All posts by lindanaylor

Insight is Just Outside our Comfort Zone

We gain daily insight into the work we choose by stepping outside our own pre-conceived boundaries. Stepping into a completely new medium – video – to educate our guests on the uniquely special qualities of artisan panettone has provided exactly such insight.

Candidly, I would never have imagined being the creator-narrator of a professionally produced video on Essential Confection’s flagship product, Essential Panettone. Nonetheless, my partner and I filmed the final shots at the Willamette Falls Media Center on Fri. Only now remaining is the painstaking editing and skillful assembly of the final shots.

My previously imagined boundaries certainly never included knowing how to speak to a camera, how to use a teleprompter or how to effectively use my hands to enhance language. The nervous hesitation of publicly representing a product of my own creation has evolved into a newly discovered confidence, and a skill set to be nourished and refined going forward.

Look for the fruit of our labor this week as the Essential Panettone order window opens on 23-Oct.

Please join us.

www.EssentialConfection.com

#essentialconfection

 

 

 

 

Gifting as an Expression of Relationship

Doing the work we must do today – basically, creating value in the present – and attempting to plan for a tomorrow which, in the current environment seems almost unfathomable, feels very unsettling and even risky.

Yet, that is exactly the life strategy we’re given the opportunity to mold for ourselves, our businesses and our relationships.

Relationship has more importance for us now than has likely ever been so in our lifetimes. Adaptability – coded into our DNA – and a splash of resistance to extreme change confront each other head-on in each decision.

Gifting is an expression of love and appreciation in personal and business relationships. The season of gifting will shortly be upon us.

We offer the convenience of gifting and shipping to multiple addresses, and you may include a personal message to your recipient.

You may select either Essential Panettone Artisan Milanese or Essential Panettone Northwest. Please consider joining our gifting experience when the Essential Panettone season – three weeks only – opens on 23-Oct.

https://www.EssentialConfection.com

#essentialconfection

The Single Best Resource for Flavor Pairings

Creating layers of flavor in any confection product, dessert or savory dish results from the practice of paying attention to affinity flavors. Affinity flavors are flavor relationships that are the epitome of flavor pairing.

Affinities such chocolate + orange | chocolate + caramel | chocolate + hazelnut. Cherry + almond | cherry + vanilla | cherry + cream. Pear + Gorgonzola | pear + blue cheese | pear + mascarpone.

The single best resource for understanding flavor pairing is The Flavor Bible. The book is used extensively by professional chefs, pastry chefs and avid home cooks to build a cook’s confidence in flavor relationships – not only on recipes. The authors, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, also published What to Drink with What You Eat and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

Interestingly, the category of citrus has the unusual effect of being, not only an affinity for myriad other ingredients – many types of cheese, berries, fish and shellfish, greens and salad – it actually enhances flavors in its own category.

Lemons have the versatility to be a dominant flavor or they can contribute subtle background notes. Eureka lemons, very high acid and piquant, have, perhaps the greatest versatility. The Meyer lemon, actually a lemon hybrid, has far less acid, a very thin skin, luscious lemony-tangerine flavor and lovely perfume. Because its flavor is so delicate, the Meyer lemon is not well suited to supporting background flavor. Meyer lemons would never be recommended for canning as they contribute insufficient acid.

Both orange and lemon zest support the flavor of the finest quality European candied orange peel in Essential Panettone. Citrus is the perfume that wafts magically through the air when Essential Panettone is unwrapped and sliced.

The Essential Panettone order window – 3 weeks only – opens on 23-Oct.

Please join us.

www.EssentialConfection.com

#essentialconfection

The Story-Telling of My Youth

Over millennia story telling has become a hard-wired feature of our consciousness. As a child, the master story tellers of Disney educated me on ideas and concepts beyond my young worldview. Each visual story elevated my understanding of what life was like and how I could imagine my future.

