Tuesday, November 20, 2012
From Youngest and Eldest
Bitter Chick Bakery Thanksgiving Tart from Michael Khachadoorian on Vimeo.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
We all know that the restaurant-hospitality-food service industry is hard. The hours are long, the pay is worse, and you can kiss any sense of a normal non-liver-crushing life good-bye. But what we gain is a passion for the work we do and the sense of belonging to craft of people who day in and day out work their asses off to make something amazing. Each day turns into a month- into a year- building your career a little at a time. Honing your piping skills, how to manage a staff of six or even better how not to burn yourself out, practicing new techniques using hydrocolloids, how to make a fool proof schedule, perfecting how to ice a cake, is your food cost in line? - These all take time and inch-by-inch you see your improvement. Its slow, its tedious, its annoying.
Its almost as annoying as making a soufflé. Perfect little pockets created with the help of a French meringue, slowly building to complete a towering pastry structure; airy, slightly tanned, and extremely fragile.
What makes these classic pain-in-the-butt-to-make desserts such a marvel act of genius is the fact that the ingredient list is short, but the technique is incredibly involved. Finding the right consistency of your soufflé custard, to then be lightened with a French meringue, to only be carefully spooned into a butter and sugared ramekin (do not butter the bottom, I REPEAT, do not butter the bottom!!) gently laid in a water bath in a perfectly even oven, and to then patiently wait for it to rise, slightly caramelize, and build that great height every one is talking about. (In this case, size does matter folks.)
There was a time when I didn’t appreciate the simplicity, yet complicated nature of soufflés. I thought they were old fashioned and over done. But, where I went wrong was to think they were not delicious. Nothing is more rewarding then the slightly caramelized crust on the top that has just the right amount of texture that makes me swoon! Spice up your creation by adding a surprise at the bottom of the ramekin- lemon curd, chocolate truffle, bitter orange marmalade, or hazelnut praline crunch.
But what gets my egg white induced temper rising is when people feel the need to toss, smash, and mishandle my soufflé, or me for that matter. You spent all this time heating your milk, going to culinary school, weighing out your cornstarch, moving across the country to work for some of the best chefs in the country, whisking it on the stove, coming in on your days off to help out for free, cooling it down, working longer hours because they don’t want to hire more cooks, whipping your egg whites, attending demos and classes to learn so you can better their menu, slowly adding the sugar to create a shiny, stable meringue, saying “yes chef” when you wanted to scream “no chef”, carefully running your thumb on the lip of your ramekin to make sure there is no sticking so that your height it as its optimum, you stay at a job because you’re loyal and not because its good for you, and at last, a towering soufflé is ready to be brought to the table.
That’s right jerk; don’t run in to me, don’t mishandle my plate, and do not even think about making it wait in the window. You may think my temper is short- but you know what? The life span of a soufflé is shorter.
You will commonly hear pastry cooks SCREAMING for runners when a soufflé is about to depart from the mother ship; oven door slightly cracked, towels in hand, bee-line to pass is clear and open, ready for take off- and for good reason. You worked so hard to get it to this point, why wouldn’t you want it to make it all the way to the table. Unfortunately, you can’t take it yourself so you have to hand it off to a server to deliver it safe and sound. The same thing goes for yourself- you want to be delivered safe and sound. When someone tells you that you aren’t worth it, your dessert sucks, or you are going to fail; they are deflating your soufflé that you have been building all this time.
So what do you do?
