best to recycle and produce as low waste as I can. I buy in bulk, for example, and try to make my own sodas. I also compost instead of throwing away biodegradable waste. I'll admit that it's more of a time-based project than anything, but it's worth it when your garden thrives more and more each year you invest in it. That being said, it's still a food blog, and I love food.

I've been on a cake kick lately, which is lucky considering I'm doing a friend's wedding cake come this Halloween. Since the flavor profile was strawberry and chocolate, I wanted to get a little practice in before the event, so I needed guinea pigs. Luckily, the birthday parties of both a dear friend and a soon-to-be sister-in-law would fulfill this need for me.




The first cake I made was this gorgeous strawberry cake. It was bright pink inside(which you unfortunately can't see because of the lighting of the night club we were at) with an Italian Buttercream frosting, a much lighter and more tasty version of the plain old American Buttercream we all might be used to at this point. I learned this amazing new marbling technique for decoration where you smear the sides of the cake randomly with different shades of a certain color and then frost them all together in irregular ways to achieve this effect. I also love the drip cake trend that we've been having lately, with asymmetrical decorations on top. I think it looks so much more organic and natural than anything constructed, which I find so much more appealing.

This cake is chocolate on chocolate, with the fresh strawberries for color and a little contrast in texture. It's insanely rich and dense, and just perfect for a birthday party. This cake makes three nice layers, so you'll get something that's wonderfully tall, which is completely instagram worthy. Oh, and just in case that wasn't instagrammable(is that a word?) enough, it's entirely #dairyfree!

Chocolate Layer Cake
yields 3 8" round cakes
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

For the Cake

  • 4 oz baking chocolate(I like guittard dark), broken up in pieces
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • 6.75 oz vegan sour cream(I love the tofutti products for baking)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz brown sugar
  • 7.75 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 oz coconut oil 
  • 4 oz grapeseed oil
  • 10 oz AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Ganache
  • 1 lb good quality chocolate, 58% cacao or higher
  • 8 oz coconut-almond milk blend(I like Blue Diamond brand)
  • 0.3 oz coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray three 8" baking pans with pan-spray. Drop in a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder into the middle of one of the pans and knock it around to spread it. You're basically coating the bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder, and then knocking the excess into each of the other pans, so that all three are evenly (and thinly) coated to keep your batter from sticking. This allows easy release from the bottom and a good rise on all sides for the cakes when they bake. 

Put the cocoa powder and broken-up baking chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and pour in your hot coffee, and whisk until everything is smooth. You might have to microwave the mixture to get the chocolate to melt, but cross that bridge if/when it comes. Once that's all nice and together, scrape in your tofu sour cream and whisk to combine, ending with the vanilla extract. Set aside. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl. Set that aside. (Yes, you're working with a lot of bowls. Deal with it.)

Combine the sugars and coconut oil in the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until incorporated, which will take about two or three minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. Yes, it'll look crumbly and not that creamy - that's okay! Add in your grapeseed oil in a thin stream as it whisks, and it'll get nice and fluffy...or, at least, fluffier. Add in your eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, leaving at least 30 seconds between each addition, and scraping down your sides between so as well. This takes some time, but trust me - the next part goes fast!

Remove your bowl from the standing mixer and grab a spatula, then alternate folding in your flour and the chocolate mixture, about a third at a time, ending with the dry ingredients. You don't want lumps, of course, but it's okay if you have them, as you don't want to overmix your batter. It should be rather smooth and smell quite chocolatey. 

Using a disher, divide the batter evenly between the three pans. I love using ice cream dishers to do these kinds of things, as the results are always consistent, so plan on investing in a large-ish ice cream disher should you plan on producing layer cakes on a regular basis. Once all of your batter is divided, knock the bottom-sides of your cake pans to evenly distribute your mix and knock out any particularly large bubbles that may be lurking insidiously. Yes, you want bubbles, but you want small and even bubbles rather than large ones. 

Bake for 20 - 24 minutes at 350, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when the top is lightly touched. Let the cakes cool, in the pans, for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, make your ganache.

Simply combine all ingredients in a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water and gently melt together. Use a spatula and not a whisk to combine everything, and please be gentle with it. You don't want to create air bubbles in a ganache, lest it turn sandy and the color go off. Once everything is mostly melted together, turn off the heat and let it hang out for about 15 minutes. By this time, your cakes should be ready to come out of the pans and ready to layer up.

