A Passion for Frosting

Everyone in their lifetimes…no matter how long or short, falls in love. That love may differ with the special recipients of that love but falling in love is almost inevitable. Some fall in love with a person, a pet, a vehicle, nature, et cetera.

And at a very young age, I fell in love with baking. All I hoped and dreamed for was to bake…to bring joy to people’s lives and seeking my deepest passion. I remember how excited I would get as a child using an Easy Bake Oven to bake mini cakes or brownies. I honestly felt as if I was a real pastry chef by creating these small edible creations. And as I got older, I became more passionate about my love for baking. I was fascinated by all the desserts that I could learn about and gladly bake. I remember the first time that I made a cake…it was from a cake mix but I was so proud of myself for pursuing such a new territory in my baking journey. As time goes on, I tend to obsess over the baked goods that I will create in the future especially for major holidays or events like Christmas, Graduations, Birthdays, or other sentimental days. I become so filled with anticipation of how the finished product will look or be, much like I did when I was younger. When I finally made my first cake, I was most excited to frost and decorate it. I was able to use a variety of different colored frosting, small candies, and sprinkles to decorate my cake. It was the most amazing experience to finally be able to decorate a cake that I baked with little help from anyone else. And though, my decorating job was not exactly the work of Buddy Valastro, I was still satisfied with my decorating skills at the time given it was my very first attempt at decorating a cake.

But since then, I have had the honor of learning how to properly decorate cakes with an array of different decorations options such as fondant, gumpaste, nonpareils, frosting, airbrush, sugar work, or modelled chocolate. Still, one of the most satisfying things in the baking world is having the ability to frost a cake. The intricate precision is immaculate and the decorations help to create the most appealing masterpiece. The perfect sharp edges that looks so professional as well as the smooth appearance and texture of the frosting that further elevates the overall precision of the cake. There are so many necessary tools that are readily involved in the production of properly frosting a cake. The most used tool is an offset spatula because it allows for continuity in smoothing out all sides of the cake with more agility as it contours to the shape of the cake unlike the straight spatula. But depending on the frosting used for the cake, other options may be needed in order to ensure that your cake has smooth edges like heated the offset spatula before using it by dipping it in hot water then drying it before allowing it to slightly melt the frosting to smooth the texture or edges.

However, there is a new tool that is solely intended to smooth out the frosting on cakes in an easier manner. It is essentially a device that wraps the cake by an angle and smooths the frosting in a quicker and more efficient way. It is a product made entirely of plastic and it’s capable of applying frosting to any cake up to eight inches in height; it is called the ProFroster which only costs $25. Watch below to see how this amazing gadget works effortlessly.

Comment below with your thoughts about this device being readily used in the baking world.

Ice Cream Passport Program

Regardless of how differing the weather can be, it never ceases my obsession for ice cream. It could easily be freezing temperatures outside and I would still have the steady motivation to consume ice cream. By far, ice cream is my ultimate favorite dessert. Nothing seems to surpass the simplicity of the rich and creaminess that is evoked in this frozen dessert. I have discussed ice cream so many times; I have explained the difference in what actually defines the meaning of ice cream, the differing quality of ice cream in terms of air incorporation, eating ice cream for charity, and easy ice cream recipes to make at home.

The Oddfellows Ice Cream Company had started an innovative passport program as of last year in early October. And have continued this program as it had its second annual passport program that started last month and will conclude in February of 2018. Currently, Oddfellows Ice Cream Company has only two locations in Williamsburg and in the East Village but will opening a new location in Bushwick. Oddfellows became famous for its inventive flavors that differ from the traditional classic flavors of ice cream that is readily sold at other ice cream shops. This company explores unique ingredients and prepares artisan ice cream in-house. They create a high quality ice cream and even pasteurize their own ice cream bases in their kitchens. This tedious process allows them to control the depth complexity in their ice cream flavors to create more distinct flavoring and delectable textures for a balanced mouthfeel with this frozen treat.

