Breakfast for Dessert

I can easily remember the days in my childhood where pancakes were served as breakfast. It was amazingly delicious…nothing was quite as delicious to me as pancakes, at that time. I loved being able to help with making the batter and learning how or when to flip the pancakes. The way in which the sweet aroma of pancakes would instantly fill the room would only make the breakfast experience that much better. Pancakes were such a treat to me as a kid. It was one of those meals that I never got tired of eating and I still am a fan of this food.

As I got older, I began making my own pancakes for my entire family and myself. And every single time that I do, it reminds me of my childhood. Now, I’ve become so much more experienced in that now I create my own syrups and fruit compotes or coulis to pair with my pancakes rather than the traditional maple syrup or the more commercial brand of imitation maple syrup.

And just as in America, how the popularity of pancakes continues to exist as we have continued to enjoy pancakes…there are other variations of pancakes in a bunch of other countries. One that is widely popular is the French version of a pancake as well as others like the Italian crespelle, Jewish blintzes, Russian blini, et cetera. The crepe has been savored for years and can be prepared to be either sweet or savory with respective fillings. As I learned in my advanced pastry arts classes, the literal meaning of crepe is translated to pancake in French. And while it can be used for breakfast just as pancakes are…crepes are more versatile in which they can easily become a dessert such as with crepe suzette which is sweet crepes that are cooked with sugar and usually has Grand Marnier (Orange liqueur) poured over it in order to ignite it. This allows the alcohol within the liqueur to evaporate which results in a caramelized sauce.

Image by: Shell Tu

Now, crepes have become even more popular as with the creation of the crepe cake which is layered crepes with a variety of fillings wedged in between each crepe layer. It is a tedious process but is simply delicious. It all starts with the crepe batter and then it is poured onto large cast-iron hot plates then it is spread with a rozel and flipped with a spatula. After all the crepes are prepared, then the filling is made which can range from ganache or caramel to fruit curds or whipped cream. The crepes are then stacked with the filling thinly spread in between then it is ready to be eaten.

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream

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As a kid, all you care about are the sweeter things in life, like the candy and all the other sugary delights that you can get your hands on. You might have formed a strong love or addiction for chocolate…an overwhelming intense need for it in any form whether a candy bar or morsel chips in a cookie. Chocolate is everywhere, there are restaurants that cater their entire menu to chocolate lovers such as Jacques Torres and Max Brenner. Chocolate is an ingredient that can easily stand-alone but can also be accompanied with many other flavor concepts. I have such a strong interest in chocolate, its history, its creation process as well as how it has always been popular in both the culinary and confectionary world.

There is dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate but there is a new chocolate version on the horizon, pink chocolate. Yes, you heard me correctly–pink chocolate. There are typically only three different varieties of chocolate which consists of Criollo, Trinitario, and Forastero. The higher quality chocolate is the Criollo and Trinitario beans which are the more expensive varieties as it isn’t cultivated as much and has a higher concentration of cocoa within the bean. These beans tend to be more robust, with a more potent flavor and bitterness. But the large-scale chocolate that is readily sold around the world for wide consumption is created from the Forastero beans. The cocoa bean itself is a fruit that is usually dried and fully fermented before it can go through the necessary processes to become chocolate.

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With the exception of white chocolate, which is only created from cocoa butter and not the actual cocoa bean. This amazing creation was invented about eighty years ago, but today, the production of white chocolate is old news. Now, everyone has a newfound interest in pink chocolate. It has officially become the newest type of chocolate in the world. Ruby chocolate has a reddish-pink hue which comes from the Ruby cocoa bean and its flavor concept is not bitter or sweet but it has flavor notes of fruitiness and a smooth mouthfeel. Despite the popular debate, there are no berries, flavoring, or coloring added to the chocolate. The history of this chocolate is still unknown but has taken many years to have been developed. And now, gone are the days of a cheap Hershey’s candy bars… Here’s to welcoming the new-age innovation of gourmet chocolate.