Simply take each layer and spread about a third of a cup of ganache between each one, then coating the entire concoction with a thin layer of the ganache before setting in the fridge. Remember, you only want this to set, as you'll be glazing more ganache on top. I personally like the more rustic approach for these kinds of cakes, but you can be as refined as you like with it. I used fresh strawberries, mini meringues (a la Dominique Ansel's book, The Secret Recipes)  and shards of Hershey's special dark chocolate bars to decorate the top of this cake. You can decorate with whatever you want, so long as you play with height, color, and texture. Just make sure to set it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving it, especially if you want nice and neat layers at the end!

Okay so it's not the prettiest picture - that's why it's not on Instagram!
It seriously only took a couple of hours from start-to-finish, and most of that was just waiting on things to bake, cool, or set. There was a lot of Netflix between those times, as well as plenty of time to perfect my party makeup or get a nice outfit together. However you spend your time waiting, I hope you've enjoyed this brief tutorial. Now get out there and share your life! Happy cooking and happy eating!




Friday, July 15, 2016

German Chocolate Cake


When a friend asked me to make a German chocolate cake for his girlfriend's surprise birthday party, I said yes. After all, I own a bakery and he's dating my friend of six years, so of course I'll jump to help when called for. The party was Saturday and I had a little free time, and they're great about tagging my bakery in Facebook/Instagram posts, so it's essentially free advertising for a party I get to go to anyway.

Okay, so here's the thing:

In memory, I've never made box cakes. Every person I know has had the box cake mixes you buy at the grocery store. They know what a great American cake like a "German Chocolate" cake is supposed to be, where I do not. I can't even remember the last time I ate German chocolate cake, aside from the gourmet Chef-y deconstructed versions at restaurants. If you were to put a gun to my head and point to a line of cakes and say "PICK OUT THE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE" I'd say "Shoot me."

According to a quick Google search, German Chocolate Cake is comprised of a nice chocolate cake with a pecan coconut fudge icing, because nothing says Rheinland like tropical dried coconut and pecans fresh from the orchard. Can we detect the hints of sarcasm here?

Here's why "German Chocolate Cake", as a concept, annoys me:


  1. Coconut doesn't grow in Germany
  2. Pecans don't grow in Germany
  3. Although the Europeans mastered the use of chocolate thanks to the Spanish conquistadors, cacao trees don't come from Germany. 
I was about to go on a full rant about how stupid it is that Americans just randomly assign a nationality to a random cake they invented using the coconuts and pecans that have been in the South since before America was technically founded, but then I did some research:

German Chocolate Cake was not just a random assignment of nationality to cake(unlike Italian Cream Cake which is about as Italian as a Georgia Peach). German Chocolate Cake begins with Samuel German, an American chocolatier who created the mild dark baking chocolate for Baker's Chocolate Company in 1852. The company named the chocolate "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate" in his honor. Therefore, German Chocolate Cake was originally "German's Chocolate Cake," which had his actual chocolate product in the damn thing.

See what a little research can do? See how I'm no longer angry about something I didn't understand? See that I actually sought out the right answer instead of just going on this long rant about how German Chocolate Cake didn't make sense? See how easy that was?

Looking at you, Drumf Supporters.

Sorry. The American Presidential election season is taking its toll on me. I just wish that people would use things like fact checkers or even make a tiny effort to support their ideologies other than the argument of "yes but my FEELINGS"... Anyhow.

German's Chocolate Cake first officially debuted in 1957 in the Dallas Morning Star newspaper when Texas Homemaker Mrs. George Calay submitted it for "Recipe of the Day." The cake gained such huge popularity that it's become the Amercan classic it is today.

My recipe doesn't actually have the German's baker's chocolate in it, but there's nothing stopping you from chopping up this delicious stuff and popping it in your recipe to act as "chocolate chips".

Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake
(adapted from Ron Ben-Israel's recipe)

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 cups high fat cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted, warm
  • 2 farm-fresh eggs
  • 1 cup HOT coffee/espresso
  • A dash of Bitters**(totally optional, but my secret ingredient!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare three 8" round cake pans with pan-spray and/or parchment paper. 

Whisk together the sugar, the cocoa powder, the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt in the bowl of your standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add your eggs, one at a time, stirring until the mixture is sort of "chunky", and then repeat with the oil. Your coffee and bitters should be the last ingredient, and simply mix until all is incorporated and relatively smooth. Make sure you take a spatula and scrape the bottom of the bowl!

