Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pastry Side Projects

 Lemon Charlotte

Now that I am working full time in pastry, and it is a tough job, I still try to take on the odd pastry job.  I have two wonderful personal chefs that often call on me for desserts.  I'm very thankful to have their patronage.  In my new job at Whole Foods, I am given some creative license, but within defined boundries.  I get to decide how I want to decorate or top the cheesecakes, ect, but I don't get to improvise on the bases of the cakes/recipes.  However JJ and Rich give me oppurtunities to "color outside the lines" pastry speaking.  Sometimes there will be specific requests from their clients, but more often I get to suggest ideas.  It's kinda nice to get paid to "play". 

I most recently made some desserts for a dinner party for Rich.  I was given the instructions to have fun and be creative, oh and included some chococlate.  Piece of cake!  I spent some time going through my recipes, looking at books and trying to create a dessert menu that could be made a day ahead, and include a variety of flavors.  I also started looking at what I already had on hand since I will be moving again soon, and need to clear out my pantry.  There were also a few recipes I had been wanting to make and this gave me a great occassion to do so. 

Here is what I came up with:

 Chocolate Almond Creme Tart with Port Poached Pears and Port Syrup

Lemon Charlotte

Bourbon Pecan Bars with Cherries and Chocolate
(these are especially good warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!)

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Orange Zest and Grand Marnier Madeleines.  

I did not take a photo of the last two items, but they were lovely.  I'm hoping Rich put some nice fresh berries on top of the Charlotte, as I did not have time to run out and buy some.  Raspberries or Blueberries would have added the perfect splash of color and gone great with the tart lemon mousse filling.

 Mini Lemon Charlotte

I had some left over Lady finger pieces and lemon curd so I made a nice Tart Baby Charlotte.  This one I spread a layer of the Lemon Curd in first, then topped it with a layer of creamy Lemon Mousse, bits of candied Lemon rind and some White Chocolate shavings.  Mmmmm tart and tasty.
Lemon-y Goodness

I think Charlottes may become my  new obsession.  Lady Fingers are so simple and fun to make.  They are so light and delicate and pretty when coated with sugar or cocoa powder if making a Charlotte with Chocolate.  I love lining my cake rings with them and then filling them like little baskets. Often you will see Charlottes wrapped with a little ribbon.  If you are using individual Lady Fingers, the ribbon helps hold them together.  If you make your own Lady Fingers, you can pipe them close together, so in the oven they will form one long line piece of cake that can be cut to lenght and used.  Then the ribbon can be used just for decoration.  I can't wait till the summer and local berries are in season, I will definitely be suggesting these lovely cakes to JJ for her clients.  Move over Apple Tarts!

Have a Heart, Take 2

 Molded Chocolate Hearts

It's funny that I find the Valentine's Days that I spend with friends always turn out the best.  But isn't almost anything made better when shared with Friends? Last year I hosted a little potluck dinner at my apartment and the food and company was wonderful.  This year myself, my roommate and some friends cooked up an amazing batch of Eggplant Parmesan.  Paired with a nice Italian red and some fresh baked bread from my new place of employment, it was a wonderful Valentine's meal.  We followed it with my hand made chocolates, tasty pastries from Sofra (wonderful cafe in Belmont) fresh pineapple and tea.  It would have only been made more perfect if my Valentine had been able to join us from across the ocean.  I may have sent something special his way.....

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I had volunteered through the CSCA to do a chocolate demo at Boston University along with my classmate Maggie.  We found ourselves once again in E kitchen at school on Monday and Tuesday night, prepping for the demo and helping out with an Alumni workshop on chocolate as well.  It was like we never left, except we got home a lot earlier!  I borrowed some chocolate molds, and bought a bunch of supplies at Whole Foods on the previous Sunday so I could practice and make my own chocolates as well. 

