Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A-Game

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Hey you. Whatcha doin?

Surfing your collection of food blogs daily? Thinking about food? Maybe thinking about ice cream?

Snacking?

Maybe snacking on ice cream?

You like ice cream, I can tell. I do too!

Didn’t I just see you waiting in an obscenely long line for a scoop or two at Full Tilt, or Mollly Moons, or Humphry Slocombes, or Bi Rite, or Ici? In the rain?

It was you! You were the person eagerly asking for just one more sample, juggling 10 dirty paddle spoons as you reached to take the teensy bite from the scooper, promising the people behind you, “the last one, I swear.”

I’ll bet you have some pretty good ideas for ice cream flavors.

I’ll even bet you could win a competition with some of your original ideas.

Maybe you could even win this competition.

Winner not only gets to brag that their ice cream flavor is on Spur’s summer menu, but gets to do so at Spur, with 5 friends all eating your ice cream at an ice cream social.

And hey, I’m curious. What flavor did you make up?

Oh, I feel ya. Don’t wanna give the competition any ideas. Yeah, that’s cool. I get it. But I’ll just put this out there. I do moderate comments, you know. And I could, if need be, delete any comment that was super duper top secret after reading it.

Hmmmmmm, understood. I see where you are coming from. Well, I wasn’t going to enter the competition myself, that’s not really fair. Those guys are my friends, and I’ve already got my ice cream inventions on a menu. This is about your unsung creative genius. But you’re smart, intellectual property is valuable. In that case, just go ahead and email your ideas strait over to this guy…..

spellmans@spurseattle.com

And put “Spur Ice Cream Idea” in the subject box.

Now get out there and show them what you are made of!

Ice Cream for Sandwiches

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

With summer coming, I have been working on ice cream sandwiches. The format of the sandwich works well for the high volume Poppy, simple to plate, texturally interesting, nostalgic, and focused on a minimal amount of flavors; that of the cookie, the ice cream, and the dish of something or other to dip it in.

Currently, as per the relentless nagging request of one of the line cooks, Abby, I have vanilla ice cream sandwiched between gingersnaps, with lemon curd to dip it in.

However, one of my huge pet peeves in eating ice cream sandwiches, is that of the drippy soft ice cream that often inhabits the space between the cookie. I disdain the ice cream squirting out as I sink my teeth into the mixture, rushing to the back of my throat and covering my fingers.

So I set to the task of making an ice cream that would stay firm through the entire process of eating. This would require a hard ice cream, and one that has a slow melt down. The texture needed to endure the entire time it takes for the cook to pull it from the freezer, cut it and plate it, flag down a food runner, run the plate to the table, and then stand up to the 5 or 10 minutes it takes to eat the dessert.

I found my answer in cocoa butter.  Because cocoa butter has a high melting point, around 90 degrees, it stays very firm at cold temperatures, and is slow to melt. Those who have made an ice cream or two will recognize that chocolate ice creams are always hardest to scoop. This is exactly the quality I wanted to present inside the sandwich. By using deodorized cocoa butter, Mycryo, I have been able to give this quality to ice creams without chocolate flavor.

I have been substituting 3 percent of the total fat, which is at a high 16 percent, for cocoa butter, which hardens the texture just the way I wanted.  It also allows me to use a crisp cookie for the sandwich.  Because the ice cream offers enough resistance to the pressure of your teeth, they are able to cut through a crisp gingersnap.

The flavor combos of possible ice cream sandwiches have been discussed highly in the kitchen, as the sun has made it’s first appearance in Seattle in what feels like 6 months. Any requests?

In my head

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Wanna get inside my head?  Tune into the steady stream of constant thoughts of food that flood my world each day?

Then follow me on twitter!  @Deensie

I can’t promise it’s all food.  But since i think about food 90 percent of the time, it’s a good bet it’s mostly about food.  And a small taste of the life I lead outside the kitchen!

L’Oeuf

Friday, February 27th, 2009

A local poet, Rebecca Hoogs, whom I have had the lucky aquaintence of for a few years now, printed this little gem of hers in the Stranger today.

Since the egg is a cornerstone of the culinary world, I thought you too would find beauty in this playful look at our lovely L’Ouef.

837b/1235761301-l_oeuf.jpg

Ghosts

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Last night, I drove by Veil.  You remember, that modern fine dining restaurant I worked at until last July?  The one that closed in September?

The papers said it was one of the first casualties of the economy.  A restaurant barely in in its third year, taken down by the tightening belts of the diners in the city.

I spent exactly one year at Veil, hired alongside Johnny Zhu, who left within weeks of me.  Our small crew, who predated our tenure by a month or so, stayed on until they got the bad news, at which point they scrambled to find a new paycheck.

