Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daring Bakers November 10: Pistachio Pear Crostada/Galette

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

This post is a bit late, but better late than never!  I completed the challenge on time, but then got sick in the middle of Thanksgiving break, and so my pictures and this post suffered a bit.  My apologies!

Mom holding one of my new business cards with dessert at L.I.M.E

For this challenge, I "recycled" one of the desserts I created for L.I.M.E. earlier this month: a Pistachio Frangipan tart/crostada/galette with spiced red wine poached pears & pate sucree crust.  When I plated it for L.I.M.E., I also included poaching liquid reduction, vanilla bean ice cream, pistachio lace tuile & pistachio garnish.

unbaked crostada/galette 

I have always been taught that a "crostada" or "galette" is a freeform tart, made without a tart pan.  While I used a tart pan for L.I.M.E., I decided to make free form-style tarts with dough left over from the event.   The small ones were happily consumed before the photoshoot, but  I did get a shot before they were eaten.  

I went a bit too "frangipan happy" and overfilled the crust, though they did taste delicious anyway. If you've never had frangipan before, you're missing out!  Usually, it's made with almonds (ground, paste, flour etc), but I have a particular fondness for pistachios and so I ground some of the raw pistachios I bought in France for the filling instead.  

My pistachios had a wonderfully brilliant green color that contrasted beautifully with the red wine poached pears.  I like to leave the pears in the poaching liquid at least 48 hrs before slicing so the pears retain a beautiful red color. 

I hope this challenge inspires you to make a free-form tart sometime this holiday season!  

Note: these are the recipes I used for L.I.M.E. and so the amounts may be a bit high....  

250 g Flour
150 g Butter
173 g Icing Sugar
32 g Almond Flour
pinch  Fine Salt
55 g Eggs

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the butter and flour until you get a sandy mass.  Add the other ingredients and knead only until incorporated.  

Wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using.  

3 pears, peeled just before use.  
3c red wine
1.5c granulated sugar
peel of 1/2 orange
juice of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves

boil 5 minutes, simmer 20 minutes or until pears are tender.  Cool on ice bath.  Chill pears in poaching liquid at least 48 hours before use.

100 grams organic unsalted butter, softened
100 grams sugar
1 organic egg
30 grams unbleached all purpose flour
100 grams raw pistachios, ground to a fine meal
1 tsp Almond Extract

Cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the egg. Scrape and mix well. Add the flour and the ground pistachios and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Place the frangipane in a pastry bag and pipe onto the rolled out crust.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pumpkin Panna Cotta & Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope this has been a blessed day filled with family, friends & good food.

...And once again, too much time has lapsed since my last post.  I've hardly had time to even think about Thanksgiving, that's how busy this last month has gone.  Between teaching regular classes, and then teaching two back-to-back months of Continuing Education, and then getting ready for the November L.I.M.E. event, it's a wonder I've even gotten any sleep!  (p.s. I do have a LIME post in the works as well....)

But, in preparation for the "Advanced Pastry Boot Camp" Continuing Education course I've been teaching, I tested two delicious panna cotta recipes: Pumpkin Panna Cotta & Nutella Panna Cotta.  They weren't so delicious the first time around, but with some tweeking, they're fabulous now!

Panna Cotta, Italian for "cooked cream," is an item that I had seldom made before this fall.  For whatever reason, I simply hadn't given it enough of a chance.  I am now a believer!  For those who maybe haven't had panna cotta before, it's an egg-less custard that is thickened with gelatin, essentially a "milk jello" but much more delicious than that sounds.  It's a cinch to prepare (like 5 to 10 minutes tops) and it doesn't require an oven (though you do need enough refrigerator space).   Some people use a higher ratio of gelatin, which then allows the custard to be unmolded once firm.  I, however, do not like that much gelatin in my panna cotta (I'd rather lean towards a custard-y texture than a jello-y texture), so mine must be served in their chilling vessels.

