Working on Retro Desserts. Decided to test out a snickers ice box cake. Layers of vanilla cheesecake, peanut caramel, ganache and honey roasted peanuts. All covered in chocolate and maldon salt.
We’ll see if it ever makes it to a menu.
We had a doughnut photo shoot today, (ya, that’s a thing,) and after the shoot I called my staff out for what will forever be known as the Best. Meeting. Ever! The topics were the same… blah blah blah. But the snacks were, well, just check out the picture
Oh, and the two lovely chefs in the photo are Hannah and Chris, my super duper sous chefs. They work so hard the least I could do is set them up with some coffee and doughnuts, right?
We know our cooks can cook. We are constantly impressed with their work ethic and talent, working 14 hours a day to make food they are proud of. But besides family meal, (which they take very seriously,) we haven’t see what our cooks at Birch and Barley can come up with from scratch. So naturally we were really excited when NRG decided to do an iron chef style contest at each restaurant. The winners will compete in a BBQ-off at the company picnic in a few weeks.
Each restaurant was to come up with their own rules for their contest. We decided to give a nod to Cochon 555, a pig centric cooking competition held yearly, by having our own version, Cochon 666. Get it. With all the whole pigs we have been getting in at Birch and Barley, it just seemed appropriate. The rules were as follows:
Oh, and did I mention each restaurant had to get a “celebrity judge”… We were lucky enough to lure in Nycci Nellis, who offered a great, positive energy sprinkled with just the right amount of critique. Perfect.
So it began. Pastry Assistant Jes Kearney, Meat Cook Mike Hanney, Entremet Gennaro Esposito and Hot apps cook Paul Kostandin spent 90 minutes cooking and I was one of the lucky taste testers! Pork & black garlic sausage with pan seared gnocchi and pesto, stuffed pan roasted loin with fried green tomatoes, shaved ice – Philly style and half smoke with the most perfect spaetzel I’ve ever had. Hanney even rigged a smoker out of two pots and a beer pipe. In the end it was Paul that took the prize, (although it was close… everything was really really great!) His menu was amazing! Appetizer of tortelloni stuffed with cranberry bean purse served with seared bacon/veg and pan seared deviled pork liver. The liver was so creamy. The entree was seared pork loin with grilled watermelon, a spicy stir fry of bok choy & sugar snap peas, and a biscuit puree. For dessert Paul made a puree of plums and ginger which he drizzled over shaved ice then topped with whipped cream and candied ginger.
Besides bragging rights, which is the best prize of all, Paul won a gift card to Woodberry Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants, and a trophy unlike any I’ve ever seen. A pig skull painted red with… well, you can see it in the pictures below.
It was a proud moment for both Kyle and I, watching our young, aspiring chefs create and be judged by us and themselves, (Kyle was sure to tell his cooks the self judging was going to be the hardest part… Having people taste your food when you know there are things that could be better.) I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Now, on to the show…
I have lots of toys in the kitchen. Everything from a giant ice cream machine that churns two gallons at a time, to a refractometer that measures the amount of sugar in a sorbet. I love all my toys but I could get along without a lot of them. Here are my 5 favorite kitchen tools and my favorite brand of each. I love them in both my home and professional kitchen and I think you will too.
1) The Offset Spatula
Great for decorating cakes and transferring delicate projects, an offset spatula is a great tool to have around the kitchen. I recommend getting it in 2 sizes, a 4″ and an 8″. The best bang for your buck is Ateco. It will get the job done for a reasonable price.
2) The Balloon Whisk
Promise me you will never buy cool whip or canned whipped cream again. Please. It is way too easy to make your own whipped cream. All you need is cold heavy cream, a bowl and a balloon whisk. Simple. If you like it sweet add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar for every 2 cups of cream you whip. Homemade whipped cream is delicious and an easy way to impress people. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know you can whip your own cream. Unless you are going to whip a lot of cream I’d stick with a medium size whisk, like this one, which I have and love.
3) The Bowl Scraper
This might seem like an extra tool you can skip. You can just use a rubber spatula to get all the product out of a bowl, right. Sure, I guess you can BUT using a bowl scraper is ideal. It is firm yet pliable, allowing you make one swift swoop through almost any batter or dough and remove it all, leaving next to nothing behind. In every kitchen I’ve worked in, a bowl scraper is a sacred tool. We have about a dozen of them, always an arms length away. For a few bucks it’s worth a try if you bake a lot at work or home.
