Monday, January 24, 2011

Ham and Swiss and a Little Creativity

I find it incredibly difficult not to go out and spend my entire paycheck on food and ingredients. After daydreaming about buying cream, butter, special flours, decoratifs and chocolates, I realize that I probably have a bunch of stuff in my kitchen that I can use.

First...I need to take a look around. A lot of the things I make for dinner, parties, or OriginalCinn are from things I already have in my kitchen. For example, I wanted to make something savory for a cookie baking party I was having with my cousin and a dear friend. I didn't really have time or money to go to the store and buy something to make so I just took a look around my kitchen.

In the freezer, I had puff pastry. "OK..OK.." the wheels began turning, "What can I make with this puff pastry?" I looked in the fridge and found some prosciutto and some emmentaler swiss cheese I got on sale. Everything I need for some ham and swiss turnovers are already in my kitchen!

And there I went, making these savory turnovers in no time at all. And while they were baking, I made some honey mustard pecan dressing for dipping. A little dijon, a little honey and a bunch of other pantry staples made the sauce perfectly sweet and mustardy to go with my ham and cheese!

I had just enough ingredients to fill the turnovers. So this recipe is based on just that. You can add or subtract or completely change anything on the indredients list to fit what you have in your fridge. I spent $0 on this meal. I had everything I needed in my kitchen and I didn't even know it until I started looking.

Prosciutto and Emmentaler Swiss Turnovers- Makes 8

1 pkg. Puff Pastry-Trader Joe's Brand
4 oz. Prosciutto di Parma
6 oz. Emmentaler Swss Cheese, Shredded
1 ea. Egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water
Preheat oven to 400°

1. Cut thawed, but cold puff pastry into eight squares and place them onto 2 baking sheets.
2. Brush the beaten egg wash over the top and right side of the square.
3. Place prosciutto and cheese in the center of the square and spread the mixture on the diagonal.
4. Bring up the corner of the square and seal the edges with a fork.
5. Brush the tops of the turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt if desired.
6. Cut a vent in the top about in inch long- I use a pair of kitchen scissors.
7. Bake 14-17 minutes or until the pastry has puffed and is a dark golden brown.

Honey Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
¼ tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp. Ground Mustard
1 tsp. Salt
Fresh cracked pepper

1. Mix all ingredients and adjust to taste.
2. Toss over baby spinach or salad greens or serve along side turnovers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Random Thoughts on Cupcakes

I like cupcakes. Who doesn't? And if there is anything I want to accomplish through this blog it's to blow your mind with flavor combinations that you just wouldn't normally think about. You all seem to like it too...since the Cherry and Plum Crostini with Olive Oil Ice Cream was posted, it has remained the top viewed on OriginalCinn each week. So let's see what else I can throw at you!

I have always loved using spices in my cupcakes. Gentle and subtle, warm and spicy, sweet and savory flavors are what make a cupcake stand out from all the other regular flavors. Please don't misunderstand. I love a good yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting as much as anyone else! And honestly, Give me a batch of 'Funfetti' any day and I am a happy girl. But when I want something different, something that I can't even find a recipe for online I know it will be something spectacular.

My idea for Banana Curry Cupcakes came from cleaning out my spice cupboard. I tossed out last year's cardamom and ground ginger and I came across my small tin of Madras Curry Powder. I opened it up and the aroma, combined with all the other spices I generally bake with gave me a beautiful idea...Curry Buttercream. It lends itself well to the creaminess of, "Mariel's Best Buttercream" and it already has a sweetness to it, so Im going to try it! Along with a banana cupcake.

This is the first post I have done before I make something, so Im already kind of setting myself up for a little embarassment if it doesn't turn out, well, spectacular. But hey, we all make something every once in a while that we really wish we hadn't, right? For the sake of innovation, creativity and um,getting some more use out of that curry powder, let's do this!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mandarin Tapioca with Vanilla Yogurt Mousse and Candied Almonds

I am sitting down at my computer, catching up on my favorite blogs and drinking a cup of coffee. The apartment is quiet and I very much like the feeling of solitude at the moment. Not in a hermit crab, “I don’t want to have anything to do with the world” kind of way, but more of a, “Finally, some time for myself” kind of way. Things in my life have changed recently. I am no longer working in a fast paced restaurant with 20 other men in the kitchen and what seem like children wanting attention in my pastry kitchen. No more work-horse days, with lunch (if I got any that day) made of the walk-ins almost expired food eaten out of a sad, little mixing bowl in the corner of the kitchen whilst sitting on a milk crate. There are no longer feelings of, “am I going to get verbally assaulted today?" And the best feeling of all, is knowing that I will never have to threaten to punch someone in the f*&%ing face if they ever touch me like that again.

