May 22, 2009

Latest CakeWalk Column on Cupcakes Take The Cake

Be sure to check out this week's installment of CakeWalk, my weekly column over at Cupcakes Take The Cake. You'll get some insight into my fondant class that I attended this week in Brooklyn!

May 19, 2009

Great pastry quote.

"The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry." ~ Antonin Carême

May 15, 2009

Check out Cupcakes Take The Cake for my weekly column today!

I just posted my weekly CakeWalk column over at Cupcakes Take the Cake. Head on over and check it out!

This week's topic is the importance of a moist cupcake (Please note that I loathe the word "moist," but sometimes it must be used...).

May 14, 2009

Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache - my refrigerator's best friend

In March, I was lucky enough to attend the book event for A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, better known as the author of the blog Orangette. I've been making my way through her book, but like a good dessert, I'm taking my time. I want to savor every essay, every recipe. Also, Molly is from Oklahoma too, so there are parts of the book that I find myself getting sidetracked with because I know the exact location she's talking about, and in some cases, the people she mentions. It's a terrific book, and I suggest that if you haven't already picked yourself up a copy, you should. Not only are her essays fabulous, but the recipes are something worth writing home about.

So far, I've tried two of the recipes, and after reading what I just wrote, I feel a little lazy. I've been baking other things of course, just not from her book. And actually, one out of the two recipes is not a dessert or even sweet - it's a delicious culinary invention called bouchons au thon. which apparently literally means "tuna corks," which is pretty accurate after you see the finished product.

But onto to the sweets recipe. Readers of this blog know of my fascination with the French macaron - the delicate meringue baked with a delicious ganache filling of your choice. One of my fondest memories of being in Paris with my mom was our incessant macaron eating. We made fun of each other every time one of us would order two - one for now, and one for later. "Later" in this case was two seconds after we had finished the first.

I find French macarons to be little pieces of art, and one of my favorite sights is a case full of different flavored ones, tiny masterpieces that not even Renoir could capture if he tried.

But the macaron has a secret. An American secret. The macaroon - a lump of coconut baked to a golden yellow that can be found anywhere from an upscale patisserie to the sweets aisle at Whole Foods. Looks wise, they don't hold a candle to their foreign cousin. They just sit there, like the the quiet, awkward neighbor we are forced to invite over to our house for the annual Christmas tree trimming party because we know they know we're having a fête.

But just like my beloved French macaron, I too have a secret. Perhaps it's the patriotism I was born respect or the fact I had to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day in public school for 13 years (I went to morning kindergarten, so I got to recite it then too) I adore the American macaroon. I buy the "two bite" versions sold at Whole Foods, and when visiting Oklahoma City, I'll pick one up as I walk out of the Greek deli I frequent (why a Greek deli is selling these, I don't know). So, I was delighted to find a chapter on macaroons in Molly's book, and of course, I had to make them.

Molly's recipe is simple and I was surprised with how something so easy to make could be so good. And even better, they are kept in the refrigerator and taste even better the next day. I noticed that my fridge had a friendlier glow about it during the two days the macaroons called it home, so you don't have to try hard to imagine what a hit they were when I treated my office mates to some afternoon snacks.

These macaroons are one hundred percent better than anything I've bought at Whole Foods (the Greek deli is a strong contender though). You can see the full recipe here by visiting Orangette, but as mentioned, I suggest you pick up her book as well. For anyone passionate about food, it's a must read.

May 13, 2009

Exciting upcoming dessert events at the Astor Center

The month of May is full of exciting dessert related events in New York City, and the Astor Center is proving to be the hostess with the mostess.

First up, on May 21st the Astor Center, along with Citysearch and iSi North America, will present "Sugar & Whips," in what is being described as an "evening of pure decadence." Six renowned New York City pastry chefs will be serving up desserts, cocktails and even a coffee concoction or two for your pleasure and celebrating the finer (in my opinion, the finest) things in life: Dessert! Pastry chefs in attendance will include Dominique Ansel of Daniel, Heather Bertinetti of Convivio and Alto, Johnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges, Michael Laiskonis of Le Bernardin, Nancy Olson of Gramercy Tavern, and Robert Truit of Corton. Also, the French Culinary Institute's master mixologist, David Arnold, will be showcasing his incredible skills throughout the evening.

I saw Michael Laiskonis last month when he was part of a food blogging panel at the New York Institute of Technology, so I'm excited to see him again, but this time, more in his element i.e. making desserts instead of chatting about technology and blogs.

