Happy Holidays. Here is my Thanksgiving recap, which I repeat for Christmas and New Years. Happy all everyone.
This year I was 'dedocratically' elected to host Thanksgiving. Dedocratically is my Spanglish word for 'dedo' which means finger, and 'cratic' for part of the word democratic. I was appointed by a finger!
I adore hosting Thanksgiving because I have an opportunity to cook savory. Most importantly, I have an opportunity to serve more than one dessert! This year, I made 4 pies, each with alternatives to flour. Please don't label me the next gluten freak. I am slowly converting a few recipes without flour or with grains that are a little less common.
Flour is wonderful, and I can't live without it. But as with everything, moderation is the key for long living and eating. I believe flour is overly used, specially the common wheat flour. It does not need to be everywhere! Pie crust, pressed cookie bottoms, and turkey stuffing, works great with little or no flour.
Nov 02, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
Having lived in New York City for most of my life, before recently moving to Hope, NJ, I should like to report that the city is a series of neighborhoods. And more often than not they are friendly neighborhoods. Never was this more so than during Hurricane Sandy, Fall of 2012, when almost all of lower Manhattan was without power. The wonderful produce store on University Place, Agata and Valentina, delivered food from its uptown location to its downtown one, to help out us neighbors. And here's what happened more recently when I was searching for gooseberries for a photo for the upcoming Baking Bible:
I called the store and spoke to Raz, the manager. He was not familiar with the exotic berry, but I assured him that I had purchased them at the store the year before, when I was testing the recipe. As it was a very short season I wanted to be sure to order the gooseberries and not miss the small window of availability. After doing some research, Rax ordered 6 baskets of gooseberries for my husband to pick up on his weekly visit to the city.
Elliott arrived late in the evening with the gooseberries that were not! OMG I exclaimed--they're cape gooseberries! They were absolutely delicious raw (gooseberries are more bitter than sour cherries and need sweetening and cooking for the sugar to penetrate the skins) and I ate my way through all 6 baskets within just a few days. Back to the drawing board, Rax did more research. But I was getting desperate so I asked my new editor Stephanie Fletcher, at Houghton Mifflin, if she could run over to the nearby Union Square Farmers' Market and see if they had them. Not only did she come through with the gooseberries, she even sent me a photo to reassure me that they were the ones I had in mind.
Meantime, Rax eventually found the gooseberries I needed as well. Not only did he do this without charge, he offered to ship them but luckily Elliott was able to return to the city while the gooseberries were stil at their peak of freshness. And I stemmed and froze them for our November photo shoot.
Was it worth all this effort? The gooseberries are for a recipe for gooseberry crisp inspired by my dear friend Kate Coldrick, from Devon England, who sent me a photo of a darling little gooseberry pie she had made. The magic of gooseberries is that even if green (they turn pink on ripening) they become a gorgeous pink on cooking and have a most delicious flavor. I encourage you all to search them out this coming July and freeze them for when the book is published Fall of 2014 or, if you can't wait, google and you will find recipes on line.
Jul 27, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
Although it took place on June 3, shortly before my move from New York, I wouldn't have missed this delicious fun event for the world! Not only is it a chance to meet the top ten honorees, it also is a rare opportunity to be reacquainted with many of my best friends from the dessert world.
This annual event is sponsored by Dessert Professional magazine and was presented by E. Guittard Chocolate, and KitchenAid.
I began with a tasting of Guittard's newest collection of chocolate and was blown away by the single origin Hawaiian milk chocolate--one of the smoothest and most delicious milk chocolates ever. It has a higher than usual cacao percentage so it is a bit less sweet than usual.
I was also very impressed by the Etienne Baking Bars: the 64% semisweet, the 70% bittersweet, and the 100% unsweetened. The 70% is so well balanced it is delicious to eat just by itself. The chocolates are available on chocosphere. The baking bars will be available on this site late August but are on the Guittard site now.)
After the award ceremony, each honoree presented one or more signature desserts. This year my favorite was offered by one of my very favorite pastry chefs: Nancy Olson. The complex elements were a study in harmonious perfection: peanutbutter semifreddo, chocolate macaron, salted caramel, and hot fudge.
Photo Credit: Niko Triantafillou Dessertbuzz/Serious Eats NY
But seeing lovely Nancy turned out to be a bit bittersweet as she confided in me that she would be leaving her 7 year post as pastry chef at New York's Grammercy Tavern. And just a few weeks later, Nancy and I both moved from New York. She has now returned to her home town in South Dakota. You should be hearing great things about her new ventures in the near future.
Photo Credit: Niko Triantafillou Dessertbuzz/Serious Eats NY
May 25, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
San Francisco-Part One: IACP Annual Conference 2013
I always look forward to attending the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, as it is a time to meet long time dear acquaintances and make new friends. Upon landing, Woody (my assistant) and my first stop was the Ferry Building to have our first cups of my favorite cappuccino at Blue Bottle Coffee, owned by James Freeman and Caitlin Williams.
Our first San Franciscan dinner, was at Delfina's, in the Mission district. I had loved it several years ago and was delighted that it was as wonderful as I had remembered.
We enjoyed sharing several dishes including house made Pappardelle with Liberty duck ragu and Wolfe Ranch Quail with spring onion panzanella. The bread had absorbed the quail juices and vinaigrette and was incredibly savory. We were seated by the window and had a perfect view of the outdoor tables where people who ordered pizzas from the sister restaurant next door could enjoy them. We couldn't help but notice the delicious thin crust pizzas with puffy rims, looking very similar to Punch's Pizza in Minneapolis that is one of my favorites so I resolved to try the pizza at our next opportunity and it was indeed as good as it looked--the crust tender but with just the right amount of bite.
The next day we attended the Culinary Expo and Book Signing, my favorite part of the conference. I love being a participant, as I have in past years, but enjoy even more walking around, seeing all the new products, and visiting with friends.
I was delighted to see Pamela Williams's (of Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver) impressive-looking, new, self-published book, "Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate" Amazon link to the book: http://ow.ly/epPTQ
For an overview of the book check out Pam's website.
And it was great visiting with ex IACP president from New Zealand, Lauraine Jacob's beautiful new book "Everlasting Feast."
The much esteemed bread baker Peter Reinhart was showing off his timely new book, "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" offering recipes for the increasing demand for gluten free baking.
The renowned cheese-maker and ex IACP president Paula Lambert was offering samples of her exquisite line of cheeses from her Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas. Knowing how much she loves the Italian culture, I was pleased to learn that she is now leading culinary tours to Italy.
I had a great visit with master bread baker Jeff Hamelman, who was manning the King Arthur booth. When I asked him if I could offer one of his recipes in my upcoming book, with credit to him, he said "No! When you make the recipe it will no longer be mine it will be yours!" (Have I not mentioned that bread bakers are the most generous of people?!)
I also ran into one of my long-time friends, Jonathan Zearfoss. We first met when he was a chef at Marcel Desaulniers restaurant "The Trellis," in Williamsburg, Va. He went on to work at The CIA in New Hyde Park (check his card for title)
There were many delectables to sample during the information fair but that didn't keep us from having a terrific dinner at Dosa, with my longtime friend, Lesley Harlib and her scientist friend Michael. We enjoyed a sampling menu of Indian fusion dishes including Day Boat Scallops with Lotus Stems, Paneer and Pea Dosa, and Tamil Lamb.
We all shared one Mango Pudding for dessert.
It was funny to observe that we weren't the only one's photographing!
Seventy Mays ago, shortly before my father left for Georgia boot camp and ultimately France to fight as a paratrooper in World War II, 11 months before I was born, my parents were married. And, just like children everywhere, I never grew tired of hearing the romantic story of how my parents first met.
It was the summer before at Lake George in upstate New York. My mother and 3 of her female cousins were camping out on an island and none of them knew how to get a fire going to prepare dinner. My father, who had canoed up the Hudson River, was also camping out nearby. Seeing the damsels in distress, he volunteered to light their fire. As my mother used to tell it she was the only single cousin of the group so the rest was destiny. As I like to tell it, my Dad lit the fire and continued to light it until death did them part.
Apr 13, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
Woody and I met Jim and Marie Wolf (head of the Beta Baker testers for the upcoming book) for dinner at one of our mutually favorite Minnesota restaurants, Alma.
The restaurant features a three course tasting menu. Some of my favorites were:
The deliciously beefy Bison Tartar with celery root, hazelnuts, and truffle-verjus dressing:
The Ricotta Gnocchi with Maine lobster, shitakes, spinach and truffle oil:
and the Braised Beef Shortrib with squash orzo, swiss chard and fresh horseradish cream:
Pastry Chef Anne Bridges had to leave early but she sent out four delicious desserts. Our favorites were the Meyer Lemon Curd Tart with lemon crème and lemon speculous ice cream:
and the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with vanilla bean, dried cherries, and saba
I hadn't seen the NordicWare factory for many years and what amazing expansion has taken place since my last visit. Mike Quinlan gave us a tour of the facilities. I was delighted to see the return of a long forgotten by most pan--the Mary Anne--with its recess designed to create a cake with a depression perfect for acomodating fresh berries.
NordicWare is also now an outsource factory for major companies such as 3M and medical suppliers. We got to see all manner of machinery including the one below which finishes the edges of the pans. I felt right at home surrounded by so many of my favorite Bundt and fluted tube pans.
We made a quick visit to the Wolf's to show them photos on the Ipad from the upcoming book while enjoying a glass of excellent red wine.
Marie made a great dinner recommendation for us--112 Eatery in downtown Minneapolis. The moment I walked in the door of this cozy and well-designed restaurant, and met our wait person Erick, I knew we were in for a treat.
We ordered a whole array of small dishes starting with Lamb Scottadito with Goats Milk Yogurt:
Spicy Fried Shishito Peppers in a delicious sauce of pumpkin seed, cilantro, and cotija (Mexican goat cheese):
Merquez Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Israeli Couscous and Clams
And fabulously melting and tender Foie Gras and Chicken Meatballs with Tagliatelle
Dinner was accompanied by a complementary malbec.
Although no longer hungry, we could not resist sharing the Nancy Silverton's Butterscotch Budino. I love both butterscotch and Nancy so it was a sure bet! It was a perfect balance of the creamy, sticky, and ever so salty.
This photo tells it all:
And just when we thought the dinner was over, along came this great presentation of spicy caramel popcorn.
Although technically we have finished the upcoming book, there's always just one thing and that happened to be a fabulous raspberry butterscotch sauce that I wanted to retest one last time:
As a grand finale, Woody invited me to my first broomball game. The blur with the yellow helmut that you see below is Woody speeding along to try to knock the ball into the goal.
Broomball is similar to hockey only using special tennis shoes instead of skates and a small soccer ball instead of a puck. Woody's first connection was an email sharing with me that my biggest fans were his fellow broomball players and T'ai Chi practitioners. It was freezing cold but well-worth being there to see world-class players at play.
Apr 06, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
As Minnesota is relatively a hop skip and jump from Chicago I planned a three day stay with Woody to finish tweaking the manuscript and to visit some of my many friends in the Twin Cities. Due to weather in New York, the stay was extended for two extra days. No one was complaining.
It's been many years since I've seen Tim Bennett, father of this blog and now father of two adorable children. Tim suggested we meet at his favorite bakery, Rustica.
The breads and pastries all looked very inviting and promising.
While waiting for the Bennett family to arrive, out of the corner of my eye I spied the very familiar cover of The Cake Bible and three people sitting at the counter with a big pile of my books smiling big smiles. The two women were pastry chefs at Rustica and had heard I'd be coming. I was delighted to sign each book.
It was so wonderful meeting Tim's wife Ina, his son Simon, and daughter Ani. Ina is from Russia and both kids speak Russian. Both kids bake and I learned that Ani slept with The Pastry Bible when she was so young she could barely lift it. She wants to be a chef.
As we were too late for a savory dinner at the bakery, we opted to have dessert for dinner instead.
Simon is going to a french immersion school so we had fun having a conversation in french. No surprise, he is a super bright, confident, and most engaging child and I was thrilled when Tim said he would send him to NJ to spend a week with me (I hope he was serious!).
A visit to the Twin Cities is never complete without one or two pizzas at Punch's. They've been rated number 1 for authentic new-style thin crust pizza for years and justifiably so. The crust is crisp and tender with a puffy rim, resulting from the intense heat of the wood-fired grills.
I hadn't seen my dear friend Michelle Gayer for five years. I am so proud of her. When first we met she was pastry chef at the famed Charlie Trotter restaurant in Chicago. She now has the very successful bakery The Salty Tart, in the International Market Place and has just been nominated for a Beard Award for best midwestern chef!
Zach Townsend, master chocolatier, creator of La Bomba in Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and cherished friend had invited me to visit him in Dallas for several years. This past February it finally happened and Zach really went to the 'ends of the town' to make it a 3-1/2 day culinary adventure so packed with amazing details it seemed more like several weeks. By the end of the visit I suspected that Zach knows ever chef in the Dallas area!
Zach invited Woody and me to stay in his drop dead gorgeous condo. Not only was it decorated with impeccable taste, it was the sole of comfort. In the living room we admired two incredible model ships built by his Dad, Ray Townsend. The details are amazing, such as the 1000 or more planks were individually hand cut and mounted, on a replica of the French Chebec, and the rigging was hand knotted, and all connected with turnbuckles. Zach told us that it took his Dad as long as three years to contruct each ship and that he is now doing a huge replica of San Felipe that Zach has his eye on.
Zach's kitchen was beautifully designed and I could tell it would be great in which to bake and cook.
The night of my arrival Zach took me for dinner at FT33 owned by his friend chef Matt McCallister. As typical food enthusiasts, we tasted all of each other's dishes.
At the end of a fabulous dinner, pastry chef Sabrina Hunt came out to meet me and then offered us an array of her specialties.
Our top favorite was a peanut butter rif on sm'ores, using smoked chocolate.
The following night, Zach took Woody and me to Stephan Pyles hot new restaurant--Stampede 66. It had been many years since I visited Dallas with "The Pastry Bible" and chef Pyles had done a terrific book event at his restaurant. So not only did we have a fun and delicious meal, we also had the joy of seeing chef Pyles again.
We loved the decor and ambiance of the restaurant.
Zach ordered the house margarita made from the juice of prickly pear and frozen very dramatically with the aid of nitrogen.
One of the highlights of the visit was our baking class that Zach arranged at the famed Central Market--Plano--one of the enormous high-end Texas grocery stores chains known for its excellent cooking school.
Mar 10, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
I don't know what other people do when their spouses are out of town but as for me, my first thought leads to pasta and not just any pasta: spaghetti carbonara. This is a dish I cannot make for my husband as he prefers a low-fat diet and because the way I like it best it has just about every edible fat I adore: bacon, butter, olive oil, heavy cream, egg yolk and Parmesan cheese. (If you prefer you can replace the butter with extra olive oil and it will still be delicious.)
Naturally, when something you crave is denied, it grows larger in temptation so when Elliott announces that he won't be home for dinner, I mentally start getting out the ingredients for the carbonara, which I always have on hand. I like to use the best of each ingredient as this is a once in a great while treat so I want it to be all it can be.
Most important is using egg yolks from pasteurized eggs as the yolks don't cook to a high enough temperature to be considered safe for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those whose immune systems are impaired, and egg yolks are a critical component of the recipe to coat the strands of the pasta to give it an unctuously creamy consistency and luxurious flavor.
Next is the right kind of bacon. My favorite is corn-cob smoked which I mail order from Harrington's in Vermont (1-802-434-4444) and then freeze in 2 ounce packages and thaw in under 15 seconds in the microwave. I also keep on hand the finest Parmesan cheese (Parmesano Reggiano), refrigerated loosely wrapped so that it doesn't mold. (Once dry enough I wrap it tightly in both plastic wrap and a freezer weight zip-seal bag.)
Heavy cream that has not been ultra-pasteurized and therefore does not have that cooked flavor is the best kind of cream. Of course I choose fruity-mellow extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter for purity of flavor, and fine sea salt for its mild sweetness.
My favorite spaghetti, Lattini, is imported from Italy and made with durum wheat which is firm to the bite. (Barilla is also a good choice and more easily available.) And when fresh porcini mushrooms are available, their woodsy, almost meaty flavor and plush texture elevate this recipe to its highest point.
This recipe has evolved through the years. It all began 40 years ago when I was interviewing for my first official job after graduating from 7 years of night school. Over 100 people vied for the job as test kitchen recipe developer at Ladies' Home Journal. I had mis-understood the directions to bring a prepared recipe that could be made using ingredients that were usually available in a home kitchen. I understood it to mean that I should bring a recipe to prepare in the magazine's kitchens. But to prove how easy it was to whip up and how perfectly it fit the requirement of using readily available ingredients I offered to make it on the spot.
I got the job for three reasons:
The recipe was great.
I didn't know that I possessed the skill at the time but the editor noticed and was impressed by my ambidexterity. (I thought everyone cooked with both hands.)
The interview fell on my birthday (good karma).
I lost the job for one main reason:
I'm not great at following other people's directions. I held on for about a year and it was the best training grounds possible. But then I yielded to the advice of my new husband who said: "You can't work for other people; you should work for yourself." The rest is history.
Here is the recipe that will serve 4 friends on special occasions.
bacon, preferably corn cob smoked: 8 ounces/227 grams
Optional, fresh porcini mushroom: 8 ounces/227 grams
extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup/59 ml
unsalted butter: 4 tablespoons/2 ounces/56 grams
2 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced (1 tablespoon)
4 large egg yolks, preferably Safest Choice Pasteurized: 69 ml/2.6 ounces/74 grams
heavy cream: 1/4 cup/59 ml
Parmesano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated: 3/4 cup/1 ounce/28 grams + extra if desired for serving
salt (preferably fine sea salt): 2 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon , divided
black pepper, freshly ground: 1/2 teaspoon
a sprinkling of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup minced parsley, preferably flat-leafed
spaghetti: 1 pound/454 grams
1/4 cup water from the boiling pasta
Place 4 large pasta bowls or dinner plates in the oven with a pilot light or heat set to very low. Fill a large saucepot with at least 4 quarts of cold water; cover it and bring the water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large wok or 12-inch Dutch oven, fry the bacon in batches of single layers until medium crisp. Drain it on paper towels and break it into 1/2 inch pieces.
Drain all but a thin film of the bacon fat from the pan.
If using the porcini, remove any dirt with a wet paper towel and cut off the very ends of the stems. Slice them into 1/4 inch slices and then cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.
Add the olive oil and butter to the pot with the bacon fat and heat over medium-low heat. If using the porcini, add them and cook covered for about 10 minutes or until tender, stirring once or twice.
Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute or until wilted, stirring constantly. Do not allow the garlic to brown or it will be bitter. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cream.
In another small bowl, stir together the Parmesan cheese, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, black and cayenne peppers.
When the water for the pasta boils, add the 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook it until al dente, 11 to 15 minutes, or until no white appears in the center when a strand is cut. Shortly before the end of cooking, remove 1/4 cup of the boiling water with a ladle and whisk it into the egg yolks and cream. Turn the heat on under the wok or Dutch oven to medium-low.
Drain the cooked pasta and add it to pan. Sauté, stirring with a large silicone spatula until it is evenly coated with the butter/oil mixture and add the reserved bacon, the cheese mixture and the parsley. Using 2 large forks, toss to blend. Empty the pasta into a large bowl. Add the egg yolk mixture and toss quickly to blend it in without scrambling the yolks. Transfer at once to the serving bowls. Pass extra grated cheese, salt and a pepper mill.
The long-awaited day finally arrived. Hector and his partner Christopher, Woody, and I, and Hector's good friend Luca Rizzi set out for the long and gradual ascent up to Mauna Kea, elevation 13,600 ft. It is here that Hector photographed one of his first "Hector's Takes on My Cakes," and it is the first time that it is being posted in this extraordinary top of the world setting.
Luca is an astronomer who works in a complex near Hilo and at the W. M. Keck Observatory. The observatory houses two identical telescopes. The first was built in 1993 and the second one was completed in 1996. Luca explained that the observatory looks more like a mechanical shop and warehouse with some computer rooms, than a pristine scientific laboratory. Each telescope weighs over 300 tons. The 36 hexagonal segments required to compose the primary mirrors make these telescopes the largest observable telescopes in the world.
On the telescopes, each segment is kept stable by a system of active optics, which uses extremely rigid support structures in combination with adjustable warping harnesses. During observation, a computer-controlled system of sensors and actuators adjusts the position of each segment, relative to its neighbors, to an accuracy of four nanometers. This twice-per-second adjustment counters the effect of gravity as the telescope moves, in addition to other environmental effects that can affect the mirror shape.
Luca methodically went over safety precautions and possible health effects of the extremely high altitude, checking on us from time to time. We walked and moved around in slow motion to minimize any possible effects in the 50˚F/10˚C temperature designed to mirror the outside environment.
We were dwarfed by the over-two story tall sphere structure of the telescope. Luca explained various telescope apparati that are stationed around a walkway surrounding the telescopes, which can be attached to the telescopes for particular experiments. One spectrometer was cooled to just above absolute zero -456˚F/-273˚C.
Hector put together this spectacular slide show of our visit to the Keck Telescopes.
Back in Kona we were eagerly anticipating the tour that Hector had been planning over the past 7 years awaiting our visit.
We had been hearing about Ken Love and were greatly looking forward to meeting him. Ken Love is a larger than life person and it would take a book to do him justice. In a macadamia nut shell, he travels around the world researching and giving lectures.
Love wears many hats. He is president of Love Family Farms on the Big Island and has been growing pineapple, and numerous other tropical fruit for nearly 30 years. He is vice president of the Kona Kohala Chefs Association ACF. As president of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers he is instrumental in the development of prototype sustainable agriculture systems for farmers in Hawaii. He assists growers with market development for unusual tropical fruit by establishing farmer chef relations and agtourism options. Most recently Love has recently performed a feasibility study on marketing Kona coffee in South India and is currently assisting with avocado market research and managing fig variety trials. He has just completed filming a documentary with Bill Pullman, called "The Fruit Hunter."
So you can imagine how at lunch with him at the Nasturtium Café, over bison burger, chicken with mango chutney, and fish quesadillas, we were all spellbound by his contributions and accomplishments.
After lunch Ken invited us for a tour of his amazing farm. In the front yard we got to taste an orange from a tree that is the oldest orange tree in the United States, planted in 1792 by botanist Archibold Menzies.
We followed Ken through the gardens tasting all manor of exotic tropical fruits including mangosteens, noni (a South American cure-all fruit), dragon fruit, white fruit with black seeds, huge ugli fruit, Tahitian gooseberries, bilimbi (used for salad oils and pestos), guava, bread fruit (sought after in the story of Mutiny on the Bounty), and rambutan.
Last Day in Honolulu Brunch at Hector and Visit to Pearl Harbor
On our last day in Honolulu, Hector wanted us to meet as many of his friends and family as possible given the size of the apartment. Eight people attended, each bringing a special dish. Debbie Story, who offered to pick us up from the hotel along with cups of coffee, made fabulous spinach, mushroom, gruyère, and poached egg casserole (she gave me permission to post the recipe in future).
The buffet table was laden with goodies from pastries to Chinese dim sum to Portuguese sausages.
Kevin Kawahara brought delicious squares of pumpkin mochi. He also brought a jar of mango chutney and of lilikoi butter (passion curd) prepared by the students at the Punahou School where he works as part of the IT staff and where President Obama was once a student. Kevin explained to us the special story behind the preserves: The students make these preserves each year to sell at the Punahou Carnival held on the first weekend of February. The carnival is put on by the junior class and parents, and supported by the entire Punahou community. All proceeds from carnival are used to help fund the financial aid budget - the same fund that helped put Barack Obama through Punahou! One of the more popular and famous parts of Carnival is the Mango Chutney. Just before all the mangoes start to ripen, students and parents collect green mangoes and spend hours and hours peeling, slicing, cooking, and canning the chutney to sell. It is only available twice a year - once at the Christmas craft fair, and then at the carnival. People wait in line for hours to buy as little as a single jar. While almost everyone knows about Punahou Carnival Mango Chutney, the lilikoi butter is in much shorter supply, and arguably more desirable - it disappears before the chutney.
The Culinary Demo at the Leeward Community College, Honolulu and Hector's Yellow Kitchen
I was thrilled when Hayley Matson Mathes invited me to give a baking demo in Honolulu. Hayley is executive director of the Hawaii Culinary Educational Foundation, a charitable organization that brings in chefs from all over the world to give classes and workshops to culinary students. She and her charming husband Mike were the best of hosts. They picked Woody and me up at the Honolulu airport and brought us to the Halekulani 5 star hotel at Waikiki beach, with a glorious ocean view from every room, where Haley arranged for us to stay for two nights.
Hector picked us up for dinner at his apartment, home of The Yellow Kitchen, where we met his delightful partner Christopher Obenchain. Christopher is a free lance actor, who occasionally does commercials. He is also working on his PHD in education. He gave us a short viewing of his cameo appearance as a waiter in one of my very favorite movies "Dirty Dancing!"
I don't know how Hector managed it, having been with us in Kona up until that morning and doing most of the prep for the upcoming baking class, then making us a tasty Peruvian dinner of Hake fish with rice and a sauce of Aji Panca marinade: vinegar, cumin, garlic, oregano,aji panca, and a touch of soy sauce. (Aji panca is a Peruvian dried chili pepper which gives a dark red color and has almost no taste. It is similar to paprika.), and onion salad. For dessert, the "Hector's Take on My Cake" chocolate oblivion made with avocado instead of butter. If I hadn't spotted a tiny bit of avocado green I never would have suspected it was there!
In the Yellow Kitchen, Hector has established his personal signature with as many appliances and tools as possible in yellow. Christopher even painted the frig yellow and made a hanging ceiling light from a yellow colander.
The second bedroom is set up as a baking studio. It was quite amazing to see how much Hector could fit into this space. Even the inside of the cabinet doors have brackets for tools to make more storage.
Our home base for the entire visit to Hawaii was at Patti and Marty Kimball's beautiful home high in the Kona Mountains with a panoramic view of the ocean below.Ocean liners and their entourage of smaller boats looked like toy boats in one's bathtub.
The first thing we both noticed before entering the house was this stunning 'dinosaur egg' cement planter made by Marty's brother Mark Kimball.
Imagine being able to go out into one's half acre yard to pick passion fruit, several varieties of avocado (Marty explained that the most delicious, the large and plump Kahalu'u variety cannot be exported because of it's loose pit that shakes around during transport damaging the flesh), mangoes, oranges, apple bananas, papaya, pineapple, star fruit, and all manner of vegetables. Truly we had landed in tropical paradise. A paradise with no snakes as years ago the mongoose population wiped them out, however, the Coqui frogs, which have no other natural predators, abound. We were serenaded by their bird-like chirping all night until the roosters took over at 4:00 am (Many Hawaiians have a slightly different opinion of this concert!). This created a life-style of early to bed and early to rise--ideal as the best time for ocean swims to prevent sunburn is before the sun rises too high.
During our swim at Kahalu'u, a favorite of the locals, we saw many of the fish that I had seen growing up in my cousin's aquarium. Hector held up a rock to attract them. The black, white, and yellow angelfish and butterfly fish with their long streamers, the bright yellow tang fish, and blue parrotfish all flocked to him.
After our swim we went to Sam Choy's for lunch, recommended by my dear friend Leslie Harlib, formerly food editor of the Marin County News. She said it was the best view on the Big Island but she didn't know at the time about the view we were to have chez Kimballs! The food was quite good. We had our first fish, poke, two ways: marinated, w/onions and chives, and fried w/cabbage. We also sampled another of Hector's favorite fish, ono w/ brown rice and purple sweet potatoes.
Things started off with a bang: We were invited to a special event at the Fairmont Hotel, coordinated by Hector's friend chef Patti Kimball. It was the Culinary & Wine Extravaganza Charity Event for the Kitchen Campaign Palamanui to buy equipment for the school. Hector arranged to have three of my cookbooks at the auction!
On the way to the Fairmont Hotel we were treated to a landscape of black lava, decorated with personal messages written with small white rocks. We thought about bringing some lava rock home as souvenirs but were warned by Hector that the goddess Pele would bring bad luck to anybody who does this. As we drove up to the hotel it seemed strangely familiar. It took a few days to discover that Elliott and I had stayed there 18 years ago when it was called the Ritz.
The hotel was decorated for Christmas which included this unusual gingerbread house.
The first person we met turned out to be a colleague of mine I hadn't seen since she moved to Hawaii: The chairwoman of the event Jean W. Hull (pictured with Hector below, at breakfast the next morning)
Hector describes Jean as the Grand Dame of Hawaii Culinary. She wrote the curriculum for the West Hawaii Culinary College and now is a consultant for major culinary events
Out in the garden, chef students helped man the booths. After meeting our host Patti Kimball, we raced around to try to taste everything!
Favorites were the ginger chicken salad, wild boar meatballs, and eggplant cake frosted with avocado.
We met and were charmed by French born chef Fernand Guiot who opened a bakery in New York in 1980 and a few years later opened a bakery in Hawaii. He now teaches at the culinary school. It was his students who made the gingerbread house above and several other ones, under his supervision.
The next morning we were treated to the brunch buffet and were blown away by chef Curtis Lea making omelets. Not only were the omelets made with Portuguese sausages, cheddar and spinach so good we had to go back for seconds,
what impressed us still more was when he volunteered that having a metal prosthesis served as a great advantage. He never worries about burning or cutting his left hand or arm, and can run the metal device under boiling water to sterilize it. (Talk about silver linings!) Patti told us later that she and he were in culinary school together and the students all took up a collection to buy him a better prosthesis.
Hector and Jean at Breakfast
Before departing for Patti's home we walked to the hotel beach and learned that the white sand was imported from California. A few of the beaches in Hawaii are black sand, but there are also beaches of plain rock, lava rock, and white sand. The Fairmont is located in an area where there is a mixed landscape of all these forms and colors.
Hector Wong and I first met over the internet in December of 2006 when he posted a question on my blog about Panettone. Since that time we have had an enormous influence over each other's lives. Hector baked his way through many of the recipes in The Cake Bible and all of the recipes in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. He read through all of my books and became intimately familiar with my work and in the process became a masterful baker. His renditions of my cakes were so stunning I gave him a spot on the blog called "Hector's Take on My Cake." And Hector taught me how to make the leap from a PC to a Mac and innumerable techniques on the computer. He also edited and posted over 150 of my video and tv appearances on YouTube so that every one could benefit. He also often jumps in to answer questions on the blog. It hardly seems possible that we have been friends for 6 years, only having spoken once on the phone, but having exchanged hundreds of e-mails.
Hector has been inviting me for several years to come to visit him in Hawaii. Finally the time came this past December to meet in person. It took a lot of planning on all our parts and even included a culinary demo at Leeward Community College, arranged by another wonderful new friend Haley MatsonMathes.
The 10 day visit was the trip of a lifetime. And for Hector, it meant achieving several of his wishes:
A chance to interview me over the period of many days and long car trips
The chance to do a drop dead mis en place for my demo
The perfect opportunities to show off his baking and culinary skills
Getting me to taste his avocado rendition of my chocolate oblivion
And to work together to create a Hawaiian adaptation of one of my favorite recipes that will be in the upcoming book.
The trip included so many special highlights that I've divided it into several postings to share with all of you and I hope that you will feel almost as if you were there. Truly it was an embarrassment of riches: the people, the fruit, the demo, the landscape, swimming in the ocean. The most unusual highlight, the visit to the Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea, arranged and led by the astronomer himself, Hector's close friend Luca Rizzi, was video taped by Hector along with appropriate music. It will be posted in the posting about touring in a few weeks time. Do Not Miss It!!!
Woody flew out of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, which had 14 inches of snow
I from out of cloudy gray, 40˚F/4˚C New York City
We both arrived to 80˚F/27˚C sunny Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Chef Daniel Humm, of 11 Madison, is one of the finest chefs in America so when the Austrian government extended an invitation to a press lunch at his restaurant, featuring "the Best of the ALps," I accepted without hesitation.
The three course lunch was utterly exquisite.
The first course, scallops seared with chanterelle and other wild mushrooms, pine nuts and bulgur wafers, were silken and perfectly carmelized.
