Thursday, February 08, 2007

Transition

I come here to you, my small but faithful readership to bid adieu.

I am leaving Phat Duck, my humble little blog behind. Just nearing it's second birthday, this blog has been a documentation of my growth. Started to share with friends and family a journey I took to England, the first few months opened my window into The Fat Duck kitchen for you. While filling a 2 month stage, I wrote, photographed, and shared the amazing education I was receiving at a kitchen that is leading the culinary world right now. Many of you joined me after bits of the blog were published in the London Guardian. I'll never forget that day, when Heston walked up to me with a look of mischief and said, "I read your diary."

Upon my return to the states, the blog began to follow me through the ins and outs of becoming a pastry chef. I took my first "chef" job running the pastry department (of 1, that's I was the department) at Eva, a small neighborhood restaurant in Seattle. Using their strong beliefs in organics, seasonality, and local producers, I developed the skills needed to manage a dessert menu. You'll see in my posts from beginning to the end a progression in not only the desserts, but the format in which I wrote about them. Finding my niche in thoughtful essays with recipes and photographs, it seems I have just settled into a format the readers could count on, and here I go running out the door.

But don't fret just yet. You can come with me!

I will now be co-writing Tasting Menu with Hillel Cooperman. We met years ago when I worked at Lampreia. I spent my time in the kitchen, him at the table. But his passion for food brought him to the back of the house time and time again. When Hillel and his friends applied their talents to a menu Scott Carsberg had created to celebrate apples, an amazing digital cookbook was produced. And I got to know Hillel and the people of Tasting Menu.

Since then a mutual respect has grown, and it's become clear that our complimentary voices will be best suited writing together. Tasting Menu will now give it's readers perspective from behind the plate, and behind the stove.

I am also taking yet another career step into the kitchen at The Rainer Club. Looking to fill some holes in my education, I will be working with banquet production/catering, butchery and charcuterie, then finally cooking on the hot line in one of the most developmentally supportive, highly professional high end kitchens I have encountered.

Expect to see some of the dessert writing Phat Duck is famous for, insight into the industry, and a bit about the work I do at The Ranier Club.

So to Tasting Menu we go, just a click away........

Monday, January 29, 2007

Rugelach

As a young school girl, growing up in a quiet town north of Seattle, I was mostly surrounded by other children like me. That is to say, white. Always having been a blue collar town driven by paper mills and an airplane factory, Everett was not a hot bed of racial diversity. But those children of other cultures that did mix into our classrooms were celebrated. They shared with us foods, traditions, art, song and dance from their culture, and I sat with glittering wide eyes, awed by the differences their lives held from mine. My eight year old heart wished with all I had to have a heritage like they did.

Sure, my mom's family holds dear the Irish in them, come via Newfoundland about 7 generations ago. My strongest tie being weak, the faint Irish in my past mixed with other northern European blood lines to make me something of a mutt. While as an adult I have learned that the mutt in me is a pure bred American, the child in me still glitters at bits of heritage from cultures and histories that will never be mine.

When I was challenged by my Jewish pantry cook, Cara, to make a dessert celebrating her own heritage, the child in me took it to heart. In choosing Rugelach, an cookie of Ashkenazi Jewish tradition I made it with respect to the generational ties it holds. A simple flaky pastry of cream cheese, butter, and flour creates a rolled shell holding a filling traditionally made with currants, cinnamon, and sugar. (Or so I am told by my pantry cook)

Sounding much too like a cookie version of cinnamon rolls to resist, I was quick to deviate a bit from a tradition I had only just adopted. Dressing them much the way I dress my buns, the rugelach's filling was gussied up, first adding the zest of an orange to the cinnamon sugar. The raisin hater I once was long ago banished the seedy pellets from my cinnamon rolls, opting instead for chopped bittersweet chocolate and pecans. I since may have learned to enjoy a nice plump raisin here and there, but because my motivation to perfect these cookies came from an earlier version of myself, I thought I could certainly hold fast to my raisin swap, and fill my rugelach with chocolate and pecans too.


