Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I totally have the habit of trying to comfort people with food. When people tell me about hard days they've had or strenuous situations at work, my first inclination is to fix them whatever food stuffs would make them happiest. I've done everything from toast to caramel rolls to homemade pasta. I go a little crazy.

So, when my sister came to me with anxiety about her upcoming birthday being the big 3-0, I promptly jumped into comfort mode. Originally I thought I would just make her a gigantic, fantastic cake. Honestly, I do that every year. Then, without very much thought behind it, I said "why don't I just make you 30 different kinds of chocolates?" As the words came out of my mouth I knew it was a crazy idea, but the series of "o's" that soon became my sisters face meant no turning back. I had made the statement aloud. I had to do it.

Every day off I had for 2 weeks prior to the birthday party, I spent making as many chocolate things as I could handle. Work let me borrow truffle molds for 10 different truffle flavors. There was chocolate babka, 2 kinds of brownies, fudge, cookies etc...I even made Mole and a fantastic chocolate bbq sauce to try and stretch peoples imagination a little.

And, of coarse, the birthday cake. (It did get a little melty in the hot/wet August air)

On the whole, I think it turned out pretty well. I think I made my sisters birthday a little more memorable and a little happier. So maybe when she thinks about turning 30, she'll just remember the miles of chocolate set out for her and think, "turning 3o is awesome!"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm a reasonable person. I feel like I can deal with stress in a calm and rational fashion. 
We recently had a new addition to the dessert menu at the restaurant. A souffle. I've never been a huge fan of souffles and after this past week, I seem to have reached my breaking point with them. 

From the outside, when you look at a souffle recipe, it is fairly simple. As long as you can stir things together and make a meringue, your good. Turns out, the recipe can get a bit more finicky than that. The other day, I made this recipe 3 times. First it was too dense. Then it was undercooked. The third time...well okay that was my fault, I got side tracked and burned them. After that I just wanted to cry and my sous chef decided to give it a whirl and there you have the picture perfect fluffy goodness above. 

Eventually I was able to get it together and figure out my problem, which was over cooking the base, and I got to feel like a useful human being again. There are always challenges like this in a restaurant that changes the menu seasonally. I had just never found myself with such an issue, but as my boss continually says to me when I mess things up, "I'm glade you messed that up, because now you know better!"

If you're brave enough....

1/4 c. Butter
1/2 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Bread Flour

1 1/2 c. Milk
4 Yolks

6 Egg whites

2 T Corn Starch
1/4 c. Sugar

Prepare ramekins by brushing insides with melted butter and dusting with sugar.

Cream butter and sugar. Add bread flour and mix until resembles coarse corn meal. Heat milk on stove until just scolding and remove from heat. Pour in flour mixture and whisk until it becomes a loose paste. Stir in egg yolks. Set aside. 

Whip egg whites to soft peak. Sift starch and second sugar and fold into egg whites.

Fold whites into paste mixture, 1/3 at a time. Don't over mix this!

Fill ramekins to the top and us a knife or an offset spatula to smooth tops (this will help it rise evenly).

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, rotating half way through. 
They should be a nice golden color, but still spongy to the touch. 

Good Luck!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bread for the Poor

There are up sides and down sides to the slow season in the restaurant industry.
On the down side, there obviously are not a lot of hours, which stresses people who are already dealing with a depressed economy. You also get out of cynic, so when you come back to work it takes some time to catch the right flow. Also, you're at home more often, so you get to hear your landlord talking on his phone all day on the floor below you because he hasn't bothered to put insulation in even though you've told him you can hear every word he says and every TV show he watches for the past 3 months!!!!!!!!


On the plus side, you find yourself with big blocks of time to catch up on books you've been half way through for the past 4 months. Video games you paid a lot of money for that sat idle for weeks at a time. Or open one of the thousands of colorfully tabbed cook books with recipes that peaked your interest last July. 

Recently I finally got around to making a bread recipe in my favorite bread book, Marys Bread Basket and Soup Kettle by Mary Gubser. I had been eyeing this thing for a long time. I was looking for healthier bread recipes and saw the word 'Granola.' Granola's healthy, right? While the bread turned out to be wonderfully delightful with just a touch of sweetness, I don't think I can realistically put this in the health bread category. This bread is awesome for morning toast and would make FANTASTIC french toast. I'm definitely making this recipe again soon. Maybe today....

Granola Bread
2 Pkgs Dry or compressed yeast
1/2 c. Warm water
2 c. Warm milk
1/4 c. Melted butter 
1/2 c. Organic Honey (regular works fine)
1 t. Salt
1 Egg
1 c. Granola
3 T Wheat germ
Grated ring of 1 lemon
4 1/2 c. unbleached white flour

Sprinkle yeast over warm water, stir till dissolved. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine warm milk, butter, honey, salt, and egg. Blend well. Stir in 2 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Add enough of remaining flour to make a soft, workable dough. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (You can also use and electric mixer with a dough hook attachment for about 8 minutes.) Place in a warm, greased bowl , turning to coat, cover, and set aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Once doubled, knead lightly in bowl and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 2 portions, mold into loaves and place in well greased pans(8 1/2*4 1/2*2 1/2"). Cover and let rise to tops of pans, 30 minutes.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

The book says you can drizzle lemon confectioner's sugar over the bread before serving. I'm not looking for that kind of sweetness, but I bet it would be delicious! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Epic Cookie

This is it! I have found it. One of the greatest, moistest, crispiest, most delectable cookie to come from my kitchen! These things are incredible. I'm not even a big chocolate person, but this cookie will have to be an exception. 

