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.