I'm especially pleased with the Nutella panna cotta that I got to use the adorable Nutella glasses I brought back from France (with the assistance of my friend Kelli).  Did you know that in France, the small jar of Nutella becomes the most adorable little glass vessel once all the Nutella has been consumed?  While Kelli was in France, she happily consumed several of these jars; and then once I visited, I helped consume more.  Kelli wasn't going to keep the adorable glasses, but I rescued them and carried them in my travel pack for the rest of the trip.  I knew they would one day serve a special purpose :)

If you don't have adorable Nutella glasses, 4 oz mason jars work well too.  I had some left from various canning adventures and they were the perfect size. Anything larger and you won't be able to finish the rich custard in one sitting (or at least I couldn't and I've got an insatiable sweet tooth).  I really like serving panna cotta in vessels which allow one to see the contents inside.   Plus, with the jars, you've got ready-made lids as well!

Another option is to use plastic cups.  I searched high and low for little, clear cups, and alas, none could be found....  But I did find some cute little white ones that worked instead. The nice thing about using plastic cups is that they can be very easily brought to an event and there's no worry about misplacing any of the dishes afterwards.  And there's no dishes to wash!  :)

Perhaps there's some leftover pumpkin puree from Thanksgiving festivities or a spare jar of Nutella that you can use to make one (or both) of these recipes.  


1.5 oz Cold Water
16 oz Heavy Whipping Cream (you may substitute milk or half-and-half if you find cream to be too rich)
5.25 oz Granulated Sugar
2.5 oz Nutella
0.25 oz Pure Vanilla Extract
¼ oz Granulated Gelatin (1 Packet)

1.  Into a medium size bowl, add cold water and sprinkle the gelatin package on top of water. Do not stir; set aside.

2.  Place your cream and sugar into a sauce pan over medium heat. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until well combined, continue cooking until it nears boiling.

3.  Melt your Nutella for about 30 seconds in the microwave and then add to the cream mixture. Whisk together to combine well.

4.  Remove from heat, add vanilla extract.  Melt the bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 20 seconds. Slowly pour the melted gelatin mixture into the cream mixture and whisk together until well-combined.

5.  Equally divide the mixture into your prepared custard cups. Place in the refrigerator to set up for a minimum of 2 hours or until firm.


43 g Water, cold
¼ oz         Gelatin (1 package)
342 g Half-and-Half (171 g Cream; 171 g milk)
40 g         Maple Syrup
85 g         Brown Sugar
228 g Pureed Pumpkin (Canned is fine)
7 g         Cinnamon
2 g         Ginger
pinch Nutmeg
pinch Salt
to taste Vanilla

1.  Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Leave for 5 minutes to soften.

2.  Combine the half-and-half in a small saucepan with the syrup, sugar  and pumpkin, and heat until the mixture just reaches the scalding point but does not boil, whisking often. Remove from the heat and whisk in the spices.

3.  Melt bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 20 seconds. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the hot dairy mixture until smooth.

4.  Divide the mixture into 4 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers October 10: Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

What a fantastic challenge this has been!  It's probably one of my most favorite DB challenge to date.  But it wasn't without difficulties..... 

I've had this fear.  A fear of deep frying.  Not a fear of eating fried foods, but of actually, physically frying them.  I was going to attempt to conquer this fear last November with the Daring Baker's Cannoli Challenge, but I chickened out.... and ran out of time.  

I was concerned about all the hot oil and it's ability to seriously burn people.  Seeing as I don't a have roommates, what would I do if I seriously burned/hurt myself?  Who could take me to the ER? I'm really good at over-analyzing things, if you couldn't already tell.  Yes, I am the person who if you don't call me when I expect to hear from you, I suddenly worry that you're dead in a ditch somewhere.  I'm trying to get over this.    

Plus, it just seemed really inconvenient.  What do do with the oil after I was done frying...  Having my apartment smell like a fast food restaurant...  Standing over a hot, oily stove frying doughnuts for hours....  And the list goes on.

But, I decided to conquer the fear.  I decided to challenge myself, after all, that is part of what the Daring Bakers is all about.  So, I got a jug of vegetable oil.  I set aside a Saturday afternoon after teaching Advanced Bakeshop. I dusted off  my trusty candy thermometer.   I kept my phone (and a bowl of ice water) at arms length, just in case of any mishaps.  I bought & lit a lovely scented candle and opened my patio door to try to keep the oil smell from inundating my apartment. And I began heating the oil.