Towards the end of my time there, it was clear Veil was ailing.  The ownership was doing all it could to keep their business floating.  The customers came in erratically.  Brunch service was added.  Sunday dinner service was cut.

I can’t imagine too many things sadder than watching your restaurant die.  It was hard to stomach as an employee.  Watching the numbers in the book read zero twice a week.  Seeing your cooks loose half their shifts and shake their heads at paychecks that won’t cover rent.  Checks that at times bounce.

It was sad in part because Veil held so much hope for me as a pastry chef.  The dining room was modern and absolutely stunning, stark white, veiled and back lit with pinks and ambers.  It set the stage for me to bring striking modern presentations, creative flavors, new textures.  When I returned from my stage at WD-50, it was clear I needed a creative outlet, and Veil was the first place I took a resume.  It was the only place in Seattle I knew I’d have the freedom to do exactly what I wanted, no compromises.

When I drove by last night, the sun was setting, casting pinks and ambers through the windows, a ghostly reminder of the light that once illuminated Veil.  Everything is there, the marble communal table, the Philip Stark chairs, pots, flatware.  The tables sit as if in wait for their next service.

It gave me chills, seeing the empty restaurant left exactly as it was the last day it was alive, a for sale sign the only indication this restaurant wouldn’t be opening that evening.  I pulled over and pressed my nose against the glass, watching the sunset color the restaurant one last time, my memories casting shadowy figures in the kitchen, ghosts striding through the dining room.

It made me sad.

Siem Reap Asian Cuisine, Long Beach, California

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I’m in Long Beach for the week. The spot I’m stuck in is a concrete jungle of hotels, convention spots, chain restaurants, and bad local restaurants that are more focused on selling alcohol than making good food. I did some basic research to see what we might find on our one off night in terms of decent local fare. I read somewhere that there was a significant local Cambodian community that had their own little Cambodia neighborhood with lots of restaurants. FWIW Yelp felt that Siem Reap Asian Cuisine was the best of the bunch so off we went.

If you’re opening a restaurant featuring cuisine from Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos, or even Vietnam, it’s semi-common practice to claim to also offer Chinese or Thai food. Ethnic entrepreneurs worry that the local American population won’t come unless there’s something they recognize. Fair or not, I usually won’t go to Vietnamese restaurants that offer Chinese food. I figure, they’re kind of all over the place and their food will be too.

I am no expert on Cambodian food, despite (or maybe because of) spending a week there a couple of years ago. The country was beautiful. And finding a driver that would take me to non-tourist food establishments was difficult. In some of the poorest neighborhoods the main feature of each restaurant appeared to be the TV. Diners would sit at long tables, all on one side facing the TV so they could watch while they ate. The restaurants I finally got to eat at all shared beef as a central ingredient. It’s typically paired with some cool crunchy vegetables, and some citrus accent. This is a vast over-simplification but it’s an oft-present signature.

Siem Reap Asian Cuisine is a fine example of Cambodian cuisine. I’m a big fan of meat on sticks, and Cambodians don’t disappoint. One of my favorite Cambodian dishes, Beef Lok Lac, was probably the best of the meal from my perspective. The small pieces of beef were coated in a caramel-like glaze, all savory with hints of molasses. Pairing them with cabbage and cucumber as well as the sauce of lime juice and an enormous amount of pepper was absolutely delicious. Some of the other steak items didn’t have as much flavor on their own but my sense is that you’re expected to coat them in the various sauces you’re offered. Another highlight was a small bowl of curried ground pork meatballs. For folks used to eating some of the bigger players on the American Asian cuisine scene (Chinese, Japanese Thai) having these interesting new flavors are a nice change of pace.

Needless to say, we had a lovely meal. And the family that runs Siem Reap Asian Cuisine were kind and generous hosts. They called us a cab and it took quite awhile. We were afraid we were keeping them late but they made it clear that they wanted us to wait inside until the cab came. The said it was too dangerous to wait outside. We thought they were kidding. I’m pretty sure now they weren’t. In my quest for good Cambodian food it appears I’d led our little party into a bad part of town. Oops. I suppose that’s the cost of trying to get a decent meal in Long Beach.

As the cookie crumbles

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I smiled to myself as I flipped through the 5 recipes contained in the first chapter of Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts, taking delight in her notation that her “favorite” recipe for chocolate chip cookies strait-up was temporary.   It’s a life long obsession for many pastry chefs, that of chasing the perfect chocolate chip cookie, one I like Falkner have been pursuing for years.

