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.

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