Saturday, July 6, 2013


I am constantly getting questions from friends, family and random emails from people who read my blog so I thought I would do a post dedicated to answering some of the most frequently asked questions...

Where do I get my supplies?
Everywhere, really.  Anytime I'm out-and-about, it can turn into a shopping excursion.  I am constantly looking for products to experiment with.  Little markets, boutique food shops and farmer's markets are great for this.  You may come across something like pollen or an interesting fruit or vegetable.

I do, however, have some go-to vendors.

Arizona Vanilla Company

I get the majority of my vanilla products here.  High quality, good prices and great customer service.  I'm a huge fan of Mexican vanilla, but you can order the variety pack to see which your favorite is!

World Wide Chocolate
This is where I get a lot of my chocolate products from.  Pretty decent prices, and they always have some sort of sale going on.  It pays to buy as much as possible because the shipping is pretty pricey.  Also, be careful if you're ordering chocolate to a hot climate area;  they offer a special deliver service for that.  Also, that crap you buy from craft stores is not chocolate.  Just sayin'.

Global Sugar Arts

If I need to get a special mold, fondant, or general supplies, this is where I generally order from.  Their stuff is fairly priced (for the most part) and the customer service is decent, too.  Whenever possible, I'd rather pick these items up in person to make sure it's exactly what I'm looking for.  In that case, I head to...

Candyland Crafts
They carry everything an amateur baker would need, and most things a professional would be looking for.  They have a whole room dedicated to chocolate and candy molds.  I'd be shocked if you couldn't find one that you needed.

JB Prince

This place is amazing.  It's like a toy store for chefs.  They have everything from equipment to molds to hard to find cake pans, etc.  It's definitely worth a visit.  It's pricey, but they have a lot of hard to find items and the quality is great.


Nowadays, you can find pretty much everything on amazon.  Make sure you read the product descriptions accurately and are only purchasing through trusted vendors.  There are a lot of imitation products out there, so be careful.

What tools should I invest in?

Everyone should have the basics - a pie pan, 8" cake pans, cupcake pan, pastry brush, rolling pin, loaf pan, thermometer, off-set spatula, whisk, rubber spatula, mixing bowls and some sort of a mixer.  Those are the ABSOLUTE basics.  There are a lot of gadgets and gizmos out there.  Don't buy something unnecessary or something that you'll use only once or twice before hiding in a cabinet.

Do quality ingredients really make a difference?

YES!  If you're making a chocolate chip cookie and throw in some artificial vanilla extract, you may not pick up on it, but use the same "extract" to make a vanilla ice cream and, because it's the dominant flavor, it will probably be detectable. 

First of all, try not to use anything artificially flavored.  These days, it's not much more to buy the real thing.  It makes a difference and it's better for the environment - and for you!

One item that anyone who enjoys baking should look into is European (or European Style) butter.  The higher fat content makes a better, tastier product - especially in things where butter is the star, like pound cake, croissants or buttercream.

What's my favorite thing to make?

It really depends on the day.  I go through phases.  Some days I like making component items like pastry cream, lemon curd or buttercream.  Other times, I like making scones, pound cakes and cookies.  If I had to pick one thing, I would say marshmallows.

Why didn't my cake come out like yours?

Geez!  I get this too often.  It could be a dozen things!  Did you read the recipe wrong, scale the ingredients incorrectly, screw up a technique? - I could go on all day.  My best advice would be to retrace your steps.  More often than not, you can figure out where you went wrong.  Also, don't expect to ace something you've never made before on the first shot.  Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. 

Why do custom cakes (or custom anything) cost so much?

Basically, it's for the same reason a custom car or custom wedding dress would cost a lot!  Most people do not realize the amount of time that goes into  making a custom cake.  A simple two tiered cake with a small bouquet of sugar flowers takes hours - and that's just the flowers.  Also, (quality) fondant is not cheap.  Everything adds up - the supplies, costs of ingredients and time.  If you aren't paying a fair price it's either because you're not using a professional, someone is giving you a sub-par product or they are new to the industry and are low-balling themselves!

What's the deal with fondant?

I have to be honest, I am not a fan.  Unless you are getting a tipsy-turvy cake or a carved cake, I try to steer customers away from it.  I do not like the taste and it's not cheap.  You are going to spend a lot more on a cake with fondant than one elegantly covered in buttercream - just my opinion.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Extra! Extra! (Virgin) Read All About It!!