While I don’t make chocolate chip cookies with the once-a-week frequency Falkner admits to, I have been remaking these ubiquitous treats since I was but a  wee thing.  For many of us with a passion for baking, chocolate chip cookies are the first recipe we mastered.  I remember at the tender age of 12, beaming with pride as a batch of cookies was in the oven.  Not at the dough on the worn sheetpans in the oven, successfully melting into golden disks, the aroma teasing my little sisters as they licked the beaters clean of raw dough.  I was looking at the dirty dishes in the sink.   I had honed my process to dirty the absolute minimal amount of dishes; the two beaters and bowl of my mom’s aging sunbeam mixmaster, the white sifter with a red triggered handle and daisy decal chipping from the side, a bowl to sift the flour into, a rubber spatula, 2 measuring cups, a teaspoon, and a spoon from the silverware drawer for dropping.  And if my sisters did their jobs well, the beaters would be clean before they hit the suds!

Perhaps a glimpse at the pastry chef I was to become, I was as interested in the entire process as I was the results, which I watched carefully.

My recipe at the time was taken from the back of the tollhouse package, which I learned to tear carefully lest I rip important information from sight as I snuck a few chips from the bag.  It served me, and millions of other cookie baking Americans, well.  However, as soon as I began pursuing my career in desserts seriously, I began to stray.  I have tried more recipes than I can remember, resulting in good, bad, and ugly.  However, the most important result I have experienced is finding my preferences.

Preferred by myself is a cookie thick with chips, half milk, half very dark.  At home this means Ghiridelli, in the restaurant it’s chunks from what ever I have on hand, Valrhona at the moment, Cacao Barry and Callabeaut at other times.  I enjoy a flatter cookie, with a crackly crisp shell, that yields between the teeth easily to a dense chewy center.  My cookies have a smidge of extra salt, the zest of an orange, or if I am feeling frisky, lemon, and I love the flavor of brown sugar, as dark as I can find.  If there are to be nuts, I like them to be toasted cashews.  Good vanilla extract, real vanilla extract, is a must, and I have long since allowed gold medal brand flour near my baked goods, trading that bitter flour for the better tasting King Arthur.

But like Falkner said, her favorite chocolate chip cookie is a transient friend, and my current favorite is just that, current.  Two years ago I couldn’t be bothered to make anything but the recipe I pulled from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course, scented with orange zest and rich with ground cashew flour.  Chewy, yes.  Double chips, absolutely.  A little salty, check.  And it introduced me to the addition of orange zest.

This year, however, my favorite is a recipe found online, from one of those homey recipe sharing sites, titled simply “bakery style chocolate chip cookies.”  What caught my eye was the small amount of butter used in the recipe.  Melted butter.  What the heck I thought, I’ll give it a shot.  I haven’t looked back.

This recipe uses the concept that liquid fat coats the flour molecules much more efficiently, making for a more tender product.  And because the fat isn’t aerated by creaming the granulated sugar with it, there are very few air pockets for the chemical leavener to expand during the baking process, leaving a denser cookie.  I also use granulated sugar with larger crystals, not that superfine bakers stuff, which dissolves at a slower rate and migrates to the surface of the cookie during the baking process for that crackly crisp shell I love so much.

I simply added the orange zest and double chocolate I love so much, cashews if they are around, and presto a new favorite was born.  I have to say, with the ease of melting the butter rather than tempering and creaming it to a specific stage, this recipe might just stick around for a while.

As for you, are you the cakey cookie type?  Do you like them tall and fluffy?  Under baked and raw in the center?  Baked firm and crunchy?  Milk chocolate?  Semisweet?  Dark?  Peanut butter chocolate chip, or perhaps oatmeal chocolate chip?  Maybe you even like the variations with the box of vanilla pudding in them, or from a tub of premade dough!  (No judgement from me!!)  Does anyone else miss the mint chocolate chips they used to sell?

Here’s my current favorite recipe, for you to try along your own quest for your perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Current, fleeting, and sitting on my counter cooling while I write and ponder what the addition of ground oats might do to them.  You know what the kids are saying these days, best friends forever for now!

For the best results, use a scale and use my gram measurements.  I will provide approximate cup/spoon measurements, but it won’t be exactly the same.

300 grams King Arthur all purpose flour (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons)

3 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon)

7 grams kosher salt (1 1/3 tsp)

170 grams melted butter, cooled (3/4 cup)

225 grams dark brown sugar ( 1 cup)

100 grams larger crystal white sugar (1/2 cup)

1 egg

1 yolk

5 grams neilsen massey Madagascar vanilla extract (1 tsp)

1 orange

200 grams dark chocolate chips (1 1/2 cup)

200 grams milk chocolate chips (1 1/2 cup)

( optional 100 grams chopped toasted cashews) (3/4 cup)

1.  Place the flour and baking powder in a bowl and whisk together until even.  Do not sift through a sifter as it will aerate the flour too much.  Set aside.