For last Valentine's Day I had made cute little marzipan hearts and covered them in chocolate.  However, I hadn't been trained how to properly temper chocolate yet, so they turned out delicious, but not as beautiful as they could be.  This year, instead of dipping, I opted for molded hearts.  I made one of my favorite fillings from school, Chef Delphin's Lou-Ginger recipe.  It's a Ganache made with fresh ginger infused cream, milk chocolate and bits of candied ginger.  I cut thin slices of the candied ginger to place on the hearts as well.  I had a few other Ganaches as well; Raspberry, Coffee, White Chocolate-Lemon, and a Passion Fruit.  I used some colored cocoa butter to give these their own special looks.  Chocolate is still a real pain to work with.  It's time consuming, and tempering has to be done spot-on or you have to start all over again. It is a labor of Love because I really love the end result.  I mean, who doesn't love pretty hand-made chocolates?

Pretty Chocolate Heart Assortment

Unfortunately, a snow storm was predicted the day of the Chocolate Demo, so it was called off.  We are hoping to reschedule soon. I am looking at buying some chocolate molds so I can keep practicing my chocolate skills.  There are plenty of birthdays, holidays and just days to give and eat chocolates ahead.

Lots has been happening for me this month.  As mentioned above, I have a new job! I said my goodbyes to Crema and accepted a full time position working for Whole Foods.  Yes, I've gone corporate, but I get to make pretty desserts AND I get great benefits.  I'm very much impressed with the company so far.  Other than getting up at 5am each morning, it is a very stress-free and great environment.  It is another adjustment getting used to working 40hrs a week again, but since I go into work so early, I leave much earlier as well.   All in all, I'm very thankful to have reached this point and to finally have a full time job.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Burger Night

The Humble Beginning of a Hamburger Bun

Back in September my roommate and I had started a Sunday night dinner tradition of having hamburgers for dinner. Not just any hamburgers, but the tasty "Au Poivre" burgers from Whole Foods. Ever since reading Fast Food Nation, I've been a little particular about ground beef since. I rarely eat it, so this is the one exception I make; the red blooded American in me loves a good burger. Burger night had been retired for a while. I decided on Saturday afternoon that it was time to resurrect the Sunday night tradition.

Sunday afternoon I gathered my reusable shopping bags and headed out to the store with a mental grocery list in my head. AS usual, that list changed and grew a little once I got to the store. I headed to the meat counter to pick out my patties. Sadly, there were no pepper crusted ones to be had. However there were Sweet Onion and Portabello and Swiss, I took 2 of each. I then headed to the cheese section. I usually like a good Cheddar on my burger, but the Jalapeno Jack was calling my name. I gave in to it's beckoning. I picked up a few other needed and not-so-needed items, and started to look for the bread aisle. Then it occurred to me a bread recipe that I had been using to making dinner rolls would probably make perfect hamburger buns! I already had the ingredients I needed at home and if I hurried, I'd have enough time to make them.

The original recipe was for a cheese bread. You make the dough and let it proof. After the first rising, you punch it down, portion it and then as you roll it into little balls, you push a cube of Gruyere (or hard cheese of choice) into the bottom. It's actually a fairly simple recipe, doesn't take long to make, and bakes quickly. Did I mention its good? I omitted the cheese, and added some sesame seeds to the top before baking.

A Little Sprinkle of Sesame Seeds
I had the Portabello and Swiss burger, topped with a whole mess of stuff, some garlic-y mustard, sweet relish, carmelized onions, a little Jalapeno Jack cheese, slice of tomato, some fresh lettuce, and a touch of mayo, all sandwich between the freshest, softest hamburger bun.  Served up with some hand-cut oven fries and a glass of red wine, it was the best way ever to bring back burger night. 

Just Need the Burger and Toppings

My Delicious Burger and Fries

I forgot to take a photo of our dessert.  I've started playing with cocktails and making my own chocolate milkshake martinis.  Last night's was equal heavy doses of Creme de Cacao and Chambord blended to perfection with some chocolate icecream and a splash of milk.  Sunday nights like this, make the next day being Monday, not seem so bad.