Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Passionate for Charities

This past weekend we sponsored a group called the Southwest Women's Fiber Arts Collective. Its one of our annual donations of food. Each year I try to do a nice collection of sweets for their fashion show, and this year I did a collection of passion fruit desserts.

The marshmallow and madeleine were nice, but this was the first time I had ever done a filled truffle.

95% of the truffles were usable and about 10% were what I would consider perfect - high gloss, no flaws, thin shell. I see now why truffles are so addictive to make.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall 09 Tasting Dinner Preview

Next weekend is my upcoming fall tasting menu. Here's what's on my mind:

Gathering: Potato chips, mochi & tequila

Course 1: Vinyl art - edible menu (Bee pollen, savory rice puffs, melon terrine, carbonated grapes, etc)
2: Sunchoke soup, sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin paper with chipotle
3: Reconstructed avocado, prickly pear tequila sauce; hibiscus pork belly
4: Salmon tartare, chocolate aspic; mango and farmers market veg w/tomato caviar
5: Poached hamachi, melon, nori
6: Rabbit tagine, vin jaune
7: Cheese foam
8: Peach basil compote
9: Nine sweet bites

...just rambling thoughts at this point, but I have a lot of new toys to play with.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A quick post about the state of American restaurants

I know I'm a food snob. I've been exposed to many types of food from many cultures so I have a depth of perspective that makes me picky to the point of being irritating. I know that. But today I drove four hours (each way) to attend a food distributors food show - a show geared toward restaurants.

Tyler and I usually hit the NASFT's Fancy Food Show which is a mega show featuring the best that the world has to offer in commercially available foods. We're awed and impressed by that show even if we only find a handful of "finds."

But this shows was no Fancy Food Show. I won't say the name since I have to work with this distributor. Let's just say that Silver City only has two restaurant distributors. We used to have four but two left the area due to poor sales. That's left us with the equivalent of Wal-Mart and K-Mart. I used to rant against one of the distributors, but have since learned that they offer a good, better and best, the best being pretty darn good - meaning, things I even have in the store (a few items anyway). But today's show was filled with six legged chickens, mega under-ripened tomatoes, and so many pre-made desserts that my lungs were filled with corn syrup instantly.

I could not find even ONE item that I thought I could work into my menu. When I was getting hungry, and every booth had samples, I could not find ONE item that I wanted to put in my body. Yet the halls were filled with chefs giddy about the show. These were chefs from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. This was not a small show, and these were not McDonald's chefs - these were real chefs from real restaurants (private and chain).

Is it true that you can take shit, and with enough technique, turn it into foie gras? Am I just not skilled enough to perform this magic? Or have commercial kitchens given up on "from scratch," and "fresh" in return for convenience and output?

I don't know that I care what they're doing, and I better understand why I have little desire to eat out anymore. What I do know is that if you walked through the same show and me, you would make dinner at home tonight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Recipe: NYT Huguenot Torte

The New York Time's recently republished this recipe, originally printed in 1965 from The First Ladies Cook Book. Its extremely sweet, but very simple and fast to prepare.

2 Eggs
1/2 t Salt
1 1/2 C Sugar
1 C Apples, peeled
1 C Pecans, chopped
1 t Vanilla
4 T AP Flour
2 1/2 t Baking Powder
Whipped cream for topping

Oven to 325ºF

Beat eggs and salt until light and increased in volume. Slowly add the sugar into the egg mixture. Fold in the apples and nuts, then the vanilla, flour and baking powder. Pour into a greased 9x9 pan that is at least 2 inches deep. The torte will rise and crash so you need to leave room for the expansion. Bake 45 minutes or until crusty and brown.

Too sweet for me, but this reminds me of my St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recipe: Cherry Pop-Tart

Ever since I posted my Pop-Tart recipe a while back which figured out the crust and a cinnamon filling, I've had numerous requests for fruit filling. Today I gave it a go and got the cherry just right.

The pastry recipe is the same as my original. The trick with the filling is that there are a lot of chemicals in the original recipe that make it the texture and taste that it is. My version may not last for a year on the grocery shelf, but its just as good, and probably better.