Divide your cake batter into the prepared pans and pop in the oven. Immediately lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. The cake should be wholly set in the middle and a cake tester/toothpick should come out clean when inserted. 

I doubled up on this recipe and ended up making four 9" rounds for this particular recipe... 

Allow the cakes to cool entirely before removing from the pans and attempting to decorate. I highly recommend that you use your pecan fudge icing almost immediately after you make it, so it has time to cool and set on the cake versus in the pan. 




Pecan Fudge Icing
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 oz butter, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp Bourbon
  • 2 cups toasted pecans
  • 2 cups shaved coconut
Melt the butter in a saucepot. Add the evaporated milk, the egg yolks, and the bourbon, and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and add in your toasted pecans. Stir well, and add the coconut. Use this icing while it's still warm, spreading evenly between your cake layers, leaving enough for the top. 

You can finish the sides with a chocolate buttercream, but I personally think this cake is moist and sweet enough as it is, so I prefer to leave it naked. It looks so pretty and gives such a wonderful Vintage-y vibe that just reminds you of your grandmother in a crinoline skirt. I highly recommend putting this beauty on a fancy ceramic cake stand and taking it to your kid's bake sale. Oh my God the look on Phyllis's face will be priceless when you pop this four-layer behemoth of Americiana on the bake sale table.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sweetheart Brownies

A photo posted by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on


So February 13th is, apparently, National Breakup Day. I don't really know how to feel about that, but it's still nice to learn something, isn't it?

Have a picture of a Sweetheart Brownie, courtesy of my new bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse. If you want to buy some of my stuff, just head to Pistachio Bakehouse's Facebook page and send a message! Thanks, guys, and happy eating!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Granola Bars


It's 2016, a new year for the new you!

America's twitter feeds have been trending with #NewYearNewYou and #NewYearNewMe, respectively. There are some that have even taken it so far as to proclaim they'll go entirely vegan for the month of January in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. I'll be the first to admit that Veganism, while there have been studies done that say it's more harmful to the environment that one might think, is a good thing to try. My own mother went Vegan for a year when she was diagnosed with Cancer and she'll be five years Cancer-free come November 2016.

I personally think that everything should go with moderation. I'm all for Meatless Monday and rotational diets are honestly one of the better ways to stay healthy nowadays. Keeping a variety in your foods will keep those fun little bacteria in your guts healthy, happy, and strong(from all of the work they get to do). Perhaps have a Vegan Weekend, or a gluten-free week, or an entire month where you only eat seafood? You could also try cutting out carbs from your diet for a month, or just cut out soda for a month for water or tea, and record the results.

Dieting can be fun if done in the right way, and opening your eyes to a new kind of cuisine may be the key to the "new you" that you've been searching for. I remember taking my World Cuisine class in Culinary school and being absolutely floored by how much I just loved North African food. No, really!

The soup is "harira", the fish in the back is marinated with chili oil and harissa, and at the back-right is
chicken with cous cous!


Harissa, tajine, cous cous and yummy date bars...I was shocked at how much I loved a food I had literally never heard of before school. Not pictured are the fabulous Medjool date bars, which were super tasty. My point is that you never know what you'll love until you try it, and trying all of those different foods kept me healthy enough to power through working a full-time job during full-time college.

What can be done about keeping healthy, but watching your wallet? Making your own (X), of course!

I have (admittedly) covered a lot about cake and very little about eating healthy, though I'll rant and rave for days about how America is so unhealthy. Well, shucks, it doesn't do much good if I'm willing to rant but not willing to do anything about it, does it? What's even sicker about that entire thing is that I don't even want to diet because I want to be healthier; I just want to remain a size 8 because I've been (essentially) the same size since high school and I really don't want to buy new clothes. I hate buying clothes and I hate having to try on clothes because I don't know what size I am...I'm a size 8 and I'm staying a size 8, not for my well-being or vanity, but for my sanity when shopping.

Anyway, my wonderful boyfriend has a bit of an addiction to granola bars and will often take them with him to work. I think his granola bars are too sweet to be a "healthy" snack, so I eat them when I am feeling too lazy to bake cookies. He's getting on in his age, too, and since we're both pushing 30, I figured I would save us both some money and make granola bars at home. It's shockingly easy, and it costs about $0.03 per bar versus $0.60 per bar you'll pay for a similar one at the grocery store. Then again, that's math for a recipe that will yield 16 granola bars versus 5-per-box...so you would pay something like $9 for the same amount of granola bars that this one recipe would cost you, which is somewhere close to a dollar per recipe. You do the math.

