Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Modern Cafe - The missing photos Part 4

This is yet another item that did not make it to the final photo roundup for TMC. As I have mentioned before, I am posting these photos as an attempt to complete my book and to give those who own it a visual image of an item that is not photographed in the book. This item is:

Butternut Squash Butter and Caramel Mousse Cake with Gingerbread Genoise and Ginger Spice Glaze.

You can actually see it being assembled on page 190, where it was used to show how layered cakes are assembled, yet there is no shot of the final product. The layers are, from bottom to top:
Gingerbread Genoise, Butternut Squash Butter, Caramel Mousse, Ginger Spice Glaze and it is simply decorated with caramelized puffed rice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Giveaway - It's's 1st Birthday!

I cannot believe that it has been a year since I started this blog. I started posting every day at first, and then I slowed down to about 4 posts a month, but I have made it this far. To celebrate, I will be giving out a signed copy of The Modern Cafe, to a person randomly chosen from's followers and from my fans on Facebook. The winner will be announced next Sunday!

This anniversary also coincides with my 5th year at The Culinary Institute of America... very strange... It was not intentional at all.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Harnessing Pate a Choux

I would not be lying if I said that it has been a good seven years since I have obsessed over making the perfect eclair. It began when I first worked for Thomas Keller, who has an affinity for the pastry in question. I would have to add croissants and chocolate chunk cookies to that list, items which I also spent many nights pondering how to master them and subdue them. Croissant, done. Chocolate chunk, done. Pate a choux? Now, finally, maybe. You may think, what is the big deal? If you have seen the eclairs from Fauchon or Christophe Michalak, you will understand why they are a big deal. When you see the monstrosities you can buy at most pastry shops, giant blobs of soggy pastry filled with chunky cream and a coating of sad glaze, you will perhaps appreciate what it takes to make them the complete opposite of that. Crappy choux is easy. Perfect choux is not. It's a big deal to make something that doesn't want to look even, look even.

Every two or three months, sometimes up to six, I would re-embark on this grail-like quest. Each time a disappointment. A new idea to test out, that would end in a miserable failure.

This new piece though, is the result of adding all of those ideas I have had to make choux work, and I think it is almost there.

The glazing needs some work, but that is not even a matter of choux, it's just fondant glaze, and that will be a smaller Everest to climb.

Hooray for evenly shaped choux.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Chocolate Packaging

I have been looking for a good line of boxes for our chocolates, confections, salts and teas/infusions for a long time. Years actually. Sure, you could have a line of beautiful one-of-a-kind custom made boxes, but that could cost thousands of dollars. Since we are a non-profit institute and we are very much a DIY kind of people, we have always made do with foil and gift wrap. Until now. I found a company that makes what I had been looking for, was reasonably priced and could give us a product on a consistent basis. Ok, so that was nice. The problem was that our candy bars wouldn't fit any of the sizes of the boxes they had! We took a hit and ordered new chocolate molds that would fit inside these boxes. I feel that it was the right investment. Now we have a uniform line that is clean and consistent and I believe looks very sharp. And it is still kind of DIY, since the leaf imprint is done by us with a rubber stamp. The stack you see above is a sampling of some of the chocolates we offer. Below are two of the varieties of salt we sell.