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Showing posts with label pastry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pastry. Show all posts

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Culinary School: Caramel Corn

Greetings, class!!

Today we'll be covering something not as healthy as a delicious, fresh-from-the-garden, spinach salad.

I know more than anyone that it's more than natural to have a sweet tooth. We, as animals, have evolved to crave things high in fat and high in sugar, to binge on while in feasting times so we can be okay during famine times....but we're not hunter-gatherers anymore, so there's no famine times. This does not mean you should abstain completely from your natural sweet tooth! Want to be healthy? Do the things yourself: i.e., make your own sweets.

When you make your own sweets, you know what's in it--but more importantly, you know what's not. (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, a ridiculous amount of sodium, red dye #40, etc.) Oddly, making your own caramel corn is simple! And, thanks to Chef Thomas Keller and my copy of Bouchon Bakery, I can show you how to make it.

Caramel Corn

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels(I like yellow organic)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5(3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, NOT MARGARINE
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Oil, A/N
You're going to need a neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed for this application. I prefer grapeseed for just about everything cooking-wise, but it's pricey, so canola is just fine for the average home cook. Find a heavy-bottomed saucepot and some aluminum foil, the heavier the better.

Measure out your ingredients ahead of time, as these steps will all go quickly. Measuring and gathering your ingredients before you start cooking is known as mise en place, which is French for "things in place." This is more than just words to many Chefs, but a lifestyle, a mantra. Maybe you should learn it, too? Organize yourself. Get yourself ready. Set yourself up for success. If you're unfamiliar with a recipe, but familiar with mise en place, you're a step ahead.
Before you start heating anything, prepare a sheet pan lined with either parchment or aluminum foil, sprayed generously with pan-spray/vegaline/whatever food-safe lubricant you prefer. You could even butter it, but the spray is easier.

Plop your oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter into the saucepot with your popcorn kernels. Give it a little toss to coat, then seal up your pot with the foil. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pot back and forth constantly. You'll begin to hear pops. Don't freak out! Just lower the heat a little bit to medium, then continue to move the pot back and forth, back and forth, until the popping ceases to just one or two every second or so. Then, remove from the heat and let steam for a few. This way, you can let the last few kernels in the bottom pop safely without the risk of burning your popcorn.

Once your popcorn is all popped, move to a big bowl and wipe out your pan. Add in the sugar, corn syrup, and water, then bring to a boil. Let the sugar caramelize. Swirl it around a few times once it starts to turn that pretty golden-brown color, to distribute that evenly.

The key to caramel is having the confidence to really let it go to that gorgeous brown color. The range of temperature that I prefer is between 320 and 350 degrees F. Once it hits that gorgeous golden-brown color, that nice dark amber, turn off the heat, hit it with the butter and stir. 

Note: Use a wooden spoon to work with caramels! This does not conduct heat, and is very durable...plus, it's easy to clean and won't melt.

Once the butter is melted, add in your baking soda. This will cause the caramel to fizz up like crazy, and thus coat your popcorn evenly. Add in your popcorn a few handfuls at a time, and stir. You'll want to coat it evenly, and thinly. Add more and more as needed, but don't add all of it at once, as you might have too much popcorn for your caramel.

Once your popcorn is thinly and evenly coated, pour out onto your prepared sheet pan, and spread as evenly as you can. If you have latex gloves lying around, you can now take this opportunity to butter your gloved hands up and spread the confections evenly. I also like to sprinkle a little bit of sea salt over the caramel corn while it's still hot, so it sticks...and you get that awesome salty-sweet action going on.

Let this stuff cool. Seriously, if caramel gets on your skin while it's hot, it's like NAPALM.

Note: If you get hot caramel on your skin, DO NOT rinse with cold water. Rinse with warm water and let it run over your skin(I know, it's really going to suck) until the sugar has dissolved. DO NOT put a paper towel or anything over it, because IT WILL STICK. If you do burn yourself seriously, and peel off some skin, don't be afraid to see a doctor. 