A Summer’s Treat

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If anyone knows me then they will know how thoroughly obsessed I am over ice cream. I am the type of person that will eat ice cream all year round. Ice cream is my ultimate favorite dessert, I appreciate the variance that it can offer as well as the mouthfeel. It is an amazing creation that enables flavors to be so prevalent even in a frozen state. Ice cream reminds me of some of my best memories in life…it takes me back to fun memories in my childhood or great times spent with close friends. But as time evolves, ice cream trends are constantly changing from the simplicity that most of us are readily accustomed to. There is Thai rolled ice cream, liquid nitrogen ice cream, mochi ice cream, and gelato. Overall, the range and variation  in which ice cream is prepared has expanded. The debate about what constitutes as ice cream based on its percentage of fat has also broadened.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

The beautiful thing about New York is that it has so many amazing ice cream places integrated into it but unfortunately many are unknown to others. Personally, I prefer the sanctity of ice cream…the simplicity of traditional styled ice cream. Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is located ideally close-by to the college which makes for a great and fun lunch spot. They offer many menu options from soups and sandwiches to egg creams and ice cream sundaes. They even seasonally offer student discounts on meals, desserts, and drinks as long as you have a valid student identification card.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Over the summer, I had the greatest opportunity of visiting this awesome restaurant which is a short walk from the school. It looks quite small from the outside but it has a quaint amount of seating inside. The restaurant offers the option to either dine in or to take out…and I decided to dine in since I was strongly looking forward to laying my hands on one of their handcrafted sundaes as well as quenching my thirst with one of their house-made drinks. I had the maple egg cream which was robustly delicious as well as an almond joy styled sundae which was seasonally available when I visited the restaurant. The sundae was absolutely delicious and everything was made in house. The restaurant itself has an old school vibe which is interesting given the modern flavors of ice cream that is offered. I would recommend that everyone try this little ice cream shop that is neatly tucked into the heart of Brooklyn.

The Donut Shoppe

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I am finding that as my skills as a pastry chef improve, I am gaining a better appreciation for the bakeries and small shops that are in New York. Not just the most popular but the small places that you appreciate as important in your life…that are popular in your life even if they are not widely franchised. One of the most appreciated desserts in America is donuts because they are viewed as a breakfast food as it is usually paired with a cup of coffee or can even be a dessert. It has become such a centrical part of America’s confectionery world.

Aside from the readily franchised shops, there are so many other doughnut shops that are considered mom and pop shops as they are not franchised which makes them more unique. There are so many Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme’s, but I further enjoy small shops that are not so widely franchised which allows the quality of the product to taste better as it is being freshly made instead of mass produced. And fortunately, New York is home to many mom and pop shops especially for something as delicious as doughnuts. There is Doughnut Plant, Dough, but my personal favorite is in Brooklyn named Donut Shoppe but is also known as Shaikh’s Place. It is located near the southern end of Brooklyn on Avenue U and is a 24-hour shop. The story behind the name is that the current owner who is named Shaikh Kalam was once just a native of Calcutta before moving to America to better himself by attempting to receive a college education. When he began working at this coffee shop called, Donut Shoppe with the original owner of the shop, Carlo Radicella. Kalam became so invested in his job role that he began to be a baker in the shop and was working long hours to reinvent a way to make better tasting doughnuts that were less dense and less oily. He somehow created a foolproof way to make doughnuts that were light and airy in texture with a balanced level of sweetness. He was able to adjust his recipe by changing the amount of time that the dough proofs before being fried as well as the temperature of the frying oil that the doughnuts are fried in. When the original owner had a stroke and his health declined, he promoted Kalam to be the head baker and eventually he took over the shop in the 80’s.

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There are so many flavors to choose from such as Boston Cream, Glazed, Powdered, Jelly filled, Vanilla Sprinkled, Chocolate Sprinkled, Strawberry Sprinkled, et cetera…the flavors serve such a variety to the customers. The prices are so affordable and are inexpensive. When you purchase a dozen of doughnuts, you receive a baker’s dozen which costs a little less than eight dollars. The doughnuts are absolutely delicious and I would suggest anyone to go to Shaikh’s place to eat a great doughnut. It is the perfect balance of doughnut as it has both the chewiness of the dough as well as the crumble of a cake.

My Spring Break Adventure: The Finale

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After we had a great time in Union Square, enjoying delicious drinks of bubble tea and a great dinner of sushi…next on our adventure was dessert. We had such a long process of trying to figure out what we would have for dessert until we decided to keep the Asian cuisine theme going and wanted to have an Asian dessert. My sisters deliberated on Japanese crepes which I had never really heard of as crepes are typically only viewed as a French dessert. We finally landed on a great location for Japanese crepes which was blocks away from Union Square which made it ideal for a short walking distance, it was a small shop called T-Swirl Crepe.

