Q&A with Tam Trinh of Sugarlips Cakes

Originally from California, Tam realized at an early age that she had a great passion for both art and baking. With her desire to bring both of these passions together, she found her ultimate passion in patisserie. Sugarlips Cakes was started in September 2012, when Tam moved to The Netherlands, for love, and started the company with her (now) husband, Luc.

Current job: Owner and Cake Artist at Sugarlips Cakes (Utrecht, the Netherlands)

Hometown: Newport Beach, California

Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts

Graduation year: 2011

One food/beverage you can’t live without: Shockingly, not a dessert, though it comes in a very close second. But I cannot live without red meat!

Describe your culinary POV in three words: Less is more.

Best meal of all time: FG Restaurant (Rotterdam, NL), 2 Michelin Stars. The dessert was so inspiring that I ended up ordering a second dessert just to taste more of their creative combinations. I asked them to go as crazy as possible and surprise me, and in the end it included vanilla ice cream with caramelized macadamia nuts, blue label olive oil, and liver. It was absolutely delicious and so inventive!

sugarlips_cakes3

What were you doing before you attended International Culinary Center?

I was actually studying studio arts at the University of California, Irvine. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do in life, but I did it to make my parents happy and to have a back-up. I always knew I wanted to do something more towards a creative path, and pushed myself to graduate a year early so I could immediately enroll in ICC.

How did you choose your specialty?

Though I loved everything that I learned in my time at ICC, when we got to the cake curriculum, I knew I was at home. I absolutely loved making and decorating cakes, and once Ron Ben-Israel came to teach our class, I was sure this was what I wanted to do with my life. I have always loved details and small handwork, and this was where I could incorporate that into what I love.

sugarlips_cakes2

Why did you choose International Culinary Center?

I did a lot of research on different culinary schools and ICC kept coming up as the best and most well rounded. I really knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in school anymore, and the fact that ICC had an intensive course, sounded perfect to me. The caliber of chefs also greatly appealed to me, as everyone seemed to come from a very experienced background. The last big draw was that it was located right in the heart of New York City!

How did you enjoy attending school in New York City? Did you find the energy of the city and its culinary scene enhanced your experience?

New York is truly the best place to learn about food. There are so many influences and you can literally find anything you want in the city. The energy gives you a certain drive which makes you feel like you want to do even more and perform even better and my time in NY got even better with the experience of all the chefs at school and their tips on where to find the best pastries and restaurants. I really think that is you can survive this industry in New York, you should be able to blossom anywhere else.

sugarlips_cakes1

Did you have goals upon graduation?

I always knew that I wanted to own my own cake shop. I didn’t know how it would be possible or when/where, but I did know I needed more experience first. I interned at Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York and then further went on to work in California at It’s All About the Cake. When my long distance relationship with my then boyfriend (now husband) took me all the way to The Netherlands, I decided it was time to go for it!

How did International Culinary Center contribute to achieving those goals?

The knowledge I gained about pastries made me very well rounded and the training I received taught me to work in an organized and quick way. I now own my own cake shop in the Netherlands with my husband, and after being open for only two years we were awarded with the Dutch Wedding Award for Best Wedding Cake Specialist in the Netherlands! Now, in our third year we have gathered a great team around us and will be creating 200 wedding cakes this year. We also have very big plans for the upcoming year, but can’t quite disclose that information yet!

Find Sugarlips Cakes online:

Website // Instagram // Facebook

sugarlips_insta

Play with you food: Spiced Creamsicle Macarons

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student

(read more about Nick)
Follow Nick on Instagram

To quote “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “WOO!”

Flair_
Photo via business2community.com

Not long after my last post I did a trail at Marc Forgione’s American Cut that immediately turned into a job. I did my first two shifts as a pastry cook last week and could not be happier. It’s still a bit insane to me to compare my current situation with where I was a year ago as I weighed the decision to leave a great job for this career. So to the ICC and chefs that have taught me so much and prepared me so well I say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Despite the extra shot of crazy I just injected into my life I couldn’t stay off the blog for too long. This is a simple recipe and I know it uses techniques I’ve already demonstrated, for that I apologize. Just think of it as a warm-up for the coming weeks.