Look at you, now! You have a wonderful batch of caramel corn at your disposal! Once it's cool, it'll be crunchy and candy-like, without all of those crazy processed sugars and high amounts of sodium and Goddess-knows-what-else in it! You know exactly what went into this confection, and now you can have caramel corn any time you want. And let me tell you this: 

If you throw a party and have homemade caramel corn in little cellophane baggies as party favors, you'll go down in history as a host(ess) with the most(ess)!

Happy cooking and happy eating. Class dismissed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Brownie Sundae

Chocolate chip brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate and salted caramel sauces, whipped cream, and chopped pistachios.

Because I'm an adult and it's my turn to decide what that means.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

Can someone just help?

This is going to be the shortest blog ever.

I need to learn how to do sugar showpieces. But I'm clumsy and nervous. Why can't I build sugar sculptures out of steak? I understand steak...
But if someone could just come over to my house and show me how to make this, I'd be grateful.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is also known as the "Queen of British Desserts." I have no idea why.
Few desserts can easily evoke the luxury of the creme brulee. Literally meaning "burnt cream", it is a fabulous custard dessert with a crisp, crunchy top of caramelized sugar. The home cook will not often attempt this as broilers can be tricky in the residential oven, and I honestly can't think of many that go out and buy blow torches. But maybe that will change with both the Foodie movements that seem to be happening everywhere as well as Colorado's whole legal marijuana thing going on. (Don't over-think that last part if you didn't get it initially. Move on.)

The long and short of it is that the creme brulee is kind of a dream, a special occasion, something you can only get when someone offers it in a restaurant. You don't think to make a bunch of these dudes and have them in your house. At least, I assume you don't. Maybe you do. I do, but I don't hold myself to be a normal person, necessarily.

I didn't really care to have a creme brulee on my menu at the restaurant. To tell you the truth, I thought it was overplayed. I thought that everyone did that, and I wanted so much to prove that I was a good, creative, innovative pastry chef that I didn't want to go on, what I thought, was a stand-by. But everyone kept on asking for creme brulees for dessert.

"Fiiiiine..." I huffed as I went off to find the perfect recipe.

I didn't much care for the recipe in my textbook from culinary school. It was fine, sure, but I wanted something a little more different. I went to Google and trawled through Epicurious.com, Tumblr, and Pinterest, but I really didn't find anything that caught my eye. I just wanted a simple, good, vanilla bean creme brulee. Basically, I just didn't want to trust the randomness of the internet. Sourcing is so important, you guys. Don't trust everything if you don't know the source. So I went to a source I trust: The James Beard Foundation.

JamesBeard.org has become a staple for my recipe bookmarks. If ever I need something to go off of, I go there. I found the most-excellent creme brulee recipe there. It was just your basic, wonderful, perfectly-execute-able dessert. You can check out the recipe there, or just continue reading. Up to you!

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
yield: 8 creme brulees, or one fukken big one, depending on your dish size

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 quart heavy cream(heaviest you can find)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup/7 oz sugar(vanilla sugar, if you can)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 hearty pinch kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F, or 300 if you have a convection oven. I like 325 with no fan/low fan, so that's what I use. Combine the cream, vanilla bean(scraped seeds and pod, please), extract, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove immediately from the heat and cover with aluminum foil to let steam. Combine the egg yolks and the sugar with a rubber spatula. I don't use a whisk because it creates a foamy custard head on top, and that can mess with the final texture on top. There are ways to skim it off, but I just find it easier to use the spatula and save myself a step. 

Temper in the hot/warm cream mixture to the egg yolks, and then combine everything in the saucepot. Return to medium-low heat, stirring constantly with your spatula. I just go until it's a nice nape(which is just coating the spoon nicely, basically) before I remove from the heat and strain. Please don't skimp the straining. You'll catch any nasties or curdles that might have occurred. Just don't skimp it, okay? Don't skip this step.

Pour into ramekins of your size choice. I like the traditional creme brulee ramekins, but you can use whatever, as long as it's ovenproof. Place them in a baking dish with high sides. A casserole dish will do. Move the dish into the oven and add water to the dish until it reaches a little more than halfway up the sides of your ramekins. You can go higher, but I am clumsy, so I just go that high. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and close your oven door, setting the timer for 10 minutes. At each 10 minute interval, you'll return to the oven and rotate the pan. Just gently turn it around to a 180. Nothing big. You just want to make sure it's cooking evenly. 