The dough is rolled out in a 12 inch disk, egg washed, and covered in a thin layer of the filling ingredients, cinnamon sugar first. Looking much like a pizza, the "pie" is cut in 16 equally sized wedges, and rolled up fat end first to make little crescent rolls. The tops are egg washed and sprinkled with what I call disco sugar. The addition of the large granule sugar on top adds not only an impressive sparkle, but very nice crunch to the texture of the flaky cookie. If you don't opt for the disco sugar, regular sugar, or even just egg wash will do just fine.

Rugelach

for the dough

1 cup cream cheese, cold
1 cup butter, cold
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar

1. Cut the butter and cream cheese into inch pieces. Paddle them in the bowl of a kitchen aid on medium speed until they are well combined.

2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar and salt. Mix until combined and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

3. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is no longer visible and the dough comes together into a large curd, lumpy mass.

Alternately...(and I often alternate to this) Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse 15 to 20 times, or until the dough comes together into a large curd, lumpy mass.

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and separate the dough into 4 equally sized balls. Press the balls into disks, wrap with plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or a month in the freezer.

for the filling

1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate (roughly half a cup)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. In a bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon evenly. Zest the orange directly over the bowl of cinnamon sugar to capture all of the oils being released by zesting. When the entire orange is zested, mix it into the sugar with your fingers, breaking it up as much as possible.

2. Chop the pecans and chocolate fairly small. Large chunks will either fall from the cookie when it is rolled, or break through the dough.

Assembly

Preheat the oven to 350
Have ready sheet pans lined with parchment or sillpats. Sugar leaks from the cookies during the baking process, making it very hard to remove from unlined pans.

Have ready Egg wash (one egg beaten well with 1 tbsp water) and a pastry brush to apply it
Disco sugar (large granule decorators sugar)



1. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle. Apply a light coat of egg wash to the entire face of the dough.

2. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cinnamon sugar to the dough and spread evenly with your hand.

3. Sprinkle 1/4 of the chopped pecans and chocolate over the cinnamon sugar leaving a 2 inch circle in the center void of large chunks.

4. Cut the circle in 16 even wedges and pull them apart. Starting with the fat end of 1 wedge, roll the cookie up. Dip it in egg wash, place it on the lined cookie sheet, and sprinkle it with a bit of disco sugar. Repeat with the remaining wedges.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are a deep golden brown and the bottoms are clearly done. If under baked, the dough will not be flaky and the center will be uncooked.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An interlude

If you have noticed a change in the frequency of posting lately, then to you I apologize. It's not my lack of passion that has changed, nor my desire to tell you all about it. The amount of desserts I have produced this month is extreme, some refinements of recipes in my book, some new additions that are worth keeping around. Many classes taught, cookies made, and menu items developed.

But along side my own exciting developements, I have been struggling every day along side my mother. Just a month past her 55th birthday, she is coming to the end of a 4 year battle with a very agressive and debilitating form of Parkinsons desiese called striato-nigral degeneration. She suffered through the kind of degeneration that took something from her every month. From fine motor skills, to balance, walking, talking, swallowing, and finally breathing, she held her head up high as all these human qualities slipped away from her.

I have been by her side managing her care for the last 2 years, day in, day out. It's been nothing but a blessing to have spent so much time with her and been able to give back as much of me as she needed. As her lungs weaken and struggle to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, my sisters and I are spending as much time with her as we can, and the rest with eachother.

Forgive the lapse in posting, bear the month or more it takes to for my fingers to grow nimble and my mind to warm up to writing. And if you can, send your prayers for my mother, Denise, who has been so brave in the face of such a terrible desiese.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chocolate Pudding

Pudding is a word you are no doubt familiar with, and if you are like most of us out there, love the thought of. But pudding can that mean many different things, often defined by a preceding description (bread pudding, yorkshire pudding) and can vary depending on what continent (or island) you are standing on. Encompassing the entirety of the dessert course in the UK, the broad term pudding has a much more specific meaning here. When an American cook is looking for a pudding recipe, they want to make something smooth, creamy, cooked with milk, eggs, and starch and most often tasting of a singular flavor. Something so delicate in it's richness that must be spooned from a cup.

