Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Profiteroles with Pumpkin Ice Cream, Salty Caramel and Pepitas



I wanted to make a special dessert for this post. One that applied my skills as a pastry chef using fundamental techniques and great flavors. Profiteroles mostly knows as "cream puffs" are made from a paste called Pate a Choux. It is a simple dough which takes a little dexterity and knowledge of how things bake in order to make properly (Maybe I could teach a class on this...hmmm). Then I filled them with pumpkin ice cream and made a small batch of salty caramel. This was inspired by a jar of fleur de sel caramel I saw at Trader Joe's for $4. I figured, I should just spend the money on the cream and make it myself. I finished the dish with lightly sweetened whipped cream, grated,fresh nutmeg and roasted pepitas.

The salt in the caramel brought out the flavors in the pupmkin ice cream and the bare, roasted pumpkin seeds gave it a smokey finish and provided a little bit of texture, crunch and color. It looked good, it tasted amazing but there was no real aroma in any of the components so I grated a little nutmeg all over the dish at the end of plating. All of the senses were now involved and it was a powerful thing.

The plate (after photos) was completely clean. Even the melted ice cream mixed with caramel and bits of broken pepitas was gone. This dessert was perfect for the season and perfect for OriginalCinn's first anniversary. Thank you so much to everyone who read my posts, followed this blog and made me feel so proud of something I don't even get paid for. Here's to many more...

Cheers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chai Spice



The heat of summer has turned into the most beautiful California fall. The air is cool, the first rain of the season has come and I am in the mood for something comforting and spicy.

I made chai spiced cupcakes with ganache frosting. They were spicy and delicious and everything I needed for a chilly night. The best part about chai is that when you steep the whole spices, you can infuse dairy, simple syrup and even sugar. In this case, I took my regular vanilla cupcake recipe and put in one tablespoon of ground cinnamon, two teaspoons of cardamom and one teaspoon of allspice.

I had a chai spiced creme brulee on my menu once and I served it with mini almond biscotti. This is a great flavor for any custard because the smooth texture completely distrubites the flavors and makes you all warm and fuzzy. Of course adding chocolate to the chai just makes better.

With the holiday right around the corner, it means that guests will surely gather around your fireplace, singing songs and telling stories with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts...Or maybe I just saw a commercial for a "Sounds of the Season" CD. But either way, you can bet your guest will need some milk or cream for that coffee, so why not offer them some comforting chai-spice creamer? Or vanilla? To get you started, here are some recipes for chilly weather infusions.

Chai Spiced Cream
2 cups Milk, Cream or Half and Half
3 each Cinnamon Sticks
2 Tbsp. Whole Green Cardamom-you can find this in the ethnic foods aisle in bulk
1 Tbsp. Whole All Spice
2 tsp. Black Peppercorn
1 each. Vanilla Bean-just the pod. Or one tsp. of vanilla extract once the cream is chilled.

-Gently crush the cardamom, allspice, peppercorn in a plastic bag and add to the cream with the vanilla pod and cinnamon.
-Bring this almost to a boil. It will get foamy and bubbly at the edges when it is ready.
-Remove from the heat and cover. Steep the cream for thirty minutes.
-Strain the cream, making sure it is smooth and there are no bits of whole spices in it.
-Pour it into a container set in an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the mixture is cold, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Pumpkin Pie Creamer
2 cups Cream, Milk, or Half and Half
3 each Cinnamon Sticks
1 Tbsp. Grated Fresh Ginger-Tip:Freeze the ginger before grating it.
1 Tbsp. Whole Allspice
2 Tsp. Whole Cloves
1/2 Tsp. Grated Whole Nutmeg
1/4 cup Pumpkin Puree

Use the same method as above.


Now you can have some really special additions to your coffee tray. Notice these dont have any sugar added so your guests can control the amount of sugar they would like. I would serve this alongside some splenda for my family. Brew a subtle coffee for these so the flavors can really come through. My favorite is Allegro Breakfast Blend. It is very mild but aromatic and delicious.

