Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chocolate Trio

One day I'd love to open a dessert bistro. I already have a "working" menu and have been meaning to begin recipe testing to make sure that the flavors are perfect! Having at least one chocolate dessert is a must on a menu. Being that chocolate is one of my least favorite flavors, I really had difficulty coming up with a dish that I liked and that I think people would like.

As obnoxious as I am, I prefer simple flavors and presentation. I tend to go for something more rustic than fru-fru and my menu reflects that.

I decided to try out my chocolate dish on Easter knowing I'd have a full house of people to use as guinea pigs! The dish I created is a chocolate trio - Dark Chocolate Souffle, Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee and White Chocolate Gelato.

The Creme Brulee...

I know I said I'm into simple presentation - and I really am - but this is probably slightly obnoxious. I recently bought myself an egg topper (an apparatus that allows you to take the top off an egg with a straight edge) and was dying to use it. I prepared the custard for the creme brulee and baked it in the hollowed shells. (FYI - they are a bitch to clean!) I used beans to keep the eggs upright when baking and cooling. I really enjoyed making these. Due to the high chocolate content, the texture was in between that of a traditional creme brulee and a mousse - which I liked.

The Gelato...

I actually like white chocolate and was very excited about this component. I used a recipe from one of my favorite gelato and sorbet cookbooks, Ciao Bella. I am not going to lie, I was not thrilled with the recipe. I am angry at myself for following it so literally when I had a hunch that I wouldn't love it. I found it too eggy and had to tweak the recipe to make it more to my taste. When the gelato was almost finished churning, I drizzled in some melted bittersweet chocolate to add some more texture and chocolaty goodness. I garnished the gelato with some lemon confit. I was skeptical to do this at first but, I am so glad that I did. The citrus cut through the sweetness of the gelato and it was delish! The tweaked recipe is at the end of the post.

The souffle...

I feel that people expect to see a souffle on a restaurant menu and I don't want to disappoint. Not only was I going to try a new recipe, I also haven't made one since culinary school so I was not sure what to expect. It was relatively easy to make. I prepared a pastry cream-like base and folded in chocolate, butter and a french meringue. I wasn't thrilled with the rise and the look of the souffle (I didn't fill the ramekin high enough) but the taste was dead on. It had everything that I look for in a souffle - soft, decadent and a slightly gooey in the middle. Great success!

Here is what the finished plate looked like. I think this one is a keeper and can't wait for you guys to try it when I open my restaurant!

White Chocolate Gelato with Bittersweet Chocolate Drizzle

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (use a quality chocolate, not in a chip version)
1/2 tsp high-end vanilla extract or seeds from half a bean
1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk yolks with the sugar until they lighten in color. As soon as the milk mixture comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and, while whisking, slowly pour it into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. When both mixtures are combined, return to the sauce pan. Add the white chocolate and whisk it into the egg/milk mixture. On a low heat, gently stir the mixture (with a wooden spoon) until it begins to thicken and it coats the back of the spoon (about 185 degrees.) Be sure not to over cook the mixture or the eggs will scramble!

Pour the custard through a fine strainer into a bowl set up with an ice bath. Stir to cool down the custard and then pour it into a container and refrigerate overnight.

Process the gelato base in an ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions on how to churn. When the gelato is nearly finished, drizzle the melted bittersweet chocolate in a fine stream. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to use.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter & Updates...

I hate that I haven't had time to post more, but things have been crazy! Emma and I have been working on promoting of cake company, Layers NYC ( Everyone's feedback has been wonderful! Between recipe testing, sourcing supplies and, of course, making cakes, I don't know how we work full time jobs! Also, on top of that, I have been working on another project for months (really years!) and just announced my new business endeavor this past week. I know it doesn't have anything to do with culinary, but this involves my other passion - music. Please check it out...

Anyway, Easter is tomorrow and I am up to my knees in flour. I've been working on a special dessert menu for the holiday and am still making the components for it. My next blog will be about that.

One tradition in our family is Easter bread. Sometimes my mom makes it but I volunteered to make it this year. Our version of Easter bread is sort of a combination of a challah and a brioche. It is relatively simple to make but, between mixing, kneeding (by hand, of course), rising and baking - takes over 4 hours to make!

I would share this recipe with you but then I'd have to kill you...

Don't you just hate when people say that.

I know this hasn't been the most exciting post but just wait until you see how obnoxious the next one is! I will be sharing some recipes for that one, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Talk about boring...

I am warning you right off the bat - this post is BORING!!! I have been so busy with work, going to professional seminars, getting Layers NYC going, and another soon-to-be-announced project, that I haven't had time to even make scrambled eggs! Don't get me wrong, busy is good, and the over-whelming positive feedback regarding Layers NYC has been awesome! Emma and I have been receiving so many interesting cake requests that I can barely wait to show you the finished products! I recently have been giving a lot of thought about creating a timeline fo opening a storefront business. I know exactly what I'd like to do but I'm not quite sure where to start (and where to find a few hundred thousand bucks!) We'll see... Before I really start rambling, I am going to cut this blog short. I promise to have some fun posts in the next week or so. I do have an obnoxious dessert planned for Easter Sunday so hold tight!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chocolate & Peanut Butter

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I just recently started a new job and am still adjusting to bakery hours. (I'm usually up at 4am now.) Also, I have a few other projects on the drawing board so things have been extra crazy. The main thing that has happened since I last blogged - is up and running!! We are definitely going to add more pictures and information in the upcoming months, but it was important for Emma and I to finally get it going. One of the parts of the website that was a challenge for us was deciding on flavors, both for cake and filling. There are so many that we just listed filling types and not necessarily flavors. We definitely will be changing that when we figure out the best way to do it! The problem really is - we can pretty much do ANY flavor! We put out a question on our Facebook page (look it up if you haven't - Layers NYC) asking out fans what flavors they'd like to try that you wouldn't be able to get in a conventional bakery. After scrolling through, we decided to try out a chocolate-peanut butter combo. I didn't want to just do a plain chocolate cake with a peanut butter buttercream - it had to be more intense than that. Also, peanut butter and chocolate are both dominating flavors and I wanted to make sure they were balanced. I decided to make a cake with both cocoa powder and melted chocolate in it. I diced peanut butter cups and folded them into the cake batter as well so that there would be a peanut butter presence and to make the cake a little fudgier. As for the peanut butter buttercream, I stuck with an Italian buttercream base and flavored it with peanut butter and Mexican vanilla extract, once again being careful to keep the flavors balanced. I am not really a fan of peanut butter, or chocolate for that matter but I have to say - this cake was delish! I made it for my brother's birthday so that my (brutally honest) family could give me feedback. It received rave reviews! Just to be sure, I saved a slice and delivered it to Judi, our fan who suggested this cake. She loved it, too! Looks like this cake will be available for order!!