February 28, 2010

Welcome to the neighborhood Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Store!


I thought I'd post a quick note to announce a new face in North Brooklyn. On Saturday, the wonderful folks at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream opened the doors to their first ice cream store in Greenpoint, and as a welcoming present to the neighborhood gave away free ice cream and samples of baked goods. What a great first impression!

You might have heard of Van Leeuwen already - their beautifully renovated mail trucks have been serving up ice cream all over Brooklyn and Manhattan for the past two summers.

As I've noted several times on this blog, the vanilla ice cream they produce is probably the best vanilla ice cream I've ever tasted. So, if you're in the neighborhood, be sure to stop on by the new Van Leeuwen store - you won't be disappointed.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Store
632 Manhattan Avenue (btw Bedford and Nassau)
Brooklyn, NY 11222

February 24, 2010


Can you really go wrong when you base the title of a blog post off of a David Bowie song? I submit you can not. What do I mean? Changes. That's what.

For those of you that swing on by Puff & Choux on a regular basis, you've noticed that the site looks a bit snazzier as of today. Well, the new look is all thanks to the outstanding photography skills of Brian Witte and the brilliant design capabilities of John Kapenga. I mean really - can the new Puff & Choux logo look more amazing? I love these guys so much and can't even begin to explain how awesome they are. A round of applause please for Mr. Witte and Mr. Kapenga.

And I'm not done. I've got more to show you guys and will be unveiling some cool new aspects to the site soon. One of my goals this year is talk more about my community and the people in it (I'm talking to you fellow Brooklyn bloggers, chefs, etc.), as well as the various cities I visit (I'm talking to you non-New York bloggers, chefs, etc.).

2010 is going to be a big year for Puff & Choux - just wait and see!

365 days: Happy 1 year anniversary Puff & Choux!

Eating a voodoo doughnut at Portland's legendary doughnut shop of the same name - just one of my adventures since founding Puff & Choux last year.

Exactly a year ago today, I wrote my very first post on Puff & Choux. I remember stressing out over what I should name this little blog, and honestly, I can’t recall how I finally settled upon the name. Regardless, it’s been a life-changing year.

In one year, I’ve been laid off from two jobs, dated a few dudes, traveled to some cool and some not so cool locales, and have experienced some deep down lows and some great highs, but one thing has always been a constant: this blog.

Puff & Choux has introduced me to some of the most amazing New Yorkers this city has to offer and has opened my eyes to what might be the world’s most vibrant food community, everything from the importance of the Greenmarket to just how many earth shatteringly cool movements Brooklynites are starting in this modern day food revolution. From placing 2nd in Bon Appetit’s Blog Envy Party Recipe Contest to meeting Judith Jones and Amanda Hesser (I know it sounds nuts, but these women are amazing), I can’t tell you just how much fun I’ve had this year.

More importantly, Puff & Choux showed me that I have a passion and that food writing is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

To all the people I’ve met in the food community over the last year, I can’t tell you how happy I am to call you my friends. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for welcoming me into your ranks. I can’t think of a better group of people to call my peeps.

And to you, the reader, thank you. As someone who has always considered writing a very personal act, I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to know that you not only visit this blog, but you keep coming back. I get a little teary just thinking about how much you mean to me.

So, here’s to another 365 days of food writing, new friends and brilliant old ones, and just plain old fun. If it’s anything like the last 365, I can’t wait for the adventure on the horizon.

February 23, 2010

No brainer desserts. Genius.


The first dinner party I ever hosted was last year for the Easter holiday. Similar to Thanksgiving, Easter is a holiday that many New Yorkers are somewhat orphaned. I don't come from a religious family, but we always had an Easter supper, and I think many of my friends had the same experience growing up.

However, airline tickets are expensive and Easter doesn't really qualify as a must as far a traveling home is concerned. Granted, I'm pretty certain my mom would have an amazing Easter basket waiting for me if I did come home, but American Airlines doesn't seem to want to get on board with my travel budget.

So, for Easter last year I went all out. I rented a long banquet table, nice china and made sure it was a table setting fit for only the fanciest diners in Soho that evening. Then it came down to the food.