Things have been kind of crazy around here - but in a good way.  Alison Attenborough, the AMAZING food stylist I worked with for Johnny Iuzzini's cookbook, called me and asked if I'd be interested in working on another cookbook.  

This was for Gabiele Corcos and Debi Mazar's (Yes, from Entourage) first cookbook.  I was enthralled!  They have a wonderful show on the Cooking Channel (Make sure you check it out!) featuring mouth-watering recipes created by Gabriele.  The show is fun and the recipes are simplistic and feature authentic Tuscan cuisine.

As an assistant food stylist, I was responsible for preparing the components for each recipe. I work with Alison, the photographer (Eric Wolfinger, who deserves a blog post of his own.  Super talented, super cool guy!) and Gabriele and Debi to ensure we're all on the same page and that everything goes smooth.  Along with Jo, Alison's other assistant, we banged out over 10 recipes a day.  

One of the dishes I styled.

Sometime shoots can be chaotic and stressful, but this was the total opposite.  We were like a well-oiled machine, everyone working in harmony.  Eric's assistants Ally and Nicola were awesome, too.  Aside from being a lot of fun to hang with, they were always in the kitchen helping us out.  

Gabriele made us coffee every morning.

As far as Gabriele and Debi, they're just amazing.  The treated us like family and I am honored to call them friends.  They are extremely passionate about food and have stories linked to all the recipes.  The food is RIDICULOUSLY GOOD!  (We got to eat everything for lunch and sometimes dinner.)  If you love Italian food - good Italian food - you NEED THIS BOOK!  It should hit shelves in the spring of 2014.  Don't worry, I'll remind you! 

Eric signing my copy of Tartine Bread

Ally determined to get the perfect shot of Lampo.

Nicola trapped behind the stove.

For more info, check out...

Friday, June 21, 2013

To Love You S'more

So, yesterday when I woke up and started making cupcakes for an event my mother was holding, I didn't really know what I was going to make.  Time was of the essence to it had to be something quick and I was determined to use only the ingredients I had in the house.  At least I was able to stick to one of those things...

I was low on butter so that was a problem right off the bat.  I decided to make chocolate cake because it's easy, tasty and uses very little butter.  I had a bit of time to plan my next move while the cupcakes baked and cooled.  What can I make with no butter?  It was a toss-up between ganache and marshmallow frosting.  Anyone who knows me knows I am addicted to marshmallows so it wasn't a difficult decision.  Then it hit me - S'MORES! 

My only concern was the graham cracker.  I didn't have any on hand which isn't a big deal; I'd rather make my own.  Thankfully, I had everything I need to make them!

I made little rounds and piped lines of milk chocolate on top.  Garnish, check.

As I was about to make the meringue for the marshmallow topping, I thought it might be fun to fill the cupcakes with chocolate ganache.  So much for quick and easy, but we all knew that elaborate is my middle name...

I didn't realize how many people are addicted to s'mores.  I'm getting a lot of inquiries about these bad boys. 

By the way, DELISH!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


While I was waiting for my Blue Bottle coffee a few weeks ago, I noticed a postcard advertising the upcoming release of Caitlin Freeman's latest cookbook.  I was curious as to why they would be pushing it, but nonetheless, the concept - Cakes, Cookies, Confections and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art - intrigued me enough to order it.

Chef Caitlin, who is well-known as one of the owners of Miette in San Fracisco, sold her shares of the company when she married her husband - creator of Blue Bottle Coffee.  It all makes sense now.  She is now the Pastry Chef for the company.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) approached her husband; they were interested in having a Blue Bottle Cafe onsite.  He jumped at the opportunity.  He asked Caitlin to make desserts for the cafe and she decided that the desserts served should be inspired by the art within the walls of the museum.  Brilliant!

I am in awe with this book.  Freeman shows pictures (with descriptions) of the artwork that inspired the dessert and it's both whimsical and genius.  Some are straight-forward such as Wayne Thiebaud's Display Cakes, while others are more suggestive - Andrew Kudless' P_Wall.  She also explains how, with her sous chef, the final products came about.

