Guest Post: Food Snob

Today, we are lucky people, because right here is a recipe/guest post from a Chef, I think really highly of. She brings desserts to my Harvest Parties as well as family gatherings, and it is always the most sought after, talked about item. Once in a while she will post pictures of her decadent, lovely desserts on Facebook and I will swoon to myself, thinking: I wish I could do that. I’m looking forward not only to seeing what unfolds in her culinary career but to the gems she will offer this blog when she has free time.

Food snob is, “a person who cooks in a restaurant and doesn’t make that much money. But turns their nose up at any convenience foods. Likes to make up some fancy sauce to serve over ahi, and likes to name drop famous chefs’ names. Critical of other people’s food choices, thinks he can deem your social class by the temperature of your steak.” – Urban dictionary

Yup, this describes me quite well. I am a Pastry Chef at an upscale steak house in Manchester, New Hampshire. Even though I have lunch at Wendy’s twice a month with my Grandmother, I will “deem your social class by the temperature of your steak.” I’m sorry, but if you request ice cream to go with your already fattening crème brulee, I will question your social class status. Either trust the Chef who put effort into the menu development or request the addition of berries to perfectly balance the crème brulee.

My first memory of becoming a food snob was shortly after culinary school. I had a craving for Hostess Ring Dings. My first bite was disappointing. The chocolate coating was waxy and didn’t even taste like chocolate. The cake was very dry and the filling was limited. Not a perfect balance of cake to cream ratio. While attending culinary school, we were exposed to the creation of chocolate and the many couverture brands. So many different varieties and subtitle flavors, like coffee and berries.  Oh and the wonderful snap sound tempered chocolate makes! How is this not exciting when compared to dry cake?

As a Pastry Chef food snob, we all have our favorite crème brulee recipes. Here’s a vanilla bean crème brulee recipe.

VANILLA BEAN CREME BRULEE

INGREDIENTS

1 quart heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 each vanilla bean, split
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown Sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces egg yolks (about 9)

METHOD OF PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Boil heavy cream, half and half, vanilla bean, and sugar
Combine eggs, yolks, and brown sugar
Once the cream mixture has boiled, turn off the burner
Temper the hot cream with the egg mixture
Do this by warming the egg mixture up with a bit of hot cream and whisk the batter thoroughly
Then slowly whisk the egg batter into the hot cream mixture
Strain the custard batter, to remove the vanilla pod and any curdled eggs
Pour custard into a single or several shallow ramekins or pans (you can always save extra custard in the fridge for another time)
Place the dish(s) in a larger pan, like a sheet pan or casserole dish, to hold a water bath
Place the pan in the oven and fill it a quarter of the way with water
Cover the top of the pan with another pan to provide even cooking
Bake for a half hour and check on the custard
At this point tap the pan to see how much longer the custard needs before finishing
If it’s still liquid form, rotate pan and bake another 15 minutes
If the edges are baked, but the center jiggles like Jell-O, rotate and bake another 5 minutes
Custard is done when the center does not jiggle, the whole custard is thick and moves as one
Allow the custard to get cold and dust the top with a single layer of granulated sugar (or Sugar in the Raw for first timers)
Use a blow torch to “brulee” or burn or caramelize the sugar
You can also try the broiler on your oven if you do not have a blow torch

Serve with fruit and enjoy!

Want to add flare? Add fresh berries or herbs into the crème brulee batter before baking.

Chocolate Cupcakes for a Very Special Lady

I can’t even began to explain how very much I dislike cupcakes. I think it comes from my time working furiously at my online bake shop: Eat Your Plate. I churned out so many of these midnight chocolate cupcakes, that the mere sight of them makes me want to have a seizure. I can’t deny it, they are remarkably decadent and delicious. They certainly don’t taste and feel like your average cupcake….and they are not meant to. I use really rich, really fresh products which make all the difference in the end result. And beyond, hating the taste of a cupcake, there is an even deeper disdain for the creation of them. However, every once in a while I feel that little flicker. Someone will inspire me and I’ll feel inclined to whip up a batch. Or, in this case, I like someone so much that just the idea of their face while consuming these, drives me to make them. This batch was made for a very special birthday girl whom I feel really blessed to have in my life. We had a bit of a bumpy start. Pretty much my fault. She raised all sorts of red flags in my book: she’s sensible, she’s quiet, she makes perfect sense all the time. But then it dawned on me that the world can only handle so much Jenny and that people like Casey really balance things out. She’s the heat to my balsamic reduction, takes the bitter edge off just enough to keep things enjoyable.

