chocolate

Cutting and Piping and Arithmetic

It was a pleasant surprise going into day 3 of pastry school to find out not only were we going to practice piping chocolate, but we were also going to start baking. But, like the science that pastry arts is, some math had to be done before we could start getting our hands dirty. Our class started off by learning how to fold and cut parchment paper to then assemble cornets, or paper cones in French (say it with me, cor-nays). You may be reading this thinking, “why would anyone spend valuable time learning how to cut parchment paper?” Well, pastry chefs use parchment paper every single day. They use cornets to pipe finer icings and melted chocolate, to get that teeeeeny tiny tip just right. And no, it’s just as easy as cutting a piece of paper. Scissors are not always handy to a pastry chef, but wanna know what is? A sharp paring knife and an offset spatula. So that’s what we did– we sliced parchment paper in half, then in half again, and then diagonally to create that classic “a squared plus b squared equals c squared” triangular-shaped piece of parchment.

Lesson 1: I’m not very good at cutting parchment.

We then learned how to properly fold and form them into these adorable little cones.

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Lesson 2: I’m semi-okay at making cornets. You have to wrap them tight enough so that you cannot see out of the tip. NO teensy little hole is to be apparent until your cornet is filled with chocolate and ready to be piped. Speaking of which…

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Lesson 3: I’m pretty good at piping chocolate, eh?

We then went into a brief exercise converting: grams to cups, quarts to gallons, tablespoons to teaspoons, you name it. This is all essential information to know as a pastry chef. My brain is just going to have to get used to using mental math again.

Lesson 4: A large egg weighs about 50 grams!

Our Chef instructor (Jenny McCoy, she is legit) demonstrated how to make ginger snaps and then put us to the test. This was probably one of the simplest cookie recipes I’ve come across, but they were damn delicious. When 10:00 rolled around, we were each sent home with a box of cookies, a container of chocolate and parchment paper to practice making cornets and piping. I can’t wait to play pastry chef at home!

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Foodie Gift Guide 2012

Since just about everyone and their mothers is making a gift guide this holiday season, I decided to hop on the bandwagon. Of course, all of my favorite and most lusted after gifts revolve around food, but each is specifically tailored to a different type of foodie or food lover. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to get your foodie friend one of these awesome gifts, and friends/ family if you’re reading this, please take the hint!

1. For the adventurous foodie who puts Sriracha on everything: KimKim, $10

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We all have that one friend who never thinks “spicy” is spicy enough. They may be addicted to sriracha, but I’ve found a new miracle sauce. KimKim is a Korean hot sauce made in Richmond, Virginia. I discovered this sauce at Union Market and after one sample, I was hooked. Its not as spicy as sriracha but has a hint of buffalo flavor. It’s perfect for dipping (plain or mixed with greek yogurt or sour cream), marinating (chicken, fish, steak, you name it) and drizzling over eggs, and your friend with the atomic palate will thank you dearly.

2. For the hardcore baker: Cuisinart Artisan Stand Mixer, Boysenberry, Williams-Sonoma, $349.95

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I have literally had this mixer on my wish list every year for the past 5 years. It does everything you could possibly ask out of a mixer, and if you get the right attachments, you could be making fresh pasta, ice cream and even juice! Your options are endless, and I love the boysenberry color for the holidays.

3. For the hardcore baker who has already baked their way through Martha Stewart and Carol Walters: Bouchon Bakery Cook Book, Amazon.com, $24.99

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I just purchased this book for myself and I’m already so excited to work my way through it. Bake some of Bouchon’s most popular pastries, cookies and breads, and you’ll feel like you’re learning from Thomas Keller himself!

4. For the student or YoPro in need of some lunch money: sweetgreen gift card, in stores or online, $15- $100

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Sweetgreen just introduced gift cards and as a hardcore sweetgreen fan, I felt particularly obliged to endorse them. If you live in the D.C. or Philly area, grab one for your friends, coworkers or teachers. They’ll definitely thank you for it.