Display Cakes, Thiebaud

Freeman's Version

Kudless' P_Wall

Freeman's Version

I've already tried a couple of times from this book and am sure I will check out a few more, but I look forward to creating a series of blog posts inspired by art here in New York City!  Stay tuned - and BUY THIS BOOK!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It's May in NYC, So Let's Make a Pecan Pie

I received an expected message from one of my cousins down in Kentucky.  In it, he offered his Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe.  I was excited to try it.  He was open to suggestions - could he improve upon it?  

Original Recipe

My version

I made his recipe as is.  Well, with the exception of the pie shell.  His called for one from the frozen section of the supermarket and you all know I'm too snobby for that!  It was very good - although too chocolately and a tad too sweet for me.  Also, aesthetically, it was over caramelized and sunken.  I know, I know, all pecan pies are very sweet and look like that, but it's something that has always irked me.  So I made a few changes...

What's great about this pie is that you can change it up as you please.  I will offer a few variations.

Original Recipe

My version

9" Pie Crust

You can use a frozen one from the supermarket or you can make your own!  Here's a recipe in case you don't have one...

4 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup*
2 tablespoons Bourbon**
Seeds from 1 Vanilla Bean
2 cups Pecan
Chocolate Chips, for garnish (up to 4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350.  

Toast the pecans until they become fragrant.  About 10 minutes.  Allow to cool and then coarsley chop.  

If you are making your own pie shell:  Once you've made, rolled and lined your pie pan, let the shell refrigerate for a half hour.  Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with dry beans, rice or pie weights.  Cook for 12 minutes.  Remove the parchment and filling and cook for an additional 5 - 7 minutes or until the shell begins to brown but is not fully cooked.  

If you are using a pre-bought supermarket shell: Remove the shell from the packaging, straight from the freezer.  Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with dry beans, rice or pie weights.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment and filling and cook for an additional 5 - 7 minutes or until the shell begins to brown but is not fully cooked. 

When you remove the parchment from the shell, begin working on the filling.  Start by melting the butter in a double boiler over gently simmering water.  When melted, remove from the heat.

Stir in the sugar and salt and combine.  Add the eggs, followed by the golden syrup, bourbon and vanilla seeds (if using.)  Stir until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Return the mixture to the double boiler and stir until the mixture is very warm to the touch, but not hot enough for you to be unable to stick your finger into it.

Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

By now, the pie shell should be finished or almost finished.  Remove the shell from the oven and reduce the temperature to 275.

Pour the filling into the still warm pie shell and sprinkle the top with high quality chocolate chips, pressing them into the filling if you'd like.

Bake for 55-65 minutes or until the center of the pie springs back slightly when you gently press on it.

Allow to cool completely - at least 4 hours.  

*You can find Lyle's Golden Syrup with either the honey or maple syrup in most supermarkets.  If you can't find it, you can substitute it with corn syrup.
**What is Bourbon?  Bourbon is whiskey that was produced in the United States with a grain mix of at least 51% corn.  It cannot have any additives other than water (to keep the proof under 160) The high percentage of corn makes it sweeter than other whiskeys.  You can substitute with plain old whiskey if need be.

If you'd like to change it up:

Maple Pecan Pie
Omit the Lyle's or Corn Syrup, Bourbon and vanilla.
Use a 1/2 cup granulated sugar as opposed to 1 cup of brown sugar
Add 1 cup maple syrup
Reduce the pecans to 1 1/2 cups.  (Or use toasted walnuts instead!)

Honey Walnut Pie
Replace the Lyle's with a boldly flavored honey
Replace the pecans with walnuts

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Feeling Spicy?

I've wanted to do a post on spices for a while now but, for some reason, every time I begin one I am at a loss for words and just give up.  Not this time.

I think part of the problem is that there's so much I want to cover that I do not know how to say everything I want to all while writing a post that flows well.  So, here's my disclaimer:  This blog may not flow or make sense.  

I have shared my pumpkin loaf recipe with a handful of people and every time I do so, the person tells me that it doesn't taste the same.  No, I did not alter the recipe before I gave it to you.  The only two things I can think of are:

1.  You may think it sounds crazy, but baking is as mental as the motions you make while baking are physical.  If you think about what you're doing too much, it just doesn't come out good.  I swear by this mantra.  

2.  I hand grind EVERY spice that goes into the loaf.  It makes a difference. 

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's discuss the dos and don'ts of working with spices.

