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.