I carefully monitored the temperature of the oil.  And when it finally reached the correct temperature range (350 F to 375F) I reached for my first doughnut hole to test.  But, when I looked down into the oil, I saw these funny red blobs.  That is when I realized that my candy thermometer must have somehow developed a crack.  My perfectly heated vegetable oil was contaminated with mercury (and really I feel we have enough mercury in our diets as it is).  So sad.  Especially sad, since I had used all my oil in attempt #1.  So though I was tired from teaching and really had just planned on staying in the rest of the day, I grabbed my keys and wallet and drove to the grocery store to get more oil. 

I found a second pot, though not as ideal as the first, and my second candy thermometer and went to work heating a second batch of oil for "deep frying attempt #2."  Just as I was, once again, getting ready to test the first doughnut hole, I gazed into the bottom of the second batch of oil.  What did I see?  MORE MERCURY BUBBLES!  ARGH! Thankfully, I had bought a larger jug of oil the second time around "just in case."  I decided that if "deep frying attempt #3" was not successful, then I clearly wasn't meant to deep fry anything. Ever. Period. 

However, "deep frying attempt #3" was successful! Though, by that point both my candy thermometer were broken and I had to settle for testing every few minutes with my instant read thermometer instead. 

Originally, I had planned to make yeast raised doughnuts.  Specifically, I wanted to make spiced pumpkin yeast raised doughnuts.  After much searching of the internet with no results for yeasted pumpkin doughnuts, I settled on making cake doughnuts.  I like yeast doughnuts better (Krispy Kreme trumps Dunkin Doughnuts anyday, in my book) and I do have enough yeast product knowledge to develope a recipe on my own.  But alas, I only had the few precious Saturday hours and I figured it would not be enough time to be a successful venture.  Perhaps in the future I'll develop a yeasted pumpkin doughnut? 

I've been seeing a pleathora of doughnut recipes in the blogosphere lately, partially due to the recent release of Lara Ferroni's Doughnut cookbook (she's a blogger whose blog I follow via my Google Reader accound).  I guess that if there's now a doughnut cookbook, it means that the "low-carb" "Atkins" movement is finally over.  Hurray! 

I decided that if I was going to conquer the fear of deepfrying, I might as well really conquer it and make two kinds of doughnuts: Pumpkin Doughnuts (to which I added a maple glaze or cinnamon sugar after frying), and then one of Lara's recipes I found on another fantastic blog (use real butter) for Apple Cider Doughnuts (to which I added an Apple Cider Glaze to bring out the "apple-y-ness" or cinnamon sugar after frying).

The results from "deep frying attempt #3" were fantastic!  I've never ever tasted cake doughnuts as good as these ones were.  Seriously.  I may be a convert, both to deep frying at home (now that my fear has been conquered) and to the cake doughnut (though only if made at home). 

I can see many more doughnut adventures in my future.  Plus, the looks on peoples' faces when you offer them a freshly fried homemade doughnut is an amazingly satisfying experience.  People are in such shock and awe that you've actually made them yourself.   I try to give away most of the product of my baking adventures (usually to people at church).... I find it's better for my waistline to do so, plus I really enjoy making peoples' day a little brighter by giving them a homemade item.  It just gives me warm fuzzies inside. 

I encourage everyone to try making doughnuts. They're SO WORTH IT!   Thanks to Lori for such a great challenge!  

Note: a couple changes I made (or would make in the future)
  • Like Jen of "use real butter" , I reduced my apple cider slightly to try to concentrate the flavor.  But in the end, after frying, I still didn't detect a huge "apple" flavor.  So I added the apple glaze (just apple cider and powdered sugar).  But in the future when I make these again, I think I'd add some actual apple pieces to the dough... perhaps just dicing them small or even grating them into the dough.  I think it would make a lovely addition. 
  • I think the pumpkin doughnuts could use some extra spice.  Maybe it's just because I've grown up eating pumpkin products with lots of spice... but I think in the future, I would double the amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. I didn't add the cloves because I didn't have any. I also found that the pumpkin doughnuts seemed to develop better flavor by sitting a little while.  I made mine on a Saturday, but didn't serve them until the following morning.  And, unusually, they tasted better with a little melding time (unusual because fried things usually taste best while they're still warm from the frying process).  
  • I also made a maple glaze for the pumpkin doughnuts.  I just added pure maple syrup (none of the immitation crap) to my confectioners sugar and then added enough cream to make the consistancy I wanted.