Their crepes vary greatly from the other typical French as it is made differently and with differing ingredients. Normally, crepes are made from wheat flour to allow it to have more stability to not rip when filling are added to the crepes. Crepes are a diverse type of food as it can be either a meal with savory fillings such as ratatouille, salad, eggs, steak or vegetables; or a dessert with sweet fillings such as whipped cream, custard, ice cream, or fruit. While the Japanese crepes have similar fillings, they are more Asian inspired which incorporates more seafood options in the savory fillings like shrimp or smoked salmon with typical Asian flavors such as Thai chili sauce or peanut dressing. And the sweet fillings include well-known Asian flavors like lychees and matcha infused ice cream or custard. But the crepes are made differently as they are made from rice flour instead of wheat flour which allows the crepes to be completely gluten-free.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

The Japanese crepe was absolutely delicious as the one that I had ordered was the Mango and Raspberries which is a sweet crepe that is filled with fresh raspberries, sliced fresh mangoes, slivered almonds, chocolate sauce, vanilla yogurt, vanilla pastry cream, and chocolate pearls. It was utterly delicious and one of the best crepes that I have ever tasted. Although, we were enjoying the dessert versions, there were savory options available as a meal. It was a fun occasion to be so immersed into an Asian culture in terms of food. I find that it is always enjoyable to try new things and to learn about other cuisines. This was the first thing that I had eaten that actually was new to me, just as much as it was for my grandmother. All in all, it was a great trip to Manhattan. It was a good experience filled with some amazing eatery choices. A simple trip of spending time with my grandmother and my sisters turned into an expansive culinary event. My grandmother loved trying all the new foods but most of all; she enjoyed spending time with us as we have been so busy that we haven’t really had the chance to have quality time.

My Spring Break Adventure Continued

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The spring recess had somehow provided us with this exceeding lot of time in which we were able to essentially do whatever we wanted, while enjoying spending time with our grandmother. But as we walked through the crowded streets of Manhattan, our hunger began to build and eventually we were looking around for a decent place to eat. Being that we were trying to make the day as eventful as possible for our grandmother, we began deliberating the type of cuisine that we had wanted to eat. Our grandmother eventually said how she had never tried authentic sushi, she explained that she had wanted to at least try it once…to acquire the whole experience. Because we had been vegetarians for so long, it did not truly allow for us to eat exotic dishes like that of sushi or some readily recognized comfort food such as fried chicken. It kept us to a strict diet of fruits and vegetables as well as the incorporation of all sorts of different sources of protein such as legumes, vegetarian meat substitutes, and endless amounts of tofu. So over the years, we had gained such an appreciation for the Asian culture as it had aided so much in our lives as vegetarians. But sushi was an uncharted territory, there is no such thing as tofu sashimi or a spicy tofu roll…sushi was an unknown that had never been divulged.

So here we were looking for sushi in what I consider the heart of Manhattan. My sisters began a yelp search looking for the highest rated sushi restaurant in the area. And finally we landed on a place…one that was only a short walk away. We were on our way to eating sushi, our grandmother was elated…she was finally going to try sushi for the very first time. When we arrived at MI-NE Sushi Totoya, we were seated by the bar as we did not know that for this particular restaurant, we should’ve made proper reservations. But the staff was so attentive in explaining the menu and giving suggestions. We all enjoyed the sushi…we each made our own selections and then shared it all so we could try everything. The funniest part of the whole sushi experience was how much my grandmother struggled with using chopsticks. She tried her best to hold them properly but she always seemed to drop sushi because it was too difficult to carry the single roll from the plate to her mouth. But we encouraged her and told her that it takes lots of practice which only means she needs to eat a lot more sushi.

After that delicious dinner, I couldn’t wait for what was next on our culinary adventure which would be dessert. Although, it was a time to relish in the relaxation of spring recess…to spend quality time with my grandmother, it became so much more than that. I was able to share new cuisines with her as well as new foods and that was far more special.

 

 

 

 

My Spring Break Adventure

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Now, it is the last few weeks of the spring semester and while many are preparing to take their final as well as completing a couple last assignment before the summer break is officially here. Although, school has been on a recess for the past week and a half, school is now back in a full swing of things. I thoroughly enjoyed the spring recess by visiting many places in the city. Manhattan has such a vast amount of restaurants and shops that you can literally travel the world by just walking a few blocks. My grandmother had expressed her deepest desire of wanting to spend time with me and my sisters over the spring break. While we were struggling to figure out what we should do…going to Manhattan was the best bet. It had become a place that you can essentially do anything…there are so many activities to partake in…the choices are endless.

