DIY Buzz: Coffee Roasting Class at the Institute of Domestic Technology

I have never been the coffee-aholic, and truth be told I make a terrible pot of coffee — I think it’s a mental block (I can’t whistle or snap either, go figure).  But Big N truly enjoys coffee.  Because he imbibes exactly one cup per day, he wants that cup to be perfect.  And even though I drink at most a half a cup of coffee in the morning, so do I.

I also can’t resist an opportunity to learn a new DIY skill.  So when my friend M turned me onto the coffee roasting class at Altadena’s Institute of Domestic Technology, I was game!  First, a bit about the Institute.  Altadena is becoming the hip place for foodies and DIY-ers to learn food making skills.  Hosted at the Zane Grey Estate, the Institute holds classes on canning, cheesemaking (it is home to about three dozen goats at present whose milk is used for the class), coffee roasting, cocktail crafting, and the next class I intend to sign up for: bacon curing!  (Note to the Westsiders- there is another location at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills which hosts similar classes).

Cupping Lesson M and I attended the Saturday coffee roasting class, taught by Plow & Gun microroaster Daniel Kent.  First, we experienced a blind sniffing and tasting “cupping” lesson to demonstrate the difference between beans sourced from various countries as well as the difference the degree of roasting (light to dark, aka City to French Roast) can make on a single type of bean.  Armed with our knowledge, we were then taught how to roast in the most simple of DIY gadgets: the Whirly Pop popcorn maker.  With nothing but an aluminum pot and a hand crank, we dumped our beans in our Whirly Pop that was already preheating on the stove, set the timer, started cranking, and then carefully checked as the beans went from yellow to gold to brown, and listened for the first crack (a popping sound) and second cracks (more like Rice Krispies) to determine when to remove our beans from the flame.  Whirly Pop

Once our beans hit the target temperature, we dumped them onto cookie sheets to cool, and then separated the newly roasted beans from the flaky chaff.  All told, the process was extremely simple; the hardest part was turning the hand crank constantly for about 12 minutes.  With a little practice, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to become more consistent with my roast quality (because small variations can result in big screw ups).  We left the class with a bag of our first roast (I roasted my Guatemalen beans to a light City roast) and a bag of green beans to try it again ourselves at home (for which I purchased my own Whirly Pop).

M and I had a great time and I definitely recommend attending a class at the Institute, though you better hurry because apparently word is catching on.   Martha Stewart herself has taken notice in this month’s Living magazine. Martha Stewart Living

One satisfied customer Since the class, I ordered 5 pounds of beans from around the world from trusted green bean sourcer: Sweet Marias.  I’ve been studiously practicing my whirly technique and giving away freshly roasted beans for my fellow coffee lovers to try.  I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that freshly roasted coffee tastes a gazillion times better than the preground stuff that’s been dying a slow death on the grocery store shelf for eight months.  And while I’m still no expert, the feedback on my beans has been pretty good.  Check out this satisfied relative!

Fresh Roasted Beans Oh, and the best part: Whole Foods sells a pound of our former favorite Kenya Grand Cru roasted coffee for $16-20.  I can make a fresher and better cup with Kenya beans purchased from Sweet Marias for about a third the price.  DIY-ers unite!

*first two photos above of the Institute of Domestic Technology courtesy of Heather Bullard

Roast Beast: An Evening at the Wildlife Waystation

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a celebratory dinner for Big N’s company at the Wildlife Waystation in the mountains of the Angeles National Forrest.  What a magical evening it was.

The Waystation takes in exotic animals of all kinds who no longer have homes.  Examples include a grizzly bear who retired from a long career in show business, to tigers whose owners thought it would be cool to have a tiger until it grew up and mauled them, to homeless chimpanzees who found their way to the Waystation after the laboratory that performed experiments on them for years closed down.  Started by Martine Collette in 1976, who still runs the joint and regales her guests with crazy stories while pouring exotic libations, the Waystation is currently home to over 400 animals and runs solely on private donations and volunteer labor.