When Jell-o introduced it's boxed pudding mixes at modest prices, some so convenient they needed no cooking, pudding became a staple in day to day American cuisine. Whether it was made in your home of not, you saw it was served in the school cafeteria, sitting next to you in your best friends sack lunch, or served as an after school snack at your neighbors.

I'll admit, I am part of a generation that knew only that pudding started in a box. My mom liked foods that offered convenience, as do many parents who spend most of the day chasing around 3 very active children. It's no crime to take advantage of shortcuts in the kitchen when your energy is focused elsewhere. Life is one big balancing act, and pudding from a box helped my mom keep hers level.

This offered no preparation for me, however, leading my life as a pastry chef. I love having a bit of pudding on my menu. Just a few bites served in a cute little dish aside a dessert, a nice alternative to plating everything with an ice cream. Not only a luxurious way to present a flavor, pudding is received by more than the palate. Pudding triggers nostalgia, adding a tiny emotional response of childlike joy to the dish.

While putting a dessert that is so well received on a plate seems easy, it's challenge is in it's simplicity. While our nostalgic memories of pudding prepare us to enjoy the dessert on many levels, our adult palates will be disappointed by the bland and unexciting flavors of the puddings we ate as children. In presenting a pudding, it has to taste better than the child in us remembers.

Working with a method from an decidedly unamerican pastry chef, I have a pudding on my menu that I am confident accomplishes all it has set out to do. Rather than make a simple ganache by pouring hot cream over chocolate, Pierre Herme pours a hot custard over chocolate for a filling in his cakes. By using the same concept my pudding was created. A hot custard flavored with brandy is poured over bittersweet chocolate and poured in individual dishes. When left to set up, a thin skin is formed. While this skin was eschewed by many, I see it as a defining quality of pudding. Removing the skin is like taking the crust off a bread, or the rind off Brie.

At the restaurant the pudding is made in large batches and used bit by bit to fill dishes, so no skin is served. But when making this pudding at home I delight in eating the tender skin first.

Chocolate Pudding


1 lb bittersweet chocolate
2 cups cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
10 egg yolks

1. Chop the chocolate finely and place in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients.

2. In a medium sized, heavy bottom saucepan, combine the cream, milk, brandy, vanilla, and salt and scald. Whisk the yolks and sugar together until they lighten a bit in color, about 1 minute. Temper the hot cream into the yolks and return to the stove top.

3. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

4. Strain the hot custard into a pitcher or bowl. Ladle 1/4 of the hot custard over the chopped chocolate. Slowly stir the chocolate until the custard has been stirred in completely and the chocolate looks glossy. Repeat adding the custard to the chocolate in 2 more batches, stirring slowly between additions until all the custard has mixed in and the chocolate looks glossy.

5. Pour the pudding into individual dishes, or one large dish and chill until set, about 2 hours for the small cups, or 4 to 6 for the large. I have also used this as a chocolate cream pie filling.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sweet Honey, Sour Cherries

A frozen dessert hardly seems the way to finish a warm, cozy winter meal. Never the less, a wildflower honey semifreddo sits on my menu. Perhaps it's the "semi" that secures this cold dessert, a perpetual state this city suffers through all winter; Never frozen solid, but always cold.

What this dessert lacks in temperate warmth, it makes up for in richness. Honey, cooked with the smoky Madagascar vanilla bean and rich egg yolks, is folded into softly whipped cream before being moved to the freezer. Because of the invert sugars in honey, the dessert never freezes completely. Always cold, but never frozen solid.

The recipe for the honey semifreddo was introduced to this blog on a sunnier day. Earlier this year, when the summer sun had yet to grow hot, the recipe was given as a perfect foil to summers abundant fruits. Named "frozen wildflower honey mousse" this dessert was covered with a scattering of fresh berries or compote.

This month the dessert is dressed for colder days, with a thick coat made from sour cherry compote, warmly layered with a balsamic drizzle. Appropriately big flavors to hold our rich honey dessert to the season.