With my being in the hospitality management major, it has helped me to become more culturally aware and to gain a better appreciation for different cuisines all over the world. My grandmother was eager for whatever we had planned to do as long as we were spending time together. I think what most people do not realize is that New York really is a haven for everything; it just needs to be sought out. As I get older, I find that I only begin to appreciate New York City that much more, I am able to understand how great the city truly is and why so many people visit here. We finally decided to take our grandmother to one of the many places we used to readily visit when we were younger…one of the best spots in Manhattan…Union Square.

And the one thing that I absolutely love doing is trying new food but this time, it was my grandmother’s turn. We decided to take her to Asia for two days, every single thing that we ate was Asian inspired. Our first stop was bubble tea…my sisters and I have become lightly addicted to bubble tea which is Taiwanese and not just any bubble tea but Vivi’s Bubble Tea.  So we decided to take our grandmother there in order for her to experience it as well. She ordered the ginger milk tea with bubbles and I ordered the honeydew milk tea with bubbles while my sisters respective ordered the tiramisu slush with bubbles and Thai milk tea with bubbles. My grandmother loved the tea but wasn’t too fond of the bubbles. The bubbles that are used in the tea are actually boiled tapioca pearls. They are boiled in brown sugar and water then afterwards they are slightly cooled and can be added to the tea. My grandmother was not a huge fan of it but she did love the tea as she has always loved tea. She was a good sport about it even though the bubbles were not a favorite of hers. All in all, it was a great first stop on our trip. But the adventure seemed to have continued, and I couldn’t wait for what was in store next.

The Famed Confusion of the Macaron

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There is a dessert that has taken the pastry world by storm in the last couple years and has been widely appreciated in America, resulting in a widely expanding population of pastry shops in the United States. I am talking about the art of the macaron which is one of the most difficult pastries to make and constantly confused for another dessert which is the macaroon.

Macaroons can still consist of ground almonds and are still considered meringues but usually are filled with coconut. Macaroons and macarons are similar but not synonymous as macaroons avoid certain stages that allow macarons to have the distinct delicate texture that most everyone enjoys. Still, there are two versions of macarons as macarons are meringue based; the versions vary based on the regional meringue recipe being used. A macaron can either be made by way of the Italian meringue and the French meringue; both create a different texture of macaron as the French meringue has more fat incorporated into it. Macarons are extremely difficult to make as they cake easily crack or deflate if the directions are not followed exactly as the recipe suggests.

When the macarons are piped, they are usually piped onto a silicone mat such as a silpat which will avoid the meringue from sticking during the drying and baking stage. After the macarons are piped, they are set to dry out to form a crust before they are baked accordingly. Macarons are typically piped into a circular shape but can be an array of other shapes as well like hearts or squares but those are more complex to pipe precisely.

The fillings typically used to sandwich between the two halves of a macaron are buttercream, caramel, ganache, as well as fruit fillings such as curd, jelly, and jam. The process of filling the macarons must be completed in a delicate manner as the meringues can easily crack. Usually, the fillings are piped onto the meringue half rather than being spooned onto it.

 

Basic Macaron Recipe

Image by: Erika Low

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sliced blanched almonds

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Jam or other filling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lower third. Place almonds in a food processor; process until as fine as possible, about 1 minute. Add confectioners’ sugar; process until combined, about 1 minute.

Pass almond mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer solids in sieve to food processor; grind and sift again, pressing down on clumps. Repeat until less than 2 tablespoons of solids remains in sieve.

Whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Beat on medium speed (4 on a KitchenAid) 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high (6) and beat 2 minutes. Then beat on high (8) 2 minutes more.

The beaten egg whites will hold stiff, glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Add flavoring and food coloring, if desired, and beat on highest speed 30 seconds.

Add dry ingredients all at once. Fold with a spatula from bottom of bowl upward, then press flat side of spatula firmly through middle of mixture. Repeat just until batter flows like lava, 35 to 40 complete strokes.

Rest a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip (Ateco #804) inside a glass. Transfer batter to bag; secure top. Dab some batter remaining in bowl onto corners of 2 heavy baking sheets; line with parchment.

