Chef Linda's Confection Commentary

Tag: chocolate Page 1 of 2

Remember That Brownie?

I love the fine features of baked products.

Early food experience dictates preferences. As a young teenager, I loved the glorious scent of chocolate wafting through our family kitchen as box-mix brownies were baking. As an adult, the rich scent of chocolate baking in the oven takes me back to that moment in the 1960s. Do you have one of those memories?

Food psychologists know that smell, not taste, produces memory – that smell is a learned affect that transports us to specific moments in time – and that it controls a significant number of our food behaviors.

What I discovered over time was that specific features of baked products were as attractive to me as the scent and even the taste of the finished product. A crisp ginger snap. The luxuriously fine crumb of a butter cake. The exquisite resistance of paper-thin layers of buttery laminated dough in a croissant.

A year ago, I set out to make the very best chocolate cookie I could create. Intense dark chocolate flavor was foundational. Almond pairs wonderfully with chocolate and supports its flavor as a background component. Flaked salt as a garnish before baking not only contrasts but enhances the power of the chocolate. The most important quality of our new chocolate cookie, though, had to be the juxtaposition of a thin, floating crust on top of a delicate, chewy center, with bits of liquid chocolate as little bonuses – ala, the brownie of my youth.

The cookie also had to fulfill one of my two primary interests in baking: single flavor development.

The formula for that cookie, the Essential Chocolate-Almond Cookie, is now in the hands of the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center for consultation, critique and packaging input. Our goal is to offer the cookie in dough form for our guests to bake and luxuriate in at home beginning in Q2-2021.

What better way to express love or appreciation to family and friends than to reacquaint them with a childhood delight?

Every Essential Confection product supports our mission of helping tlve food insecurity. You are our partners in this effort. We intend to broaden our reach with the Essential Chocolate-Almond Cookie by distributing widely.

Another way for us all to spread caring and support for those we appreciate most.

www.EssentialConfection.com

#essentialconfection

Euclidian Geometry = Chocolate + Strawberries + Bananas

Flavors easing into one another, gently releasing their separation…

In mathematics, the first of Euclid’s five general axioms is: “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” IMAG1827Chocolate and strawberries and chocolate and bananas and, heaven knows, strawberries and bananas have affinity relationships with one another. So, in a somewhat Euclidian way I hoped that there was a flavor triad among the three.

The strategy also centered around quickly ripening bananas and my personal commitment to minimize waste to every extent possible when I cook for myself and as pastry chef at Nicoletta’s Table. Restaurants have a great responsibility to reduce waste.  For inspiration, I began with a banana bread recipe from Massimo Bottura‘s book, Bread is Gold.

The second goal was to create the greatest intensity of flavor. I’m a huge proponent of roasting, smoking and dehydrating fruit to maximize flavor. Using techniques that enhance the singularity of individual flavors is a core practice. Throughout last season’s fruit harvest, I slow-roasted local fruit for Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Jam, Rustic Apricot Jam, Dark Sweet Cherry Compote and Elberta Peach Jam.

Euclid’s 5th general axiom is, “The whole is greater than the part.” Reading and researching flavor affinities is an important tool in professional cooking. Confident creativity arises from research and experimentation. And, it’s fun.

Roasting bananas removes some of the moisture present in the fruit, intensifying flavor and allowing an increase in the quantity of bananas from 3 to 5. Using brown, clarified butter and brown sugar also benefit the overall flavor profile.

BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD

1 3/4 C (8 3/4 oz) all-purpose (AP) flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

5 very ripe bananas, peeled

8 T ( 4 oz) brown clarified butter

2 large eggs

3/4 C packed (5 1/4 oz) light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (VE)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice peeled bananas; place on parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Roast for 15 min or until soft and liquid separates from the bananas; strain the liquid. Cool to room temperature. Spray a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with vegetable oil spray.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. In mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light. Add VE; add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth. Add banana puree. Add dry ingredients all at once. Reduce speed to low; mix just until dry ingredients disappear. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake on parchment-lined sheet pan until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.

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A simple strawberry-banana compote is a great accompaniment; garnish with chocolate gelato and banana chips.