Montana 2

We started the evening with a tour of the more people friendly animals (and wouldn’t you know it, I only had my crappy iphone with me, forgive the pics).  Meet Montana, the elderly white tiger with arthritis, and Sheba, a 23 year old beauty who came right up to me and met my stare with her kind blue eyes.  We met lions, a grizzly bear, a brown bear, several rowdy Chimpanzees with wicked senses of humor, and even a Liger!  We saw spider monkeys climbing their cages, capuchins chowing down on bananas, wolves playing together in their pack, heard a jet black panther purring (a deep guttural sound), and listened while the lions talked to each other at a volume that could be heard for miles (see video below).  What’s amazing about this place is the animals come right up to you, not more than three feet from you (the minimum safe distance the Waystation likes to enforce, except for the chimps, which require a 20 foot gap to ensure safety from their playful but incredibly accurate water spitting antics).

After our tour we entered a lovely tented area and dined together with the sounds of exotic birds chirping in the distance and buzzing our tent.  For dinner the Waystation served chicken, salmon, and roast beast (beer marinated tri tip), along with garden fresh vegetables, and moist chocolate cake for dessert, all made in Martine’s 1938 cottage on the 160 acre property.

Sheba 2

The Waystation is currently closed to the public (and only hosts special events), but hopes to reopen within the year once they can afford a few Code updates.  Our dinner helped raise needed funds that allow the Waystation to take in any exotic animal in need of love and care.  If you’re looking to spread the wealth, consider adding the Waystation to your list of worthy causes.  You can even sponsor your own animal.

Redondo Beach Fish Market: Fresh Clams

Taking advantage of this fine winter 80 degree weather we’ve been enjoying in LA, Big N, Griffin, and I took a fieldtrip down to the Redondo Beach Pier. I’ve never been before. Griffin loved watching the fisherman fish in vain and giggled at the gigantic pelicans that plant themselves firmly on the pier and dare you to scare them away. Those crazy birds let you walk right up to them and practically pat them on the bill before they move.

My favorite part were the open air fish markets. The markets were bustling with people pigging out on plates piled high with lobster, crabs, oysters, and sea urchin.  The distinct sound of hammers  cracking crab claws (conveniently available for rent) filled the air.

While Big N took Fin for a stroll, I stopped in Quality Seafood to check out the fresh catches.  The counter is nearly a block long, separated into stations where you can order steamed and sauteed fish to eat outside, or where you can buy by the pound to go.  I went a little crazy and bought a few oysters (Kushi and Pacific) that were freshly shucked for Big N and I to shoot on site, as well as two pounds of clams and three pounds of steamed Dungeness crab claws.

Clams Staring at about 10 varieties of clams with wonder, the clam-monger took pity on me and recommended the Manila and the Savory clams, which are smaller but, in his opinion, tastier than the larger varieties available.  Happy with my purchases, which they packed on ice for our trip home, I couldn’t wait to make dinner that night.

And I discovered something awesome.  With a few pantry items I had in my kitchen, plus a loaf of crusty bread, I had a delicious and healthy* clam dinner on the table in about 15 minutes flat (once my clams were cleaned, see note below).  Bonus.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t taste that much of a difference between our Savory and Manila clams, but they were both tender, juicy, and briney.  The saffron sauce provided a richness that made them special.

See my quick and super easy clam bouillabaise recipe below.  Next time you’re in Redondo, don’t pass up the fish market.  It’s worth a detour.

(And if you’re wondering, we ate the crab for dinner the next night: spicy crab cakes with roasted red pepper aioli, served with creamy parmesan polenta and sauteed asparagus.  Big N ate them too fast to photograph.)

Clam Bouillabaisse

*Clams are packed with iron, which most of us women don’t get enough of these days.  They’re also loaded with other good minerals, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.  Go clams!

(Since I forgot to take photos of the fish market, doh!, I borrowed a couple from K1sworld).

Quick Clam Bouillabaisse

Serves 2
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 15 minutes
Allergy Shellfish
Meal type Appetizer, Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 2 lb Clams (I prefer smaller clams (Manila, Savory, Littleneck), but your choice)
  • 1 cup Chicken stock
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron
  • 4 tablespoons Butter (Unsalted)
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans (Drained and rinsed)
  • 1 handful Parsley (Chopped, Italian/flat-leafed, not the curly kind)

Optional

  • 1/2 cup White wine
  • 2 Shallots
  • 1/2 cup Tomatoes (Cherry or grape work best, cut them in half)

Note

You can clean the clams ahead of time by putting them in a large bowl with cold water and a few tablespoons of flour or oatmeal, then stir. Put them in the fridge for 1 hour. The flour causes the clams to spit out any sand in their shells. Give them a quick rinse before using.

