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Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Fruit Vinegar

Pear Vinegar (infused with chamomile) and Concord grape vinegar (infused with lemon thyme) 

When people think of vinegar, salad dressings and pickles usually spring to mind. Rarely does one think of fruit. But after staring wistfully at the couple hundred apple cores left from Thanksgiving pies, I researched fruit vinegars to use these fruit scraps that would otherwise be resigned to the trash heap. There are many ways to make vinegar but the simplest method is to ferment sugar into alcohol which is then oxidized into vinegar. Fruit, ripe with sugar, quickly ferments into alcohol so exposing it to air often spontaneously results in vinegar, much like wine that was forgotten about for decades or more. And like wine, fruit vinegars can preserve the aroma and flavor of fruit well past their harvest months. Peach, cherry, pear, raspberry, Concord grape, apple…any fruit is fair game for making vinegar.

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Water Ganache

A bowl of seized chocolate
A chocolatier’s worse nightmare.

Watering down my chocolate goes against everything I’ve been taught.  Should a few drops of water land in my chocolate, disaster! My chocolate is no longer fit for duty. As it turns out, mixing water into chocolate isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Banana Consommé

I have this weird obsession with fruit consommés. I usually use the agar filtration technique to clarify fruit consommés but this technique can span three days and sometimes fruit does funky things when frozen and thawed. I had vacuum sealed a couple of bananas with vanilla bean and sprigs of lemon thyme to infuse the banana puree for a cake but when I noticed a clear liquid draining from the pulp, of course my first thought was: consommé!

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Popcorn Flour

Popcorn Powder

Popcorn Flour

For some inexplicable reason, the only way to buy popcorn kernels from my distributors is in 50 lb bags. 50 pounds makes a gargantuan amount of popcorn. (Or you could grind the kernels into cornmeal.) I went on a madcap adventure of popcorn mousse, popcorn ice cream, and popcorn pudding dessert specials. The endless popcorn infusions got tiring and I wondered what would happen if I dumped a bunch of popcorn in a food processor…

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New Flours, New Flavors

I’m bored with baking, baking with wheat flour that is. Last year, I stumbled upon a case of faro and chestnut flours in my work kitchen and played around with pound cakes, muffins, and sponge cakes. As wheat flour has formed with basis of baking traditions in the United States, it was hard to find reliable recipes and baking information. (It was even harder to explain to a dining public cultured on wheat flour that chestnut flour contains neither nuts nor gluten…never mind its name). Although I’ve experienced more frustration than success, the challenge of baking with alternative flours has made baking fun again as intriguing flavors and unusual textures breathe new life into old recipes.

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Bread Art

A rose sculpted from pate morte.

A rose sculpted from pate morte.

I created this rose as one of several pieces for a culinary competition. I used three different bread doughs to sculpt and assemble the final piece but pate morte (“dead dough”) was my favorite decorative bread medium to work with. Because it uses no yeast or diary, pate morte is easy to shape and lasts indefinitely after baking. The dough is made by mixing rye flour with a glucose-based syrup. The low protein content of rye flour makes the dough less prone to shrinkage which allows the dough to be shaped into a plaque to commemorate a special occasion, fashioned into branches and adorned with flowers, or woven into baskets and lined with patterned cloths—anything your creative talents can conjure.

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