More specifically, Oddfellows Ice Cream Company has a passport program in which they want to transport you to different countries in a variety of continents by way of their ice cream flavors. This year, they are only highlighting five continents instead of all seven. The past month, the featured continent was Asia and the featured continents following are North America for November, Europe for December, Australia for January, and South America for February. The ice cream flavors for Asia were pretty innovative in that it evoked the culture of Asia. The flavors included Malt Maitake Peanut, Coconut Sticky Rice, Jackfruit Sorbet, Lychee Shiso, Miso Cherry, and Duck Sausage. But the most inventive on the menu was the selection of ice cream dumpling which are on a rotating basis of differing flavors that included Jackfruit, Lychee, Taiwanese Pineapple Cake, Matcha, and Thai Iced Tea encased in a mochi shell, garnished with Matcha Powder and Sesame Seeds, served alongside a Salted Coconut Dipping Sauce.

A New Pumpkin Pie

a red candle with a flame

Image by: Errol Niblett

Now that November has officially begun, I am counting down the days until the holidays. Thanksgiving is near and so is Christmas, then there is New Years. This time of year is the most exciting for me and I am not talking about the exchanging the gifts, it is just the season altogether. The sanctity and simplicity of togetherness is what truly makes the holiday season special to me. I love being able to spend time with friends and family as well as partaking in holiday specific events. I enjoy soaking in the sentimental feeling that the holiday season brings. The beauty of the Christmas trees adorned with the most decorative ornaments. The way that the cold weather evokes the need for hot beverages such as coffee or hot cocoa…the simple scenery of how the cold weather impacts nature around us. The happiness that surrounds us that influences us to have better days despite the struggles that were faced throughout the year. The way in which Christmas brings the hopes and wishes of snow to add more authenticity as well as a pathway for Santa to drive his sleigh to drop off gifts while eating lots of cookies and drinking tons of milk. Some say that it is way too early to begin the spirit of the holiday season as Halloween was only just a few days ago. But I have already begun the process, I have already made a list of the gifts I will be purchasing for Christmas for those special to me. I have already thought of the perfect meals to prepare. I have already started listening to holiday themed music…I have already belted out the lyrics to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” a billion times. I am so ready for the holidays; it is when my worries and woes begin to drift away.

a transparent slice of pie

Image by: FoodBeast

To me, holidays bring on traditional dishes such as cranberry sauce, a turkey, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. As well as my favorite part…dessert. The desserts can consist of pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and the most popular, pumpkin pie. But more recently, pumpkin pie has taken a new form; changing from the traditional dessert to a whole new appearance. There is a popular restaurant in Chicago named Alinea, it is one of the most iconic restaurants for its amazing food quality and creativity that it lends to the culinary world. They have created an entirely new vision for the classic dessert of the pumpkin pie, and it’s clear. The pie appears clear and has no distinct color as it has a transparent appearance. According to Huffington Post, the crust is made of the traditional pate brisee which is a crumbly butter crust. But the filling is where it becomes less traditional as it is more scientific then the usual science that is readily involved in baking. The chefs at Alinea create a mixture of cooked pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk as well as a mix of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger powder. This mixture is then heated up until the vapors from the mixture condense into colorless droplets that can then readily possess the flavors of the pumpkin pie. This process is done in a rotary evaporator not a traditional average post in order to properly collect a certain amount of cleat condensation that can then be mixed with gelatin. This will allow the filling to stiffen and get the smooth consistency of the classic pumpkin pie. So the result is a pumpkin pie with a clear pie filling packed with the traditional flavor of a pumpkin pie as well as the amazing texture of this holiday classic.

Comment below with your thoughts of this new spin on a traditional holiday dessert.

The light within the dark

Photographs by: Gennessy Palma

Written by: Brianna Vasquez

For some, landscape settings and many forms of nature go so easily unnoticed on the daily basis. But to me, all of these beauties of nature strongly appeal to me. Mother Nature speaks to me…she has her own language that everyone can understand. She utilizes different sequences of naturalistic happenings to convey a conversation to whomever is willing to listen. I can hear her voice sometimes it comes in a variety of tones; some feminine and others with a deep masculinity infused into the dialect. Mostly, in the sound of voices that I readily recognize from my inner social circle and that I have such a high regard for. The volume of the voices can vary from the harrowing whisper in the rustling of the leaves as well as the loud screams in the bold sound of thunder. Not only do I hear it all, but I am thoroughly listening and observing every single word that is spoken.