Favorite Granola Bars
(Adapted from/Inspired by Alton Brown's recipe on "Good Eats")

  • 12 oz rolled oats(you can find these at the bulk section of most markets)
  • 2 oz slivered almonds(can be substituted for pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 oz chopped pistachios(can be substituted for sunflower seeds)
  • 4 oz local honey
  • 2 oz organic fruit preserves(I use a blackberry jam that I make myself)
  • 2 tsp flavoring(vanilla, almond, whatever)
  • 1.5 oz butter( 3 Tbsp) or coconut oil(the fat should be solid at room temperature)
  • 2.5 oz brown sugar
  • 3 oz dried cranberries
  • 6 oz dried banana chips
  • 3.5 oz chocolate chips/chopped baking chocolate/carob chips
Start by measuring your dry ingredients(oats, nuts, seeds, etc.) onto a sheet tray that's big enough to comfortably toast all of that goodness and park it in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure an even cook. You're toasting these to both get rid of moisture(which is the enemy if you want to keep your bars preserved well) and to add depth of flavor. You can use just about any mix of stuff you want, so long as it is mostly the oats and the total weight for your dry ingredients is a pound(16 oz). 

 
Measure your honey, preserves, flavoring, butter, and sugar into a medium saucepot and set on a low and gentle heat. You're wanting to heat it until the butter melts and sugar dissolves. Remove your freshly-toasted crunchies from the oven and pop into your pan, along with your fruit of choice. I pounded the banana chips using a mortar & pestle to make them a more uniform size with the dried cranberries. Remember, you want every bite to be(relatively) the same. If you have dried apricots going with dried blueberries, remember to dice them into small cubes so that it's all the same size. Add the chocolate/carob chips at the very end and stir.



When your stuff is properly mixed up, all nice and gooey in the pot, spread onto a buttered/oiled sheet pan of your choosing(I used a cookie sheet, but you can use a standard 13 x 9 glass pan, or even two 9" pie tins) and bake for approximately 17 minutes at 300 degrees F. 


When done, let cool before flipping upside down onto a cutting board and, with a serrated knife, cut into squares, wedges, any shape of your choosing. It does help to have it at least mildly warm, for cleaner(and easier) cuts, but it certainly won't hurt it if it gets cool enough to break into shards for a snack. You can also break this stuff up in to chunks/clusters to keep in a jar and add to your yogurt in the morning.

If you want an extra bit of luxury, melt baker's chocolate in the microwave(I like the dark kind) and drizzle across each bar using a pastry bag (or a ziploc bag with the corner cut out) in zig-zag patterns. Each bar is roughly 120-130 calories and have a good bit of fiber in them. The sodium content is so low that it's practically nonexistent at a mere 40 mg per serving, if that. The sugar may be on the higher side, but it's still better than your run-of-the-mill granola bar that has who-knows-what in it. There's really no reason for you to not start making these yourself and become a better you by doing it. I've already saved money by making these, and where my darling lover would go through a box per week, this will last us twice as long at a fraction of the cost. That being said, I sell them at Pistachio Bakehouse, my pop-up bakery concept, if you want to eat healthier snacks but just don't want to make the bars.

These can be kept in the freezer for about 3 months, or in the cabinet in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks. To be honest, though, they won't last that long. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Strawberry Pretzel Brownies

Yum...
Who doesn't love a good brownie?

Probably ISIS, and other terrorist groups.

I've certainly got my favorite recipes for the perfect brownie, but many of the ones that I've tried and trusted require a scale to measure out flour/eggs/butter in grams or ounces. I've sort of dug my own grave in that regard, as I have only taken down recipes that have weight as the measure, and I(sadly) have yet to unpack my scale... I also have no earthly idea in which box it's hiding, but my brownie craving couldn't wait.

Fortunately, this is a recipe for brownies that I've found works just fine using volume versus weight as it's measure. This is a modified recipe from the GeekGod of Cooking, Mr. Alton Brown.

