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

Image by: Dave

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.

Image by: Independent UK

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

Image by: Michelle

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

Image by: Robyn Lee

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.

Image by: Mary Bakija

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

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

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.

The Famed Confusion of the Macaron

Image by: Elena Kovyrzina

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 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.

The Edible Artform

Image by: Matteo Stucchi

Baking is an artform, one that is never truly appreciated. The truth is that art is so subjective in that it can take place through many havens such as buildings, music, and paintings. But I find that the most talented of masterpieces are those that are edible and perhaps I am biased in the fact that I want to be a pastry chef. Still, to create the best desserts takes dedication, precision, and intricacy. It all begins with the simplest of ingredients such as sugar, flour, eggs and other items that are incorporated in such a way that it creates the delicate, rich, and delicious desserts. Pastry involves a certain elocution that culinary does not necessarily have in which you must follow every single instruction in the recipe in order to create the best product whereas in the culinary world, there is always room for adjustments and the addition of originality in terms of flavor concepts.

Image by: Matteo Stucchi

If even a single measurement or the temperature of the oven is incorrect, the entire baked item will be ruined. The pastry world is complex in that it requires a lot of patience and articulation to successfully create the most complicated desserts. The techniques that are often utilized convey the true talent that is paired with this artform. For instance, the technique of tempering is used when trying to incorporate eggs into a hot liquid usually milk. Tempering must be used in order to prevent the eggs from curdling or becoming scrambled into the liquid. Instead of adding the eggs all at once which will quickly cook the eggs, the hot liquid is slowly adding into the egg mixture in small portions to gradually incorporated the heat into the eggs so it won’t cook them when the egg mixture is heated enough the egg mixture is then added fully into the hot liquids to finish the cooking process. This is just one of the many techniques that is constantly used in the pastry world to make custards, pastry cream, pudding, or Crème Anglaise which is used as an ice cream base.

Image by: Matteo Stucchi

Matteo Stucchi, a pastry chef from Sulbiate, Italy who is currently working at a catering company, enjoys making beautifully designed art with the addition of delicious pastries. He creates miniature worlds that are constructed with pastries as well as the use of toys to allow these worlds to look like a realistic scene. His goal is to show that food itself is artistic and should be viewed in that way. He feels that when food is suggested as being an art, it is only in culinary practices not confectionary so he is utilizing his Instagram platform to convey that pastries can be artistic as well just as anything else in the confectionary world.

27th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition

Image by: Tony Albanese

New York is where dreams come true where the havens of the concrete jungle bring together the most talented of people from all over America. While there are so many things that this state has to offer that have not fully been appreciated or viewed, I wanted to share a beautiful piece of this city that has been happening for the past twenty-six years. One of the biggest havens in New York that host the latest and modernized innovations is at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It has hosted the New York Boat Show and the New York International Auto Show but this weekend it is hosting the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. This is the most prestigious pastry competition in America, it draws in competitors from all over the United States to present their best work to be judged and possibly awarded.

The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York is a three-day long event in which the best and rising stars in the pastry world to show off their best work to compete for awards and prizes as well as the most coveted title of Pastry Chef of the Year at Paris Gourmet’s U.S. Pastry Competition. One of the oldest and most established chef associations in the world, the board members of the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique, will preside over the judging procedures. Contest awards will total over $10,000.00. The show begins on Sunday, March 5th and concludes on Tuesday, March 7th. The entire Jacob Javits Convention Center is transformed into this confectionary art gallery of the most amazing artists…pastry chefs from all over the United States. The showpieces will be judged from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, with the awards ceremony at 4:00 pm.

Image by: k_usinero

Last year’s theme was Magic & Illusions and even hosted The Junior Competition where six finalists were randomly selected from four culinary schools were able to compete alongside the professionals. The 2017 showpiece theme will be “Modern Masters Come to Chocolate”. All of the attendees of the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York are generously invited to view the illustrious showpieces that were created by America’s most talented and leading pastry chefs throughout the duration of the entire Show. The event allows leading pastry chefs to showcase their talents and confectionary abilities by creating advanced dessert and chocolate bonbon recipes that are elevated by sculpting chocolate and utilizing highly technical sugar techniques to formulate the most magnificent showpieces.

The Best Week for a Sweet Tooth

Image by: Peace & Love

This week was Valentine’s Day…which is a holiday that celebrates love and happiness. Although, love shall be shared each and every day amongst each other, this particular day of February 14th has become this renowned holiday which is designated to showing love and appreciate for all the special people in our lives. This day is easily celebrated by way of cards, teddy bears, flowers, or most of all….with candy.

For those of us that received chocolates or other candies on Valentine’s Day as well as those that gifted those sweets to themselves may find that it can be difficult to get rid of. Though, you can snack on candy, it may become boring after a while. Instead of wasting all of that candy, I will share a few ideas to better make use to all the leftover candy from the holiday of Valentine’s Day.

Image by: Janet Sumner

  1. Cookies

You can easily upscale your normal recipes for cookies by adding chopped pieces of leftover Valentine’s Day chocolate to the recipe. For instance, instead of putting the typical chocolate chips into the batter for chocolate chip cookies, you can incorporate chopped up chocolate candies.

  1. Truffles

These chocolate treats are very simple to make with ingredients that may already readily be in your home. Simply, melt some chocolate either by nuking it in intervals of thirty seconds at a time to stir in between or by a double boiler in which you will stir the chocolate constantly in a heatproof bowl that is over a boiling pot of water. Then, add some heavy cream or condensed milk before shaping it into balls and refrigerating. You can also roll the balls into chopped nuts, cocoa powder, coconut flakes, or sprinkles to add other flavors, textures, and to better the appearance of the truffles.

  1. Hot Chocolate

Since the most popular candy received on Valentine’s Day is chocolate, this recipe will put all the leftover chocolate that you have to use in this easy recipe. Simply, warm a cup of milk either by boiling it on the stove or by nuking it in the microwave. Then, put a few pieces of chocolate into the mug. Let this steep as the hot milk will slowly melt the chocolate. Then, stir the chocolate in accordingly until it thoroughly dissolves into a cup of hot cocoa.

Comment below on desserts that you make with leftover Valentine’s Day candy.