The beef, roasted with bone marrow, rutabaga, and rye berry was perfectly cooked, rare throughout. The bone marrow gave the sauce a fabulous flavor and texture.
The rolls were an amazing cross between a soft white dinner roll with the flakiness and crisp crust of a croissant.
And the caramel ice cream with chocolate ganache was so delicious I asked for a second serving.
The slide presentation of the stunning resorts nestled in the alps, from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France reminded me of long ago ski trips when I felt like I was skiing on top of the world. During the lunch the representatives from each country moved from table to table to meet and greet. And toward the end, the representative from Zermott, came to our table to offer us little pins of the matterhorn. When he presented me with one he fumbled and dropped it on my napkin where it promptly disappeared into one of the folds. Groping under the napkin in a desperate attempt to locate the pin, he went into his preplanned speech saying "I want to offer you a very personal invitation." How could I resist? My response: "It doesn't get more personal than this!"
All I can say is that there is only one thing more enjoyable than excellent food and wine and that is laughter. I had my fair share of all three at this lunch.
There is something about this photo that pleases me on a very deep level. It is not my usual style--it is anything but simple and unfussy--and yet, when I saw it, my heart said: YES! It is a beautiful and luscious looking work of art.
Hector has succeeded in making one of my favorite cakes from The Cake Bible into a larger wedding cake size without compromising the texture. Here, in Hector's words, is the description of what he did:
I so-much-adore the Golden Butter Cream Cake from the Cake Bible. The recipe is for one 9" round cake pan, 2" deep. I offered this cake for a party of 60 and converted the recipe into a wedding cake: a top tier consisting of two 9" cakes, and a bottom tier consisting of two 12" cakes.
What attracted me to make this recipe a wedding cake is the desire of many-people that love pound cake. The Golden Butter Cream Cake is very similar to a pound cake, except a touch lighter in texture and sweetness. Serving this "lighter cake" as a two-layer cake filled and frosted with strawberry mousseline buttercream is gilding the lily! I have named this cake my Ultra Butter Ultra Yellow Vanilla Cake with Ultra Strawberry Buttercream. More on how I make my ultra strawberry buttercream... later...
I used the same instructions as i wrote on my first case study with the Chocolate Domingo Wedding Cake:
"For the top tier, I multiplied x2 every ingredient and baked two 9" pans. For the bottom tier, I multiplied x4 every ingredient; and in addition multiplied the baking powder and baking soda x0.84, which is indeed a subtraction, and baked two 12" pans."
I've received dozens on questions regarding the math, and I come to agreement that my brain is unlike most others. Let me paraphrase: the top tier of the wedding cake consists of two 9" cakes; multiply every ingredient in the original recipe from Cake Bible times 2 and bake in two 9" pans. The bottom tier of the wedding cake consists of two 12" cakes; multiply every ingredient in the original recipe from Cake Bible times 4, except the baking powder only multiply by 3.36 which equals to times 4 and times 0.84. You need to weigh all your ingredients, and in addition, have a second scale that can measure small quantities.
I continue writing:
"A 12" pan is very close to twice the volume of a 9" pan. I used Rose's Heavenly Cake strips on all pans, fitting 3 strips with large paper clips on each 12" pan. Oven temperature was as indicated in the 9" recipe. The oven times were longer since i baked two 9" cakes at once (35-45 mins) and then two 12" cakes at once (50 to 60 mins).
It worked PERFECTLY!!! The cakes rose beautifully. The cakes didn't collapse nor volcanoed in the middle. The cake was level and a dream to stack.
The texture of the 12" cakes were indistinguishable from the texture of the 9" cakes. I came about the x0.84 subtraction of the leavening from studying the Rose Factor charts from the Cake Bible. I can't tell you for sure yet that this is magic rule, but it is a handy start for converting a 9" butter cake into a 12"!!!
Now, if u want a 6" third tier, make one 9" recipe and bake two 6" pans! A 6" pan is very close to half the volume of a 9" pan. It is recommended to increase the baking powder and baking soda when baking on smaller cake pans, but I find it unnecessary with a 6" pan; it is so small that any arguing can be shouted off with some serrated knife action post baking!
Buy, borrow, or steal, a copy of the Cake Bible to understand my full thinking. Read pages 490-492 and you can expand on my case study for any pans up to 18" wide."
The cake was a gift to my friend Gigi, who turned 21 and asked for a casino themed cake. The decorations are colored fondant. The clubs are inverted chocolate chips.
This is my third visit to the wonderful Masala Farm home of Suvir Saran and Charlie Byrd but the first time that Suvir cooked dinner, and what an extraordinary treat it was. Here it is in all its glorious detail!
SUVIR PREPARING THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN EVER
COLORFUL VEGETABLES READY TO ROAST
COLESLAW WITH THE LAST OF THE GARDEN'S CHERRY TOMATOES
AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS FRIED CHICKEN THIGHS
THE ROASTED VEGETABLES
CRISPY CREAMY POTATOES AND GARLIC
When it was time for dessert Suvir and Charlie turned to each other with a questing look as to what the other had prepared, which turned out to be nothing. No problem: Charlie dipped into his special stash of sour cherries that had been mascerating in verjuice for many months and also located a container of crème fraîche. Served in lovely glass goblets it was so tangy creamy luscious/fabulous I forgot to take a photo!
When I returned home,I lost no time in making those addictive crispy creamy potatoes with roasted garlic. The recipe is ini Suvir's most recent book Masala Farm cookbook.
When Bob Trinque, product manager of my new Rose™ Line, told me that his dream was to make a good pizza crust and that his crust always turned out like a rock, my heart went out to him. Bob is one of the most generous people I know so it was great to be handed a way to do something special for him.
Of course I already had my idea of what the perfect pizza crust should be, but I knew this would never do for Bob who is a self-proclaimed cook and non-baker. As
detail oriented and exacting as I am is how fly by the seat of his pants is Bob. So I set out to create a pizza that he would be willing and therefore able to reproduce.
My criteria were:
Easy to find ingredients
Speed of preparation
A sturdy enough dough not to tear easily
A crust that is crisp but also pillowy soft inside
I started testing pizza dough three months in advance of our August date. After about 6 different versions, I finally hit on one that so fulfilled all my goals it's now going to be my go to pizza dough as well. The big break through was a visit to Charlie Van Over in Connecticut. Charlie, a multi-talented chef of many enterprises invented the Hearth Kit (oven stone for baking bread). He also came up with an excellent technique for making bread dough in a Cuisinart. He gave me some of his baguettes to taste, saying that something about the way in which a food processor mixes dough makes it unnecessary to have a starter or biga for flavor. Sure enough, his baguettes had excellent flavor and texture so I decided to try this technique for the pizza dough. Eureka! This is the easiest pizza dough ever, mixed in under a minute in the food processor. It needs to be mixed a minimum of 4 hours ahead of shaping and baking, but can be refrigerated for as long as 2 days.
I told Bob that the one deal breaker was that he had to use a scale, at least for the first time he made the dough so he could see what the consistency of it needs to be. I explained that if the dough is not sticky after mixing, it will not puff into the pizza of his dreams and will return to the stone dough of his past experience! (The proof was in the pizza.)
On a beautiful August day, I set out to visit Bob in South Salem, NY, along with my half Sicilian cousin Elizabeth Granatelli who had never made her own pizza dough before. She brought her own tomato sauce, however, and is generously allowing me to post it on the blog after I get a chance to test it (it was absolutely delicious!).
I jokingly asked Bob if he had a wood-fired oven and his answer was: yes--but the birds are nesting in it so we can't use it! So we decided to use his electric oven with pizza stone and his gas grill.
Bob was in charge of amassing all the topping ingredients. In addition to the requisite mozzarella (he bought an excellent fresh one) we also used fresh oregano from his garden, crumbled sautéed sausage on one and pepperoni on the other, and a sprinkling of Romano and Parmesan on top after baking.
Bob's cat Spartacus (my very favorite cat in the world) was the most attentive observer.
We ate our pizzas in the cozy tank room (Bob has a magnificent old house with very modern kitchen that was a dream to work in). Elizabeth had brought an excellent pinot (Red Bicyclette). Then, as it was such a clear night, we sat out under the stars and talked until bedtime. We were, all three of us, pizza proud!
It has been many years since I found a Shaggy Mane mushroom. I was 22 and living in Washington Crossing, Pa. We were driving through the nearby town of Yardly and stopped for a traffic light. There by the side of the road I spied one perfect Shaggy Mane. We didn't dare to eat it even though we were quite sure of our identification as nothing else I know of resembles this mushroom. My great uncle Nat, who founded the New England Mycological Society, taught me how to identify morels, chanterelles and the more rare shaggy manes, and had it been a morel or even a chanterelle I would have trusted it but somehow shaggy mane had me nervous.
Two days ago,my husband Elliott, who was doing yard work, reported that there were many mushrooms around and that I should lose no time in checking out the white conical ones in front of the house. I stopped what I was doing on the computer and raced right out into the fall leaves. There it was--one large one with it's bottom fringe already showing a bit of black, and several smaller ones.
Luckily, my cousin Marion Bush, who is this generation's expert in wild edibles (the name of her busines, which supplies local restaurants, is Wild Harvest) was home. I sent her a photo from my new Iphone 5 (love it!) and she identified it as a true Shaggy Mane. She recommended sautéeing them in butter with a little chopped onion and thyme. She added that these mushrooms hold a lot of water, so I got out my new Rose™Line crêpe pan, reasoning that it's exceptionally flat surface would speed evaporation. I also uncorked a great bottle of Austrian pino and we had a succulently delicious pre dinner appetizer!
Note: In many small towns in France the pharmacist also is the local mushroom expert and people are encouraged to bring their wild mushrooms for identification. Lacking this, it is strongly recommended to be 100% sure of identification or to bring it to a trusted expert. If a poisonous mushroom (the spores) comes into contact with an edible one, the edible one also will be contaminated.
The only thing my husband likes to eat, said my Japanese friend Hiroko, one of the most dedicated and talented cooks I have ever met, is steak or a soft boiled egg. What a pity with your great cooking skills, I replied, but at least that makes him easy to please.Not at all, was her response. In our many years of marriage, I have never achieved an egg that he has deemed perfect. I looked at her carefully to see if she was kidding. No. She was quite serious. The yolk must be entirely fluid while the white must be entirely set. The yolk must be precisely in the center, and when the egg is cut the short way, none of the yolk must run onto the white. Each time he tells me I have failed. she ended sadly. This was beginning to sound like some sort of Midieval punishment.
It is a truism that the seemingly easiest tasks are often the most difficult to accomplish. This Zen like challenge made me vow someday to go for the impossible and with the help of instructions from Hiroko, make that egg. (Actually, Hiroko who is now back in Japan, writes me that this egg, called "half-cooked egg" is a famous recipe from a restaurant called Kyo-tei in Kyoto, a city renowned for its refinement in crafts and the quality of ingredients.)
Several years passed since first hearing about this special egg and I found myself repeating the story to another couple. The wife's response: That's funny, Heinz cooks only one thing and it is also an egg which he has perfected. This struck me as much more equitable an arrangement. The egg is "coddled" in a microwave-safe ramekin so that it exactly fits an English muffin. Heinz cautioned me that it would probably be necessary to experiment a bit for exactly timing because microwaves vary but I must say it worked perfectly on the first try. The recipe couldn't be more simple: Place a little piece of butter into a ramekin that is about the same diameter as an English muffin. Break 1 large cold egg into the ramekin. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Slide the egg onto the toasted English muffin. That's it. Except for a little refinement I prefer: if desired, carefully separate the egg to remove the chalaza (the little ropey bit attaching the yolk to the white that never really sets on cooking). Then add both the white and unbroken yolk to the ramekin.
Now for Takao's egg, essentially as given by Hiroko:
Use fresh egg, put in room temperature for more than 1 hour.
Put it in quietly boiling water, using slotted spoon.
Turn egg in boiling water for the first minute to make yolk centered.
Boil quietly 5 minutes from the beginning.
Put egg in cold water. Peel off shell and skin in the cold water.
Cut off a very thin slice from each pointed end so egg will sit evenly.
Holding egg in palm of hand, use a wide bladed knife to cut egg in half the short way, being careful not to cut hand. Quickly separate the two halves onto your palm, using knife blade to smooth yolk into place.
To quote Hiroko: It is quite simple but difficult. Size of the eggs or room's temperature change the condition. So try once or twice.
One of my favorite events of the year, the Dessert Professional's 19th Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America, was held again this past June, at the Institute of Culinary Education. My only disappointment was that my dear friend and colleague Marcel Dessaulniers, this years honoree to the Hall of Fame, was not able to be present. He was busy opening his new café with his wife and partner artist Connie Desaulniers: Mad About Chocolate! Marcel was owner of The beloved Trellis Restaurant in Wiliamsburg, Virginia, and author of Death by Chocolate and several other wonderful cookbooks. Now people will be able to taste his favorite chocolate recipes without even having to make them!
In addition to tasting many delicious desserts, meeting the chefs, colleagues, and old friends, this year I brought back a very special recipe which was my favorite taste of the event: raspberry caramels. They were presented, along with the classic caramels, by pastry chef Marc Aumont of The Modern, NYC. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times my hand dipped into these bowls of caramels!
Chef Aumont also offered these beautifully presented little chocolate mousse desserts. Is it any wonder he works at The Modern (the top restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art)?
My dear friend, pastry chef Jean-François Bonnet of Tumbador Chocolate, introduced me to pastry chef Sandro Micheli who had once worked under him at Daniel, NYC and is now the Executive Pastry Chef. I was stunned by the beauty of his chocolate glaze and when I asked Jean-François for the secret of the amazing shine his answer was: "just perfect execution."
For a complete list of this year's top ten pastry chefs and the recipe for the raspberry caramels read the extended entry.
I was sad to learn that one of America's greatest restaurants, located in Chicago, is closing its doors this month. Charlie is a brilliant restaurateur, inspired chef, cookbook author, tv host, and loyal, generous friend. Over the years, whenever I was in Chicago on book tour, he hosted a party in the classroom adjoining the restaurant, making recipes from the latest book. Once he even made a special lunch drawing recipes from several of my books.
I'll never forget the special dinner I arranged at his restaurant during the International Association of Culinary Professionals. I invited Harold McGee, Shirley and Arche Corriher, Elizabeth Karmel, Sarah Leah Chase, Steve Raichlin and there may have been others. We were treated to the dinner of our lives with amazing wines to accompany it. When I was presented with the bill, to my total amazement, all that was written on it was: "For Rose and friends, from Charlie." To tease Arche who often complained that my annual dinners were a bit too steep, I said: "Arche, you won't believe this bill!" To my delight his response was: "What ever it is it was worth it!" We all went down to the kitchen to thank Charlie and staff.
Charlie, I love you for all that you are and look forward to your next incarnation.
Another of the most delightful and memorable experiences I had chez Trotter's was when I got to see what it was like being in a chef. I wrote up the experience 20 years ago for the monthly column I wrote at the time for the LA Times Syndicate.
MY LIFE ON THE LINE, June 1994
Chef! What an image-laden word for lovers of fine food. But the literal meaning of this French term is merely chief. It relates to food only when used as the title "chef de cuisine." In English, however, the word chef has come to imply a fine restaurant cook and that is why I have never described myself as chef. Before a year ago this April, I had baked and cooked in many places including a windy street corner at the Miami Book Fair, but never actually "on the line" in a restaurant kitchen. I have also enjoyed my share of meals in the calm ordered elegance of the world's finest restaurants. But behind the scenes, I discovered, is truly a world apart. The closest analogy I can offer is that of a war zone but this may be because I have never worked in an O.R. The tension, excitement, and life or death attitude, not to mention near manic joy, that pervades a great restaurant kitchen was beyond my imagination. It was Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter's in Chicago who gave me the opportunity to participate in this living drama of "working on the line" by inviting me, along with 10 chefs from around the country, to be part of his annual Sunday night James Beard birthday fund raiser dinner for over 100 guests.
The weekend started with a dinner at Charlie's for the visiting chefs and spouses or assistants who arrived Friday night, which, coincidentally, happened to be my birthday. The dinner was held in a special upstairs room; the mahogany table laid with the finest French porcelain, but it was the number and array of wine glasses that offered a glimpse of the extraordinary tasting to come: 7 savory and 5 sweet dishes beginning with monkfish liver (I never even realized they had livers) on organic yellow currant tomatoes, organic ennis hazelnuts and foie gras with 25 year balsamico brown butter vinaigrette, and ending with warm liquid center bittersweet chocolate cake with vanilla hazelnut and cinnamon ice cream.
Early Saturday morning we visiting chefs began to invade Charlie's kitchen, which was already in progress bravely producing their regular Saturday night dinner menu. My personal challenge was to produce a dessert that would be both light and tantalizing after 11 other courses prepared by Charlie, Mark Baker, Elizabeth Terry, John Sedlar, David Waltuck, Geoff Felsenthal, Elka Gilmore, Christopher Gross, Jean Louis Palladin and Jean Joho. Whew! I chose an ethereal Lemon Snow with Golden Grand Marnier Sauce accompanied by my signature cake: Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake, baked as madeleines.
An hour wait for the citrus reamer to produce the 6 cups of required lemon juice for my dessert gave me a chance to get acquainted with the kitchen staff and visiting colleagues. It also set me way behind producing over 100 desserts but pastry chef Michelle Gayer assured me that she would stay and finish them for me even if it meant staying all night (another friend for life)! By the end of the day we were all very ready for cocktail's and sunset at Jean Joho's Everest Room and dinner at the glorious estate of Tubby and Julie Bacon*. (It was truly a weekend in wonderland!)
Early Sunday morning back to the kitchen for another day of mad activity and prep. By serving time, the action had reached a feverish pitch, deftly orchestrated by sous chef Guilliermo. Meanwhile, in the calm oasis of the dining room, a mere few steps away, my husband Elliott joined David Waltuck's wife Karen, to greet and seat the guests.
Back to the roar of the kitchen, as each course readied for launching, everyone stopped what he or she was doing and focused full intensity on the dish at hand: plating, garnishing, shouting out orders and passing it "down the line" to the waiters poised for flight. The very air was charged with palpable energy. Most delightful, was the realization that though most of us had started out the weekend as interested strangers, we had all by now become a team of very supportive friends.
After the final act, my Lemon Snow, Charlie brought all of us visiting chefs into the dining room to introduce us to the guests. We all felt the event was a resounding success. Not only did it raise money to contribute to our profession, it also served to connect 11 captains of our own ships in one common endeavor. In the after glow of our success, we sat at last, joked and relaxed and by midnight celebrated with the universally beloved leveler: take out pizza.
* Julie gave me a recipe for Java crisps, which were her favorite cookies. They will be in my upcoming book "The Baking Bible." They are indeed marvelous.
I wasn't expecting or looking for a message, but in the two weeks since my father's death I found myself thinking about him more than I had ever thought about him when he was still alive. I took his existence for granted. After close to 98 years of life I unconsciously began to feel that he would always be there.
A constant stream of memories kept appearing--mostly the things I loved about him and the gifts he had given me. The thought that kept emerging with the greatest frequency was how courageous he was--how he lived without fear, was a realist, and yet lived as though he had all the time in the world. He was known to be a dreamer. Can one be a dreamer and a realist I wondered? Yes, I realized, because he loved dreaming and imagining things more than actually realizing most of his dreams. One exception was his land in rural Grafton, New York. This was his greatest dream and one he achived in his 70's. When he was 84 he reshingled his huge hip roofed barn--building scaffolding and working 50 feet above the ground. At 97, legally blind and partially deaf, he still wanted to go into business building bird houses he called "for the birds."
Dad at 95 on his porch in Grafton, holding the blueberry pie I baked for him
The term "he marched to his own drummer" fit Dad to a t! He had his own point of view and it was unshakable, even when offered what I considered to be solid evidence to the contrary. When told he should no longer drive a car, he drove his golf cart several miles down the shoulder of the road to the senior center. He had his own way of looking at things. Shortly after the disastrous attack and destruction of the World Trade Towers on 9-11, I was nominated for two awards for an article I had written for Food Arts Magazine called "The Sugar Bible." One ceremony was being held in Los Vegas and the other in Adelaide, Australia. I called my Dad to ask him if I should risk flying. I asked him how he would feel if I were to die. I knew what my mother's answer would have been--something along the lines of: "Don't even say such a thing. If you die I will die." Not my father. To my dismay he said: "I wouldn't feel all that bad!" "What do you mean?" I exclaimed, getting ready to feel outraged. He explained: "Everyone has to die sometime. What is that saying about a coward dying many deaths but a brave man just one?" And thus he gave me permission to live my life without fear.
All these thoughts culminated in the message which led me to a new understanding of what life means to me. It has been said that the major difference between human beings and all other life is that we understand our lives to be finite. But this understanding is an intellectual one. On an emotional level the concept seems horrifyingly inconceivable. Surely that is why we do not live each moment in the awareness that it may be our last. When someone we love dies, these two states of being--the intellectual and emotional knowledge converge. A window opens to our consciousness and for a fleeting moment we can perceive the true miracle of existence more clearly than any prayer uttered unthinkingly by rote. Life is our gift from the universe and it's beauty and majesty are all the more heartbreakingly poignant because its antonym is death.
My father's last words, when prompted by my brother's asking if there was something he wanted to say to us, were: "Continue on."
We were blessed by the loving care given to him by his caretaker Shelly Tilly, her mother Pat Kennedy and daughter Jessie Rae Jacobs. I am grateful that I had my father for so many years and that I got to say goodbye. I'm grateful that he got to see my brother and me, after years of hard work and struggle, achieve success. I'm grateful that my brother and dear wife Mia gave him a granddaughter* who asked to skip her graduation so that she could come across country and say goodbye to her grandfather. Most of all, I am grateful that he gave us life. I will try to make the most of it and remember to keep the vision of its miracle before me and be worshipful.
*Special Note: Mariella was presented with her diploma a day before graduation and the joyful surprise of receiving the top honor in her graduating class (The Head's Cup). She had the chance to read the award to her grandfather, stopping at the end of every paragraph to ask if he was following, to which he said, each and every time, a resounding Yes! He hardly had the energy to talk but pride and love won out.
Is this not cosmic destiny?! My great uncle Nathan George Horwit, known for his Movado Museum watch design of the one dot and no numbers, once boasted to some friends that he had never gotten into the New York Times with his numerous editorials on Israel, but that I got in with a cake.
In today's New York Times, I was delighted to discover that my cousin Joshua Howegot in with something more concrete and the lead actually compares concrete to flour in baking. It's all in the family!
New Twist on a Dense Subject
By TIM McKEOUGH
Published: July 11, 2012
Concrete is to architecture what flour is to baking: an important but homely ingredient. Yes, the material can be stylish in kitchens and bathrooms, and it's the stuff of many an art gallery floor. But dense, gray and prone to cracking, it seldom appears in fine lighting and furniture.
Joshua Howe, 36, a designer in Chatham, N.Y., who has worked with concrete for five years, sees beyond its limitations. Originally attracted to the material's rugged looks, he became impressed with its versatility. "It can be rough and industrial," he noted, or "light, silky and elegant."
His pieces include Alar, left, a double-stem floor lamp with a hefty concrete base and slender arms made from steel tubing. The arms seem to bow under the weight of their bulbs, which are sheathed in frosted acrylic wings.
Alar ($5,200) and a number of Mr. Howe's other concrete-and-steel creations are at Culture+Commerce Project, 428 Warren Street, Hudson, NY. Information: (518) 653-4532, joshuahowedesign.com.
Marion Cunningham, who died last Wednesday at age 90, was one of the most beloved people in our profession. You may have learned about this in the press but I wanted to add this link to the New York Times that offers an excellent description of Marion and her many contributions.
On a personal note, I rarely visited San Francisco without getting together with Marion either in her home in Walnut Creek or in a restaurant. She will have many pages in my memoirs but for now I want to share two special stories. One took place at a dinner many years ago at the restaurant Fifth Floor. Chef George Morrone had just opened the restaurant and chefs from as far as Los Angeles (including Wolfgang Puck) were there to support him. One by one each chef came to our table to kiss Marion's hand.
The last time Marion was able to come into the city, escorted by another dear colleague and friend Marlene Sorosky, we dined at one of our favorites: Zuni Café. She had begun to lose her memory but none of her charm or graciousness. I brought along a book for her to which I had made a contribution, called Chefs and Their Mothers, and wrote along with my signature and love: To Marion, mother to us all.
There are some very charming and touching vignettes from various chefs and other people in the food world remembering Julia Child. This is a special commemoration for what would have been her 100th birthday. If you paste this link in your browser it will bring you to my video tribe plus several others that are very special.
Hector has just done another "take on my cake"--this time from The Cake Bible.
Here is Hector's description of his creative process:
one day Matthew Boyer told me: "Hector, the Mango Passion Tart on the Pie and Pastry Bible is the best pie on the book." i took Matthew's words seriously and made this tart several-several-several times, including my now ubiquitous 6-feet wide Rose World Cake!
several years has passed and the mango rose decor remains embedded in me! my latest mango rose is the topping for my latest creation: the Chocolate Mango Oblivion. what is this? follow Cake Bible's recipe for the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle torte, except replacing the butter with fresh mango (equal weight, finely pureed with a food processor or immersion blender). for the Chocolate Mango Oblivion, i bake it with a 9" tart pan.
i use passion fruit jelly to make the mango slices stick to the cake. brush xtra on top of the completed rose, to make the petals shine! diluted and strained apricot preserves works just as well.
the Chocolate Mango Oblivion will take part at my demo for the Westin Moana Surfrider resort, special event called Mangoes at the Moana (July 21st, 2012)
On a recent visit to my dear friend and fellow food writer, Lee White, in Old Lyme, Connecticut, I had the pleasure of visiting her friend Linnea Rufo, owner of the enchanting Bee and Thistle Inn. I knew, from the moment we entered the curved driveway and viewed this magical place, that it would speak to every fantasy I've ever had about New England inns. It was like entering into another world, another calmer more graceful time, a dream.
Linnea gave me a tour of the immaculately kept grounds with a view of a tributary of the Connecticut River, ideal for kayaking. The inn is also conveniently situated only about 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and pristine state beaches.
The interior of the Inn fully lives up to its surroundings. In the room off the entrance way there is an exquisitely ornate antique cage with resident parrot Burt who was only too happy to come out, perch on our shoulders, and welcome us with a few choice phrases (all perfectly polite!).
Linnea and I have crossed paths over the years without ever meeting. She worked in the Wheatleigh Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts where I spent many vacations visiting the home of my great Uncle Nat and great Aunt Pink. Linnea worked as a pastry chef at the Chester Inn and then at the Mercer Kitchen, a block away from where I live in New York City. This is the seventh year in which she and her charming husband David are hosts of this idyllic country inn.
I can't imagine a more perfect place for a wedding or other special event or for a romantic weekend, relaxing or exploring the quaint nearby towns and countryside. (Fresh off the train from New York to New Haven, Lee took me for lunch at Lobster Landing in Clinton and it was the best lobster roll I've ever had--tender, sweet, and buttery instead of the usual mayonnaise.)
You will enjoy dinner at the Inn's award winning restaurant Chestnut Grille. The vegetables are from Linnea's garden. Chef Kristofer Rowe is a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and also chefed at the Wheatleigh Inn. His cooking is refined, imaginative, and perfectly executed.
The chocolate cremeaux is silky smooth and flavorful.
Hector never fails to amaze me with his unending stream of creativity, and imagination, and skill to engineer one exquisite cake after another. This latest one was for his own birthday in May. Here is his enchantingly delightful description:
"For my 43rd birthday, I baked my own cake with my own recipe. This cake is inspired from Rose's Tropical Wedding Cake, and what an experience it is!
I celebrated my birthday on 5/19 at a friend's house, who I graciously asked to cook dinner for us! We were 18 guests and I kindly asked that in lieu of gifts, to please bring money to pay the cost of dinner. I offered to bring the cake (indeed nobody had a second thought on this). We turned to be 25 guests, and what a blast we had. The food was peruvian and plenty. We ate for close to 3 hours and we managed to finish this cake which normally feeds 110 people.
The cake was flourless. And in my opinion, unbelievable to achieve. I don't have much to report yet, but all I can say, is that you can eat cake without using flour. Currently, I am experimenting with a straight substitution of flour with corn starch and by using a different mixing method. The resulting cake tends to dry out faster, however the taste is PERFECT and it melts in your mouth. I am so pleased and can't wait to one day write The Corn Starch Cake Bible ...Rose approves...
The cake is frosted with coconut buttercream, and you can find the recipe on myyellowkitchen.
From Hector, with love, to my friends and family who shared my 43rd birthday dinner, here is a banana cake with coconut buttercream, baked on a pair of 12" and 8" heart cake pans, stacked off center, and decorated with fresh coconut and white chocolate pearls. The buttercream is infused with Koloa brand dark rum."
After having written about how my ancient purple passion plant rarely ever blooms and when it does it is only one set of blossoms, low and behold, the plant burst forth with innumerable blooms some of which have already gone to seed and resemble the white tassels pictured here.
And as further flaunting I've discovered that the flowers have a noxious aroma. But I'll still welcome them any time they feel like blooming they are so special.
with people like Kate Coldrick in it! (Though I've yet to meet another Kate like this one!)
Those of you who are not familiar with the problem of bleached cake flour being unavailable in many of the countries around the world, particularly the British Commonwealth, might enjoy putting the word "kate flour" in the search box of this blog.
I encourage everyone to follow this link to Kate's blog where she continues the saga of her success in spinning unbleached flour into heat-treated flour. It is through her extraordinary determination and inspired work that this flour is now available to the consumer! Hats off to Kate.
I've had this plant for over 45 years and the first time it bloomed I was astonished. I had always wondered why the fabric, persian print, had the design of purple leaves with orange tasseled flowers, thinking it clashed. When the plant bloomed I saw that the fabric was merely imitating nature, and nothing in nature clashes!
In all these years I"ve only had the purple passion plant bloom about 4 times and this month is the 5th. It feels like a special blessing. It reminds me of Colette's autobiography when she wrote about a long awaited visit from her mother who cancelled at the last minute because a rare plant in her garden was about to bloom. The miraculous appearance of my purple passion flowers--the only little branch of blooms on the huge plant--helps me to understand Colette's mother's priorities a bit better.
The main part of the conference lasted for four full days. The best part was seeing old friends from all over the world and discovering new ones. There were also several excellent presentations. Aki Kamozawa and partner/husband Alexander Talbot, authors of Ideas in Food. did a lively and informative session on sous vide cooking (cooking under vacuum).
Next Peter Reinhart, possible the best teacher I've ever known, did an excellent session on the use of sprouted wheat flour. This is new flour and not yet available but trust me, you'll be hearing more about it on this blog and elsewhere (including Peter's upcoming book The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking (Ten Speed Press--pub date August 14, 2012)! Check out the blog.
SPROUTED WHEAT FLOUR BREAD
A SLICE OF SPROUTED WHEAT FLOUR BREAD
SPROUTED WHEAT BREAKFAST FOCCIA (it was absolutely delicious!)
It's been many years since I attended the annual conference, the last time it was held in New York City. Since that time I attended many annual conferences and regional meetings all over the world. But this year IACP returned to my city for the second time. And there were so many appealing seminars I signed up for the full conference including one day of a preconference tour.
The cookbook awards were held on the last evening and, to my delight, my dearest friend Lisa Yockelson won "Best Baking Book" for her Baking Style. (An award she also won for her prior books ChocolateChocolate, and Baking by Flavor!)
Winner of "The Book of the Year" was Christine Manfield for "Tasting India." I met her for the first time when I presented at the Melbourne Wine and Food Festival and greatly admire her work.
But beginning at the beginning, for the pre conference I leapt at the chance to be part of Madhur Jaffrey's tour of food places in the Indian communities of Jackson Heights and Floral park. I thought I knew Indian food and ingredients but we got to experience flavors and the cuisines of different regions I never had before. One of the highlights of the day was a visit to Patel Brothers, a giant supermarket, where I saw countless numbers of grains, each available whole, hulled, unhulled, cracked, and powdered into a flour. For a moment I contemplated moving to Queens and spending the rest of my life experimenting with all these ingredients. It was a memorable day with the most gracious and knowledgably host imaginable. As I took more photos than notes and spent the rest of the time tasting I can't give you full details on what the dishes were but I do plan to return on my own for dinner.