After about 30 minutes, lift up the foil by a corner gently and check. Give it a tiny shimmy and if it's just set, remove it. Remove the ramekins from the water and let sit on your cutting board or any other fairly room temperature surface for about an hour before wrapping and putting it into the refrigerator.

About five minutes before serving dessert, sprinkle with white sugar and either torch it using a torch, or broil it under the broiler to get that signature crust. Then pop it in the freezer. The cold air will seize up the sugar and give you a crazy-good crunchy crust when you break it with the spoon. Plus you won't have that weird warm/lukewarm layer of custard just below the crust that can sometimes be unappealing. If you want to be a total copycat of me, serve it with a garnish of caramel corn, orange segments, and blueberries. And hopefully you can be just as surprised as how much you love classics like that. I realized through this dessert that there is nothing wrong with playing the Hits that everyone loves. You can be an artist, sure, but your art won't mean shit if you can't perfectly execute the basics. So learn to execute the basics! There is nothing wrong with the basics, especially when those basics are a vanilla-y unctuous custard underneath a crust of sugar. 

Happy eating!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Glimpse of (Pastry) Chef Life

I just got off of work. My hours for this work period were something along the lines of 81.33. So, an hour and a half of overtime. This isn't necessarily normal for me, but it's pretty normal for a lot of us.

Who is "us"?

Why, the cooks. The warriors. Them who feed you when you don't feel like feeding yourself. It's the faceless army that produces magic on a plate, be it that wonderfully grilled terrace major with asparagus and a sauce bordelaise, or that perfect drunk-food of pork belly tacos with an Asian slaw at your local gastropub. Do you ever think of where your food comes from? You might. If you're reading my blog, you probably do. So, good for you.

Why, yes, that is a cluster of caramel corn atop that creme brulee.
A typical day in a restaurant is usually not typical, but on average it will last about 8 to 10 hours. Every day brings a new challenge, and yet you're producing(usually) the same stuff you did yesterday. Still that gallon of pink peppercorn creme anglaise. What's that? Oh yeah. More chocolate mousse. Oh, and you have to portion some more cakes, and did I mention you have another party that needs about 40 cobblers before 5pm? Now, before you do that, translate some cleaning instructions for me to the new dishwasher. And don't forget about those 50-something creme brulees that are in the oven, which will curdle if they're in a second too long--so listen for that timer!

The life of the pastry chef is that of a 'Jacqueline-of-all-trades,' as it were. Not only are you producing your own stuff, you're training the pantry cooks over and over again, cleaning, organizing, keeping your chefs from having mental breakdowns... You're a part of the back of house, but you're not. You're kind of your own entity. You have an entire section of the restaurant to yourself. In a sense, that is. You can be part-time, full-time, mercenary, contracted...it's actually pretty darn rare that a restaurant will have a full-time pastry chef in-house. So if you're in culinary school, trying to decide on pastry versus savory, stick with savory and study pastry on the side. You never know when you'll need to jump on the line and help plate salads or make a few pizzas while your pantry chef is in the can. And if you can be versatile, you're valuable. Remember, anybody can replace you at any time. So be as valuable and irreplaceable as you can be.

Phew. Jogging is hard. 
Your feet will hurt, just like the line cooks and the chefs. Your back will be sore, as will the back of your neck. Learn to stand correctly. And stay hydrated. Do stretches at night. I do yoga before bed, and I jog with Howl in the morning. Staying in shape is really the kind of thing you want to do; not for the sake of vanity, mind you, but for the sake of not completely wrecking your body. If you stay strong, so does your battle.

I try to stay in shape by running where and when I can. I've gained weight since I made the switch from savory to pastry(#shocker), and I definitely don't want to get Diabetes as a result. After a very long day, you'll usually want to crawl into a hot shower and cry. Or perhaps you're the kind of cook that explodes on the line and threatens to kill everyone. You might even be the kind that gets into fights with the front of house, or the other line cooks, or even the Chef. You might be the kind who gets so frustrated you leave the line to go cry. I am not that kind.

