The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.

The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.
Bring the finished plates up to the pass for inspection.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sugar Art. How to Make a Rose out of Pulled Sugar.

Finished Sugar Rose. Pulled and Molded by hand. One petal at at time.

Working with sugar isn't as easy as it sounds, and especially when the sugar is HAWWTTT.. I have blisters on my thumbs from pulling hot sugar 3 hours a day for the last 3 days. Basically, you boil sugar and water to 165degree C and pour the scorching hot syrup onto a nonstick silpat.

Boiling the sugar and water mixture until 140 degree C.
Add the water soluble color and keep boiling the sugar until 165degree C.

Pour the hot syrup onto the silpat, and work as fast as you can to cool the down the sugar evenly.

Wearing gloves will somewhat help with the hot sugar and reduce the pain. Just a tad....

Knead and pull the sugar blob until it's firm enough, but yet still applicable to pulling and molding.

For the first petal, pull out a long stretch until it's long enough and cut it.

If you don't work quick enough, the sugar will cool down and become brittle. It will crack and shatter.

Quickly mold the petals with your finger tips while shaping it to look more natural.

Gluing the petals together by heating up the ends of the leaf.

Work each petal pretty much the same way as you would the first ones.

You will achieve a glossy shine if you just pulling during it's colder stages, but it will be harder to pull.

Finished. 11 petal rose This will be one of my componets on my final sugar art show piece.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chocolate Show Piece

Lately I've been quite busy working with a lot of chocolaty stuff so I haven't been updating as frequently as before. I've been making a ton of chocolate bonbons, chocolate desserts, chocolate ganache and I finished my chocolate show piece. It was made with about 20 pounds of chocolate, and it took about 8 hours over the span of 3-4 days. The first day I had to cast all my bases with plastic molds and allow sufficent time for the chocolate to crystalize and harden. 
Then day 2 and 3 were mostly hand making little componets for the chocolate sculpture, like the rose petals, the white curled tusks, the daisy center, daisy petals, and the round green leaves. Making these little thin petals and leaves were a bit of a pain in the ass, since you had to work quick or else they will start to melt on your hand. If you have really warm hands, like me, you could try wearing latex gloves and that will buy you a few more seconds to work with the chocolate in your hand without melting it.

Day 4, the final day was contruction of all the chocoalte componets and gluing them onto the chocolate base. There was nothing complicated about this chocolate show piece, and 8 hours over the span of 3-4 days was plenty of time.

 I am really looking forward to making another chocolate show piece if I have the time, because now I will be making a SUGAR show piece within the next few days.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chocolate Cremeux? What?

Chocolate Cremeux? What? When you venture into the world of French pastries and desserts, one thing you will notice is that, the French have a lot of fancy names to their food that you might find intimidating to eat or to make. For example, "Chocolate Cremeux", What the hell is that? That's right. That was also my reaction when I had asked the Head Pastry Chef of Sepia Restaurant in Chicago while she stirred a pot of rich, chocolaty, sauce-like mixture.

"Cremeux" is simply just a French word that means "Creamy", and so in translation 'chocolate cremeux' is "just chocolate creamy". But what is it excatly? Well, the chocolate cremeux is not really a chocolate sauce nor is it a mousse but it's sort of in between both. I guess you can say it's almost like chocolate pudding that you buy in the western grocery stores but this is a lot better, obviously.

To make the chocolate cremeux it's very easy. What you need are your basic ingredients to make a simple creme anglaise, which in translation is 'English cream' sauce. Egg yolks, Sugar, Milk and flavoring, which vanilla is the most common.

Heat up the milk with half the sugar and whisk the other half of the sugar with your egg yolks. It is important you don't add your sugar to your egg yolks before your milk mixture is hot and ready. The reason for it is that, sugar is very hygroscopic and it will absorb the moisture content of your egg yolks, thus leaving you with grainy spots of yolks that you will have to strain out. If you don't, you will end up with little bits of sand-like specs in your chocolate cremeux, and it's very unpleasant. So if you are planning to make this, just be warned, do not rush the sugar + egg yolk mixture until your milk is hot and ready to be tempered.
Being organized is important and also one of the many keys to success. Have all your ingredients laid out in front of you, and even run through a mental play by play with you have to. Therefore, when you freak out during the process, you have a better chance of knowing how to react and fix the situation if ever needed to. I have my 70% chocolate from Cacao Berry, my yolks, flavoring, and my gelatin at the top. It goes in last.