5. For the mixologist: Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa

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This is the newest addition to the Patron family, and I’ll be the first to tell you it’s going to become the favorite child. On the rocks, mixed into coffee or a frappe, the dark cocoa flavor is present enough to satisfy your sweet tooth while still feeling like you’re sipping on something sophisticated and special.  Serve it at your holiday party, or just keep it for yourself on those cold winter nights.

6. For the chocolate lover: Whole Foods Peppermint Bark, $8.99

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I love this peppermint bark because it has just the right amount of white and dark chocolate compared to peppermint. Its easy to break into any size piece and is great for those nights after you’ve eaten a heavy meal but want something sweet. This bark is the sole reason I fell in love with mint-chocolate.

7. For the entertainer: C Wonder Snow Flake Coasters, $12

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How cute are these?! If you’re from the northeast you can probably get about 4-5 months of use out of these coasters before it becomes seasonally inappropriate. If you live on the west coast or in the south, these coasters will at least help you feel like you’re celebrating a white Christmas or the first snowfall.

8. For the foodie who basically has everything: Gourmet Attitude Truffle Honey, Gilt Taste, $19.95

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The first time I had truffle honey I was in Florence and I fell in love. I was so happy to see this product on Gilt Taste. It goes great on cheese with crackers, or even drizzled over ice cream. Plus, your friends will think you’re super sophisticated and well-traveled.

9. For the wino: Architect Air Dry Wine Glass Drying System, Amazon.com, $14.35

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.15.45 PMI found this product on BuzzFeed’s 30 Gifts for Winos, and I immediately ordered one for my dad- the ultimate wine connoisseur. Its sleek, portable, yet amazingly useful for drying wine glasses, and goes well in any kitchen or bar.

So there you have it- my nine favorite products of the season. Happy gifting, and happy holidays!

The Grand Finale to My NYC Summer

I am very upset to be announcing that this past weekend was my final weekend living in the Big Apple. I have fallen in love with this city, and more importantly, with the food. You can get any type of food at any hour of the day, and odds are, it will be better than what you can get in any other city in this country. I have a whole Word document of restaurants I wanted to eat at this summer. Sadly I only made a dent in the list. But during my final weekend, I did some pretty decent damage. Let’s start with Saturday, shall we?

I said to myself that I wouldn’t leave NYC without a trip to Katz’s Deli. So Saturday was dedicated to that, and by “dedicated” I mean you only eat one meal at Katz’s because you will eat enough to suffice for the rest of the day. There was no question when it came to ordering: I would have the corned beef sandwich. Tender, falling apart, well seasoned, and surrounded by fresh rye bread. You really can’t ask for more. Their steak fries and pickles are superb, too. But I’m really just obsessed with this sandwich.

Can’t you see why?

On Sunday I attended my second iAdventure event- The International Food Truck and Beer Festival at NYC’s South Street Seaport. But I’m not here to tell you about that. While I enjoyed my afternoon full of food truck tastings, beer and music, two things- er, trucks, I should say- stuck out in particular. The first, Kimchi Taco Truck

Let me preface this by explaining the event. Each purchaser (from livingsocial.com) was entitled to two beers and three food truck tastings. I went with my foodie partner in crime, Lizzy. Since there were 8 food trucks to choose from, we decided to divide and conqure and get six different trucks’ samples and share them. The samples were rather… skimpy. Don’t get me wrong; they were all delicious. But a few french fries, about a quarter slice of pizza, half a dumpling, one gnocchi and half of a pretzel ball was not filling. So we decided to actually buy some lunch and share that, too. We went for the Grilled Korean BBQ Short Rib Kimchi Bowl, complete with multigrain rice, kimchi, pico de gallo, pickled daikon and cucumber kimchi, and boy, was I a happy camper afterwards. The short ribs were juicy and melted in my mouth. They were perfectly seasoned, with that unique Asian flavor. The classic kimchi was full of vinegar and spices, still with just enough crunch to remind you that its cabbage. I am a huge fan of Korean BBQ, and this meal definitely lived up to my standards.

