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.

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.

My Spring Break Adventure Continued

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

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

Image by: Nadine

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

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 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.

Image by: jasonklapston

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.

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 World of Nutella

Image by: Marisina Vescio

Food in America has always been an issue since it has constantly been debated on the nutritional value of the foods being readily sold in a variety of supermarkets. I wanted to share this particular news because it shows the importance of food in America and how we as culinary professionals whether if this is the profession that you wish to pursue have the knowledge to educate the youth on better food systems. Personally, I aspire to be a pastry chef but the culinary techniques and information that has been taught to me will remain with me to be passed on through my way of cooking and what I share with those that I communicate with.

Image by: MirrorUK

The mass production of Nutella reminded me of the Art of Vegetarian course that I took with Professor Hoffman. In that course, Professor Hoffman constantly encouraged us to partake in our own cooking and talked about the importance of healthy eating in terms of knowing the ingredients that we are allowing our bodies to ingest. Something that has been widely and commercially broadcasted as being healthy for families to purchase for snacks and breakfast options. But after this viral photo showed the accurate portions of ingredients in Nutella, it has led to an angry outcry about the honesty of company’s advertisements. Nutella is now being shown as having mostly sugar and palm oil with only small amounts of hazelnuts, skim milk powder, and cocoa powder. Both sugar and palm oil have respectively been viewed as unhealthy as it can easily lead to obesity which can lead to other medical issues such as diabetes or cancer. This has created a huge panic especially in Italy where many places have stopped selling the spread and have even banned it due to the fear of its predicted unfortunate health effects. No matter what the circumstances, it is always better to make food from scratch rather than buying food pre-packaged.

Comment below on foods that you enjoy making from scratch.