4) The Gram Scale
Most people resist buying a scale as long as they can. ”It’s too fussy” or “I don’t need one” are comments I hear form home cooks all the time. The fact is you don’t need one, but your world will open up if you make the investment. There are so many great chefs out there that post recipes in ounces and grams. Plus, if you want something to be as close to perfect as possible every time, a scale will help achieve that. Plus, I can measure 12 cups of flour 12 times faster with a scale… In a kitchen, every second you save is an extra second to work on something fun. When buying a gram scale you want to make sure it goes in single increments. Some go up by 5 grams at a time so try to avoid that. After all, you are getting this to be more accurate, right? My favorite scale is the Escali digital scale. I keep one in my car at all times just in case (true story!) It runs forever and has a 5 year warranty, so in most cases you can get it replaced if something does happen.
5) The Immersion Blender
This is, by far, the tool I am most obsessed with. If you work for me chances are this has been your birthday or Christmas gift at some point along the way. If you want it smooth and it isn’t, this will do the trick. If you need to make a caramel shiny, this will do the trick. Making corn ice cream and need it to infuse more? No problem, just hit it with the immersion blender. My cooks know nine times out of ten my solution to anything liquid needing help will be “Did you try using the immersion blender on it?” They can be a bit fussy so I usually stay away from models with multiple attachments but I do like when the bottom half is removable for easy cleaning.
I could keep going on and on about all the tools I love and I can’t promise that you will love these particular models as much as I do, (it takes years and lots of trail and error to figure out what works best for you,) but it’s a good start.
Kyle and I LOVE BRUNCH… Of course we like eating it but unlike most chefs we like cooking it as well. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant with brunch you probably know that not many chefs love (or even like,) working Sunday brunch. You are exhausted from Saturday night service and you can count on the fact that someone will be late. The menu doesn’t include your normal mise en place so setting up the stations is a pain. You can count on every customer ordering at the same time. It basically has all the ingredients to create what is known as an epic sh*t show.
But the food is oh so good and the guests are all happy to be there. And it doesn’t hurt that at brunch it is socially acceptable to consume alcohol before noon…
Last Sunday, between frying doughnuts and baking sticky buns, I scurried around the kitchen snapping pictures of brunch service at Birch and Barley… Hope it inspires you to get off your bum on Sunday morning and get some brunch. If you come to Birch I recommend the Corned Beef Hash with Duck Eggs or the French Toast… I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!
When close friends of mine get married I LOVE to make their wedding cake. It’s such an important part of the day and it takes a huge cost and stress off their plate. My friends Jem and Ann-Margret were married last weekend in NY and I wasn’t able to attend (Boo!) but I did send a pretty cake for them to enjoy. Congratulations!!!
This post is more than just a recipe for gluten free brownies. Don’t get me wrong, the recipe is awesome. You can make them with the reccomended gluten free flour blend or all purpose if you don’t need them to be gluten free. The result either way will be the same: fudgy, rich brownies! If you served them without mentioning they are gluten free no one would ever know. But what I love about this recipe is where it came from.
Chef’s careers are built on blood, sweat and reputation. For a chef, pastry chef especially, this “reputation” is usually built from desserts based on recipes that have taken countless hours to perfect. They are the lifeline of a pastry chef’s career. I should point out that an amazing recipe left in the hands of an uninspired chef won’t yield the same result; it takes years of training to make a series of simple (or complicated) recipes combine into one plate in perfect balance. But at the start of it all, is a great recipe.
When it comes to gluten free cooking I have spent lots of time reading about it but not a lot of time executing it. Not because I don’t want to, because it’s hard to find the time. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I often tell people to follow @ideasinfood. They send tweets throughout the day that get your creative juices flowing, share ideas and techniques and even their recipes on their website and in their book (which you should get right now!). They are the kind of chefs that I aspire to be: they willingly share what they have learned, inspiring new ideas, and ultimately, greatness from cooks and chefs all over the world. The internet is an amazing thing!
Their gluten free flour blend is what I used as a base to make these brownies and because of it, I now have a product I can proudly share with guests at Buzz Bakery. I only had to make one small adjustment. I substituted the arrowroot for 1.5 times the amount of cornstarch. Sometimes great ideas just give you a jumping off point and you run with it from there.