Also, make sure all of your clams are still alive. If any shells are open, give them a quick tap. If the clam closes up, it's still alive. If the shell doesn't close after you tap it, it's dead. Discard any dead clams. Also discard any clams that have cracked or broken shells.

Directions

1.
Melt butter in large pan with tight fitting lid. Add shallots (if using) and saute until fragrant, then add garlic and saute 1 minute.
2. Add wine (if using), chicken stock, and saffron and simmer 1-2 minutes until saffron colors the cooking liquid.
3. Add tomatoes (if using) and drained/rinsed beans and stir.
4. Add clams and sprinkle with the chopped parsley, quickly cover the pan, and steam them until the clams just open up (about 5 minutes on medium heat). Do not overcook your clams or they'll be tough.
5. Remove from heat, pour into bowl with sauce and serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Candy Japan: Takoyaki “Octopus Balls”

I’m a little behind on reporting, but I know you’re all on pins and needles waiting to see what delectable sweets the folks over at Candy Japan sent me.

Last month’s shipment came with something called “Takoyaki,” which roughly translates to Octopus Balls.  Here’s the package, which came with a brown tray, a few other foil packs, a red plastic pouch with gummies inside, and a tiny spoon.

Takoyaki Candy

Why name a candy after octopus balls? Well, apparently this candy is meant to emulate the popular octopus balls available in fast food joints, as explained in this video:

I’m glad they sent me a how-to video, because the package’s complicated instructions were all in Japanese and I never would have figured it out from the cartoon pictures.  In case this candy pops up at your local Five & Dime, I’ll walk you through how to make it:

First, mix the gummy solution with some water in the handy mixing area with your spoon, included.  Then quickly pour the solution into the molds because it will continue to solidify as it sits.

Mix

Add your octopus gummies and cover with more gummy solution to create the ball with the octopus inside.

Octopus gummy

Wait for it to solidify, then add your sauce.

Sauce

Finally, seaon with your crunchy “fish flakes.”

Fish flakes

Enjoy your Takoyaki Octopus gummy.

Takoyaki Octopus ball gummy

The gelatinous exterior tastes like some non-descript orange fruit flavor and the “octopus” gummy inside tastes more like strawberry.  The green “fish flakes” are like pop rocks.  I have to say this candy was more fun to make than to eat.  I like having to work for my food.  Another fun experience thanks to my mail order friends in Japan.

 

 

 

Grains of the world: Spain and Latin America

In Cuisine Across Cultures class we’ve been touring the world one grain at a time.  Each class we learn about different grains and starches used in the various parts of the world, such as rice, noodles, maize, wheat, potatoes, etc.  Every day we are broken up into groups of four.  There is usually one dish that all of us need to make individually, and another four dishes that we divide up among the four of us.  So we each cook 2 dishes per day, and we help out our team members to prepare their dishes as well.

We’ve been focusing on grains in latin speaking countries.  Here are a few of the dishes we prepared last week.  I think we broke the bank on lard.

Paella

Paella: saffron rice with tons of goodies: clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, chicken, sausage

Arepas with shrimp
Arepas: South American corn dough treat filled with spicy shrimp

Sopes three ways

Sopes three ways: corn dough base topped with carnitas, chicken, and poblano peppers with cheese

Pupusa

Pupusas: stuffed corn pancakes with poblano and cheese

Empanada

Empanadas: more corn cake stuffed with spicy ground beef

And my personal favorite of the bunch: TAMALES- chicken, queso Oaxaca, poblano chile. Tamales are actually pretty easy to make, but they take a while. You need to make your filling, make your masa mixture (masa plus lard, very healthy), spread it out, wrap them, tie them, then steam the tamales for about an hour. After all that work you’re rewarded with soft, creamy, sweet/salty goodness.

I hope you enjoyed our survey of the all mighty corn.  Ole!

Next up: grains in Asia.