While trying to find a simple and elegant cookie to add to our petit fours at work, I came across this recipe on It turned out far more delicious than I anticipated. They are incredibly rich so I would caution to make slightly smaller cookies or prep yourself for a stomach ache. (I learned the hard way)

The only alteration I made to the recipe was adding about half the bittersweet chocolate called for and added about 1/8 cup cocoa powder instead. This was done only because I had half a bag of bitter sweet chocolate left. I'm certain they will be just as delicious with the full amount of bittersweet chocolate, but cocoa powder is an option if you find yourself caught. 

This isn't a cake like cookie, the texture of the cookie has a melt in your mouth feel very similar to a meringue. It's almost like chocolate cotton candy, in cookie form! I'm going to stop talking now and let you try it out. 

Ghirardelli's Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies

11.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
6 T unsalted butter

3 Large Eggs
1 cup Granulated Sugar

1/3 cup A.P. Flour
1/2 t Baking Powder

12 ounces Semisweet Chocolate

Melt Bittersweet chocolate and butter together over a double boiler or in the microwave. (Warning! If you're using the microwave, DO NOT heat for more than 20 seconds at a time or you'll destroy the chocolate)
Whip eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl until thick and a little light. Slowly pour in chocolate mixture while whipping. Sift flour and baking powder together and fold into batter. Stir in Semi Sweet chocolate.

The batter is pretty loose for a cookie, so I recommend using spoons or a scoop to shape these guys.

Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, turning half way through baking.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


On days like today, when the air temperature is -16 with a high of -3, I feel the need to defend this states better qualities. Here are a few facts about my great state to help justify why I live here despite having to give my life to fate every time I go outside 8 months out of the year.
  • Minnesota had one of the highest voter turn outs in the Nation for the 2008 election.
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.
  • Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline, more that California, Florida, and Hawaii combined.
  • The first Automatic Pop-up toaster was marketed in 1926 by McGraw Electric Co. in Minneapolis under the name Toastmaster
You can find more facts about Minnesota greatness on the state website.

In honor of the cold winter months, I made a big batch of marshmallows for hot cocoa. I've always found that cocoa can be much improved by this fluffy, sweet confection. If you believe the same, this recipe is a good one to try out. 


25g Powdered Gelatin
180g water

300g sugar
240g Lt Corn Syrup
180 g water


1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. corn starch

Mix powdered sugar & corn starch. Sift mixture over a 9*13 pan until bottom and sides are covered.

Mix the gelatin and first water in a mixing bowl and allow to bloom.

Meanwhile, heat sugar, corn syrup, and second water on the stove until it reaches 250 degrees. 

With a whip attachment, whip gelatin on medium high for about a minute. Pour hot sugar mixture (while the whip is still going) in a slow, steady stream until it's all in.
Turn the mixer on high and let the sugar whip until the side of the bowl begins to cool. 
This would be the point at which you add your flavoring. I like to use a vanilla bean. 
(You could also add some cocoa powder, cinnamon, almond extract, etc.)

Pour mixture into prepared pan and sift an additional layer over the top of the marshmallows.

Set pan aside for at least 4 hours. Afterwards, cut using kitchen shears into desired sizes. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bread Baking for the Non-Baker

A majority of those who know me know that I can spend my entire day making bread without much thought. Bread Baking is my security blanket. The problem is it's not something I can run to the kitchen and do quick, before work. Your typical bread baking experience will last around 4 hours which is usually a bit more than people are willing to sacrifice. Luckily, for those who are intimidated by the kneading and the rising etc, a short cut has been developed. 

No Knead Bread

I learned about this newfangled version of home made bread during a pastry seminar last winter. Had the person telling me about it not been a certified Pastry Chef, I would have called him crazy. Never the less, I tried it out and it was a huge success. It takes less physical labor than pretty much anything else I bake. The bread has an awesome flavor on it's own, but it's also a perfect base for spices, cheeses, or anything else you can think of. If you have the time to spare (you do), I suggest you give this recipe a shot.  

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Squash Brulee

alright. It's bordering on ridiculous, how long it's been since I posted something. Since I got my restaurant job and my sister has gotten a puppy, my life has become a little hectic. However! I am going to give it another go. :)

The restaurant has been taking up much of my time recently. Christmas and New Years are our busiest seasons. We changed the dessert menu right before the holidays were kicked off back in September, going from light fruits of the summer time, to denser vegetables and fruits that pair nicely with harsh, snowy winters.

One of my favorite dishes on the new menu is the Hubbard Squash Brulee. My knowledge of squash doesn't go much past the familiar butternut/acorn/pumpkin genre, but I can tell you Hubbard squash tastes like a cross between pumpkin and acorn. It has a rich flavor with a light finish. This dessert has been one of the most popular. It's paired with Yogurt Curry Sorbet and Pistachio shortbread. People are often taken aback by the curry yogurt idea, but if you've ever had curry, you know there is a sweetness to it. We bring out that sweetness and it is fantastic with the Squash flavor.

Hubbard Squash Creme Brulee

6 Yolks
1 Egg
1/2 c. Sugar
1 1/2 c. Cream
1 T Cinnamon
1/2 t Cloves
1 t Nutmeg
1/2 lb Hubbard Squash Puree

  • Whisk everything together, pour into molds, and bake in a water bath at 325 for about an hour. Hints for when it's done is when it still giggles in the middle and if you tip it to one side, the custard will pull to the side a little, but isn't so loose it comes pouring out of the ramekin.
  • For the brulee on top, just sprinkle sugar over the top of the baked and CHILLED custard and use a hand torch to brulee. If you don't have a torch, you should be able to use the broiler on your oven, but be sure to keep a close eye on it. You want the sugar a deep brown color, which turns into a black charred color really quickly.