Strawberry Pretzel Brownies

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp cocoa powder(I like Hershey's)
  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp good vanilla extract/almond extract
  • 8 oz(2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 large strawberries
  • Powdered sugar A/N
  • Pretzels A/N(sticks or twists are fine)
Maybe if I mention "Calphalon" enough, they'll send me some pans
for free?? What do you think? Guys?
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and ready a pan. I have an absolutely fantastic Calphalon pan that's nonstick, so I didn't have to do anything to mine. If you don't have a Calphalon nonstick pan, though, go ahead and pop some parchment paper into your own pan of choice.  

Slice the strawberries thinly and dip each slice in a bit of powdered sugar, then place them on a parchment/wax paper sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft and relatively dry. I used a silpat mat for my brownies, as I wasn't sure how sticky they would end up being. 

The idea is you want them to seep out liquid, so they don't make "pools" in your brownies later on. If you have a dehydrator of some sort in your possession, however, feel free to use that. You can also use store-bought dried strawberries if you prefer, but I had fresh strawberries, so I figured "why not?"

This, of course, can be done with a whole pint of strawberries and  have the excess saved for later.
Combine your sugars and eggs in the bowl of your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. Stir for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2 minutes, until thick and yellow-colored.

Combine your flour, salt, and cocoa powder and dump everything in. Stir gently for about 10 turns, then stop and scrape your bowl down, before letting go for another 10 - 12 turns. Scrape once more and add the vanilla/almond extract and butter. Stir to combine; it should be shiny, like a little chocolate river.

Now that you have your brownie batter, scrape it all into a sheet pan and spread it evenly using a small spatula, making sure you get the corners.



Kolika's Special Tip: Want extra gooey brownies? Pop your batter-filled pan in the fridge and let it rest anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. The flour granules will "soak" up the moisture/fat in the butter and eggs, and make it so unbelievably gooey, you'll almost pee your pants when you try some. But if you don't want to wait that long, just a 15 minute rest in the fridge will do, just so the butter in the batter firms up.

Next, lay your pretzels in a pattern so that each piece will get some pretzel bit on it, and do the same with your strawberries. This looks really cool with the twist pretzels, but all I had were the sticks. You can also use slivered almonds, dried apricots, Hershey's kisses, crushed peppermint candies, and even crushed toffee candies to sprinkle onto your brownie batter. Nestle your toppings of choice nice and set into the batter so it won't move when you end up cutting it later on, and pop into your preheated oven for 15 minutes.

I think we're ready to go at this point...

When your timer is up, shut off the oven, and reset the timer for another 10, leaving the brownies in the pan to gently sort of bake in the residual heat. An overcooked brownie is a tragedy, so this allows it to carryover cook gently. Remove your pan from the oven and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before removing any from the pan. You can lift it up by the parchment sheet, or you can just cut and serve.

When you have a nice nonstick pan, you want to treat it like a nice nonstick pan. I use a little pizza/pasta wheel cutter that I picked up at Sur la Table for under $5. If you chill your brownies, though, you can easily just turn them over onto a platter by flipping it over and just letting them fall out. Once flipped, pop a cutting board onto the bottom and flip again, so that your topping side is now up, and your brownies are now on your cutting board. Simple? Of course it is!


While we're talking handy tools, can I just say how important it is to have a small, hand-held offset spatula, like this Ateco? Not only is it perfect for spreading out cake/brownie batter, but excellent for frosting cakes and picking up cookies, brownies, just about anything off sheet trays... I also use it for fish, sometimes, in a pinch, when I'm cooking on the stovetop. I found this one on Amazon for like $6, and it had free shipping thanks to AmazonPrime, which has paid for itself like ten-times over at this point.

Serve your brownies warm and fresh from the oven, if at all possible, or pop it in the microwave for a 12 second nuke on 70% power. The salty of the brownie plus the sharp note of the strawberry play great against the sheer fatty decadence of this recipe. Enjoy it with a cold mug of milk. Not because you chose the #MugLife, but the #MugLife chose you.


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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bitterness in Varying Degrees(Chocolate)

Chocolate tart, praline cremeaux, blanc mange, chocolate biscuit...just lots
of different things. It tasted amazing. 
Many people, too many people, think that chocolate is sweet. It's not. Chocolate is bitter. Cocoa is bitter. It is bitterness, in varying degrees, which makes chocolate unique. It's by far the most luxurious ingredient there is. Fuck truffle oil. Forget gold leaf. It's chocolate. Nothing evokes luxury and romance like chocolate. Nothing evokes depth like chocolate. Nothing. It stands alone.