With piping tip 1/2 inch above sheet, pipe batter into a 3/4-inch round, then swirl tip off to one side. Repeat, spacing rounds 1 inch apart. Tap sheets firmly against counter 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles.

Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just set, 13 minutes. Let cool. Pipe or spread filling on flat sides of half of cookies; top with remaining half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

The Trend of the Meat Cake

Image by: Andrey Bodrov

Today, food has become so modernized these days and the traditional foods that were widely accepted are evolving. America has always and continually been inclusive of those cuisines and traditions from other countries. Many food practices that are being utilized and have gained such popularity in the United States have generally been adopted from other reginal areas. These new practices have allowed the normalized traditions in America especially in terms of food to be differentiated and more modernized with the latest trends that are being accepted. In Japan, they have created an entirely new way of celebrating birthdays. Gone are the days of birthday cakes that were sheet cakes frosted with insanely sweet and colorful amounts of frosting. Today, many are surprising their loved ones either friends or family with a modernized and savory version of the birthday cake which is the meat cake. It has changed the entire dynamic of cakes as there are not many versions of savory cakes that have become so popularized, accepted, or trendy in the culinary world.

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In the Japanese cuisine, they take the most expensive and best cuts of meat in order to uniform them into a cake-like shape. The cakes can be tiered or shaped in a particular look such as to look like a flower. Then it is usually decorated with an array of different vegetables that will complement the meat such as peppers, asparagus, or broccoli. Typically, the cake is made out of different versions of beef with the most expensive being the aged wagyu. But there are variances of these particular cakes styles that cake use different cuts of fish, poultry, and other meats such as veal or pork. When a meat cake is presented, it is usually reminiscent to that of a traditional birthday cake where there is a gathering of friends and family as the celebrated person is able to see their cake for the first time. Then, it is treated just like that of a typical frosted birthday cake in which the person gets to blow out the candles. And, afterwards, the meat is generously cooked and prepared in a way in which the person desires it.

Comment below on different and interesting cakes that you have either eaten or would like to eat in the near future.

The Beauty of Sugar Sculptures

Sugar is a centrical ingredient in the confectionary world. Being that I aspire to be a pastry chef, I am used to working with different types of sugar all the time. Each sugar can serve its own purpose in how it is utilized to create a particular dessert. There’s granulated cane sugar, turbinado sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, 10x sugar, pearl sugar, raw sugar, artificial sweeteners, and the list goes on. All of these sugar options are widely used to not only sweeten a dessert item but for its other properties as well. For instance when making sugar cookies, it is sometimes topped with granulated sugar and this is used to add crunch as well as more flavor to the cookies. If 10x sugar (also known as confectioner’s sugar) was used, it would essentially melt into the cookie causing it crackle.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Sugar is so valued and readily used in the confectionary world that it is almost always present as an ingredient in every dessert. One of the most amazing ways that sugar is utilized is to create sugar sculptures. The art of creating sugar sculptures consist of composing the most elaborate artistic masterpieces that are completely made from sugar and its fellow derivatives. In order to make these sculptures that sugar must be broken down and heated to a high temperature to allow it to be molded or shaped into the desired appearance. The recipe for making pulled sugar is granulated cane sugar which is cooked with water and glucose which can also be substituted for high fructose corn syrup. Then, an acidic agent is added to prevent crystallization from occurring when it reaches the hard crack stage which occurs at 300 degrees which is when coloring can be added right before it comes off the heat to allow the water from the coloring to reduce.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Hot sugar is divided into three separate categories which are pulled sugar, blown sugar, and cast sugar. Pulled sugar is when the sugar has been cooked into a liquid and poured usually over a Silpat which is a silicone rubber mat. The sugar is then pulled and folded repeatedly to incorporate air into the sugar which helps it to have a shine instead of being opaque. The sugar can then be molded into a variety of designs or shapes. Blown sugar is essentially pulled sugar that is blown into a shape with the help of a rubber pump. A portion of the pulled sugar is wrapped around the end of a rubber pump which is usually made out of wood or metal. Then, air is slowly pumped into the sugar to avoid it from cracking. Then, when the desired shape is achieved, the blown sugar is placed under a cool fan to allow it to harden to the shape. Finally, cast sugar is still a form of pulled sugar in which the hot sugar liquid is poured into molds this allows the pieces to harden into a desired shape that will be used as a base platform to hold you showpieces that have been blown or pulled.