Chai. Fragrant, comforting, warm and so delicious. Try this blend of spices in so many different ways. Tell me what you come up with!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pizza and Beer



When I was a kid, my mom always said that fresh fruit was the best dessert. I thought she was ridiculous because obviously chocolate pudding or ice cream is the best dessert. But now, If I see a fresh fruit dish on a menu, I am very excited to order it especially if it is lightly dressed with a flavor I am not used to. In this dish, I wanted to take something you normally would think of as savory and blow your mind with a creative twist on it. Pizza and beer without the greasy slice or a pitcher-just fresh fruit and a citrusy white beer with ice cream.

The thin slices of peach are tossed with lemon juice, honey, sugar and lemon thyme and put on a pizza crust with mascarpone cheese flavored intensely with vanilla and lemon zest. Lemon thyme is a lovely fresh herb that has a sweet flavor. It is a really great alternative to a sprig of mint.

Hoegaarden, a Belgian white beer that is nice and crisp and has the flavor of citrus is made into a float with honey vanilla ice cream.

Pizza with peaches and raspberries. Beer with ice cream. Delicious.

The "recipe" for this dish, which is more of an explanation rather than a recipe will be published in the Metro Silicon Valley Newspaper on 10/6. I will post the link when it runs. This is the first recipe I have ever had published so needless to say, I am pretty excited.

Eeek!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tools and Ingredients




I’m not sure I have a more coveted cooking tool than the small offset spatula. I use it to frost cakes, cupcakes and cookies. I use it to quickly peel off hot tuiles right out of the oven and often to gently place a component of a dessert on the plate before it goes out to a guest. It is an extension of my right hand and the only tool I really feel I can’t live without. But then again, there is my heatproof spatula that I affectionately call my “spat”, my many sized ice cream scoops and my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. Oh, oh, oh AND my whisks! Ok, well there are many tools in my kitchen that are vital to creating what is on this blog. I have been asked on several occasions what tools are essential to the home baker. The list varies from person to person, because even though a casual baker probably won’t need 5 different sized whisks, and avid baker might not either. But when asked, I make a simple list:
Heatproof Spatula
Whisk
Wooden rolling pin
Measuring Cups and Spoons
8 or 9 inch round pan or cupcake pan
13x9 inch rectangle pan
8 inch square pan
Cookie sheet or baking sheet
Parchment paper
A small set of piping tips with a piping bag

Now you have a few essential items and you can begin to bake…except first you need ingredients, right?

Baking with really good ingredients makes so much difference in your final product. Buy good butter on sale and freeze it, make sure you have fresh, local eggs, milk and cream-local because some eggs in the grocery stores are shipped from different states…so make sure you know where your food comes from.
Since vanilla beans are really expensive, make a smaller investment and buy a really good vanilla extract. And before you use the baking soda and baking powder that has been sitting in your cupboard since the holidays, check the expiration date.

Now, I would like to ask you a question. What is your favorite kitchen tool? Anything that you use in the kitchen to make your time go by a little faster or anything that is just super fun to use! While you're at it, tell me about your favorite ingredient too! Leave a comment and let me know.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plum and Cherry Crostini with Black Pepper and Olive Oil Ice Cream




There is nothing quite like tomatoes on toast with a little salt, pepper and olive oil...unless of course you put plums and cherries on toast with salt, pepper and olive oil! The similarities between plums and tomatoes make this very easy and very tasty. The idea for this dessert came from a thought I had to make Olive Oil Ice Cream. I asked a few people and they had never heard of putting something that was generally used in savory dishes as a main ingredient in Ice Cream. There are so many blends and flavors of olive oil, that a stop at a local olive oil store gave me quite a few options. After sampling meyer lemon, and blood orange flavored olive oils, I knew I wanted the ice cream to have a savory quality...then I tried the Pendolino Olive Oil. It has light, fruity flavor that leaves a grassy finish and I knew that this was the flavor I wanted in the ice cream.
The Plums, Rainier Cherries and Blackberries were picked up at the farmers market and very little was done to the fruit. Raw sugar, honey, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla was brought to a boil and the fruit was added, tossed and removed. Gentle heat is used to keep the fruit bright and whole. Once I removed the fruit, I reduced the remaining liquid and used it as a syrup to pour over the assembled crostini.
Finished with olive oil ice cream and a drizzle of olive oil, this summer dessert is perfectly balanced; colorful, crisp and earthy...sweet, tart and savory.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberries





Farmer's Market Strawberries are so delicious right now. I brought home a few baskets and made Jam, White Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (that sorry, I didn't get a chance to photograph) and these light, simply flavored Vanilla Bean Panna Cottas for a dinner party that I had been invited to and offered to bring some dessert. I wanted to use the strawberries with very little done to them because they were so sweet and so beautiful just on their own. Naturally, when I think of Strawberries, I think of cream...so then came the idea to make Panna Cotta; which in Italian means "cooked cream". It is a cream base flavored or infused with any flavor, in this case, vanilla bean and gently set with gelatin. It can be put into individual cups, as I did here, it can be unmolded and set on a plate to wobble with subtle sexiness or it can be layered with another flavor of panna cotta or gel-which is juice or liquid set by gelatin. To give you an example, I had a Coconut Panna Cotta layered with Roasted Pineapple Gel and Pineapple-Rum Ice. All of the flavors together made a delicious Pina Colada inspired dessert.

To achieve this, all that has to be followed is a simple formula of gelatin to liquid. For this dessert, I set 4 cups of dairy, a mixture of milk and heavy cream to 1 envelope of gelatin bought from the regular grocery store. I infused the dairy with vanilla bean for 30 minutes, added the bloomed gelatin, strained the mixture and poured it into different glasses. At the restaurant, I have access to at least 30of the same plates, glasses and molds but at home, I have to get creative. I wanted each person to have the same amount of panna cotta, but with a slightly different look so that when they were presented on the platter it would give the guests another element to the dessert instead of just flavor and texture-because all I wanted to do was serve a simple berries and cream dessert...with some style. In addition to the panna cotta and berries was a strawberry coulis (coo-lee), or pureed strawberries, sweetened and strained to remove the seeds. You can do this with any berry, or a mixture of berries. I added some fresh orange juice to the coulis to add brightness and to thin in out a little.

After an incredible meal, this dessert was appreciated as I had intended it to be, as a simple, strawberries and cream dessert with the delicate flavor of vanilla paired with the naturally sweet, tart, and fresh strawberry.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
1 cups Milk
3 cups Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Tbsp. Orange Blossom Honey
1/4 Vanilla Bean
1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp Powdered Gelatin

1. Heat cream, vanilla bean, sugar and honey until hot. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over 1 cup of cold milk and let it soak or "bloom" for 5 minutes.
3. Making sure the cream is about 100-115 degrees, pour the milk and gelatin and stir until all of the gelatin is melted. If the mixture is too hot, the gelatin will not set properly.
4. Strain the mixture and add the vanilla extract and salt. Pour into a bowl set over an ice bath and stir occasionally, including the sides, to cool it down. This will allow the panna cotta to set faster and to let the vanilla beans stay suspended in the cream.
5. Make sure the mixture is smooth and pour into glasses, cups, or dishes. Let the panna cottas sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Strawberry Coulis
1. Wash, trim and hull strawberries and puree with simple syrup (equal parts sugar to water, brought to a boil and cooled to room temperature) to taste.
2. Strain through a fine, mesh strainer and add 2 Tbsp of fresh orange juice and a squeeze of lemon juice.