Photographer: Gennessy Palma ” until we meet again dearest sun.”

Unfortunately, in life, we all have lost someone or something in this world. And I remember the day that I lost you…the day that the sweet melody of your heart beating slowly silenced. The very day in which your living breath was transcended and became nuanced into the air that I now breathe. I believe that life is an art piece and the many people that we encounter in this lifetime…those who truly impact our lives; they add color to our life’s canvas. Each person represents each varying color and its significance in that particular person’s life. When life draws to a close, we are simply left with this amazing painting that is specific to our life’s journey…what most find to be the memories that were created in that lifetime or what others define as the legacy that is now left behind.

Even on my darkest of days, you will always have a place on my life’s canvas…a radiant color beaming through from all the rest. And when I am alone, I hear your voice…your voice is in the world around me. The lyrical rhythm of the birds’ singing…the silence of the clouds naturally shifting into angelic shapes…the subtle sound of fluttering wings on butterflies as they fly nearby. You are the vibrant colors that majestically create a sunset; you are the heat of the sun that warms my bones with a tight embrace. You are the bright orange hue with hints of red and bluish-grey that dances around the clouds while igniting the sky with its beauty. With the perfect blend of colorful strokes that are painted all over the sky for all to view. You watched so many vividly colorful sunsets with me until the very sunset of your life. My love, you are my favorite color…my favorite color is sunset.

 

Brooklyn’s Historical Ice Cream

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory sign

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

When I encounter the world or begin to converse with someone new, I begin to tell them of my interest in the pastry arts and my aspirations of becoming a pastry chef. This often leads to an arrangement of many questions such as the specific industry role that I wish to work in as well as the best bakeries or dessert shops around New York. Unfortunately, I almost always find that I answer that last question with great bias. Being a native Brooklynite, I want to constantly tell others what Brooklyn has to offer as a city more specifically when comparing the best dessert spots to dine.

Brooklyn is a haven for many activities, restaurants, and other social interests but even more so, for the dessert world. Brooklyn is the first borough in New York to be known for its world famous New York styled cheesecake at Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery and to have an entire restaurant that has an innovative menu dedicated to the use of avocados in every dish, Avocaderia. So when someone asks me about my favorite dessert of all time is …*drum roll*…ice cream. I cannot help but to get elated in talking about what Brooklyn has to offer in this constantly evolving industry of ice cream. This particular dessert has such a variance with the addition of other countries’ versions on this classic treat that have also found a place in this modernized New York borough. Around the world, ice cream is consumed much differently than it once was years ago.

First, we have the difference of quality which is ultimately based on the amount of air that is pumped into the ice cream during the freezing process. Second, there are different bases such as milk based, cream based, or egg based which can change the overall creaminess and mouthfeel finish of the ice cream. And finally, the presentation of the ice cream such as Thai Rolled Ice Cream that is small rolls of ice cream or ice cream made from liquid nitrogen that allows a fun look of blowing smoke when consuming the ice cream.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for the very first time. It was an amazing experience that showed off the endless talent Brooklyn has to offer. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory opened shortly after September 2001 with the help of the owner, Mark Thompson. The building itself was converted into a factory from a 1922 fire boat house, located at 1 Water Street. It is the oldest fire boat house on a ferry landing in Brooklyn and has become an official landmark. It was once used as a place to hold firefighting practice sessions before it was converted years later.

bowl of ice cream

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

According to the New York Times, Thompson grew up in Pennsylvania and even had a summer job working in an ice cream shop which enabled his education as well as his love for ice cream. When he later moved to New York, he began working as a valet in the Water Club before quickly working his way up the ranks until he was director of operations. He then became friends with the restaurant owner, Michael O’Keeffe. In 1998, O’Keeffe leased this 1920’s fire boat house that was located in the Fulton Ferry Landing between Bargemusic and the River Cafe which was also owned by O’Keeffe. But the fire boat house had already been established as a city landmark which meant that O’Keeffe could not install any additional restaurant equipment such as an oven or use the space as a restaurant. O’Keeffe then thought of creating an ice cream shop and when he shared his ideas with Thompson, he offered to run it due to his ice cream background. Thompson was nervous as he has only prepared ice cream for family and friends in a small half-gallon ice cream maker and would now have to be familiar with the use of commercial equipment. And Thompson limited his menu to eight flavors of ice cream, to simply sell just the classics. The ice cream shop was set to open on September 12th, 2001 but due to the attacks of September 11th, Thompson extended his official opening to the next month and instead donated thirty tubs of ice cream to the local firehouses and other relief workers.

