Monday, July 26, 2010

Sugar candy week recap

Sugar candy week was a busy one — just take a peek at some of the awesome confections we had the opportunity to make...

Meyer lemon lollipops

Cassis-pear patê de fruit

We usually complete a minimum of three recipes per class, so it can get a bit bananas in the kitchen. Believe it or not, last week we also made: vanilla marshmallows, strawberry marshmallows, nougat, chocolate nougat, caramels (plain, fleur de sel with walnuts, and the chocolate variety), pastilles, orange zest hard candy, French pralines, raspberry gummies, sour cherry pâte de fruit, and passion-apricot pâte de fruit.

The passion-apricot pâte de fruit is by far my favorite from the group. Pâte de fruit is France's answer to Chuckle candy — only softer, more deluxe, and made with real fruit.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

School, summer, and sangria

Hi...remember me? Yes, I know I've been neglecting my blog lately, but ever since school started I've been struggling to adjust to my new schedule. I've continued working on a part-time basis while attending school five days a week. I have to say, school is a bit intense, and we cover quite a bit of material within the six hours that I'm in class. So far, we've gone over only the basics - preparing pastry creams, butter creams, meringue, pâte à choux and sweet dough.

Tomorrow we begin learning how to create sugar candies and then we'll move on to ice cream. I'm hoping to have some new recipes to post soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a non-pastry recipe since it was such a big hit with my friends.

There is something about summer nights that makes me want to sip sangria by the gallon, and last night was certainly no exception. The weather was perfect — clear skies, warm temps minus the gross mugginess that is so typical of Chicago in July. My friends and I decided to gather together on the rooftop of my building to savor the summer air, and enjoy a little sake sangria. This was the first time I had ever made sangria sans vin, and it was AMAZING.

You've been warned: this potent cocktail is
cleverly disguised as a subdued, fruity drink.

 Sake Sangria
  • 4 cups sake
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 cups chopped fresh fruit, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwi or watermelon
  • soda water
In a bowl, combine the sake, orange juice, Grand Marnier, and sugar and stir until sugar is totally dissolved. Pour the mixture into a large pitcher, add the fruit chunks, cover, refrigerate, and allow to macerate for 4 to 6 hours.

To serve, fill large wineglasses with ice, add enough of the mixture to fill about 3/4 full, splash with soda water and serve with fruit.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Last hurrah 3-day weekend

Well, this is my last day before I officially enter into the grueling and inspiring world of French pastry. School begins early tomorrow morning and I am completely thrilled and nervous at the same time.

My first week will entail some not-so-sexy sanitation classes, which my friends say I should actually teach since I'm such a germaphobe. I'm required to obtain a sanitation certificate before I can even begin to work in the kitchen. I will also receive my uniforms complete with cute little hat (to my dismay, it's not a full-fledged chef's toque), books and a professional pastry tool kit.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought it would be fitting to make a traditional French pastry - brilliant, eh?

Okay, so snapping photos of ice cream on a
90-degree day can be a bit challenging.

Profiteroles are amazing little pastries made from dough called pâte à choux that is cooked on the stove top prior to baking. This method helps to achieve a firm, crisp pastry with a hollow center that can be filled with pastry cream, whipped cream or ice cream.

The profiteroles I had sampled in the past were served sandwiched around vanilla ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce. I decided to make mine with a little salted caramel ice cream, and I omitted the chocolate sauce. I found these recipes from two different sources, so I've posted them individually below.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2-1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as Maldon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.

Add 1-1/4 cups cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining cup cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel.

Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours. Freeze custard in ice cream maker (it will still be quite soft), then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up. Makes approximately 1 quart.

Adapted from Ina Garten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 extra-large eggs
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1-1/2 inches wide and 1-inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 18 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. (You can also use 2 spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

For serving, cut each profiterole in half crosswise, fill with a small scoop of ice cream and replace the top. Yields approximately 6 servings.