 

 

Sushi in a day: Blue Fin Tuna Nigiri and Hamachi Toro

In Japan, sushi chefs aren’t born in a day.  Apprentices typically work for five years and spend at least the first two just learning to make rice.  During that time, the apprentice watches and learns before he’s allowed to even pick up a knife.  So the fact that we spent all of a day at LCB learning to cut fish and make sushi rice was kind of a joke.  But we sure had fun.

Making perfect sushi rice is an acquired skill, but mine didn’t come out too bad.  We started with medium short grain rice (in general, the shorter the grain the stickier it is), and washed and dried our rice overnight.  To the pot we added a little salt and sugar, plus a small square of kombu (kelp) for flavoring.  When it was cooked and still hot we placed it in a bamboo hangiri (bowl) to cool it and mix it with a solution of sugar, salt, and rice wine vinegar that was heated to dissolve the sugar.  That’s where the skill comes in; you have to cut the rice with the solution and not break the grains.  My rice came out pretty good.  Not five-years-experience good, but still sticky without being mushy.

For the nigiri we had a beautiful hunk of blue fin tuna and another of yellowtail (hamachi).  Chef Oh Really portioned out the fish and I was smart and fast enough to grab the belly cut from the yellowtail (toro!).  He then taught us how to slice at a bias against the grain.  My first few pieces didn’t come out so well but I got the hang of it after a while.

We had all the fixins: wasabi powder, pickled ginger, soy, sesame seeds, sriracha rooster sauce, and nori.  I made nigiri out of my tuna and hamachi toro, and with my trimmings I made a spicy tuna roll with avocado, carrots, and cucumber.  I topped that off with more slices of tuna, hamachi, and avocado, to create a rainbow roll.  I brought chopsticks, a chopstick rest, and a soy sauce dish from home to complete the look.  My chef was impressed with that one.

Sushi plate

And there you have it.  Give me five more years and maybe I’ll be up to snuff.  But I deserve a pat on the back for my first attempt.  I’ve dined in at least three dozen sushi joints over the years and I’d say my plate would have ranked right near the bottom of the top half.

Next up: more grains from around the world.

 

Cuisine Across Cultures: 1st stop –> Morocco

My culinary experiment is entering the home stretch.  Cuisine Across Cultures, my last class before my externship, began this week.  This means a new instructor (I dub him Chef Oh Really because he’s a bit of a kvetch and when somebody asks a dumb question he responds with “really?”), a new set of classmates (mixed bag there), and a brand new syllabus with eclectic dishes from mochi to matzoh (I’m Jewish and still I ask why?).

morrocan-1-of-2

On Day 1 we Pepsi Challenged salt by cooking various chicken pieces each with a different type of salt and no other seasoning.  We sampled Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian red salt, Hawaiian black lava salt, Himalayan pink salt, and plain old kosher.  For my money I preferred the fleur de sel, a grayish looking sea salt made by scraping just the very top layer off the salt pans.  Next we started to discuss various herbs and spices used in international cuisines.

Then we got cooking, and boy did we pick up the pace.  After 6 weeks of baking it was a pleasure to bust out my knives again but I was a little rusty from all that leisure time in the bake shop.  For the first time I had trouble finishing my dishes on time.  That, and Chef Oh Really is a hard nosed stickler for hitting our times.

morrocan-2-of-2

We begin our Around The World In 6 Weeks with the flavors of North Africa (Morocco) and the Middle East.  Lamb Tagine with Lamb Biryani (spiced rice) started us off.  Of course, we don’t have real tagines at LCB, so it was more like a spiced lamb braise.  But I brought a baby tagine to decorate my plate and give you some idea of what it should look like.  My lamb pseudo-tagine came out better than expected after a somewhat rocky start while I tried to get used to the pace again.  The lamb was tender with just the right amount of heartiness, and the Moroccan spices of sumac, preserved lemon, and olives were really unique.  My biryani came out so-so.  Making perfect rice is super tough, especially when you’re busy trying to manage other things, and mine came out a bit on the mushy side.  But it was just day one.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Next up: SUSHI!  Hell-to-the-yes!

I’m no master chef but…. MasterChef Cake Decorating

Le Cordon Bleu has teamed up with the MasterChef television series to teach cooking classes to the public.  Non-professionals far and wide pay $99 a pop to learn a particular skill from an LCB instructor.  And when my baking instructor asked me to serve as her assistant for a cake decorating class, I was bewildered first, then flattered.  As I mentioned, cake decorating is not my forte, but I decided to spend a Saturday pretending it was anyway.