It is notoriously know that self-motivation is what gets you far. But, yes. You are kicked down enough times it gets harder and harder to get back up and be ready for the next blow. That is when incentive kicks in. Working for someone you really admire, paid vacation, the ability to travel with your job, or just feeling good about your craft when you work at your station. I’ll admit- my soufflé- its’ deflated. I had been doing all the right things- or so I thought. Went to culinary school, worked in some of the best kitchens, worked under amazing chefs and respected the individuals I worked for. But over time, I realized that in my inability to scream when my soufflé is ready to come out of the oven, I have allowed individuals to dictate when I got to the table. So when that server bumps my plate- I need to bump back. When the food runner doesn’t want to pace quickly to the line- I need to speak up- louder. If someone doesn’t see that my hard work and dedication is worth it to them, or someone wants to be a soufflé smasher just because they have to power to do so, then I need to be prepared to move on and not allow myself to collapse.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
All right stop collaborate and listen
Ice is back with a brand new invention
That’s right folks; I’m talking Italian Ice here. Sure, some Italian or perhaps an Italian wanna be made it up, but you can’t deny it. Freakin’ tasty and light, waddah ya say?
Something grabs a hold of me tightly
Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly
What is the difference you ask? Well, it’s not a sorbet, and it’s not a granita. It’s something in between. Using fresh fruit puree, and a sugar solution of water and sugar you mix the ingredients together and spin it. BUT, unlike sorbet, with its smooth texture, Italian ice has a toothy texture that is attributed to the higher water content.
Will it ever stop yo I don't know
Turn off the lights and I'll glow
So why I am religiously looking for places that have Italian ice? That’s because in the next restaurant my group is opening, my chef wants Italian ice- no, not because his grandfather learned the perfect recipe from his grandfather and it would be an ode to his culture and family. But like most people, including myself, he is a card carrying “I wish I was Italian” kind-of mangacake. (Look it up in urban dictionary…yeah, you’re one too.)
To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal
Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle
I hit up Three Aces, Miko’s and some obscure place in NYC- and overall, Miko’s takes the ice. (There is a place on Cicero that is legendary, but I take public transit and pretty sure with the way CTA runs these days, it would take me about 16.74 days to get there, so you know…workin’ on it, sheesh.) Italian Americans seem to gravitate towards this frozen treat, and Chicago is not short of availability. But how do you decipher which ones are the winners and which ones deserved to be whacked by the mafia?
Dance go rush to the speaker that booms
I'm killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom
Things that can wrong are the sugar content and the “icy” levels. Too sweet and you are left with a sugar syrup coating your entire mouth. Too much water and its likes shards of glass in your mouth. If you, by the grace of The Virgin Mary, get your sugar and water levels right, then you are enlightened with the delicious fruit flavor and airy texture that creates the perfect Italian Ice; you would even be accepted into the Family.
Deadly when I play a dope melody
Anything less than the best is a felony
So, how do I hope to achieve such perfection in something so simple yet diabolically easy to muck up? Testing, of course! Certain flavors translate better. Watery fruits generally get a bit muddled, but pungent fruits like lemon, blueberry, and passion fruit pack a punch and leave you to shove your face in the entire cup. (I may or may not have experienced that in real time.)
Love it or leave it you better gain weight
You better hit bull's eye the kid don't play
So look for me come this winter, pulling my hair out till I find the perfect consistency of the most traditional American Italian ice there is, lemon. Perfectly tart yet when mixed with the appropriate amount of sugar has the balance that can cool you off on any Chicago winter day.
If there was a problem yo I'll solve it
Check out the hook while Bitter Chick revolves it
Ice Ice Baby.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
I’ve done the unthinkable.
I have promised myself that I would never take it this far. But here I am, planning it all out, to cope with what it is that I am giving up despite the fact that I declared that I would stay true to my love and desire.
My love and desire of all things carbohydrates and starches.
It’s unthinkable, I know. But I’m at the end of my rope and I need to see if this will work. You can ask anyone. Even a complete stranger. My ridiculous consumption of carbohydrates and starches are legendary. I have never met a potato that I didn’t like. (Ok once, at a really fancy restaurant to which I will say, “badly done. How can you possible mess that up?!”)
It all started because I have been noticing that as I get older, I get run down quite a bit and seem to have a difficult time rebooting for the next big work day. Yes, I’m not 21 anymore and no, work has not gotten any easier for me over the last 11 years despite my move into glorified management. I need to find a way to feel healthy, light and ready to move my ass. So like every girl with a dream to be fit, have a bathing suit ready body year round with a nice booty, I got myself a personal trainer. And boy is she worth it.