A few days after trying this recipe out my sous chef tested out a gluten free brioche, again using an Ideas in Food gluten free blend, a little extra xantham gum and my brioche recipe. It turned out amazing and now we can offer great gluten free french toast for brunch at Birch & Barley. Stay tuned for that recipe as well!
So now you can see why this brownie recipe is so much more than just another gluten free brownie recipe. It is proof that one great recipe or idea can inspire another and that there are extremely talented chefs out there willing to share ideas to move food forward. I know this soundy cheesy but I love this part of my job! Enjoy!
PS- This recipe is sized down from the giant size we do at Buzz to a more manageable size that can be made at home. It is however in gram measurements. Don’t fret! If you are a serious home cook and you don’t have a scale yet it’s time to invest! Here is a link to the scale I have at home (and at work for smaller projects.) I just LOVE this model… Reasonably priced and very accurate.
GLUTEN FREE (or regular if you like) BROWNIE RECIPE
340 grams butter
198 grams 100% unsweetened chocolate
57 grams dark chocolate (I like 72% E. Guittard)
450 grams sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp espresso powder
150 grams sugar
265 grams Ideas in Food GF Flour Blend, substituting the arrowroot for 1.5 time the weight in cornstarch (or equal parts All Purpose Flour)
2 cups toasted walnuts (optional)
1) Place the butter, 100% chocolate and dark chocolate into a bowl over a double boiler. Keep the heat on low and stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
2) While the chocolate is melting place the eggs and the smaller amount of sugar (150 grams) into a bowl and whip until nearly at the ribbon stage (light and foamy but not super thick)
3) Once the chocolate is meted remove from heat. Add the larger amount of sugar (450 grams,) salt, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk to combine.
4) Fold in the whipped eggs. Sift the all purpose or gf flour blend over the chocolate mixture and stir in until smooth. Add the toasted walnuts last.
5) Spread into a sprayed quarter sheet tray lined with parchment and sprayed. (If you are making these at home a traditional 11×7 brownie pan should do the trick but may require a few additional minutes to cook.) Bake at 300 degrees in a professional convections oven (325 degrees at home) checking after 20 minutes (it may take up to 30 minutes depending on the oven and fan speed.) A small pairing knife inserted into the center of the brownies should come out clean when the brownies are done. Cool before cutting (if you can wait that long!)
These are great so many ways. At the shop we serve them in individual pans with all kinds of fun things in or on them. Just remove the espresso powder and walnuts and you’ve got a great base recipe. Nutella cheesecake swirled on top. Peanut Butter cookie dough baked right in. But the best way to eat them is warm with a scoop of ice cream on top. Oh, and thanks Ideas in Food, you are an inspiration, as always!
Simple flavors that everyone knows. Fresh peaches dressed with lightly whipped cream. Maybe a drizzle of honey or a touch of vanilla. Here we present it in a new way. Creme fraiche panna cotta made with buttermilk and lemon for tang. Around it, a thin layer of roasted yellow peach puree, set lightly with gelatin. Served with the flavors of a classic peach melba trifle: crumbled home made nilla wafers, raspberry sorbet, peach sorbet, torn poppy seed pound cake, raspberry-lime gel and fresh fruit. Created for an Art Culinaire feature, (but I thought it would be fun to show you exactly how we did it…)
Perfect, simple flavors… slightly re-imagined.
Stay tuned for the full recipe when the issue comes out in June/July!
Today I had the honor of doing a photo shoot with the Founder of Art Culinaire, Franz Mitterer, and their AMAZING photographer Steve Legato. (Let me take this moment to say if you love food and don’t subscribe to this magazine stop reading this now and SUBSCRIBE!)
The story was on trifles. I was asked to do one traditional layered trifle and 5-6 trifle inspired dishes. This has been a dream of mine since the bringing of my career. Not to date myself but that’s 11 years of waiting for this day. Needless to say I was honored. I wanted to really go all out and do desserts I have never done before. The night before the shoot I could barely sleep, worrying if everything would go smoothly the next day. It did! And a big thanks to Alex and Chris, my amazing sous chefs from Buzz and Birch & Barley who worked late Sunday and early Monday to help me pull this off!