The décor is very old-school of a traditional ice cream shop, they have a great varying selection of flavors but I ended up having both the Butter Pecan and the Peaches and Cream. The ice cream was absolutely delicious; it was so creamy and vibrantly flavored. The ice cream is sold by the scoop inexpensively or by the gallon. The ice cream is prepared in small batches Philadelphia-style, which is without the addition of eggs in the base. Usually, ice cream uses eggs or other thickening agents as an emulsifier to allow ice cream to get a creamier texture but sometimes this can add a greasier or chewier texture that isn’t as appealing to the palate. Most ice cream shops do not use the Philadelphia style because it is more expensive due to the use of cream as the thickener instead of other fillers but it is simpler to make as it is an easier process.

The Golden Arches

a mcdonald's sign with the famous golden arches

Image by: Mike Mozart

Our world has been taken over by technology and its constant improvisation that allows us to become more tech savvy and heavily rely on in order to simply get through the day. With a world of technology that is readily available to us on the daily basis such as cellphones, televisions, computers, laptops, and tablets; it makes it difficult to disconnect from the technically advanced world. The easy accessibility of a cellphone allows us to easily get distracted from the world around us. And social media platforms only make this more difficult as it becomes an aspect of sharing our everyday lives with others on a public forum. With the help of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram; it forces life to become this competition of trying trendy things or the number of friends that one has as well as having the most exciting life with many other people who are readily interested in the activities that you partake in on the daily basis.

One of the most iconic fast food restaurants has created many innovative ideas over the years. This restaurant has received such a bad reputation over the years in terms of their decline in the quality of their food as well as the unfairness of the wages being earned by their employees. But this particular franchise that is reknownly recognized by their famous golden arches have made many improvements in each of their restaurants and the protests that their employees made for higher wages for fast food workers paved a way for higher wages for other fast food restaurants. McDonalds has been so helpful in providing many job opportunities as well as being involved in charitable causes such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities which allows extremely affordable housing and lodging for a temporary period of time for the benefit of families while their child battles cancer.

phone carrying lockers

Image by: CNN Travel

Although, McDonalds is viewed similarly all over the world, the franchise varies from country to country. The franchise of McDonalds in France specifically has a more café-styled restaurant as they sell a variety of prepared coffee raging from lattes to iced frappuccinos and other snack foods such as scones or macarons. McDonalds in Singapore are now trialing a new way of providing a place to eat while having quality time with family of other loved ones during the meal. It has a distraction-free zone in which you can relinquish your cellular device and receive a locker to lock your phone away while you eat. This will allow you to eat your meal with the distractions that using your cellphone usually brings. Simple things like just checking the time can lead to taking pictures of your food, texting a friend, or checking social media updates instead of alternatively just thoroughly enjoying your food without the choice of multitasking.

Comment below on your thoughts and if you think that this would be a great idea for American restaurants.

The Key is Innovation

three glazed cronuts

Image by: Sean Guzman

Whether if you are majoring in pastry arts or any other major, food culture and trends are heavily appreciated and have such a tremendous impact on us as Americans. While the job of a chef is tedious and was often not readily as renowned as it is now, it has become this phenomenon. Everyone wants to own their very own restaurant and establish their own style on the culinary or confectionary scene. It has become this career choice that became an easy venture as it opens huge possibilities from a business standpoint, in that you can readily market anything. Before the days of rainbow bagels and extravagant over-the-top milkshakes, there was a food trend that started a dessert war all on its own due to this new innovative idea…the cronut. Dominique Ansel of the Dominique Ansel Bakery created this amazing dessert in his New York City shop. The cronut was a hybrid dessert that was a cross between a croissant and a donut. The dessert has since been trademarked although many other franchised bakeries have tried to mimic the readily famous dessert.