If someone says they don't like chocolate, I immediately distrust them. My CDC(Chef de Cuisine) said once he's not a chocolate fan. I'm slightly uneasy leaving him in charge of my dessert things while I run to Restaurant Depot, because he told me that once over a year ago. I don't think I'll ever trust him truly, but he is a very good chef and has made some of the best soups I've ever had in my life. I mean, he's like the soup guy. But I still will never fully, truly, wholly trust him. I mean, not liking chocolate seems just fundamentally wrong. It would be one thing if he were allergic to it, but he's not.

Spiced walnut & chocolate verrine w/ cherry
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend a Chocolate Workship/Pastry Demo at Johnson County Community College, hosted by Barry Cacao/Callebaut Chocolate with the recipes/works of Chef Rocco Lugrine. He said fall was his favorite season(mine too), so he came up with all of these wonderful chocolate desserts that featured praline and pecans and walnuts and coffee and fruit...all of these gorgeous things. "And, and, and..."I wasn't very smart in my planning in going; I didn't eat breakfast so by the time I got to work I had eaten so much chocolate I couldn't stand without shaking. I clocked in and immediately made myself the saltiest pizza I could so I could hoark it down and be stable enough to work my shift without going into some sort of diabetic coma. I swear, I wasn't anywhere near the possibility of becoming diabetic before my career switch to Pastry Chef...but I think I'll get there by age 30.

Impending Diabetes aside, I love chocolate. And I love being a Pastry Chef. It's made me explore deeper parts of my psyche, and kind of helped me deal with a lot of stuff that I didn't know I could deal with on my own. I'm not saying that this can work for everyone, but cooking is and always has been very theraputic to me. I find comfort in cooking because I know the rules. I find comfort in knowing what happens when you add X to Y at temperature Z. Things like these are constants in my life when nothing else is.

I will never love any person as much as I love this dog. Just accept
that and be offended on your own time. Howl and I will be
chilling, enjoying each other's company. 
I also find comfort in my dog, Howl. He's a charming creature, magnificent in his derpiness, and a big pile of shedding love. I find it comforting that he will never care what I do for a living or how much money I make or if I snore or whatever. Dogs don't care if you're dumb or wise or funny or skinny or fat. Dogs love on a level which we are, I truly believe, incapable of. I see pictures of animal abuse or hear stories of it and I feel sick. A few people get slaughtered, I feel sad. An animal dies in a movie, I'm inconsolable. But when a human dies I kind of feel like... "Eh, that sucks, but they were probably an asshole at some point." Oh my God, how sick is that?

Love will come and go. Relationships come and go. I've learned to not make plans, since it seems like every time I do, something comes up. I've learned that the language of my life is one of fluidity, so it's best to just strap in and go with the flow. But life has also taught me that with sweet, comes bitter. Sometimes I fear that there is so much bitterness built up within me that none of the sweet will ever do any good. Am I palatable? Will I ever truly be? Why do I care so much?

Everybody wants to be loved. Is that so wrong? I am loved by my family and my friends and, of course, my dog. I feel love in the way the world works. I sometimes feel that I'm fooling myself when it comes to love. But I am coming to realize that it's because of my past. I'm letting my past hurt my future with my fear, my scars, my bitterness. This is something I've seen ruin every other love around me, and I had always vowed to myself I would never allow to happen to me. But I find that I'm making a conscious effort to not let my past bitterness destroy my present sweet.

Chocolate mousse, pecan caramel, short crust, etc...
I realize that this blog is turning into some weird, sappy, emo kid bullshit rant, so I'll sprinkle in a few pictures of the stuff we learned how to make at the workshop here and there. The things we learned about were so gorgeous, so perfectly executed. I learned that I need to use my immersion blender more, as it is, apparently, the Pastry Chef's greatest ally, aside from the knife and scale. I actually started using it for my chocolate stuff tonight at work and found it to be an amazing tool that I have seriously under-utilized. Maybe I'll post a blog about that in the morning.

But it's late, now, and I feel happy and hopeful and yet afraid. I wonder if this is how it's supposed to feel when you're my age? I wonder if there is any real such thing as "supposed to" at this point. I think we are coming to the realization as a collective mind that "supposed to" is a subject that is incredibly open to interpretation. God, I'm sleepy...