I ordered a spiral cut ham from a local butcher, and the rest of the meal was sort of ad-libbed. I bought some canned veggies to heat up right before dinner, which I now think is lame, but frankly, my kitchen confidence as far as main meals go wasn't quite up to speed at that time. The fact that I did bake the lemon tart I served for dessert redeems me a little bit, at least in my mind. The one lesson I took away from the experience is that dinner parties are serious business and pre-planning is a must. Even though I planned, I spent more time in the kitchen than mingling with my guests.

Since then, I've been thinking of other desserts that require very little kitchen time, allowing one to spend more time with guests instead of hovering over the stove. And now, I think I've found a perfect recipe that requires minimal attention but produces beautiful results: Apple Cider Poached Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream.

I wrote about this dessert over at Examiner.com where I serve as the Brooklyn Dessert Examiner. As I noted in the previous article, the use of apple cider, not apple juice, is important to note before getting started. Most farmer's markets carry high-quality apple cider, and believe me - it's worth seeking out.

Secondly, vanilla ice cream is a great accompaniment to this recipe, and Brooklyn’s own Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream in Vanilla is recommended.

Apple Cider Poached Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream

4 c. of apple cider (NOT apple juice)
1 cinnamon stick
2 ripe pears, peeled (any variety of pears will do)
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Vanilla ice cream
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Pecans, as garnish (if desired)

In a small saucepan, pour 4 cups of apple cider and one cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer.

Peel 2 pears, and if you prefer, halve and core. Leave stems on as this adds to the presentation and allows you to pick the pears out of the pan without damaging the fruit’s body. Place pears in apple cider, cover, and let simmer for 45 minutes. If your pears are not quite ripe, you might need to add an addition 15 to 20 minutes to poaching time.

On two small plates, sprinkle cinnamon powder for presentation. Remove pears from simmering cider by using tongs and lifting by the pears’ stems. Place pears on cinnamon-sprinkled plates. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to cider and cinnamon stick mixture and whisk until a minimally thick sauce forms.

Scoop out a single serving of vanilla ice cream and add next to plated pears. With a small spoon, drizzle apple cider and cinnamon sauce over pears and ice cream. If you like, sprinkle chopped walnuts over pears and cream. Now, feel free indulge in what might be the easiest winter dessert ever created.

Serves 2.

February 19, 2010

Finally, something my roommate wants to eat


Ironically, I live with a roommate who doesn't like sweets. Blueberry muffins? No. Quick sour cream coffee cake? Forget it. Spiced pear cake? Puh-lease. Oatmeal cookies? You must be insane. I think you get the idea.

The only real problem this poses is that the temptation for me to eat everything my baking yields is strong. Luckily, I have friends that are always down for some free baked goods, so I haven't started sporting an elastic band on my jeans (yet).

I had become used to Matt, my roommate, never touching the goods that lie under the cake dome on our kitchen table, but then something happened - cheddar, bacon, and chive biscuits came into our life and turned everything upside down.

First off, some of you are probably thinking that with the inclusion of words such as cheddar, bacon, and chives, we aren't talking about dessert. Not to get too far ahead of myself, all you need to do is add two heaping spoonfuls of honey from Tremblay Apiaries to see how this biscuit could be interpreted as a savory dessert. Also, I ate plenty of these bad boys late at night, so I consider them a dessert.

But let's move on. I whipped up this biscuit recipe after it was featured in the February issue of Bon Appetit. I made sure to time my baking to coincide right before a massive winter storm in New York City, believing that I could live off of the biscuits until I felt like putting on snow boots and trudging through the sludge that is inevitably left after a snow fall in this city.

The recipe was easy enough and I was proud of the way the biscuits came out. After they had cooled, I put them under the aforementioned cake dome and casually mentioned to my roommate that he could help himself as I walked out the front door to meet friends.

Considering that he hasn't once touched anything that I've produced from our oven, you could imagine my shock when I returned home and my roomie greeted me with,"I tried a biscuit - they're pretty good." And just imagine how shocked I was when walking into the kitchen the next morning and noticing that at least four more biscuits were missing. To say that he really liked those biscuits is an understatement.

As someone who takes great pleasure in feeding other people and seeing the look on someone's face when they bite into a particularly pleasurable treat from my kitchen, I'm glad I finally found something Matt likes to eat. I think these cheddar, bacon, and chive biscuits are going to be a regular guest in our oven from now on.

