Archive for March, 2006

Yazdi Cupcakes

Friday, March 24th, 2006
Yazdi Cupcake

Ever in search of new and exhilarating cupcake recipes, I was interested when I found this recipe for Yazdi Cupcakes in New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij. She offers no description of it, just like everyone else who’s posted a version online of it that I could find, so I have no background to offer.

I was intrigued by the ingredients for a few reasons, though. I have plans to experiment with gluten-free flours, so I wanted to see how the 1/4 cup of rice flour would affect the finished product. I also wanted to see how the yogurt would affect what looks to be similar to a chiffon or sponge cake preparation. And what about the flavor? Would it be tangy, eggy sweet, nutty, rosey, or cardamom-y (quick, say that word out loud)?

They turned out spongy and a bit firm while still managing to be light on the tongue and not too sweet–the flavor leans more toward perfume than sugar. They looked so bare when I took them out of the oven that I had plans to whip up some cream (and infuse it with saffron, if I had any), but after I had my first bite, and as I ate more and more, I appreciated the flavor and didn’t want any silly whipped cream interference. The floral flavor catalyzed by the cardamom develops through the notes of pistachio and rose until it finishes with just a hint of butter-y richness.

It’s a nice snack for when I want a cupcake that comes with flavor and not a sugar high.

(more…)

A Driveby Hot Air Ballooning

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

I just can’t believe that I got the balloon in the frame at all… I was looking out of the front of the car at the time.

Hot Air Balloon

Snickers Cake – Jerry’s Famous Deli – Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006
Snickers Cake

When I lived in LA and wanted cake, I had two standbys: Snickers Cake at Jerry’s Famous Deli and Oreo Cookie Cheesecake at Sweet Lady Jane. With an infallibly moist, velvety cake and fudgy icing laced with Snickers , the Snickers cake usually won.  You can even call ahead for takeout.  One day, when I can feel good about buying a dozen Snickers bars and a couple pounds of chocolate for a single dessert, I’m going to try to make it.

But…. don’t eat this after eating a Monte Christo sandwich at 2am. Just don’t.

Have You Ever Really Peeled a Tangerine?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
Tangerines Peeled

I love fruit, and I can’t wait for the spring and summer fruits to come into season. If I can ever construct a dessert as perfect as a ripe peach, I’ll consider myself a lucky person. Usually, I just try to fit them into my diet whenever possible. So, I went on a fruit binge at the store yesterday, with an idea to make Caramel Tangerines from Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts.

I got to thinking that I love a lot of other things, too, though…. like cake… and ice cream… So, I devised a plan for a dessert of Yogurt Cake with Caramel Tangerines and Clove Ice Cream.

Yogurt Cake Tangerines Clove

Although the ice cream is tinged with a spice associated with the holidays, I thought that the sprightly tangerines and tangy yogurt would round it out into a good early spring dessert. And it worked nicely. It was refreshing.

The Yogurt Cake comes from Chocolate & Zucchini, and turned out as delicious and moist as promised, with a wonderful kick of vanilla to boot.

The Clove Ice Cream, also from Chez Panisse Desserts, served as a creamy bridge between the cake and the tangerines. Shere recommended serving the tangerines with creme anglaise and I thought that the moist cake shouldn’t be joined by hard ice cream, so I used the ice cream shortly after freezing it so that it would be a little softer than usual, with some melting into a kind of sauce.

It was left to the caramel tangerines to be the rollercoaster of the evening. I’m not even sure that they turned out how they are supposed to, and although good, I can only recommend this recipe as a challenge to see what happens to yours. Mine eventually turned out much like hard candies with liquid centers. I quickly coated individual segments in a hot caramel, and before long they had thin, hard coatings when cool. When bit into, they exploded with tart tangerine juice (much like a candy I know I used to eat when young, but can’t remember the name of), and lingered with a few shards of hard caramel and some pulp in your mouth. Shere says that you want a “thin, crisp” coating on the fruit, but I’m not sure what the standard is.