Student set up

Our class consisted of about 15 students and started off the same way as my baking class did, with a demo.  Chef Norris quickly demonstrated how to bake a perfect chiffon cake and how to whip up some icing.  Then she showed a few basic icing skills to get the students started.  We already baked cakes for the students to use to save them time, because the class was focused on decorating, not cake baking.  Each student was given a cake, an apron, side towels, and a recipe packet.  Tools were borrowed and shared.

At my table there was a darling mother/daughter team, two gentlemen (yes, real men decorate cakes) and another lady who wanted to decorate a cake for her handsome fellow.

I showed them a few basics, like how to hold the offset spatula while turning the cake stand, how to color icing, and how to make simple leaves and roses with icing.  Little did they know that just a week ago I learned the same tricks.  I think I fooled them.  Despite my stellar decorating tips, the students were most impressed when I taught them how to tape their cardboard cake circle to the cake carrying case so it didn’t roll around on the car ride home.  I definitely earned my keep with that one.

In the end, my students were happy with their cakes, and I got to call myself sous chef for a day.  Not a bad trade off.

 

A Little Chocolate Now and Then Doesn’t Hurt: Chocolate Truffles

Peanuts sage Charles Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”  I quite agree.  I’ve never been a chocoholic, and when I was younger I was allergic to chocolate.  But even I must admit I get a hankering for dark, rich, velvety chocolate every so often, and when it strikes nothing else will satisfy.

This week we tackled chocolate truffles, and were privileged to learn from the best, chocolatier Susie Norris, author of Chocolate Bliss.  My vocabulary is now filled with terms such as “fat bloom,” “seizing,” “sugar bloom,” and “tempered.”

Chocolate?

Making chocolate is a messy business.  When we finished my chef’s coat was covered in unsightly and very embarrassing brown smears.  Chef Norris didn’t have a smudge on her.  She’s a true professional.

We made two types of chocolate truffles: milk chocolate with a hazelnut cream center, and dark chocolate with a flavored center of our choice; I chose Grand Marnier, Rum, and orange zest.  First we made then refrigerated the centers.  Then we carefully and precisely tempered our chocolate and dipped the centers in.  We placed the dipped truffles on parchment lined sheets, and you have to move them around to avoid a pool of chocolate from collecting on the bottom.  (That’s called a “foot,” and it’s supposedly bad).  After decorating, we were done.  Dark chocolate truffle recipe follows.

Dark and Milk Chocolate Truffles

Hand dipped, artisan chocolates from new chocolatier: me!  And, because I love hearing how people love my cooking, the reviews are in:

“…they are SO DELICIOUS !! They taste like some of the chocolates that I eat when I am in Paris!”  And:

“Well, you can’t go wrong with liqueur in chocolates (I assume that was Grand Marnier in the Dark Chocolate Truffle)—this one was my favorite.  However, I liked the creaminess of the Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle; it hit a home run for me because it wasn’t too sweet and the hazelnut and milk chocolate married well together.  A nice glass of red wine would pair nicely with both.”

Dark and Milk Chocolate Truffles

Home run! Yay!

I’m very sad to say that baking class is now over. Tear!  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and even discovered that there may be a pastry chef in me yet, some day.  Next up: my last culinary class, Cuisine Across Cultures.  More adventures yet to come.

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Serves 30
Prep time 1 hour
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

Filling

  • 8oz Dark chocolate (Use good quality, high cocoa content, I like Valrhona)
  • 4oz Heavy cream
  • 1oz Butter, unsalted
  • Flavoring (For Grand Marnier truffles, use 1/2 oz Grand Marnier, plus 1/2 oz Dark Rum, plus 1 tablespoon orange zest; for Chambord truffles, use 1/2 oz Chambord and a few drops of raspberry flavored extract)

Shell/Coating

  • 8oz Dark chocolate (Tempered, instructions below)

Note

Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu's recipe.

Note- do not drip any water into your chocolate or it will "seize" on you and won't be usable.  Be sure to keep all of your utensils, molds, etc. bone dry so no moisture contaminates your chocolate.

