Saturday, November 28, 2009

The good book

I received this book a couple of weeks ago in the mail. I ordered it out of curiosity (and because I had finally found it for a decent price). The reason I am compelled to write about it is because it seems that professional publications that are focused on pastry are a rarity. Sure, Paula Deen (Dean?) and Martha Stewart publish plenty of books on the subject, but the niche is the home baker, not people like us. So just in that regard alone, I had to own this book. I am not going to tell you all the contents of the book (you can see that here: , but it has a good balance of modern-contemporary pastry and classic pastry. There are some strange additions that I did not fully comprehend, such as the section on the prickly pear (or as they call it: cactus fig), but who am I to question that? I am not a book critic. I do not like book critics very much. I will say though, the recipes are not as explicit as they could be. I think they should be explained with more details and information. After all, pastry demands precision. But all in all, highly recommended.

Full disclosure: In the interest of preserving my integrity, you should know that I am not getting a red cent for this posting, there is however, the chance that might be added as one of their links... or not.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chewy ice cream - Turkish salep dondurma

Wacky. Nuts. Unbelievable. There is such a thing as chewy (and stretchy) ice cream. I did write a book about the subject of ice cream, and I had no idea this even existed. I stumbled upon this article in The New York Times ( ) about the original texture(s) of ice cream, which were much different from the smooth product we have today. The most eye catching product was the Turkish salep dondurma. It basically is not ice cream as you and I know, but it is ice cream for all intents and purposes.

I made it based on a recipe which uses konjac flour. As it is being cooked it looks like pastry cream (and it is kind of made in a similar way) that has been severely overcooked. I cooled it down in an ice bath and then froze it, taking it out of the freezer every half hour to tug on on it and stretch it. I reminded me of working with pulled sugar. Except the opposite temperature. I took a temperature reading with the infrared thermometer and it read 15 degrees Fahrenheit by the time these pictures were taken... and it was still extensible and pliable, with no discernible ice crystals. The taste was fine, like pastry cream, the texture, well not at all like ice cream. The only way to describe it is as I did earlier: chewy ice cream.

I am not sure it has a place in the restaurant, but its definitely an interesting piece and something to keep in the file cabinet. The recipe, not the salep.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chocolate showpiece wins gold

There is a hint of irony in this. I did speak out a little about my contempt for traditional chocolate showpieces ( and then I go and make a piece, put it up for judging (Salon Culinaire - Jacob Javitz Center, NYC) and win a gold medal.

Now, in my defense, it is not one of those pieces that is just a cluster of flowers and random objects that make no sense together (those were on the table next to ours). It was a well thought out piece based on Picasso's Guernica painting (google it, it's an amazing piece... in person it is breathtaking: The point of the piece is that war is wrong and what should prevail above all is peace.

Each figure (there are 9 basic "characters") was isolated through photoshop, then made to fit a regular sheet of paper. I used this image to trace the shape on a slab of clay, which I then detailed with a scribe. I let it set overnight, polished it, then made silicone molds with the clay piece. Once the silicone set, I broke the clay pieces out, washed the mold and poured tempered chocolate into each mold, popped it out, polished each chocolate piece then sprayed and airbrushed each shape. The piece was assembled at the JJC. My staff was Bryan Graham, Matt Waldron, Justen Nickell and Kelly O'Neil... crucial to the success of making, transporting and assembling of the piece. Thank you for all you did.

Photos courtesy of B. Graham.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cake People

I found these molds online ( and had to have them. I suppose they appeal to an inner child, because everyone who saw them commented on their cuteness... and I have to agree, they are adorable, and I do not use that term frequently . They are also very time consuming to get just right.

The question was what to fill them with. Since the exterior had to be a chocolate shell, they could pretty much contain anything. So, since I have a fondness for real well made classic cakes, I decided to fill these guys with the components of a German chocolate cake (which is not German at all, it is in the realm of classic American cakes).

I almost didn't want to eat them... but they were delicious.

Photos courtesy of Bryan Graham.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Apple Cider Marshmallow

In keeping with the whole fall profile, we tried out our basic marshmallow recipe (see older posting here: and replaced the liquid portion with pure Hudson Valley apple cider, added some fall spices (cinnamon, ginger, clove... no nutmeg... I think that spice tastes like rusted rebar), and the result was a marshmallow that had an intense apple flavor with just the right amount of spices. I can imagine that toasted over a flame this just might be too good to be true.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Danish

I haven't posted about Danish, or anything bread-like in a while, so it's about time.

This is a new Danish we started a couple of days ago, what with pumpkin season being upon us. We basically take a rectangle of pumpkin poundcake and wrap it in Danish dough. We proof it and bake it in a custom made metal cube (this helps streamline the shape, control the bake, and since it is metallic, the heat transfer is dramatic, creating a powerful oven spring on the dough, opening up those layers of dough and creating a flaky - crisp crust). Once it is baked it is filled (yes, we fill our Danish after they are baked, not before... I have never understood the notion that putting the filling in before hand as if that was in the least bit a smart thing to do; these fillings, generally high in moisture, kill the dough, weighing it down, and then sogging it up, making all of your hard work laminating the dough, completely and utterly useless) with a mixture of mascarpone, sugar and our pumpkin butter. Then it is drizzled with a fine glaze of pumpkin spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger), and garnished with pumpkin seed dragees. Beautiful.

Look at that crumb structure/honeycomb. You have not seen anything like that in a while. Not since my last lamination posting. Yes, that's right. Don't kid yourself.