1/2 C Dried cherries
1/2 C Almond flour/meal
1 Egg White
1/4 C Powdered Sugar

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and buzz into a fine mush. This takes a while so keep working at it. Eventually you'll get a rough but homogeneous glop. That's all there is to it. Fill the pastry, seal and bake. The flavor and texture were spot on. So, now you can make any of the fruit flavors so that just leaves the pursuit of the fudge Pop-Tart still to figure out.

The anal retentive reader will ask about the cherries on the frosting. I took some of the remnants of the filling, added more powdered sugar and baked at 300ºF for 15 minutes, let it dry then chopped into small pieces. It was still sticky so I put the pieces, spread out, back into the oven and that did the trick.
Curious Kumquat

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here's to the ladies who lunch

Okay kids...here is my first video! This is from my all time favorite movie - Camp, and this is one of my absolute favorite scenes.

Why would I add this video, you ask. Well, I made two desserts recently that were inspired by my ladies who lunch - a group of three women who have graced me with their presence every Wednesday so much so that they deserved their own dessert.

They love chocolate, so this is an 8" tart using my 5 minute crust, filled with 82% ganache, topped with a flourless chocolate meringue disc, orange marmalade, toasted pecans, a huge pillow of chocolate mousse, and more of the meringue discs for lunchtime gaudiness! Did I mention they like chocolate?

And another that was more about just having fun with the same components. Inside the chocolate mousse are the meringue discs, a Kahlua soaked sponge, and topped with mirror glaze and a ultra vanilla cone that was spray painted for velvet effect.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recipe: Hermé's Vanilla Tart

On one of the foodie forums someone was obsessing over PH's Vanilla Tart and trying to get the recipe. The recipe was found and I made these ultra vanilla tarts. I've modified the recipe to account for errors and clarifications in the original author's posting. Note that in this picture, the biscuit on the bottom is too thick. I have adjusted that in the recipe. I also suggest making this as miniatures - 2" tarts since they are so rich.

English Vanilla Cream
500 g Cream
1 Vanilla bean, Mexican
1 Vanilla bean, Madagascar
1 Vanilla bean, Tahitian
100 g Egg yolks
125 g Sucrose
7 g Gelatin leaves, gold (10 g Silver)

Hydrate the gelatin. Combine yolks and sucrose. Bring cream to a boil and temper the yolk/sucrose, returning mixture to remaining cream. Cook til coats the back of a spoon. Pour onto gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Cover and and bring to room temp.

Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
375 g English vanilla cream (above)
250 g Mascarpone, room temp

Place the English vanilla cream in a mixer bowl. Whip being careful not too whip too firmly. Add the mascarpone a hearty dollop at a time until it is all combined. Immediately pipe into a mold slightly smaller than your tart shell will be. Fill your mold then smooth the tops since this will be your finished look. Cover and freeze.

Sugar Dough
150 g Butter, softened
30 g Almond Powder
95 g Powdered Sugar
0.5 g Vanilla Powder
60 g Eggs
1 g Sea salt
250 g AP Flour

In mixer with paddle attachment beat butter til creamy. Add each ingredient in one-by-one until they just become incorporated. Don't overwork. Form into a disc, wrap with plastic and chill until firm.

Roll the dough between two silpats until 2 mm thick and cut to fit your mold. Dock the dough with a fork, freeze and then bake at 335ºF for 20-30 minutes until browned.

Biscuit Cuillere
360 g Egg white
5 g Egg white powder
225 g Sugar
200 g Egg yolk
20 g Invert sugar
125 g AP Flour
125 g Potato starch

Combine and sift the flour and starch. Whip whites until just about firm, add the egg white powder and sugar and take to firm peaks. Fold in the yolks and trimoline and finally the flour mixture, stopping just as they are combined. Pour onto sheet pan lined with silpat and spread evenly to about 1/4". Bake at 445ºF for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and cool.

Titanium Dioxide Paste
25 g Titanium dioxide powder
15 g Water

Mix well and set aside.

Syrup 30B
50 g Sucrose
45 g Water

Bring to a boil and set aside

Neutral Glaze
500 g Water
2 Spent vanilla beans
200 g Sucrose
20 g NH Pectin
10 g Lemon juice

Combine the sucrose and pectin. Add the water and vanilla and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, strain and bring to room temp. You can also keep this for future projects in your fridge, simply microwave for 30 seconds until fluid.