I don't mind getting paid to pee. But when I'm on someone else's clock, I don't cry. When I clock-out, and get in the car, the tears will come. But I will always massage my sore neck, and my cracked hands and aching feet, thanking any God that's out there for giving me the opportunity to do something so meaningful with my life. I realize that it's not the most meaningful, if you were to really think about it. But I get to be a part of lives. Not just a life. But lives.

This year at Valentine's Day, a man proposed to his now-fiancee over one of my desserts. She'll always remember that flourless chocolate cake and cheesecake, artfully arranged on a platter, with a pile of rose petals cradling the ring box with her future in it. Today, I made a gender-reveal cake to tell a wonderful family that they'll soon be joined by a grandson. I got to be a part of that moment. I wasn't there, not really, but a tiny piece of me was in that dessert you just ate. I get to touch someone's life, and for a moment, they might just forget about what a crappy day that I had.

And that, to me, is why my job is meaningful.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The American Pastry Chef

So yesterday in class was pretty awesome. (Sorry I haven't been blogging as extensively as I should, by the way, as finals are coming up so I must concentrate!) Chef Rush's colleague Nick Wesemann of The American restaurant in Kansas City came to show us plated desserts. It was pretty awesome, since this opportunity doesn't come often to most, especially for such a kickass Chef. You would be hard-pressed to find this good of a Pastry Chef anywhere in the Kansas City area, if not the state.

Smoked Strawberry Pie(deconstructed, obviously)
We knew a few weeks in advance, and I think that I was the most-excited out of my group. Savory chefs and Pastry chefs are an entirely different animal, in case you didn't know. There is a mutual respect between the two classes, one would say, as well as a slight confusion and disdain for the other.

A pastry chef I know once said "Everybody likes pastry, and it's science and art that should be respected."

A savory chef I know once said "Those pastry guys wouldn't know a good steak if it hit them in the face."

While I will not name names, I will tell you that both of the chefs said the respective things are both awesome at what they do. With pastry you can take your time(time is actually something needed for a LOT of things like dough proofing, baking, custards setting, chocolate tempering, etc) and with savory there is often a big rush of adrenaline going on all the time. If I'm wrong, please correct me - I'm just making observations that I've seen so far.
another plating example of Smoked Strawberry Pie

I love pastry. My grandfather was actually a baker for a very long time. He ran a bakery for a very long time in Lake Arrowhead, CA, and the family joke is that his Cinnamon Rolls(which you could smell baking ALL over the tiny mountain town) were the clincher that made grandma fall in love with him. It makes sense, since my grandma had been a widow for a long time before she and grandpa met. I think I was three or four when they did meet.

So pastry has always been near and dear to my heart. From Grandpa's bakery to Mom's gourmet cupcake business(one of the biggest reasons I came to Kansas City), I will probably always love it. Come to think of it, when it comes time to take things home from school, I almost always make a dash for the sweets first. I guess it's lucky that nobody in my group really 'likes sweets that much.'

Anyway, Chef Rush sent us all of the recipes we would need for the plated desserts. They were the Iced Mango Lassi, the Smoked Strawberry Pie, and Black Forest Cake. We have three groups and each group picked from those which they wanted to do. I was immediately excited for the smoked strawberry pie, so we got that one. We actually were lucky enough to get a big Doc file of ALL the recipes.

I was super-excited to have all of them, and when I sat down to copy them on notecards for school, I noticed something odd:

No bake times. No temperatures. Simple directions such as "Creaming method" or "Combine all and cook". Most pastry chefs I've learned from have been extremely meticulous and OCD about directions. They usually will walk a person step-by-step through each recipe, because baking and pastry is a science. The next day when Nick came in, total beanpole, all arms and legs(and really hot), I found out:

"I actually started out as a Line cook. I'm not a classically trained pastry chef. I don't bake breads at all, it's just not my thing."

Wait, what?

Iced Mango Lassi(inspired by India!)
Well that explained it. It's actually brilliant if you think about it - savory chefs notoriously write their recipes in weird ways(at least the smart ones do) for one basic reason: Job Security. If someone can't understand your recipes, then that means YOU have to stick around to make delicious food! Makes sense, no?