1.  Whenever possible, use freshly ground spices.  Invest in a microplane and a mortar and pestle.  Both are relatively inexpensive and extremely useful.  

2.  If you are using a recipe, unless it says otherwise, the spice measurements listed refer to pre-ground spices you find in a glass jar at the supermarket.  Beware, some spices are not as potent when freshly ground - like nutmeg - so you have to double the quantity!

3.  Vice versa.  It works both ways...

3.  Do not overdose on spices!  When trying a recipe, always make it exactly as printed.  (Unless you're experienced and can tell is something is off.)  If you do not get the desired spice flavor after trying it, bump it by 25% and keep testing the recipe (bumping it up by 25% each time) until you're happy with the outcome.  Adding too much of a spice can give the finished product a chalky texture and can mute the other flavors.

4.  Don't under do it, either.  Usually a spice is added to enhance the flavor of something else.  If there isn't enough you'll know something's there, however you won't know exactly what it is.

5. I know most of you are not going to grind your own spices.  I'm not stupid.  So, all I ask is that you buy quality spices.  I order the majority of my spices from 

6. Spices do not last a lifetime.  They don't go bad, but they do lose strength.  Generally, ground spices last up to a year and whole spices last up to two years.  I try to order all my spices once a year so that I can easily keep track of how long I've had them.  I usually order them in October so that they are nice and fresh through the fall and winter, when I use them the most.

7.  Store your spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place in your kitchen.  NOT in a spice rack on your counter or next to the oven.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Last Dessert

Everyone always asks, "What would your last meal be?"  Well, I decided to ask around and see what people would want as their last dessert.  The answers have ranged from cake to fruit (FRUIT?? Really, you're dying!)  What I found most interesting is that people aren't as specific when they answer this question.  They say something like cookies or ice cream instead of committing to an exact item like chocolate chip cookies or rocky road.

One of my friends was very specific.  Lemon Bars.  Although I'm not convinced it qualifies as the last thing I'd shove into my mouth, I was intrigued nonetheless.

The last time I made a lemon bar was when I was working at Sweet Sally's Bakeshop.  It wasn't one of her most popular items and I rarely made them.  I was too lazy to dig through my recipe archive and decided to develop my own...

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Note: If you aren't going to juice your own lemons, don't waste your time making these.


1/2 pound butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
generous pinch of kosher salt

Lemon Curd

6 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup lemon juice
zest of 6 lemons (small to medium size) or approximately half the lemons used for the juice)
2 cups flour


confectioners sugar

Preheat your oven to 350.

Coat a 9x13 pan with baking spray and then it line with foil so that the edges exceed the height of the pan.  (This will help you remove the bars later!)

To make the shortbread, cream the butter until fluffy and then add the vanilla sugar.  (To make vanilla sugar, simply add used vanilla beans to a container of sugar and let sit a few weeks.  The moisture of the bean may cause the sugar to clump. You can break up the sugar by hand or pulse in a food processor.  As a substitute, you can just use plain sugar and add half a vanilla bean!)  Allow to mix for a few minutes.  

Add the salt and flour in one addition.  Mix on low just until the dough comes together.  Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan until you have an even layer of crust. Chill for 15 minutes.  Bake the shortbread just until it begins to color, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk and sugar.  Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until fully incorporated.  Add the flour in 3 to 4 additions, gently whisking until incorporated.

When the shortbread is done, pour the curd on top, carefully return to the oven and bake an additional 32-37 minutes.  The top should be set and not jiggle.

Allow the bars to cool at room temperature before attempting to remove them from the pan.  Use the foil tabs to pull the bars out of the pan.  Trim off the edges and then cut the bars into squares, rectangles or triangles.  Dust generously with confectioners sugar and serve.  

These will keep nicely in the fridge for up to 5 days if sealed in an airtight container.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving and sprinkle a fresh layer of confections sugar on top.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


For some reason, I am addicted to springerle molds.  In simpler terms, they are wooden cookie molds.  They are more common in Europe (the Dutch windmill being the most popular) and come either as a block of wood or a patterned rolling pin.  I went through a phase where I was purchasing them on eBay, but my favorite two come from a street cart I came across in Bruges, Belgium.