Features of the panettone origin story in Milan, Italy appeal to the scientific aspect of my brain as it relates to product development. Maximizing textural development by pushing sourdough starter to its limits lures me suggestively into the personal challenge of accomplishing it.

Essential Panettone has no commercial yeast. Its ethereal texture arises exclusively from the simplest combination of flour, water, the wild yeasts present in the atmosphere and the good bacteria that is inherent to us all.

The simplicity of those early stories still has great appeal for me, though the vehicle for my communicating them has taken a new turn toward the visual medium of video.

This is one small piece of the story of the finest quality panettone: Essential Panettone Artisan Milanese, and this season’s debut, Essential Panettone Northwest – each in a half-kilo size.

Italian Christmas cake on wooden table. Homemade Panettone

The Essential Panettone order window – 3 weeks only – opens on 23-Oct.

Please join us.

http://www.EssentialConfection.com

#essentialconfection

Did You Hear the Story About the …

Storytelling is the fundamental vehicle for human communication.

I recognized many years ago – long before I began writing publicly – that I’m inclined to frame all my experience as a story. I commonly step into a conversation with, “Well, here’s the story…”, or as my father used to say, “That’s the story…”

The underlying mission of Essential Confection is, and will always be, to partner with and support orgs that feed others.

It’s how I wish to show up in the world.

So, as an Essential Confection guest, I’ll be asking for your personal recommendations of people or organizations who are doing good work in the world – innovative or dedicated ways of feeding people. That includes teaching children about growing and choosing quality food. We want our guests’ org recommendations to be our partners.

Please join Essential Confection guests in our broader mission. Our participation is producing simple, high-quality confection products of outstanding flavor and texture.

We want you to be our partner.  The Ultimate annual purchase is a gift for yourself, your family or business associates.

http://www.essentialconfection.com/q3-2020/

#essentialconfection

The Chrysalis

One of life’s biggest challenges is to walk as yourself. Society has its way of conditioning out our unique abilities in favor of conforming. For me, walking that authenticity is the creation of and dedication to founding a confection company that produces simple, elegant confection products of the highest quality.

Of equal weight is my desire to serve others by contributing in small ways to the events of their lives. I live, by extension, through gifts given by our friends.

Underlying it all is my commitment for this company to support organizations that feed others and to support food systems that nourish and heal.

Though not quiescent, the evolution of this company has been, and will continue to be, a process. I take the risk of putting into place whatever will be required to bring this organization to its full potential. Fulfillment and joy are by-products of exploration.

So, this is a personal note. Essential Confection is my company and today is the day. In the analogy of the chrysalis, that protective state or stage of being, what evolves upon its release is the internally complex but outwardly elegant creation.

I hope you’ll join us.     www.essentialconfection.com//Q3-2020

 

Linda

 

Flavor and Textural Development are our Hallmarks

Essential Confection’s focus is flavor and textural development of simple, elegant products using the highest quality ingredients, with preference given to local artisan suppliers.

This week we launch an annual purchase model. Confection products are delivered quarterly with non-recurring fees and no automatic renewals. First in our new lineup is the Mini Essential Butter Cake, the perfect confluence of savory and sweet.

We partner with our guests to empower people in our community and to support food systems that nourish and heal.

Essential Confection offers confection products through annual purchase with non-recurring fees, and for gift-giving (family, friends, corporate, holiday) and events. Each product offering has finite order and production periods to ensure top quality and freshness. Our products ship.

We would love the opportunity to partner with you to serve others as our products help to support equitable food systems.

The Essential Confection annual purchase launch is 7-Aug.

How I Terrify Myself into the Glorious State of Baking

Thrusts of gluten  evolve into an elegant savoring…

That pastry chefs seek challenge in our daily work is inherent in the role.  Working in the sweet spot of math, science and creativity every day is the best part of the challenge. Ingredient performance changes, evolves, is subject to barometric swings, increased or decreased humidity and deterioration of the ingredients themselves. What worked once may not perform the same way again.