Directions

1.
Make the filling: chop chocolate and place in medium bowl. Scald cream in sauce pan. Pour hot cream over chocolate, add butter and whisk until melted. Add flavoring and stir until combined. Pour into an 8 oz container or into chocolate molds and chill overnight in fridge or for 30 minutes in freezer to set the filling.
2.
If you didn't use molds, scoop out bite size amounts of the filling and roll in your hands to make rounded centers. Or use a small chocolate cutter or cookie cutter to make shapes. Chill centers again.
3.
Temper chocolate for shell: Heat sauce pan of water until boiling, then turn off flame. Place 8 oz. of dark chocolate in a bowl that sits over the hot water (double boiler). Stir until chocolate melts. Using a candy thermometer, make sure the chocolate reaches exactly 115 degrees then remove from the double boiler. Place bowl over ice bath, stirring constantly until temperature drops to 82 degrees, exactly. Once the temperature drops the chocolate will be thicker. To make it easier to work with you can put it back over the hot water to raise the temperature again to no more than 90 degrees. You now have tempered chocolate. (This helps give it a nice shine and makes sure it will harden). Make sure you use the tempered chocolate immediately and constantly test the temperature to ensure it stays between 85-90 degrees. If you mess up any of these temperatures, don’t throw out the chocolate, just start over by heating it to exactly 115 degrees, then cool to 82 degrees, then back up to 85-90 degrees.
4. Dip your chilled centers into the tempered chocolate, making sure they're coated evenly. (They have chocolate dipper pokers especially for this, or a fondu poker works, or you can use your hands but it gets messy). Place them on a sheet lined with parchment paper and move them around so a pool of chocolate does not form at the base. Chill.
5.
Decorate by adding more melted tempered chocolate to a small ziploc and cut a very tiny hole to drizzle chocolate over your truffles. Or brush on gold or colored "luster dust" (available at professional baking supply shops).

Getting Artsy: Plated Desserts (and chocolate souffle recipe)

In fine dining, a beautiful plate comes second only to tasty food.  Talented chefs transform every plate into elaborate works of edible art.  When the patron is torn between devouring a plate because it looks and smells so delicious and regretting the first bite because it ruins the gorgeous aesthetic, the chef knows he’s done a good job.  The pastry chef is especially tasked with pushing the envelope to create stunning yet delectable desserts.  In Le Cordon Bleu’s bakeshop, we spent 2 days learning basic plating techniques.  Not nearly enough time but it’s a start.

Vanilla bean ice cream

Now I’m a bit clumsy, and a bit impatient, and really not so artistic (despite being left-handed).  So plating can be a challenge for a girl like me with two right thumbs.  But I gave it my best shot.  We made 5 plated desserts: vanilla ice cream in an edible bowl, creme brulee, cheesecake, chocolate souffle, and the classic Bananas Foster.  To make our plates pretty we also made raspberry coulis (raspberry sauce), chocolate sauce, creme anglaise (aka “the mother sauce” of the bakeshop), and tuile (pronounced “tweel”), which are fortune cookie like confections that can be molded into bowls and other fun shapes for garnish.

Bruleeing the brulee

The vanilla ice cream was a cinch, especially when you have a $6k commercial ice cream maker that goes from liquid to soft-serve in 6 minutes flat.  My edible tuile bowl was lovely and I’m starting to get the hang of writing in cursive in chocolate.  The artful “smear” of chocolate sauce didn’t fare too well (though I’ve never been a fan of the smear).

Plating cheesecake

The creme brulee (French for “burnt cream”) was easy.  All you really need to do is make a custard (we used fresh vanilla bean for extra fanciness), strain it, bake it, add a generous coat of sugar and set that baby aflame.

Next up, cheesecake.  Here’s where we were supposed to get imaginative.  I came up with a whimsical butterfly design, which I made by squirting the chocolate outline, then chilling until it hardened to form my border.  I filled that in with creme anglaise, and for accents I used cut-outs of kiwi and raspberry coulis.  I topped the cheesecake with a tuile twist.  Pretty, yes? It only took me two tries (my raspberry squirt out too fast the first time and made my butterfly bleed).