When I went to San Francisco with Emma and her husband, Chris, one of the places we visited (on more than one occasion) was Tartine.  What a phenomenal bakery.  If you're in the Bay Area, do NOT miss it!  Thankfully, thy have a cookbook and its pages are filled with the products they sell in the shop.  One thing I've been meaning to try is the Soft Gingerbread Cookies.  The recipe called for a lot of molasses, and, usually I'm not a fan, however, the generous doses of spices (ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper) helped balance the flavors.

I ALWAYS grind my own spices when possible, and you should, too!  I plan on doing a blog dedicated to spices at some point soon, but for now, that is my advice to you.

    TARTINE - Soft Glazed Gingerbread

    The Cookies

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup and 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons light corn syrup


1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons water

To make the dough, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add the egg and mix well. Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with the plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.

Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. If using a plaque with a design, roll out the dough 1/3 inch thick, lightly dust the top with flour, press your cookie molds over the dough, and then cut out the shapes with a small knife and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Alternatively, using the mold as a guide, cut around it with a small knife, flip the mold over so the design is facing you, and place the dough over it, pressing it into the design. Unmold the shapes onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.

If using a patterned rolling pin, lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll it into a rectangle about 1/3 inch thick with a plain pin. Then, using the patterned pin, roll over the dough with enough pressure to ensure a clear impression of the design. Trim the sides with a small knife. It is not necessary to cut into smaller sizes before baking.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes. The timing will depending on the size of the individual cookies, or if you have made a single large patterned piece that will be cut after baking.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar and water until smooth.

When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it.

Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned pin to make a single large plaque, cut into the desired sizes with a small, very sharp knife. At the bakery, we cut them into 3-by-4-inch rectangles, but 1 1/2 by 4 inches makes a nice smaller size.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Confit, Or Not Confit

One of my favorite things to make is Citrus Confit.  I'm not quite sure why, but I find it relaxing to make, plus, its a good way to use up lemons and oranges that are on the brink of spoiling.

Confit.  On more than one occasion someone has asked me what it is.  Most traditionally, a confit is a meat that is cooked and then stored in it's own fat - duck being the meat of choice.  However, the confit I am referring to is  fruit or vegetable that has been cooked until tender in a seasoned liquid.

Citrus Confit is one of the easiest things to go about making and can make a big statement when served on some complimentary-flavored ice cream, cake or even fish or chicken.  Not only does it add a sweet, citrusy flavor, it's super elegant looking, too!

Citrus Confit
2 large oranges
3 lemons
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Cut the skin off the lemons and oranges using a small pairing knife by starting at the top and carefully cutting towards the bottom.  The goal is to get slices that are at least 1 1/2 inches in length.  Also, try to stay as close to the edge of the fruit as possible to avoid excess pith.

2. Still using a sharp pairing knife, carefully remove as much of the pith as possible, leaving just the outer skin.

3. Slice the skin longways into very thin slices and place into a medium saucepan filled with a couple of inches of could water.

4. Bring the water to a boil and strain.  Refill the saucepan with cold water, put the citrus back into the pot and bring to a boil.  Repeat this process one more time.

5. After you've strained the citrus a third time, add the water, sugar and salt to the saucepan and place over a high heat.  Allow to come to a simmer making sure the salt and sugar are completely desolved.  (Congratulations, you've just made a simple syrup!)

6.  Add the citrus to the simmering simple syrup and cook on a low flame until the skin becomes translucent.  (This means the syrup has penetrated the skin and it is now candied.)

7. Using the tines of a fork, transfer the confit to a mason jar.  Add the (now citrus flavored) syrup to the jar and fill leaving just a quarter inch from the top.  Place on the lid and let cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.  Citrus Confit can last for months in the fridge.

Lemon Confit on Citrus Loaf

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Everything Happens For A Reason...

In the couple of weeks after ending my involvement with Milk Sugar Love, I wasn't exactly sure what my next move was.  Fortunately, an amazing opportunity came along...

For the past few weeks, I have been working on a special project.  I have had the priveledge of helping Johnny Iuzzini with his second cookbook.  Not only is Johnny Iuzzini one of the most well-aclaimed pastry chefs in the country - you may remember him as the Head Judge on Top Chef: Just Desserts - he is one of the nicest guys I've met in the industry.  He's also insanely talented. 

This blog could easily turn into a novel, but I will do my best to keep it on the short side.  I will, however, do an update before the book is released (ETA May 2014) and after it is released and I'm allowed to show pictures of some of the things we worked on.