The epitome of baking accomplishment is an artisan panettone loaf, the pinnacle of elegance, flavor and texture having its roots in the Milanese baking culture.

The best loaves are light, tall, ethereal cathedrals of pull-apart quality historically housing internal garnishes of golden sultanas and candied orange peel. Most significantly, the way to get there is through the use of only a sourdough starter – sans commercial yeast of any kind.

Essential Panettone is such a cathedral – an absolute joy to savor and an unmitigated challenge to execute, every single time. Our process takes 60 hours, devoted in the early stages to pushing the gluten-rich starter to its limit of performance. There are two doughs mixed on consecutive days designed to be built upon each other with 4-12 hour rest and rise times interspersed in between. Post-baking at 340 degrees to a 200-degree internal temperature, the loaves must hang  for 12 hours – upside down – to prevent collapse.

It’s the most stress and the most fun.

Essential Panettone is in two flavors: Essential Panettone Northwest garnished with Oregon cherries and toasted local hazelnuts, and candied Valencia orange peel. Essential Panettone  Artisan Milanese showcases traditional garnishes of golden sultanas and candied Valencia orange peel, the dough effused with lemon and orange zest.

This holiday season both panettone will be available. Unlike Italian-legislated size requirements of 1 kilo, ours is a half kilo and is perfect for gift giving to family and friends and gifting to business colleagues. They’ll be baked as orders are placed.

And, oh yes, they ship. One of the magical benefits of a 60-hour process is an extended shelf life – without sacrificing quality or tenderness.

We celebrate the events of our guests’ lives, one event at a time.

We serve joy. Celebrate with us.

Proprietary Spice Blend = One Savory Career Move

An elegant hand sips sweet notes of cocoa, nutmeg, vanilla…

Recently, the integration of a set of savory ingredients into my baking has opened the door into a new, intriguing and broader cooking niche.

A warm and savory roasted spice melange secured one end of the spectrum of a plated dessert this past Valentine’s Day. On the other end was a simple, house made creme fraiche. Both were tethered to a 72%-chocolate flourless torte, the spicy-cool juxtaposition that popped each deeply succulent bite.

I was both chef de cuisine and pastry chef for a wine dinner hosted by new Brookside Inn owners Liane and Rich Cabot. The Brookside, a B&B located in Carlton in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, partnered with winemaker Thomas Houseman of Anne Amie Vineyards, whose specialty is Pinot noir. This dinner christened their ownership.

Anne Amie’s Tudor Hall Solera Port was paired with my Spiced Flourless Chocolate Torte. The “fermentation of their barrel-aged dessert wine was arrested by fortification of a brandy of Pinot noir.”

The tastes of cloves,  nutmeg, vanilla and cocoa in the port aligned swimmingly with my spice blend of star anise, black peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon. So, if a way to enhance the richness of a dark, silky chocolate torte existed, this was it. The final garnish was a candied hazelnut.

I love experimentation and pushing both sweet and savory flavor profiles in warm, even earthy directions… which allows me to circle back to my new niche.

My cooking partner, Paul Caloca, and I have a deep love for the exquisite ingredients inherent in Oregon – hazelnuts, white and black truffles, Dungeness crab, local salmon and other coastal seafood and crustaceans. Our niche are dinners of the highest quality, sustainable West Coast ingredients made more deeply flavorful using our own propriety spice blends, gentle roasting and smoking techniques, and partnering with Oregon and Washington vintners.

How unexpectedly spicy life can be…

 

 

 

Pie Baked in Humility

A sweet custard crevasse…

Two days ago I was trouble-shooting the unhappiness on my assistant’s face when he was pondering a batch of watery, curdled creme brulee. We decided the cream mixture was too hot to be tempered into the whisked eggs and sugar. My best advice: Have an inquiring, scientific mind and a small ego. Start over.

