Monday, August 30, 2010

an exotic frozen dessert

pistachio kulfi
Chris and I just finished watching the latest season of the Next Food Network Star. I found the show enormously frustrating because the majority of the contestants didn't cook well at all. Except for the woman who won, Aarti. I watched the first episode of her new show, Aarti Party, because I was curious to see if the recipes she came up with would be any good. I tried her recipe for kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream, first. Kulfi is denser than ice cream because you don't spin it in an ice cream maker and it doesn't contain any yolks like in a traditional custard base.
Her recipe called for sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, earl grey tea steeped in evaporated milk, and chopped pistachios and raisins. It was incredibly delicious, if a bit overly sweet (there are close to 1000 calories in one cup of sweetened condensed milk---yikes!). Here's a link to the recipe in case you're feeling adventurous:

strawberry sorbet
At work, we make a strawberry pie. The filling is made simply----lots of fresh strawberries and a little sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. There's always leftover filling at the end of the night, so I decided to to take it home, puree it and spin it. Chef was concerned that there wouldn't be enough sugar in it to keep it from being icy, but I thought it turned out pretty well. The brilliant red color was the best part. That and the fresh strawberry taste.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

beating the heat

blueberry sorbet
I can't believe how hot this summer has been. Unfortunately for me, the temperature in the kitchen at work is always hotter than the temp outside. It has been 100 degrees inside on some of the hotter days outside. Some of the girls have taken to keeping ice pops---the kind that are frozen in a stick inside a slim plastic sleeve---in the freezer upstairs to use as cooling agents. They strategically place the ice pops inside their chef coats to keep themselves cool. I just stick to drinking lots of ice water and making lots of frozen treats, like sorbet, at home.

Sorbet is so easy to make because it doesn't require any cooking if you use simple syrup instead of raw sugar. I ended up making this sorbet two times this week. The first time I used a ready made frozen blueberry puree. The sorbet came out very icy and I found it nearly impossible to scoop. The second time, I made my own puree with two pints of fresh blueberries. I threw them in the blender then passed my puree through a strainer to make it smooth. The sorbet came out with a velvety texture and tasted incredibly fresh. I want to try it again but with different flavors this time, such as blueberry basil or blueberry lime.

at work...
We are now serving the famed blueberry corn sundae at work. It has layers of blueberry corn compote, toffee popcorn, sweet corn ice cream and black pepper whipped cream. It also comes with a delicious little corn muffin on the side. Chef was invited on the Martha Stewart show in 2009 to demo this sundae: It looks so stunning in the sundae glass that it's hard to resist. People have been asking about for weeks now, but we couldn't put it on the menu until the extra sundae glasses Chef ordered came in this past weekend.
We've also been on high alert because the health department is expected to come in any day now for an inspection. We've had two drills in the past few weeks and it's funny to see everyone scrambling around to get things cleaned up in time. Our pastry department doesn't have much to worry about, though, because we run such a tight ship. The only thing we have to update is the way we label products used upstairs on the line for service. The label should have the date it was made, the product name, the time the product was taken out of cold storage, the temperature of the product in cold storage and the time we intend to discard the product. This insures that the everything we serve stays out of the temperature "danger zone." One of the chefs at work sings "Danger Zone" from Top Gun whenever that term is mentioned. Heh.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the cake project

75th birthday cake

FINALLY. I have internet access again. Four frustrating days of waiting and one new wireless router later, I am up and running again. So this is it! A cake with a beach theme for a 75th birthday. The top layer is a treasure chest which I built out of pastillage. I made multiple little gold coins and pearl necklaces to fill it with. The chest lifted up to reveal a mini cake underneath, which I unfortunately didn't have time to take a picture of. It was pretty darn cute, though, I assure you. The cake was a butter cake with vanilla buttercream and vanilla bean custard filling and was covered in fondant. I made beads for around the cake (the gold color looks a little tinny in the pic, but in real life was quite brilliant) and a few white chocolate sea shells as well.

The chest took the most time. I had to make the pastillage in advance and imprint it with the wood texture. Then I had to assemble it and airbrush it. Next, I cut all the detail pieces, like the handles, out of sugar paste, let them dry, airbrushed and attached them. Above is a picture of the box before I added any detail pieces.

After the cake was picked up, I literally didn't know what to do with myself. It was the strangest feeling. I thought of a line from one of my favorite movies, "The Bad and the Beautiful", with Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner. Douglas, who plays a movie producer, says " After I finish a picture, something happens to me. It's a feeling of letdown, emptiness..." A tad melodramtic, but still...

at work...
So I had an office day yesterday. Chef wants to put together a document with pictures of each of the desserts we make, a list of their components and ingredients and a notation of whether or not they have gluten, nuts, soy or other common allergens. Allison, who I work with most up on the line, took a good deal of the pictures. She has a beautiful blog with wonderful recipes and photographs. I then put all the pics in a document, looked up all the recipes and typed everything out. I did it in a Word document which was painful for me since PC's and Word both suck. Really, really suck. It was strange to sit at a desk for a few hours instead of running around the kitchen.
We are starting to make toffee popcorn at work. Will post on this soon because IT IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.
Also, I am trying to get together with Roger, the sous chef at work and incredibly talented chocolatier, so he can show me a few tricks with bon bons. He just made a blueberry lemon verbena chocolate which is incredibly amazing. Will try to get lots of pictures for this as well.