Even working out two days a week wasn’t enough. Yes, more energy, feeling healthier but not the big punch that I need to get me through the next 25 years of working doubles in the kitchen. So, the last resort was to define and alter my eating habits, which was originally off limits for even my trainer to comment on. Upon a three-day, food fest in New York City, my liver, kidney, and stomach all called quits on me. I could not, would not, fit one more string of pasta, French fry, crostini in my mouth for fear that I might actually explode. There is nothing worse that being at Locanda Verde and not being able to enjoy the food for fear of a heart attack at the table. Pretty sure I would not be asked to come back after that.
Something has to change here.
So here it goes, I am going to attempt to go cold turkey. (No pun intended but protein is totally legit) I am going to try my damnest to give up bread, pasta, potato, and eat less of desserts. (That’s my damn livelihood people, don’t you dare be judging me on the less part.) What does less mean you ask? Well instead of eating the whole pie my guy has been instructed to rip that shell out of my hand after two bites or so. Nothing screams commitment than seeing a grown man grabbing a pie from his ol’lady while she yells, “just one more bite, please….I beg you!”. That’s love people, real love.
In attempt to learn more about carb-dairy free pastries, I have done some research. Yes, I will admit I am a cadet in the Anti-vegan Pastry Army; I have the understanding that some individuals do not have the personal luxury of being able to digest wheat, diary, or eggs. It’s those people who do it for the “cool” factor. You can usually spot them with skinny levis that show their ass crack, a sling bag made of hemp that says “Obama Yes we DID”, and an air of self-righteousness surrounding them.
Right, back to the point. I went to check out Babycakes. I vegan-gluten free institution available in both NYC and LA. Erin McKenna was diagnosed in 2004 with a wheat allergy- which I’m sure was a very traumatic event. (Please reference “When Life Gives You Lemons” BCB blog, where youngest get tested for diabetes…scary.) McKenna developed recipes for her gluten deficient pals and as an over achiever, made some of the vegan as well. She uses ingredients like coconut oil, applesauce, agave nectar, and rice milk to give pastries the tenderness, airiness, and flavor as if you were eating one bursting full of wheat and animal dairy flavor. After purchasing a slice of pound cake and a brownie “bite” (boy will not be needed to grab from me since it really is one bite) and lemonade the bill came out to $14.00.
Realizing that going carb and slightly diary pastry free was going to be more expensive than going to that lovely patisserie across the street and getting that slice of gateau basque cake with a caffeine soaked tea would only cost me $6.95, slightly irritated the hell out of me. Perhaps it is true that vegans cannot get upset due to the lack of animal product in their blood stream.
After tasting the pound cake and brownie bite, I was not too disappointed. Granted, it’s a departure from the French pastries I love so dearly, but like I said, I’m making an effort here. I purchased not one but two of her cookbooks with the intention that when I have free time to bake at home (**laugh**) that I would try to use these recipes as a base and work off of them to make tasty and delicious pastries that will not slow me down or put me in cardiac arrest after two bites.
And if that doesn’t work, just look for me at your local restaurant fighting with my man over if that last bite counted as bite one or bite two of the coffee hazelnut budino with latte granita and lemon gelato.
Compliments of Babycake’s Cookbook:
.5 cup fava flour
.25c brown rice flour
.25c potato starch
.5cup cocoa powder
2t baking powder
.25t baking soda
.25t xanthan gum
.5 cup coconut oil
.3 cup agave nectar
.5 cup applesauce
1T vanilla extract
.5 cup hot water or coffee
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease muffin tins with coconut oil.
Mix all the dries together. Mix all the wets together. Mix the wets into the dry and whisk till smooth. Scoop the batter into prepared tin and bake in oven till firm edges with a soft center occur. If mini size- about 14 minutes, for fudgy texture, back for 9 minutes total.) Allow to cool. EAT!
- ► 2011 (18)