I’m living my own advice. The pastry goddess has her arms around me. That’s what I told myself each of the six times I failed to bake a perfect Creme Fraiche Pumpkin Pie. The dreaded pumpkin pie crack. Ugh.

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Research and experimentation are two of the things I enjoy most about being a pastry chef. Ingredients are notes on a page of music to me. I love evaluating ingredient performance. Nonetheless, my good humor spiraled downward each time I tweaked my recipe and had the same failure.

And tweak I did. Unbaked enriched crust; par-bake; fully pre-bake. Reduce whole eggs; increase yolks. Evaluate ratio of eggs to pumpkin custard. Evaluate ratio of sugar(s) to pumpkin custard. Does it stabilize or weaken? Analyze what effect the creme fraiche had as a liquid ingredient. I did a spreadsheet of three recipes to evaluate ratios of all the ingredients I wanted in my pie, and was prepared to swallow the frog of releasing or scaling down an ingredient, if warranted.

A major x-factor is my oven. I have the luxury (also interpreted as a curse) of using a combi oven… that is, a combination of convection and humidity. For the first three months I worked in the restaurant, the oven was smarter than me. Very humbling. Now, we hold hands. It only pokes at me occasionally, just often enough to ensure my ego never inflates.

Does a baked custard benefit from humidity? What percentage humidity? Is convection a detriment or an asset because it accelerates cooking? Set the (raw) crust and custard at a high heat as I do with my hazelnut cheesecake, then turn the heat down? To what temperature? 25 degrees less than a still oven? 50 degrees? How do you test for doneness? Dry edges and a slight jiggle in the center? None of this worked for me.

When I finally satisfied myself about ingredient ratios and a fully pre-baked crust, I remembered a blurb of advice from a pastry chef about baking any type of custard at a temperature below the 212 F boiling point in a convection oven. This was after the 6th failure. I also remembered the reco to bake to an internal temp (175 F), not a visual cue.

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The alternative at this point was to bake the pie in a still oven, a deck oven, and, frankly, that would have felt like another failure. So I loaded the pastry gun with every gram of steely determination I had left and went for it. Fully pre-baked the crust. Creamed the egg, yolks, sugars, flour. Roasted the pumpkin to remove excess moisure; processed pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, creme fraiche, spices, vanilla extract and salt in the Robot Coupe; blended custard and egg mixture together. Baked at 200 F for 1 hour, 30+ min; no humidity. Visual cues were not present. No dry outer ring. No jiggly center.

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Creme Fraiche Pumpkin Pie

1, 200-g recipe enriched pie dough

1 egg

4 egg yolks

1/4 C brown sugar

1 T all-purpose (AP) flour

2 1/2 C [610 g|7 oz] pumpkin puree

3/4 C [155 g|5.45 oz] sugar

3/4 C [175 g|6.15 oz] evaporated milk

1/4 C creme fraiche

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (VE)

1 tsp kosher salt

Roll enriched pastry dough to generously fit a 9″ glass pie dish, leaving 1/2″ excess. Turn excess under itself to form a small rim. Freeze dough for 10-12 min, or until thoroughly frozen. Fit a sheet of aluminum foil tightly over entire surface of pastry, snugly fitting foil over pie rim. Bake in 310 F convection oven for 12-13 min, rotating halfway through baking time. Remove foil. Bake for 2-3 min more until pastry is matte.

While pastry is baking, spread pumpkin puree onto parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 8 min at 310 F to remove excess moisture. Move warm puree to food processor. Add evaporated milk, creme fraiche, spice, VE and salt. Process until smooth.

In either a stand mixer or by hand, beat eggs, sugar and flour until smooth and somewhat light. Fold pumpkin mixture into beaten eggs.

Reduce heat to 200 F. Pour pumpkin mixture into warm crust. Bake until custard tests at 175 F on an instant-read thermometer, rotating every 20 min to promote even baking. Bake time is 1 hour 30-40 min.

Cool at room temp for 2 hours. Chill thoroughly.