Strawberry-Banana Compote

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices

1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced

3 T unsalted butter

2 T light brown sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/4 C bourbon

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add bananas,  strawberries and brown sugar. Cook until sugar has fully dissolved. Add bourbon; continue to simmer until the alcohol has cooked off, 7-10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

 

 

 

 

The [Re] Coronation of the Turtle

Chocolate, caramel, pecans.

The memory of my first chocolate Turtle lingers long.  I was a teenager in an era where neighborhood confectioners were common.  Ice cream parlors of this ilk were confectionery companies, as well.  Often family-owned, multi-generational businesses of quality and longevity.  Marble floors, mirrored walls, two-seat wrought-iron chairs and tables.  To this day, I have the memory of walking past the glass case and spotting those soft, deceivingly nondescript beauties, and can remember clearly the sensuous feel of the candy in my mouth.

Now, the Turtle has high order on the Essential Confection table of re-creation. Essential Confection models and honors great confectioners of the past.

As a new confectionery business owner, I’m attempting to understand the universe into which I’m stepping.  In so doing, I feel a little like the person who stroked the elephant while blind-folded.  Arms outstretched, flailing in the dark, trying to determine what’s in front of me and what it is I’m feeling.  The exercise causes me to recognize 1. how little I know and; 2. that feeling one part of the animal cannot a determination make.

Yet, steps must be taken.  Skills must be refined and perfected.  Courage to tackle the perils must be mustered.

IMG_5989Wearing the hat of the technician, the hat that likely got me headed toward the confectionery business abyss in the first place, I refine recipes until I have products I can confidently present to the world.  The Essential Confection sugar & cream Caramel, the EC salted chocolate, anise, orange, chocolate espresso and cinnamon caramels. Creamy, dreamy and voluptuous. Done.

My desire to inaugurate recipes of the past with a contemporary crown is a core theme of the business.  Helping people restore the memories of that which they loved, and reintegrating those memories into this moment.  The Turtle Trio, chocolate, caramel and pecans, still wins.

Through much experimentation, I’ve discovered techniques to enhance the depth of flavor and texture of each component.  A little chocolate tempering guidance from my Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI) pastry instructor, and confidence in my product is percolating.

What memory do you have that’s tied to a confection of your youth?  Were there chocolate or fruit or citrus candy recipes in your family or neighborhood confectioner, the memory of which still seeds your awareness?  Was the confection attached to holiday celebration? What was most memorable?

Quality.  Simplicity.  Intensity of flavor.  Today’s Essential Cinnamon Turtle can again be restored to its rightful place of sovereignty.

 

 

Never Miss a Moment of Baking (or Life)

A post on The Vanilla Bean blog reminded me how easy it is to let the mind wander into territory of comfort and repetition, falling away for only a few moments from the project at hand.  Consequences inevitably arise.

The VB author posted about losing momentary focus when baking Chocolate Pots de Creme with Lavender & Sea Salt earlier this month.  It was a recipe she had made many times before and became lax when distracted by other activity.  We’ve all been there.

In a post a few months ago on The Essential Garden blog, I did a best-guess estimate on cooking time for Chocolate Souffle as I only had 3 oz ramekins and not the 8 oz souffle dishes called for in Robert Parks’ recipe that was posted on the Food Network blog.  Although experimentation is frequently necessary, it’s always a roll of the dice to alter cooking time.  The end result was a bit of “fall” when the souffles cooled.  Perhaps a few extra moments of attention in each stage of the recipe (including the baking) might have provided a different result.  The truth is that I know instinctively when I’ve glossed over a step in favor of speed or distraction.

IMAG1976

What I’ve come to realize is that mise en place isn’t just about assembling the requisite utensils and ingredients before starting to cook.  It’s really dedication to a lifestyle that gives weight to being fully present for each activity in our lives, including the prep, execution and completion of cooking.

I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it.

Never Qualify a Superlative

chocolate chip cookie cartoon

Chocolate isn’t the only thing in the world, but it was already present when the only thing in the world was discovered and it must have overseen the event.

I have the simplicity and intensity genes and they grow in magnitude when I bake.  So many times I wanted a cookie that would astound, delight and cause the recipient of the cookie to fall back into her childhood without knowing why.  Just as this cookie recipe of my dreams likely had its origin in my own past life, I knew there must be some contemporary expression of it.

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