Bon Appétit | October 2004

Spiced sugar
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
Canola oil (for deep-frying)

Powdered Sugar Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
LV addition: Maple Syrup  (just enough to flavor and add liquid)

Whipping cream

For spiced sugar:
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

For doughnuts:
Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (mixture will be grainy). Beat in egg, then yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk; beat in pumpkin in 4 additions. Using rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions, blending gently after each addition. Cover with plastic; chill 3 hours.

Sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour. Press out 1/3 of dough on floured surface to 1/2- to 2/3-inch thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Arrange on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.

Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes.

Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F. Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Cool completely.

For powdered sugar glaze:
Whisk powdered sugar (plus maple syrup) and whipping cream to blend. Whisk in additional cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to form medium thick glaze. Can be made up to 3 hours ahead. Add doughnut holes to bowl of spiced sugar and toss to coat. Spread doughnuts on 1 side with Powdered Sugar Glaze. Arrange doughnuts, glazed side up, on racks. Let stand until glaze sets, at least 30 minutes.

Apple Cider Doughnuts 

taken from the blog "use real butter." Jen includes high altitude instructions as well. She reproduced with permission from Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni

1 3/4 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30g) graham flour (or sub all-purpose flour)
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsps (1 oz) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (120 g) superfine sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider (used 1 cup apple cider, simmered down to 1/4 cup apple cider concentrate)
1/4 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil for frying

Whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sguar together. Add the egg yolks and beat until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the vanilla, cider, and buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients and stir just until the mixture comes together in a soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the doughnuts out with a 2 1/2 inch-diameter cutter. You can re-roll any scrap dough.

Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360°F (335°F @8500 ft.). With a metal spatula, carefully place the doughnuts in the oil. Fry in small batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Cook until a rich golden brown, about 1 minute on each side (a little longer @8500 ft.).

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Let cool to the touch before glazing and eating. You can also bake these doughnuts in a doughnut pan in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, but they won’t achieve the same rich golden color.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"L" is for "Laminated Dough"

Where has October gone?  In fact, where has the Fall semester gone?  I've been so busy with teaching (and loving it) that I haven't done as much personal recipe testing.  Well, I have been doing some, but it's for a very special surprise....  I'm the featured chef November chef for a new Charleston underground supperclub: L.I.M.E.  Everything I'm doing for L.I.M.E. is a secret (for now), but I will reveal more as the date gets closer.

In the mean time, I have been very privileged to observe and assist in the "Laminated Doughs & Breakfast Pastries" course this semester.  Laminated doughs and viennoisserie are probably my favorite area study, probably due to the fact that it is the meeting between baking and pastry.  It requires a great deal of time, patience and attention to detail.  Currently, I'm slated to teach the course next semester!  Hurray!  So, here are a few images of things done in class as I observe in preparation for next semester.

Some of the product has been made by Chef Jeff Alexander, some by the students, and a bit done by yours truly as well! It's been a fun change to have time to concentrate on setting up great shots in class, instead of hurriedly snapping photos in between presenting product and hurrying to clean up the classroom.  Thanks to Chef Jeff and all the talented students for allowing me be a part of their class and to photograph their product. 

Puff Pastry, Diplomat Cream, Glaze with chocolate striping.  
Product by Chef Jeff Alexander

Blueberry Chaussons
Puff pastry, blueberry filling
Product by Chef Jeff Alexander

Tart Tatin
Puff Pastry, Caramel, & Apples
Product by Chef Jeff Alexander

Pain au Chocolat
Croissant Dough, chocolate batons, chocolate striping, confectioner's sugar. 
Product by Chef Jeff Alexander

Just look at the gorgeous lamination! Every layer is visible!

Student piping work on Pain au chocolat
Product by D

Loooove the piping!

Apricot Raisin Scrolls (top) Banana Coconut Cream (middle) Pistachio Cherry (bottom)
Product by various students.
All delicious, but I do have a particular fondness for Apricot Raisin Scrolls.... 

A happy accident done by "k." She forgot to add the garnish prior to baking, so we added a stripe of pistachio flour in lieu of an actual pistachio.  Beautiful variation! 

Sourdough Rye Croissant
Sourdough Rye starter, rye flour, carroway seeds, plugra
by Me!

These were a side project that I concocted with the assistance of Chef Jeff.  Wow! They are tasty!