First stop was Rajbhog Sweets where we were welcomed most warmly and graciously by Nirav Shah and his wife (who took time off from her day job as lawyer in order to host us)!
We tasted many treats including masala tea and the best mango lassi I've ever enjoyed (and there have been many!).
It's been several years since I attended this show but I remembered the shear immensity of it. Just about every manufacturer of kitchen equipment and anything remotely related to it is represented here (in the hundreds). Chicago's McCormick Convention Center is the largest in the country and walking the aisles is a major expedition and adventure.
This year's show was very special for me because, for the first time, I had my own booth for The Rose Line™ as part of NewMetro Design.
Walking the show and standing by my booth to meet the reps, reviewers, potential customers, and old friends was old home week. Matt, one of the reps, actually brought along the Pie and Pastry Bible for me to sign, saying that he won first place in three pie contests using my sour cream pie crust from the book!
Of course the first person I visited was Robert Laub at Harold Imports and was rewarded with the great display of my pie plates, now available in four colors! I was delighted to discover that they will soon be distributing my products, including the Rose's Heavenly Cake Strip in the UK.
Just a short walk from the NewMetro booth we discovered Fat Daddio's booth. We had a great conversation with owner Gregg Skipper and learned that they are the company that made the Parrish Magic Line pans I've listed in my cake books. They now have an extensive selection of pans and baking equipment. Close by was my long-time friend Lisa Mansour's of NY Cake & Baking--the go to place for bakers and cake decorators in New York City.
The booth next to us, the Wine Doctor, who shares Robert Trinque, marketing and sales, presented a device for wine preservation, which works so well it deserves a separate posting of its own (to come).
We were thrilled to have a visit from J. Randall Owen, president of ThermoWorks, producer of the Thermapen thermometer. I told him how highly I value his thermometer but that I wished it didn't have an automatic shut-off. He gave us the invaluable information that the newest model (the one with the round battery) has 4 switches in the battery compartment and if switch #3 is turned to the off position, it stops the auto shut off!
One of the most exciting discoveries at the show was at the Kitchen Aid booth where we viewed the new 14 cup food processor that has a thickness adjustment for the slicing blade easily accessible because it is located just above the controls on the front of the machine, plus a low starting speed choice option which prevents liquid ingredients from splashing up to the cover. I can't wait to try it but it won't be on the market until August.
Sassafras, creators of La Cloche clay bakers, has a new pot called The Bread Dome designed specifically for No Knead Bread. The rounded and glazed bottom container gives a lovely shape to the bread and makes unmolding a breeze.
Another major show highlight was the discovery of USA Pans that has taken over the Chicago Metallic line (the former source for some of my favorite cake pans) and improved upon it!
We were delighted to visit the Bröd and Taylor booth where Michael Taylor and Julie Dykstra were demoing there wonderful bread proofer for the first time at the show.
After working so hard each day we all looked forward to two dinners I had arranged many weeks in advance. Saturday night was Frontera Grill, one of my dear friends Rick and Deanne Bayless' not to be missed Latino restaurant. As the weather was exceptionally mild, we opted to walk over. Chicago is such a beautiful city, especially at night.
We so enjoyed the night's special of chipotle glazed short ribs and tastes of everyone else's dinner we were not even thinking dessert but pastry chef Jennifer Jones offered us 4 fantastic desserts that we couldn't resist so we dove in. Pictured here with Jennifer Jones is Gary, owner of NewMetro, and his assistant Cheryl, who are eagerly anticipating the desserts.
Sunday night, on the recommendation of photographer Ben Fink, we had dinner at the Girl and the Goat. Again we overindulged in myriads of appetizers and main courses. My dear friend Elizabeth Karmel, of Hill Country, who lives part time in Chicago, recommended the chickpea fritters which was my favorite dish of the evening but the escargot ravioli were amazing, and the goat belly was better even than any pork belly I've ever tasted. I wanted that to be my last taste of the evening but was curious about the dessert of gingerbread, cranberry sorbet, and candied ginger. We decided to share it 7 ways and laughed hysterically when we saw how small it was but it provided a perfect portion of one spoon per person.
We are so excited about the evolving Rose Collection™ product line, which will arrive in stores and on line in June or July of this year. We look forward to the IAH as an annual event and reunion with our new family of NewMetro.
This is a story about a dish from my childhood that sounds more like an exclamation than a recipe. My grandmother used to make it on rare occasions because it was somewhat labor intensive and only my uncle would eat it. But when I grew up I developed a real passion for this garlic, veal, and tender cartilaginous-studded gelatin-encased delicacy (whew--a mouthful!)
Recently, Grace Bello of Tablet Magazine interviewed me on the subject of this dish and has just posted this well-researched and informative article on it.
I've always described pitcha's appearance as similar to terrazzo tile, but I much prefer Grace's vision: With its neat appearance, its translucent amber hue, and its settled flecks of meat, it looks not unlike an odd gem, luminous and undiscovered.
Years ago, when I gave a lovely chef in Italy a copy of my book The Cake Bible, she said she could convert every recipe from butter to olive oil. My response was: "so could I, but I don't choose to!" Now here comes our Hector, converting the butter to avocado! I'm willing to suspend disbelief until I try it myself. After all, avocado is buttery rich, and his cake couldn't be more beautiful!
Hector's Chocolate Avocado Oblivion
Hawaii Avocado Festival, Kona 2012. aloha everyone, this is my 4th time in Kona, and i can't start by telling that it exceeded ALL my expectations... i know... i make wow-cakes, but this one, was yet the biggest wow! i worship Rose with a recipe i wrote thinking of her. and it starts like this:
"a favorite way to bake with chocolate is on the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte (Cake Bible, 1988). i styled 10 versions of essentially the same cake, but now i depart far and sabotage the recipe: using avocado as butter. this cake feels like biting dark chocolate in heaven. Chocolate Avocado Oblivion is as dark and dense as it gets. enjoy naked. passion fruit jelly on the plate makes a good marriage. dark rum on the passion fruit jelly becomes a menage a trois. enjoy warm, at room temp, or chilled. you will experience the same victim 3 different ways!"
let me share highlights from my heart:
the yellow man (yours truly) and his pink woman (chef patti kimball). patti helps every time i am in kona. she is more than any chef can ask for. indeed, patti helps every chef event there possibly can be on the entire island. patti is a member of the American Culinary Federation, Hawaii where i have become an honorary member.
all three people on this picture are made of chocolate. i baked with Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory dark chocolate 60%. hugging Pam and Bob Cooper, the only people on the entire USA and indeed the rest of the developed countries that makes chocolate from farm to bar from their own farm and their own factory. the scenic landscape is the view from my bedroom! kealakekua bed and breakfast.
Alton Brown's very final episode of Good Eats was about chocolate, and he is spotted at the Cooper's farm!
hot weather, this cake was enjoyed at 80 oF degree weather. because it uses avocados instead of butter, it is much denser and sinful!!! guests enjoyed a slit of heaven with a side of passion fruit jelly thinned out with dark rum. people asked for second servings even after the glorious full sit down dinner paired with many-many wines and coffee. i was overwhelmed.
Special Note: If you'd like to see a preview of a cake from the next book, be sure to scroll to the end of this posting!
This was hands down my best book signing ever! There were over 200 people and I never stopped talking from 1:00 PM to 11:00 PM. When we arrived at Blue Cashew Kitchen Pharmacy owners Sean and Gregory greeted us with great enthusiasm and led us to the back of the store where my books and several of my products were on display. There was a stool but somehow I never sat on it! There were old friends, new friends, Roy Finamore (the book's prop stylist), and even two of my very favorite cousins Bill and Joy Howe, who have a house in relatively nearby Chatham called "Day O" (yes it used to belong to Harry Bellafonte). I was especially touched by a young culinary student who drove all the way from Pennsylvania. He told me that he used to watch my Baking Magic with Rose show on PBS when he was 13 and visited his grandmother on Sundays.
Many visitors had the rare added benefit of a signature from the book's photographer Ben Fink. If I look slightly perturbed it's because his signature was so artistic I feared he'd use up all the ink in the pen, what with so many books to sign!
Erin McDowell, who works with Ben and at the CIA, is also a great baker and made all the cakes for the even and after party. She made 200 of these little Designer Chocolate Baby Grands from the book.
And what a neighbor! Ron Ben Israel, who is arguably the most renowned cake decorating artist of the country if not the world, has his workshop a mere 4 blocks away from my dwelling. So when I discovered I was down to only about 4 cups of superfine sugar I put in a call to my friend Ron.
I used to buy sugar from Domino Sugar in Queens in 100 pound sacks when my father was able to drive out there and pick one up for me. More recently, Woody has been bringing 30 pounds of superfine sugar on his visits from Minnesota, having to explain each time to airport security that yes! They do have sugar in New York City but Rose requires superfine which is available in supermarkets only in 1 pound boxes and she doesn't like to have to open dozens of them.
My husband was unable to bring the car the day that I scheduled my sugar pickup, so I wheeled over my largest suitcase. Of course I had to bring a piece of the cake du jour which happened to be the Lemon Poppy Seed Wedding Cake from the upcoming book.
Tradition dictates that whenever I visit Ron, his wonderful assistant Rebecca takes a photo or two. Here's the one of me feeding Ron the cake. I suggested that he put me on one of his Food Network shows as our repartee is predictably hilarious!
Just in case you are not able to come to the book signing at Blue Cashew in Rhinebeck, NY this Saturday to meet Ben in person, follow this link to his blog and you will find some amazing photos plus an interview that I did where I talk about what is was like to work with Ben on Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
August 1, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Jungfrau Railway, the cogwheel train that takes visitors high up to the Jungfraujoch, dubbed "Top of Europe". The German word Jungfrau means virgin and joch refers to the saddle between the Mönch and the Jungfrau mountains.
I had the amazing experience of riding this train and seeing the Jungfraujoch on my first visit to Switzerland many years ago and it turned out to be the source of one of my most thrilling but also funniest stories ever! I was saving it for my memoirs but now that the 100th anniversary is near I can't resist telling you about it sooner.
I was staying with my friend Charlotte in Zürich and she insisted that I visit the Jungfraujoch because it was such a spectacular experience. So she sent me off to spend the night in Interlaken, in the canton of Bern, and although it was summer, she suggested taking her down parka knowing how cold it would be so high up in the glaciers.
The train passed through beautiful mountain towns, stopping at Grindelwald, and then at Eigerwald and I was reminded of the Clint Eastwood movie The Eiger Sanction. The conductor explained to us that to reach the final station we would be going through a tunnel of rock and that there would be only one track so on the descent, if there were a train mounting, our train would be sidetracked. (Finally I understood the literal meaning of this word!)
When we reached the top, there was space for only about three people at a time to go out into the small open space, which revealed stunning views of a land of ice, glaciers, and snow covered mountain peaks. I silently thanked Charlotte for keeping me warm in her parka while all the other tourists were shivering.
When we started the descent, at first everything seemed to be going well until all of a sudden the train started slowing down, the conductor leaned his head out of the window, and screamed out what sounded exactly like something my grandmother would have screamed in Yiddish had the end of the world been imminent: oy gavooooolt!" I exchanged a look of wide-eyed terror with the other two people in the car who, I could tell by their accent, were from Brooklyn and clearly were thinking exactly what I was thinking which was "oh my G-d--there's another train on its way up and our train didn't side track." We waited for the impending crash but nothing happened. Then it dawned on the three of us, at the same moment, that what he was screaming, in a voice conductors the world over call out the stations for all to hear, was Eigerwaaaald and we burst into relieved laughter.
Many years later I attended a special Chateau Margaux dinner at the Four Season's Restaurant in New York City and had the pleasure of sitting next to Alex von Bidder, one of the owners. Alex is the most charming and elegant man I know and I had never really had a chance to have a conversation with him before. As we started talking, I noticed that he had the barest trace of an accent and asked him where he was from originally. His answer was Switzerland. By this time I had visited the country at least six times and knew the regions pretty well so I asked what part of Switzerland. His answer: "Oh it was a very small mountain town--I'm sure you never would have heard of it." When I explained how well I knew Switzerland he couldn't hold out any longer and I heard the word my psychic soul suspected: "Eigerwald!" How could I resist? I just had to say it: "Oy! Do I have a story for you!"
My office in Hope was a 6 foot deep space at the end of a narrow cat walk. If I had gained 5 pounds I would no longer have been able to squeeze into the space between the back of my desk chair and the front of my desk. It never seemed like a good time to commit to construction but this summer, in between book projects, it seemed like it was now or never.
My friend Patty Maertons asked her husband Edgar for a recommendation as he is the local dry wall expert. He suggested Chris Smigel, saying everyone has wonderful things to say about him. Now I know why! Not only did he go above and beyond my expectations, he and his team cleaned up so thoroughly every Friday that when we arrived for the weekend it was almost as though no one had been there. And how exciting it was each week to see the latest transformations. (It was Chris who recommended the delightful architect Art Demarest.)
Another friend, Margaret Kurzman, who lives in nearby Blairstown and also New York City, and has had vast professional experience in renovations, offered excellent advice and moral support. No matter how wonderful the contractor, having your home "invaded" has to be one of life's most unsettling experiences.
There are always new decisions that have to be made along the way and plans that don't work out quite as expected but the only real drama was being awakened one night by not one but two bats that had made their way into the house and into the bedroom! Was I hysterical? Of course--I'm still somewhat of a city girl when it comes to things like that but I've been working on myself to think of them as my friends as they are known to eat mosquitoes and hopefully their taste will turn to stink bugs as well!
I may have lost most of the summer being so involved in the renovation but it was worth it. The new office is truly paradise.
Here are a few before and after photos.
Extending the office 20 feet over the porch turned out to require hand drilling into the boulders to create secure footings. The area was too small to bring in heavy machinery so this took longer than a day and much effort.
We hadn't planned for a lofted ceiling but when I saw the framing I fell in love with the feeling of airy spaciousness. Chris said he knew when I saw it I'd feel that way and he agreed. He made it happen.
Now that I finally have Suvir Saran's marveous new book Masala Farm
in my hands, I was reminded of how much I loved this recipe and decided to do a repeat.
The potatoes are first boiled with herbs until just about tender and then pan roasted in butter, oil, more herbs and a 2 cut heads of garlc. As I was just cooking for two, and only had big fat cloves of my favorite Rocambole garlic, I cut each clove in half, left it unpeeled, and tossed them into the cast iron pan. They turned golden and carmelized and were absolutely fabulous. I didn't have the red potatoes called for--instead I used a pink potato and the rest lavendar, gifted to me by my friends the Meneguses.
Note: there is a large amount of butter/oil necessary to produce the crispy effect. I recommend straining what is left in the pan and using it for another dish. It will keep for weeks in the fridge. Confession, you will see in the book that the cut surface of potatoes is more golden and that is because the smell was so intoxicating I couldn't wait any longer to eat them so roasted them for only 30 minutes instead of the suggested 45!
Accompanying the potatoes was a steak from Allen Bros.--an extraordinary meat company to which Suvir introduced me last year. And the wine was a Rodney Strong Meritage--deliciously complex and perfumed.
It was a magical dinner, on the first truly wintry night of the season, complete with a perfect full moon seen through the new skylights!
I brought my UGG boots to the SoHo store because the soles in the front had become unglued--causing me to trip. I mentioned that the black insides stain my feet but I hadn't come to complain about that--only to have the soles reglued. The heels were hardly even worn down.
The manager informed me that the warrantee on Ugg boots is for under one year and that they wouldn't even fix it for a fee. When I mentioned about the dye staining my feet she said: "Oh, that only happens in the beginning." I pointed out the illogic of saying the boots were not new enough to be under warrantee but still 'new enough' to stain my feet. She just stared at me at a loss for words--poor thing.
All I can say is that they would change the name from Ugg to Yukk as it sure left a bad taste in my mouth!
For those of you who kindly sent your well-wishes: Our power in NJ was restored last Friday night after having been off for 7 whole days. We arrived early Saturday morning and, to my great joy, discovered that the milk and cream had not spoiled--a sure indication that the frig. never got too high. There was some minor defrosting event in both freezers but there were all sort of indications that it had stayed mostly frozen. For one thing, the pesto in the upside down container hadn't sunk to the bottom! So I defrosted a steak. We also went over to visit the Meneguses and Maria gave me a wide variety of Fall vegetables, all of which were included in Satuday night's dinner. The steak was still juicy and flavorful. I grilled the eggplant, poblano, yellow, and jalapeno peppers that turned out to be the hottest I've ever experienced of those varieties! The potatoes turned out to be a happy mixture of purple and Yukon gold and they were turned into smashed potatoes--a great recipe for America's Test Kitchen. And the one ripe yellow tomato was excellent. Even the half bottle I had decanted of Paul Autard Côte de Rhone was still first rate.
Happy once more and planning that generator although will probably have to wait as, it seems, they are totally out of stock. I wonder why!!!
PS The reasons the food survived so well are because: the Kitchen Aid and Sub Zero refrigerator/freezers are very well insulated, I had them filled with food plus plastic containers of water, and the temperature in the house never got above 40˚F/4˚C (remember no power=no heat!). My min/max thermometer in the equally well-insulated wine cellar never dipped below 55˚F/13˚C (I have it set at 60˚F/15˚C)
This does it! we're getting a generator. When we lost power in Hope for 4 whole days due to hurricane Irene back in August, i thought that it was unlikely to happen again for that long a period of time and then along came the October snow storm. On Saturday, I was working on the computer when suddenly the backup battery started to beep. Sure enough, the heavy rapidly falling snow caused trees and branches to fall on the power lines. I knew we were in for big trouble.
It was hard not to notice the beauty of the snow on the new skylights, and on the trees and bushes so thickly powdered with snow, at the same time realizing that it was a dangerous beauty and the worst thing that can happen to trees, most of which still had their leaves, making them bow further and burther to the ground and rooftop.
What to do! The roads were already too slick not to mention blocked with fallen trees, to risk driving back to New York. So my first thought turned to dinner. Two lamb chops were defrosting in the kitchen and I had also taken out some cauliflower and the last of the two small potatoes from my friends the Menegus's fall harvest.
What I was lacking was oil or wine. I would not have opened the wine cellar in the summer but since the basement was about the same temperature as the inside of the wine cellar I risked grabbing out a bottle of Sicilian Nero d'Avelo. I trimmed the lamb chops of most of the fat and rendered the fat in a large cast iron pan in which I sautéed the cauliflower florets and cubed potatoes, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and a little curry powder. Luckily I have a gas cooktop. The lamb chops were grilled outdoors. I sacrificed an ugly decorative candle someone had given to Elliott over 35 years ago. Luckily I had the foresight to set it in a disposable pie pan as it oozed melted wax while providing me with just enough light to avoid burning the vegetables.
We sat down to a lovely candlelight dinner and went to bed early, covered with two down quilts.
Sunday morning, Elliott shoveled the drive for our escape while I heated snow for tea. Until we reached route 80 the sides of roads were littered with fallen and broken trees. I felt so fortunate that we had suffered no damage but, of course, I fear for my treasures in the freezers as the power is not projected to be restored until Thursday of this week. Still, if it is cold enough, the food may stay frozen as I filled both the freezers and the refrigerators with plastic bottles of water, anticipating while not really believing the possibility of another power outage.
Chef Albert Kumin, one of the most revered pastry chefs of all time, celebrated his 90th birthday on October 9 at a grand reception at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City. The idea for the party, and parade of cakes by some of New York's best bakers was baked up by esteemed fellow cookbook author, friend, and creator/director of the pastry and baking program at ICE Nick Malgieri.
Toba Garrett, master chef instructor at ICE, organized all the bakers. Each cake represented a different stage of Chef Kumin's career.
The new Swiss Consul General, François Barras, presented the special medal to Chef Kumin. I gradually recognized that it was the same François Barras who, as a young man and assistant to the ambassador from Switzerland, invited me to lecture about chocolate at the Smithsonian. I hadn't seen him for 24 years. It was a delightful reunion. It was also a great pleasure to see so many of my colleagues who all came out to honor Chef Kumin. Photo by Herman Reiner
The first two cakes are about Albert's birth and early years in Switzerland and his home town of Wil in Canton St. Gallen. Cakes from Charmaine Jones and Martin Howard
This cake was designed by Colette Peters to honor Chef Kumin's early career as a pastry chef in Switzerland.
The cake was presented by Colette's assistant Jennifer Roach. Photo by Herman Reiner
Toba Garrett's cake represents Chef Kumin work at the opening of the Four Seasons Restaurant.
Ellen Baumwoll's cake represents Chef Kumin's teaching at the Culinary Institute of America.
Michelle Tampakis's cake represents Chef Kumin's work at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. Photo by Herman Reiner
Adrienne Longhitano's cake represents Chef Kumin's work as White House pastry chef.
This is the back view of the White House.
Betty Van Norstrand created a replica of the cake she made with Albert for Disney World's Epcot Center.
Rosemary Littman's cake represents Chef Kumin's retirement garden in Vermont.
I hadn't really thought to count my pins until I discovered a wonderful rolling pin company in my beloved state of Vermont. It was in Vermont where I rolled my first pie crust and now I have two new fantastic rolling pins from Vermont Rolling Pins. I fell in love with the walnut beehive pin and enjoy the feel of the spiral handles.
I also love the walnut column for its long barrel, especially when I'm rolling large dough rounds as for a galette. The also come in maple but I love the look of walnut and also it is the hardest wood. I also had my eye on the large heavy duty Shaker rolling pin.....
Different types of rolling pins have different purposes but no one needs as many pins as are in my collection, in fact, in a pinch one can roll out pie dough with a smooth bottle. But how much more lovely a feeling to use a treasured pin, especially one made of wood that takes on a patina from the dough after years of use. Also, what better kitchen decoration?!
Note, there are some applications that require a heavy pin for quick even rolling and others that require a gentle touch for softer doughs or marizpan with a lighter pin. For sticky doughs I use a pastry sleeve on the pin but usually a light dusting of flour is all that's necessary with some of the better pins.
Herewith a description of some of my favorite pins and their uses:
Stainless steel pin My dad gave me this for rolling nougatine where you need a very heavy pin or great strength to roll quickly before the nougatine cools and hardens. It weighs close to 9 pounds so could not be used as a weapon unless I lifted it with both hands! Years ago, when he had his wood working shop in the Bronx, there was a metal working shop on the floor below where he acquired the piece of steel.
Swiss plastic long pin with detachable circles that determine many different thicknesses of dough.
Textured hard grey plastic pins to make designs in marzipan.
Miniature rolling pins and breyer for small pieces of dough.
French solid white silicone column
Commercial size pin with ball bearings This used to be my favorite pin because its size and weight rolled the dough so quickly it never softened but the problem is I never have enough room on my counter to use such a long pin!
French wood pin with tapered ends designed by baker Marcy Goldman and given to me by her. I often reach for it out of sentiment and also for the beautiful feel of the smooth wood that barely sticks to the dough.
Long pasta rolling pin There was a time I actually used this long thin wooden pin to roll pasta by hand but now I use a machine.
French puff pastry rolling pin with ridges which incorporate the sheets of butter without breaking through the dough.
Green bottle glass pin was too beautiful to pass up but is not even so would not work well to use as a rolling pin.
Clear glass pin which can hold ice cubes. I just had to try this out but the condensation that formed was undesirable.
Heavy marble pin that can be chilled and will keep the chill for rolling dough on warmer days.
A bridge pin that I found almost 50 years ago in Washington Crossing Pa, that was made from wood from a bridge that had washed down during a flood.
And most special of all: the one I grew up with--the one my dad made for my mother many years ago.
Confession: I've just added yet another pin to my collection: Who could resist an adorable vintage red bakelite rolling pin button I found on line!
Many years ago, while going to school at night, I worked as a medical secretary for a wonderful internist--Dr. Maurice F. Goodbody. He and his family became good friends and I was invited to their weekend farm outside of Hope, NJ (near where we now live) he referred to as "the beyond Hope farm"!
I used to make lunch for him every day, cooking in the tiny lab on a tripod set over a bunsen burner until he informed me that his wife was complaining that he was gaining weight, never hungry for dinner, and the whole office was smelling like a short order joint.
So you can imagine what a turn around it was about 15 years later, when I received a photo of Dr. Goodbody mixing a cake from my recipe in his eldest daughter Mary's magazine. Yes: Mary Goodbody was a founder of Cooks Magazine.
Here it is, 46 years later, and Mary's daughter Laura was getting married at the farm and wanted to have a wedding cake just like her grandparents' cake back in 1944. I don't think I knew that the date was scheduled for August, the hottest and most humid month, when sight unseen, out of my mouth popped: "I'll make the cake"!
My first visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was over 25 years ago. I was there to attend The American Chefs' Association conference. Also attending the conference was Sam Arnold, chef/owner of the Fort Restaurant in Denver, Colorado. He invited us to his house in Santa Fe for cocktails and unforgetable peanut butter stuffed jalapeno peppers and we became friends for life. Eating up the Santa Fe Trail (subtitle: the Recipes and Lore from the Old West) is his book. His daughter Holly Arnold Kinney, also a dear friend, has taken over the Fort and just this year wrote her first cookbook Shinen' Times at the Fort.
My other favorite food memory of Sant Fe was eating at my friend Mark Miller's Coyote Café. Mark sold the Café about two years ago but for old time's sake we made a pilgrimate for our first night's dinner. We were totally delighted with the food. We both ordered the special house margarita which had an exceptionally billowy egg white, lime, and salt, foam topping. The secret turned out to be gelatin that gave it body and stability and a nitrogen foaming device. Elliott plans to try this out back home.
For openers, we shared a perfectly cooked crisp soft shell crab with a spicy mayonnaise,
and then the justifiably famous tower of "Fiery Hot and Sweet Mexican White-Prawns" set atop a sautéed rice cake.
For dessert we chose a creamy bittersweet ValRhona chocolate flourless cake but what intrigued me the most were the accompaning raspberries stuffed with mascarpone.
I was so impressed by the food I asked to meet the chef, Eric DiStefano. He is also the chef at Geronimo, which is considered to be one of the top restaurants in town and for good reason--we had a wonderful dinner there, a few nights later, with our friends the Kricheffs. We shared everything giving us the opportunity to taste many delicious dishes.
This past May, at the Beard Awards, I met Jennifer Rios, wife of chef Martin Rios from Martin's restauran. Chef Martin was a semifinalist for "Best Chef of the Southwest Award" and after tasting his "dish" I was determined to visit the restaurant. What an awesome family! Jennifer hails from the NY/NJ area. Martin is one of 8 children and grew up in Mexico. He worked in various restaurants in both France (Georges Blanc) and Santa Fe (Geronimo). When Jennifer learned that his dream was to attend the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, she encouraged him take the leap. After graduating from the CIA they opened Martin's.
We had a lunch outdoors that was so fabulous and filling we hardly could contemplate dinner even hours later.We shared a burger, on an airy and flavorful brioche bun, that was loaded with deliciousness including cheese and jalapeno peppers. It came with a warm chipotle potato salad and we ordered a paper of cone of incredibly crisp and flavorful fried onion rings. Chef Martin also makes the desserts and they offered us a sample of the lemon poppyseed cake with berries and sorbet. We were most impressed with chef Martin's astonishing ability to blend and harmonize many disparate flavors.
I was totally charmed by the two Rios daughters, Emma and Anneliese.
Our grand finale was at Amavi which means love of life. I met chef Megan Tucker just a few weeks before on my blog! I went to update an older posting regarding the Spanish edition of The Cake Bible and found her posting. It turns out she has already translated a good part of the book for her staff! When I saw that her restaurant was in Santa Fe I immediately called to make a reservation. She invited me to come to a demo she was doing shortly before dinner at the Farmer's Market. She demoed a crisp which was a fabulous combination of bing cherries and plums and told the large audience that it was inspired by my book The Pie and Pastry Bible. (Her father gave her this book when she was in high school!)
Chef Megan Tucker is committed to the Farm to Restaurant movement exemplified by her use of products produced locally in New Mexico and surrounding states. Chef Tucker sits on the board of the Farm Alliance and strives to work with local farmers to bring her guests the freshest and most healthy foods available. She is a graduate of the CIA.
Back at the restaurant for dinner we met the delightful manager and sommelier, Mark Johnson. He writes the wine column for the local paper and is soon going for his master sommalier designation.
We shared a seafood stew that was out of this world! Each ingredient, including shrimp, squid, and mussels, was cooked to perfection and the broth was exquisitely flavorful. Mark chose a lovely pinot to accompany it.
We also discovered one of the most flavorful olive oils ever which I lost no time in ordering soon after returning home. Google Martinis Kalamata extra virgin olive oil. Here is a link to their site where they are offering a free bottle of olive oil to anyone who writes a letter to his or her local supermarket requesting them to carry the oil!
Having already tasted the cherry plumb crisp before dinner we opted to avoid ordering dessert, however, the Apricot Tart with creamy Banana Ice Cream and miniature Chocolate Oblivion with vibrant Berry Sorbet that made a surprise appearance were utterly irresistible. Chef Megan said they were inspired by my books. Interestingly, for the pastry crust that was crisp, flaky, and tender, she used unbleached all-purpose flour explaining that more strength is needed due to the lower pressure at high altitude.
What a wonderful group of chefs and food related people in this town. I felt utterly at home and am now looking forward to a return visit in the not too distant future.
It's been many years since I first visited Santa Fe so I was delighted when Elliott signed up for a conference this August. I feared it would be hot but actually it was monsoon season which meant that every afternoon and early evening there were spectacular cloud formations and cooling storms. August is also the Santa Fe opera season and we had the pleasure of attending La Bohème. The theater is outdoors but we were protected from the rain by a roof. The lightening and thunder magically seemed timed to the performance. I took this picture moments before the announcement "no photos allowed"!
Santa Fe is second only to New York City for the most number of art galleries but they are more concentrated in a smaller area so it truly seemed like a city of art and crafts. I walked up and down Canyon Road many times mostly viewing the sculptures from the outside but one in particular so struck my fancy I was tempted to enter the gallery as well.
This statue, outside the Meyer Gallery, is called Walks Among the Stars by Dave McGary. It weighs almost two tons and sells for $134,000. I tried to imagine it in our garden in Hope, N.J.
Many of the houses and shops and landscaping lining Canyon Road were works of art in themselves.
We visited Loretto Chapel as I had heard about its Miraculous Staircase built entirely without nails.
I also took this slightly out of focus picture of a picture showing the original staircase without a bannister. The nuns found it to be too dangerous and requested the bannister but the original looked more like a stairway to heaven!
My last day of the trip, I took a taxi up the mountain to a very special and magical place called Ten Thousand Waves. My cousin Joan, who lives in Berkley Ca., told me to be sure and have a massage there. Although La Posada, where we were staying had a lovely spa, I took Joan's advice and had one of the best massages of my life.
The meals that we enjoyed during our five days in Santa Fe were so spectacular I am devoting the next posting entirely to them.
I've been giving August Wachter annual baking lessons now for 10 years and always around the winter holidays. His aunt, Elizabeth Karmel (grilling cookbook author, celebrity, and executive chef of Hill Country) made the introduction when there was just August and his new-born little brother Alexander.
This year we missed the winter holidays as Elizabeth has become busier than ever, opening Hill Country Restaurant in Washington, DC in addition to her numerous other activities so her sister Mary Pat and I arranged a summer session with just me and what is now three boys. The youngest brother, Max, is now old enough to want to try his hand at everything. But this year was August's choice. For August, it can't be too chocolatey, so looking through Rose's Heavenly Cakes he chose the "Double-Chocolate-Whammy Groom's Cake." This cake has "Fudgy Pudgy Brownies" folded into a chocolate batter and baked in a stadium pan I inspired NordicWare to produce.
Alexander, aka Xander, just back from a baseball game (note black smudges under his eyes) helped cut the brownies.
He also came up with the great idea of tinting coconut green with food coloring for the grass in the center of the stadium. And knowing how much the whole family loves chocolate, I made a quick ganache glaze to serve with the cake.
August and Max also cut the brownies (the dullest knife went to four year old Max). And they also helped measure all the ingredients.
When August saw me removing the extra gram of flour that I had added to the mixer bowl he asked me if 1 gram too much would really make a difference. My answer: "No--it would not affect the cake, but it is an approach to life. If one starts becoming lax, the concept of 'will it really make a difference' soon would be transferred to other things where it might indeed make a difference. Being exact in measuring is a good approach to life."