So we got started doing our desserts. Each plated dessert had, like, eight different components on each plate, but here's the fun thing:

"Instead of doing ten different flavors and confusing your diners, pick, like, three or four main flavors and think to yourself: "Okay, so how many different ways can I showcase these?""

So, for ours, the components were:

Smoked Strawberry Pie
  • ·         Compressed Strawberries
  • ·         Smoked Vanilla Gel
  • ·         Strawberry Fluid Gel
  • ·         Instant Angel Food Cake
  • ·         Honey Crème Brulée
  • ·         Pie Crust
  • ·         Aerated Honey
  • ·         Burnt Milk Gelato

That's cake. From a microwave.
Sure, it's a lot for ONE plate,  but remember that The American is mostly prix fixe(which means fixed price, coursed-out menus that come in six or seven different courses) that has smaller portions.  Our basic flavors, as you can see, were strawberry, vanilla, and honey. The neat thing about all of Nick's recipes is that they are easy and fun things to do. The Instant Angel Food Cake, for example, is baked in a microwave. A MICROWAVE!

It's not what you think. You basically take the batter and put it in something called an isi canister, which you charge with N2O(the same stuff whipped cream cans have) and it instantly "whips" it. You do get super-big bubbles if you don't let it sit for awhile in the fridge, so it's best to let it hang out for awhile for a finer cake result. Once it's ready to use, you pop it in a plastic cup(he likes it because you can just tear away the cup and not worry about the cake too much) and microwave it for about 25 seconds.  It comes out, amazingly cooked, and the neat thing about it is that it doesn't stale as fast, nor does it get that weird pellicle that some things get when cooked in a microwave.

Chef: "Do you have plates like that at your restaurant?" Nick: "No, I just like this plate."
A lot of the things in the desserts are sort of unexpected. Smoked sugar, agar agar, burnt milk... It's a deconstructed strawberry pie with flavors and textures to really give you an experience. It wasn't just our dessert that had all the fun components, either. The Black Forest Cake had chocolate cake, milk chocolate cream, sour berry jam, vanilla sauce, cocoa nib streusel, blueberry whip, iced sweet cream(an ice cream!), torched cherries...

It's all sorts of delicious fun. It's like all the awesome things that a black forest cake should have with a new look. Revamped. Deconstructed. WOOT!

Anyway, what I really want to say about this blog is that pastry is an exciting and accessible thing. It can be beautiful and fun, and have a bit of a sense of humor. I think that pastry can  be exciting and you don't always have to plate compact and high.

Notice the platings on the desserts. Notice that they're sparse and kind of not so 'perfectly' placed. Ever hear of wabi-sabi? It's about finding beauty and harmony and perfection in things that are imperfect and natural. Everything that Nick plated that day was just on the fly. He just kind of picked things up and put them where they went. And that's okay! Not EVERY space has to be filled(something that 1st year culinary students often freak out at) because negative space provides an extra element. It's that extra want of something more.

Did I get a chance to plate something fancy with this? I SURE DID! And here's my attempt:

 I've never actually plated anything like this before. All the components are on the plate and kind of sparsely strung and flung about. I used to think this kind of plating was pretentious. But now I get it! It's just...fun. It's rule-breaking fun! It's about joy and giving your guests a bit of a 'wow' factor in an unexpected way. And isn't being American just that? Not playing by the rules and forging our own way? Sure, while it would be SERIOUSLY awesome to go to France and become a Pastry Chef there, if I end up as an American Pastry Chef someday, I think I'll be cool with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pastries that are NOT Cupcakes(Savarin)

So I was going through my morning routine of sitting in my robin's egg blue/cerulean sequened mini papa-san chair and going through my feeds and blogs when I saw one of my favorite blogs, Cupcakes Take The Cake, did a post on "Far from Ordinary" pastries.


This made me kind of excited, because although cupcakes are awesome and fun snacks, they're still just cupcakes. They're cake with a paper liner around it, and frosting on top. That's all it is. Quite frankly I've been growing increasingly tired of the cupcake 'movement' and am ready to embrace a new favorite American dessert, but I suppose the time is not yet now.

