Friday, April 18, 2014

Lê techniquê : How to Make Caramel Decorations

One of the biggest differences between a dessert from a pastry shop and your dessert made at home is probably the lack of decoration that yours has.  Usually when we casually bake at home we don't put too much effort to decorate it. But what if I told you that you could create amazing sugar decorations just like the ones used in a pastry shop in less than 15 minutes? Yes, the dry method used here to make caramel is a quick and easy technique to achieve that dark amber color fast and without all the hassle of brushing the sides of the pan and etc as the sugar melts.

With the caramel in the right consistency and a ladle it's possible to create a sugar cage. As this same caramel cools down a little bit it's possible to caramelize nuts and create an amazing "tear drop" effect from it. Just by pinching the sugar in the pan with the tips of your fingers and pulling it up it's possible to create an infinite thread of sugar that can be formed into a beautiful ball also known as sugar nest.

Sugar really is versatile and you don't always need a thermometer to work with it. Checking its consistency is really the best way to know when to re-heat it or to keep going as is. To pull threads of sugar for example it's necessary that the caramel has cooled down a little bit and testing it with a fork is always a good idea. If you pull the caramel and it leaves a thread behind it's time to start pulling this baby like crazy.

Things to keep in mind while working with caramel:

1. It burns fast so keep an eye at it at all times
2. The hotter it is the thinner and more liquid it will be. This stage is great to make caramel drawings and to create cages
3. The colder it is the harder (in consistency) it gets 
4. As it cools down too much it starts cracking and breaking easily so it gets harder to work with it.  Re-heat it as many times as you wish but always at a low heat to avoid continuing cooking
5. Caramel melts when in contact with liquids and when refrigerated. Keep it in a cool and dry place.
6. To clean up a pan with a hard rock caramel sitting in it, soak the pan in water overnight and by the morning the caramel should be completely dissolved.

Hope you enjoy this episode. To learn how to make homemade cotton candy click here. Keep in mind  that the sugar decoration will also add a great texture to your dessert! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The True Red Velvet Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

No cake is more overrated than the Red Velvet Cake. Red is color and won't taste like anything no matter how much you love this classic. 
I battled a lot with myself before I decided to make this episode for you because even though I've always knew I'd create a tastier healthier version of it for you I still thought that maybe the world didn't need another recipe on how to make a red cake. But guess what? The world didn't need another red cake recipe but it desperately needed an updated version of it! 

After perfecting a technique that I've always enjoyed (using veggies as dyes) i thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to create this episode with an all natural batter and a twist on a classic frosting: Goat Cheese instead of Cream Cheese. 

My technique used here to reduce the beet juice leaves almost no taste at all in the cake batter. The juice brings an unusual (but very pleasant) sweetness to the cake and a very good texture as well. It's beautiful to see how betanin (natural pigment from the beets) are powerful and fabulous to play with.

My idea to use goat cheese in the frosting was very simple: people love cream cheese frostings because of its tanginess and no cheese knows better about tanginess than goat cheese. Chèvre when mixed with sugar and extract is unrecognizable, all that there's left is a rich piquant flavor, lovely! 

Regarding the traditional method for making the Red Velvet Cake I can't say much otherwise I'll maybe hurt your feelings. I believe we always need to know what we are putting into our bodies and if a recipe gives more importance to the aesthetic created by an ingredient than for the ingredient itself this recipe is mediocre. That said has a lot to do with what a red velvet cake represents, a regular cake famous for being brightly red using chemicals to make the appearance of it appealing.  

The red color found in the traditional red velvet cake comes from an artificial food dye made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum. Sometimes a single recipe calls for an entire bottle of it. Independent studies have shown how each artificial color harms your body and the red color (specifically) can trigger hyperactive behavior, is highly allergenic and has shown to contribute to cancer , including brain , testicular tumors and colon cancer. I'd suggest you to read more about this matter and then maybe you will conclude that this recipe I made goes a little beyond the challenge of creating a bright color with only natural ingredients, it's a cake revolution! ;)

1 1/2 cup unbleached flour (it has to be unbleached)
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp natural cocoa powder (don't use dutch processed)
3/4 cup reduced beet juice (made from approximately 6 beets). Don't use beets from a can or industrialized beet juice because it doesn't contain enough betanin to color your cake.  
1 tsp rice vinegar (you can use other vinegars)
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g unsalted butter at room temperature (8 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk 
All ingredients must be at room temperature. 
110g cream cheese (4oz)
110 grams goat cheese (chèvre- 4oz)
2 cups confectioner's sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
Mixed red fruits to decorate such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. (optional)

1- Preheat oven at 350F. 
2- Juice the beets in a juicer and pour it in a small saucepan. You can also use a food processor instead and puree it with 2 cups of water and sift it. Over medium heat reduce the beet juice to 3/4 of a cup. Let it cool and add vinegar and lemon. 
3- In a bowl add flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder. Reserve.
4- In a mixer or using a whisk cream the butter with sugar until pale yellow. Add eggs (one at a time), vanilla and buttermilk. As soon as the buttermilk goes on stop whisking it. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. 
5- Add the beet juice with the acids and stir it to combine.
6- Butter and flour a 9" baking pan or three 5" mini pans. 
7- Pour batter over it and bake it for approximately 35 minutes in the middle rack or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. 
8- To make the frosting add all the ingredients together and whisk it for 5 minutes until very fluffy and combined (in a mixer or by hand).
9- Let the cake cool completely before frosting otherwise the cheeses will melt. Serve it with red fruits on top! 