To assemble, pour strawberry coulis over the panna cotta and garnish with fresh strawberries.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fancy Schmancy




Sometimes you just have to put away your coordinated flatware and enjoy some simple food on a paper plate...preferably post-consumer and eco friendly paper. And that is exactly what I did with crepes this morning. I made a filling of cream cheese, raspberry jam, farmers market meyer lemon and orange zest with a little bit of honey and sugar. All things I already had in my pantry! At the grocery store, the raspberries, despite their early arrival looked really pretty so I made a syrup out of raspberries and blueberries with more fresh OJ, and sugar. The crepes, I made last night with a simple recipe given to me by the Chef at work. Now, don't be afraid about making them yourself. I know they have crepes right next to the berries all ready made at the grocery store but all it takes is patience and a few burnt ones to get the hang of it, and the batter goes a long way. After everything was made, I just didn't want to have to do dishes after breakfast. Because the filling was made right in the cream cheese container and mixed with a spoon, the berry syrup was made in the same pan the crepes were made in so I thought, "No need to get fancy...lets use paper plates today!" We're just sitting at home on a Saturday morning, after a long week at work, eating an actual meal...although, I somehow couldn't help myself from plating decoratively I confess. *giggle*
To make the crepes, I threw flour, sugar, eggs, milk and melted butter in a blender. I let the batter sit for about and hour then cooked them on a non-stick pan. I've never made crepes without a non-stick pan so I cant tell you how they'd come out-but make sure you use non-stick spray if you do. Once they start to brown on the edges, flip them using a spatula or if you're feeling daring, flip them right in the pan, no spatula!
Whichever way you decide to flip, make them, eat them, love them and enjoy being not so fancy, fancy!


This crepe recipe works really well and is usually another go-to recipe of mine.

Crepes- foodnetwork.com
Alton Brown

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
Non Stick Cooking Spray

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Add nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

Berry Syrup
1/2 pint Raspberries
1/2 pint Blueberries
Juice of half an Orange
2 tsp. Sugar, or more to taste
1 heaping tsp. Raspberry Jam

Cook on low heat until the jam and sugar melts and the berries get warm and soft. Add orange juice and stir gently until the mixture is "very warm", being careful not to let the fruit break down too much.

Cream Cheese Filling
6-8 oz Cream Cheese
Raspberry Jam
Lemon Zest
Orange Zest
Honey
Sugar

I wanted to use up an open container of cream cheese so to the 6 oz. that was left in the container, I added, with a regular teaspoon, 2 teaspoons full of Jam, 1 teaspoon full of Honey, The zest of 1/4 lemon and 1/4 orange and a little bit of orange juice to thin it out a little. I tasted it and thought it needed a little more sweetness, then added a little sugar to finish.
Spread about 1 big spoonfull of filling onto the crepes and top with warm berry syrup.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lemon and Mascarpone Cream Stars




Sometimes for no reason at all, I feel the need to bake more cookies. Today, I had a bit of time so I made Lemon Mascarpone Cookies-piped, little lemon cookies sandwiched with mascarpone cheese. I've used the recipe from redbookmag.com for "Lemon Pistachio Bites" for a few different variations on this cookie, although never with pistachio! I've added chocolate ganache to the middle and drizzed them with chocolate and I've sandwiched them with raspberry jam and disted them with powdered sugar. The reason why I love this recipe is because I can do whatever I want with them and the basic cookie stays the same. It's like adding ingredients to something simple like whipped cream...add some espresso powder and you have espresso whipped cream!
I added lemon zest to the cookie base, piped them with my cloth piping bag and a large, star piping tip and topped them with large crystal sugar. Once they baked to a light golden brown, I sandwiched them with creamy mascarpone cheese flavored with lemon zest and vanilla bean. The cookies are made with powdered sugar so the texture is very soft and delicate. These cookies last for a few hours at room temperature and up to 24 in an air tight container, stored in the refrigerator. If you dont use them up right away, you can pipe them onto a cookie sheet, refrigerate them and then freeze them raw for up to one month to use whenever you want! Here is my "go-to" piped sugar cookie recipe.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 pinch salt
1 large egg yolk-reserve the egg white
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Large sugar sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Method to follow

Mascarpone Filling
4 oz. Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
1/4 ea. Vanilla Bean, scraped