This compote was developed first for a goat cheese-cheesecake, but has found many homes since it's introduction into my recipe book. It's tart intensity lets it sit aside rich creamy desserts, perfect for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you are interested in recreating the entire dessert, you can purchase a nice, thick aged balsamic to drip around the edges, or take a cup of balsamic vinegar and simmer it with 1/4 cup of sugar until it begins to thicken a bit and streak the pan when swirled. When it cools you will have a nice balsamic syrup.

Sour Cherry Compote

3 cups dried sour cherries
2 cups water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amaretto
2 tbsp cornstarch

1. Place the dried cherries in a sauce pan and cover with the water, balsamic vinegar, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture boils, reduce to a simmer and cook for half an hour. The cherries should plump up, absorbing much of the liquid. Remove from heat temporarily.

2. Whisk the amaretto and cornstarch together until all lumps of starch are dissolved and the slurry is even. Slowly add the slurry to the hot cherries, stirring constantly to avoid the starch from clumping.

3. When all the starch has been added, return the compote to a medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to bubble and the starches thicken and become translucent. When your compote has thickened, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.

4. Let the mixture cool at room temperature. Store the compote at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lemon Shortbread

As we trudge through grey of the Seattle days, growing ever shorter, the nip in the misty air drives us inside towards comfort. Rushing for the warmth of our homes, damp layers are peeled off and traded for thick rich fabrics, layered generously with less concern for outward appearances than inner satisfaction. A favorite sweater pilled beyond repair, a much loved pair of sweat pants that should have been replaced last year, thick wool socks asymmetrical and lumpy but made by a friend with love; we are not only reaching for comfort, but for the familiar.

Wrapped thick and nested inside, preparing for a long winters hibernation from the wet, cold, daunting grey that is Seattle's winter, mother nature sends us a surprise. The clouds break, the rain stops, and through our squinted eyes, we see the sun. For a moment, the skies gleam with azure joy and the sunlight spills on the lush foliage kept evergreen by our 8 months of drip. Eyes quickly accustomed to the extra light excite at the world brightened by a rare sunny day.

The flavors of the season, a reflection of our desire to comfort ourselves, are rich, subtle, warm, and familiar. Meals created this season satisfy our mood by nature as much as by design, the seasons offerings as much a reflection of these qualities as our own desires. From the muddy soil, we are pulling hearty greens, subtle potatoes, and rich squashes. But beside these cold weather gems, slowly filling the produce section in shops is another of mother natures surprises. A bright ray of light from places sunnier than Seattle, citrus is now coming into season.

Bright orbs of color, this tart flavor brightens the comfortable cuisine we are layering ourselves with, refreshing our palates and enlivening our moods. Grapefruits, mandarins, Meyer lemons, limes, blood oranges, and kumquats, the first 4 colors of the rainbow paint winter's cuisine with exciting flavor. Like a sunbeam breaking through the clouds, I delight in welcoming citrus's return.

To begin my celebration of citrus, I am filling a cup with a rich lemon cream mousse. Blanketed in a huckleberry coulis, this intense mousse is served with a crumbly lemon shortbread. The shortbread is baked twice, much like a biscotti, to achieve a truly crumble-and-melt in your mouth quality, and packs a nice clean citrus flavor. It stores well in an airtight container and makes a welcome gift for the holidays.

Note, the butters texture and temperature are vital the outcome of the dough. It should be room temperature, soft, and pliable, but not shiny, runny, greasy, or squishy. Your finger should feel some resistance when pressing into it.

Lemon Shortbread


1 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp baking soda

Prepare a 8 by 8 inch square pan lined with parchment
Preheat the oven to 350

1. With the paddle attachment, cream the butter on a medium speed until it is of an even consistency. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift the powdered sugar over the butter. Mix the sugar and butter together until they are even and smooth, no more than minute.

2. Scrape the bowl well, and add the lemon zest, lemon, and vanilla. Mix until the wet ingredients are a smooth even mass.