Enjoy the tasty redness and don't forget your 3D glasses !

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Official Dulce Delight Trailer

Few days ago I had to comp some of my work into a short video for a presentation that I was doing. While going through new and old footages I decided to create the official video trailer for Dulce Delight because I have way too many cool shots not to share with you all ;) (ok, I sound pretentious here but I'm really proud of the work I've accomplished by myself with zero external help ). 

The problem was that I had to explain my whole work in little less than 2 minutes. That was hard! So hard! Not visually because that part I knew I could accomplish easily but the verbal part, the text, that 2 minutes I had to say everything that Dulce Delight is. My work is a mixture between my love for art, food and sustainability working together to achieve a better reputation for desserts. I also believe in a better world made by people with better intentions spreading more information. My road was long before I even got here so perhaps I had way too much to say. 

A good friend of mine told me the other day that if you can't explain a concept in one sentence (almost like a slogan) than your idea is probably not strong enough. I agree with him but when it comes to our lives the concept is way  deeper and complex (and Dulce Delight is my life, big part of it at least).

Anyways, I accepted the "challenge" (that was never really a challenge) and decided to legitimate what Dulce Delight represented to me in few sentences (c'mom, I couldn't do only one). I'm not sure if I accomplished that but the bottom line is that it was very rewarding to me to see the consistency of my work in every single take I've done in my videos. The colors , the information, the humor, everything. That was so me!

All of that thinking made me think of one more thing... I'm curious to know how would YOU describe Dulce Delight in only one sentence? Leave a comment here and my favorite ones will be posted on social media with credits, of course! Can't wait to hear that from you cause sometimes the way people pursuit you is not the same way you see yourself.  



Friday, March 14, 2014

Lê techniquê: How to create sugar thread

In this episode I will teach you how to create a beautiful sugar decoration called sugar nest or sugar thread without candy thermometer. Learning how to properly work with sugar will ensure a very sophisticated look to your pastries because you can create dozens of different designs using the same technique. The sugar thread technique is also known as homemade cotton candy and it's extremely delicate.

Here you can understand the difference between sugar temperatures and how the stages are called:

Soft Ball: 116º - 118ºC
Perfect for Italian Meringues

Hard Ball: 125ºC
Perfect for fondant, marzipan and marshmallow

Soft Crack: 134ºC
Perfect for nougat and taffy

Hard Crack: 145ºC
Perfect for all sorts of decorations, glazed fruits, hard candy and pulled sugar

Caramel: 160º - 182ºC
The hotter the temperature is the darker the caramel will get and the stronger the flavor will be. Perfect for brittles, pralines, glazed nuts, etc…

On the next episode of Lê techniquê you will learn how to glaze fruits, nuts and how to create caramel cage.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Moelleux au Dulce de Leche

Not many people know but this blog was named after the south american treasure called Dulce de Leche. Many people still confuse Dulce de Leche for caramel but it's important for people to understand the differences between them because they don't have much in common aside from their similar color.
Dulce de leche should be considered a milk preserve because it's basically the reduction of milk (with sugar) that creates that beautiful amber color cream that can be kept for a long time in jar. After cooking for several hours the milk reduces and the sugar caramelizes, the constant stirring and the baking soda ensures that no sugar caramelizes slowly without any sugar lumps. Luckily we can buy suberb Dulce de Leche in almost any grocery store. My favorite ones are: The Fat Toad Farm from Vermont , La Salamandra from Argentina and Viçosa from Brazil (unfortunately this one is not sold in the US). 

This was the ingredient that inspired me to create this simple comfort dessert called Moulleux (soft cake, molten cake, whatever you want to call it). My idea was to come up with something with as little ingredients as possible so this way the main ingredient would really shine through.  This is one of those desserts that the texture by itself has the ability to comfort you, in fact this recipe is the true definition of comfort dessert! 

I once read an article that pointed to some trendy adjectives that apparently people was overusing in the food world. Some of them were: gooey, oozy, gloopy, luscious, decadent and rich. Actually I'm not sure if all of these words were listed in the article but you got my point. The problem of overusing such powerful adjectives all the time is that when you finally come up with a recipe that fits into all categories (like my moelleux) there is no word powerful enough to describe its deliciousness.  

This episode is the true definition of food porn and if those (overused) adjectives wasn't enough to convince you to make this, you sure will change your mind after you watch this video.

