Saturday, December 08, 2012

Students Having Fun with Puff Pastry

Today's kitchen class was all about puff pastry.  We made Classic Puff and Blitz Puff and turned out pithiviers, bouchees, palmiers, conversations, cheese straws and napoleons from 2 full sheet per student of puff pastry.  With all 8 ovens, and students not checking their oven temperature, some were a little on the dark side, but overall, the lamination was great.  They all look very happy....

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Red Velvet Cake: A Waldorf Astoria Hotel original

I had always believed that the Red Velvet Cake is a Southern Cake.  Today, I found a signed copy of the Waldorf Astoria Cookbook by former Executive Chef John Doherty, and he claims that  the red beet-colored favorite is an original Waldorf creation.

Oklahoma Sugar Show

I don't consider this as one of my best work, but a typical "rushed work"..When we decided to attend the Oklahoma Sugar Show, I decided, I might as well bring a cake.  It was a very hectic 2 weeks at school,  and after being a day late of the final submission of registrations, I ordered the styrofoam,  decided on the color of my cake, and started piping.  There was no expectation of winning, just the experience and joy of participation.  There were so many limiting circumstances, and to my surprise I made an "honorable mention" ribbon. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Museum of Science and Industry

For the  fourth year, we have been asked to create a gingerbread house for the temporary exhibit at The Museum of Science and Industry.  This year it is Charlie Brown.  The characters were all made of white chocolate bodies and modeling chocolate "clothing".  Snoopy's house is of gingerbread.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


when I forced my husband Jim to taste the pandan pichi pichi I was making for a lunch with Amy Besa and Consul Gen Leo Lim, he said it tasted of rice. When I did my research today, Basmati and Pandan have the same aromatic compound 2- acteyl-1-pyrroline. It also has other similar compounds shared with rose and saffron. Quite interesting. And that is why we put the cheaper pandan to the cheaper rice to make it taste like the expensive rice. The species whose leaves are used in cooking is amaryllifollius, while the species fascicularis(screwpine) uses the flower for flavoring. Fascicularis has well proven analgesic and antiinflammatory properties while amryllifollius has been  linked to the cell death of non hormone based breast cancer cells

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julia Child's 100th Birthday

To commemorate Le Cordon Bleu International's most famous graduate's birthday, I was asked to create a cake to celebrate her life and contribution to women chefs and French American cuisine.  The more you read about her life, the more you want to learn more about her passion and personality, her friends, her zest for life.  I actually feel bad that I never got to meet her, so I am honored to have created this cake to remember the things that she loved....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pie Dough Making Tips

On August 11, I am teaching a class on pies.  I have yet to see the recipe packets from corporate but I assume there will be an apple and a berry, perhaps a quiche.  What is the secret to a good pie dough?  Everything cold.  You can even perhaps refrigerate the flour, use ice cold water and very cold butter.  You can substitute a different fat, margarine, shortening, lard, and as a matter of fact, shortening and lard will produce a flakier crust, b ut will be inferior in flavor.  A compromise is half-half.  Use a weaker flour, all purpose  is acceptable becasue of the affordability, but add about 3 ozs cake flour for every 16 ozs.  Some people like to add vodka because it only has 20 % water, and the alcohol dissipates during baking.  Gliadin, which is part of the gluten network is also soluble in alcohol, therefore contributes to the flakiness.  But, whatever you do, do not overwork the dough.  If using a mixer or a food processor, make sure you "pulse" the machine.  If doing it by hand, use a pastry blender or a bench scraper. Cut up your butter in small chunks before you add it to the flour.  I like to sprinkle all my water all over the flour all at once, so I limit my mixing.  I then transfer it to a plastic  bag and push until dough comes together. Always rest in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes before using...

Now, with regards to preventing sogginess of pies....put your sheet pan way in advance of baking  in your preheated oven and place your pie on it, Start your oven at a higher temperature because you will lose a lot of heat when you open that door, you can sprinkle some bread crumbs or cake crumbs to absorb some of the juices from the filling, you can brush the bottom crust with eggwash, even butter, chocolate or sprnkle some cheese (for savory), use  the bottom rack of your oven, etc...