When the milk comes to a medium simmer, turn off the heat and stream line in the egg yolk + sugar mixture while quickly whisking. This whisking step is important due to the fact that if you don't whisk the mixture fast enough, the heat from the milk and pot might end up cooking the yolks, and you will end up with some kind of scrambled eggs gone horribly wrong. This process of preventing the egg yolks from cooking is all about temperature control, and in the world of baking/pastries, it's refereed as "Tempering". You will often hear this term, 'tempering' in the use of making a lot of butter emulsified sauces, chocolate art making and many dessert making involving the use of egg yolks.

Now, when making sauces or desserts with the usage of raw eggs, it is important and recommended that we bring the temperature of the sauce with the eggs in it to a pasteurized stage. Killing most of harmful bacteria that might be lurking in your sauce. Bring the sauce to a temperature of 85C and holding it for about 10-15 seconds will do the trick, but be sure to keep on whisking it or else you will get scrambled eggs.

I use Cacao Berry chocolate, it's just the brand of what I'm used to, (and plus they are my sponsors in Taiwan) but you can use any other brands of chocolate to your liking. Some people enjoy chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, and of course, the higher % of cocoa the more bitter the chocolate will be. I, on the other hand, enjoy all types of chocolates.. I don't discriminate. It just depends on the type of mood that I am in. However, after spending some time playing with all sorts chocolates with various percentages and from various regions of the world, I guess it's like coffee, you will slowly learn to lean towards the higher purity of taste. In this recipe, I am using 70% dark chocolate, it's not too bitter, not too sweet and has just about the right amount of cocoa aroma needed for the chocolate cremeux.

So once your cream anglais has hit 85C for 10-15 seconds, pour the sauce over a fine mesh strainer to filter out any curdled egg yolks at the bottom of the pan. And this will also filter out any of the burned egg yolks that your sugar might have caused. Let the mixture sit with the chocolate for about 30 seconds, allowing the heat from the sauce to soften your chocolate callets, it's easier to emulsify the mixture this way.

Then bloom your gelatin over cold water until it's soft and jelly like, add that into your warm chocolate mixture. Using a whisk, start from the center of the bowl and whisk to bind the gelatin, warm creme anglais and partially melted chocolate into an emulsification. Then slowly whisk your way out with bigger circular motion until the over all mixture is fully emulsified and you're done.

The end result is a really creamy, full bodied chocolate mousse-like sauce. You can use it as a cake filler or a sauce for your ice cream, and or let it sit in the fridge until the gelatin sets and eat it like pudding. I would suggest you make yourself some chocolate crumbles, and layer it with the chocolate cremeux and chocolate sponge cake to make a really delicious chocolate trifle. You would have the crunch texture from the crumbles, the rich 70% chocolate cremeux for sauce and the chocolate sponge cake for body. It's a prefect dessert for a lady friend who loves chocolate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Almond Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce

So this dessert, an almond panna cotta with steeped raspberry sauce, is quite an amazing dessert. Although, to be honest, as beautiful as this dessert is- texture wise, color wise, and flavor wise, it's great.. but it's not really one of my most favorite desserts. I am not sure why excatly this dessert doesn't intrique my culinary excitments, but.. My guess is that, I've had way too many pudding-like desserts since I was a kid. All those cheap chinese puddings my parents or grandparents would buy for me to eat.. they're starting to take it's negative toll on me.

Anyways, panna cottas are real easy to make and although this one is made with roasted sliced almonds and a few drops of bitter almond concentrate, you can pretty much make any other flavors of panna cotta. You can make a dark chocolate panna cotta, you can make an orange citrus panna cotta or even just a regular vanilla panna cotta with vanilla beans from mexico or something. But my opinion of panna cotta desserts are based on simplicity and purity. Panna cottas are not meant to be complicated in flavors or in texture -nor do they need to be dull- All I am saying is that, it IS what IT is, so keep it that way.