Then August asked me how I went about creating recipes and listened with interest as I explained about the cake we were doing and how I was inspired by an ice cream that contained bits of brownies.
This was the first year that Max was able to help in a significant way. He mentioned about how he was the littlest of the brothers and I assured him that in just a few years he would be the biggest of the three. He looked sceptical, but Mary Pat, Karl, and I are all quite certain of it! Even now he looks like a minature line backer though in this photo he looks more like an angel!
The next morning Max looked me straight in the eye and directed his first ever comment to me in one complete and unhesitating sentence: "The stadium cake will be perfect for my soccer party birthday." The lesson was a success!
Next year it will be the "Deep Chocolate Passion" cake. I know how much they will love seeing how easy it is to mix the batter, how it hardly fills the pan and then levitates to the very top toward the end of baking, and how delicious it becomes with the milk chocolate glaze brushed into the cake. I think August is now more than ready to operate the stand mixer.
I can hardly believe it myself, except when I look at the one foot plus lineup of my books on the shelf, that it's been a half century since I graduated from high school!
I've only been to class reunions twice before because they always fall on a weekend in June when I'm usually going to the country. But the 50th is special and I was not about to miss seeing people from all over the country that I haven't seen in many years. (Of course I made the cake pictured at the end of this posting!) A full year went into the planning of the event.
We celebrated I made his birthday dinner by my making it a few weeks ago when we made our annual stop over on the way to Elliott's conference in Lake George. Of course there was cherry pie (his fav) and a load of molasses cookies for weeks to come. I also brought a rib roast to cook and Yorkshire popovers that I renamed Pop's Popovers as he adores them. By the way, Nordicware now makes a terrific popover pan of cast aluminum that is absolutely stick-proof! (They also make a mini popover pan.)
Dad is no longer able to live on his own but is comfortably ensconced at his caretaker Shelly's house. He has become very thin and fragile but he happily zooms around on his electric scooter.
Shelly makes the most impressive camp fires. Neighbors are constantly dropping off wood and tree trunks to fuel it!
When we arrived at Lake George (this is where my parents met 68 years ago!) there was a stunningly beautiful storm approaching.
The interplay of light and shadows on the lake and surrounding mountains is ever changing. See the rainbow?!
We drove up to a near by mountain top which afforded an amazing view of 3 states and the lake.
Next posting will be of our newest restaurant discovery in Saratoga Springs.
When most of us think about cake we envision a round or square layer made with eggs, butter or oil, sugar, and usually flour. The word cake, however, can be used to refer to shape such as a crab cake, or even something inedible such as a cake of soap, or a texture, such as mud that gets caked onto one's shoes.
When I discovered the tiny store in SoHo called "The Best Chocolate Cake in the World," I zoomed right in just to see what they were so sure could live up to this name. However, they also were offering chocolate ice cream from the nearby Il Laboratoria del Gelato to which I succumbed. Deep, dark cocoa flavor (it is made with both cocoa and chocolate), creamy, fudgy, and cold texture, it was perfection. (Note: There is a minimum of $5 per party.) I loved how it was served with three partial scoops cuddle together in a ceramic bowl designed to emulate an ice cream cone. (You can purchase these cups at nearby Sur La Table.)
My second visit to the shop was a repeat performance however, this time I ordered a slice of the famous cake because I just had to know. It is available in milk or dark chocolate and I chose the milk, because my intention was to share it with Elliott who doesn't like dark chocolate. Next time it will be the dark as he found the milk chocolate version too bitter and I found it too sweet. He did, however, admire the meringue component because it remained exceptionally crisp despite the chocolate mousse filling and ganache topping.
Lauren, who was working in the store, generously offered this photo of the cake she made for Valentine's Day.
As for the cake component, there was none. Is this surprising? Not if you refer back to the possible definitions. It is excellent BUT, as a cake, I do have a few contenders.
Several weeks ago in Cambridge, when Woody and I enjoyed lunch at Cragie on Main, we got a hot tip about where to get great doughnuts in Brooklyn from the delightful server Sam. It seemed like a perfect idea to visit my dear friend Caitlin Williams Freeman and make an expedition to the recommended bakery that was in walking distance from her Blue Bottle Coffee Café. Caitlin's assistant, Sarah Cox, who had the day off came, in to join us and is responsible for these great photos!
The bakery had a delightful old-fashioned charm.
We all agreed that the cheese-filled turnover, made with doughnut dough and hot out of the oven, was the hands down favorite. It's telling that it is the only one for which we have no photo as we couldn't resist stopping part way back to Blue Bottle to sit on a park bench and tear into it!
Back at Blue Bottle, we took our cappuccini into the office and laid out the vast selection of doughnuts.
Of course we all had to try at least a small piece of each one--after all, this was research! It was doughnut bliss! Top favorites were the French crullers, both honey dipped and chocolate coated, the wholewheat doughnut, and the coconut sprinkled doughnut.
We three are now busily planning our next adventure. Meantime, Sarah promised to accompany me on a long walk on the Hudson River walkway to burn off a few of those doughnuts.
When we started testing cakes for Rose's Heavenly Cakes, about seven years ago, Woody's broomball teammates were the happy recipients of many of the cakes. This team, which Woody started 35 years ago, meets at a wooded resort for one weekend every June, to relax, fish, play golf, cards, and cook up a storm. Of course everyone is expecting Woody to continue the cake tradition by bringing an assortment of baked goods. Here's what he brought this year and his description of the event:
Over the past few years, food at our weekend retreat has become more and more sophisticated, with teammates vying to add their special gourmet touch. This year was no exception, with smoked ribs, crab legs, steak, Turkish coffee with cardamom, and my latest desserts.
My friends are all too willing to give me jabs if they do not agree with the flavor and or texture of a new recipe. The desserts shown above, on the first hole's green, just 100 feet from our cabin, included: Blueberry and Walnut Coffee Cake for breakfast (but never made it to breakfast as it was eagerly devoured the night before over late night cards); Honey Cake, nicely spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, accented with coffee and Canadian whiskey; Marble Cheesecake with a biscuit roulade crust; Blueberry and Rhubarb Pie, encased in Flakey Cream Cheese Pie Crust (to buffer my teammate's jabs: "You need to expand to pies!"); Beer Bread to accompany our ribs night; and Quintessential Corn Bread Muffins not pictured as the muffin slated for the blog shot got eaten prematurely.
As a result of this year's retreat, I have been challenged to make a pie for each week of next winter's outdoor broomball season, which will work nicely as we transition from cakes to pies in testing for the next book. It took Rose several years to pry me away from cakes into bread baking so she will be delighted that I'm now embracing pies and tarts.
Stands for Share Our Strength, Taste of the Nation. It is held once a year and is a major culinary benefit which brings top chef's and mixologists together to donate their time, talent, and passion to end childhood hunger in America.
I attended this years event, held in late May at the Chelsea Center with my dear friend Gary Tucker, senior editor at Food Arts Magazine. Over 50 restaurants were represented and the food was of such high quality I had a real problem stopping eating to take notes. Gary is much more of a pro, aways taking copious notes and often even do drawings of the food. But while tasting one of the dishes at a small table, while standing up amidst the crowd of surging, gobbling guests, someone managed to topple his prosecco all over his notes. Sticky bubbly doesn't do wonders for separating pages after drying but at least it didn't obliterate the ink on the page!
I took no notes. I decided that like cream, whatever rises to the top of my memory is what I will blog about. Luckily, for two of these items, I was able to procure photos from the restaurants.
The dishes that most impressed me were:
From Ai Fiori: chef de Cuisine Chris Jaeckle's Ricciola: amberjack tartar, wrapped with transluscent cucumber, accompanied by uova di trota (trout eggs)
From Casa Mono: Andy Nusser's pasta paella with squid ink
From Public's: chef Brad Farmerie's spicy lamb sliders
From Gramercy Tavern: pastry chef Nancy Olson's black out cake (so moist, tender, and chocolaty I had to ask her how she was able to cut it in such precise little squares (the answer was from the frozen!)
From Telepan: pastry chef Larissa Raphael's perfectly delicious peanut butter mousse and chocolate with a delightful crunch of feuilletine, accompanied by tiny cubes of huckleberry gelée and peanut brittle ice cream--a harmony of complexities.
In addition to the virtue of contributing to a worthy cause, SOS Taste of the Nation gives the participants the opportunity to become acquainted with many restaurants with an eye toward future visits for a full course dinner. This past week I had an amazing dinner at Ai Fiori reminiscent of the impeccable European haute cuisine service. The veal chop was so meltingly tender and flavorful it had to have been cooked under sous vide. The chocolate budino was an exquisite melding of flavors and texture. I'll be going to another of the restaurants this coming week!
If this interests you, put www.newyorktaste.org on your calendar for next April so you can purchase your tickets for the May 2012 event.
It happens every June and I try always to be there. For the past few years it has found the perfect home at ICE (the Institute for Culinary Education) on 23rd Street in New York City. 10 pastry chefs from around the US are honored and the invitees get to taste their desserts. But it's not the desserts that come first for me--it's the pastry chefs--my beloved colleagues. This event provides the ideal opportunity to get to see old friends and make new ones.
For the names of the honorees see the extended entry.
I was so happy to see Jacquy Pfeiffer (this year's Hall of Fame Honoree) and his wife, who came in from Chicago, and get to tell them how I cried my way through his "Kings of Pastry" brilliant documentary. I got to meet Franciso Migoya from the CIA who was offering amazing chocolate mousse 'pops' containing amareni cherries and coated with white chocolate that was tinted green. Another chef, who several years ago promised to send me his Sacher Torte that he assured me was not the usual dry cake, but who had lost my card, promised again to send it to me. Yet another chef told me how he had never baked before The Cake Bible and now has a thriving bakery. (This is always music to my ears.) And what fun to run into Gilles Renusson, chairman of the Club Coupe du Monde USA and chef instructor at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan. He remembered me but couldn't remember from where. Slowly I realized that he and I were the two guests invited by Ariane Batterberry to Michael Batterberry's birthday dinner at Auberge de Soleil in Nappa many years ago, during the pastry arts conference at the CIA.
I also got to taste an excellent bittersweet chocolate from Peru accompanied by a glass of Rosa Regalé. But for me, and I tasted most everything, the most marvelous and impressive dessert came from Oscar Ortega, of Atelier Ortega in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Maybe it's a good thing they are so far away, though they do ship. I'd be stopping by on a regular basis for their heart stopping flourless chocolate cake. The red velvet flocking, created by tinting cocoa powder and shooting it out of a spray gun, was gorgeous and aroused my curiosity. The shocking color reflected the chocolate interior that was enhanced by the fire of chipotle pepper powder--just enough to make one's mouth sing. And in the very center was a pool of cajeta caramel. The decoration in the very center on top of the caramel is chocolate in the form of a cocoa bean surrounded by a placque which, to my taste, detracts from the elegant beauty of the cake.
Congratulations to Marie Wolf and the Heavenly Bakers for baking all the cakes in Rose's Heavenly Cakes in just under two years (the first posting, Spice Cake with Peanutbutter Frosting, was May 30, 2009).
It all began with publisher Wiley asking Marie to post three or four cakes as a special promotion when the book first launched. But knowing Marie, I wasn't surprised when she agreed to be the chief administrator of the Heavenly Cake Bake Along, a group of bakers working their way through the entire book.
When I first suggested to Marie that she do this, she modestly suggested that she was not the ideal person as she was more a bread baker than cake baker, but I heartily disagreed. I loved Marie's postings on her breadbasketcase.blogspot.com when she baked her way through The Bread Bible. I delighted in her clever, wry sense of humor, the way she felt about bread baking, the fantastically useful step-by-step pictures photographed by husband Jim, and an added benefit to not yet being a proficient cake baker was that it would be a great testimonial: If Marie could bake the cake, so could you!
Within a short time of baking her way through RHC Marie could no longer say she was a novice cake baker. The texture and appearance of her cakes were excellent and her piping skills vastly increased.
Marie didn't want to use her first copy of the book to bake from so she baked from the book's galleys which finally fell apart just before baking this last cake.
For the grand finale, Zach's La Bomba, Woody arrived with Perrier-Joët champagne but, according to Marie, would not let it be opened until after she had glazed the cake. She suspected that he feared she would not accomplish it perfectly if she had started to celebrate with the champagne. But Woody just thought it would be bad luck.
Marie made cheese gougères to accompany the champagne toast.
She could have stopped right here, the partial glaze looked so artful!
The Wolfs have become dear friends for life.
Note: Marie's blog, Heavenly Cake Bake Along, is on this blog, right at the top left side, under "Featured Fans."
What a spectacular event! This is the 5th year that the awards were held at Avery Fisher Hall--a perfect venue. The slice of moon overhead reminded me of that scene from "Moon Struck" when Nicholas Cage greets Cher. The dresses worn by some of the attendees were even more dramatic.
One of the first people I ran into was my friend Andrew Dornenberg and soon after, his wife Karen Page (authors of award winning books such as The Flavor Bible). I'm happily smiling at my good fortune to have found them in such a large crowd in this photo that he tweeted from the press room!
I had the good fortune of being Rochelle Huppin's date. Bobby Flay remarked that we "made a cute couple"! Rochelle and I have been friends for many years now and it makes me so proud to see all the chefs' jackets with Chefwear embroidered on the sleeve. I remember when Rochelle first started the company, designing chefs jackets with style that would also suit women chefs. Rochelle and my protegé David Shamah were classmates and good friends at the CIA.
In a crowd of over 1500 people I was stunned by how many I knew and wanting to catch up with all of them was an exhausting process! But it didn't keep me from attending a great "after party," held across the street at Daniel Boulud's new Épicerie Boulud, and Boulud Sud. Not that I was still hungry after eating at the event but when encouraged by the staff to try the charcuterie tagine at L'Épicerie which was the best I've ever tasted, and the octopus at Boulud Sud, I was glad I did--it was amazingly tender and delicious.
You can check out live streaming of the event from the James Beard site (google beard awards live streaming) but I can't resist highlighting that Tony Maws of Craigies on Main in Cambridge, about whom I just posted this past Saturday, won Best Chef: Northeast!
Kudos to all the chefs, both nominees and winners. They are all winners in my book!
This is a bit of a story so I'll begin with the punch line in case I lose you part way through!
April 2, I was too sick from my head cold to be able to go out for dinner. I held out until shortly before we were due to leave and then gave in when Elliott suggested that if I couldn't taste what was the point of going. So I moved the reservation to a week later and missed a very special birthday cake made by chef Andre de Waal for both me and his dynamic maitre d' wife Tracey who, coincidentally, shares the same birthday!
What an amazingly delicious dinner we had one week later when my taste buds were restored. Since we're both trying to moderate our calories, Elliott chose just a main course but when I saw that the special foie gras of the day was sautéed fresh foie gras, I succumbed instantly. It had a tangerine reduction glaze that was magnificent. But along with my foie gras came house cured salmon for Elliott--the dish he would have chosen had he been planning to have an appetizer. And it was superb.
We eagerly awaited Elliott's chicken and my loin of lamb with maple glaze but to our surprise along came an exquisite dish of perfectly cooked branzini. This fish course was followed by a most unusual salad with a horseradish dressing, so beloved by the clientele chef Andre bottles it for sale.
The chicken turned out to be the best we've had in years--free range organic from a farm in upstate New York. The mashed potatoes were amazing and turned out to be made from Idaho potatoes with butter and cream. We had to take a doggy bag as we were only able to eat about half but then a special dessert appeared: the mini croquembouche shown above, filled with an utterly delicious milk chocolaty cream and glazed with the traditional caramel that holds it together, then encased by the magical spun sugar. Just one more I kept saying as I popped yet another one in my mouth until we came to the last one and I said: "This one's yours." "No! It's yours." Elliott replied and I did not contest it.
On my way out I couldn't resist giving a big hug and kiss to chef Andre and wife Tracey. I wasn't alone--I noticed another guest who followed us doing the same.
How charmed we were to see this talented young couple rejoicing in their profession and giving it 100 percent of their generosity, enthusiasm, and skill. If you live in the area, do not miss it. You may well run into us, as we surely will be back. And do check out chef Andre's website and blog.
Now here's the story behind the story of how I learned about Andre's.
The Cake Bible has appeared at the greatest heights and at the lowest depths of the world.
Some years ago, my friend Judy Elkins sent me of a photo of another friend standing in front of a bookstore in Katmandu in the Himalayas, holding up The Cake Bible! Still another friend, Arlyn Bake, reported seeing The Cake Bible in the kitchen of a submarine in the North Sea. And now Rick Mindermann of Corti Brothers has sent these delightful pictures from a recent a trip to Italy's most famous Pannetone bakery.
Darrell Corti (pictured at right) is appreciated and known by chefs and home cooks alike for his unearthing and importing the finest ingredients from around the world. When visiting the Loison Bakery in Costabissara, just outside of Vicenza, owner Dario Loison (pictured at left) gave Rick and Darrell a tour which included the entire factory. And look what is residing at sea level in his research library!
Finding my beloved books in these and other countries around the world makes me feel that a part of me now lives in many places and connects me to the universe of food lovers.
Thank you all for your wonderful birthday wishes. They really saved the day because I was so sick from the tail end of a head cold that I had to cancel our dinner reservation. But all was not lost as I did have a virtual birthday cake after all. Woody, Marie, and Hanaa conspired to produce this lovely surprise
Hanaa did the great writing and piping on the cake. And here's Woody, cutting and serving the cake with Marie, using his T'ai Chi sword:
I'm on day three of my perennial Spring head cold. The silver lining here is that I can always count on 3-5 pounds of weight loss between my diminished appetite and that of the voracious virus. Today, I remembered an oft repeated old-wives type expression my mother cherished when I was a child and had a cold. I suspect it was her way of trying to encourage me to eat, which, if you can believe was something I did not enjoy doing as a child. How many of you know that expression: Feed a cold and starve a fever?
The problem for my mother is that it backfired because I interpreted this to mean that if you had a cold you ate and if you had a fever you got to starve. Naturally I was thrilled to have the fever!
When I got older I discovered that what is really meant by this expression is that if you eat when you have a cold it starves or prevents the fever. But I wonder if this is even true, it's so counter-intuitive to the lack of appetite a cold produces.
I'm talking about the big one on the right--namely Jamie Oliver! My darling friend Diane Boate, also pictured, is a local celebrity in San Francisco where this picture was taken several years ago. Jamie was doing a special event for All Clad in a large tent behind the Ferry Building and Diane and I arrived early. We decided to walk over to Ferry Crossings to get a copy of Diane's latest wine article and whom should we spy behind the tent but Jamie Oliver. We rushed over to introduce ourselves and he couldn't have been more charming.
I was reminded of this when I ran into him again a few months ago in New York at the South Beach Festival book party. He was standing behind me in line to be photographed by the group of paparazzi. Since I hadn't bothered to read all the information on the press invitation, I didn't realize that I should have entered in another place and that in error I had entered by the celebrity entrance. Once there, I asked for permission to stay to watch the goings on.
Once again I was struck by how natural and charming this brilliantly talented chef, performer, and cookbook writer is in person. Recently I found this photo that was taken on a polaroid camera and since I've become somewhat adept at scanning, I am now able to share it with you!
When someone I love makes a surprise birthday party for someone we both love, before I can clamp my hand over my mouth out pops: I'll make the cake!
Of course I love baking, especially for special people, but the heart-stopping part is transporting the cake. This cake was based on the Deep Chocolate Passion in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. On Friday, I baked one 12-inch layer in a Wilton 12-inch heart pan. As the pan is slightly smaller than a round 12-inch pan it was 2-inches high, instead of the usual 1-1/2-inches, which was perfect for a single layer. I removed the moist/chocolaty top crust (crumpled it over ice cream for dinner) and brushed in the ValRhona milk chocolate syrup. Then I frosted it with more ValRhona dark chocolate ganache.
The weather in Hope was in the single digits and the kitchen was colder than usual, so the ganache kept setting up before it was perfectly smooth. I prayed that the dark chocolate lacquer glaze would cover any little imperfections.
I placed the frosted cake into the largest styrofoam box in my collection (I have trouble ever discarding styrofoam boxes or bubble wrap) and left it in the 50˚F basement overnight with the intention of glazing it the next day in New York so as not to risk damaging the glaze in transport.
I warned Elliott not to make any short stops on route 80. He said he would stop short if he had to which was not the answer I was looking for, but fortunately it was smooth sailing and the cake did not slide in the box.
The glaze is so quick and easy to make but takes 4 hours to set up completely and I only had 3 hours before needing to place the chocolate perles monogram on top. This was inspired by a cake that Hector did and he advised using tweezers with rough markings at the tip to hold the perles securely. We agreed that one false step and it was over, i.e. if one perle was misplaced it would be impossible to move it on the still soft glaze so I would have to have scattered perles artfully over the entire top.
Reminding myself to breathe as I placed the perles I followed Elliott's advice to make little markings in the glaze with a skewer rather than placing the perles by eye. What a sigh of relief I breathed when the last perle was in place.
I've been saving some gold dust for a special occasion and this clearly was the time to bring out the "heavy artillary!" The effect was like the night sky but the gold flecks were so light they risked blowing off if exposed to the wind in front of our apartment house. What to do?! I had no box big enough to accomodate the 15-inch base on which the cake was now sitting.
The solution was the largest cake pan I have which is 18-inches by 2-inches high. Now that the cake was frosted and glazed it was higher than the top of the 2-inch high pan, so I inverted a 15-inch by 3-inch cake over it and taped it in place with strapping tape, securing the top of the 15-inch pan to the sides of the 18-inch pan in several places.
Pans set on my lap, hands freezing in the cold car but clamping the pans together as added security, and lifting the pans slightly with each bump in the snowy icy streets, we made it to the party all of 5 blocks away. The party was in the wine cellar and in the dim light the cake glistened but any little imperfection disappeared competely.
The feedback: The general consensus was "It was the best chocolate cake I've ever had in my life!" But the best and most erudite comment was from one of the guests, my friend Bob Blumer, The Surreal Gourmet, who flew in from Los Angeles for the event. He was impressed that so light a cake could be so intensely chocolate. Yes!
Many people think I was born knowing how to bake, which is far from the truth. And many people wonder at my penchant for precision. Here could be the reason:
I didn't start baking anything until I was 17 and left for college. My first pie, cookie (and I mean cookie not cookies), and cake were all failures.
The pie was a lemon meringue whose filling would not thicken, even after (in desperation) I dumped 3/4 of a box of cornstarch into it. This taught me about hard water and its effect on starch gelatinization.
Home on Thanksgiving break I thought I'd try something easy and foolproof: the oatmeal cookies on the back of the Quaker Oatmeal container. Instead of cookies it spread and baked into one giant cookie. Could it have been the recipe or the way in which I measure the flour?
The cake was at the end of my freshman year when I returned home once again and decided to try my hand at a cake for my parent's anniversary. It was a chocolate cake from a Duncan Hines mix and it came out of the pan in several pieces. This was because back in those days the instructions on the box were to grease the pan and didn't include grease and flour or parchment liner at the bottom.
Another lesson I learned from all these disappointing experiences was that there is little more discouraging to a would be baker than early on failure. This could have put an end to my baking. Instead it sparked in me a determination to understand what went wrong and ultimately to convey and share what I had learned so that others would never have to experience the disappointment that I had.
My fourth baking experience was such a success it spurred me on. Ironically it was with what most consider to be the most challenging of all baking: a basic white bread loaf. It was from the Joy of Cooking. This book became my model for clarity of instructions and inclusion of all the tips to ensure success. So there you have it--proof that practically anyone can learn to bake given a detailed and accurate recipe and the willingness to follow it!
When researching about the origins of the ingredients and cookies for the WQXR Nutcracker Sweets Segment I unearthed this fascinating information from Wikipedia that was too long to fit into yesterday's segment. Here it is now:
There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during the times when Christians were living under more oppressive circumstances. It was said that the cane was shaped like a "J" for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes represented Christ's blood and purity. The three red stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of the candy represented the Church's foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament.
My starter, which I named Billow, was born 10 years ago on New Year's Day when it exploded into life right through the plastic wrap which covered its container. I have made sour dough bread with it as the only yeast, and also used some of the old excess starter saved from feeding it as a 'dough improver'. I have kept Billow alive all this time by feeding it once a week and refrigerating it between feedings. A starter is meant to be shared as well as used so I gave a piece to Woody who continued the tradition of feeding it once a week but never used it to bake bread. Finally, after much teasing, he chose this month to take the leap. And here is his story beginning with a Haiku:
two years just starters,
beer bread born,
Back in August of 2008, I travelled to New York to assist Rose with the arduous, weeklong task of copy editing Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Along with some baking supplies, Rose entrusted me with a portion of her sour dough starter, the idea was that with our book virtually done, I finally should bake some bread. Up to now, my baking forte has been cakes, writing about cakes, an occasional pie, more cakes, and assisting with some blog replies on cakes. I have never even baked a chocolate chip cookie.
To help assure that Billow's offspring would survive in the hands of a beginner, Rose instructed me to feed Rosewood once a week and freeze the excess starter. As a further precaution, I divided Rosewood into two starters. Within weeks, I had an ample supply of frozen starter discs. Over the past couple of years, Marie Wolf, a true bread baker at heart, has even graciously been nurse maid to my starters on occasions when I have travelled with Rose. Each time, when I have returned to pick up the kids, she has asked when I will finally make a loaf, especially considering the fact that I have watched Rose make bread on a couple of occasions. I kept rationalizing that bread making was alchemy that would not turn out for me.
Finally, Rose gave me an excuse for making a loaf of bread, with a somewhat free weekend, a need to feed my starters, and her suggestion to make the beer bread recipe which has old starter as an ingredient. I frankly spent more time reading the recipe's instructions and cross-referencing The Bread Bible than it took my physical effort to make the bread.
In less than 15 minutes of my involvement of easy mixing, shaping, cooling and unmolding, with letting the yeast do the hard work, within a few hours I had a wonderful loaf of bread. Then I sliced it still warm for a delicious sandwich.
Timidity~~past, as in my last line of my Haiku. A brioche has just been baked to be cubed for the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes; and now no need to go to the store for bread. So to all who also have rationalized not making bread, please do try it. Skip the two plus years of bread starter feeding resulting in hundreds of discs taking up lots of freezer space and crying out to be dignified into bread.
Today marks a special anniversary. It was on December 5, 2003 that Woody first e-mailed me, which was the start of our special association. In these seven years, whenever summer rolled around, Woody talked about his desire to enter the Minnesota State Fair. Finally, this year, he was able to enter. Here, in his own words, is the description of his happy experience.
The Minnesota State Fair is the second largest state fair in the country and receives thousands of entries in the baking competition for Creative Activities: homemade items from quilts to pickles to rocking chairs. For the last several years I have wanted to enter. However entry drop off day was always when I was away for my T'ai Chi studios annual retreat. This year the date of the retreat changed, eliminating the conflict. I had ambitious intentions for my rookie swings (as in baseball for the uninitiated) for the ribbons, about which I will elaborate below along with rules for future endeavors.
I decided to do a spread pattern of six cakes (five from our Rose's Heavenly Cakes) covering six categories: from our angel food for angel foods to an unusual cheesecake to a chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache and our lacquer glaze--my jewel of the collection.
The judging breakdown is 25% for appearance, 35% for taste and smell, and the balance for texture and other facets. I ambitiously decided to go for the freshest taste by baking everything on Saturday, with the intention of dropping them all off the following Sunday morning.
With all ingredients in place, the ganache made first so it could thicken during the day and lacquer glaze already made and in the refrigerator, I began baking the angel food at 8:00 am. Anticipating that there would be some set backs, I planned on being done by midnight. Well~~that did not happen.
After many days of steady rain we finally had the joy of seeing the fall colors at their height golden in the sunlight and Jupiter and the Milky Way at night.
Woody and I took an hour and a half walk around the long pond near the farm to enjoy the views and get some fresh air. We experienced two terrific windfalls: late harvest wild raspberries and two large puff balls which we brought back to New York to slice and fry in clarified butter (I come from a mushrooming family!)
WE SAW THREE OTTERS AND A BLUE HERRON IN THE POND
PUFF BALLS HAVE A EXQUISITELY TENDER COTTONY TEXTURE AND WOODSY FLAVOR
In returning to New York State, Woody was hoping he could look for new Octoberfest beers not already on his broomball team's annual posted list. His teammates try to find and taste as many Octoberfests as they can before Thanksgiving. He was fortunate to find two new ones. Cooperstown Octoberfest is brewed on site at a pub in Glen Falls.
MIKE, THE ADORABLE BAR TENDER FROM IRELAND (OF COURSE)
Back in New York City, a long search found the Amity Hall by Greenwich Village to enjoy a Otter Creek Octoberfest beer.
Our grand finale in New York included all of us: Elliott, Woody, Suvir, Charlie, and me. Suvir had to return a few days earlier to participate in the fall Food Network events and he arranged a special tasting menu at his wonderful restaurant Devi. Suvir, still dressed in his chef jacket, joined us sitting corralled between Charlie and me so that no one would ask him to jump up and leave the table (well they did only once). We began with a champagne toast of Veuve Clicot and proceeded through an extraordinary array of flavorful courses (with wine pairings) including my two favorites: the gigantic shrimp and the long bone lamb chops.
WE ALL SWOONED OVER THIS SILKY MANGO CHEESE CAKE
I took Woody for lunch on the last day of his visit to a new and favorite neighborhood restaurant where I had fallen in love with their eggplant parmigiana. It is slightly burned around the edges which adds to the delicious acidity of the tomatoes. When I asked for the origin of these tomatoes, assuming they were the exceptional San Marzano tomatoes from Sicily, they told me that all products used are from the USA.
A 7 LAYER CAKE OF EGGPLANT
The side dishes are also delicious. I especially loved the cauliflower roasted to a crisp with bread crumbs and herbs.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, BRUSSEL SPROUT AND LEMON SALAD, ROASTED RED PEPPERS
Last spring I posted about my loving the Cacio et Pepe at Maialiono's so much that I then sought to purchase the two cheeses imported from Rome, cacio da Roma and the pecarino Romano needed for this recipe. The only place in New York that I found carried them was Di Palo, in Little Italy. On Woody's last day here, we made a return trip to Di Palo to get the cheeses so that Woody could enjoy tasting New York back in Minneapolis.
WOODY'S CACCIO ET PEPE
I also discovered that Di Palo makes a wonderful artisan Buffalo milk cheese called Burrata. Back home in Hope, this was lunch, served with the very last of the season's Menegus tomatoes.
THE PERFECT FALL LUNCH FOLLOWED BY APPLE CIDER DONUTS FROM A NEARBY FARM STAND!
My darling friend the inimitable Diane Boate, the very one who arranged our book presentation event at the Bakers Dozen West last April in San Francisco, recently arranged another fabulous BDW event, this time at the Balbao Theater. Imagine viewing the documentary "Kings of Pastry" and on leaving the movie viewing this display of pastry made by members of the Bakers Dozen!
In the words of Diane:
It was a miraculous collection of talent and edible art.
This from Gary Meyer , owner of the Balboa Theater, about Bakers Dozen participation:
It was the kind of wonderful that was so wonderful you could not quite believe what you were looking at and tasting!
Just imagine sitting in a somewhat tense movie about an important pastry chef competition in France, you are filled up with the emotion of winning and losing, watching all those chef coated contestants in their white toques ----movie ends and you stream into the theater lobby and, WOW here are 13 white toques and chef jacketed pastry chefs standing behind a dazzling array of baked creations filling 2 long tables.
Toques off to Delia Athey, Annie Baker, Rebecca Boardman, Allen Cohn, Debbie Ferrante, Kandi Kerchum , Irvin Lin, Eve Lynch, Cindy Mushet, Susie Pope, Maralyn Tabatsky, Angeline Tan and Nora Tong. (Toque on the far right resides on Diane Boate.)
WHIPPED CREAM CAKE, GOLDEN LEMON ALMOND CAKES, AND BEER BREAD
Cooking classes held at the Battenkill Kitchen are charity events to help fund the kitchen, which provides people in the area with a commercially approved space. Charlie Burd, Suvir's partner, is treasurer and organized our event.
