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).

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.

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.

green tea layered crepe cake

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

a tower of different flavored chocolate bars

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.

pink colored 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.

The Smorgasburg of 2016

Smorgasburg graced Brooklyn this weekend and showcased different foods from all over the world in one place for all those who were eager to try them. Unfortunately, I could not attend but I found many new and interesting foods that were being sold there this year in particular. This set up allows vendors to share their products or even use visitors of Smorgasburg to be taste testers to newest creations.

One of the newest innovative desserts is one that is severely time sensitive that must be eaten in half an hour. This dessert is called the raindrop cake, which literally looks like a raindrop, but if not eaten quickly it will turn into a puddle of water. It is constructed by way of agar, a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. Yet, the dessert tastes similar to water but has more body and texture. It is usually paired with other small sides to eat along with the cake.

a raindrop cake on a wooden plate

Image by: Huffington Post

The video shows how to make the newest dessert; it is simply amazing to see how the cake is constructed in a way unlike any other. I want to eventually try this cake, I find it to be super interesting and I wonder how it taste in its own complex yet simplistic way to appeal to anyone’s palate.

Many spectators felt that the foods here will eventually be sold readily in America and will be the next food craze but I wondered what really creates a food craze. And what really makes people want to wait in lines for hours just to try these foods? Many believe that it is due to the bragging rights that come with the hype of these trending foods. It is awesome to be able to understand their notions but still it is further explained by using the term, mob psychology, because if something is being sought after then everyone begins to become envious of that particular item and wants to be able to have that experience as well. We as people naturally can become obsessed over a phenomenon that everyone wants to be a part of because it gives us some sort of popularity status because we are part of a trend.

Comment below to name a food that you have always wanted to try or a dessert you recently tried that you think should be the next food trend.

The Abundance of Food Trends

rolling pin and a rolled out piece of dough

Image by: Sameen Ismail

Everyone knows how easily a particular subject can gain attraction and become a viral sensation. From Justin Bieber to Grumpy Cat, it is apparent how rapidly a topic can rise to fame and for all to want to be able to partake in if only for a while before the short-lived fame begins to die down. This is even more crucial for food establishments as it may only be available for a short period of time before being completely taken off the menu. Food trends are probably the one of the best viral sensations to occur because it highlights the similarities of many people’s taste preferences. Everyone will spend not only their hard-earned money but their time in line with many others simply waiting for their turn to have the chance to feast on this thriving food product.

a pink icing glazed cronut

Image by: Phil Nolan

Food trends really began to soar in 2013 when the Cronut (a portmanteau for croissant and donut) was born in Dominique Ansel Bakery; it was the one food item that everyone wanted to taste and would wait hours in order to taste it even if there was a significant chance they would be turned away if the product sold out for the day. Ansel continued to surprise us with his confectionery masterpieces which included the chocolate chip cookie shot and a few other desserts. From then on, it was the cruffin which was another portmanteau for a croissant muffin which is readily sold at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco, the rainbow bagels from the Bagel Store in Williamsburg, and many other foods.

But the newest food trend is one that was discovered in New York just this year which is the Cinnamon Roll Stuffed Donut. Although it sounds insane many describe it as a delicious dessert. Chef Thiago Silva of Catch Restaurant located in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan created this dessert as part of his extensive dessert menu. It has received lots of praise and continues to as many come to visit his restaurant in search of this new food trend. Below, I have a recipe for the donuts, if any dare to try to recreate it in their own homes.

Cinnamon Bun Stuffed Donuts

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Dough

  • 2 packets yeast (4½ tsp.) I use active dry.
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable shortening
  • ¾ cup soy milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs

Filling

  • 2 Tbs. margarine, melted
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼-1/2 cup water

Instructions

Dough

  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the yeast with the warm water and 1 tsp. sugar. Stir until no longer lumpy and set aside to proof and bubble up; 5-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile add the ¼ cup sugar and the salt to the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  3. In a microwaveable bowl warm the vegetable shortening with the soy milk until the shortening has melted. Pour the shortening/milk mixture over the sugar/salt mixture and stir to melt. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
  4. Add the flour and eggs into the mixer bowl. Then finish off with the yeast mixture. Mix on low using the dough hook until the dough comes together. Once it’s pulling off the sides of the bowl, set the mixer to medium low and mix for about 6 minutes.
  5. Grease or oil a large clean bowl and scrape the dough mixture inside. The dough will be sticky, but don’t add flour! Grease your hands to better work with the dough.
  6. Cover in plastic wrap and set in warm place to rise for one hour.
  7. Once the dough has risen, cut off ⅓ of the dough (about 12 ounces if you have a kitchen scale) to make your cinnamon buns. Set the rest of the dough in the fridge.

Cinnamon Buns

  1. Grease a 12 cavity cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. On a well-floured surface roll out the dough you just portioned off. Roll it into a rectangle about 12″ wide and 6″ tall.
  3. Melt the margarine and brush over the dough.
  4. Sprinkle the dough with the brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon. Roll the dough into a log, you are rolling the long side up so your log is still 12″ long.
  5. Once rolled up use a serrated knife or bench scraper to cut the buns into 12 pieces.
  6. Place each bun in one cavity of the cupcake pan, cut side up/down.
  7. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Once the buns have risen, bake for 10-12 minutes until just lightly brown. You don’t want to overbake-these will still be fried.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes and then carefully pop the buns out of the cupcake pan. The sugar will be extremely hot so your best bet is to flip them out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  11. Allow these to cool completely.
  12. Once the buns are cool, remove the reserved dough from the fridge.
  13. Divide the dough into 12 portions (just under 2 ounces each). Flatten each piece, I used well-floured hands but you could use a rolling pin.
  14. Place one bun pretty side down on the flattened dough. Carefully wrap the dough over the bun and pinch the seams together at the bottom.
  15. Set the donut to rise seam side down on a floured parchment lined baking sheet.
  16. Once all 12 donuts are formed, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  17. While the donuts are rising, heat your cooking oil. I use vegetable oil but use any oil with a high smoking point.
  18. Heat your oil to 350 degrees F. Proper temperature is everything: too cold and your donuts soak up all the oil and become greasy. Too hot and your donut is burning but the inside is raw.
  19. I use a deep fryer because it will regulate the temperature for me, if you don’t have one-make sure you have a really good thermometer and keep a close eye on it.
  20. Fry the donuts for about 1 minute per side.
  21. Carefully remove from the oil and drain on a sheet pan lined with paper towels.

Icing

  1. Once your donuts have cooled (if you haven’t eaten them all yet) measure the powdered sugar into a bowl.
  2. Slowly add a bit of water at a time until you have a thick icing consistency. I went thick with these but you can thin the icing out more if you are looking for more of a glaze.
  3. Dip, drizzle, or pour the icing onto your donuts.
  4. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon for an added touch and enjoy!

Adapted from Lil Miss Cakes

 

But I would still advise going to the actual bakery to taste the original, not necessarily because it will taste better, but because sometimes the sheer anticipation of waiting in line and buying this widely talked about product adds to the delicious flavor. It makes it all worth it in the end of it after the time and money spent on it.

Comment below with anything you would find worthy of waiting in line for.