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.

 

 

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A Personal Pastry Hierarchy

In my own personal pastry hierarchy one category actually ranks higher than chocolate. Berries.  In-season, eyes closed, hands stained, stuff-them-in-your-mouth berries.

I’d only punish myself if I tried to rank my faves so I won’t, because dessert is the opposite of punishment.  I will say that blueberry pie is one of the grand dames for me, a pie so full of itself in flavor and voluptuousness, that I would fight for the last piece of it.  Cold.  Right out of the refrigerator.  Eaten from the pie plate.  Without a fork.

I mastered the minor art of pie dough many years ago when Martha told me I could do it. Actually, my grandmother influenced this process at a somewhat earlier time as I stood in the kitchen watching her literally sling pie dough around without fear.  A German lady with an unacknowledged French gene, she dominated the Crisco dough as she flipped it into the pie pan, slid in the fruit and sugar and willed it into the oven.  The way I knew she was German was that she always gathered the dough scraps and threw them together to make a little pie she called a Dutcher.  No one else in her family knew that.

Martha held dough court using butter as did Julia before her and, to be honest, her basic pie crust recipe never failed.  As a result, my Pie Lady confidence rose like a buoy.  Deep dish pies. Jam tarts.  I searched out any opportunity to find subtle ways to enhance the single berry flavors I loved.

Fast forward to today.  A pastry cook’s interests merge with her training and the guidance she receives in the professional world, which then evolves into her style as a chef. Promoting simple, deep flavor in every dessert is a driver for me.

So, pies are a simple category of desserts.  They actually require little technical skill to do well, and certainly not the skill set a trained pastry cook possesses.  Yet, pies represent what fundamentally attracts us to dessert: a satisfying taste and a connection to that which sustains us.

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Simply, fruit flavors pop when sweetened and when complemented by certain other flavors.  Raspberry with almond.  Black raspberry with anise.  Blueberry with lemon.

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This is all to say I feel a grounding in the quality of flavors which I wish to communicate to readers and, in the future, guests or customers.

Enough said.

Deep Dish Blueberry Pie (from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts) [my editing]

Pate Brisee for an 11″ double-crusted pie, chilled

3 pints fresh blueberries, washed, drained, sorted [I’ve used 7 cups successfully]

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon [my addition]

1/3 to 1/2 C sifted AP flour

1 C plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1/2 C heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out half the pastry dough into a circle large enough to fit a 2″ deep 11″ tart pan or deep dish glass pie plate. Line and refrigerate.

Roll out remaining dough to a thickness of 1/8″ and cut out leave shapes using a sharp knife. Make the veins of the leaves by pressing the back of the knife into the leaf. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix the blueberries and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the flour, 1 C sugar and the butter. Gently toss berries to cover.

Brush the entire pastry crust (edges and bottom) with the egg glaze and pour the blueberries into the shell. Dot the berries with small butter pieces. Decoratively arrange the leaves on top of the fruit [or roll to lattice-work, if you prefer] , covering it almost completely. Brush the leaves with the egg glaze and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar. Bake for 50 min or until the blueberry juices have bubbled and thickened in the middle of the pie. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Pate Brisee

2-1/2 C AP flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated sugar (optional)

1 C (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 – 1/2 C ice water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in processor. Add butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water a few drops at a time through the feed tube with machine running just until the dough holds together in a ball, about 30 seconds.

Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, and press the dough into a flat disk. Chill for an hour before rolling.

 

 

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.

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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.

Continue reading Never Qualify a Superlative

The Top 7 Reasons Not to Eat Dark Chocolate

Chocolate  Commentary
Chocolate
Commentary

Top 7 reasons not to eat dark chocolate:

1. The risk of a possible cacao overdose.

2. You don’t give any credibility to that study that says eating dark chocolate daily reduces heart disease by 1/3.

3. You’re really afraid of what better health might feel like.

4. You’re convinced high blood pressure is a good thing.

5. You’re sure narrow arteries improve your focus and you don’t want better blood flow to dilute it.

6. Spiking insulin is a ride you like.

7. You already have an excess of theta brain waves and are totally, totally relaxed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Shortbread

Older confection recipes that are either non-standardized or have the ability to be recast interest me.

Chocolate Shortbread
Chocolate Shortbread

Chocolate shortbread is one such recipe.  Simple, elegant; dressed up, dressed down, it has a graceful foundation and future possibility as both its simple self and as a component for more sophisticated creations.

Elegance is obvious in its succulent mouth feel, a consequence of an extremely high percentage of butter.  Shortbread has a relatively low overall percentage of sugar.

The recipe I use was published in The Pleasures of Cooking, the Cuisinart mag that celebrated the company’s inception in 1983 or 1984.  An Epicurious.com recipe includes vanilla and uses Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of the semi- or bittersweet chocolate in the The Pleasures recipe.

Chocolate Shortbread

Process 3 oz semi- or bittersweet (62-70% cacao) baking chocolate and 1/2 C superfine sugar in the Cuisinart using the metal blade, turning the machine on and off just until the chocolate is coarsely chopped.  Let the processor run for 60 seconds or until the mixture is very fine.

Add 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into small pieces; process until creamy, scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add 2 C all-purpose flour, scraping down as necessary until well mixed.  Dough will form a soft ball.  Pat dough evenly into a buttered 13×9 pan.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, or until the center is firm.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 min, then cut into squares; allow it to remain in the pan to cool completely.

Each square may be decorated with a butter cream frosting rosette, if desired.

Butter cream frosting: Process 3 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp, 1 C confectioners sugar and 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream in food processor.  Pipe onto chocolate shortbread with pastry bag with star tip to form rosettes.

It will be fun to experiment with both recipes to compare depth of chocolate flavor before deciding which to use as a component of future recipes.

Dutifully discerning desserts.

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What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us. –Gaston Bachelard

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