The past year has been really great for our friendship because I finally shut my mouth and gave her the opportunity to talk. The majority of my friends have been almost as over the top as I am and to be honest, I don’t think that’s always a good thing. Casey is really mellow, she listens extremely well, has dozens of truly amazing qualities and capabilities and has the ability to surprise and delight often. And, beyond all that, she has a huge heart, which is always a plus. It’s a rarity that I give the Casey’s of the world a chance and frankly, I don’t know why. There is no reason to be suspicious of a perfectly normal personality. Perhaps I am just concerned it will really show people my slightly neurotic strange side. 😉

The point of all this rambling: yesterday I thought about her and I wanted to make these cupcakes for her birthday, just to say, hey, you were on my mind. I spent the afternoon cooking in a frenzy and couldn’t have been happier when I brought over the dozen for her to eat and share. People like Casey bring the baker out of me and I kind of dig that. So here’s to you Casey, you are indeed a pretty special lady.

MIDNIGHT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH VANILLA FROSTING

CUPCAKES

1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into pieces
1/4 half & half or heavy cream (your preference)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line your cupcake tins. In a small heatproof bowl, combine your cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. Pour the boiling water on top and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for at least one hour. (You can place in the freezer to speed things up a bit)

2. Using a mixer with the paddle attachment combine the following: flour, brown sugar, sea salt and baking soda. Add your butter a few pieces at a time, mixing on medium speed just until it begins to resemble a dough. Beat an additional minute, just to make sure the butter is well incorporated, scraping down the sides if needed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks and half & half, until well mixed. Turn your mixture up to medium high and add the mixture slowly. Whip the mixture into a frenzy for about a minute. It will start to look light and fluffy.

4. Slowly add your chocolate mixture and mix again, on medium high-speed for about a minute, until light and fluffy once more. Scoop into your cupcake tins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. They will still feel soft to the touch but the toothpick won’t do you wrong.

5. Allow to cool before frosting.

VANILLA FROSTING

2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 sticks (yes, 4!) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into cubes
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1. While your cake is cooling, combine the flour and the milk in a saucepan, whisking constantly, over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to thicken and is noticeably different in texture, whisk only thirty additional seconds and then remove from heat. Set aside to cool COMPLETELY. I usually place it right in my mixing bowl to speed up the process, sometimes sticking it in the fridge if really in a time crunch.

2. Fit your mixture with the paddle attachment and on low-speed add the sugar to the cooled milk and flour mixture. Mix until combined. Continuing on low-speed, add the butter, a few cubes at a time until it is all incorporated, then mix in the vanilla and salt.

3. Turn the mixer up to medium high-speed and allow to go for 8-10 minutes. The mixture will look curdled and strange but don’t worry, it just needs time to come together. Be patient, let it mix and eventually you will get smooth, light, delicious frosting. Use immediately or store at room temp covered for up to 8 hours.

4. You can pipe these or just use a knife. Whichever method you prefer is fine, they still will taste wonderful.

Enjoy my friends! And of course, Happy Birthday to Ms. Casey.

