Tag Archives: oregon culinary institute

Riding the Tide of the Season

A green brush stroke at its base the last remnant of the life force that thrust into being its violaceous stalk, each tip pricked a muted gold…

The idea of local-seasonal food choices as a component of food ethics has been under my skin since it was first discussed in a food ethics class at the Oregon Culinary Institute.

Now that the seasonal tide has turned in favor of the freshest, most beautiful and most flavorful produce, the choices become easier.

Hoods!
Hoods!

Each week for the past month I’ve bought flats of tiny, early berries for strawberry-rhubarb compote, fresh strawberry sauce for strawberry-Moscato torte and as garnish for strawberry

Baba au Rhum
Baba au Rhum

shortcake and Baba au Rhum.

If I back this season up up by 45-60 days, my fruit choices are limited to Central Valley California, Mexico and Chile, a completely different depth of flavor and tenderness, and a whole lot of food miles.

I look at the issue professionally and personally. While baking and pastry is my profession, the Nicoletta’s Table pastry department also IMAG1059bakes daily savory tarts for the customer. Easy access to out-of-season zucchini, IMAG1054asparagus and onions, although convenient, does not equate to the baby zucchini, lithe IMAG1055asparagus and spring onions (particularly cipollini) currently in the market.

 

To me, choosing fruit and vegetables in season means not choosing them when they’re out of season.

Asparagus-Chevre Tart
Asparagus-Chevre Tart

If I’ve made a personal commitment to eat seasonally, I then must extend that commitment to my profession.

Let the sweetness of the season begin…

 

 

Autumnal Pastry Wedding

Fleeting ripeness portends kisses of chewy, jammy wine… 

A year, a seeming heartbeat, has passed since Oregon’s plum and grape bounty first revealed its intensely sweet succulence to me.

Now, with a Baking & Pastry Management degree from the Oregon Culinary Institute in my back pocket and as pastry chef at Nicoletta’s Table in Lake Oswego, I’m interested in ways the local bounty can be translated into fall desserts.

Enter Spiced Plum and Grape Tart. I felt the puritanical feature of IMAG0277my personality that surfaces as a love of intensely singular flavors falling away as I considered how best to enhance plums and grapes. The barest pinch of cloves, a few grindings of nutmeg, orange zest and a blush of cardamom. Vanilla bean-seeded sugar… just enough to support the flavor profile.

The Santa Rosa plum, Damson, the culinary plum, and Jupiter IMAG0279seedless Muscat grapes with a mildly tart skin. Amazing natural sweetness and depth of flavor.

As a new pastry chef, learning the keys to successful pastry feel linear and are, hopefully, cumulative. Use ingredients of similar temperature. Aerate the butter for crustier tart dough. Don’t overwork the dough after the flour is added.  

IMAG0286

The finished tart, teased quickly to room temperature in the blast chiller. Thin, tender, flavorful crust juxtaposed wit the rich, married flavors of plums and grapes. Cream whipped to soft peaks adorned with gems of candied orange.

A happy marriage, indeed.

 

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.