Archive | July, 2011

The Last Course REALLY – Biscuit Success! Pt. 3

29 Jul

Melanie's Adventure in making desserts from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

Over the past few days I’ve been obsessed with the cookbook, The Last Course by Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming who by the way is the currently at The North Fork Table & Inn in Southhold, NY.  I have convinced my dinner bestie Maria that we must go for a visit.  There is nothing like fab food and great fellowship with a few cocktails along the way!

So my obsession is how can I get my biscuits to be tall and perky vs. flat and round.  I figured it out late last night.  After thinking about how to get the perfect biscuit, it dawned on me that I had a recipe from another Chef and he baked his biscuits in stainless steel rings.  The end result were tall and evenly sized biscuits. Could it work here and is the solution that simple?   Well with rings in hand, I got two sizes and went to baking.

And voilà…Success!

The biscuits were tall and perfect.  So I quickly pulled out my tarragon cream and macerated strawberries and went to work.  With surgical precision, I plated the dessert and took these pics.

If you are wondering if I ate all three biscuits, I hate to disappoint you but no.  My rule about being in the food industry is to take a bit, nibble or taste but don’t eat it all up!  I bake and nibble along the way  but rules are meant to be broken too!

Pastry Out!

The Last Course Part 2 – Battle of the Biscuits

29 Jul Melanie's Tarragon Photo

So today was the big day.  I was making Claudia Fleming’s Tarragon-Macerated Strawberry Shortcakes with Tarragon Cream. I read and reread the recipe so I was ready to take the plunge and get to it.  Tarragon is quite the intriguing herb.  I ate it raw just to better understand what I was working with and I must say it really does have a licorice flavor.  It lingered on my taste buds well after you I consumed it.

I start off with the “easy” stuff first -macerating the strawberries with tarragon.  Just hull and slice the berries in half , add some sugar and tarragon and wait.  Gotta crawl before you can walk and run I say!

Now it was on to the tarragon cream.  Now I’ve made cream before.  I make whipped cream, Chantilly cream and stabilized whip cream all the time so why not make some with tarragon.  Well, it called for blanching the tarragon in boiling water, quickly submerging it into an ice bath, then blending it with corn syrup in a blender.  Whew, this is some cream!  I haven’t even whipped it up yet.  The recipe worked as stated but I did a little modification (shhh- I’m the queen of tweaking).  I stabilized mine with bloomed gelatin by holding back a few teaspoons of  heavy cream, heating it up, and dissolving the gelatin while it was at a soft peak.  Why? I hate when whipped cream started to “weep” and get running or watery.  The end result looked like light green clouds sitting in my mixing bowl.  I could eat it alone with some berries any day.  The recipe rocks!

Now on to the biscuits.  The dough had few ingredients and was very simple to put together.  Make dough, dough rest for an hour, cut dough into shapes and bake off.  Sounds simple?!  Well that’s only if your biscuits looked like the picture at the end.  I see a food stylist at work here because it just can’t be me!  : ) And my biscuits? Well let just say mine didn’t seem to rise to the occasion. More like a ranch house vs. a high rise condo.  The taste and texture was perfect.

Perfect macerated strawberries – check; perfect tarragon cream – check; perfect biscuits – I’ll be trying again tomorrow but check out my pics in the meantime.

Pastry out!

The Last Course

28 Jul

Today I received a copy of Pastry Chef extraordinaire Claudia Fleming’s cookbook, The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern.  Let me clarify – it’s was loaned to me for review.  Well I had two surprises reviewing this book today.  First, the Executive Chef for Tabor Road Tavern and Grato was listed in the acknowledgements.  He was the Sous Chef at Gramercy Tavern when Chef Claudia was the Pastry Chef.  John is nice, awesome and very talented.  I first met him while interning at Tabor while in culinary school.  Who knew!  I’ll give you my recommendations for Tabor and Grato  in a future post.  Now back to Claudia’s book.

The book has tons of desserts that focus on seasonal ingredients as well as a nice mix of sweet and savory.  Tomorrow I will be making or should I say attempting to make her Tarragon-Macerated Strawberry Shortcakes with Tarragon Cream.  As the book suggested, I will be eating it with strawberry sorbet.  Look out for another post about my adventures in making this sweet-savory dessert.

The second surprise about this book is that it is out of print.  Yes, you heard me, it is out of print!  So how much does a book that retailed for $40 USD cost now if you want one?  On Amazon for a mere $160 you can get a copy in “very good condition” or spend $300 for a “like new” signed copy.  Oh, but it gets better.  One seller has their signed copy for a mere $875.  Really?  Really!  Whoever buys that one, I have an island for sale in Arizona.

Pastry out!

To Thai or Not to Thai

27 Jul

Every Tuesday, I go to movies and  have meal with one of my BFs Brenda.  Today, it was all about a great meal.  I made a day trip to Maryland (yes friends and family I snuck in and out today for 3 hours).  To hit a movie and dinner was a bit much since I’m not sure that after the lights went out I would be able to keep my eyes open.  As usual we text back and forth throughout the day to determine where will we break bread and catch up.  Should we go to a place we haven’t been to in a while, hit a chain, or try somewhere new?  The decisions was narrowed down to pizza or thai.  Well it wasn’t a hard decision since my favorite Thai restaurant was on the table.  I love eating at Orgins in Basking Ridge, NJ.  I even have a favorite server, Chon.  Even when I don’t seat in her section, she comes over to say hello and make sure all is well.  Love her!

Here are my recommendations on what to order if you go to Origins.  For appetizers, try the shrimp and crab spring rolls.  They are nicely fried with a honey colored crispy outside.  If you don’t like or eat crustaceans try the golden curry puff.  It’s a soft pie like dough shaped like a mini Jamaican bean pie.  Inside a finely minced chicken seasoned with curry greets your taste buds with an awesome explosion of flavor.  For an entree, there are several great noodle dishes.  Besides the obvious pad thai, I love, love, love pad see ew topped with chicken.  There’s something about the flat noodles with broccoli that makes me happy!  If you get the chance to hit the Somerville location they offer a curry chicken pot pie topped with Malaysian puff pastry as a special from time to time.  For people who prefer to be a little safer, the grilled to perfection options are for you.  Grilled shrimp, steak or squid, fish or chicken with sticky rice and grilled vegetables.  I prefer the grilled shrimp – they are a great size and this meal is very satisfying.

The finale to the evening is the desserts. I have tried every dessert on the menu except one – (Poached pear -I’ll get to it one day but at least I added a pic for you!).  My favorite is the chocolate cake souffle with coffee ice cream.  The cake is baked in a tart shell so it looks like a little flower topped with whipped cream on plate decorated with a plaid stripe design all done in chocolate and  a few berries strategically placed. Others I recommend are: sticky rice with mango and the pear frangipane tart.  The portions are petite but enough to satisfy your inner sugar addiction.

Two other cool things about Origin, you can dress casual and it is byob!

 

Note: Pictures are from Origins photo gallery.  www.originsthai.com

Pastry out!

Watch Out World!

25 Jul

I’ve been thinking about blogging for about a year and decided to go for it!  My calling and passion is baking.  While life has taken to many jobs and places, my new home is in the world of food.  Here I will discuss places I eat, food websites I love, fellow foodies who inspire and a few recipes along the way. Welcome to my Whirl…Pastry Out!