1. Mix to combine and reserve.

Method
1. Whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
2. Beat butter, powdered sugar and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
3. Add yolk, zest, juice and vanilla extract and mix until everything is incorporated and the mixture becomes fluffy. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
* A little bit of air in this recipe is needed to make it easier to pipe.
4. On low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Scrape the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix until fully combined and a soft dough forms. Place half of the dough into a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip. For this recipe I use the Ateco #847 pastry tip.
5. On a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet, pipe out the dough to at least an inch in diameter. Dip your finger into the reserved egg white and gently pat the top of the dough and the sprinkle on the sugar crystals.
6. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown. Remove from sheet set on a cooling rack.
7. Pick like-sized cookies and fill them with mascarpone filling with a piping bag.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls




The past few weeks have been really busy for me. Combined with some wet and cold weather, makes it the perfect time for cinnamon rolls. OriginalCinn-amon Rolls! I have taken different elements from a few recipes, added my own techniques, texture and flavor preferences and came up with this great recipe. I start with a dough that resembles brioche...eggy and buttery, add some brown sugar and a little extra salt to get a more moisture and flavor and let it rise. After that, I roll it out and spread cream cheese on the dough, then fold it like a letter, twice to create layers of the cream cheese which makes it super soft, incredibly moist and flavorful. Then I mix sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg and pat it into the dough. I can either add nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit, but I prefer just the cinnamon and sugar classic...I'll save the fancy stuff for later. Then roll, slice and at this point, you can go one of two ways (ooh, options!). Either you can arrange them in a pan and let them rise for about 2 hours then bake them, or you can let them proof in the refrigerator overnight and bake them in the morning. I made these last night and baked them up this morning. It is a great option for overnight guests, or breakfast in bed. Either way, you have already done the work, now bake them and decide whether you want a simple icing made from milk and powdered sugar, or, if you want a cannamon roll morning done right...make a cream cheese, buttercream frosting! Have fun with this recipe, I can already think of some other variations. Maybe you can try some chopped hazelnuts in the filling and top it with some nutella...oh my...



Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 8

Dough
1/4 oz Actice Dry Yeast
1/4 cup Warm Water, about 115 desgrees
1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Milk, room temperature
2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
1 Yolk
3 cups Flour
3/4 tsp Kosher or Table Salt
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature

Filling
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Honey
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
3 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature, softened
4 Tbsp Butter, melted

To make the dough:
1. In an electric mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, yeast and 1/2tsp of sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.
2. Add milk, egg, yolk, remaining sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes or until completely combined.
3. Add flour and salt on low speed and mix until all ingredients come together. Continue mixing on high speed for 6-7 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides.
4. Add the butter on high speed a little at a time, waiting for the previous amount to be completely absorbed before adding the next. Continue mixing until a soft dough forms.
5. Remove from mixer, cover with plastic and let the dough rise for 1 1/2-2 hours or until doubled in size.
6. Make the filling by combining all ingredients except for the cream cheese and the butter. At this point you can add whatever else you'd like to the filling, making sure the pieces are small enough to fit in each roll. Such as mini chocolate chips as opposed to full sized chips.
7. Pour the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky. Roll the dough into a 10"x10" square.
8. Spread the softened cream cheese in a thin layer on the dough, leaving a 1/2" border around the edges. The, fold the dough into thirds like a letter, creating rectangle. Then fold the edges into the center and close the rectangle into a square.
9. Chill the dough for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Dont let it get too cold, because the butter and cream cheese will get hard and break in the dough once you roll it. All it needs at this point is a little rest.
10. Bring out the dough and gently roll to 11"x16" with the short sides parallel to you. Brush the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and leaving a one inch border at the top. Press the filling into the dough and tightly roll into a cyllinder ending with the seam on the bottom.
11. Slice into 8 equal rounds and fit into a buttered 8"x11.5" pan, cut side up.
12. Cover with plastic wrap and either refrigerate overnight or let the rolls rise for another 2 hours or until doubled in size.
13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If refrigerated, let them sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes. Melt 2 oz. of butter and brush it gently over the top.
14. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the pan after 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Buttercream
5 oz Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Butter, soft
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Beat all ingredients together for 10 minutes on high speed. Spread onto hot cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