People came from the local area, Vermont, Massachusetts, and even from as far as Brooklyn, NY.
It was a mix of enthusiastic professional, soon to be professional, and dedicated home bakers. Fellow blogger Julie Dykstra brought her delightful young baker/daughter Avery who sat spell bound taking in every word and story. We invited them to visit the farm after the class and she was ready to move right in!
AVERY AT THE FARM
Hopefully the attendees learned many things from the demo but we learned two important things as well:
1. Argo has a new baking powder that does not contain aluminum. Compared to Rumford baking powder without aluminum, that I have been recomending, measure for measure it is slightly more active and produced more level cakes! This is because it is a true double acting baking powder, i.e. it gives about 2/3 of its rise once in the oven as opposed to Rumford that gives about 2/3 of its rise "on the bench" (while mixing). To find a distributor in your area call 1-866-373-2300. Note: this is ideal for cakes baked in tube pans but for layer cakes that were formulated using Rumford it may require a bit less Argo if the cake dips in the center. Stay tuned--we will be testing! If cakes need to be held for a while before baking it is definitely going to be superior.
2. Fresh egg whites are more coagulated than older ones and therefore do not whip to the same volume. I've long wondered if using whole eggs in layer cakes would perform the same way but to my delight, using the American Marsala Farm newly laid eggs, the cakes were identical to using older eggs. I'm still not sure if they would perform the same way in a cake heavily dependent on eggs for volume such as a génoise.
Fabulous Eating Experiences
LUNCH IN VERMONT
Manchester Vermont, is just across the state border and closer to the farm than many of Suvir and Charlie's close friends and neighbors! Charlie took us to a very special place called the Lawyer and the Baker. At first glance the place looked like a down home casual restaurant where you order at the counter from a chalk board hand-written menu and the food gets delivered to the table, but let me tell you: the cooking was out of this world!
Woody and I had the pleasure of prepping for the show at the American Marsala Farm kitchen. We made the Whipped Cream Cake from the new book (Rose's Heavenly Cakes) and the food processor Beer Bread from The Bread Bible. We also made extra bread dough so I could demonstrate how to shape a bread loaf. I will be posting when it lands on YouTube.
ROSE, SALLY, SUVIR, AND BEER BREAD
SUVIR ABOUT TO TASTE THE BREAD
SUVIR EVALUATING THE BREAD
ROSE AND WOODY ABOUT TO START THE WHIPPED CREAM CAKE SEGMENT
WOODY ABOUT TO DRINK THE EXTRA BEER FROM THE BEER BREAD SEGMENT
Chef Suvir Saran, of the famed NY restaurant Devi, proposed a visit to his farm in Upstate New York to promote my newest book via TV and a cooking class.
Woody came from MN to participate in both events plus lots of delightful experiences--in fact so many I'm dividing the posting into 4 parts. This part 1 is the visit to Ben Fink, photographer of all the heavenly photos in Rose's Heavenly Cakes; visit to my Dad which coincided with my brother's annual visit from the west coast, and arrival at Charlie and Suvir's Farm located in Salem, NY in a valley between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the equally majestic mountains of the Adirondacks. We all slept over the first night and Suvir and Charlie drove us all the way to Saratoga Springs to dine at Max London's, which I had fallen in love with on my previous trip with Elliott this past summer.
Ben Fink's stunning log cabin mansion in the woods has a Southwestern theme. Ben and his spouse Joe, have exquisite taste manifested in ever detail of the furnishings and landscape. Ben assured us that the antlers were all collected from fallen, not hunted deer, which enabled us to appreciate their beauty.
THE DINING ROOM CHANDELIER
THE LIVING ROOM WITH A TOWERING CATHEDRAL CEILING
THE "BARBARELLA/SPACE SHIP" SHOWER COMPLETE WITH ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES INCLUDING A PHONE--THEY PLAN TO REPLACE THIS SHOWER!
WOODY PHOTOGRAPHING THE MAJESTIC PETERSBURG PASS BETWEEN MY DAD'S HOUSE IN GRAFTON NY AND WILLIAMSTOWN, MA.
WELCOME TO AMERICAN MARSALA FARM
THIS ROASTER FINDS THE GOATS A LOT MORE FUN THAN HIS HENS AND ALWAYS HANGS OUT IN THEIR PASTURE!
MY LEGALLY BLIND DAD BEING LED CAREFULLY THROUGH THE GOOSE POO BY MY LOVING BROTHER
SUVIR'S WONDERFUL PORTRAIT OF MY DAD
FIRST FROST CREATING MAGICAL DEW DROPS ON A GOOSE FEATHER
As the temperature drops, and the first hard frost threatens, I thought I'd better harvest my few essential herbs and freeze them for winter weekend meals.
The coming of winter is always a sad time for me but then there are other comforts: sleeping in an unheated room under a fluffy down quilt, eating hearty stews and drinking assertive red wines, and getting to wear all those sweaters, hats, and scarves Ii've been knitting.
Several years ago, I was invited to attend and participate in a Pastry Conference held at the CIA Greystone, by Michael Batterberry of Foods Arts Magazine. One of the sponsors. The California Raisin Board, asked me to represent them with a raisin-laden dessert. I chose my chestnut and raisin Panettone from The Bread BIble and accompanied it with a rum raisin crème anglaise.
The next day, another of the participants, Yusuf Yaran from Turkey, came up to me and whispered in my ear: "I couldn't stop thinking about you since yesterday!" My eyes widened with alarm until he whispered further: "...Your panettone!" I was relieved and charmed.
Several years have passed and a few weeks ago I received a delightful note from Yusuf together with the only photo I have of me and the Batterberrys which I treasure and am sharing with you along with the photo of me and Yusuf.
The conference was amazing fun--imagine a group of some of the best pastry chefs from all over the world exchanging techniques and stories, tasting many desserts, and forming life-long bonds. And one of the most memorable events for me was attending a dinner of just four people at the Auberge de Soleille to celebrate Michael's birthday.
We have the great good fortune of having Shelly Tilly, who lives a five minute ride from my Dad, looking in on him as a care-giver. Among Shelly's many virtues is her ultra-green thumb. She is a master landscaper. When we stopped by her house to say goodbye to her and her mother Pat, they were busy in the garden making a video.
SHELLY FILMING HER GARDEN IN FULL BLOOM
ELLIOTT RELAXING ACCOMPANIED BY SHELLY'S DOG OREO
A SURPRISE VISITOR BY THE POND
BLUEBERRY PIE FOR DAD
DAD NOT MINDING TOO MUCH THAT'S IT'S NOT CHERRY PIE
COUSINS BILL AND JOY HOWE AT A PARTY AT THEIR HOME "DAY'O" IN CHATHAM
HAPPY ME PHOTOGRAPHED BY THEIR SON DANIEL
A SURPISING ROOFTOP HERB GARDEN ATOP A WATER PURIFYING BUILDING BY THE HIGHWAY
We enjoyed both lunch and dinner at Max's restaurant, which included many desserts from the adjoining Mrs. London's Bakery that were pictured on the preceding posting. We also had roasted pineapple with a most intriguing flavor that turned out to be rosemary!
The photos below will give you an idea of the glorious savories that are offered here:
FABULOUS MUSHROOM AND POACHED EGG PIZZA
RUBEN WITH HOME-MADE PASTRAMI
CAPPELLETTI WITH SHRIMP AND CHORIZO
CAPUCCINO ELEGANTLY SERVED IN A RIEDEL OF AUSTRIA CUP
Next posting, part 3 will be of The Chocolate Mill in Glen's Falls.
My parents were both born in New York City in the early 1900's. My mother always loved it and my father was always looking to move to the country. But when, in their 80's, my father finally bought his dream property in upstate New York, my mother chose to join him on his land (which meant living in an airstream trailer in the snow belt) over staying in New York City.
Gradually she convinced herself that upstate New York had its charms both cultural and culinary. So when she reported the discovery of a terrific bakery in Saratoga Springs called Mrs. London's, and told me I must come to visit I was suspicious. I thought it was merely a ploy to get me to come up and visit her and my father! How wrong I was. After all these years I got to visit not only Mrs. London's, but to meet the whole London family. Suvir told me I was going to experience the best croissants in this country. He was wrong: They were the best croissants in this world! Look at the crumb! And this wasn't one of many Michael London cut to find the best texture--it was a random one he pulled out of the display case.
Forgive me as I rave rapturously, but truly I was stunned by the quality of both the brick oven-baked breads and the desserts.
Sixty-seven years ago my parents met at Lake George where they were camping out on Forked Island. I've always wanted to visit the place of my 'preconception' so I was delighted when Elliott arranged to go to a conference at Lake George this past July.
Part of the plan was to visit my father in Grafton, proceed to Lake George, visit our friends Suvir and Charlie's farm in Salem (where I will be returning early October for some fun book related events--stay tuned!) and then return to my father on the way home.
The Sagamore Hotel, located by the crystal-clear lake, was very beautiful and restful. The one thing I always miss most when away from home is my Nespresso cappuccino but not this trip as I brought along my portable Nespresso system. Luckily the hotel provided me with a refrigerator to store the milk so I set up my coffee maker and was good to go!
It was 15 years ago that I last enjoyed Serrano ham. I had been invited by a Swiss colleague to accompany him on a two-day trip to Madrid to review restaurants for an airline magazine and as I was already in Switzerland for a weekend-long chocolate and pastry tour I couldn't resist tailoring the trip to tack on two or three days at the beginning to visit Spain.
In addition to the fantastic meals we experienced I fell in love with the Jamón Serrano (Serrano ham), so much so that I purchased an entire ham to bring back to my husband in NY. Much to my disappointment, this ham(which was probably illegal to bring in at the time and heavy to boot) turned out to be so salty that finally I had to discard it.
When recently I was invited to a Serrano ham dinner in New York, I leapt at the chance to revisit this specialty and was so glad I did. There is now a ConsorcioSerrano that governs the standards of this glorious ham to maintain consistency of quality. And it was great to discover that Serrano ham is now being shipped (legally!) to the US.
The dinner was held at La Fonda del Sol, located right next to Grand Central Station. The evening began with a demonstration by master ham carver Cortador Ricardo Garrido Robles from Spain.
As he magisterially cut translucent-thin pink slices of the ham, plates were passed for serving and none of us could stop eating the samples.
The ham was so perfect just by itself we would have been happy with that alone until we tasted the cuisine of Chef Josh DeChellis who briliantly integrated the jamón into each and every course. Pictured below were three of my favorites:
(Apologies for this blurry photo but I had only my cell phone and romantic lighting to blame.)
This past spring, my dear friends Karen Paige and Andrew Dornenburg recommended that we go to a neighborhood trattoria Bellavitae to have, among other things, chef-owner Jon Mudder's pesto which he made to order at the bar in an actual marble mortar.
We visited Bella Vitae on Mother's Day and loved the food but it was too early for pesto. I anxiously awaited the start of the fresh basil season and returned to be rewarded by a most exceptional pasta and pesto. Jon revealed it's secret: He imported the basil from Israel! He explained that the Israeli basil was more tender than the basil commonly available here. The result was a pesto that seemed to melt on the tongue. The pasta had just the right firmness and sure enough it turned out that Jon was using my favorite and most expensive Latini pasta. Can you imagine the cost for these ingredients! Could this be why the wonderful restaurant, joyfully and recently discovered by me closed a few weeks after my third visit?
Hopefully Jon will open a restaurant again soon but in the meantime you can visit him on his highly rated blog. Here's the link.
I've written about pesto at least twice on this blog, and this being the height of the basil season, it seems like a good time to offer my favorite recipe:
wanuts halves/100 grams/3.5 ounces/1 cup
basil leaves: 200 grams/7 ounces/14 cups
5 large cloves garlic, smashed
extra virgin olive oil: 216 grams/7.5 ounces/1 cup
salt: 1 teaspoon
sugar: 1/2 teaspoon
black pepper, freshly ground: 1/2 teaspoon
cayenne pepper: 3 dashes
grated Parmesan: Reggiano: 200 grams/ 7 ounces/ 2 1/3 cups
Place the nuts in processor container and pulse until coarsely chopped. Remove the nuts to a bowl and set aside.
Place the basil in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped, stirring down the leaves from time to time. Add garlic and process a few seconds until evenly mixed into the basil. Add oil and seasonings and process only until mixed. Add the Parmesan and nuts and pulse just until uniform.
Freeze 2 tablespoon size portions in aluminum foil packets. Add ½ tablespoon of butter when serving. Pass additional grated cheese.
Last night I made a cheesecake I'm testing for the next book to bring to a birthday dinner party at my friends the Meneguses tonight. I covered it tightly (thank goodness) with plastic wrap and set it in the downstairs fridge. When I went to admire it this morning, to my horror I saw that the cake pan was sitting in a pool of water! My first thought was that somehow, magically, horrifyingly, the cheesecake had lost all of its moisture. But then I saw a little pool of water on top of the plastic wrap. I tasted it and it did not taste like cheesecake but rather like the spring water that I had filled the water container with and set on the rack above the cheesecake not expecting it to drip slowly through it's spout.
How ironic that after having baked the cheesecake in a water bath, protecting it from absorbing water by placing the pan in a silicone pan, it then was exposed to water from above during chilling.
Luckily I had used a new Wilton springform that has such a tight seal none of the water leaked into the ladyfinger-lined bottom. I think it didn't. I'll know for sure tonight!
One of my fondest summer childhood memories was picking blueberries with my grandmother. It began with a visit to the hotel kitchen (her uncle owned Spring Lake Hotel in Parksville, NY) to ask for two large empty cans. A short walk away into the hilly countryside always rewarded us with several bushes of wild blueberries. We picked until the cans were full which took a while as I would eat as I picked. As you can see from the blue cast on my teeth in this photo, little has changed.
The bushes in the Catskills that once towered over my head as a child were replaced with the huge Pensylvania bushes at the George Schmidt Berry Farm that also towered over my head.
The farm offers many seasonal products for sale as well as a pick-your own berries. The blackberries were at least as large as those in Portland and Seattle which are the largest I'd ever seen prior to this day.
Picking blueberries this summer was part of a day-long and long-overdue tour of the area within an hour's drive from Hope. Maria Menegus joined me picking the berries which made it even more fun.
My resolve to retire some day to Hope was reaffirmed when the Meneguses introduced me to some of the many treasures of the area. I fell in love with it all: the charming Allentown with it's farmer's market that is the oldest in the country and beautiful old theater, Yuengling Brewery, also the oldest in the country, Wegmans ( oh joy!), Klein Farms Dairy & Creamery (raw milk and yogurt--double oh joy!) and Diedricks which has the most amazing selection of meat and other treasures such as bacon horseradish cheese and hickory nuts.
I will be revisiting these places, hopefully for years to come.
Whenever I travel to far off places I am always delighted to see the amazing work being performed by passionate artisans in every corner of the world. Traveling isn't easy--especially these days with all the hoops set up by security--but what I love most about travel is that it expands the boundaries and limitations of my own personal experience and perception.
Traveling the virtual Internet, however, has made actual physical travel seem less necessary. I can sit here on the back porch in Hope, turn on the computer, and welcome in the world.
A few months ago I internet-met a very special chocolate artisan who e-mailed me about his work and offered to send samples. I'd now like to share virtually with all of you what a treat they are.
Chef Eric Cayton uses my favorite milk chocolate: Max Felchlin's Maracaibo Criolet from Switzerland so it is no wonder his milk chocolate bonbons pleased me the most. But I urge you to try the dark chocolate bonbon collection as well as he also uses the Felchlin dark chocolate which he writes: ...is considered among the very finest estate-class chocolate in the world, and is produced from a type of criollo cacao that is genetically very similar to the same type of cacao that the Mayans and the Aztecs would have consumed. This particular origin is called Arriba, and it's a 72%, and you are definitely right about the extremely strong flavor profile...
For those of you who maintain that you don't like white chocolate you will be surprised by Chef Cayton's creative use of it. The white chocolate he uses from Felchlin is called Edelweiss, and is very creamy and smooth without being overly sweet.
In addition to the luscious Swiss chocolate, Chef Cayton puts the very finest ingredients into his bonbons, such as organic certified cream, and what is no doubt the most important ingredient of all: love.
Chef Cayton is located in Derry Church Pa, a small town in a farming community settled in 1724, now called Hershey because that is where Milton Hersey started his chocolate empire. I hope someday to visit Chef Cayton at this chocolate Mecca "in person."
Click on each bonbon to see deliciously detailed descriptions plus historical vignettes behind the inspiration of its name.
Here are 3 more of my favorite bonbons:
Burlington: milk chocolate ganache, Vermont Maple Syrup, and pecans
(My husband Elliott said he could become addicted to these.)
Dublin: milk chocolate ganache, Bailey's Irish Cream, and coffee
Rome: milk chocolate ganache, Italian espresso, and white chocolate mousse topping--a riff on cappuccino
Note: I asked Chef Cayton how his business came to be named Derry Church and his answer along with personal history is such a great American success story I am adding it here:
I named this business Derry Church, is because I'm 5th generation Derry Church, Pennsylvania, which is the historical name for the small farming community that became modern day Hershey, PA.
I had ancestors living at Derry Church at the time of Milton S. Hershey's birth in 1857, and many of my ancestors later worked for Hershey in his original chocolate factory. My Great Grandfather, Robert Hoover, was a stone mason, and a dairy farmer. He helped Hershey lay the foundation for his factory in 1903, and also sold the man milk for his milk chocolate! For most of the 20th century, most of my family worked for Hershey, and I have some cousins that still do to this day....so I have always been fascinated with the business of chocolate, and even as a small child I would play around with chocolate in my Grandmother's kitchen.
Lucky Eric Ripert! His new book is being published this November by my wonderful editor Pam Chirls at Wiley. So Pam invited me to have lunch at Chef Ripert's Le Bernadin to celebrate the IACP book of the year award. And what a celebration it was! We began with a delightful champagne Franken Demoiselle and to accompany it, rillettes of salmon (spread). The individual breads were from Tom Cat and accompanied by a butter so delicious I asked for the brand. Turns out they make their own butter adding fleur de sel. I was tempted to ask what cream they use to make it but thought better of becoming a culinary pest!
You can find better photos on their site but here are the ones I took with my cell phone as I didn't have the foresight to bring my camera.
STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWER WITH PEEKYTOE AND KING CRAB; "FINE HERBS-LEMON" MOUSSELINE SAUCE
SAUTEED CALAMARI FILLED WITH SWEET PRAWNS AND SHITAKE MUSHROOM; CALAMARI CONSOMME
SKATE WITH SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, AND MICRO RADISHES IN CONSOME
The sommalier Jared FIscher chose brilliantly: a Neumeister 2007 sauvignon blanc "Klausen" which I'm now trying to purchase!
PISTACHIO MOUSSE, CARAMELIZED WHITE CHOCOLATE, LEMON, QUEEN ANNE CHERRY
A DREAMY CUSTARD SO COMPLEX I CAN'T REMEMBER THE COMPONENTS!
SORBET AND MOLECULAR GASTRONOMIC BURSTS OF CITRUS
Full as we were we plowed through all of the little friandises, the most exquisite of which was the miniature Paris Besse. No photo--I was over the moon. These were some of the best desserts I've ever had in any restaurant. Do check out pastry chef Michael Laiskonis's blog.
42 years ago, I worked as a secretary in the public relations department of Reynolds Metals Company. I held the key to the storage closet that contained a huge quantity of aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and it was part of my job to send them out to the press. As a special bonus, my boss gave me the present of a series of cooking classes at James Beard. Of course I was ecstatic and made sure to add Jim to the list of recipients of the foil and plastic wrap.
About a decade later I became one of the founders of the New York Association of Cooking School Teachers. Jim had just written another book, so we decided to hold a meeting and book signing at his home. Some of us sat in chairs; I remember sitting on the floor at his feet. We were encouraged to ask questions -- I remember mine was pertaining to my dislike of ultra-pasteurized cream. Then we formed a line to have him sign our books that we had just purchased. I was very anxious to see what he would write in mine since we had a more personal relationship than most (all that foil and plastic wrap).
There were so many of us, I had to wait about 20 minutes but was rewarded with a very lengthy scrawl. I went to the side of the room to enjoy it in private. To my amazement, I couldn't make out a single word of the scribble! I brought it over to Richard Nemo, who was his assistant. (I used to be able to read my boss's handwriting better than he could read his own.) But Richard said: You'll have to ask Mr. Beard; I can't read it either.! So I stood back in line for another 15 minutes, opened the book to the inscription, and said to Jim: "What did you write here?" He studied it for a few seconds, looked up, and with a half smile said: Damned if I know!
After something like 32 years I finally found the book and the autograph in question! (I have well over 1000 books so it wasn't easy but I was determined.) It turns out it was just one-word--the last word--that was indecipherable. Here's a photograph of the autograph in question. See if you can figure it out. I sent it to Woody and unbelievably he solved the mystery! I'll give you a few days first to see if you can guess.
And here is the very first cookbook I bought in 1962 for all of 75 cents! I had no idea who James Beard was but he looked so cheerful and as though he loved to eat--don't you think?
When we went to Beaver Creek this year we stayed at the Hyatt. And I looked forward to going to bed every night because by the pillow each night were two of the most exquisitely delicious candies imaginable: Enstrom's Almond Toffee--a milk chocolate version and a bittersweet version. The bittersweet worked perfectly as a foil to the sweet toffee but I loved the milk chocolate version as much so I carefully bit each one in half and then handed over the reluctantly uneaten halves to Elliott (even though they were both placed by my pillow) who seemed to be enjoying them as much as I was.
When I got back to New York, I called Enstrom's and ordered some more. And finished it all, but the memory of the buttery caramelized crunchy sugar, bits of whole almonds, and chocolate coating lives on. In fact, if there were any left I'd be leaving the computer right now for just one more piece (hah!-who am I kidding--one?.)
I had forgotten that my Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee is one of people's favorite recipes in my Christmas cookie book. But toffee can be tricky. Just this week someone posted on the blog that the toffee tasted burnt. If you don't have an accurate thermometer don't even try making this recipe--just order it on line from Enstrom's
or call 1-800-367-8766.
They're beautifully packaged for gift giving. People are always saying they don't know what to give me. Try this!
And if you're feeling adventurous, try mine on page 97 of Rose's Christmas Cookies pictured below.
I adore the month of June--the sweet smell of honeysuckle (my favorite aroma), fireflies, and fresh, flavorful, new minted produce. (The best thing I've ever read about honey suckle was by Judith Kranz who wrote something like: "honeysuckle is the pure distilled essence of longing."
I forget from year to year how all i want to do this time of year is cook and bake with the exquisite produce that comes into season. Last week I did a posting on green garlic which I got at the wonderful Union Square Farmer's Market. On that same day I enjoyed the day neutral strawberries which are a cross between strawberries and fraises de bois--poignantly vibrant and sweet. I did have an unfortunate experience with a large box of other strawberries that had no flavor what-so-ever but turned them into a smoothy with last years' peaches and plums from the freezer and tangy goat milk yogurt. It's amazing how they actually dominated after adding honey and lemon juice which brought out the hidden flavor.
True one can now buy duck eggs at Whole Foods but they taste hardly different from chicken eggs. The goat cheese and yogurt stand, however, had free range duck eggs--the yolks orange and the scrambled eggs I made from one of them so flavorful I started thinking about the pasta I'm going to make with them and anchovy mayonnaise. (See what I mean about abandoning all other activities.
Yesterday, in Hope, I ran over to my friend Maria Menegus's farm to pick up some freshly picked cherries for my father's annual cherry pie (this one for his upcoming 96th birthday!). We do have a small cherry tree but here's the full extent of what the birds left for me.
Maria gave me heaps of treasures from her garden: little new redskin potatoes, pristine spinach, golden and red beets, strawberry rhubarb, and the most delicious strawberries I've had in years. I ran home and in the two hours I had before leaving for NY cut and stored all the produce, made 4 ounces of the rhubarb into a compote (2 1/2 minutes in the microwave), chilled it and served it as dessert with large scoops of strawberry ice cream, and Maria's magnificent strawberries. Heavenly!
It's been a whole year since Marie Wolf started her terrific blog Heavenly Cake Bake Along.
What started as a preview of just a few cakes from Rose's Heavenly Cakes executed by Marie, a first rate bread baker who had already baked her way through The Bread Bible in under a year but who did not consider herself to be a "cake baker," turned into with a community of what is now 27 bakers (28 including Marie) who bake one cake a week from the book and post their commentaries and photos on their blogs. Marie also does a weekly summary of the final results.
I've been longing for an opportunity to thank Marie for her incredible generosity, and her husband Jim for the wonderful and instructive photos of all the steps. Marie's blog has become the book within the book--a brilliant and always entertaining tutorial. The opportunity presented itself when their daughter Sarah announced her wedding would be in May in Minneapolis. Woody joyfully agreed that we would create a special cake for her in his MN kitchen. Photos of the wedding and the cake are on Marie's blog.
Here is Woody's and my story with photos of how we pulled it all off!
Hector surprised me yesterday with this ultra artistic Easter-inspired cake. Here's what he wrote to explain how it came about and how he accomplished it:
Happy Easter! My Holiday started with a 7:30 run for 18 minutes, followed by 10 pull ups, minutes of push ups and ab crunches, and then 90 minutes of outrigger canoe paddling. My coach asked if I could help with her surprise Easter egg hunt (she hid the eggs during the run!). She asked to bring a cake themed 'golden egg' to share with the team. She made my Easter, not only because now my canoe buddies realize I can bake and take cakes, but also because this is the first Easter egg hunt I ever did since it isn't a tradition in my family.
Here is my take on a chicken egg nest. Dark chocolate brushed on the inside of egg shell halves; after the chocolate hardens, peel off the shells with surgical precision or leave a few shells for more realism (be sure to clean the shells prior brusging the chocolate: boil the eggs shells for a few minutes, rinse well, and air dry).
The cake is ROSE'S heavenly CAKES Yellow Butter Cake, baked on a ring pan. There is a wide hole on the center of this cake, therefore the chocolate eggs are suspended on the air over caramel cage sticks.
Now, regarding outrigger canoe paddling, it is my new sport and I absolutelly adore it. You are all welcome to join my canoe club during the leisure season, just show up any Sunday from November to January. I found new friends that can eat all the heavenly cakes and burn calories at the same time. I have a confession: I am not able to do one single pull up to date and wonder if it has something to do with the skill of precision buttercream piping?
Although I was sick with a cold for most of it, it was still a wonderful vacation as we saw family and friends and luckily our first night was a terrific dinner at Daniel Patterson's Coi which will be a separate posting because I took so many wonderful photos.
Here are niece Mariella, great niece Marley Jane, and great nephew Hadyn enjoying those frog cookies I made the day before departing for SF.
Princess Marley Jane, possibly thinking about what she will have for dinner.
The Family (Elliott was taking the photo).
Elliott making a granddaughter Haley "sandwich."
Granddaughter Elyse the gymnast.
Michael Beranbaum enjoying the dungeness crab he cooked. Frances and Michael use ocean water and Guinness Stout to boil the crabs. the result is not beery but rather incredibly crabby!
Frances Beranbaum ready to enjoy the crab.
The remains of the crab. Great discovery: the lobster crackers from Zyliss (available on line from Sur la Table) make cracking crab, and no doubt lobster, a whole lot easier. I brought back one for Thursday night summer lobster fest in Belveder
The Fashion Institute of Technology puts out a beautifully designed quarterly magazine for alumni appropriately called Hue. The current publication is devoted to food and includes graduates who went from fashion to food careers. As one, I have always joked that I went from draping fabric to draping fondant.
I'm so pleased and honored to have been included in Hue and if you're interested in reading the profile, beautifully written by editor Linda Angrilli, click !
Life always tastes better with a sense of humor and people who possess one seem to enjoy life to the fullest.
My first dinner at Locanda Verde, located in Tribeca, was compliments of the Naples Italy Chamber of Commerce several weeks ago, and I couldn't wait to return. On the menu, each of the many courses had three choices, and as I started the difficult deliberation process of selection, I soon discovered that, in fact, everything was being served family style and that I was going to be able to taste it all! It was abondanza par excellence and everything was fantastically good. But no wonder! The chef is Andrew Carmellini whose food I adored at A Voce.
The salumi was some of the best I've had in NY, the lamb meatball sliders were heavenly, the branzino (fish) was moist and flavorful, the pasta dishes were fantastic, and the pignoli tart perfection. The little graham cookies were so compelling I asked the celebrated pastry chef Karen DeMasco for the recipe for my next book!
So when my dear friend Nathan Fong, whom I call Mr. Food Vancouver, came to NY to celebrate his birthday (which is today) I made a reservation at Locanda for last night for us and two of his accompanying friends also from Vancouver. (By the way, those of you who are members of IACP be sure to vote for Nathan for the board!)
Everyone loved the ambiance and adored the food. My choice was the burrata, an incredibly creamy soft cheese, served with roasted, marinated peppers, and the fonduta ravioli with wild mushrooms (stuffed with meltingly soft cheese) but I really wanted the short ribs braised in wine. My new friend Craig offered me a sizable piece of his. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish a whole dish and still have room for dessert--my favorite of which was the one we didn't think to order--a lemon tart with tangy buttermilk icecream.
The highlight of the evening, however, was at the very onset, when special event planner Marie Lyons (whom I first met on this blog when she asked me something about marzipan for a cake she was making, resembling the NY subway map) brought out a special and totally unexpected present for me! It made us all laugh so hard it opened our senses fully to the meal ahead! If you've been following this blog it will need no explanation. If you'd like to see a picture of the present, click on continue reading below.
Here is a story borrowed from my future memoirs that Raymond of "Your Just Desserts" (one of the Heavenly Bakers on the Heavenly Cake Bake Along inspired me to share because of his insightful comments. He wrote on his blog about the Jancsi Torte saying:
This is the recipe that made we want to buy Rose's book and made me want to join the Heavenly Bakers. Years ago when Food Network was actually about food instead of silly contests to see who the next giggling, simpering wanna be chef personality will be or which no talent hack was going to put their name on anything to make a buck there was a show called The Two Fat Ladies. Now, I am not saying that these ladies were not about entertainment because they certainly were entertaining BUT they were also about the food. They cooked honest food with butter and cream and sugar and bacon and they made no apologies for it. An important thing to note here is that while they were entertaining you, they were also teaching you how to cook. They were showing you techniques. They weren't trying to sell you pans and beakers and camp stoves and worthless cookbooks. They weren't featuring their husbands, sons, daughters, nieces or nephews on every show. They just cooked and had fun doing it and we watched and learned and had fun learning. Isn't that what its all about? At any rate, I am getting off onto one of my rants about things that none of you care about. Back to this recipe.
The Fat Ladies motored around the English countryside on a vintage Triumph motorcycle with a sidecar and they stopped off at various places and cooked for people and special events. One of these special events was a village fete and they were asked to bake cakes for a bake sale. One of the cakes they made was called Rigo Jancsi Chocolate Slices. Rigo Jancsi, it turns out was a gypsy fiddler who was beloved in polite society in Budapest in the 1920's. It turns out the it was rather more than his music that was adored by the ladies of polite society and a huge scandal ensued. None the less, we got these fabulous slices. On one of my European trips, I happened to be in England and I just happened to have these delicious morsels. I looked and looked for a recipe and low and behold here were the Fat Ladies giving me one. I have made them often ever since. Imagine how intrigued I was when I saw this version of one of my favorite recipes. This torta is slightly different from the Fat Ladies chocolate slices. Their recipe uses only 3 eggs and also has a bit of flour in it. It is baked in a sheet pan and the sheet cake is sliced in half. A chocolate filling is spread over one half, then apricot jam and then a bittersweet chocolate icing. The second layer is put on and then they are cut into rectangular slices and dusted with cocoa. They are marvelous."
The food community is largely a friendly and supportive place. Wherever in the world I've traveled chefs have always been welcoming, accommodating, and happy to connect and share all manner of food experiences. After all, it's in the nature of the hospitality business to be... well...hospitable. And people who are drawn to this profession more often than not have nurturing and generous spirits.
When Lutèce was in its hey day as top New York restaurant, André Soltner allowed me to bring a special birthday cake into the restaurant. When editor Pam Chirls and author Lisa Yockelson and I went to Restaurant Daniel for an after event nightcap, not only did Daniel Boulud voice no objections to my having brought a piece of coconut cake from my then upcoming book, the wait person graciously insisted on plating it for us. Scott Conant had no problem with my bringing an entire birthday cake into Alto for lunch.