Anyway I clicked on the link and read through - turns out "Far From Ordinary" was just the name of the bakery and not a description of what was to come. It was cappuccino cupcakes that smelled JUST like a fancy cappuccino in a coffee shop. And that's pretty cool! Aroma is such a powerful tool when it comes to a meal(or dessert in this case), and if you can evoke something in aroma before the first bite is taken, then that's a big win for you!

It got me to thinking, though...even though they're fun and flavorful, it's still a cupcake. It's still just a cake  in a small portion with frosting on top. No real technique or absolute mastery of a skill - I mean cupcakes are great, but anybody can make them. There are certain pastry skills, however, that not just everybody can do.

This is a direct quote from a blog that's quite interesting, called "The Quenelle." What's a quenelle, you ask? Well, technically, it's this kind of poached dumpling thing...but most people think of it as this little beauty:
We call it a quenelle because of its shape. A proper quenelle should have three sides and be even all around. Making them itself is kind of an art. Anyway, onto the quotes:

What makes a good pastry chef? No one in particular asked me, but I feel compelled to ask and then answer my own question.

I will tell you what I think it is. And the answer addresses the technical aspect only. The management part and all the other stuff is not relevant to this answer. It comes down to eight techniques. No more, no less. They are pass or fail.

These are the eight techniques, in no particular order:

Lamination. This includes puff pastry and a yeast risen laminated doughs. Can you execute a Napoleon and a croissant? Are the outer layers flaky and crisp and is the crumb structure regular in its irregularity? Is there any damage to the layers? Is it much lighter than it looks? is it buttery on the surface and does it make a beautiful mess when you break through the surface?

Pate a choux. Not the aberrations and monstrosities that we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Amorphous blobs of soft choux coated in dull condensation-pocked glazes. Can you make an eclair that is evenly tubular and completely hollow? A puff that is round, hollow and even?

Pastry cream. No scorch, no lumps, not overcooked, not undercooked. Proteins: yolks and starch coagulated on point). No pastry cream powders. Is it shiny, smooth and supple?

Brioche. Understand that it is an emulsion first and an enriched dough mixed to full gluten development second. Mix it as such without over-heating it. Is it soft, tender, buttery, airy... pillow-like?

Ganache. Speaking of emulsions. Can you formulate and balance a ganache recipe to fill confections and another for a slab to cut and dip? Do you know the difference between these types of ganache and what they are for?

Temper chocolate. So it shines and snaps. Thin shells in confections (throughout the entire shell, including the base... Is it uniformly thin?)

Thin sheets for chocolate decor. Can you manipulate it and keep it under working control for long periods of time? Not a speck on your coat. Not under your fingernails. Not on the wall or on your work table. Can you harness it?

Make a macaron. Can you mix it to just the right consistency, pipe it all to exactly the same size, let it dry just long enough, let it bake just long enough?

Spoon a quenelle. Ice cream, sorbet and whipped cream or creme fraiche. Small, medium and large. With any spoon.

If you can execute all of these eight items without mistake, with the true quality aspects they deserve, and with relative ease.... Then you are a good pastry chef. If you do seven of them, you are not quite there yet. I wonder if we took all of the pastry chefs we admire and respect, or perhaps do not admire or respect but we hear about a lot and give them awards, how would they fare? How many would pass?

I really, truly want to see any of these techniques be part of the challenges in cooking show competitions. Not who makes the sassiest cupcake. Frankly who gives a shit about cupcakes? Any home cook can make a decent cupcake.

Do these well, and you will succeed, perhaps not financially, but you will know deep down that you are not a hack, and that is one definition of success, which plays into your integrity , self respect and what you are made of There's nothing worse than a hack who doesn't know he (or she) is a hack. Perhaps the only worse thing is a hack who knows he's a hack and does not care he is a hack. God bless P.R. firms, right?
Okay so this is what we're pretty much taught in school. Just so the trolls know, I don't hate cupcakes. I just think they're beginning to become overhyped and we should look to new things! Puff pastry is awesome, but rarely is there a home cook that cares enough to master it...so that's probably out.

Another awesome thing is pies. Mini pies are cute and fun! Remember the blog I actually did about mini pies? Of course you do! Well, if you don't, it's a post called Move Over, Cupcake! So what's a new trend-er to do? SET A NEW TREND, THAT'S WHAT!!!!!!!