Soon to be Mrs. Casey. 😉

A better way to eat a brownie

A better way to eat a brownie

I have to be honest, the texture of some raw/vegan desserts makes my skin crawl. I know that they are better for me and my ass won’t jiggle quite as much when I consume them but the mind over matter thing just doesn’t work. Take my last vegan/raw brownie recipe, it was actually quite good but the texture of the top made me feel weird inside so I went in search of a better raw brownie. This is also why I don’t eat the following: jello, avocados, beef jerky and seafood of any kind. I have these mental barriers that I just can’t seem to overcome. And according to a lecture I watched today, your 20’s happens to be where it all goes down, all your opinions are formed in this decade. So if, approaching thirty (insert whiny face here) I can’t stomach seafood, it’s probably never going to happen for me. Anyways, I was surfing the great land of Pinterest the other night, where I am convinced most recipes go to die (green bell pepper stuffed with roast beef and then covered with american cheese and baked, ewwwwwww), when I stumbled upon this little gem. It led me to a site I am quite familiar with and happen to love love love: My New Roots. This lady gets it, food should be good and good for you. Labels are not necessary. And just because you are going healthy doesn’t mean you should feel like crying in the corner. My last vegan/raw brownie made me want to hit someone in the face. Reading the recipe, I was unsure, but I have tremendous faith in the author of this fabulous blog and her pictures looked amazing so I decided to give it a go in my kitchen.

It really is simple, you will need the following: Medjool dates (this will cost you anywhere from $9-$14 bucks, get over it, they’re worth it), walnuts, almonds, raw cocoa powder and sea salt. A food processor is also a must as there is no way any blender (not even my trusty Vitamix) can handle this business. Don’t skimp on ingredients, if you use some creepy regular grade cocoa powder, it will be obvious and then no one will want any part of these. I gave my almonds a nice little toast, as well as the walnuts, because my nuts don’t like to go naked, they like a little flavor. But to keep the brownies truly raw, don’t be doing any of that.

You start with the walnuts, pulsing them until they are fine. Then you add the silky raw cocoa powder  and the sea salt to the walnuts and give it a little additional pulse.

Then it’s merely dropping the dates in one by one until the mixture starts to come together. From there, I lined a square pan with parchment paper and threw the mixture right on in there. Then, I pulsed my almonds gently in the food processor (nope, didn’t even wash it) and then I combined the almonds with the date/chocolate mixture with my fingers. Once they were happy together, I pressed it all into my pan.

raw brownie 3

After a nice deep freeze, I took them out, anxious to cut into them and see what they actually taste like. The texture is amazing. When you cut them, they look like real brownies. Which for me is just wonderful. It gets me excited. Deeply excited. But then I took a bite and was completely amazed. These really are good. Like really really good. They taste like a deeply rich, decadent, brownie. I think I just heard angels singing.

I’m telling you all, go and give these a whirl. They take zero time at all and they taste magical. Without the guilt.

The Raw Brownie, courtesy of My New Roots

Ingredients:
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt

Directions:
1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

Vanilla Bean Madeleines

I had SUCH a wonderful weekend. It felt long and I felt full after. Full of love. Full of life. Friday night I made a wonderful dinner for the family comprised of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus w/parmesan cheese and a good crusty loaf of bread. We took our time eating which is a rare thing in our house. After dinner we had a nice chat while the kids went off to play. I had to limit the wine as I was looking at a ten miler the next morning. Saturday morning rolls around and I crawl, literally, out of bed at 6 in the morning, drive to Yarmouth and discover the most zestful running people I have ever met. I run 10 miles, while chatting with a brand new, never met before lady, the whole time. Even the downpour that occurred at miles 3-6 couldn’t kill my spirit, I was having a great time. I left the run with a renewed outlook on life, smiling to myself on the drive home that a) I still have it in me and b) there is hope after all for a grand running buddy. The remainder of the day was spent outdoors with the kids and closed out with a nice spaghetti & meatball dinner with some friends we love. I made them these madelienes because after a heavy pasta dinner, all you need is a little French cookie with coffee. Plus, these are so easy to whip up. Sunday, my husband surprised me with amazing gifts: flowers, a gift certificate for a massage, some great books and a new juicer. I looked at him and thought: yes, he is the best. The love I have for him in my heart is un-matched. We went to my favorite greenhouse and I bought half the place while the kids got pushed around in the carts. It was a perfect day. I went to bed feeling lucky, because I am.