With regards to prebaked shells for fruit pies...I  have never ever made a fruit pie this way, and I seem to think I would be totally against the idea, but, at the same time, I ahve not seen or tasted one, so I will reserve my opinion until I do so....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Green City Market

Today was the probably one of the best Saturdays we've ever had in Chicago this year.  It was a good day to work the Green City Mar\ket for Organic Gardening Magazine.  We handed out cilantro seedlings and starter pots with basil seeds. Chefs Renee Everett and Brian Karam demonstrated various organic dishes, pancakes, soups, salads throughout the morning.  The magazine also had so much incredible freebies from sample sizes of organic coffee, sugars, lotions, eye drops, vitamins.  I also love the parachute like material used in the tote bags.
I was able to walk the market during a little break. it seems a little sparse this year.  I did not see quality heirloom tomoatoes, not that many good herbs either.  Maybe, it's the weather...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tempered Chocolate Tiered Cake

I created this cake for the Barrington Relay for Life of the American Cancer Society.  Being a 13 year survivor of breast cancer, I decided to join this event because it had more significance.   The theme of the event was "Celebrating More Birthdays".  I created 13 stacked gift boxes with different decorating technique, for the 13 years I am able to enjoy my two passions, baking and cake decorating, and my family, represented by my husband.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Illinois ICES Day of Sharing

LCB Chicago hosts the ICES Spring Day of Sharing with a daffodil gumpaste demo from Diane Ahrens, a hands on demo  with our newest adjunst instructor, Jing Palasigue CMSA, and a techniques demo  and tasting of 4 types of buttercream:  swiss, italian, french and american by Chef Cara Benski-McPhee. The entire baking and pastry team cooked and served a French lunch of Salade Nicoise, Boeuf Bourguignon, crepes: savory, vegetarian and suzette, potatoes dauphinoise, a medley of roasted fennel bulb, zucchini, red pepper, aubergines, asparagus, a cheese and fruit platter accompanied by brioche rolls and baguettes. Earlier in the morning, breakfast was composed of croissants, pain au chocolat,  brioche bread pudding and  fresh fruits.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why you should not allow your gelatin set bases to sit out

"Culturing bacteria in liquid media has some drawbacks. Properties of bacteria are not
visible in liquid media and presence of more than one type of bacteria can
not be detected. Liquid media tend to be used when a large number of
bacteria have to be grown. Culture media are suitable to grow bacteria when the numbers in the inoculum is suspected to be low. Inoculating in theliquid medium also helps to dilute any inhibitors of bacterial growth"

"liquid media tend to be used when a large number of bacteria have to be grown".....pastry chefs use gelatin with cream anglaise as base for mousse. The problem lies when creme anglaise is just "tempered" and not cooked all the way through to "a la nappe". A poor sanitation procedure of pulling out mousse bases from the coolers and letting it sit out for use all day encourages bacterial growth. Gelatin is a protein that bacteria can digest and with that, it becomes liquid, therefore bacterial growth will be at a level not safe for consumption. Also, gelatin will start to liquefy at room temperature

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fresh or Canned Tomatoes?

Chef Mark Maasen, colleague and runner up of  the First Sears Chef's Challenge of 2009 told me once that if you do not have a choice of usisng fresh homegrown tomatoes for your sauce, canned is acceptable.  But, which canned tomato is most appropriate?  The least processed.  Out with the paste, stewed tomatoes, and even crushed tomatoes.  Least processed will be whole peeled tomatoes.  Drain the juice out, seed  and use to replace your fresh tomatoes.

Chinese truffles vs. French/Italian Truffles

French, Italian truffles vs inferior Chinese truffles CBS did a newsarticle on the proliferation of Chinese truffles in France and being sold to fool customers that they are eating the real thing. Some great restaurants, on the other hand are being robbed for their valuable stock of the good kind. What to do, what to do...the French claim that the Chinese truffles are basically, garbage, removed of perfume and flavor. The reason: The French and Italian truffles are harvested by pigs and dogs and smelled when ripe. Chinese truffles are dug with picks and axes, with no regard for ripeness...The Chinese will learn soon enough....truffles for everybody....I myself prefer the chocolate kind.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

History of Gingerbread

Ttruth be told, gingerbread is neither German nor French. The history is Armenian, brougth to France by a monk who settled near Pithivier. With the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula and followed of course by the Crusades,the spice trade spread all over Europe, and in the 1400s were being made by Swedish nuns to aid in digestion. Some modern day books claim that gingerbreads were created as a diversion for kids while the parents party on New Year's eve, I had always conjured that the presence of ginger, cinnamon and sometimes cardamom had a great deal to do with overindulgence during the holidays, hence its popularity during Christmas