Welcome to the new rude reality where it's cool to be cruel: the world fashioned after Simon Cowell of American Idol, where mean insults and sarcasm rule... the world of Gorden Ramsays, David Changs, and restaurants like the Spotted Pig, a world where guests are made to feel lucky they managed to get a seat, even though that seat more often than not has no back, surely to encourage the eater to leave as soon as possible to make room for the next desperate one who has bought into the hype du jour.
The Breslin, sister restaurant to the Spotted Pig, was recommended by a food friend so I lost no time in arranging a lunch date for two other favorite food friends while Woody was in town helping me film a video. Typical of the new trendy restaurant style, The Breslin did not accept reservations, so we agreed to meet at noon before the crowd (which never materialized). Nancy arrived a little early but they would not seat her (writing on the wall...).
My friend of many years, Ariane Daguin, (who calls me Maman Gâteau) is from Gascony in the southwest of France--land of the Three Musketeers and...sound the trumpets..foie gras. Twenty-five years ago she started a company named D'Artagnon, introducing foie gras to America and has since expanded her line to an enormous range of specialty meats and foods.
Last night, a huge celebration was held at Guastavino, located under the Queen's Borough Bridge in Manhattan. I walked the three miles from Bleecker Street because I knew I'd be eating a lot of foie gras among other delectables. But my main motivation of attending this event was to honor Ariane and to see her parents. I had stayed with them in their home in Auch, 21 years ago, and felt like part of the famiy.
I'll always remember Ariane's mother, Joceleine, telling me how husband, chef André Daguin, was an avid rugby player and that the last time he played he ended up crawling around the field trying to find his two front teeth. His restaurant had to close for a few days due to his injuries but he refused to give up the sport. So the next time he played rugby Joceleine put up a sign on the front door saying: "fermé `a cause de rugby." (Closed because of rugby, in anticipation of the inevitable next accident.
To honor the rugby players, many of whom attended last night's event, everyone was encouraged to dress in team colors of red and white and virtually all obliged.
In the crowd of a near 1000 (and if I were a true Gascogne I would have said at least 5000 because everything Gascony is larger than life including the Gascons!) it was easy to find Ariane as she was more radiant than I've ever seen her. But I also managed to find her parents, my favorite of her honorary 'uncle/chefs' Bernard, and what seemed like every friend I've ever known in the food industry. I also found myself talking to a lovely young woman who turned out to be Apollonia Poilane of the famed Poilane bread from Paris. I had met her very charming father Lionel at the chocolate show in Paris two years before his tragic plane accident and when he learned I was working on a bread cookbook, he had invited me to come and visit. It was a great joy to meet Apollonia who has become his very worthy successor.
And now to the food! The longest lines were for the Jamones-Segovia (ham: the best I've ever tasted--made from Hungarian pigs and cured in Spain), the foie gras terrines, and the grits with black truffle. The French Kisses, prunes, soaked in Armagnac and stuffed with foie gras, disappeared within seconds each time they reappeared. There was also unending trays of spareribs, cassoulet, and osso bucco. This is one time the foie gras truly flowed (a term I've only ever heard used in relation to wine!). Foie was also presented sautéed with tangy raisins impaled on skewers that were afixed to long baguettes--so long each extended the full length of the servers' arms from wrist to shoulder.
As D'Artagnan also specializes in wild game and game birds, there were also trays of plump juicy quail legs. And finally for a dessert that no one really needed but couldn't resist there was an assortment of macarons of varied flavors.
Needless to say there were lots of excellent wines and a live and loud band to which many people were dancing. The lead singer, of course, was a chef! There was also a huge monitor flashing photos of family and chefs all offering congratulations to Ariane.
When I saw Gael Green's writeup on her blog Fork Play on Danny Meyer's newest restaurant Maialino in the Grammercy Park Hotel I lost no time in making a dinner reservation to enjoy the suckling pig from which the restaurant derived its name.
I always knew in my heart that pig potential was far greater than any rendition I had yet to experience--after all, that Chinese farmer and son in Charles Lamb's tale had to have a better reason to burn down their farm than the dry flavorless meat suckling pig so often turns out to be.
Yes!!! Braised in rosemary, garlic, and white wine, with crackling skin true to its descriptor--it was rich, succulent, and perfectly fabulous. And, the potatoes had imbibed the delicious juices!
Our exquisitely charming waitress (and the service could not have been better) suggested an excellent and affordable burgundy from the Alto Adige. The restaurant was packed (including Danny and his family) so it was especially impressive that no one in any way suggested that the two of us give up our four seat banquette in which we were happily ensconced for all of three hours. I was so ridiculously content I didn't even manage to feel too guilty!
We were seated close enough to the panini station to smell the enticing aromas emanating from it and the promising aromas from the coffee station caused me to break my no coffee at restaurants rule (as it invariably disappoints even at the best of them) to end the dinner with an excellent cup of capuccino served with a chocolate biscotti--so delicious I didn't for once add any sugar whatsoever to the coffee and didn't miss it.
But I can't close without mentioning the divinely creamy and intensely pistachio ice cream, fiore di latte ice cream, and refreshingly palate cleansing campari/grapefruit sorbet (which when combined with the fior de latte was reminiscent of the best possible popsickle).
We walked out into the cold January night air and felt no chill--we were radiating heat and happiness. Forgive me for raving--I just couldn't help myself.
P.S. And while I'm in raving mode I might as well confess that Erika's linguini alle vongole (clam sauce) first course was also the best I've ever had including my own.
I was walking along 34th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues and heard a tall down-on-his-luck street man utter the following astonishing request:
Please give me something to eat; anything a little garlicky would be deeply appreciated!
If I hadn't been on my way to a doctor's appointment I would have stopped into the nearby Thai restaurant and ordered something for him. I've had bad experiences offering street people food I happened to be carrying learning that they really wanted money and probably to use for booze or drugs. One actually flung my offering of food out of my hand. But this guy touched my heart by his request--I knew he was one of us--a food person. When I left my appointment I looked for him but he had changed location and was no where to be seen.
Those of you who have been following the Joe Pastry Chronicles revealing the maverick side to my baking personality may be amused to see just how far back this goes.
It was my father who took these photos of me when I was about four years old. He managed to catch a special ritual I had established but he needed to do it on two separate occasions (note the different outfits) in order not to preempt me that he was photographing, as I would have resisted.
My father had built a porch on our little house in Far Rockaway, Long Island, and put up a gate to keep me from wandering off. When I was old enough no longer to need the gate he didn't bother to remove it. So the gate that was meant to keep me in I used (with great glee) to keep people out. (The defining concept of the Bauhaus--aside from form following function which I embraced on first hearing--is seeing things in a new different and often opposite way.)
Here's little Rosie 'innocently' sneaking up to the gate.
And here I am having succeeded in locking it just before the person was hoping to enter (hahahahah).
Ultimately I did wander off into the empty lot next door. I was intrigued by the sparkling broken glass and stars of Bethlehem flowers. My grandmother threatened to call the police the second time I disappeared. That worked--until I got older. It was the beginning of my calling as an explorer.
Here I was, a few years younger, on that same back porch, furious that my mother insisted upon hiding behind me in the lilac bushes to support me from behind to keep me from falling over backwards. I was certain I wouldn't but nowadays I would never be angry at any show of support, realizing how easy it is to 'fall over backwards'!
Last week I had an amazing experience during a photo shoot in my apartment. FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) was doing a story that will appear in their alumni magazine, Hue. (I will be posting it on the blog.) To save everyone time I had suggested using one of my existing press photos but they wanted a candid (un-posed) shot. They brought in photographer Matthew Septimus who succeeded in blowing my cover! Not since those photos of me and the gate did anyone capture the mischievous me. I've seen this happen twice in live Shakespearean theater--that magic unforgettable moment when everything synchs just right. I've captured it once myself photographing the chef in a tiny sushi restaurant in Kyoto (one day I'll post that photo) and I let down my guard for one brief instant of longing for the past, that Martha Stewart caught with her eyes during a photo session of my wedding cake on the porch of her Turkey Hill home. I'm mystified by these moments. One can't make them happen but when they do it stays with you for life. A stranger in France during an unforgettable trip with Shirley Corriher, told us that when he looks at people he wonders "what size hammer he needs to break through the window of their resistance." We all have these windows or walls that keep us functional.
But when the veil lifts even for a fraction of a second it seems like the pathway to eternity has been revealed. No doubt Matthew Septimus has captured it many times (see his site) but it's the first time anyone has captured the inner me in a photo. Here's a preview!
Imagine experiencing Haydn's Il Mondo della Luna The World on the Moon (a rarely performed comic opera) in the dome of the Haydn Planetarium (at the Rose Center for Earth and Space no less)! There couldn't have been a more appropriate or perfect context and the production by the Gotham Chamber Opera took full advantage of it.
A special podium was built for the orchestra.
(taken shortly before we were instructed not to)
After the opening orchestral introduction, the stars (I mean singers) made their dramatic entrance and as they began to sing in Italian the English translation appeared in large letters on either side of the dome. What a wonderful way to see the translation as one was compelled to look heavenward by the appearance of stars and other amazing displays of comets, colors and designs truly giving the illusion of being on the moon.
The invitation came via e-mail from Nespresso, stating that I was one of 10 top customers to receive it. (Could I be drinking that much cappuccino?!)
Why is it that criticism is more adrenalin-stimulating than praise?! Of course it's always delicious to hear favorable things about one's self or one's work but the occasional criticism is what makes one sit up straight and take notice.
My wonderfully wise husband Elliott has always told me two things about criticism:
1. Ignore it, i.e. don't write back some rude or defensive remark.
2. Engage the person who will probably become your greatest ally (he didn't explain why).
The first i almost always listen to except recently as regards that totally inappropriate and unfair one star review on amazon--i just couldn't help myself and fortunately several other people i didn't even know leapt most eloquently to my defense.
The second has proven true every time and most recently with a terrific blogger/writer whose blog joe pastry will soon appear in my favorites on the home page.
I was going to take Elliott's first advice but Woody felt he had to write personally and refute some of what was written. I told him that if he was going to do this he should add that I would be happy to give an interview explaining my point of view.
So here it is now but I urge you to click on the link above so you can see the photos as well. By the way, Elliott doesn't know this yet but Joe Pastry and his family are now friends for life.
Start at the bottom and scroll up for the final posting.
Flo Braker is one of those people for whom the expression "to know her is to love her" was invented.
The first time I met Flo was at the second annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professional many years ago. In fact, the group was then called the Association of Cooking Teachers! Flo was doing a baking demo for the group. It was held at a hotel in New York and through some administrative food service mishap Flo discovered at the start of her demo that all the tastings of her miniatures she had prepared were locked in a walk-in frig to which no one had the key!
To my amazement, instead of being either annoyed or flustered, Flo laughed with joyful amusement at the absurdity of the situation and proceeded to do the demo with what was on hand. I was utterly charmed. She did have a few finished samples that had escaped the lockout which she passed out to the rather large group and I was determined to land one of them. I got to try the exquisite little Drie Augen cookies, thus named because they have 3 little rounds cut into the top resembling 'eyes' which reveal the jam sandwiched between the two layers of the cookie.
The most fun for the boys is the decorating but the most fun for me is seeing how much they've grown and how much their skills (baking and communicating) have improved over the period of a whole year. Now even the youngest, Max, is able to participate. And of course the best part is also sitting down to a fabulous dinner cooked by Mary Pat and Elizabeth Karmel.
Our traditional baking lesson began several years ago when the Wachters still lived in Manhattan so it was just a partial day experience. When they moved to South Salem it required a whole day which very quickly graduated to an overnight stay and then starting last year a two-night stay because we were all having so much fun. Mary Pat let the boys skip school for one day because August, the eldest, reasoned that school is every day but "Rose comes only once a year" (that could change with the addition of a summer visit!) Mary Pat is a very wise mother. After all, what could be a better lesson than baking: math, science, art, manual dexterity, focus and attention span all rolled into one!
This year Mary Pat put up the photo I gave the boys in their playroom so that they could remember me and our baking tradition over the year.
Dinner the first night included fantastic burgers I had requested after hearing about how great they were last year. MP has her butcher grind hanger steak and the resulting beef is juicy and incredibly flavorful. Grilling goddess Elizabeth stood outside in the freezing cold to grill them to perfection. It was so deliciously beefy I didn't even add ketchup!
I may have told this story before on the blog, but in response to a special request from Paul on the forums to hear some personal stories about Julia Child and James Beard, I'm telling it again.
42 years ago, I worked as a secretary in the public relations department of Reynolds Metals Company. I held the key to the storage closet that contained a huge quantity of aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and it was part of my job to send them out to the press. As a special bonus, my boss gave me the present of a series of cooking classes at James Beard. Of course I was ecstatic and made sure to add Jim to the list of recipients of the foil and plastic wrap.
About a decade later I became one of the founders of the New York Association of Cook School Teachers. Jim had just written another book, so we decided to hold a meeting and book signing at his home. Some of us sat in chairs; I remember sitting on the floor at his feet. We were encouraged to ask questions -- I remember mine was pertaining to my dislike of ultra-pasteurized cream. Then we formed a line to have him sign our books that we had just purchased. I was very anxious to see what he would write in mine since we had a more personal relationship than most (all that foil and plastic wrap).
There were so many of us, I had to wait about 20 minutes but was rewarded with a very lengthy scrawl. I went to the side of the room to enjoy it in private. To my amazement, I couldn't make out a single word of the scribble! I brought it over to Richard Nemo, who was his assistant. (I used to be able to read my boss's handwriting better than he could read his own.) But Richard said: "You'll have to ask Mr. Beard; I can't read it either." So I stood back in line for another 15 minutes, opened the book to the inscription, and said to Jim: "What did you write here?" He studied it for a few seconds, looked up, and with a half smile said: "Damned if I know!"
This is the Gâteau Breton I made for a special dinner party at my friend Scott's to accompany a rare Sauternes. Not that such a wonderful dessert wine requires anything to accompany it but if one is going to have anything it should not conflict and hopefully should enhance the experience.
This cake, traditionally, is simply butter, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and flour, with a tiny bit of salt. I also add a small amount of lightly toasted ground almonds both for flavor and texture. It is the soul of simplicity and the most buttery cake in the new book (page 69). (Since I bake it in a tart pan I am referring to it here as a tart but the word gâteau means cake.)
To make it the best that it can be I used golden sugar from the island of Mauritius off the coast of India. The volcanic soil is responsible for its exquisite flavor. I used cultured butter, and my favorite vanilla. But since it had to travel to Brooklyn Heights by car, the biggest challenge was finding the right size box in which it would not slide around and possibly mar the edges. Spanx to the rescue! The moment the package arrived this week my practiced eye could determine from the size that the box would be perfect for a tart baked in a 9 1/2 inch tart pan. It was easy to undo one of the sides, slide the baked Gâteau Breton into it, and reattach the side. And when I saw the message on the inside of the lid I thought I really had to share it with you!
P.S. The Sauternes turned out to be a 1967 Château d'Yquem--a gift from fellow dinner guest dear Manana (member of our former wine group). We enjoyed it with foie gras at the beginning of the meal and then Scott poured a less rare Sauternes to go with the gâteau as the Château d' would have upstaged the cake and we all wanted it to be the very last taste of the evening. In yesterday's posting I wrote that the Kracher Sauternes I enjoyed last weekend was the best dessert wine I had ever tasted and here, a mere 6 days later, I had to eat my words! This one was amber in color and the most poignant balance of slightly resinous acidity with a sweetness that created a yearning for the next sniff or sip (I did a lot of both.) The experience of this wine seemed to create a golden glow that connected all of us--both old and new friends in a moment of shear and grateful bliss.
Pleasure is an under-utilized word. When is the last time you used it?
The dictionary defines pleasure as:
A feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment
Enjoyment and entertainment, contrasted with things done out of necessity
I actually remember the last time I used the word. It was several years ago and mostly for shock appeal. My internist had retired and I was giving my health history to the newly appointed one--a colleague of my husband at NYU. When he asked me the routine question: "What business are you in?" expecting no doubt to jot down something within the realm of ordinary/acceptability, he looked up in shocked surprise when I innocently but forthrightly said "The pleasure giving business!" It certainly grabbed his attention. And when I explained more specifically what I do that justifies such a descriptor I knew I had a sympathetic ear as he turned out to be a great connoisseur and appreciator of wine.
My delightful friend and colleague, Fred Plotkin, has been described as a "pleasure activist" for the way he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of food, wine, travel, music, and art through best-selling books on music and food.
When I saw on the invitation to the Austrian Wine Salon that he and esteemed sommelier of Le Bernadin Aldo Sohm were joining the Haydn Trio from Eisenstadt Austria on a recent Sunday afternoon, I couldn't resist cutting short my weekend in Hope to race back to the city. Had I known that my favorite Austrian chef, Wolfgang Ban, was providing the food we would have driven even faster! It turned out to be such an extraordinary event I am moved to share some of the highlights with you.
I know that you are all (including me) overjoyed finally to have Rose's Heavenly Cakes in your hands after all the months/years of waiting. But isn't it true that there is something deliciously magical about anticipation? So I have a special gift I've just been given permission to share with you:
My dearest friend, fellow baking author, and writer of my new book's Foreword, Lisa Yockelson, is coming out with a new book of her own to be published in 2011.
bakingStyle will be a personal lifestyle book on the art and craft of baking at home, with 180 full-color visual images capturing the diary-like format of recipes and prose. And prose there will be, as Lisa is the most poetic writer on baking I know. Additionally, there is quite simply no-one who is more detail oriented. Her recipes are exquisitely crafted, thoroughly tested, and meticulously proofed. And talk about style Lisa does all her own styling for the food and the setting. The book could not be more aptly titled or reflective of the author.
Here's a preview of one image to prove my point:
Photo credit: Ben Fink
The image represents a recipe for rolls in the essay titled "learning to knead."
A year ago August I wrote about the novelist and chef Nancy Weber of "Between Books She Cooks. Her memoir Life Swap, precursor to the current trendy reality shows, was my first introduction to her brother Nicholas whom I then was longing to meet in person. The opportunity finally presented itself at, perhaps the least opportune time for me--in the midst of my new book promotion. But Nicholas (to whom Nancy refers fondly as Nicky) does not live full time in the US and he happened to be in town doing a 'reading' of his newly published book The Bauhaus Group at a small independently owned bookstore in Chelsea called 92 Books (which is the address not the number of books they house or should I say haus?!). This provided a double temptation. My great uncle Nat, as an industrial designer, was a great advocate of the Bauhaus school. His design for the Movado Museum Watch exemplified the Bauhaus mantra "form follows function," by eliminating what he perceived as unnecessary numbers or markings, gracing the dial simply with a large gold dot to represent the sun at noon or the moon at midnight.
I've been wanting to see my friend Jean François Bonnet's chocolate factory for a few years now but the perfect opportunity finally presented itself when Woody was here in October for the Food Network's Sweet Night. JF, who made the chocolate ingots (financiers)--the recipe that he contributed to Rose's Heavenly Cakes, insisted that I bring Woody out to Brooklyn for a visit. And what a visit it was: We tasted many things and were sent home with two shopping bags filled with more!
When I first met JF he was a very young pastry chef from Provence France, working at The Monkey Bar in New York City. I was blown away by his chocolate financiers aka ingots served at the end of the meal--innocent looking little rectangles of dense chocolate cake that exploded with flavor in my mouth. They inspired me to write an article for Food Arts Magazine on the different varieties of financiers and when I interviewed JF about his I was stunned by his technical knowledge. He also confided in me that he was newly arrived in the country and that it was very difficult for people under 30 years of age to get immigration status. I immediately did everything I could to ensure he would stay in this country, including writing to the White House that we must not lose this culinary treasure. Stay he did and went on to become pastry chef, first at the wonderful restaurant Cello under chef Laurent Tourondel and then at one of the country's top restaurants Daniel (chef/owner Daniel Boulud).
This posting represents the grand finale of Hector's Take on My Cake Previews because soon he will have a link that will go to his own exclusive blog. Please click on this link before reading the rest so as not to spoil the surprise!
This is my take on the Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream: If the legend says that you can turn into a pumpkin, why can't a pumpkin turn into a turkey? This fabulous oil-based pumpkin cake recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes turned into a turkey when baked in the Nordic Ware 3D 2-piece turkey pan. Let me share with you a glimpse description of this cake, a full write out will be posted later when Hector's Take project launches... stay tuned...
- what can be done better: touch up with ganache some irregularities/bubbles on the feathers, head, neck, etc, so the Laquer Glaze will have better definition.
- what is a miracle: the turkey didn't collapse when standing, in spite of the cake been an oil-based cake and knowing oil never gets hard with refrigeration, as a butter cake would. In fact, I ran out to dinner and left the glazed cake at 74˚F room temperature for about 3 hours, the two halves were glued with just buttercream.
- what is amazing: the rose turkey tail defeats gravity. This is done with the silk meringue buttercream! Roses were individually piped on parchment, frozen, then attached on the turkey tail with the same buttercream. It remained at 74˚F room temperature for at least 2 hours without anything falling!!!! You pipe extra petals between the gaps of the frozen roses for the full quilt look.
I used mac nuts and mac oil, instead of walnuts and safflower and walnut oils, was GREAT.
Lemons on sale at Morton WIlliams this morning 3 for $1. I needed only 2 and after some deliberation decided not to go for the special deal and watch the unneeded lemon rot in the frig.
When I went through checkout I paid attention to the price of the two lemons because i was curious and also because that was all I was purchasing. 60 cents! Are people being penalized for purchasing three at a time? You do the math!
It seemed a lot longer--that's how many terrific things were packed into that short space of time by our hosts Michelle and Jonathan of Appétite for Books in conjunction with publisher Wiley of Canada.
Appétite for Books, located in the beautiful Westmount area about 20 minutes from the center of downtown Montréal, is a very special bookstore offering cookbooks from all around the world. It is most unique in that it has a professional quality kitchen setup as a demo area towards the back of the store. The place provides a most welcoming home to regional and international authors and food lovers from the community and other regions of the province.
It was quite prophetic that the message in a chocolate fortune cookie from dinner at the Chinatown Brasserie in New York City three nights earlier was: "The weekend ahead predicts enjoyment."
But let me share a few photos and highlights of this year's event. Woody came from MN to help and enjoy the accolades of the newly published book. The highlight of the 10 days (everything seems to be coming up 10) was the Sweet Event and the Satellite Media Tour (more about that in a few weeks on YouTube).
We arrived early at the Sweet Event to set up our table. I was astonished that the contributed chef's jackets from ChefWear fit perfectly. It's so great that Rochelle is designing chef's jackets for women that fit our curves and don't make us look 20 pounds heavier!
When I was invited to participate in this event and I learned I would need to produce about 1000 tastings. I declined until the next day when I remembered that dear Jean François Bonnet of Tumbador chocolate had a wonderful recipe--the chocolate ingots--in the new book and a company that could produce the samples that I in my city apartment could not. He graciously agreed to provide what turned out to be 850 little chocolate ingots. How innocent they looked. Tiny firm brown rectangles that exploded with intense flavor and surprisingly moist texture. I loved watching people'e eyes widen as they experienced them.
Our table cloth was brown, the tasting plates clear plastic, and the brown ingots (financiers) blended right in. Ron Ben Israel saved the day by bringing over these beautiful roses from his display. (Ron is the most brilliant cake decorator and is a long time dear and generous friend.)
Of course we had to go over to his booth and thank him--also to see the spectacular wedding cake on display and taste his two delicious samples--a pumpkin cake and a coconut cake.
Introducing Woody Wolston
I never expected to have a true and totally reliable assistant to work with me on developing and perfecting recipes, least of all one who lives several states away. But the universe can offer surprising gifts and thanks to the modern technology of the internet and digital cameras, my newest book has had the great benefit of the presence of Woody Wolston. For those of you who are curious about how such an amazing arrangement came to be, I have asked Woody to come forward and write about it from his perspective.
This is Hector's "grand finale" from the wedding cake chapter of Heavenly Cakes. I'm delighted d that Hector loved the cake so much as it is Woody and my favorite yellow cake from the new book. It also appears as a Bundt type cake and a mini gift size version.
Hector has done a brilliant job executing these wedding cakes, always adding his own special creative touch. I love the little cubes of candied orange in place of the ribbon which Hector made using the budah's hand (an all zest orange! which he candied using the Cake Bible recipe for candied orange zest). And with this cake Hector has outdone himself in achieving a location that is truly divine.
If you ask me to define this cake in one word, it is taste! The Golden Dream Wedding Cake is delicious, delicious, delicious... I yet have to taste a non-chocolate cake as delicious as this. The cake has a delicious buttery flavor enhanced with turbinado sugar, sour cream, ground almonds, and lemon syrup. This cake is so yummy, it reminds me of a succulent and moist Latin American wedding cake but without the chunks of raisins or candied fruits. This cake, as dreamed, has the melt in the mouth texture characteristic of Rose's butter cakes. To my amazement, this cake doesn't use any liqueurs... now I can agree that you can have a superb cake without a drop of liqueur.
I have to share this with all of you. Nikkie (my dear friend Iris's daughter-in-law whom I met at the Devon & Eric wedding this past March) is so talented and her message so important. Here's what she wrote to me:
I'm sure you're not aware of this but for the past couple of years I've been tossing around the idea of writing & illustrating children's books. Like many parents I'm extremely conscious of the images Charlie and Sierra are exposed to and over the years I've found that there are simply not enough books for young children about loving yourself as you are.
With that said I am SO EXCITED to announce the official launch of my new Children's book series titled, "A girl named Charlie presents... Stories about loving yourself the way you are!"
This project means so much to me. I truly believe that every child should love and be happy with themselves and their differences, and each book in this series champions that principle.
Please share this announcement with your family, friends, coworkers and fellow parents. I'll admit that I'm biased but I'm proud of this series. I really believe that the message of absolute self-love and acceptance is one that kids need and one that my series delivers.
You may not know that my very first book Romantic and Classic Cakes, written in 1981, was the dress rehearsal for The Cake Bible.
Irena Chalmers, publisher, came up with the great idea to do a series called “The Great American Cooking Schools,” to be marketed to Gourmet stores rather than bookstores. Her concept was that the recipes taught at cooking schools would be thoroughly tested and that transferring them to book format would be easy for everyone involved. This turned out to be far from true as in those days (the dark ages of cooking schools) people tended to be very secretive, giving mere outlines of recipes and filling in the important details in class. I was not one, however my recipes were typed on my IBM word processor single spaced and no copy editor was willing to touch them so poor Irena had to hire someone to retype the whole thing.
As an inexperienced book writer I was unaware that a series had a format of a specific number of pages so I overwrote—three times the size that would fit. My dream was to have everything I knew about cakes under one cover. Little did I know that seven years later I would write a book about cakes that was three and a half times larger than my original submission! (Thank goodness by then I had a computer or I never could have done it.)
I was upset at first to learn that I had to cut two-thirds of the book and stayed up all night ruthlessly cutting recipes. I had no choice, but Irena reassured me that I could eventually have everything under one cover in another book. That was until her senior editor informed me that there is such a thing as plagiarizing one’s own copyright! I went to Elliott in tears asking him what to do and his wise reply was “Nothing—just write the book and by the time you finish things will have changed.” I took his advice and by the time I finished the entire “Great American Cooking School Series” was remaindered so copyright reverted back to the authors and it was no longer an issue. The Cake Bible was born in 1988.
It's not because I've been married to a former Canadia (who still says eh but not nearly as often as he used to) for over 33 years that I am so devoted to Canadian chicken. I also love D'Artagnon's blue foot chicken. But hands down the Canadian chicken I guy from Nick at Gourmet Garage in SoHo is the best I've ever tasted in this country. Yes it's more expensive but oh the flavor. It actually tastes like chicken and there's very little fat.
The first time I ordered it from him I picked up some other groceries and somehow left the chicken behind. When I called Nick he offered to send it to me and refused to charge for the chicken or the delivery.
When I told him that I write cookbooks on baking he was genuinely surprised and then told me that his daughter is a pastry chef. It's great to know that there are still people out there in New York City who have the graciousness and friendliness of small town old time shopping.
Next time you're in the mood for the best roast chicken call Nick: 917-612-6420 and make this recipe:
I just LOVE Hector's take on my cake(s)! I think this one, in all its simplicity, is totally stunning. Of course simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve as one can't hide errors. Congratulations Hector--you have out done yourself. (And wait until the next one--it will be the grand finale!)
from Hector himself:
I have the honor to preview Rose's new wedding cakes, and one clause is to make the cake as written in the book. But, you know me . . . nobody said I couldn't rename the cakes and make them my own, so here is a "Slice of Heaven." The orange slice comes from the first orange tree planted in Hawaii, circa 1700s and perhaps the first in North America!
The cake is the GRAND MARNIER WEDDING CAKE from the much anticipated book ROSE'S HEAVENLY CAKES. My project: 4 wedding cakes to preview, 365 days in the making. The progress: 3 wedding cakes completed, 1 more cake to preview by October 3 right after the book launches!
I brought a suitcase filled with flour, baking powder, and cake pans for our baking together experience.
Ginger cream scones seemed like a great idea as the ginger here is excellent and of course the double cream. This recipe is from the Pie and Pastry Bible and it worked quite well for the first batch.
Several days later, when I forgot to whip the cream, the scones turned into cookies--delicious but still flat as pancakes--no! make that crêpes! With US cream this does not happen as it is lower in butterfat.
Oliver's special request was for brioche. The dough couldn't have been more perfect but I wish I could say the same thing for my shaping technique. The loaf was a bit mishapen but no one seemed to mind--especially these two girls! Lesson learned, for brioche loaves best for the final shaping to press down the dough into a smaller rectangle and then roll it forward only once and pinch the seam instead of the usual three forward rolls. (I did this on my return and it worked perfectly.)
I baked this no knead bread in Normandy using the French flour recommended for hearth bread. It was flatter than any bread I've ever made. Oliver's Mom said she loved it better than any of the bakery French breads--isn't she sweet?! The flavor was good though.
Once we got to Devon I lost no time in making another loaf of no knead bread using the UK bread flour. Viva la différence!
This slice of the no knead bread reveals what great crumb structure. I discovered on my return home that using the same flour did not achieve the same results--in fact I needed to add extra flour as it was too wet. Kate unearthed some interesting research about fluoride (her water is not flouridated) and it's negative impact on gluten formation. So interesting!
The day of my departure I whipped up a beer bread (from my book which luckily Kate had) using the food processor. The dough was done in under 5 minutes and Kate baked it after bringing me to the airport. She's made it several times since. This was a special gift for Oliver as I knew he'd love it and I wanted to thank him for all the adventures. I used Guinness stout for the liquid.
Between bringing the kids to school, and attending their ballet classes, we spent most of our days baking and cooking. We did bring in fish and chips one night at my request. We couldn't have eaten better. Every night when the kids were in bed we sat down to the most amazingly delicious meals. Of course the ingredients contributed greatly. One night Oliver made salmon from Scotland that tasted more like salmon than salmon.
Oliver made these exquisite scallops.
Lamb is my favorite meat and English lamb my favorite lamb. Oliver does the gardening and his idea of decor is meters and meters of potato plants. They are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.
Oliver brings home fresh free range eggs and together with this blood sausage was the perfect breakfast.
Kate and Oliver experienced this special dish on a trip to Slovakia and recreated it on their return. It's called Halušky (pronounced halushky with a little oo and emphasis on the u). It consists of grated potato mixed with enough plain (all-purpose) flour to form a stiff dough. It is put through a meat grinder directly into boiling water and is done when it floats to the surface. It is then scooped out and drained in colander. Obviously it requires two people, one of whom is strong enough to hold the grinder!
Here's the story I wrote about our last famiy reunion over 20 years ago. It was written for the LA Times Syndicate.