Not only did I get to work with Johnny, but some other incredibly talented people as well:  Wes Martin, culinary producer.  He's done TONS of cookbooks and does a lot of work with Rachel Ray.  Janet Lo, Wes' Assistant, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jloeats.  Alison Attenborough, Food Stylist.  Check out her super-impressive website...  Michael Spain-Smith, Photographer...

Wes working in his "office."

Janet showing off her nuts.

Making a cookbook is A LOT of work.  Johnny and Wes have been working on the overall "mood" of the book for quite a while and it was amazing to see their vision come to life.  This book is going to be geared towards the home cook and is going to be a must-have for any at home baker - amateur or professional.  It is going to be LOADED with pictures and great recipes.  Michael took over 3,500 pictures and Wes expects the book to contain over 200 of them.  The pictures are amazing.  I wish I could share them, but I can't!

I was part of a group of interns who helped mise en place (measure out) ingredients so that Johnny, Wes and Alison could have everything ready to go as they needed things.  We also were asked to make a series of recipes out of the books to ensure accuracy and to make sure Johnny was happy with the final outcome.

Mandel polishing some crops.

The last week of the shoot was pure chaos!  We were so behind but still had a lot of tech and beauty shots to do before the deadline.  (Tech shots are a series of photos that show a particular technique, while beauty shots are photos of a completed recipe.  They're the pretty ones you see throughout a cookbook.)  We were all working in overdrive.  I was lucky enough to work one-on-on with Johnny helping him plow through mousses, sabayons, souffles, ganaches, tarts and more.

Johnny making chocolate covered fans.

My favorite moment was tempering chocolate to make fans to complete a tart.  Johnny even asked me to work the set to keep the chocolate in place and replace fans as needed.  (It gets very hot under the lights so everyone needs to be on the same page and work efficiently to keep a finished product from "dying."

Like I said, I will definitely be telling you more about this amazing experience in the future.

 Jelly Bean Break.  Baby Wipe or Coconut?

Johnny's Disco Light.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pizza Rustica

If you're Italian and do not eat this on Easter, SHAME ON YOU!  Easter is definitely my favorite food holiday - and pizza rustica is the main reason why.  Meat.  Cheese.  More meat and more cheese, all bundled in a sweet dough.  #drool  (Side note: The manicotti, peeps, chocolate covered marshmallows and Italian cheesecake don't hurt either!)

No doubt it's a week worth of calories, but, hey, we only it eat once a year!

Pizza Rustica
adapted from Nick Malgieri

My sous-chef.

Filling the shell.

Makes 1 12-inch pie

Sweet Dough

3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
3 eggs, beaten


2 pounds ricotta**
6 eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound mozzarella, coarsely grated
1/2 pound sweet dried sausage, peeled and diced
1/2 pound prosciutto, shredded
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Egg Wash

1 egg
1 pinch salt
Hawaiin sea salt, optional

**Use a good store-bought ricotta.  It should be on the "dry" side.  If it's very moist, drain the excess water using a cheese clothe.

Spray a 12" straight-edged pan with non-stick baking spray.

For the Sweet Dough, combine dry ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix. Dice butter and distribute evenly over dry ingredients. Pulse until very finely powdered. Add eggs and continue to pulse until dough forms a ball that revolves on blade.  Dump dough onto a clean work surface and, in as few motions as possible, give a couple of kneads to fully incorporate the dough.  Press into a disk, wrap and chill.

For the Filling, place ricotta in a mixing bowl and stir in eggs one at a time; stir in remaining filling ingredients in the order listed, mixing only long enough to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the lower third. Divide the Sweet Dough into 2 pieces. Roll 1 of the pieces thinly to line a 12-inch straight-sided cake pan. Pour in filling and smooth top. Roll the remaining dough to a 12-inch square and cut into 1-inch strips.   Create a lattice work over the filling.  Press strips at rim of pan to adhere and trim away excess dough even with top of pan.  For the eggwash, mix the egg and salt.  Using a pastry brush, paint the lattice and crust.  Sprinkle with Hawaiin sea salt, if you'd like.