1 egg
2 egg yolks
600g dulce de leche or cajeta (made with goat's milk) - 2 cups 
2 1/2 tbsp flour (not full)
for serving:
1/2 cup crème fraîche or greek yogurt (optional)

8 individual tin molds, ramekins or muffin pan

for homemade dulce de leche:
8 cups whole milk
3 cups regular sugar
1 tsp baking soda
yields 2 cups 

yields 8 small tin molds 
Preheat the oven at 425F.
Using room temperature butter brush inside the individual molds or ramekins. You could even use a muffin pan. Add flour and shake it well ensuring that all the interior is coated. In a stand mixer or by hand whisk the egg and egg yolks until very fluffy and pale. Add the dulce de leche and continue whisking until it's fully incorporated. 
Add the flour and stir by hand. 
Pour the batter into the individual molds leaving a little room on top. Place them in a baking pan and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are baked but the center is still very wobble. 
Run a knife around the edges and unmold it warm. Serve immediately with a spoonfull of crème fraîche  or greek yogurt.

For dulce de leche:
Over low heat add sugar and milk in a big pan. Stir slowly until the sugar crystals are dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and add baking soda. Continue stirring until it foams. Remove the foam from the surface and continue stirring slowly until it reduces and thickens, approximately 2 hours (do not stop stirring). As soon as you get to see the bottom of the pan as you stir it, turn off your heat, it's thick enough. At this point it should have a deep amber color.  Let it cool, it will thicken even more as it cools.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What's the difference between dairy products?

Have you always wondered the difference between cream, half and half, heavy cream, double cream, clotted cream, creme fraiche, sour cream, mascarpone and buttermilk ? Well, I thought so.
In this episode you will learn the basic difference between all these products and how to use them interchangeably.   Watch and see the magic of the holy milk happens right in front of your eyes!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Blueberry Pie with Purple Crust

Every time I make a classic such as a Blueberry Pie I wonder how much more information does people still need regarding a well discussed subject like pies. Even though there are zillions of recipes and tips out there to make the perfect pie I've always felt a lack of straight forward information on how to achieve perfection in every single step of it. Some recipes focuses on how to make lattice, some others on how to make the perfect crust. Very rarely the filling is part of the discussion and that is the reason why I came up with this post. I wanted to share a detailed instructions and explanations regarding all the ingredients involved in baking the most perfect pie from crust to filling, from correct temperatures  to decorations on top.

In general all pies look the same to me (with very little exemptions). Some ornaments around the edges are scrumptious but nothing like you'd want to do in a daily basis. Yes, a pie is definitely something that could be made in a daily bases. My "decoration" approach was coloring the crust inspired by the color of my filling- purple! I used my natural food coloring and added it instead of the water required in the recipe. Either way will work, you can add my natural food coloring as the liquid if you want colored crust or plain water if you want a regular pie crust. There's nothing fancy about this pie, the ingredients are not hard to find and the technique doesn't require planing in advance so yes, pies shouldn't be restricted to holidays and pie competitions only, and that is why this recipe is the first one of my new season in my brand new kitchen!

Along this episode I'll go through the process of creating the ultimate pie with flaky crust, soft filling and beautiful lattice on top. 
A pie doesn't require many ingredients to be made but every single one of them is very important: 

The fat: The most important ingredient in the crust. Butter is the best option because it provides great flavor, elasticity and flakiness. It doesn't melt as easily because it contains less water in its components as opposed to margarine. Margarine has only 35% butterfat so most of its components are liquids. Liquids are not welcomed in a dough such as the pie crust because it makes the dough fragile (hard to roll out) and tough as well. Besides all these reasons margarine is something created in a lab and no one will ever convince me that it's healthier than a natural ingredient such as butter. Just few years ago the food industry found out that trans fats were true poison to our health so it could take them another 20 years to find out the true about margarine. 

The thickening agent in the filling: The most common is cornstarch. Cornstarch is a very powerful thickening agent but it makes you pay the price: it impacts the flavor of the thickened ingredient a lot. In case of the fruits it lacks all the tartness from it and creates an uniform not exiting flavor. Flour is less powerful as a thickening agent because flour is composed of many components such as protein so you'd need a lot of flour to to thicken something and the result is always a gummy texture and a raw flour taste. 
The best thickening agent for pie filling is potato starch. It will maintain the flavor of the fruits intact but help the juices thicken up to allow a slice to be served to perfection without running juices all over. 

The temperature: To me the third most important step in the process of making a pie. In the beginning the ingredients should be cold to avoid the development of the gluten inherent in the protein of the flour. When the pie is ready to bake the oven should be preheated at 500f and the pie should be placed in the lower rack. The drastic temperature change will crisp up the crust. After it browns on top it should be baked for an extra 35min or until the filling starts to bubble.

3 cups all purpose flour 
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
240g butter (17 tbsp or two sticks + 3 tbsp)
6-8 tbsp cold water or cold natural food coloring (I used blackberry juice) 
30 oz fresh blueberries (850g)
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of all spice (can be substituted for cinnamon) 
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp potato starch
makes one 9" pie 

Now, excuse me that I'll welcome myself again in my new kitchen  by eating another piece of this classic!