Things had to change. The industry never will so now...I am a cake decorator! Happily decorating at Whole Foods Market among friends, learning an entirely new skill and I love it. Of course I can never shake the need to constantly create that was encouraged daily by my chefs and all that means is that OriginalCinn will be the exclusive creative outlet for me. Which is kind of the same as when I was working in a restaurant.

Honestly, it took me a bit of time; a bit of time to enjoy the silence and solitude I had found when there were no more restaurants in the south bay worth working for (or even had a pastry department). But writing for Metro helped me through. I learned how to take my thoughts and opinion on food and give them an actual voice on paper. I loved using the other side of my creativity, and I very much enjoyed wearing something other than slip-resistant shoes everyday. I am forever grateful to my editor who gave me something wonderful to do during the most difficult time when I had to be ok with myself and start all over again.

The meticulous nature of a pastry chef is something I will never let go of and for that I am grateful. The restaurant industry taught me how to work hard…and harder and harder. I will no doubt take everything I learned standing over 25 tickets all in for desserts, each with a perfect quenelle of ice cream or sorbet and bring that to my new department.

I have had time now to see friends and family that I had previously had to give up on because I was ALWAYS at work. I made a new life for myself and it feels lovely. Of course I’m not saying that restaurants will always and forever be out of the question. Because, well, you can take the girl out of the kitchen but you cant take the 12-14 hour workdays out of the girl. But it is time to try something new…to learn something new and get really good at. Wish me luck, all.

For your incredible patience with me and because well, if I didn’t have any recipes no one would be here, I have for you the fruit of my free time…a dessert so simple made with one of my favorite flavor combinations-Mandarin Tapioca with Vanilla Yogurt Mousse. You should buy enough mandarins to juice and a few to slice or segment and marinate in almond simple syrup.

Mandarin Tapioca

5 cups Water
3/4 cup Sugar, separated
Pinch Salt
¼ cup Small Tapioca Pearls
3 cups Mandarin Juice, separated (or fresh Orange Juice)

1. Bring water to a boil, add ¼ cup of sugar.
2. Whisk in tapioca pearls and return to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to a high simmer and cook for 15-18 minutes or until the pearls are al dente and translucent. Add more water and return to a simmer if it appears to be too thick.
4. Drain and add pearls back to the pot with 2 cups of mandarin juice and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Transfer to a container to cool, then chill overnight or for at least 6 hours. Once it is chilled, add the last cup of juice.

Vanilla Yogurt Mousse
5.3 oz ‘Fage’ Fat Free Greek Yogurt, It’s the smallest container.
8oz Cool Whip Fat Free Dessert Topping
2 tbsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
¼ ea. Vanilla Bean, if you have it…because it looks pretty

1. Add the sugar and the vanilla bean to the container of yogurt and mix until dissolved.
2. In a medium bow, mix ¼ of the whipped topping with the vanilla extract and the yogurt. This is the time you can mix everything together with a little bit of force to lighten up the yogurt.
3. Gently mix, or fold in the next half of the whipped topping, making sure you keep the majority of the air in the mixture.
4. Test the flavors. If you want it lighter and sweeter mix in the last bit of topping or if you like the tang of the yogurt, leave it out. It’s up to you.

Candied Almonds
1 cup Sliced Almonds
2 Tbsp. Sugar with 2 Tbsp. Water
Pinch Salt

1. Mix all ingredients together and bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized and the almonds are toasted.

In 6-8 small dessert cups, or in this case my trusty Libbey Just Desserts Parfait glasses, fill half way with tapioca, a few segments of mandarin and spoon in or pipe to the top with mousse and garnish with toasted almonds. To serve on a plate, add sliced mandarins and a few almonds to the side.

This is a perfect small dessert. Of course you can serve a lot of it in bigger glasses but these were the right size just for a taste. Towards the bottom of the glass when all of the mousse and tapioca were mixed together, the last bit becomes the perfect shooter.