3. Sift together the salt, flour, and baking soda. Add half this mixture to the dough and mix on low until mostly incorporated but still dry. Add the remaining half and mix on low until the flour has dissolved and the dough looks like large, very moist curds.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and finish the mixing process by gently kneading the dough. When the dough is even, press it into the prepared 8 by 8 inch pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

5. After 25 minutes, remove the shortbread from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. When the shortbread has cooled to a handling temperature, but not too much, invert the cookie onto a cutting board. Trim the edges from the shortbread, and cut the shortbread into even sized squares. Transfer the squares to a cookie sheet and bake in the 325 degree oven for another 20 to 30 minutes. The cookies should begin to turn golden, but remain fairly blond, and feel set and dry. If you are unsure, break a cookie open and check to see if the center is baked. To achieve a truly crumbly texture, the cookie must be baked through completely.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pumpkin Cream Chiffon


Nary a soul can pass the autumn season without one taste of pumpkin. A fixture at the thanksgiving table, pumpkin pie assumes the holiday ideal. Baked into cakes and muffins, mixed into ice cream, filling ravioli, thick in soups, this orange gourd can be tasted anywhere and everywhere.

The quintessential autumn flavor, my November menu would not be complete without one dish centered around pumpkin. At Eva, a pumpkin cream chiffon is served on a chocolate crust along side cinnamon whipped cream and hazelnut praline. I call it a "cream chiffon" because I removed the airy, light egg-white meringue that is traditionally used to lighten a chiffon and replaced it with whipped cream. The richness of the cream tempered the slight bitterness of the pumpkin better than the egg whites, creating a more indulgent version of this light dessert.

In a recent post I boasted that Bay makes a fantastic companion for Pumpkin. This said, I have spiced my pumpkin dessert with a classic combination of cinnamon and ginger. Not only is this more aproachable for the massive hordes of diners coming in for 25 for 25, but it has allowed me to pair the pumpkin chiffon with a chocolate crust. Pumpkin and chocolate is a delicious flavor combination that I don't often see or get an excuse to use.

Now I have a confession to make. My pumpkin dessert has a secret ingredient. No it's not cool-whip, or a package of vanilla pudding mix, or anything that is better left a secret. The secret is the pumpkin. It's not pumpkin that I use in my pumpkin dessert. I use a squash called the Long Island Cheese Wheel. The pale dusty skin of this Cinderella shaped squash surrounds a denser, creamier mild flesh. I haven't seen it available at a grocery store, but have seen it lurking under piles of brighter colored squashes at the farmers market.

Whether I choose this squash, or a sugar pie pumpkin, I will follow a few extra steps to ensure a thick, dense puree. I might roast the pumpkin before pureeing, which allows for evaporation of much of the excess water. This also deepens the flavor by caramelizing some of the sugars on the surface of the squash. If I am in the mood for a simpler flavor, I will poach the squash in boiling water until tender, puree the pumpkin, and freeze it. Upon defrosting I will strain the puree, and let the water that has separated from the solids drain away.

Pumpkin Cream Chiffon

1 9-inch chocolate crumb pie crust

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
3 1/2 tsp gelatin
1/2 cup water

2 cups whipping cream

1. In a medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pan, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture looses some liquid and becomes glossy.

2. While this is cooking, place the water in a small sauce pan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Let this bloom while you cook the pumpkin.

3. When the pumpkin has cooked enough, transfer it to the bowl of a food processor. Turn the food processor on and let it spin for 2 minutes.

4. With the food processor running, add the milk. When this is blended evenly, scrape the sides of the bowl down and add the eggs. Pulse the food processor just enough to incorporate the eggs, but no more.

5. Return the pumpkin mixture to the stove and cook over a medium heat until the mixture thickens like a custard. When the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and set aside.

6. Place the small pot with the bloomed gelatin over low heat and cook until the gelatin has liquefied. Pour the liquid gelatin into the pumpkin mixture and stir well. Return the pumpkin mixture to the stove and cook over medium heat just enough to thicken the mixture again.

