There is no aroma quite as comforting or as intoxicating as freshly baked bread. The art of bread-making dates back to the ancient Egyptians; grains were cultivated, and a simple mortar and pestle were used to grind the grain into a very course flour. The first bread was unleavened, similar to a tortilla or a naan bread. The addition of yeast to these breads began when wild yeast was attracted to the ground grains and "contaminated" them, and then the warm climate and the addition of water activated the yeast and caused the dough to rise. Although the ancient Egyptians had no working knowledge of how the yeast microorganisms caused the dough to rise, each time the dough would rise they would remove a small piece to add to the next batch of dough. In modern times this would be considered the mother. Many bakers have one or two mothers that they start their artisanal breads from, assuring consistency in flavor from one batch to another. I have worked with many artisanal bread bakers that keep a storage container that holds the original mother from when they began their career as bakers. They feed and care for it as if it was more precious than gold.
I think it is essential that we send our children out into the world with a working knowledge of basic cooking skills! Essential skills such as how to boil pasta, create a stellar grilled cheese, bake chicken to the correct temperature, cream butter and sugar together to create a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie and, without a doubt, how to easily assemble a delicious chocolate mousse recipe. A great chocolate mousse recipe is the perfect tool to impress a date, woo a potential spouse, or soothe a broken heart.
Cooking with children is not only fun and builds fundamental skills such a fractions, whole numbers, science and reading, but it also creates wonderful memories. Chocolate mousse is a fantastic intermediate recipe to create with your pre-teen or teenager. Simply divide up the components of the recipe into the chocolate mixture, egg whites and whipped cream. Give the child (or children) the individual component and bring all the items together in the end to create the recipe.
One of my very first jobs was working as a barista for a small coffee company. I really enjoyed working with the coffee and the customers, and the aroma of the shop was delicious. The only drawback of working with coffee was the fact that I did not drink coffee. I had no idea what it tasted like, nor could I tell the customers the difference between a dark espresso roast and a Sumatra (I can’t imagine surviving the mornings without at least one cup nowadays!) I was able, however, to trade the leftover coffee at night for pastries at the bakery next door. One of the most decadent trades was their peanut butter dream bar.
I am not Irish, not even a little bit. I do, however, enjoy an Irish coffee along with dessert or occasionally with brunch. In this post, I'll share with you how to make your own Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. Never buy Bailey's again!
Spring is almost here. I could not be more excited!
As a child, spring brought mud puddles, thunderstorms and tulips. Tulips are a garden staple here in Michigan. You know that spring is here to stay when tulips begin to pop through the cold winter soil. The tulips haven't shown up yet, and there is still a thin layer of snow in our front yard, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate spring's impending arrival with a classic spring dessert.
Have you ever had something so simple, but deliciously decadent at a restaurant that you risked embarrassing your dining companions to take a photo of it? This happened to me while recently on vacation. The waiter arrived with my selection and it looked so delicious and beautiful, that I struggled with the dilemma of standing up, hauling out my professional camera and taking the shot. I am often faced with this dilemma, and many times I have passed up the opportunity to photograph an amazing dish as a courtesy to fellow diners. However, there times that I regret it later! This time, however, I forewarned my companions, and chalked it up to research for work. I can always blame it on my relentless pursuit of photographic and culinary perfection! I am so thrilled that I did because bananas foster french toast was one of the most decadent and beautiful breakfast entrees I had had in a very long time. The soft egg-based french toast was grilled to perfection -- not too crunchy and definitely not soggy. Cascading over the top of the bread were toasted walnuts, fresh bananas, a brown-sugar caramel sauce and a scoop of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream in the middle. "Yum" does not even begin to describe this sweet breakfast masterpiece.
The beignet is a classic New Orleans breakfast treat. It is a staple in the New Orleans food culture, dating back to the early 1900’s. Café Du Monde is the most famous and well recognized purveyor of beignets, but many bakeries in and around the French quarter have their own recipes for these light and filling breakfast treats.
The easiest and simplest way to describe a beignet is a cross between a rich and dense egg-based French pastry (such as a profiterole) and a classic American yeast donut. The beignet dough is fried to a light golden brown and covered in powdered sugar. They are served in sets of three and brought to your table piping hot. A simple pairing of a classic café au lait with your beignet, and you will feel as though you are transported to French Quarter café.
Granola can be a pretty boring breakfast option. It often is dry and practically void of flavor. In addition to that, most store-bought versions are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives (you thought you were being healthy, didn’t you!?). However, Homemade granola is easy to create in your own kitchen. In addition to ease of preparation, it is easily portioned and can keep for up to a month in a tightly closed container. The addition of dried exotic fruits, sweet coconut and maybe the occasional dark chocolate chip adds flavor and texture to a basic, tasteless granola. Adding Tahitian vanilla beans amps up the flavor even more; the sweet, fruity and floral notes of the beans mix with the dried fruits and coconut to create an exciting granola you will jump out of bed for. Plus, it looks beautiful in the bowl!