"Sugar and Whips" takes place, as mentioned, on Thursday, May 21st, in the Astor Center Gallery from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The cost is $25. You can purchase tickets by visiting here.

Next up is "Marshmallow Fluff: A Gastronomica Forum," featuring Cathy Kaufman, Darra Goldstein, Katie Liesener, and Mimi Graney, on May 26th.

I for one am stoked for this particular panel, because as you may recall, Marshmallow Fluff is the key ingredient in one of my all-time favorite recipes - my grandmother's fudge. You can see the recipe by clicking here.

According to the event description, this event will cover everything you wanted to know about Fluff Marshmallow Crème - the origins of this illicit "food" product, what exactly makes Fluff, the controversy behind this delicious sweet treat and how at the end of the day, you either love it or hate and how even the government chimed in on this most random of ingredients.

A fluff cocktail will be served, as well as fluffernutter sandwiches and other fluff-inspired snacks.

"Marshmallow Fluff" will take place on Tuesday, May 26th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Astor Center Gallery. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by clicking here.

May 12, 2009

A little bit of housekeeping on Puff and Choux

Check out the new header on the blog! Thanks to my sister Whitney Porch for the design work and helping me figure out html code enough to get the new art up.

I've got another idea for one more header, but I need to do a little prep work first. Once I get myself organized (hopefully sometime this week), we can upload the second option and everyone can vote.

I'd love to hear your feedback (please make it constructive!).

May 11, 2009

The Brooklyn Kitchen Cupcake Cook Off TONIGHT!

For those of you in the New York area, I'll be judging the Brooklyn Kitchen's 3rd Annual Cupcake Cook Off Tonight in Williamsburg. The fun will be taking place at Union Pool, which is just off the Lorimer stop on the L train. Feel free to swing by between 7 and 9 p.m. to say hello!

Event Details
What: The Brooklyn Kitchen's 3rd Annual Cupcake Cook Off
Where: Union Pool, 484 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY (Off of the Lorimer L stop)
When: Monday, May 11th from 7 to 9 p.m.

May 8, 2009

CakeWalk: The Savory Cupcake Dilemma of 2009 is posted on Cupcakes Take The Cake!

My weekly CakeWalk column has just been posted on Cupcakes Take the Cake. This week's post is entitled "The Savory Cupcake Dilemma of 2009". Check it out!

Also, you can see last week's column ("Will the real buttercream icing please stand up?") here.

May 7, 2009

CIA Baking & Pastry Student Wins Scholarship that Brings Money, Travel and Fame

The Culinary Institute of America has just announced that pastry and baking student Kathryn Stork has won the Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter/Food & Wine Scholarship after completing a 30-week intensive course at the CIA. Stork will soon graduate with a Baking & Pastry Certificate and will then head to Ireland to further explore the benefits of Kerrygold butter, presumably.

The full press release, and winning recipe, is below:

CIA Baking & Pastry Student Wins Scholarship that Brings Money, Travel and Fame

St. Helena, CA, May 6, 2009 – It wasn't long ago that Kathryn Stork regularly watched her idol, Martha Stewart, bake inspiring creations then head to the kitchen of her Port Ludlow, WA home to channel the inspiration into her own baking. Now, Stork is about to graduate from the Baking & Pastry Certificate Program at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, CA. She is also about to travel to Ireland with a $10,000 scholarship, and she will be featured in the June issue of Food & Wine magazine as the winner of the joint Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, Food & Wine Scholarship.

Stork received the scholarship after creating a recipe for Apricot Cheese Tartlets with Butter Balsamic Caramel, Peach Whipped Cream, and Crushed Butter Toffee (recipe follows). She also wrote an essay about the importance of using good quality butter when creating baked goods.

"It makes a huge difference in the final product," says Stork. "I've learned that butter quality can be influenced by how well the cows are taken care of, what kinds of dairy practices are used and whether it includes preservatives like salt."

Stork will graduate from the CIA in May after completing 30-weeks of intense training in baking & pastry. She plans to make her trip to Ireland in the fall, and in the meantime she will head to Seattle to decorate cakes in a pastry shop. She hopes to open her own pastry business one day.

"I love the idea of having a little pastry shop that is a comfortable haven for people to relax and unwind," says Stork. "It would be a dream come true and I plan to work hard to see that it does."