When I was growing up, family get-togethers, organized by Great Aunt Bertha, the bossy, loving, self appointed and usually much appreciated matriarch of the family, were a frequent occurrence. But one year she put her foot down, proclaiming that she was tired of being the only one to make the effort which everyone seemed to take for granted and to all of our amazement, she stopped just like that. The various families and generations orbited into their smaller nuclear and more manageably sized groups and Aunt Bert continued to function as family hot line gossip hub via the telephone. We all knew that without her we risked losing track of each other’s accomplishments and tragedies, probably for ever. No one wanted to organize a party but no one wanted to lose total touch either. So when Aunt Bert approached her 90th year, the next generation (my mother’s) decided to organize a major reunion birthday bash. We all knew that it would be the last time that we would all gather together and that within a mere few years, given the age and health conditions of certain family members, there would be several who would no longer be with us. An all out effort was launched, the main responsibility assumed by my mother’s generation, who had fewer career and family demands, but my generation, or at least those of us who cook, volunteered to provide some of the food.
Although the plans proceeded with a certain inevitability, working together brought out a few personality conflicts between the female cousins in the late 60’s and 70’s category and my mother relayed them all to me with great amusement (mostly). One possible exception was when she reported mild dissension from the next generation of cousins in my group, resenting that I always get to do the cake! But I roared when she reported the comment of a cousin, known for her sharp mind, tongue and irreverent ability to expose the darker side of reality: “It’s going to be a wonderful party. Too bad Bertha has to come!” Then there was an argument about the beverages to be served. The general consensus was soda for the kids (as family dentist I was surprised that my mother didn’t push milk but I think she was lying low this time) and white wine for the grownups, until an older cousin gently suggested that perhaps the men would prefer beer. “What do you know about men?” scolded her older sister (demonstrating from whence her daughter got her sharp tongue).
No one told me I was going to cry my way through the movie. I certainly wasn't expecting to. I cried because her experiences were so similar to so many of mine. I cried because it brought back so very many memories. I cried because I missed her so much. And I cried the most at the end DON'T READ THE REST OF THE SENTENCE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE--SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH because when I saw her open the very same padded envelope containing the first copy of her book just the way I did mine a mere 17 days ago I knew exactly what it felt like.
Since I am in such an emotional state, and am throwing all modesty and caution to the wind, I photographed a letter from her co-author Simca which is one of my most treasured possessions, to share with you.
We visited Le Nez de Jobourg and walked from there around towards the Nez de Voidries. It was high above the sea and very cold and windy. Cake loaned me her water-proof wind breaker. (I just HAVE to leave this typo intact!)
The lovely fishing village of St Vaast-la-Hougue, near to Barfleur.
A powerful monument at Utah Beach. I thought of my Dad who was on a boat approaching the shore which landed right after the invasion. He told me no one aboard knew that the invasion had already taken place.
Double click to enlarge this photo and you will see the most heart rending letter written by Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 1944 (the year of my birth). Kate's blog "A Merrier World" is taken from his classic book Le Petit Prince. I didn't know he had died in the invasion. If it is too difficult to read I will summarize by saying that it is a tribute to "the noble objectives" of the American people in the war.
Most of my colleagues have at least one Julia story. That’s because Julia was arguably the most universally loved food personality in our profession and most of all because she was so present and supportive to all of us. Here is my top personal Julia story, which I offer up on the day of the launch of the movie Julie and Julia.
I was 19, newly married, and living in Washington Crossing, Pa. I had a deadly dull job as a clerk in a brake-lining factory in Trenton, NJ (an industrial town where the bridge crossing the Delaware has an unmissable sign “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.” To my young aspiring eyes the very antithesis of poetry. My husband was an English teacher at Pennsbury High School, getting his master’s at Temple U. in Philadelphia. When I complained how bored I was he asked if I would prefer the nerve-racking experience of having students practically his age and only one step behind him in knowledge. (I’ve since deemed this to be a life-defining question. Guess which road I took!)
We were too poor to afford a television but on Tuesday nights, when he drove to Philly, I went with him to watch “The French Chef” on PBS in one of the dorm’s TV’s. My cousin, who lived in Bryn Mawr, told me she met Julia at a cooking demo and actually won the door prize that was some sort of casserole. I was awed that she had met her in person.
I know I’m blessed that my father has reached this incredible age in reasonably good health and mind. But it still makes me sad that he has lost so much of his hearing, vision, and independence. He always has had an extraordinary ability to sleep and now he is sleeping 90% of the time. But when he’s not sleeping he’s always ready to eat and that is something I can do for him. So for 10 days I cooked and baked my heart out. This did not stop me from feeling guilty for becoming impatient with him when once again he misplaced his hearing aid and I had to shout for him to hear me. But it helped.
Of course there had to be his favorite cherry pie. That was going to be his birthday “cake”
until he put in a request for Black Forest Cake. At first I was annoyed because I didn’t have the right pan nor did I have access to the non-ultrapastuerized cream that makes such a difference and had he asked the week before when I asked him what he’d like I could have procured it. But then I decided to do what most of the rest of the world does: make do. I beat melted butter into the supermarket cream to increase the butterfat and stability (as I wrote about in The Cake Bible). I set the top cake layer on top of the cream filling before realizing I had forgotten to poke in the brandied cherries (which I found in back of the frig where I had stored them years ago). Upset at first, as I tried to lift off the top cake layer only to see it start to come apart, I decided to stick the cherries into the cream from the sides. So what if it didn’t look perfect—he couldn’t even see the difference. We enjoyed the cake over several days, complaining only once that the cream was lighter than he remembered it (well…yes!).
i wanted this cake to be a dream, and this is the first time i felt i made one! here is my interpretation of the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake from Rose's upcoming book: Rose's Heavenly Cakes. the recipe is easy to follow, plus i made this cake to be local Hawaiian fare. A hui hou!
the first ingredient i shall reveal is macadamia oil. Rose's recipe calls for a neutral vegetable oil, like safflower or canola, but i used macadamia oil instead since it is readily available. Barbara Gray from Oils of Aloha worked with me and loved the idea of using her wonderful Hawaii's Gold macadamia oil for this cake. in fact, i have been using this oil for all my chocolate chiffon cakes for years. macadamia oil has a beautiful gold shine and a slight nutty taste. it is premium and healthy, and in my opinion bakes very well for all oil based cakes. when i performed several blind tastings for this cake vs safflower, everyone agreed the macadamia oil was fine fine fine, enhancing and never overpowering other flavors, specially for chocolate. it is a neutral vegetable oil, so neutral i thought i was driving stick shift, with just an invisible backseat driver: a flavor enhancer, the mac nutty hint. you can find Barbara at www.oilsofaloha.com
Rose's original cake is decorated with lovely chocolate twigs. but not long ago i had a dream "how about using vanilla beans to decorate this cake?" so since i could, i should, i did: i contacted Jim Reddekopp, and he sent me what i felt is the ultimate baker's dream: ninety four Hawaiian vanilla beans from his amazing farm and gastronomic center in Paauilo. i split the beans and saved the seeds for future use; then i soaked the split beans in House of Grand Marnier Navan vanilla cognac for weeks. if you haven't tried the Hawaiian vanilla yet, you must must must. it has a floral aroma, what i call the more beautiful twin of the finest Tahitian vanilla, plus it is longer and more plum fresh. You can find Jim at Hawaiian Vanilla Company www.hawaiianvanilla.com
now comes the chocolate.... here is the cake with chocolate babies: cacao pods! this is the picture that will be gracing the walls of Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory www.ohcf.us:
Scenes from the market at Sainte Mère Église. Everything was so beautifully presented.
Oliver is a fisherman (as well as a Veterinarian pathologist) and his enthusiasm for this market stall is evident!
I couldn't resist the beautiful white asparagus with pink tips even though I prefer the flavor of the green variety.
Our funniest moment came when I asked the fish monger how to cook the turbot he was recommending, "Dans un turbotier" was his teasing reply. I told him that was the only pan I didn't have. (It's shaped like the turbot--triangular.) He did give me the rudiments of a recipe and it worked out perfectly. You can see he is still smiling after our humorous exchange.
This is the last day of my vacation with my now 95 year old dad. He has gained 8 pounds and I have lost 5. There have been breads, and cakes, and cherry pie, and roasts (prime ribs and duck)...photos to come at a later time. I have learned that cooking and baking burn a lot more calories than blogging! But I had to turn on the computer just to share this terrific surprise experience: The Book arrived!
It was "born" on my Dad's birthday, July 23, as it arrived at the publishers (Wiley) two weeks early, and was sent overnight to me in Hope where it arrived on July 24. I have gone through it page by page at least 4 times and have taken it from room to room so it is always there to gaze at and stroke as I pass it by. (I love feeling the raised spot lamination of the title.) Of course I even took it to bed to look at one more time before placing it on the night stand on top of The Cake Bible.
As an amusing aside, when my friend Randy Johnson came to visit with his wife Cathy a few years ago, he looked at the lineup of my then 8 books on the kitchen shelf and said: "a foot of books"! to which I responded: "quite a feat"!
My Dad, whose vision sadly is quite poor, also leafed through the entire book and had major compliments for Ben Fink, the photographer. My Dad was a big time amateur photographer, even developing his own photos. When he returns to upstate NY he will be receiving a magnifier from the VA. When his copy of the book arrives he'll be able to see the photos much better!
The book is so exquisitely beautiful, so true to my vision of what I had hoped for it to be, that it takes my breath away, defying adequate description. Everyone at Wiley is astonished by its beauty and my dear editor Pam Chirls sent the loveliest e-card which I shall always treasure.
This really is my last production posting as the book doesn't get more produced than this! Soon you'll be able to hold the book in your hards and see for yourself. I so look forward to your feedback. Meantime, I'll be sure to bring this advance copy to the Epicurean Event in Michigan end of August for anyone who is coming and would like a preview. If another miracle of earlier than expected shipment occurs, we may even have some copies for sale at the event.
Be sure to check out Marie Wolf's blog http://www.heavenlycakeplace.blogspot.comfor more sneak previews of the cakes she is baking from the book and next Saturday Hector's wedding cake from the wedding cake chapter will be posted on this blog.
For purposes of privacy, I will refer to the three kids by their first initials.
This is 2 year old T and this is his typical expression which gave me great joy every morning when I first saw him. He is a delightfully joyful little boy and the highlight of my trip came toward the end when he reached over from his mother's arms to kiss me goodnight and the day he called me Mum!
M just turned 4 but looks more like 6 or 7. She also looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth! I loved when she invited me to sit next to her on the couch after 8 days!
L: you wil see more of her later but this is how I think of her as she cartwheeled her way through Paris, Normandy, and back home in Devon. I was so touched when she invited me into the living room to hear her play the cello.
Kate and Oliver Coldrick Cooking Together in Devon
It all began with flour--Kate Flour. Kate Coldrick of Devon, England started posting the results of her research and experiments (that are on her blog amerrierworld.wordpress.com and on this one as well). She found a way to heat treat unbleached flour so that it would perform more like the bleached flour available in the US. As we began to correspond and get to know each other we were determined that one-day we should meet. Since Kate has three children now under the age of 7 but at the time under the age of 5, she suggested that I come to Devon. Never having been there but having been intrigued by the renowned clotted cream, and visions of green rolling hills, I responded that ‘some day’ I would love to come and meet some of the other UK bloggers as well. I didn’t realize that someday would come so soon.
Rarely in life does every thing one plans plus more happen just the way one hoped. It did this time. Zach Townsend (see prior posting) was planning a stage at La Petite Rose in Paris (and we had planned to meet ‘someday’ in Paris. Kate’s mother-in-law’s one-week time-share in a chateau in Normandy was three days later. So we started planning. We each had an ambitious list of what we wanted to bake/cook/see/ and do. There were many e-mails with maps and phone numbers and backup plans and change of plans.
In the end, it worked out just perfectly. Kate and family decided to join us in Paris for three days and rented an apartment fairly near mine. Then Zach continued his visit at La Petite Rose and the five Coldricks and I piled into one car and drove to Normandy for five glorious days of touring and cooking.
We took the Ferry across the English Channel and drove to Devon where we spent almost a week cooking, baking and seeing all the special places that Kate had described over the past two years.
The memories of this trip will last a lifetime so it is difficult to do them full justice without sharing several of the huge number of photos Kate and I took. I’ve divided them into six separate postings and, for a change, will let the photos do most of the talking. Part 1 will post next Saturday. Here is the breakdown:
Normandy part 1: meet the family and life at the Château.
Normandy part 2: visit to the market at Sainte Mère Église, and what we cooked as a result.
Normandy part 3: visiting the Utah D-Day beaches and museum and the famous Tapestry of Bayeux that depicts in stunning detail the battle of Hastings from 1066.
Devon part 1: myriad special places and experiences including bell ringing at the town church on Sunday, climbing the Dartmoor Tors, and meeting fellow UK bloggers Jeanette and Melinda at Dart’s Farm.
Devon part 2: cooking with Kate and Oliver and finally
Devon part 3: baking with Kate and what we learned from the experience!
Book production editor, Ava Wilder, is going to have the last word on this, the very last book production posting. Her eloquent words speak for themselves but I can't resist adding that she is an extraordinary person, professional, and writer in her own right (as you will see); and I think it is important for everyone, but especially for all book writers present and future, to hear her views on book production.
The first paragraph are the words of praise that were music to my ears but which I was planning to keep private until Ava encouraged me to share them. The second paragraph is what she wrote specifically for all of you.
I thought I had reached my final posting of book production with Phase 17 but lo and behold it was not over! Yesterday I received a great surprise: the "folded pages"!
I've written eight books before and never received the unbound book pages so this was totally unexpected. These pages come from the printer and are exactly what is in the book minus the end papers, box (the hard cover) and book jacket.
I am stunned by the beauty of this production. Tears come to my eyes as I page through the book and remember all the hard work and decisions made by so many people of the team that created it. They have done it proud.
I can just imagine what it will be like for all of you to turn each page--surprise after surprise. I remember feeling this way with other's books for example Maida Heatter's (putting sticky notes on all the many things I HAD to try, and I'll never forget experiencing this with Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate as our editor Pam Chirls was visiting me the day before Lisa (who lives in D.C.) received her book and brought me a copy. I called Lisa and described everything I could about the beauty of her book production. Getting to present her with the best book in the baking category at IACP was a moment we both will always remember. (Neither of us knew beforehand.)
So now that I've seen the actual pages of Heavenly Cakes I can be a lot more patient until September.
About a month before my trip to Paris, my friend Marko Gnann, who gives where to eat advice I always take, recommended the Sunday brunch at Le Crillon. He described the amazing buffet, the excellent price, and promised it would be the only meal we would eat for the rest of the day. He was right about all three except that we almost didn’t find out because when Zach called a month ahead he was told that there were no reservations to be had and that it had been filled a whole month before then!
Since Zach was arriving in Paris several days before my arrival I suggested that he go in person and explain how my bloggers all over the world would love to share this experience. They most graciously made a place for us without his having had to get down on his knees and beg which would have been worth it but I’m not sure he would have been willing to go that far!
I had never been to Le Crillon before and it was like stepping into a fairy tale palace. Despite the formality, one was immediately put at ease by the professional but friendly staff.
Elliott’s family is here from the west coast and we all (including east coast immediate family) got together in Hope for the weekend.
In order to maximize this rare time together I did no cooking or baking. Making pancakes for 9 would have taken me the whole morning—I’m not a quantity type cook/baker. So we had this sad experience at a local diner. Lesson learned—order carefully and simply at diners. We often go to this diner for great angus beef burgers but when I ordered biscuits and sausages I assumed they would be lovely flakey biscuits with little sausage patties, not sweet English muffins with sausage cut into little cubes and sludgy gravy covering it. (Though somehow, my stepson Michael suspected this is what it would be—I can’t imagine why because there was no indication what-so-ever about gravy of any sort.) I pictured the home fries as crisp and golden brown. Not!
One of the great things about a large family gathering is that there is always someone else who regrets his or her choice once it arrives and is happy to trade. Granddaughter Elyse was displeased (justifiably) with her cinnamon toast, which I found more edible than my ‘biscuits.’ She managed to work her way through some of it, picking out most of the sausage and leaving this wreckage.
When my friend Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnon (who introduced foie gras from her native Gascony to America) invited me to be the judge at a fun contest during the James Beard Awards in May I wrote back telling her how much I would love to have participated but that I would be in Paris at the time and asked her instead for a restaurant recommendation. She suggested her friend Hélène Darroze’s restaurant (of the same name).
It was only my second night in Paris but despite jet lag and fatigue I enjoyed every moment of it and did not for a moment fall asleep at the table ( I have been know to do so when really tired).
Zach invited his Parisian friend Stépane and the three of us were all in agreement to order the eight course dégustation dinner with accompanying wines (Vouvray Clos du Bourg 2007, Meursault Les Tillets 2006, Château Brown Pessac-Léognan 2003 and Jurançon Uroulat 2007.
To sum it up, we walked out of the restaurant best friends forever! Here are some of the details of our delight (I was far too smitten with everything to remember to photographs some of the courses):
Foie gras de canard des Landes with rhubarb chutney, fraises des bois (wild strawberries), and beet juice (what an exquisite dish)
The posting I wrote last week about my recent trip to Paris reminded me of one from many years ago when the International Association of Culinary Professionals had a regional meeting in that, my favorite city. There were so many stories from that trip including the surprise of running into my brother and sister-in-law who were staying at the very same hotel as I, and driving through France afterwards in a car of far too few chevaux with Shirley Corriher who has since documented some of the more hilarious episodes in her book CookWise. But the most unforgettable memory of the trip was meeting Simone Beck. This is the obituary that I wrote for the LA Times Syndicate in March, 1992 which tells the story:
It is with great sadness that I have just learned of the recent death of Simone "Simca" Beck. Simca was one of the culinary greats who devoted her long life to the enjoyment, knowledge and teaching of food. It was she, together with Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, who brought French culinary tradition to America, raising our culinary consciousness and changing forever the way in which we think about eating. I wish I could have had the chance to have known her better because she possessed three of my very favorite qualities: passion, devotion and irrepressible honesty. I only had the pleasure of meeting her once, but that occasion was memorable. It was at a meeting of the International Association of Cooking Professionals in Paris, several years ago. One of the events was a dinner at the venerable restaurant Taillevent. I heard that Simca would be a guest of honor at dinner and hoped for the chance to meet this culinary legend, not imagining more than a short introduction at best, considering the large number of people present at the meeting, some of whom, no doubt, already knew her and would be anxious to talk to her. I arrived early and decided to take a seat at the dinner table rather than stand in the anteroom chatting with friends over drinks. No one had yet entered the dining room but for some unaccountable reason I decided for once to sit alone and perhaps meet some new colleagues instead of gravitating as usual to the people I already knew. I remember thinking: "let's see who I will attract," when in walked Simca, all alone. She looked about the room and, to my amazement, instead of reserving a table for friends or acquaintances she came over and sat next to me. It was a gift from the Gods and a lesson in humility. There was I, congratulating myself on my fearless courage of sitting alone and there was Simca, more couragous still, coming over to sit next to a complete stranger!
Soon other colleagues came pouring into the room and we were no longer alone. It was a delightful evening. The food was wonderful and the conversation still more delicious. Three statements of Simca's remain indeilible in my memory: She said that to remember the essence and taste of french food it was necessary to come back to France at least every other year. When we all agreed that one of the sauces was far too salty, it was Simca who called over the mâitre d', crooked her index finger at him and commanded him in no uncertain terms to tell the chef that the sauce was "trop salé." And finally, at the end of the evening she further warmed my heart by pronouncing that "most people in their life times will never speak French the way you do, not having been born in France," thus divining my greatest pride. In short, after one evening, I was awed by her and trusted her integrity absolutely.
Our paths never crossed again, but when my Cake Bible was completed, I sent Simca an inscribed copy and she wrote me a treasured letter with the ultimate compliment: "not since our "bible" has one been written like this." The incredibly generous statement from her meant the world to me.
I am grateful that Simca lived to complete and see published her wonderful memoires and recipes: Food and Friends. It has given me, as it will give the world, the chance to know her and her glorious food better.
Note: When doing a spell check, the dictionary said that the word Simca was not in the dictionary and the suggested change was simmer! I think Simca would have enjoyed that!
On top of La Tour Montparnasse, photographed by Kate Coldrick
We met in May of 06 long distance over a chocolate glaze. Zach had the rudiments of a recipe he obtained from a patisserie called La Petite Rose in Paris. I had what turned out to be a near identical recipe from pastry chef Hidemi Sugino in Japan, translated by my friend Yoko Sakuma. I had kept the recipe for several years fearing it wouldn’t work because so often recipes given by chef don’t as evidenced by the e-mail below. It was the shiniest chocolate glaze I had ever seen and I dubbed it “Chocolate Lacquer Glaze” though Woody improved upon this calling it “Baby Grand Piano Glaze.” I told Zach that if he would test the recipe I would send him what I had and give him credit in the book. Between him, Woody, and me we must have tweaked it close to 30 times and it now graces the cover of my upcoming book. I also included Zach’s fabulous recreation of the La Petite Rose signature cake Le Valentin which I renamed “La Bomba” because the original was shaped in a 7 inch/4 cup pan which is not readily available so we decided to shape it in a standard size 4 cup bowl!
I'm sure you're all curious to see what Hector made for his special birthday celebration. I think the results are stunning! I just couldn't resist offering Hector a recipe from the wedding cake chapter of my upcoming book because it was so appropriate to his location. I asked Hector to write this posting so he could describe the process and results!
Hector Hawaii 4-0
Be careful what you ask for as you may get it, and there hasn't been one thing Rose hasn't delivered for me! Months ago, while working on the youtube project, I shouted to get paid: "Rose, can you make my 40th birthday cake?" She almost said yes, except knowing that it will need to be done far apart and on the same day after her return trip from Paris, instead she gave me one of her new cake recipes: The Tropical Wedding Cake for Hector.
When I reviewed the recipe at first sight, i was not excited. Tropical fruits was something I hardly specialized in. You know, it is true we always think the grass is greener at the other side of your town (yellow in my case). But as one matures with time, like love, I now feel the "local chef celebrity status in Hawaii." This cake has gained more attention than any of my previous cakes have, locally. The macadamia nuts came from Lions Gate Farm in Kona http://www.coffeeofkona.com. Suzanne Shriner harvested the most perfectly fresh nuts and carefully packed the precious cargo with layers of bubble wrap; per my paranoid request of a food stylist! Whole mac nuts are worth their price in gold, so here they are for your enjoyment! The vanilla came from Huahua Farm, also in Kona http://www.huahuafarm.com. Clare Wilson grows the vanilla beans herself; hers are so nature perfect that one day I envision making a cake covered with whole vanilla bean twigs.
This is a banana cake with passion fruit mousseline. The nuts were removed prior to slicing the cake, and later added back on to each serving plate. My dearest friend Deanna and her children Jade and Wilson, were uttermost supportive (needless to say, they attended each of my month long birthday parties!). Wilson is such well behaved child, he was hired to remove all the nuts during cake cutting, and he did so without snacking!
I love the picture with the ocean and being tossed a prize medal. Children tell the true story without words: Jade shared her judo medal with me! Everyone made comments that Rose's banana cake was the best in the world. It was truthful bananas delicious, fragrant without using banana essence (which most bakeries use giving it an artificial flavor), the dark tan color and the speckles were appetizing, but most of all is the characteristic melt in the mouth texture Rose's butter cakes mixing method have. I confess to always mixing an extra minute or two whenever using Rose's butter cakes mixing method, to guarantee achieving "developing cake structure" a concept I find so hard to explain in writing... so perhaps I will make a short video and youtube it!. I do notice Rose adds an incredible amount of salt, and kindly whispered asking if anyone thought this cake was salty? Nobody said so...... Salt is sweets’ and desserts’ best flavor enhancer. My mother always used sugar to enhance the flavor of salty dishes, or salt to enhance the flavor of sweet dishes!
I’ve been trying to have a real rest and change from my usual routine which means mostly staying off the internet. Nature cooperated by huge thunder storms that zapped the dsl box requiring the modem to be reset and the apple airport to be reconfigured (1 ½ hour drive to the nearest Apple store in the Rockway Mall but the genius bar was just that!).
Now I can’t resist sharing these five photos from the past week. These first two are the Devil’s Food Cake from the upcoming book frosted with the Peanut Buttercream Marie Wolf wrote about and pictured on her new blog http://heavenlycakeplace.blogspot.com but pared with a spice cake. (Peeking out from the side are dried tart cherries that had been soaked in cognac! The nuts encrusting the side are dry roasted unsalted peanuts cut by hand to avoid nut dust--it was a very relaxing process.) My friend and neighbor Maria Menegus invited us to help celebrate her birthday at neighbors' Lorraine and Bob. When I asked her for her favorite cake flavors and she mentioned chocolate and peanut butter this rendition leapt to mind.
Everyone contributed different dishes to the celebration and it was all fabulous: Marion’s potato salad with Joe Menegus’s winter storage potatoes (the best I’ve ever had), Lorraine’s spinach and strawberry salad (what a terrific combination of bitter and sweet) using Maria’s just picked spinach, Maria's spinach and cheese calzone, Bob’s marinated, grilled flat iron steak and surprise surprise—he roasts and grinds his own coffee! Before I went over to the Nespresso pod system I did the same but he is the first person I’ve met who also makes this effort.
We left just as night was falling and a new moon rising.
I made 12 caramel buns just for us for the week. I had trouble to stop eating this one in order to take the photo of it's gossamer texture.
This last photo is of the largest turtle I have ever seen in the wild. We were walking up the hill to play tennis at the Inn at Mill Race and I was so shocked I thought it was a sculpture. But no—it was digging a hole into the side of the hill to lay its eggs. We will be following its progress—with great hope.
The story of a wedding cake that wasn’t and my new best Baker friend
I’ve sworn on a stack of bibles (cake, pastry, and bread) that I would never make another wedding cake on location again and I meant it, but Iris Updegraf, one of my oldest and dearest friends, is one of the most persuasive people I’ve ever known (plus I've always had a special fondness for her daughter) so when she asked me to make her only daughter Devon’s wedding cake in Arizona I agreed but with several iron-clad conditions.
First of all, let it be said that the nightmare of arriving in someone else’s kitchen is hard for a non-baker to begin to fathom. There’s the walk in frig with onions and garlic just waiting to invade the butter and chocolate. There’s the Hobart mixer with missing paddle beater and whip with a few tines that have come lose, and of course a dented bowl. There are rubber spatulas that are worn and smelling of spices, no pot holders (real chefs use kitchen towels), bent cooling racks, no timers, dented cake pans the wrong size, uncalibrated and unevenly heated ovens with racks that aren’t level, no thermometers—not even inaccurate ones, maybe a scale of questionable accuracy, and we’re not even talking about the ingredients yet.
I agreed to do the cake with the following conditions: First and foremost we needed to bring my assistant Woody Wolston from Minn. He would bring all the heavy equipment such as cake pans and help as both moral support and another set of very capable hands (and in back of my mind I thought that if needed he could run out for missing equipment or ingredients).
Next, Iris would go to the site a month before to ensure that everything on my list had been ordered.
I don't have any photos of our celebration dinner--not because I forgot the camera (which I didn't) but because we were having too good a time to remember to document it!
Production manager Ava brought the beautiful end pages (these are the first pages you see when opening the book). Earlier in the day Pam's assistant Rebecca sent the final cover. You can see the front on the blog upper right corner. The rest will be a surprise. I think it is stunning.
Now that it's all complete it is close to unbearable to have to wait THREE MONTHS to see it. But it will be worth the wait--it takes time for this quality of production. By the way, Ava explained that the reason some books are printed in China is because that is where the best quality is produced. Even Swedish publishers who win awards for design and production have their books printed in Italy or China.
This is iT! The third pass page proofs arrived two days after my return from Europe, just as I was on my way to the all day anniversary seminar of the NYU Experimental Cuisine Collaborative. With difficulty, I left the proofs at home, to attend the morning session where I learned the exciting news that a new publication called The Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science is on the horizon. I was sad to miss Harold McGee's afternoon talk and hope it will be available on tape. I asked him what he planned to discuss and he said, in essence, that his focus will be on the importance of taking a lot of what is purported to be 'food science' in the press and elsewhere with a grain of salt (my translation). Hal is a terrific speaker and engaging gentle person and I never miss the chance to attend his lectures if at all possible. I would love to have seen if he mentioned how scientific theories are just that--theories-- until they so often change to other theories, and the importance of being open to observation and questioning everything. But the page proofs were calling to me, as this was the very last chance to ensure that all the corrections had been implemented.
Incidentally, one of the morning speakers did a lecture on egg yolks which gave me the chance to pose a question I've long wondered about: Does the age of whole eggs have an affect on a cake's texture? I've asked the Egg Board and not only did they say "No one has ever asked this before," (which struck me as tantamount to saying so why bother to investigate) they never got back to me with an answer either (which proves my supposition).
This posting is the first one from Woody who has been working with me for the past five years.
Woody's Cake for Grand Master Choi 70th Birthday Surprise Party
Real gold does not fear the fire and neither did Grand Master Choi when I presented him with his birthday cake topped with seventy lit candles that blazed like a bon-fire. With one short powerful breath he blew them out in a second.
I guess you could call it a pre birth announcement. Now that we have a final cover and presales has begun, it has become possible to add a link to blog home page for preorders from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Jessica's Biscuit.
It was so thrilling finally to see the beautiful cover on the top of the 8 book line up. And I now have one copy of the bound galley, which has the entire book with soft cover in color but black and white inside. This is created to send to publications with long lead times and though not nearly as beautiful as the final book will be it feels so good to see it all there in its near final permutation.
The wheels of publicity are turning and my old friend and publicist par excellence
Carrie Bachman has already lined up two major events coming up in August and October.
Last week the official book presentation was made to Barnes and Noble. This is the time when they are deciding the size of their first order so to "sweeten the deal" I baked two of my favorite cakes from the book to bring to the meeting: The Golden Gift Lemon Almond Cake.
Rebecca, editor Pam Chirls multi-talented assistant, and I both had bad colds (aren't they always!) but this didn't stop me from baking or her from choosing the most exquisite packaging for the presentation.
It was a sunny spring blossom golden day as we walked up Fifth Avenue, me to Jefferson Market to pick up a blue foot chicken for the weekend and her to drop off the cakes. It was a lovely moment to share.
This is Hector Wong's interpretation of La Porcelaine on the cover of The Cake Bible. My marzipan roses were rose red but of course Hector's are yellow like his "Yellow Kitchen." I would say he graduates with honors don't you agree? Here's his note:
Dear Rose, your La Porcelaine is a gem (short word for how beautiful I feel your cake deeply is). Your cake is BEAUTY-FULL. Working with your signature chocolate fondant was a pleasure, I loved it so much that I will consider this as the only fondant to work with! Deliciously chocolaty, naturally cocoa colored, tastes and perfumes of chocolate... we should rename this fondant: chocolate drapery!
(Click on the photo for a much larger version and to see the bottom collage in more detail.)
I made this cake for Luca’s birthday. When he saw the cake, he felt the truth: I made this cake for Rose, for the blog, and secondly for him! When I completed the cake, he joked in happiness: "so, am I suppose to act surprised when the restaurant brings the cake out to sing happy birthday?" This cake is yet my most intimate experience: a (literally) hard cover tribute to Rose, and a cake heart with Luca's wishes. The cake is La Porcelaine on the outside, but the inside is Luca's heart: white chocolate, biscuit a la cuilliere, and raspberry flavor... cake components most interesting for him.
Second Pass Page Proofs and the End in Sight (or should I say beginning)!
It doesn't seem possible that it's two months since I posted Phase 13!
The momentum is now stepping up at an incredibly dramatic pace so I want to be sure to keep you in the loop!
The most recent version of the first pass pages, the one where all the changes from me and the proofers were input, came back with Lillian the final proofreader's comments and marks. At the same time, 80 double spaced single column pages of index arrived, due back in a mere three days. This index will be about 15 book pages and is the best index I've ever had for any of my books as it puts entries in several categories for example a chocolate butter cake will be under chocolate cakes, butter cakes, and also under the actual name of the cake. This makes it much easier to find things. But it made it sheer hell to proof! Woody and I went through each entry to make sure it was in the proper category and the proper order and word sequence. This took hours and hours but was well worth the effort.
On to the pages: Ava Wilder (dream production manager) assured me that the final proofer would find everything. Well! Not only did she find all but maybe one or two little things I had found from the last round, she found several more other ones that were quite important.
