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.

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.

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 First NYC Restaurant Week Experience

I wanted to save this post for my food blog, but I decided to give you all the first look and review of my first NYC restaurant week experience at Brasserie Seoul.

I was born and raised in New York City and as a foodie in my family. However, I never took advantage nor experienced NYC Restaurant Week. This summer I decided with my boyfriend to take advantage of it. The restaurant I initially chose was Delmonico’s, but later changed my mind to Brasserie Seoul which is a new, hip, and trendy restaurant with Korean and French flavors and techniques. The restaurant is tucked away inside the new Holiday Inn in Downtown Brooklyn. I visited the hotel and restaurant twice during my summer classes. My class and I met the General Manager who said next time we return we would receive 10% off our bill as we are City Tech students.

I chose August 12th which was a Friday and also a celebration of completing my Bachelor’s degree. My boyfriend and I were seated in the center of the restaurant and had a good view of the kitchen. The servers seemed a little bit nervous and slightly inattentive. We asked for a sparkling water, but unfortunately the rim around my glass cup had a fuzz around it. The General Manager was behind me and asked if everything was okay, but I showed him my glass and he apologized and replaced it with a new and clean glass.

appetizerBrasserie

My boyfriend ordered the Crispy Salmon (salmon sashimi , crispy sushi rice, and chipotle aioli). This was definitely a unique and interesting take on a sashimi, but with a crispy sushi rice instead. It had a little kick of spice to it, but it was tolerable. I ordered the Wild Mushroom & Asparagus (wild mushrooms, asparagus, truffle soy sauce). I really liked this appetizer because I am naturally a mushroom fan. Although the dish was plated beautifully, I felt the plate was too large for the small portion that was given.

entreesbrasserie

For entrees, my boyfriend had the Duck Confit (endive, shallot, thyme orange sauce) which was recommended by a friend of ours. The duck tasted delicious and cooked just perfectly where the meat was soft, smooth, and moist. I got the Waygu Rib Eye Steak ( waygu rib eye with grilled vegetables) *$5.00* additional for my order and I also asked for medium rare, but not too rare. While eating my steak, I noticed parts of it was rare., but I didn’t say anything. The steak also tasted very bland. I wished they provided a sauce or rub on it. The vegetables were grilled to perfection, but again slightly bland.

dessert brasserie

I must admit that the best part of the experience was the desserts. My boyfriend ordered the Strawberry Pie (puff pastry, gelato, and housemade strawberry jam). The strawberry pie was puff pastry and strawberry heaven! It was crispy, flaky, and buttery. So good and so cute!  I ordered the Banana Split (devil’s food cake, caramelized banana, vanilla ice cream) as I saw a lot of photos on Yelp and kept dreaming about it. When it arrived to our table, the general manager kindly explained the different elements that made up this gorgeous dessert. Everything and all of the flavors really came together and tasted amazing! The devil’s food cake was absolutely to die for.

Our dinner cost less than I thought as the general manager gave us a City Tech discount. That was very kind of him and the hostess at Brasserie Seoul is so kind and friendly. Our experience could have been slightly better if maybe our entrees had a little extra flavor and juices to it. This isn’t your typical Korean restaurant, but this is definitely a gem and great addition to Downtown Brooklyn. I am looking forward to our next NYC Restaurant Week experience.

Have you ever been to NYC Restaurant Week?

French Napoleons

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Photograph by Sabrina Vasquez

 

This past week was my mother’s birthday and although most families celebrate birthday with cakes, my family easily finds other alternative desserts to celebrate with instead of the traditional cake that is commonly served. In the past, we have hosted birthday parties with desserts such as gelato, icees, doughnuts, and cheesecake. But, for this year in particular, my mother wanted to have a French inspired dessert which was napoleons. This dessert is complex in the processes of creating each component and then assembling it together in an appetizing way. Napoleon, also named mille-feuille, vanilla slice, or custard slice are usually consists of three layers of puff pastry alternating with two layers of pastry cream. Yet, this classic French pastry can differ from a variety of countries. An Australian version uses passion-fruit icing and infuses passion-fruit into the pastry cream as well. While a Italian version is a savory napoleon which usually has spinach, cheese, and pesto. Although, the exact origin of the napoleon is still unknown, the French name for it mille-feuille literally means cake of a thousand layers which refers to the many layers in the puff pastry first while the puff pastry is being made and as it flakes in layers as it is baking in the oven.

So as my mother’s birthday was approaching, I had to figure out a way to make one of the best napoleon to top all napoleons she has ever eaten as her birthday present. My sister agreed to help me as making the dessert is not complicated just complex.  So we agreed that she would make the pastry cream and bake the puff pastry while I would assemble the dessert to its entirety.

 

 

Napoleon Recipe

First, bake the puff pastry I purchased the Pepperidge Farm brand one and it works well. Simply, thaw it out first and then unfold it onto a cookie sheet. Then, bake until golden brown.

Now, the pastry cream …..

 

Ingredients:

2 cups half-and-half

½ cup sugar

Pinch salt

5 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons cornstarch

4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 20 seconds.

 

  1. When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.

 

Note on straining: This is key step because it will ensure that your finished pastry cream will be silky smooth with no lumps or bumps.

Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Assembling the pastry:

Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry into thirds.

In a small bowl whisk together:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp corn syrup, light

1 TBS butter, unsalted , melted

Slowly mix in:

3 TBS milk, whole

Add enough milk to keep the icing thick, but pourable.

Pour half of the icing into another bowl, and whisk in:

1 TBS cocoa powder, unsweetened

Pour chocolate icing in to a squeeze bottle.

To assemble your napoleon, place the bottom layer of baked puff pastry onto your serving dish. Spoon half of your cooled pastry cream along the center of the pastry.

Place your middle layer of baked puff pastry over the cream, gently pressing the pastry down and pushing the cream to the edges. Spoon the remainder of the cooled pastry cream along the center of the middle pastry layer.

Top with the icing-decorated top layer and gently press over the pastry cream, again, pushing the cream to the edges. And smooth out the pastry cream around the sides.

Choose one of the three cut pieces of puff pastry to be your top layer and using a soft scraper, cover with the white icing. Using the squeeze bottle containing the chocolate icing, pour horizontal chocolate stripes over the white icing. Working quickly and use the tip of a knife to drag through the chocolate stripes and mix into the white icing.

Allow to set in the refrigerator 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Recipe adapted from Family Spice