So you know what I think should be the next trend of pastry fun? SAVARINS!!!

Now you may be asking yourself, "What the hell is a Savarin?" Oh, I'll feed you, baby birds...

THIS is a Savarin!

Add caption
What the.... THAT? You think THAT is going to be the next big thing?

Yes, I do. And let me show you why.

You can find this on Food Network.com!
 See, a Savarin - also known as the Gateau Savarin - is basically a rum baba. Which means it's a small spongecake baked into a ring mold, soaked in RUM.



And do you know why else this is cool? The ring mold allows it to be like a BAKED DONUT.


They can also be edible reading glasses

Who doesn't like donuts? I'll tell you who - terrorists.

So they're spongecakes(the kind of cake that's usually classified/used for cupakes), in a donut shape(who doesn't like donuts), soaked in RUM(insert witty Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow quip here), are small(so you can feel okay about eating one or twelve - er, two) and have a hole so they can be filled with ANYTHING(giggity) your little heart desires.  This could be chantilly(whipped w/ sugar) cream, pastry cream, chocolate, fruit... Anything you can imagine, really.
This opens up a good world of culinary exploration because cakes are awesome and can be made in any flavor...you can now experiment with different types of alcohol(even though I'm sure most pastry purists would tell me its blasphemous) , and lots of different types of fillings.

It's like a cupcake transitioning into a donut. And it's sophisticated! And sexy! And you can have lots of fun with it.

So who's with me? Ready to take down cupcakes? I'm starting a Savarin movement. Follow me on Twitter and tag #TeamSavarin on all your tweets! Let's get this trending! So have fun and happy baking.

Ooh! I almost forgot...you need to know "Well, Kolika, how can I do this savarin thing if I don't know how???"

It's pretty easy to make a spongecake(any recipe will do, but I prefer the one that comes out of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking), and get a good quality rum  to soak it in after the cake bakes and dries out a little. To buy molds, Bing.com has some great ideas/references here. You could also just hit up your nearest Sur La Table(easily my favorite store) and get some of the things you see here.

Have fun! GO #TeamSavarin!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bouche de Noel

So thanks to my dear friend Sellina, I have pictures of her final from Capstone, a culmination class of our Senior year in school at the Art Institutes International - KCMO. She made a wonderful French pastry, the Bouche de Noel. She also made this beautiful thing I don't remember the name of...but it was beautiful. Here's a few pictures!

Aaaaand how pretty is this?
For those of you who don't know, a Bouche de Noel is a really fun cake that's traditional around the holidays. You can find a good recipe in just about any Bon Appetit nowadays, but I like to stick to Food Network. Here's the recipe that they had:


Coffee Buttercream:


For Finishing:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Red and green liquid food coloring
  • Confectioners' sugar


To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with half the buttercream. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the buche.
To make the marzipan: Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
To make marzipan mushrooms: Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder. To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder. Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.
To make holly berries: Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.
To make pine cones, knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.
Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the marzipan. Sprinkle the platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."
Storage: Keep at cool room temperature. Cover leftovers loosely and keep at room temperature.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
  • Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment
Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.
Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.
Storage: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several days, or double-wrap and freeze for up to a month.
Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake

And just because, here's the picture of the other tasty pastries that Sellina had. Maybe if she likes my blog enough, she'll be kind enough to share HER recipe with us?

  Now how beautiful is THAT? They look way too pretty to eat, right?

Don't worry, though. I totally did. I thought my eye was going to get poked out, but then I remembered I'm a pan-face(laughing at yourself is healthy) and don't really have that danger.

The spun sugar was so delicate - it tasted like what I imagined gold to taste like. It was obviously a wonderful "meal". So glad I could capture her talent!

Also, I went to the Rieger Grill and Exchange last night with my Garde Manger class for a field trip, so look for that blog/review soon. I will also be doing a review on the Grunauer here in KC very soon. And if you're not doing it already, follow me at Twitter.com/WannaBGourmande, or on my Tumblr account for fun photos of food at any time. 

And just for kicks, here's a picture of all the people enjoying Sellina's treats.

I think it's weird when people look at the camera on "candid" shots