The first recipe I was going to work with had brown sugar, which I had none of, so I made my own. However, I found a different recipe I liked a little better, so the homemade brown sugar will just have to be reserved for another time. When you make your own, it’s softer and just tastes better. Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of sugar for outstanding light brown sugar.

VANILLA BEAN MADELIENES

INGREDIENTS
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

madelines 2

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla beans. Use your fingers to rub the zest and beans into the sugar, releasing their aromatic oils.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar mixture with the eggs on medium high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Use a spatula to fold in the melted butter, and then the flour.
3. Cover and refrigerate batter for 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease and flour a madeleine pan.
5. Fill the shells of the madeleine pan with the chilled batter almost full. Bake until centers are puffed and edges are golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then pop out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Madeleines are best the day they are made, but may be stored for up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Almond Filled Brioche: Best Thing Ever.

Today, one of the most realistic and grounded mother’s I know and love came over for a tutorial on brioche. I had previously explained to her what a magical pastry this stuff was and that it’s the gateway to a million fabulous desserts/breakfast items. She was intrigued because for a fellow mom, she happens to be extremely cultured and is fascinated by food in the very same way I happen to be. And so it commenced, the creation of these extremely wonderful almond brioche, all while screaming at our children and laughing at some of the ridiculous things we both say on a regular basis. It’s afternoons like these that I cherish, making food, eating food, talking over coffee. And they make me feel normal, in a world that sometimes feels chaotic. Thank you Mrs. Maureen for listening to me complain about being a mom, for listening to my obnoxious views on food and for never judging me when I tell you that I secretly sometimes want to throw my shoes at my children. (in or around their faces) These little guys (the brioche) were delightful. They a take a long time but the pay off is worth it. Oh it is my friends.

ALMOND FILLED BRIOCHE

Basic Brioche Recipe
4.5 cups all-purpose flour
31/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs
2 3/4 sticks of room temp. unsalted butter, sliced into small pieces

For the filling
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract

For the top of the brioche
2 eggs, beaten well, for egg wash
2 cups slivered almonds to place on top of your egg wash

brioche 1

For the brioche: Place the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cold water and eggs in a large bowl, place under your mixer. A mixer is a must for this recipe, there is no way around it. Place on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients come together, the dough will look shaggy at this point. Make sure all of your wet ingredients are incorporated into your dry ingredients, scrape if necessary and then continue to beat another 3-4 minutes. Again, the dough will continue to look dry and shaggy. While still on low speed, add the butter a little bit at a time, once the butter is all added, turn your mixer up to medium-high and beat for 10-15 minutes. It will take a bit but your dough will come together, looking silky and beautiful. When the dough starts to “clean the sides” grabbing all it’s bits and pieces and makes a slapping noise against the side, you know it’s done. It should come out of the bowl fairly easily. Place dough in an air tight container and put in the fridge for at least six hours, or up to overnight. Once your long 6 hours have passed, remove from fridge, liberally dust your counter top with flour and roll the dough out to about 1/2″ thickness. Try to roll the dough into a sort of rectangle shape, trimming the sides with a bench scrapper (or a knife). Now cut out large triangles, about 7-8 inches long, they don’t have to be perfect, as you are just going to roll them and cover them with almonds. Fill each triangle with about 4 tablespoons of filling (see below), making sure to spread it fairly evenly over the span of the triangle, again, doesn’t have to be perfect. Roll up the brioche, starting from the long side (not the point), then connect the two ends of the triangle to give it that typical croissant look, folding them under one another to keep in place. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, repeat until all your triangles are filled and allow to proof in a warm area for an additional 2-3 hours or until fluffy and soft in appearance. Once the 2-3 hours have passed, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, beat your eggs for the egg wash, brush onto each brioche and cover liberally with almond slivers. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve while still warm.

For the filling: Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until everything comes together. The almond past will be very thick and kind of difficult to spread, so I usually just form it into flat pieces and place it in the middle of my triangles, doing the best I can to evenly disperse it. The key is to get a little in every bite. If you don’t have blanched almonds and don’t want to blanch almonds, who cares, just use them as is, tastes the same.

Happy baking everyone!