I was also unsure about the state of this sugar and water mixture that you boil into caramel. I had to make it twice, and the same thing happened both times. The first time, as the sugar and water bubbled into darker shades, I could see the top get cloudy and the sugar adhering to the bottom of the pot in hard, hole-y structures. Soon, there was a full coral reef stuck to the bottom of the pot. Maybe the small ratio of water (6 Tbs) to sugar (2 cups) makes it dry out more… or I did something very, very wrong. So, I left the first pot to soak, and tried again. I didn’t want to agitate the sugar too much, but I also didn’t want it to dry out, so I ended up brushing water on the sides of the pot, and even gently on top of the mixture if I could see a sugar crust start to form. Although the coral formed on the edges (and hangs on even now as I write), I was left with a decent golden caramelized pool in the center in which I could roll the tangerine slices and a couple tangerines. That part was pretty easy, as the caramel was quite liquid-y and smooth and doesn’t bubble up at all. There is just the threat of it cooling down and getting thick, but it can be briefly reheated.

Once done, I faced another mystery: how are they supposed to be eaten? Of course, the slices are bite-size, but what would one do if confronted with a whole caramel tangerine served with cookies or creme anglaise, as she recommends? One suggests your hands, and one suggests a fork. If broken apart by hand, even the thinnest of caramelization could easily break off and make your hands sticky. The fork and knife seem like the most logical way, but that seems kind of awkward. And it’s not like you can just bite into it like a candied apple. So, as I said, the slices were fine, but next time, I would only partially coat them, since I think there was a bit too much caramelization for one slice.

Peeling the tangerines turned out to be pretty cool, though. Dunking them in cold water and scraping them with a paring knife does an amazing job of getting the pith off and leaving you with the freshest scrubbed tangerines you ever did see.

(more…)

Pastry Techniques

Monday, March 20th, 2006

With the passing of bread season comes the beginning of pastry season. We just had our orientation for our 3-week Pastry Techniques block today. This means that for roughly 4 hours, our Chef Instructor went over the roughly 41 recipes that we will make during this block. For each day coming up, we’ll prepare our handwritten recipe cards by integrating his instructions with our printed recipes, which come either from the CIA Baking & Pastry book or handouts. Usually the changes or clarifications have to do with technique, ingredients, or oven temperature. There are three stations that each of the 6 teams of either 2-3 people pass through for 4 days each: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, and Desserts.

I was assigned to the Cookie station first, so over the next few days, I’m most looking forward to mud slide cookies, white choc macadamia cookies, almond anise biscotti, and almond macarons. Then, there are such things as chocolate eclairs, paris-brest, tiramisu, angel food cake, and creme brulee to be made…. Followed by quiches, panettones, hot cross buns, donuts (yeasted and cake AND jelly), apple fritters, and Colomba di Pasqua. I foresee much of my attention being focused on piping, custards, consistent products, cooking time, and rolling out dough. It will also be the first time that I’ll deep fry.

I appreciated the chef’s strong encouragement for us to branch out to different cultures around the world for recipes that we have to research; culinary schools tend to get reputations for being a bit staid, so I’m happy that we’re inspired to try new things and that they make an effort to find the ingredients we request. We have to research recipes for a quick bread (other than zucchini or pumpkin), a savory and a sweet bread pudding (using the bread we’ve made that’s been frozen), an Easter yeasted bread, Easter cookies (alas, Peeps discouraged), and an Easter Rice Tart. Frankly, I hadn’t thought about Easter much before today, but thank goodness I can now plan for it… and know that I’ll be armed with treats. Anyway, if anybody has any leads for such recipes that they’d like to share, let me know!

And you may be wondering what we do with all this food that we make. As much as possible goes to the buffet dessert table for lunch right away… and much is frozen (sometimes not yet baked) for future use. So, this means that at the end of every meal, we are confronted with a table that looks something like this…..

CIA Desserts

Usually there aren’t so many breakfast pastries… but without them, I never would have realized that fresh Danish made with Plugra is one of the best things in the world.

Also, each class goes through a plated desserts block, so for the past few weeks, the class across the kitchen across from us has been serving us desserts directly to the table.

Either way, I don’t remember the last day in my life that lacked dessert.