One little note before you get started. I think the quality of bacon really makes a difference in this recipe. I'm lucky enough to live near a fantastic butcher in Brooklyn - The Meat Hook. If you have a local butcher that you frequent or having been meaning to pay your first visit to their shop, I encourage you to do so. I think your biscuits will benefit greatly from something more than grocery store packaged bacon.

Cheddar, Bacon, and Chive Biscuits
from Bon Appetit

6 thick-cut bacon slices
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus melted butter for brushing
2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk
Honey (optional)

Position rack just above center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then chop coarsely.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter cubes. Blend until coarse meal forms, about 30 seconds.Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Add cheddar cheese, fresh chives, and chopped bacon; toss to blend. Gradually add buttermilk, stirring to moisten evenly (batter will feel sticky).

Using lightly floured hands, drop generous 1/2 cup batter for each biscuit onto prepared baking sheet, spacing batter mounds about 2 inches apart.

Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Brush biscuits lightly with melted butter. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve biscuits warm or at room temperature with honey, if desired.

Makes 12 biscuits.

February 17, 2010

Technology! Cookies! Together as one!

For those cookie eating nerds out there, I dedicate this Vimeo find to you.  You're welcome.

Adobe Photoshop Cook from Lait Noir on Vimeo.

February 9, 2010

City Bakery Hot Chocolate reviews have moved to new tumblr.com site

While sipping away on my daily dose of hot chocolate this afternoon at the City Bakery, I decided that tumblr.com makes more sense for my short hot chocolate tasting reviews.

The site is pretty, pretty awesome and I think you'll agree that it's a better fit. Enjoy!


February 4, 2010

I'm under the covers with a bottle of vodka i.e. it's almost Valentine's Day!

I believe that it’s an evolutionary skill I’ve developed that allows me to forget that Valentine’s Day is approaching. I typically remain blissfully unaware that the holiday that makes all single people feel like lepers for a day is on the horizon until February 14th, and even then I only notice because I’m on the only one without a dozen roses on her desk.

I thought I was beating the entire system this year as I no longer work in an office thus I don’t have a desk or co-workers – so take THAT cupid!

However, the holiday greeting card industry and Hollywood are in bed together this season as the new film Valentine’s Day is set to hit theaters on February 12th. As a result, you can’t walk 10 feet in a New York City subway station without seeing a poster for the movie. Instead of legitimately forgetting that V-Day (ominously similar to D-Day? Anyone?) is approaching, I’m now bombarded with the fact that not only is the worst holiday of the entire year only weeks away, at least half of my female friends are going to drag me to some horrible film featuring an ensemble cast – and we all know what happened the last time the movie industry thought this was a good idea (He’s Just Not That Into You).

Instead of wallowing in self-pity (well, at least not 100 percent wallowing), I’m going to embrace Valentine’s Day. I might not have a special someone, but I have plenty of amazing friends that deserve to know they are loved. So, in the grandest of Valentine’s Day traditions, I’m making chocolate truffles, and these bad boys are a major improvement over the ones I made two weeks ago.

Since for most of us in the United States are well aware that we are still in the bowels of winter (except for a select few – I’m looking at you South Florida), I decided that a great addition to this recipe was the use of hot cocoa instead of the typical unsweetened cocoa powder. I’m hoping the end result is a boyfriend-less/girlfriend-less friend popping one of these truffles in their mouth and imagining they are drinking an amazing glass of hot chocolate, wonderfully ignorant to the fact that they are eating take-out Chinese alone on the 14th.

Grand Marnier Hot Cocoa Chocolate Truffles

8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Hot Cocoa powder, for rolling (I used Ghiradelli’s Premium Hot Cocoa in Double Chocolate)
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream, Grand Marnier, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour over chocolate, and let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

Pour chocolate mixture into and 8-inch square baking dish, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Scoop balls of mixture using a melon baller. I found that dusting your fingers in cocoa powder helps when trying to roll the truffles into perfect orbs, so you may have to follow the steps of rolling, dusting fingers and the truffle with cocoa powder, rolling again, then coating in cocoa powder. It sounds arduous, but it’s not – no more than 20 seconds. Then, sprinkle with sea salt. You may have to tap the sea salt into the truffles to make it stick.

Makes 15 truffles.
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