After a day of spicy ethnic eats, Lizzy and I were looking for something to cool us down. I have been following Big Gay Ice Cream on Twitter for over a year now, after hearing about it on the Food Network. I had always wanted to try it but the truck is never near my office. Taking advantage it being Sunday, I convinced Lizzy to make the trek with me to Alphabet City to visit their storefront. The trip was well worth it. I can’t stop thinking about this soft serve. I got the American Globs- vanilla soft serve lined with pretzels and sea salt, all covered in a chocolate shell. The soft serve was so deliciously creamy without being too sweet. The pretzels and sea salt provided the perfect salt factor, especially combined with the chocolate. Biting into this massive cone was so satisfying. I am seriously dreaming to go back and get it. Lizzy got the Monday Sundae- a vanilla-chocolate twist lined with dulce de leche, Nutella and sea salt all in a waffle cone. The creamy dulce de leche worked so perfectly with the sea salt, and how can you go wrong with Nutella? This shop is literal heaven on earth (or wheels, if you go to the truck). I can’t decide if its a blessing or a curse that I’m leaving New York on Wednesday, because I would be genuinely scared for my health if I had year-round access to this ice cream.

Monday Sundae (left) & American Globs

So there you have it, folks. My final weekend in NYC wrapped up into one post about three incredible eats. Until next summer….

Paper Magazine’s Super (Duper) Market

Last weekend was the 1st annual Super Duper Market, a “three-day pop-up super-store featuring our favorite vendors, retailers and food fanatics from East Coast to West Coast selling their goods under one roof,” according to its host, New York’s very own Paper Magazine. I say “1st annual” because the event seemed so successful that I hope to be returning next year.

I attended the event on Saturday with my best friend, Lizzy, and a very empty stomach. ‘Twas a good thing, because I ate more food than a human should physically be able to digest… and that was just off samples. I’ve highlighted some of my favorite vendors from the event. May the drooling commence!

Nordic Breads (Long Island City) putting together tea sandwiches of Ruis whole grain rye bread, butter, cheese and cucumbers

A variety of flavors of Empire Mayonnaise (Brooklyn). I generally don’t care for mayonnaise (tip: I use greek yogurt in place in chicken, tuna and egg salad), but their truffle mayo was to die for. I could see myself using this on sandwiches, with crudités, or licking it right off the spoon.

The Salted Sailor S’more from S’more Bakery (NYC).  A cakey, shortbread-like graham cracker hugs a homemade vanilla bean marshmallow, toasted to order, coated in salty vanilla bean caramel sauce. Definitely not a traditional s’more but I loved it nonetheless.

Speaking of s’mores, I just had to create this before-and-after shot of the s’mores pie from First Prize Pies (NYC). This was the last item we bought before leaving the market, and I’m so glad we did. The crust was crumbly, buttery and sweet; the perfect vessel for a creamy, rich, decadent chocolate pudding filling, topped with toasted fluff. This was the epitome of a true s’more, in pie version. So sinfully delicious, and as full as we were, we gobbled it up (clearly).

Finally, I was so amazed by the flavor of Humphry Slocombe’s (San Francisco) chocolate and smoked sea salt ice cream that I forgot to take a picture of it. I also generally do not like chocolate ice cream (I know, such a crime) but this is the exception. The milky chocolate flavor had the perfect undertone of salty and smoky. I get it, chocolate and sea salt are the new peanut butter and jelly. But when you smoke that sea salt, it’s a totally different sensation, and I hope to be seeing more of this combination (and maybe even using it myself!). It’s a shame- or blessing in disguise, depending on how you look at it- that Humphry Sloccombe’s only has a storefront in San Francisco, or else I’d be buying this stuff by the bucket. Props to you, Mr. Slocombe.

So there you have it, an afternoon of indulgence at the Super Duper Market. I was happily full until Sunday, and came home with some great products and memories.