English Muffins




To be perfectly honest, I had never even thought to make English Muffins from scratch. I figured there is something strangely nostalgic about Thomas's "nooks and crannies" that I was fine just picking them up at the grocery store. Until the other night when I wanted to make a special "Breakfast for dinner" and I looked for a recipe for English Muffins to make Eggs Benedict. I searched through web images to find something that looked at what I wanted out of my English Muffin-big, fluffy and substantial...I figured flavor was up to me. I ended up finding a recipe on cookingbread.com. They provided a step by step "class" on how to make them, although I ended up changing the mixing method to use my stand mixer.
This recipe used beaten egg whites which added stability, and made them tall and fluffy. Once they had been mixed, shaped, and had their final rise, I put them on the griddle. 16 minutes later, I had huge, fluffy, crunchy English Muffins that blew away everything that came from a plastic bag or even from a restaurant. They had just enough salt to bring out the gentle yeast flavor that is lacking in the store-bought muffins.
I made Eggs Benedict that night with a delicious Hollandaise that I made for the first time also (and was just as delicious) and a poached egg. I served it with a spinach salad dressed with lemon-rosemary vinagrette. There was no waiting for pictures with this dish...the knife and fork got to it before the camera could and it was consumed lovingly.

The next morning I was eager to have some toasted with butter and Aunt Bea's homemade apricot jam. I encourage you to make these from scratch for a special brunch or "brinner" for your loved ones.

Adapted from

cookingbread.com

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 small egg whites
cornmeal

Electric griddle with adjustable temperature settings
Electric stand mixer with dough hook or follow the recipe on CookingBread.com

1. In a mixer bowl with a dough hook, sprinkle yeast over the water and gently mix. Let it sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes foamy and the yeast dissolves.
2. Add 2 cups of the bread flour and the baking soda to the yeast and water and mix on medium low speed until smooth. Let this sit for five minutes while you whip the egg whites.
3. Whip the egg whites in a seperate bowl until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks are formed when you lift the beaters and you have a short peak at the end. If you whip too long, the whites will dry out and break and you will need to beat new whites.
4. Gently mix the whites by hand into the dough with a wooden spoon until mostly combined.
5. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time with the mixer on low speed. Right before the mixture combines, you can add the next 1/4 cup of flour and after the second addition, you can add the salt.
6. Once all of the flour has been added and dough has formed, turn the speed up to medium high and mix until the dough is smooth and soft, about 10 minutes, but your time may vary.
7. Lightly coat a clean bowl with cooking spray, or oil and place the dough inside the bowl. Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
8. Pour out the dough onto a flat surface. A large wood cutting board works best for me. Gently press out some air and then roll dough to 1/2 inch thick.
9. Let the dough rest for 3 minutes and using a 3 inch cookie cutter, cut rounds and place them on top of cornmeal. You may re-use the scraps by gathering them together and cutting more circles.
10. Sprinkle the tops with more cormeal, cover with plastic wrap and let the circles rest for 45 minutes.
11. Preheat an electric griddle to 350 degrees and lightly grease the surface with oil or cooking spray. Place the rounds on the griddle and cook each side for 4 minutes, then again, each side for 4 more minutes to have the total cooking time be 16 miutes. The tops will be golden brown and they will be firm when you press on them. Allow the muffins to completely cool.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I Heart Cupcakes!


Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Gumpaste Blossoms.




Alyssa hearts her red velvet cupcakes!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

French Macaroons


They have a thin crunchy outer shell. Bite into them and your teeth sink into a chewy, firm center. Then add a filling...buttercream, ganache, fruit, jam, pastry cream, ice cream-just about anything and you will treat your mouth to a delicate,soft, toothsome French cookie.
It took me quite some time to get these just right. The meringue has to be firm enough, but not too firm, the mixing must be done quickly at the the beginning then slow and careful at the end and one fold to much and you have misshapen, flat disappointments. But all of those disappointments make opening the oven exactly 11 minutes after they went in to remove that perfect batch so incredibly sweet.