This is a funny story! During the photo shoot for the upcoming book, the food stylist’s assistant Jan Fort had a small atomizer that she used to spray a fine mist of water on certain ingredients. I asked her where she had found the atomizer and she introduced me to a fabulous store in my very own neighborhood that I had walked by many times but never entered: Pearl River.
Many months passed until I finally had the chance to visit the store and no one seemed to know what I was talking about. Finally they passed me on to the owner, the very gracious and helpful Mrs. Chang who thought that perhaps I was referring to the atomizer for perfume that was very popular called Hello Kitty—so popular it was out of stock. I hadn’t a clue what “hello kitty” meant but I figured I’d risk it so I asked her if she would notify me immediate when it became available as I would be out of the city for the month of August. She said she could send it to me but the postage would be more than the cost of the atomizer. So I ordered two to justify the expense and to my amazement, when they arrived, they looked like this! And I quickly decided that though they don’t exactly match either my country cherry cabinets or semi-commercial stainless steel appliances, they are utterly charming. AND they do emit the finest possible spray for moistening breads before baking or my face when it gets too hot in the kitchen!
If you want one of these be sure to ask for Mrs. Chang as no one else may know what you’re talking about: 212-431-4770
Did you think I stopped posting about book production because there was a lull? au contraire--I have been too busy doing it to document it. Let me try to retrace all that has happened since the last posting back in January. It will be brief as things are really stepping up what with the shipping to the printer coming up in (gasp) 5 weeks and the deadlines for the remaining phases growing shorter!
After bringing in the first pass page proofs will all the corrections submitted by three wonderful proof readers, Woody, and me, Ava returned them as a preview a few weeks before the second round of proofing by the second official proofer (called the second pass page proofs). This was to give me a head start on seeing if all my 100's corrections were correctly made by the inputter.
I found 70 plus changes that were not made or not made correctly.
My dear friend Diane Boate, about whom I have written on the posting of the Daniel Patterson Alexandra Foote wedding cake a few epiphanies ago, has just sent me the most amazing cake she made for the Balboa Theater’s 83 birthday. I just had to share it with all of you and Diane, who is the soul of generosity (actually she even won Woman of the Year award for public service recently) gave permission unhesitatingly.
Just in case you don’t remember, Diane is an amazing photographer, dress and hat designer, and was long ago dubbed “The Cake Lady.” There is nothing that Diane can’t make and she can even play the piano without music. (Is it fair that one person should have so many gifts?!)
Diane wrote: I am calling this my Signature Cake (because I have been making variations of this for 35 years). It is your Mousseline Buttercream frosting with 60% Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate and coffee flavor to taste...... Chocolate on Chocolate on Chocolate.”
Wednesday morning, a new series of YouTube Videos will start to appear both embedded on the blog or directly from YouTube. I will also post each segment to alert you that a new video has been added to YouTube and it will be linked to the posting. Alternatively, you can go to the left of the blog home page and just under the search box, under the "about me" listing at the bottom you will be able to click on Video of Rose on YouTube.
Several years later, I wrote about my experience making my first video, Cookies, Pies, and Cakes for the LA Times Syndicate and am reprinting it here:
A CAKE TO DIE FOR
Creative genius often comes along with the sort of temperament that engenders either love or hatred in others. Lee Kraft, a renowned photographer, leading jazz agent, record producer and a pioneer in the video “how to” market, was an exception in that he inspired both emotions at once. My first view of him was as a crass, insulting egomaniac who questioned my authority in my field. He ultimately became my greatest champion, calling regularly over the years with creative suggestions as to how my publisher could and should do more for my books. In the end, I saw his sardonic, sour side as a veneer which hid an exquisitely tender soul. Indeed, Kraft stormed against mediocrity and stupidity but when encountering something of quality and excellence, he would lay down his life for it.
When Kraft first approached me to do a video on baking, I conferred with colleagues who had done videos with him. To a person, they warned me that he shouted demoralizingly during production, so I agreed to work with him only on the condition that he would never shout. He was true to his word, technically speaking; rather than shouting, he whispered insults in a grim tone filled with venomous scorn. Not having slept for two days due to preparation requirements and stage-fright, and feeling my blood chill, I suggested that I might give a better performance with a little positive reinforcement. But Kraft, so high strung with the anxiety of a perfectionist persuaded of the fact that no one else could possible care as much as he, just couldn’t manage the requested encouragement. Others had told me that during their tapings he would swig directly from a bottle of Pepto Bismal. Since none of the pink liquid was in sight, I figured things weren’t going all that badly. Kraft’s attitude, however, really got to me and made me determined, above all, not to let him get the better of me. The more nasty he became, the more cheerful and smiling was my response. I never thought I could act but looking at that video, I’m proud to say that nothing betrays my desire to strangle him.
At the end of the 18 hour day, much to everyone’s relief, Kraft pronounced the immortal words: “it’s a wrap!” and strode out of the room with what seemed like disgust. The crew immediately formed a reception line and silently and with obvious respect shook my hand. One said: “You are the only one who didn’t scream or cry; I don’t know how you took it.” And I knew that my not breaking was their victory too.
Part of what had helped me was the little voice in me repeating over and over “never again.” And we never did make another video together, though we did become friends. What won me over were two things: that the video was of excellent quality, and that Kraft confessed that my chocolate cake had changed his entire attitude toward food. Prior to this experience he had looked at food as nothing but a prop, and had eaten only mass-produced cakes. He said that my cake, though three days old by the time he tasted it, was an epiphany for him. The way in which he talked about that cake revealed a passionate, open, appreciative side to the man where before I had seen only a hostile though talented tyrant. Again, out of character, he humbly begged me to make another cake for him. I was so moved before 2 weeks had passed I baked him my favorite yellow butter cake. To my surprise he was openly disappointed and not even tactfully grateful. Oh, he accepted the cake, but proclaimed that it was the chocolate one he had been craving. I told him that someday I would bake that one for him too.
Seven years later I got a call from Kraft from his hospital bed. I’m dying! he proclaimed in his usual right-to-the-point, demanding directness and I want that chocolate cake you promised. You can’t refuse a dying man’s last request!he continued laughingly. But I knew him well by then, so I lost no time making the cake and messengered it right up to the hospital. He never thanked me personally, but mutual friends who talked to him afterwards reported that he ate it and shared it with great enjoyment. And that was reward enough.
Lee Kraft died six months later. I know that it was only his ornery fighting spirit that kept him alive that much longer. He needed the time to ensure that his video business would be taken care of and that the videos would live on.
Many of us have been thinking and wishing that we could all get together somewhere wonderful in the world and Hector has started the ball rolling with this mini convention of four. Wish I could have been there.
It all began when Marc Cohen, about whom I have written in regard to generously teaching me how to use Dragon voice activation on the computer, e-mailed me telling me that he and his partner David (who had made their wedding cake from my book!) were planning a trip to Hawaii and wondered if they could contact Hector and Luca. Never having met any of the four in person but feeling as though I knew them well from our e-mails etc. I was sure they would all really hit it off. So I asked Hector for permission to give his contact info and the rest is history!
I guess it will come as no surprise that Hector made a spectacular dessert:
Luca turned himself inside out making a fabulous dinner, and having become quite a bread baker, made this magnificent bread as well.
I had thought, when Woody left in August after a thorough proofing of the galleys, that they were in near perfect shape! There were so many colored post-its marking the pages with corrections it looked like the "united colors of Benetton," and I realized belatedly that I would have been better off attaching them to the pageswithout changes as they were far fewer.
In case you missed this photo on the January greeting, here it is now. By the way, to avoid missing any postings be sure to subscribe to the newsletter--it's in the upper right hand corner of the main blog page.
Ava, our wise production manager, warned me that is never so--that with each new set of eyes more 'mistakes' are found. And along came the first set of page proofs. What a pleasure it was to input all the corrections from the galleys onto the final design with all the color photos in place. Of course, in the final production, the photos will be more beautiful still but I have to report that I am extraordinarily happy with the way they look even in proofs-- they seem to jump off the page. In fact, yesterday, I tried brushing away some chocolate crumbs from the pages and to my amusement and delight discovered they were not on the page but in the photo!
And then came the return of the 3 sets of page proofs from the 3 proofers. Why is it I've never had to work so hard on any of my previous books? Could it be because this is the first large four color production? Could be but it's probably more because I had two gifted and devoted volunteer proof-readers in addition to a fastidious professional proof reader employed by the publisher. Matthew Boyer, whose many helpful comments appear on the blog, sent me his findings in batches on spread sheets via e-mail, giving me the chance to get a much needed head start. Anthony Wright, cake decorator and baker par excellence and former assistant to former student Jan Kish, hand delivered his proofs the day of my return from Hope, and Rochelle Palermo, Wiley's official proof reader sent in her set to Ava to review which was then forwarded to me with more comments from her.
Never let it be said the Swiss don't have a sense of humor!
Chestnuts were planted in this region of the Ticino by the Romans 2000 years ago. They were a major food staple in this mountainous area as they could be dried, made into flour, roasted or produce chestnut honey, tiding the farmers over during the snowy winters.
After walking through the forest of chestnut trees we were treated to lunch at Il Castagno, which is also a hotel. The décor was most inviting with marble floor from the local quarry and chestnut wood tables.
The first course was fresh figs with excellent prosciutto but the second showcased the chestnut after which the restaurant is named. I’ve used chestnut flour in cakes but I never before experienced it in pasta dough. The combination of sweet earthy chestnut, fried sage, butter, and cheese was so heavenly I asked for the recipe. And the week of my return home I lost no time recreating it. The restaurant used 30% chestnut flour but I found that 50% was even better!
Incidentally, the red wine with the boar on the label (Wild Boar Hill) was the best I tasted in the Ticino area and happened to be from the vineyard of our charming escort Eliana who also gave me a rare corn flour that had been smoked. I can’t decide what to do with it first—corn fingers or perhaps bread for stuffing—no—it has to be corn fingers where the grain will star.
After lunch we walked through the town and discovered an ancient building that was used to roast chestnuts.
Inspired by the pasta I also tried making a loaf of bread, replacing the flour with 20% chestnut flour. I slashed it to resemble a chestnut and it was good but not great. Of course panettone with candied chestnuts (in the Bread Bible) is fantastic but the flour is not that interesting for bread.
I will always remember my first trip to Switzerland but I absolutely can’t remember how many many trips I’ve made since then! For my first trip, I was working on an article on Swiss desserts for the then new magazine Chocolatier together with journalist Fred Ferretti. He was writing the text and I was recreating the recipes. But the budget was only enough for one writer to go to Switzerland for the research so I decided to pay my own way and go as well. I was already half in love with Switzerland having grown up with the tale of Heidi, her love for her grandfather and the alps. I also adored my grandfather whom I lived with for the first 4 years of my life and was bereft when my parents took me from my ‘alps’ (the Atlantic Ocean) to the big city of NY the way Heidi felt when she was taken to Frankfurt. But as I got older my thoughts turned less to Heidi than to chocolate and Switzerland was Mecca. I had to go. And then I had to return and explore every possible area of the country which is divided between French, German, Italian, and Romanche Cantons. Switzerland is a dream to travel through even for people who don’t speak any of these languages. The railroad networks through every major city with speed and reliability and interconnects with trams, cable cars, and buses. The most economical and stress free way to travel through the country is to purchase a Swiss pass www.myswitzlerland.com
This recent trip to Switzerland was a press trip focusing on the Ticino, the Italian most southern region, and the German northeastern region of St. Gallen, Appenzeller and Schaffhausen. It was so filled with experiences, great photos, and information I am compelled to divide them between several postings. But I must begin by saying that as on any trip, what made it most special was the group of extraordinary, fun, interesting, and warmly supportive participants not to mention the terrific new manager of media relations Michelle Kranz. We all so hit it off that even on optional events where we were free to do our own thing we still got together as a group!
The Ticino, a triangle of land surrounded on two sides by Italy, is divided geographically by the Alps. It has 303,000 inhabitants, is half covered by forests, and is the only Canton where Italian is the official language . So it is not surprising that one finds there such a felicitous marriage of Swiss efficiency and Italian romance.
Growing up in New York, I never would have thought that someday far into the future I would experience the best coffee (specifically it was cappuccino) in my entire life in the east village (and I’m not be hyperbolic)! In those days, East Village brought forth immediate depressing images of Tompkin’s Square Park, hippydom and the drug culture. But things change in two generations and now the East Village has become a destination. A mere 15 minute walk from where I live, it is a most appealing NY neighborhood. A few weeks ago I had three major epihanous experiences over three usually common place ingredients: mushrooms, pork, and coffee!
The first was at an enchanting new vegetarian restaurant, provocatively called Dirt Candy, off Avenue A on east 9th Street.
On their blog, chef/owner Amanda Cohen explains the derivation: “When you eat a vegetable you’re eating nothing more than dirt that’s been transformed by plenty of sunshine and rain into something that’s full of flavor—candy from dirt. Chef Cohen has created a most imaginative and tasteful menu. I was utterly blown away by an innocent little grey bunker-like appetizer billed as Portobello Mushroom Mousse and don’t miss the jalapeno hush puppies—crisp, airy--addictive. The mushroom flavor virtually exploded in my mouth, defying it’s ethereal texture. For photos of the restaurant and many of the specialties on the menu visit www.dirtcandynyc.com
This special event, moderated by Clark Wolf, one of the country’s top food and restaurant consultants, on November 20, 2008 at the Fales Library in the NYU Bobst Library, was billed as:
20 Years of Food Arts
(30 Years of Food & Wine)
((33 Years since I have been in the first NYU class to graduate in the Bobst Library)) this my personal addition only for this blog!
The panelists were:
Michael Batterberry, Founder of Food Arts and Food & Wine
Anne Bramson, Publisher of Artisan
Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize winning Food Writer
David Kamp, Editor and Author
and Liz Neumark, Caterer and Farmer
It was a full to capacity crowd of old friends and colleagues who could barely stop joyful greetings to allow the fascinating panelists to start their presentation.
Clark started with the shocking news that Gael Greene had just been fired. There were audible gasps as Gael is considered goddess of food writers and has been writing for New York Magazine as food critique for more years than I can remember. I have long adored her writing and, in fact, was honored by the most beautiful and eloquent quote on the back of The Cake Bible 20 years ago and she had never even met me—only my manuscript! Hearing this terrible news struck fear in all our hearts that an era had come to an end and gave credence to our perception that things may well never be the same.
I am listing a few of the most memorable tidbits from my notes—not from a recording device-- so they are not, for the most part, direct quotes.
I was a poor eater as a child. The very word squash was so unappealing to me I would never have considered even trying it. But in my 20’s my great uncle Nat sent my mother a huge Hubbard squash from his farm in the Berkshires and she turned into a soup. My father was coming downtown to bring me something and she asked if I would like some of the soup. “No thanks” was my response and luckily she ignored it. When I hesitatingly tasted the soup I was astonished by the deep earthy sweetness and velvety texture of the soup.
A few weeks ago, when I told my neighbor Jason Menegus that Hubbard was my favorite squash, he promised to save me one from the Fall harvest. And when I went to pick it up I could hardly do so. My husband, who has been transporting it around from farm to car to kitchen assured me it was under 50 pounds but all I can say is that every time I lifted the pot of soup I made from it in and out of the oven to stir I groaned. It was worth it. I now have something like 24 dinner servings of it in my two freezers. And it is even more delicious than I remembered.
June is one of my oldest friends. I've written about her before and mentioned that she was arguably the most recognizable voice on WQXR before her early retirement when she moved to Sarasota.
This incredibly resaerched piece, however, is written by June on ethnic food for Sarasota Arts and Culture Magazine
America is known as The Great Melting Pot. But that anthropological term has, in recent years, taken on a new meaning and now America is The Great CULINARY Melting Pot.
Walk down any street from New York City to San Francisco and you’ll find all sorts of hyphenated restaurants: Portuguese-Greek, Japanese-Korean, Asian-American, Cuban-Chinese, and that all ‘round favorite that melts in every pot, Fusion. And, Sarasota has certainly picked up the trend.
There’s another term for you: Trend.
Whatever happened to good old fashioned Tradition? Poor Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof would have a hard time finding a traditional Kosher restaurant outside of Brooklyn or Russia. I remember a simply beautiful, romantic restaurant on Manhattan’s upper west side that had pink walls, ivy and flowers, candles (tapers, not votives) and menus that bragged about 100% Kosher food that sounded like something from Le Cirque.
Of course, almost anything short of spare ribs and lobster could be prepared to meet the Kosher standards but, come on, admit it, it is unusual to find beautifully presented four and five course meals that stand up to both man’s and God’s gourmet ideals.
With myriad cultures that have settled on our shores and made inroads into our bread basket, it is a wonder this culinary melting pot had not happened a hundred years earlier. But it certainly happened now. And, we are the gratified recipients of this mélange of tastes and culinary creations. For many of us, this food continually connects our cultures to our heritage.
The question is, how did all these new recipes begin?
In the following pages, we’ll look at the way Tradition has created Traditions; how the old has melted into the new, transforming sacred recipes - - yes, even French recipes - - into delectable dishes even our some what appalled mother would applaud.
Those of you who are New Yorkers will have driven or walked by this sign many times that graces Katz's delicatessen and will know that it actually reads: "Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army"! This sign has been in place since the 1940's!
Katz's is the place where that famous scene "I'll have whatever she's having" was filmed in "When Harry Met Sally," and it's home to my favorite pastrami, juicy if you please, which is a more tactful way of saying fatty.
My 94 1/2 year old father, who lives upstate, has been complaining ever more bitterly about missing the food he remembers. I send him cake occasionally, and home-made orange marmalade which he adores, but finally Katz's message sank in. I realized that a hard salami would last for months and be just the treat he has been longing for.
The salami, appropriately enough, arrived on his porch today, VA day. (Yes, my dad was a paratropper in WWII.) I wonder if Katz's will now change their sign?!
But it's his partner Luca who "takes the bread"! Here's proof:
great success for the Basic Sourdough Bread at the Joint Astronomy
Centre in Hilo, HI.
I had Americans wondering why the bread tastes good even without
toppings and telling me that with that bread they could eat it every
day, and Europeans in tears of homesickness... thinking back to the
wonderful breads coming out of the bakeries across the continent.
Really, it was more successful than I could have ever expected. And
topped with fresh pesto, olive oil, and the oven-dried grape tomatoes...
Now everybody wants the recipe, for which I directed them to the
Bread Bible, just warning them that it's 6 pages long, not counting the
time needed to have a sourdough starter and the lack of sleep!
Brravo Luca!!! And start giving everyone your leftover starter so they can make their own.
I'm back from 10 glorious days in Switzerland and eight dramatic days of book photography so there is much to catch up on, but before I forget the details I must tell you about the final round of book photography. First, though, I started a loaf of bread, and now I know that I will be grounded and quickly regain my sense of order and routine. I must add that it was especially pleasing to scoop into the bag of flour that was "my" flour, i.e. "Better for Bread" flour with my picture on the bag. Also, I noticed that Elliott's freezer bread section was nearing empty.
The bread I chose to make is a whole wheat bread previously posted in the 50% version "for whole wheat wimps." But as Elliott is a whole-wheat super wimp, the one I make for him is only 18.5% whole wheat. It's still very delicious and wheaty. Elliott is not only a "super taster," he also has a great sensitivity to bitterness which he perceives in the whole wheat flour if it goes over this percentage.
As I was mixing the bread, I realized that one of the best feelings that results from the process is a that of self-sufficiency, and how valuable it is-- always, but especially now in troubled and financially uncertain times.
And now, for a brief description (it didn't turn out to be all that brief) of the incredibly intense eight final days of photography for the upcoming book.
We certainly have come a long way from the Garden of Eden! For one thing, we are no longer in a state of blissful ignorance and contentment nor are we easily provided with for all our needs. But lacking all that, and after generations of struggle, mankind must have done some things right as we were rewarded with Google?!
I use Google in innumerable ways and one of my favorites is whenever going to a new restaurant I love to see the reviews and other people’s comments on favorite dishes. Being in the NY area, the review I usually head for is the one from NY Magazine, written by Adam Platt. His reviews are well –written and reliable. This brings to mind a story of how I first met Adam.
The late Vinnie Scotto had just opened Scopa and Elliott and I were pouring over the menu trying to decide between pasta and grilled rib steaks. In an Italian restaurant the pasta always tempts me most but out of the corner of my eye I discreetly (or so I thought) viewed the magnificently charred rib steak at the next table at a slight distance from ours. The man enjoying it looked over at me, smiled, and said: “Hello Rose; would you like a taste?”
When he introduced himself as Adam Platt, I explained that it was the rib I was after not the steak itself. He offered at once to hand it over to me as he didn’t plan to nibble on it (or maybe he was just saying that and being a gentleman!). I told him I’d have to share it with Elliott as he too loves ribs, and to my utter astonishment Adam replied: “Oh! My friend Adam here also doesn’t eat the rib so that one’s yours too!” It would have been funny enough with one Adam and one rib but the amazing coincidence of two of each was staggeringly hilarious. I promised I’d someday write up the story as “Adams’ Ribs',” but I hesistated for a long time because it seemed highly fictional. But who could think to make up such a thing! So with apologies and trepidaton, there it is!
Incidentally, some of my favorite things in life are coincidences of which I’ve enjoyed many small and large. If you’ve read or seen the movie the Celestine Prophesy (which I highly recommend) you may look at coincidences less as some unlikely occurrence and more as being open to the universe which is a good part of its message and the way in which I now have come to view them.
Across the road in Hope there is a farm that has a most unusual breed of sheep. The first time I saw them I thought they were pigs because of their spots but then I noticed the horns on some of them and realized that there was no way a pig would sport those!
Recently, my wonderful neighbor and friend Maria Menegus went to upstate NY to visit her sister CeCe and brought back some terrific undyed wool from her sheep. In fact the wool is so untreated it still had bits of straw to pick out while knitting. My father, who was visiting at the time, took one look at the wool and asked me to knit a scarf. And no sooner had I announced I had finished the scarf he asked for a matching hat! I made the scarf with all knit rows (i.e. purl) as it is thicker and warmer that way but the hat, which has a double layer around the ears when you turn it up, I did in ribbing.
The wool was fun to work with as it had a natural spring to it, no doubt from the lanolin which processing tends to destroy. I was so pleased with the results I signed it at the bottom with some left over red wool from a previous project.
Maria told me that her sister’s sheep actually came from the very farm where I first spied them. Maria and her son drove them up to upstate NY. It’s kind of funny to think of the traveling wool which started on the sheep in Hope, then continued to reside there in upstate NY until shearing, then was carded and spun into yarn and returned to Hope, and then knitted into the scarf and hat and returned to upstate NY!
Maria doesn’t raise sheep but she and her family do have a wonderful farm and roadside stand and her father-in-law Joe, across the road, has chickens and the most delicious eggs which have spoiled me for any other.
This is a photo of Maria’s recent harvest. And the photo below it is a recent breakfast Elliott and I enjoyed on a Sunday in Hope. We called it the boy/girl breakfast—note the difference even in the color of the plates! His was sausage on my filone bread; mine Menegus tomatoes, grilled Vermont bacon, Menegus cast iron fried egg, on lightly grilled Ricotta Bliss Bread.
it was back in early July that I saw the preliminary design for the book pages and fell in love with the theme of wild roses on the chapter opener pages. They were both beautiful and appropriate given my name but it turned out that the sales force at the publisher was concerned with the possibility that it would be perceived as too feminine for the male audience. After my wonderful editor Pam Chirls and I ran out of arguments as to why we should have those roses I came up with an inspiration: to bring the design of the book pages to the Oracle: Nach Waxman Kitchen Arts and Letters.(A visit to New York is not complete without a long stop at the store which specializes in cookbooks from all over the world.)
I have known Nach for well over 20 years. His store is right next to the 92nd St YMCA where my mother swam every week. More often than not she would stop at this store to remind Nach that her daughter was writing a book. Eventually she introduced us over lunch in a nearby restaurant. Over the years, whenever I had a book published, I would go and sign a bunch of them at Kitchen Arts and Letters. For the Cake Bible I brought the dotted Swiss wedding cake on loan for the store window. And whenever I had a question about publishing, such as a book title, the first person I would go to for advice was Nach. So now, even though I wanted those roses at all cost, I trusted Nach's wisdom enough to put the decision in his hands.
Pam invited us both to Sfoglia, a charming Italian restaurant one block away from Nach's store. (She will be publishing Sfoglia's book the same year as mine.) Just before lunch arrived, Nach looked at the book pages and after several minutes of serious deliberation (while I silently prayed) and then announced that he loved the pages with the wild roses in the background. Pam and I were practically speechless with delight as we hadn't yet told him that it was the main concern. When we did, he said something along the lines of: "Rose is not hard-edged or new wave; she is graceful and the book should reflect that."(Did I not say he was a wise oracle?!)
I went home on wings of song. I get to keep my roses with Nach's blessing.
I know that many of you are really dying to see what Hector has been describing for many months so here are the three photos he has sent plus a description of the process:
My cousin Elaine wanted a wedding cake from me, and I gave her all I can
bake! Here are the cakes at her 7-cake wedding.
First the wedding cake, an 8-tier 9-inch Golden Genoise cylinder with 5-inch
and 3-inch accents, filled with pistachio green Silk Meringue Buttercream,
frosted with green and white Mousseline Buttercream. Every cake component
was infused with pistasha liquor I made with La Cuisine excellent French
pistachio essence. Except for the roses attached vertically, cake was made
fresh, chilled for 2 days, then transported fully assembled from Downtown
Hilo to Volcano National Park: a grueling 2 hour 20mph ride thru country
road. My brother was the only person that dared to be my driver since all
my friends gave up on me knowing I turn into evil when doing so. I had a
long stake on one hand ready to poke thru the center of the cake shall it
tipped during the ride. It really helped that this was done at 5 am, and
the outside temperature was 55oF!
The second cake, is Rose's Blueberry Swan Lake. The meringue swan recipe
yields more than 5 pairs of swans. I managed to make 4 pairs plus several
dozen extra parts. Swans were made in my kitchen in Honolulu, then packed
in 4 airtight boxes and sent via 2 of my helpers as carry on luggage. Only
ONE pair arrived safely! This is the one cake out of the 7 that people came
back for seconds.
The following 5 cakes are miniature 3 tier versions of Copper Topper
Mountain Cascade, Killer Kahlua Chiffon Mocha Glaze, Ethereal longan-lychee
Charlotte, Triple Chocolate Cake, and Carrot Ring Cake. These cakes took me
4 months to complete.
The above is literally my ultimate effort and for what a great cousin I
have. Never have I heard from a bride allowing me to turn the reception
into a cake party. At the same time this effort is melancholic, there won't
be cakes from me for a while, since I disassembled my yellow kitchen, and
moved to a location nearby where not even the plumbing is in place. The
good news is that the hired photographer and videographer for Elaine's
wedding were covering my work from 3 days prior and all day long on the
wedding day, so I shall have lots of footage to keep my senses happy!
Aloha to you all. Hector
And good luck to you Hector in your new career and with your new flower shot/bakery!
I’m very proud of my association with Food Arts Magazine. I have been a contributing editor for many years now and have written some of my best pieces for the publication. So of course I was longing to be part of the 20th anniversary celebration held this week in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. Unfortunately for those of us who longed to be there, the invitation list included only the winners of the Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance in the food industry and about 250 were expected.
It wasn’t the food or wine (which I knew would be wonderful) that I longed for. It was seeing and congratulating the many people of whom I’ve grown so fond over the years. But I was resigned to miss it. Such is the miracle of our industry—the support and affection of our colleagues—that somehow I got to go in the best way possible—as a participant of sorts.
The afternoon of the event I happened to be walking in the west village and passed Pichet Ong’s restaurant P*ONG and dessert store Batch. Pichet is an amazingly talented chef both sweet and savory, known for combining both elements in his creations. He is also the author of a terrific cookbook appropriately called The Sweet Spot. Assuming that he was surely busy preparing the dessert for the event I hesitated to disturb him but he was totally in control of the preparations and asked if I would be at the event. When I explained why I couldn’t be there he didn’t hesitate to insist that I come as his assistant! We went back and forth several times with great conviction, me saying no and he saying yes and then I just couldn’t resist. So I ran home to change into my best white pique chef jacket with red piping and red patent leather special occasion chef clogs and then ran back to accompany Pichet to the Plaza.
Those rare times when we discover a restaurant we love before it has been “written up,” we live in fear that once the write-up comes the lines will grow along with the sound level. So if you live in NY or are coming to visit, hopefully you will get there before this happens to Thor, in the Hotel Rivington in NY’s East Village. Thor is not a new restaurant but it does have a wonderful new chef!
First the location: Do you remember the movie “Crossing Delancey Street” and Gus’s pickles? Well this is virtually around the corner in what is the new and arguably most trendy neighborhood in Manhattan.
If you arrive early, have a drink in the bar area—the design is both compelling and comfortable and the mixed drinks excellent. But it is the small and very modern dining room that makes you catch your breath. Highly modern but perfectly cozy and intimate, look up and see the sky through the glassed in roof, along with myriad fire-escapes that make you half expect to hear Marlon Brando yelling: “STELLLAAAA.”(yes I know that took place in the south but still…this is southern Manhattan…)
Executive chef Jesi Solomon, knows how to cook to satisfy the senses. His skill is reinforced by his passion for his profession and his warmth of spirit. His cooking is classically based but not overly refined or overly rich. When you’ve finished eating you feel utterly replete without feeling stuffed. We soon discovered that the very knowledgeable and equally dedicated sommelier Daniel is his brother.
Last week I brought the corrected galleys in to my publisher Wiley, in Hoboken. NJ and Ava (the production editor) and I went to lunch at my friend Maricel Priscilla's wonderful Cuban restaurant Zaffra
Ava is the best production editor I have ever encountered in fact she is just plain incomparable: clear, organized, concerned, calm, gently but firm, loving, intelligent, and just plain charming and adorable. This is not to say that we always see eye to eye. If you read the article about Marcella Hazan in this week's New York Times, you will have had a glimpse of the possible/inevitable battles that often take place between the author's point of view and that of the publisher's. They can be quite acrimonious so I am all the more grateful that Ava comes from the approach of appreciating team work and wanting what is best for the book.
Our major point of contention was the subcomponent recipes. About 8 of my buttercream recipes have two or more components. Most publishers like to put these components before the title of the recipe in which they are used. Most bakers and cooks passionately prefer them in the order in which they will be needed when baking/cooking.
Most of these incidences appear in the wedding cake chapter--for obvious reasons the most complicated chapter in the book. Together we found a way to have the sequence as I envisioned it but with far greater clarity than it was originally. This meant my reconfiguring many things from the pdf galley files--hard to see--hard to copy into word documents--and how I spent the entire weekend.
Changes like these are fraught with potential for mistakes but thankfully Lisa Story, the typesetter, is a meticulous genius so I am only a little concerned. Ava will review my reconfigurations and then send them to Lisa so we can see how they will look before making them final. I should say semi-final because after Lisa completes the process of inputting over 1000 changes from Woody and my review of the galleys, the book will then go into design and first pass pages. This will begin happening while I am in Switzerland on a culinary press trip the first 10 days of October. The week of my return we will take the final group of cake and process photos and it will not be until the first week of January that I get to review the first pass pages with all the photos in place--I think.
Judging from the past phases, no doubt there will be more happening in the interim. Stay tuned!
Some years ago I visited London for the first time and was staying in a rather depressing dumpy but affordable hotel, but not for long. Old family friends, the Streeters, who had retired to Harrogate—land of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), invited me to visit. It was like coming home—a beautiful apartment in the countryside, my own room with comfy bed and down pillow. I never did have to return to that dumpy hotel as my next stop was friends in Paris.
Staying with the Streeters was a most wonderful and sentimental visit as I had grown up with their sons and we hadn’t seen each other for years. Ted took me to see the newly unearthed (literally) Viking Village in York. Rosalind, a terrific cook, fed me well, but what was most memorable was breakfast. Rosalind served me a fried egg that was still sitting in the little copper bottomed stainless steel Revereware skillet in which it had been fried. She silently set it before me, having announced the night before that she didn’t like conversations first thing in the morning, and left me blissfully to enjoy the fabulous country egg.
When later I told her what a perfect way it was to serve an egg, keeping it warm but not continuing to cook it she told me that she had been looking for years for more of those little frying pans so she could serve more than one person at a time.