a kiwi fruit and a sorbet representation of a kiwi

Image by: Thrillist

His dedication as a pastry chef has shown throughout the years as he continues to stun the pastry world. After the extended success of the cronut, Ansel has experimented and had other popular desserts as a part of his dessert menus around the world. Another innovative dessert being his cookie shots which are chocolate chip cookie dough shaped glasses that are served after being filled with milk. It serves as a new-age spin on the classic pairing of cookies and milk. But the latest dessert from Dominque Ansel creates the façade of a kiwi fruit while having the appearance of a Klondike ice cream bar. Its innermost layer is a Tahitian vanilla ice cream that is enrobed with a layer of kiwi sorbet and then covered with a layer of milk chocolate and cocoa powder to create that fuzzy outer layer that a kiwi has. This once again proves the talent that is Dominique Ansel as he constantly challenges the dessert world with new ideas and provides a whole new spectrum of flavor concepts readily involved in desserts.

One of the most amazing things, no matter what career that you partake in, is to always stay updated and to try to create something new or innovative that has not particularly been created beforehand. As I work towards being a pastry chef, I hope to challenge myself constantly in order to create new recipes and taste combinations for new desserts. I wish to create my own food trends by way of my ideas to influence the pastry world. I believe that we as humans should always push ourselves to be relevant and create a brand within our talents. No matter who you are and regardless of whether you have your entire future planned out or not, you should always be aware of how talented you are and acknowledge the fact that there is only one version of yourself which makes you already unique as well as what you have to offer this world.

A Slice of Pie

two holiday inspired pies

Image by: Cynthia Classen

As autumn settles in and summer has come to an end, it becomes time for the colder weather to take hold…for the holidays to roll around…for the winter clothes to be taken out of storage…for the beauty of Indian summer to overcome nature. I love autumn as well as the winter…I find that it is the most beautiful time of year. Around this particular time of year, everyone gets so crazy about pumpkin spice everything…it’s in fragrances, car air fresheners, lattes, et cetera. But I hardly get interested in this trendy nonsense instead this season brings on other memories. No matter who you are or the life that you lived, we all have that one person…that one important person in our lives who always made us feel special, cared for, and loved. That person could be a family member or a close friend but someone who has always stuck by you despite life’s difficulties. And as the holidays are coming soon, I found myself thinking of all the people that I appreciate in my life…every single person who has made my life better.

When I was younger, my grandmother would always purchase gifts for me and my sisters on her way home from work. It could’ve be the most inexpensive thing but it meant the world to me…just to have her think about getting me something special…something that she knew I’d appreciate. We weren’t exactly the most financially stable family so there was no Christmas tree or any gifts…and we weren’t even ones to really celebrate the holidays altogether. Still, my grandmother would try her very best to shower us with as many gifts as she could…fulfilling this traditional role of a grandparent and trying to spoil us as much as possible.

My grandmother really fought for us…even as her grandchildren, she did everything in her power to keep us happy and to ensure that we had a good childhood. There is one gift that for some reason topped the rest…it has always held a greater value for me. Being a writer, I always had an interest in books and because I was the middle child…I always wanted to be like my older sister. I was so quick to things, I wanted to learn my alphabet and then to read. My grandmother had purchased this children’s book for me and my sisters titled, “Sweet Potato Pie” by Anne Rockwell. It was a short book that describes how a family was so busy…they each had their own jobs, tasks, and responsibilities but the grandmother always had a way of getting the family together by way of her homemade sweet potato pie. I still love this book just the same and it is by far the best thirty-two pages that I have ever read. This book has held such a great impact in my life and every time that autumn comes around…as the holiday season slowly approaches; I am captivated by the thought of sweet potato pie. Much like the book, my grandmother is a phenomenal baker and has made plenty of pies for the holidays especially sweet potato pies. My grandmother holds such a matriarch title in our family that she unites us as one multi-generational family by way of both her baking and her peaceful spirit. And to quote the most pivotal line of this children’s book, “Everybody’s happy. Why, oh, why? Grandma’s baking…sweet potato pie! That’s why!” (A. Rockwell, Sweet Potato Pie, Feb. 1996).