Vanilla Glaze
480 g White chocolate couverture
180 g Cream
10 g Glucose
25 g Syrup 30b (see above)
360 g Neutral glaze (see above)
0.5 g Vanilla bean Madagascar
12.5 g Titanium dioxide paste (see above)

Soften chocolate in microwave - you don't need to fully melt it. Bring cream and scraped vanilla to a boil and pour over chocolate and whisk. Bring neutral glaze to a boil along with syrup and glucose. Pour the hot sugar mixture into the ganache and add the titanium paste. Whisk or use an immersion blender to obtain a smooth texture, but do not incorporate air.

Vanilla Ganache
225 g Cream
1 Vanilla bean, Mexican
1 Vanilla bean, Madagascar
1 Vanilla bean, Tahitian
4 g Vanilla extract – non alcoholic
2 g Vanilla powder
250 g White chocolate couverture

Remove seed from vanilla and add to cream. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Soften the chocolate in microwave. Strain pods out of cream and add the extract and vanilla powder. Bring to a boil and pour over chocolate to finish melting. Whisk until smooth.

Vanilla Syrup
500 g Bottled water
0.5 g Vanilla bean, Mexican
0.5 g Vanilla bean, Madagascar
0.5 g Vanilla bean, Tahitian
10 g Vanilla extract
250 g Sucrose
25 g Brown rum

Boil the water, sugar and beans, remove from heat, cover and rest for 30 minutes. Add the extract and rum.

Fill the tart shell with a bit of the ganache. Place the biscuit inside and spoon just enough vanilla syrup on top to soak but not saturate and ooze. Fill the gaps with more ganache. Cool in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

Remove the mascarpone discs from the freezer and coat in vanilla glaze. It worked best for me to pour the glaze over the disc while holding the disk with a fork. Place disc on top of tart.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Technique: Sugar Bottle Final

A couple of posts ago you saw my ship in the bottle. Here's how I did it. First, here is my last unsuccessful attempt. I really thought this technique would work, but I couldn't get the glass to release from the bottle no matter what I did - spray, foil lining, grease. The nice thing about this technique is it provided tremendous control because I used a heat gun to soften, reshape, shift, and work over the glass until it was just how I wanted it.

But...it would not come off without shattering.

So then an online forum led me to this product:

And it was incredibly easy and fast! Simply take the two putties.

Knead them into a cohesive mass -meaning the color was evenly spread. You only have 4 minutes to do this step or it will start to harden, but that was easily accomplished by this bread baker. Then wrap the yellow putty around the final shape. I used a bottle but anything would work. This material is oven safe so you can bake in it up to 375ºF.

Let it sit for 2o minutes and it will firm up, but remain flexible, meaning you can peel it off of your object...and later the sugar.

Look how flexible. And now its reusable.

For this project I filled it 2/3 full, but most people do two halves and combine them into one bottle. I didn't want to crack the bottle over anyone's head, I just wanted my dessert to rest inside. After pouring my isomalt inside and swirling around until it was evenly coated and starting to firm, I let it rest until hard and unmolded.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Recipe: Avocado Salad

This is a post about sensuality. You know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. As in, Tyler was gone and I had a day off to rest and appreciate. So this is a post...as I said...about sensuality.

Start by carefully splitting your avocados.

Then your limes.

Then the nectar of the gods - vanilla, with the nectar of Mexico.

Fry some Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon and chop it, add some olive oil and black pepper.

Scoop the avocado out of its shell keeping it whole. Then scrape out much of the meat leaving an outer lining. Mush the scrapings, adding a bit of vanilla, salt and tequilla. Refill the lining and then fill with the bacon to imitate the pit.

Do that for both sides, and re-affix the two sides of the avocado. Combine black sesame seeds, a bit of cumin, black pepper and crushed pistachio.

Roll the whole (re-affixed) avocado in the mixture. Use your warm bacon drippings, and ad some smoked salt and white balsamic.

Toss with lettuce, add nice tuna (not Starkist) and enjoy!