Tag Archives: italy

How Breadcrumbs (and Milk or Broth) Will Feed the World

An explosive web of silence, thrusts of gluten birth an ancient and savoury cadence…

Isn’t it an interesting evolution to realize that baked bread can sustain people even if they have nothing else to eat, while raw flour cannot?

Bread in its most basic form is often composed of nothing more than flour, water and salt. Bread can be combined with other very simple ingredients of nutritional value to form a basic diet that sustains us.

I am deeply inspired by Italian chef, Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, Italy was named the top restaurant in the world earlier this summer by World’s 50 Best. Bottura has founded a non-profit organization, Food for Soul, that is partnering with Gastromotiva, founded by chef David Hertz,  to promote social change through gastronomy.

Refettorio Ambrosiano, Hertz’ community kitchen in Rio de Janeiro, will open its doors on 9-Aug to offer free meals to Rio residents who need food services. It will be open for dinner every day and Bottura and more than 30 guest chefs will cook with whatever surplus ingredients are available from the Olympic Village, local catering services and sponsors.

There are additional components to the future success of Bottura’s plan to open soup kitchens in other major cities around the world, including creating recipes with leftover bread, leveraging food waste and creating a sustainable food culture. It’s a much broader mission than just one event.

Lara Gilmore, Bottura’s wife says: “Massimo is very interested in creating recipes with leftover bread, so perhaps a pasta such as passatelli made with breadcrumbs in a broth of ‘everything’ or a dessert inspired by ‘Bread of Gold’, a recipe we serve at Osteria Francescana based on a milk and breadcrumb dessert from Massimo’s childhood.”

I often say that bread is my favorite food group. I love the easy juxtaposition of crunchy crust and crumb. A focaccia of humble beginning is easily elevated to art through the addition of fresh, inexpensive ingredients such as heirloom tomatoes, fresh garlic, onion, basil, fresh herbs and a bit, yes, a bit, of Parmigiano Reggiano. Oh yes, a few gobs of glorious olive oil. Accompany as you wish: roasted fresh vegetables, pickled and grilled local fruit or, oh well, a berry dessert.

Roasted heirloom tomato, onion, garlic and herb focaccia
Roasted heirloom tomato, onion, garlic and herb focaccia

Bread’s simple complexity has the power to sustain the world. As projects of this type and scope succeed and we, as a society, find ways to successfully redistribute food resources, we can, indeed, feed the world.

As a pastry chef, that’s a process I plan to actively support.

The Sophistication of Goo

 A dispassionate tear of glucose, the refugee of macaroon mischief…

Six months of management classes at the Oregon Culinary Institute are successfully completed at a GPA I must admit I’m pretty happy with. I have a set of core business courses under my belt that will serve Essential Confection well.

The hammer is down. I’m now immersed in what I came here for, management classes notwithstanding. Baking and pastry, the creative love of my life for more than 40 years, is under way. Immersion, indeed.

Two to three recipes per day, ingredients scaled a day ahead. I’ve elected to come in an hour early each day to work ahead.

Macaroons, a super-slight crunch sheltering the sweet succulence of coconut. The texture of a great macaroon is a viscid al dente goo offset by the shimmer of a crunch.

Macaroons have an elegance undoubtedly arising from their French, Italian and Belgian origins where ground almonds were, and are, commonly used in place of coconut.

Instead of glucose, heavy, dense and very tacky, our formula called for corn syrup which has glucose as an ingredient but is lighter and a bit easier to handle. A simple recipe and technique that yields a brilliant result.

IMG_6201

Coconut Macaroons

6 oz sugar

6 oz macaroon coconut

1 oz corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp pastry flour

1 pinch salt

3 egg whites (1 oz per egg white)

Combine all ingredients and warm over simmering water to 120 degrees F. Allow mixture to cool. Stir before use. Scoop portions onto parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 12 min at 350 degrees F. Piping the dough into beautiful little pointed stacks is an option.

On Preference

A weightless voice hung in the room, roundly sweet in its silence…

Perhaps a consequence of having an interest in all things and being master of few, I recognized some years ago that I prefer to support what people do well and can’t seem to make time to critique that which falls short.

In the culinary blogosphere, authors’ interests attract me in different ways. Here’s a smidge of my go-to reads:

  • Language and imagery flourish on Hortus Cuisine. The author’s focus is simple, regional eating, the ingredients of which arise from a small farm between the Marche and Emilia-Romagna regions of Italy. Luscious photography.
  • Princess Tofu imbibes a lightness of humor with a love of tea in San Francisco’s minimalistic Meccas. It’s easy to sip with her at Samovar while musing over the site’s poetic intros.
  • The Pastry Department takes a pen and ink approach to professional pastry, the author the pastry chef at Chicago’s Blackbird and Avec restaurants. Yarns of story-telling infused with courage that an aspiring pastry cook may lean on in the hope of a future’s promise.
  • Dessert First, a self-proclaimed San Francisco pastry girl, casted about with its Roasted Fig Gelato with Balsamic Caramel recipe and reeled me in. Casual reading, a visual pleasure and fully fueled pastry creativity.

This is my short list. I follow others for geographic or specific content reasons, or just for the sheer pleasure of reading the posts.

Noticing others’ design ethics and writing styles also helps me to refine my aesthetic voice.

The weightless voice that hangs in the room…