Apricot Cheese Tartlets with Butter Balsamic Caramel, Peach Whipped Cream, and Crushed Butter Toffee

24 servings

Tart Crust:
* 4 cups flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup cold butter, diced 1/4"
* 8 tablespoons heavy cream

* 3 packages (24 oz) cream cheese
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 6 egg yolks
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 3/4 cup apricot puree (from fresh, peeled, and pitted apricots)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 3/4 cup sugar
* 3 tablespoons water
* 6 tablespoons sweet cream butter
* 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* pinch of salt

Toffee Garnish:
* 1/2 cup sweet cream butter
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 tablespoons water
* 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
* 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
* 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Whipped Cream:
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
* 4 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon peach schnapps

* Mixer with whip and paddle attachments
* 24-cup muffin tin

1. Tart Shells: In a medium-sized mixer bowl, combine flour and salt. Add butter and toss to coat the butter in flour. Using a paddle attachment, mix until butter is broken into pea-sized pieces. Add the cream and mix on low until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Divide dough in half, and place each half onto a sheet of parchment, form each into a disk, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat standard oven to 350 degrees. Roll each disc of dough out 1/8" thick. Cut 24, 5" diameter rounds of dough (save extra dough for another use). Place one dough round into each of the 24 unlined muffin cups, pressing to cover bottom and sides. Trim off any excess with paring knife. Chill 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 24, 5 inch squares of parchment paper. Prick each tartlet shell with fork, place one parchment square in each tartlet, and cover bottom with dried beans or rice. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges begin to turn light brown. Remove from oven, remove paper with beans, and cool completely.

3. Filling: Place cream cheese in medium-sized mixer bowl. Using paddle attachment, mix on low speed to soften. Add sugar and mix on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn speed down to low, and slowly add egg yolks one at a time, mixing fully after each addition. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla, apricot puree, and salt. Mix just to combine. Divide filling evenly between the tart shells, filling two thirds to three quarters full. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges appear firm and the center is still slightly soft. Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Sauce: In a large saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Place pan over medium high heat and cook until the mixture is dark golden in color, being careful to swirl the pan rather than stirring. Add butter, balsamic vinegar, cream, and salt, and cook over medium heat to combine flavors and reduce slightly, one minute. Remove from heat and cool. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

5. Toffee garnish: In heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar, stirring constantly. Add water and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring, to hard crack stage (300 degrees F). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almonds. Pour into a well buttered disposable pan with sides. Once cool, using a meat mallet or heavy skillet, crush into small pieces for sprinkling as a garnish.

6. Whipped Cream Topping: Place all ingredients expect schnapps in a chilled mixing bowl. Chill 30 minutes. Add schnapps. Beat with whip attachment on medium high speed until mixture holds soft peaks.

7. Plating: Invert tartlets onto a plastic wrap-lined board. Flip tartlets over so filling is on top. If sauce is too thick, place in microwave on low to thin slightly. Drizzle each serving plate with balsamic caramel. Place tart on top of drizzle. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream. Sprinkle with the crumbles of crushed toffee. Serve immediately.

May 5, 2009

She did it again! Thank you Julia Child!

Before it becomes cliche to say that Julia Child changed your life, I'm going to state right here that I'm claiming this before the film came out.


A quote to live by...

“Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?” ~ William Shakespeare

In Today's New York Times: Happy Birthday to Me, With a Spanish Lilt

In less than 12 hours, I've read two references to “The Cake Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, so I'm now considering this a sign from somewhere that I'm supposed to have this book. Consider it done Universe. I know when you're trying to give me a hint.

Secondly, the New York Times has a fantastic piece today about writer Melissa Clark's Spanishy (I just made that word up) birthday cake, which was adapted from the almond sour cream cake in Beranbaum's book. This cake doesn't really seem my speed and I've never really read an article where I thought,"Man, that cake kind of sounds pretentious. I don't we'd get along very well." But to each their own. Check out the full article here.

And along the same lines of the everyday cake, was is your favorite birthday cake? Mine is, easily, coconut cake.

May 2, 2009

CakeWalk- my new column debuts on Cupcakes Take The Cake!

Yesterday, my debut post on Cupcakes Take the Cake went live. My new weekly column is called CakeWalk and you can read a new installment every Friday. I can't tell you how excited I am to be writing for Cupcakes Take the Cake. Be sure to check out the site!

And if you're interested, you can read my first column here.
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