I may never be able to re-produce them, due to the nature of the starter, but they are mighty delicious.  I think they'd make a really killer hot ruben sandwich.

Or they're also good all by themselves!

Stay tuned for more images from my classes and for more LIME sneak peeks! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers September 10: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Whew, it's been a while since I've been able to participate in a Daring Bakers' Challenge!  This summer was just so crazy that I'd conceptualize and start a challenge, but then fail to follow through.  But this month, since it is actually the anniversary of my membership in the Daring Bakers' and also the birthday of this blog, I made especially sure to complete the challenge. 

I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed when I initially read about the challenge.  Royal Icing and I have had quite the relationship and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be doing something "new."  But, then, I realized that I simply needed to stretch myself  and do something I hadn't done before.  I decided to paint the royal icing after it was piped and glazed.  I used gel food color (Wilton brand is what I had) and I used a little alcohol (Kirschwasser to be exact because I had it on hand) to liquify the color when needed.  See, I've learned from previous experience that water and royal icing really do not mix (the icing won't harden), but alcohol will work better. 

We were challenged to decorate the cookies in whatever "September" means to us (or should it be "we," hmmm).   Regardless of what is gramatically correct, "September" brings different visions to me now living on the East Coast than it did when I lived in the Midwest.  I'm used to the leaves starting to change to briliant autumnal colors during September.... to the weather cooling off....  I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for what I consider "Fall."  Fall, how I think of it, doesn't happen here until more around Thanksgiving, and even then, it doesn't seem quite as dramatic.  I know that if I was to go to the upstate, I'd get the traditional Autumn feeling that I'm use to.  But I probably won't get to take a trip like that this year, at least.  So I've painted "Fall" instead.  

And I flavored my sugar cookies with some of the same spices I think of when I think of Fall.  Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Ginger.  All "pumpkin pie"-ish spices.  Oh, and I threw in a little cardemom as well, but you've got to be careful with cardemom because even 1/8 tsp is noticable in these cookies!  Plus, I added a little salt to help open the taste buds to help taste these autumnal spices. 


Basic Sugar Cookies:

200g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g All Purpose
200g Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon, to taste
Ground Ginger, to taste
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, to taste
1/8 tsp Cardamom 
Pinch of salt 

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 350°F
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Royal Icing:
315g – 375g Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip:  There are listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need. (LV Note: Add more egg white instead.... it will dry much faster. 
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Charleston Restaurant Week: The Ocean Room, Fall 2010

This past week, the fall edition of Charleston Restaurant Week occurred.  After drooling over many of the featured menus from restaurants at which I normally cannot afford to eat,  a couple of friends and I decided to visit "The Ocean Room."  Ironically, I did a stage at "The Ocean Room" before I worked at the "Jasmine Porch" restaurant (both within the Kiawah Golf Resort Sanctuary Hotel) this passed summer; however, I had never eaten at "The Ocean Room."

Note, please forgive the quality of the images.... My normal camera has been away for cleaning and my backup camera just doesn't have the same capabilities I'm used to.....

looking back at just a portion of the Sanctuary hotel

So we made the long trek from Charleston all the way out to Kiawah.  And, WOW, it was worth it!  As part of the Restaurant Week promotion, we had three courses for $30. We added a few things on to our meal, but still, for the caliber of restaurant, it was quite a deal.

To start, we shared with an additional appetizer: Southern Caviar (smoked trout & roe, mascarpone, dill, corn brioche, corn blinis).

Then my appetizer arrived: Farmer's Fall Salad (greens, honey vinaigrette, marcona almonds, kadota figs, cornbread croutons, camembert cheese) Delicious!

My two companions had a Golden Corn Soup (sweet shrimp, avocado, charred corn), which was poured tableside.

We all chose the same main course: 130 degree Prime Beef Tenderloin, (creamed silver queen corn, foraged chanterelles, black summer truffle jus).  I'm not usually a beef eater.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten beef in the past 12 years.....  But this was some of the best beef I've eaten.  Sous vide style is truly the way to go.  The dish just melted in my mouth!

And then why not just add an order of "Truffled Pomme Frites" for the table to share!  Mmmmm.