7. Transfer the pumpkin custard to a bowl and place over an icebath. Stir occasionally to ensure it cools evenly and the gelatin doesn't clump. If the gelatin begins to set up too stiffly around the edges, whisk it until it disolves and is redistributed. If it still won't unclump, return the custard to a saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the gelatin melts and start the chilling process again.

8. While the pumpkin custard is chilling, whip the cream to soft peaks.

9. When the pumpkin custard is cool and starting to thicken, whisk 1/3 of the soft peaked cream in. When this is even, fold in half the remaining cream carefully with a spatula until nearly all the white streaks are gone. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold gently until the pumpkin is smooth and even.

10. Transfer the custard to the prepared pie shell and smooth the top. Place plastic directly on the surface and chill the pie for 4 hours, or over night.

Garnish with cinnamon spiced whipped cream and crushed toasted hazelnuts.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cake Americana

I don't wave the stars and stripes, or know all the words to the national anthem. My American history is so-so, I can name about 10 presidents, and I stay as far from American politics as I can. I have seen the nations capitol, but don't scowl when I admit I was more interested in the gift shops than D.C herself. Worst of all, I have never been to Disney Land.




But don't write me off as un-American yet. I am as American as apple pie! A daughter of the pioneers, I come from a strong line of women who praised this country and their part of it through food. My deeper sense of Americana best translates through flavor.

Once a country criticized for a lack of cuisine, America is discovering it has more of a legacy of flavor than previously thought. And I, the proud daughter of this land of liberal cuisine, cling to flavors I was raised with. Peanut butter, brownies, milk chocolate, rice crispies, and chocolate pudding all deserve a star on my spangled banner, or better yet, a plate.

My chocolate dessert for the month of November is a tribute to my American childhood. A cake, layered tall, is called the Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Crunch Cake. Between two dense layers of fudgy brownie lies another two layers of milk chocolate ganache that sandwich a layer called peanut butter crunch. The peanut butter crunch is a rich combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and rice crispies. A sleek coat of dark chocolate glaze brings this childlike cake into the adult world, dressing it for the table.


As I have known since childhood, the cake does not stand alone (that's the cheese's job). To accompany this cake Americana is another treat from my American childhood, chocolate pudding. A step up from the pudding whose life began granulated, in a small box marked Jell-0, this pudding is made by pouring a warm custard over chocolate. A billow of whipped cream crowns the top and a scattering of caramelized rice crispies creates the final tie.

Edit: the posts just felt naked without a recipe

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Crunch Cake

1 recipe Brownies, baked in a half sheet pan. This must be lined with parchment, and kept chilled until assembly

1 cup chopped salted peanuts for garnish

Milk Chocolate Ganache

1 pound milk chocolate, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups cream

1. Scald the cream and pour it over the chocolate. Stir slowly until the mixture is even. Chill the ganache until it is thick and spreadable.

Peanut Butter Crunch

3 oz milk chocolate
1 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups rice crispies

1. Melt the milk chocolate, peanut butter, and butter together. Stir in the rice crispies last minute, just before assembling the cake.

Chocolate Glaze

8 oz chocolate, 64 percent
6 oz butter, cut in cubes
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Place all the ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl and place over simmering double boiler. Heat the ingredients without stirring until 80 percent of the chocolate and butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir until all the ingredients have melted and emulsified.

2. Let the glaze cool on the counter, stirring occasionally until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Assembeling the cake

Have ready the milk chocolate ganache, the peanut butter crunch, and the cooled brownie layer. You will need a piece of thick sturdy cardboard big enough to build your cake on, or a cutting board.

1.Unmold the brownie from the pan and cut in half vertically, leaving you 2 pieces of equal size, a top and a bottom for your cake. Place one layer of brownie on the cake board, papery side up.

2. Spread the bottom layer of your cake with half the milk chocolate ganache and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

3. Spread the all the peanut butter crunch on top of the ganache, and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

4. Spread the remaining ganache over the peanut butter crunch. Place the top half of your brownie over the ganache, papery side down. Chill the whole cake for half an hour. When the cake is stable, trim the edges evenly to make sharp corners.