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Like I said, I’ve been baking, baking, baking to my heart’s desire. I love biscotti because they serve as the perfect breakfast, dessert and dunking utensil into coffee or tea. This biscotti recipe comes from Loretta Paganinni, a well known chef and culinary school instructor in Cleveland. Biscotti are traditionally cooked two times, but the first time around they are perfect too. The hazelnuts are a perfect toasty, crunchy surprise and the espresso brings out the chocolate flavor wonderfully.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 dozen)

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbs cooled espresso

1/3 cup chocolate chips

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz. white chocolate, for dipping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt sugar and espresso in a large bowl. Once combined, add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the egg mixture to the other ingredients and mix jsut until the dough comes together. Mix any remaining dry ingredients from the bottom by hand.

Form four logs and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the sides are firm and the tops are cracked. Remove from the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Let the logs cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before slicing into 3/4 in thick diagonal slices.

Place the biscotti flat on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for an additional 5 to 10  minutes, until they are firm. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. While the biscotti are cooling, melt the white chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Dip the biscotti into the white chocolate and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let white chocolate harden for about an hour. Enjoy with coffee or tea.

French Macarons

Now that my semester has come to a conclusion, I’ve had ample time to bake to my heart’s desire. In the last week that I’ve been home, I’ve conquered triple chocolate biscotti, peppermint chocolate crinkle cookies, steamed mussels in spicy tomato sauce (a very proud accomplishment) and, alas, French macarons. I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart last year, and have been craving to make them again ever since. There is something so pleasant, so comforting, about a light and flaky yet succulent chocolate egg white cookie sandwiching rich, creamy decadent raspberry buttercream frosting. I literally can’t stop eating these little guys, but the indulgence and time spent making them is beyond worth it.

INGREDIENTS (makes 18 macarons)

for the macarons

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup almond flour, or finely ground almonds

3 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large egg whites, room temperature

pinch of cream of tarter

1/4 cup superfine sugar

for the raspberry buttercream

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup raspberry preserves

a few dots red food coloring

DIRECTIONS

Sift confectioners’ sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder into a bowl 2 times, to insure any larger almond pieces are removed. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add superfine sugar and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 to 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture of whites and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter carefully into a pastry or large plastic bag and snip a small hole at one corner. Pipe 3/4-inch round 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Be careful to pipe the batter into coils, rather than layering lines of batter of top of each other. You do not want the cookies to have much height at this point. Tap bottom of each sheet on a counter to release any trapped air. Let the cookies sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees but do not wait to put the cookies in. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, until they are crisp and firm, rotating the pan halfway through.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, cream butter with an electric mixture on medium speed until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and combine with a spatula. Add vanilla and preserves and whisk on medium speed until the color is uniform. If you desire a deeper color, add food coloring and combine.

Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with 1 teaspoon buttercream. Serve- and enjoy- immediately.

just like in Paris!

one with peanut butter, Nutella and banana

Making Use of What’s Left

So as I embark on my bake sale adventure, I have bought an abundance of baking ingredients with most of them only serving a function for one or two recipes (i.e. peanut butter chips, a large bag of m&m’s and buttermilk). I’ve been trying to be economical in my recipe hunting, which is the reason these babies came into existence.

Chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with whipped cream. They made use of a ridiculous amount of cocoa powder and my leftover buttermilk and heavy cream from red velvet cupcakes. While the recipe is more or less not mine, the size of the cupcakes are and so is the fact that they are topped with plain whipped cream, rather than mint-infused. They look as moist as they taste, but they are still fluffy and light, thanks in part to the cloud-like whipped topping. For the full recipe, click here. Here is my take.

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 cupcakes)

for the cupcakes:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

7 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (i told you it was a lot)

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

7 tablespoons buttermilk

1 large egg

1 large egg white

for the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 mini 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, combine cocoa and 5-7 tablespoons hot water until a thick paste forms (this process intensifies the chocolate flavor).

Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until smooth.

Scoop batter into prepared tin. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 10 minutes.

Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a food processor or with an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Top cooled cupcakes with whipped cream and enjoy.