Which Side is Best?

piece of aluminum foil

Image by: Chris Bruner

There is so much going on in the world today…natural disasters have affected so many regions, the recent political issues that have faced America, the constant struggle of racial injustice, the strife that life tends to naturally bring, and trying to find a perfect balance between college as well as a social life. This is a whirlwind of craziness that has wreaked havoc on America. So for today, I decided to go for a lighter subject to counteract these difficult happenings currently occurring in the world right now. As someone who aspires to be a pastry chef, people often assume that I am always well-inclined to all things in the pastry world but the truth is that I don’t really know everything in the pastry world. There are many things that are still unknown to me…things that I am still inexperienced in, yet I push myself to have a greater sense of those things in order to become more well-versed as a pastry chef. But as I share and post my experiences with the confectionary arts world and write about up-and-coming food trends, I realize that there are still many questions that I face on the daily basis in terms of baking.

There is one question that I still have…that often follows me around when I am baking and in all four years of college, I am still faced with this question. What is the right or wrong side to use for aluminum foil? Should the shiny side be facing up? Or should the dull side be facing up?

crumbled foil

Image by: David

My misconception was that you interchange the foil sides for specific cooking purposes…so the shiny side conducts heat better so if you looking to get something crispy then shiny side up but if you are looking to lock in moisture then use the dull side. But regardless, both sides can be used interchangeably…there is no difference between each side of aluminum foil. While the shiny side has more reflection which creates more radiation…the only thing that matters when baking is convection and both sides of the foil conduct the same amount of heat. The truth is that both sides of foil are exactly the same and the reason that the foil visually appears differently between a shiny and dull side results from the manufacturing process in which the way that the sheets of aluminum is rolled out, the side that is in contact with the rollers comes out shiny while the other side does not.

To me, this is still a mind-boggling notion and honestly, it is one of those things that haven’t changed much for me since understanding this information. I understand that both sides are the same logistically yet I still, when faced with the decision of how to place aluminum foil for baking purposes, I believe my standards as I still somehow believe that the shinier side is more important in holding and conducting heat. But I still wanted to share this and hope that it helps fellow day-to-day bakers.

Piece of Cake

If you are like me, then you have had your fair share of cakes…whether it be a Black Forest Cake, an Angel Food Cake, an ice cream cake, or the traditional birthday cake. The first thought that enters my mind when I think of cakes is the layered cakes with overly sweet American Buttercream wedged in between the layers of cake that may have a sentimental message written on top of the cake to commemorate a special event such as a birthday as well as a specific amount of candles to represent the age in which that person is turning on that particular day.

The French word entremets literally means “between servings” and would usually consist of a small dish between courses in French cuisine. It would mark the end of a serving of numerous courses. Now, it is a term that is readily used in the pastry world, an entremet is a cake that is multi-layered mousse-based with various texture contrasts and varying complementary flavor concepts. There are entremet cakes that are traditional to the French pastry cuisine but it varies significantly from the cakes that are readily available in America.

The most important element of entremet cakes is the proper use of food pairings in which the contrasting textures and flavors being utilized still correlate to one another so it will offer a well-balanced mouthfeel. These food pairings can vary from coconut and mango, passionfruit and white chocolate, or chocolate and raspberries.

Entremet cakes are visually appealing as they can take on a myriad of shapes such as domes, pyramids, squares, rounds, et cetera. Typically, the different combinations involved in the production of an entremet cake include a balanced taste concept such as sweet but tangy in flavor but it also means a textural difference which consists of a mousse layer or gelee layer paired with a praline layer or meringue layer to have both a balance of crunch and smooth textures to better satisfy the palate.

a raspberry entremet cake

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I had the amazing opportunity of creating my own entremet cake, to be able to concept the flavors and textures that I wanted to pair together in order to create a well-balanced cake. I decided to make an entremet cake that had a bottom layer of a dacquoise meringue which is a typical egg white based meringue with chopped almonds and hazelnuts combined into it; that was then topped with a hibiscus coconut mousse that was then topped with a thin layer of genoise cake that was soaked with a coconut rum simple syrup. This was then topped with a layer of mango gelee and coconut mousse and then a thin layer of raspberry gelee. The entire cake was delicately wrapped with a joconde cake which is an almond based cake that was patterned with pink stripes.