The new item on the menu: Trio of French Macaroons. Coffee, Raspberry and Mint Chocolate.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding with Hibiscus Syrup




Ugh, I hate tapioca! Ah, I love tapioca! It's either one or the other. I grew up thinking tapioca only came in a plastic cup, thick and gloppy with a strange manufactured flavor. And if given the choice, I'd usually opt for Jell-O. I completely changed my mind once I read the recipe in Claudia Fleming's book, "The Last Course", Coconut Tapioca Soup. It looked so light, completely different from what I was used to seeing in the little plastic cup. I've made this before but added raspberry puree to the hibiscus syrup and served it warm in a shallow dish. Today, I served it slightly chilled and the reason for that is, the flavors of the creamy vanilla pudding and the tart syrup come together just right. If it is too cold, the flavors just aren't adequately pronounced. The same goes for cheesecake in my opinion. You can taste the cheese and the flavors better once it has sat out at room temperature for about fifteen minutes.
I had never made Tapioca from scratch before and was so excited when I realized how easy it was. You do have to pay a little attention to the cooking process, but it't ok...it is very worth it. I also have had a tangerine tapioca on my menu, so it doesn't always need to be creamy. To cook this, I used whole milk, vanilla bean, sugar, half and half and a pinch of salt (always add salt). The trick is to cook the tapioca to have a little bite to it, like pasta. That way, the residual heat as it cools will cook it the rest of the way and it will be nice and soft and a compliment to the cream that surrounds it.
When I made the syrup, I just took dried hibiscus flowers, 2 parts sugar to one part water and the juice of a whole meyer lemon.
I poured the cooled, not chilled syrup into the bottom of a small trifle glass and spooned the tapioca over it. Once the syrup settled, the clear red and the vanilla flecked white looked beautiful. I love this dish because it is nostalgic, and flavorful and it is one of the favorites in my home. At the restaurant, I would serve this with a passion fruit sorbet scoop, to add another element of temperature and tart, tangy flavor.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Eve Dessert-Banana and White Chocolate Bread Pudding


Happy New Year, everyone! After this incredibly busy holiday season at the restaurant and in my own life, I have come back with a ton of new ideas and and a brand new camera! The first post of 2010 will be of the dessert I served at the restaurant for New Years Eve...Banana Bread White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Chef gave me a recipe, I made it, tweaked it and produced it in mass quantities. This bread pudding called for banana bread, which is strange because it is so dense that I thought it wouldnt soak up enough of the custard which I flavored with white chocolate. I tried using day old (or 12 hours old) banana bread and fresh banana bread. The texture was much softer and soaking up the custard was no problem when I used bread that had just come out of the oven. Usually, bread pudding is made with Brioche, an eggy and deliciously buttery bread or with any strong day-old bread to ensure that the only moisture in the bread pudding came from the combination of cream, milk, eggs and sugar. So once the bread was cool, cut into cubes and soaked in white chocolate custard, I mixed in white chocolate chunks and scooped it into ramekins to bake. The top got nice and crunchy because I baked it in a convection oven which uses circulated air to facilitate cooking and browns the top...it also cuts the bake-time in half! I served this dish with caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream and a caramelized banana. For this post, I made a milk chocolate malt sauce with 33% milk chocolate and malt powder, white chocolate shavings, dark chocolate pearles craquant ( which are just little balls of crunchy chocolatey goodness) and again, vanilla ice cream and caramelized banana slices.
The chocolate sauce made the dish. The flavor of the milk chocolate and the slightly salty malt added an element to it that I thought was missing before. When I develop a composed dessert, I like to add different textures and temperatures as well as flavors. I have hot, frozen, crunchy, creamy, salty, sweet and aromatic...all of the things that make a dish just plain yummy.