5. While the cake is chilling prepare the chocolate glaze.

6. To glaze the cake place it on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. With the bowl of glaze held about 8 inches above the cake, carefully glaze the four corners first, making sure each corner is covered. Pour the rest of the glaze over the center of the cake in a steady stream. Either spread the glaze towards the sides of the cake with a long cake spatula in 2 or 3 quick motions, or tilt the cake to move the glaze over the edges evenly.

7. Transfer the cake to the cake board and press chopped peanuts along the bottom edge of the cake while the glaze is soft. When you are ready to present the cake, transfer it to a flat cake plate.

November Desserts

Durring the month of november 25 seattle restaurants participate in a promotion called 25 for 25. Each restaurant prepares a selection of dishes for a multi choice 3 course menu. The price, you guessed it, 25 dollars.

This promotion has caught me off guard, knocked the wind out of me, and caused insomnia in the past. But as I looked at the clock at 3 this afternoon, preparing for the first day of this hectic promotion, I realized I was kind of excited. I had thought, planned, prepped, tweaked, and perfected 4 desserts over the last month in preparation for this day. And when it came time to pull it all together, I was down right giddy.

The following 4 posts will highlight these desserts. I often include recipes so you too can make what is delighting me, but these posts will be void of instruction. My chores this month are comitted to massive reproduction fo these desserts rather than recipe composition.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sweet Bay Ice Cream

As our eyes adjust to the subdued skies, greyed with autumn clouds, and the air nips at the tips of our ears and noses, our appetites begin to crave comforting flavors. Just as we cover our heads and wrap our bodies with warm and cozy, textile layers, we begin to wrap our desserts with comfortable layers of warm spices. Inhaling the aroma of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove may not offer a radiant heat source, but none the less, it warms us.

My own desire for cinnamon scented warmth tempts me to add varying combinations of these spices to everything I make. Cinnamon dusted pears fill my Basque cake, a vanilla cream filled delight from the French Basque region. A caramelized cinnamon ice cream, made with a Herme technique of toasting sticks of cinnamon under slowly caramelizing sugar sits on the cakes side. An apple strudle carries the traditional "apple pie" flavors of cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. But enough will soon be enough, and I can't spend the entire autumn come winter cloaking my entire menu in these warm spices.

With the temptation to over use these common spices, I have been left to find an alternative, quickly. The question is posed, how can I add warmth to my autumn menu without reaching for these spices? I found an answer in a small, pale leaf called Bay.

This humble leaf, almost forgotten to stews and soups, has ancient roots in glory and prestige. The leaf of the common laurel tree, bay once crowned Greek and roman victors, Olympic athletes, and was given to scholars and poets ceremoniously upon receipt of earned honors. Modern victors now receive recognition through gold medals and oversized checks, and the bay leaf is left to crown small glory in our kitchens.

Too long held captive on the savory side of the kitchen, these green woody leaves have a pleasant, autumnal quality reminesent of tea, magnificent in desserts. Their distinct flavor is familiar to every palate, yet offers an unexpected surprise when featured in dessert. Deep and earthy, the flavor is best presented as a companion to rich, creamy desserts.

Infused into the cream for pumpkin pie, bay offers a elegant alternative to the combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove so familiar that it has it's own container in the spice isle. It is also a beautiful flavoring for a custard like creme brulee or pot-de-creme, creme anglaise, and ice cream.


Sweet Bay Ice Cream

8 to 10 bay leaves
1 cup milk
2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks

1. Break the bay leaves and place them in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add the cream and milk, and bring this to a boil. Turn the heat to it's lowest setting, and leave this mixture to infuse for half an hour.

2. After the mixture is appropriately infused, remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar to a thick ribbon. Slowly temper the cream with the eggs, adding a little bit at a time, whisking well between additions.

4. Return the custard to the sauce pan. Cook this over medium low heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens.

5. Strain the custard into a bowl and chill. This can be done quickly in an ice bath, or overnight in the refrigerator, covered well.

6. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.