Sunday, November 21, 2010

coffee and chocolate

coffee bon bons
So one week before my next special order is due. I will be making a 12" cake, cupcakes, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and rice krispies treats. I bought all my supplies today and started advance preparations which included working on the chocolate decorations for my cupcakes. I went simple and did dark chocolate hearts with a little silver luster dust sprinkled on them. I used Valrhona Equatoriale 55% couveture which is freakin' AWESOME. If you temper chocolate, you will love working with this. It not only tempers easily but tastes amazing (but what Valrhona chocolate doesn't?) In case you're wondering about the percentage in the name, it represents the amount of cocoa mass or liquor in the chocolate. The higher the number, the less added sugar there is in the chocolate and the darker in color and more bitter in taste it is.

I had some leftover chocolate so I turned it into bon bons. My filling of choice was coffee made with Valrhona 33% Tanariva which is my favorite milk chocolate ever. When making a ganache, Chef Nancy firmly believes that the chocolate must be melted before you add the cream to it if you want a consistently smooth mixture. She also directs us to use a spatula to combine the two instead of a whisk so that you don't incorporate any additional air.
I used a little leftover luster dust on top because of course you can never have enough luster dust.

coffee ganache filling for bon bons
3 1/2 C (425 g) milk chocolate
5 T (75 g) butter at room temperature
1 C (250 mL) heavy cream
3 t instant espresso powder (such as Medaglia D'Oro), or to taste

Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie.
Combine the cream and espresso powder and bring to a boil.
Pour the cream into the melted chocolate a little at a time, using a spatula to combine.
Add the butter, stirring to combine.
Let cool to room temperature before using.

speaking of coffee...
I started drinking espresso while I was in France. I had it every day, at least 2 shots. Since I've been back, I've tried to limit myself a bit. I only get an espresso or cappuccino on the last day of my work week. I've tried a different place each week for last few months, so I figure I should start rating them as a matter of record. I am sticking to places in and around the Flatiron district since it needs to be close to Gramercy Tavern.
This past Friday I went to Eataly, a collection of Italian themed restaurants and shops on 23rd street opened by Joe Bastianich. They serve Italy's favorite coffee, Lavazza. The line was ridiculously long and the service disorganized and rude, but it was delicious coffee. It had a smooth, strong mouthfeel with no astringency or sourness. Having to fight my way through the designer bag-toting throng to place and pick up my order, though, kind of ruined my experience. You can read more about Eataly here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

check this out!

Check out Myriam Babin's blog, New York Kitchen, for an upclose look at the Gramercy Tavern pastry kitchen! Also read Myriam's older post on the savory side of the kitchen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

as american as... pie
When I first started thinking about moving into the food industry, I decided to take an amateur baking class. The first thing we tackled was a classic pie. It really is the quintessential American dessert. Whenever I think of what a classic pie should look like, I automatically think Jim Davis and Garfield. I have always loved his drawings of lasagna, turkey and especially pie. His pie has a solid, thick layer of filling and a substantial, rippled crust. YES. That is my ultimate pie.

Part of my production list at work now includes making apple pies. The crust dough is made in advance, so I am in charge of rolling it out, assembling the filling and baking it off. Seriously, though, how cool is that? Who doesn't want to make pies for a living? I get to make a lot of finished products now for work---pies, upside down cakes, bread pudding---not just sauces and candied nuts and I am really enjoying it.

So here are a few of my pie preferences, since the holidays are coming up. I use 9" perforated pie tins from Williams Sonoma and I love them. I like a mix of Fuji or Honey Crisp and Granny Smith apples. I cut the firmer apples, like Granny Smith, slightly thinner than the softer Honey Crisps, so that the apples all bake evenly. I use lots of apples---6 large apples or 8 smaller ones. They will bake down in the oven so more is always better. I don't use cinnamon in the pie, though I do sprinkle some on the top. I think Americans in general abuse cinnamon in baked goods. I want my apples to taste like apples, not like Comstock canned pie filling, so I use just sugar, lemon juice and a little vanilla bean for my filling. I know Alton Brown recommends using Caraway, which I think is fine too. It is also important to roll both crusts to an even thickness so that your pie retains it's giant dome when it comes out of the oven. If there are thin spots in your crust, the steam will burst through, create holes in the crust and your dome will deflate when it comes out of the oven. Lastly, I don't cut my pie for several hours after it has come out of the oven. The filling needs time to solidify so it can look just like a classic Jim Davis slice.

Below is the recipe I use for the crust. It's true, that if you use half shortening and half butter, you get a flakier crust, but for me, you can't beat the taste of an all butter crust.

flaky pie crust
for two 9" pie crusts

1 C. cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teasopoon sugar
1/2 C. (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
1/4 C. ice water

Mix the cake flour, salt and sugar together.
Add the butter and combine by flattening the butter cubes and rubbing them into
the flour mixture.
Form a well in the mixture and add the the cold water.
Use your hands or a spatula to form the dough, being careful not to overwork the dough. Add more water if needed, a teaspoon at a time.
Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before using.

diabetic chocolate chip cookies
Gee, this is a hard one. I think a chocolate chip cookie should look like this.

And not like these.

I guess they don't look that bad, but they taste granular and have that same fake sugar aftertaste you get when you drink Diet Coke. I have been trying to find a good recipe now for a couple weeks, and it has proven to be quite a challenge. (The cookies above are the same recipe, just different baking times and different sizes.) Not only do they taste grainy, but they refuse to brown. I have been spraying them with Pam before I throw them in the oven and that has given them a little color at least. These cookies are for a special order at the end of the month, so if anyone has a good recipe, let me know!