And next comes dessert.....  I'm not exactly sure of the official name for this chocolate dessert, because we never saw the menu, but it featured a rich chocolate souffle cake with vanilla ice cream and an isomalt garnish.  We shared this dessert as a table.

My two companions each had the Goat Cheese Cheesecake (walnut crust, candied walnuts and wild huckleberry sauce.)

And I had the Banana Pudding (vanilla wafer tuile, roasted banana ice cream, caramelized bananas, toasted meringue). I thoroughly enjoyed all our desserts (and the rest of the food, for that matter), but I think I like my dessert best of all the desserts!

It was a great, memorable meal with good friends, good wine, good conversation.  Charleston Restaurant week will happen again this winter, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the amazing promotions that happen.  I know I'll be saving up for future experiences :)  

If you're interested in finding out more about Charleston restaurant week, please visit here.  

If you're interested in dining at the Ocean Room, here's their website as well.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Absence & Palmiers

I've been terribly, terribly absent lately.    Being a teacher is much, much more time consuming than even I thought!  But it also is just as rewarding.  I really love it!

I promise, more posts are in the works.  But please be patient :)

In the mean time, here's a picture of some GORGEOUS (and delicious) Palmiers made in the "Laminated Dough & Viennoiserie" class that I'm assisting with this semester.  Puff pastry & Sugar. What could be better?  (especially when it's puff pastry made with european butter....)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Life Changes & Plated Desserts Final

It's been a while.  Sorry :(  Once again, my life has flipped upside down!  Just when I thought I was getting all my ducks in a row, my ducks have all been replaced by new ducks! 

I guess there are two big pieces of news I have to share.

1) I'm graduating from Culinary School after finishing this summer semester.

2) I've been offered an adjunct teaching position at the Culinary Institute and will begin teaching in less than 3 weeks! 

This job is really a dream come true.  I really feel a great passion about pastry & desserts, and I truly desire to share that passion with others.  Now, I'll have a chance to do that again!

Prior to going to pastry school, I taught in the Culinary Corner Demo Kitchen at the University of North Dakota Wellness Center, a position I loved!  I taught a series called "Sweet Treats," (a name which also inspired the name of this blog as well!) and was privileged to teach UND Faculty, staff, associates, students & Grand Forks Community members how to bake.  Not only did I teach the courses, but I conceptualized the entire series, wrote & tested most of the recipes, photographed the subject matter and designed booklets for each participant, in addition to teaching the actual course.  For anyone who is interested, some of the material can be found here(I even won an award from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association for the design work associated with the series.) 

While I had hoped this opportunity to teach would come someday, I never dreamed it would happen so quickly.  I'm excited to get started with all my lesson plans!  These weeks will go fast....

So this course, Plated Desserts, I've been taking this summer is ending up being my final course as a student at CIC.  I've learned so much in Plated Desserts.... many of the formulas & techniques we learned are now included in my little book of "best" formulas.
For our final, we were asked to take all the knowledge we've accumulated throughout our class experiences and develop one cold and one hot plate design.  We had two class periods to prepare, execute, and present our best work.

This is my cold plate, all based around the flavor of Earl Grey tea:  A trio of mousses (Milk Chocolate, Earl Grey & Vanilla Bean) with Earl Grey French Macarons filled with Mango Cream, Mango Curd Sauce, Vanilla Chantilly Cream and garnished with Chocolate Leaf Decoration, Fresh Blackberry & Mint. 

While there are always things I would change if I could go back and do it again (like, lining my mousse molds with acetate so the layers would have better definition), I still think this dessert is one of the best I've done.  Conceptually, it took a great deal of thought, both in deciding what flavor components to include and which formulas best showcased those flavors.   I've loved Earl Grey tea since visiting London with my sister in 2008 and I've loved the London Fog beverages we use to make at Archives Coffee House when I worked there.  I wanted to draw on both of those experiences, but also throw in a twist with the milk chocolate and mango components.  Plus, I love French Macarons :) 

 The mousses are adapted from a fabulous mousse recipe we learned in class.  If you're interested in making mango curd, Epicurious.com has a great recipe here.  I'll write more about my hot dessert soon!  It includes Golden Grahams Cereal Milk Ice Cream!  Yum!

Unfortunately, my computer is rebelling against me and won't open the program where I've got the recipes stored... So, I'll have the recipes up in a few days!