Bake until the filling is set and the dough is baked through, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack. To unmold, place a platter on top and invert, removing pan. Replace pan with another platter and invert again, removing top platter. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Ready for the oven

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pierre Herme

Macarons, the new "it" thing.  Everyone is going crazy for them like someone just created them for the first time.  That's the thing with this industry...  trends, trends, trends.  (At least cupcakes and cake pops are on the decline!)

First things first, let's make sure we're all on the same page.  I am not talking about a mound of shredded coconut (macarOOn).  I am referring to the delicate French cookie.  A macaron should have a beautifully smooth, hard outer-shell with a chewy soft inside.  They are typically filled with a buttercream, ganache, or jam.  

When I was in culinary school, and macaron day came along, I was very excited.  At that point I had never had one!  Everyone makes a big deal about how hard they are to make - and, don't get me wrong, it's not the easiest thing to make, but with some practice, they're not too bad.   Anyway, when they were finally ready for consumption, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.

Fast forward.

One of my best friends, Ange, and I were in Paris getting ready to go on a bus to head to Versailles, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign for Herme.  Pierre Herme - one of the most renown pastry chefs in the world.  We had a few minutes to kill so we headed in.  The place was beautiful.  Everything looked perfect.  I decided to give macarons another shot.  If I didn't like these macarons, I wasn't going to like any macaron.  I chose a pistachio, a vanilla and, because it looked so elegant, a chestnut.  I was BLOWN AWAY!  It melted in my mouth.  Ange, too, was impressed.  (She even bought a couple hundred dollars worth to take home!)  In the corner of the store was a little table with a simple stack of books.  The Macaron Cookbook.  It was all in French but I bought it anyway.

Fast forward, again.

I never made anything from the book.  First of all, I do not know anyone who speaks fluent French, and, on top of that, the directions are so persnickety that I just didn't have the patience - until NOW!  This past Christmas, my cousin's best friend, Christine, bought me the translated version.  It's been sitting in my room for weeks untouched.  It wasn't until recently Christine returned from Paris with a batch of Herme's macarons that I couldn't go another day without one.  The one flavor that took me by surprise was the Olive Oil & Vanilla.  I've really been enjoying the subtle flavor it adds to desserts - ice cream, cakes, etc.

He puts chopped green olives in his, but I just wanted the smooth white chocolate, vanilla and olive oil ganache to fill mine.  I did sprinkle a pinch of some high quality sea salt to fill in for the brined olives.

If you're too lazy to make your own macarons, I recommend Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center.

The ganache mise en place.

Macaron a l’Huile d’ Olive et Vanille
an original recipe by Pierre Hermé

Olive Oil Ganache

60 grams whipping cream
1/4 vanilla pod
90 grams high quality olive oil
135 grams Ivoire couverture (chopped)
Put the heavy cream into a small pot with the vanilla bean pod and bring to a boil.  Take off the heat and remove pod.  Pour into a bowl containing the white chocolate and allow to sit for three minutes.  Whisk to form a ganache.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify.  Let sit at room temperature, stirring often until the ganache sets.
Almond Sugar Mix for Macaron
200 grams whole white almonds
200 grams confectioner’s sugar
Process the whole white almond in a food processor, add the icing sugar and process once more. Sieve.
Green Macaron Mix
400 grams almond-sugar mix
75 grams fresh egg whites
1 gram green food coloring
200 grams sugar
50 grams water
75 grams old egg whites
1.5 grams egg white powder
Combine all ingredients together from list 1) ( do this only right before you begin your sugar syrup, otherwise you will end up with an unblendable mass). cook the water and caster sugar to 245F. When the syrup reaches 226F start whipping on medium speed the egg whites with the egg white powder to stiff peaks. Pour slowly the cooked syrup in a trickle over the meringue. Leave to cool down to 122F, take the bowl out and fold the meringue progressively into the first mixture. Add a third of the meringue to lighten the mixture and then fold in the remaining meringue.  Continue folding until the batter is slightly loose.
Piping and baking the macarons
With a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle, pipe macarons on tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in a convection oven at 320F (or conventional at 350) for about 14/15 minutes. Once baked, slide the macarons on cooling rack to cool.
When the shells have cooled and when the ganache has reached pipable consistency, fill one shell with a nice dollop of ganache and a pinch of fine sea salt, top with another macaron, making sure to assemble 2 shells of the same size.
Store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before consuming. Take out of refrigerator, 2 hours before consumption.