Plated cheesecake

The souffle was a first for me.  I always thought souffles were complicated, delicate, and required tiptoeing around the kitchen to avoid making the souffle fall.  I was delighted to be wrong about that one as they were surprisingly easy to make.  Mine puffed up just like it was supposed to.  For service we poured creme anglaise right in the middle.  Oh-my-stars was it good!  I think the souffle was a personal highlight of baking for me.  I can’t wait to impress my next dinner party guests!  Fun stuff.  You should definitely try it- you’ll be surprised how fun they are to make.  I’ll even give you the recipe I adapted from Le Cordon Bleu to get you started.  Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise recipe, below.  [Note- your extra creme anglaise makes the most spectacular cream for your coffee.  A little trick I learned when we ran out of creamer yesterday].

Plating chocolate souffle

Finally, the Bananas Foster.  Fun to light liquour (rum and Grand Marnier) on fire and yell “Flambe!,” but kind of a hot mess on the plate. [See pics in gallery, above]. Our instructor said it’s supposed to look that way.  This wasn’t my favorite.  Way too sweet.  If I do it again I’d add orange segments to cut that sweetness.

Now that I have the basics, I need to get practicing.  I wish I paid more attention in grammar school when they taught cursive.

Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise

Serves 4-6
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

Souffle base

  • 1 1/2oz Bread flour
  • 1 1/2oz Unsalted Butter
  • 8oz Whole milk
  • 2oz Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 3oz Semi-sweet chocolate

Meringue

  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1oz Granulated sugar

Creme Anglaise

  • 8oz Whole milk
  • 4oz Heavy cream
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 3 1/2oz Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Vanilla bean (seeds scraped, or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract))

Note

Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu's recipe

Directions

1. First make the creme anglaise. Put the milk, cream, and about half of the sugar in a sauce pan. Split the vanilla bean in half. Using the back of your knife, scrape out the tiny brown seeds and add the seeds and the leftover bean to your pan. Heat the milk mixture until it scalds (tiny bubbles on the sides of the pan, not a rolling boil).
2. Whisk the yolks and the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl until yellow and frothy. Temper the yolks by pouring in a tiny bit of hot milk mixture to the yolk mixture while whisking, then add a tiny bit more, continue to whisk, keep doing this until you’ve added about half of the milk mixture. Tempering prevents you from cooking the egg yolks, that’s bad.
3. Pour the tempered yolk mixture back in the sauce pan with your milk mixture so now everything is together. Place back on low to medium heat and stir constantly. You’re creme anglaise is done when the mixture thickens to “nappe” consistency (it coats the back of a wooden spoon), about 5 minutes.
4. Place a clean bowl over some ice, and strain your creme anglaise through a fine mesh sieve into the clean bowl. The ice will help it cool.
5. Next make the souffle base. Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat and add the flour. Make a roux by stirring the flour until it forms a smoothe thick paste. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes over medium heat so the starchiness cooks out. You don’t want your roux to start browining. Remove roux from pan and set aside.
6. In the pan, add 2 oz sugar and the milk and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and milk scalds (small bubbles form on sides of pan. Not a rolling boil). Remove from heat and add the roux back in. Stir with whisk until a thick creamy paste forms and there are no lumps. Taste to make sure it doesn’t taste starchy, like raw flour. If it does, cook on low heat until the starchiness goes away.
7. Make a French meringue. Add egg whites to mixing bowl. Mix on high for about 30 seconds to get the eggs started. Add 1 oz sugar to egg whites and mix until medium stiff peaks form. (Remove whisk attachments and invert. If the whites left on the end just start to crest over like a wave, you’re done. If they drip off, mix some more. If they stand up straight you’ve gone too far).
8. Carefully fold the meringue into the souffle base 1/3 at a time. Do not over mix and be gentle. Stop when egg whites are incorporated.
9. Prepare 6 3-inch ramekins by coating bottom and sides with butter. Then add a little sugar and roll around until sugar adheres to egg. Wipe tops and sides of ramekins clean.
10. Pour souffle batter into prepared ramekins almost to the top of the ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until souffle is set in the center. Souffle will puff up a lot.
11. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. If you wait too long your souffle will deflate again, not pretty. When it’s in front of your guest, split the souffle in the middle with a spoon and pour in 1 oz of creme anglaise directly in the center.