Did you ever have a time in your life where you ate so much of one particular food item that you can’t stand the smell, taste or look of that item any longer? For me, it is the peanut butter cookie. I know you are thinking, “How could you not like peanut butter cookies?” I have one very good reason...my father! My father is a wonderful man that I truly enjoy spending time with, but when he becomes fixated on a certain food item, it tends to make an appearance many, many times! A good example is peanut butter cookies. He decided that homemade peanut butter cookies would be a thoughtful and delicious addition to our school lunches… and they were… for the first week. After a month of peanut butter cookies making a daily appearance, we began to tire of them. At two months, we kindly asked him to please refrain from putting them in the lunches (I’m pretty sure it wasn't so eloquently asked, but I think he finally got the point). We were wrong. The peanut butter cookies continued to make an appearance, but this time they were topped with a Hershey kiss. This did not improve upon them! Thankfully, he finally grew tired of them himself, and one glorious day, they were no longer gracing the top of our lunches, halleluja! This was over 25 years ago and, until recently, I would not make any peanut butter cookies, often blaming food allergies for their lack of appearance in our home.
Chocolate cake makes me weak in the knees. It's not just, "That dessert looks good. I think I will throw all inclinations of eating healthy today out the window," but, "I want to sit down and eat a giant slice cold from the fridge at six in the morning with a big glass of cold milk."
Luckily, I was able to do just that this morning! I recently posted a recipe for drunken cherries on the Beanilla blog. As I sat down to plan out my posts for the week, I remembered a previous post for drunken cherries. I grabbed them out of the fridge and pried off the lid. The most amazing aroma greeted me; hints of almond, beautiful vanilla beans from Beanilla, and cherries. I knew that those cherries were crying out to be paired with rich chocolate cake. So, I made one, and guess what? It was amazing! My son begged for a piece, my husband (who doesn't eat dessert) ate an entire slice and me, well... I had two! I know you're thinking, "You're a pastry chef. You probably eat sweets all the time". But that is simply not the case......
Profiteroles, or cream puffs as they are called here in the states, are a classic French dessert. You will most likely find them filled with a sweet whipped cream and garnished with a dusting of powdered sugar or hard caramel. My favorite is the latter version. I vividly remember going to the patisserie in Paris, and blissfully enjoying this light and filling pastry. I love the chewy texture of the Pâte à Choux (cream puff dough) the soft cream filling and the crunchy texture of the hard caramel glaze.
Pâte à Choux was one of the first desserts that I made and photographed after acquiring my first DSLR camera. It was also the first time that I realized that becoming a pastry chef may be well suited to me. Pâte à Choux may look daunting, but if you follow the steps to creating it, it is a very simple dough with extraordinary results. The dough is very elastic and sticky, but once you pipe out those little rounds and place them in the oven a little bit of magic happens. When the dough hits the hot air, the profiterole (cream puff) dough begins to rise to form a "puff", enabling you to fill them with a sweet and delicious filling of your choice. Be sure to bake them until they sound hollow when baking sheet is lightly tapped on, or they will deflate and you will ultimately have flat cream puffs (a lesson I learned once or twice).
Almonds and vanilla are a match made in heaven. Tahitian vanilla beans, fresh roasted almonds and sweet cream provide a decadent base for the second part of a scrumptious recipe I guarantee you will drool over. You may wonder what I am talking about... creamy, rich and decadent almond vanilla whipped cream. So deceptively simple to prepare, but impossible to resist.
There is nothing quite as delicious as a chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven! Hot and delicious, the chocolate still melted and the center of the cookie so soft and delicious it breaks apart in your hand. My mouth waters just thinking about it!
I know what you are thinking…….. Ugh, not another smoothie recipe! This smoothie recipe is not your typical smoothie. It’s special just like the person I make it for. My daughter is a vegetarian, and she has been for the majority of her life. Throughout her life it has been a struggle to prepare nutritious and protein-packed meals for her (especially when she only wanted to eat cheese. Cheese smoothies are definitely not palatable!)
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea), sit down with a good old fashion newspaper, and enjoy the simple pleasure that is coffee cake. In this very hectic and digitalized world it is nice, on occasion, to put it all aside and reflect on the simple pleasures. Now don't get me wrong, I couldn't live without my iPhone, computer or camera, and nor would I want to, but every once in a while the hectic, fast-paced digital world that is our lives needs a rest -- a time to breathe and think about how quickly time passes, and how we sometimes forget to appreciate the small things that can bring so much pleasure.