2.  Place the sugars in the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer (or prepare to use a large work bowl, a firm spoon, and your arm muscles).  Using a microplane zester, grate the zest from the orange directly over the sugars, which will collect every last drop of orange oil that is released.  Use your fingers to mix the sugars and orange zest, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

3.  Add the egg,  yolk, melted butter, salt, and vanilla and paddle until smooth and even.

4.  Scrape the sides of the bowl well, working any uneven bits back into the mixture until even.

5.  Add the flour and mix on low until the dough comes together.  Add the chips and optional nuts and mix until even.

6.  Drop cookies onto cookie sheets and bake at 325 until done.  I use a  portion scoop with an ejection button found at kitchen supply shops or on amazon, often used as ice cream scoops or sometimes conveniently labeled as cookie scoops.  This will not only provide equally sized cookies which will bake evenly, but it will make perfectly round cookies as well.  Scoop 12 balls of cookie dough onto your sheet pan, which I always line with parchment, and press them down with your hand to a thickness just under half an inch.  This promotes the cookie to spread and be flat and even on top, just like you see in bakeries.

7.  Bake for 6 minutes, turn the pan around front to back and rotate it from the top of the oven to the bottom, or vice versa, and bake for 3 to 6 more minutes.  The top will crackle and will start to hint at golden brown when they are done.  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet until they are firm enough to transfer without breaking, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Assumed Origins

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

A discussion was had yesterday about how the restaurant would present creme brulee.  A dish as classic as they come, and one I have yet to serve on my 4 month young menu, we debated the need for a nibble on the side of the ramekin, a cookie most likely.

“Classicists would argue that the dish stands alone, and needs no adornment,” I brought to point.  “But they would also argue that it should never be flavored with anything but vanilla bean.”

Then someone said something that stunned me.

“Well, I don’t know who these “classicists” are, the dish was invented in the 1970′s by Le Cirque.”

Huh?

I realized then and there that I had been functioning on the assumption that this dish, the noble creme brulee, was as old as France.  I had no factual basis for this assumption.  I just chalked it up to classic cuisine, taught early in my formal training at a learning institute based heavily on Escoffier.

But still, that couldn’t be right could it?

So I picked up Escoffier, and no dice.  No recipe for creme brulee is contained in the monolithic tome.  “Holy crap” I thought, could this possibly be?

Breath abated, I typed, “Creme brulee origin” into the google tool bar and waited for the results.

“It’s old!” I sighed.

Because google is arguably not a food historian, it gave me conflicting information as to the facts behind this dish’s origin.  But one thing remains true, records of an egg and cream custard with burnt sugar on top date back to the 17th century.  So my foundation remains stable.

It was just a little surprise to remember that I do function on assumptions every day.  My brain fills in the blanks so to speak, making little guesses, hypothesis, connections between the things I do know to create a whole picture for me.  It’s a good lesson to remember that those assumptions I haven’t solidified with fact are just that, and to speak of them as such, lest I unwittingly turn my assumptions into another young cooks facts!

And to all you creme brulee classicists who scoff at my brulee’s flavored with more than vanilla, you should know that the original creme brulee’s were most likely flavored with cinnamon, orange blossom and rose waters, bay leaf, or the peel of citrus.  And you might want to sit down for this…… they were also likely were studded with candied fruits and nuts.

Line Cook Pastry Days

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

I came across a post on the blog line cook, an incredibly well worded, to the point piece about a young line cooks short, very short time as the pastry cook.

Every line cook should read this.  No, strike that.  Every line cook should work pastry production for a part of their life.  But I know that just flat out won’t happen.  So in consolation, every line cook should read this post.

Thank you

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Since being at Poppy, for all of 5 days total, I have received more phone calls and mail through the restaurant than ever.  In fact, if you added all the times a person called me through a restaurant I have worked for, and mailed something to me at the restaurant, I have still received more efforts of communication at Poppy than all combined.

I keep saying to myself, “I have been her for 3 days, how on earth do these people know where I am?”

When I went to my favorite breakfast diner, the boys behind the counter looked at me and smiled knowingly.  Sikey said, “what’s up girl?” to which Niko replied, “yeah, we know what’s up.”  When they asked about the new job I replied, “how on earth do you know?!?  I have only had the job for two days!”

It seems the planets have aligned to make this job my recognizable home.

Long story short, I received a hard copy of an article written by one of our readers, and I wanted to thank him.

Link here to read it, published this summer in the Gateway.