Special Equipment

  • Stand mixer with whisk
  • Instant read or candy thermometer
  • Silicone baking mat or parchment paper
  • Chinois (fine mesh strainer)

Vanilla Macaron Cookies (589g)

  • 150g almond flour
  • 150g confectioners sugar (10x or sifted)
  • 120g egg whites, divided 80g/40g
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 167g sugar

Combine the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and pulse until fine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Wet the sugar in a small saucepan until it resembles wet sand. Heat to a boil, once boiling begin whipping 80g of egg whites with the tartar and salt. When the sugar hits 240F and the eggs are foamy stream the syrup into the bowl. Continue to whip at medium-high to stiff peaks. In the meantime combine 40g of egg whites with the dry mixture to form a thick and slightly sandy paste.

macaron_Paste

Fold a small amount of meringue into the paste to lighten it then gently fold the rest in. Continue to fold the batter until it falls in a slow “stubborn” (by this I mean at times it won’t fall) ribbon from the spatula and develops a glossy surface when not disturbed.

Pipe rounds in the desired size on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bang the pan on the counter to even out the rounds. Place them in a drafty area and let them sit until a filmy crust develops. Preheat the oven to 325F.

macaron_Piped

Bake the macarons for 10-14 minutes until barely golden around the bottom edge. Cool them in the pan completely.

Spiced Orange Ganache

  • 85g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 35g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 55g unsalted butter, small cubes
  • 125g heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Cointreau

Combine the chocolates and butter in a heatproof bowl.

Bring the cream, zest, and spices to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Return to a boil and strain through a chinois over the chocolate, let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the Cointreau.

Gently stir with a small rubber spatula from the center until the mixture begins to emulsify then continue to stir until it is completely combined. Cool the mixture at room temperature until firm (like pudding).

macaron_Ganache

Assembly

Make a macaron sandwich, taste said sandwich. If it tastes good, keep it up. If it doesn’t, use more or less ganache. Got it? Good.

macaron_Done

I have a mental thing I’ve picked up since starting school. It’s weird, but pastry chefs are weird. I’m weird. If you can’t see that by now then you aren’t very observant. Each day before beginning my work I repeat in my head one of my favorite movie lines, “Gentlemen, what are your intentions?”, said by Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. If I can’t answer it with a clear idea then I know I need to rethink my day until I can.

At this moment it is my intention to continue to write as often as possible while working. Service is hard. Long hours, hot kitchen, no chairs. I do get to eat the ice cream though, so I still feel like I’m coming out ahead. I have no idea what this will do to the content of this blog since I’m basically losing a night of production for weekend projects.

As much as I had to learn how to do this (fairly) well back in June I find myself having to learn it all over again. I’m excited to find the balance and to also relate things I learn as a professional. I hope you stick around.

Stay hungry,

Nick

Library Notes // Food Writing

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

“It will be about eating and about what to eat and about people who eat. And I shall do gymnastics by trying to fall between the three fires or by straddling them all,” so said M.F.K. Fisher about her first book, Serve It Forth. The same could be said about almost all food writing, it takes a particular talent to do those literary gymnastics. In honor of our Food Writing class with ICC Dean of Food Journalism and Media Studies Alan Richman, this month’s Library Notes is dedicated to some of the great food writing housed in the ICC Library.

Fisher

The best pieces of food writing will cover not only the actual food but place it in a cultural context. It’s important to remember that food writing is not a genre but a topic and can include cookbooks, memoirs, journalism and sometimes even fiction. The term “food writing” only came into use in the mid-nineties and is still not included in the Oxford English Dictionary. With that vague and broad definition, where is the food reader to start?

For a thorough overview, the library has the Best Food Writing volumes dating back to 2001. Editor Holly Hughes scours magazines, books and websites to find outstanding essays on a broad range of styles and topics each year. Covering a wide range of topics from Home Cooking to Extreme Eating, each book provides a great overview of the year in food. This book is great for a commute read too, the selections are bite sized.

Best of food writing

If you are looking for a critic’s perspective, Dean Alan Richman’s book Fork It Over covers the ins and outs of working as a “professional eater.” The essays contained span the entire globe and are divided up into courses and palate cleansers. This is a must read for anyone in the Food Writing Class, or anyone who is considering taking it in the future.

Alan Richman Food Writing Class ICC

Many of my favorite selections in this category are memoirs. A good food memoir marks major events in the life of the author with tastes or meals. Many include recipes for the reader to attempt. While our library has food memoirs written by people from all walks of life, the two I’m highlighting here are both focused on professional kitchens.

Our alum Lauren Shockey decided to apprentice around the world after completing her education at International Culinary Center. She started at wd~50 in New York City, from there she traveled to Vietnam, Israel and France. In Four Kitchens, Lauren divulges the secrets of working in upscale restaurants around the word as well as her interpretation of the recipes she cooked at each one.

Food Writing resources

Another perspective on the professional kitchen is the memoir by ICC Dean Jacques Pépin, The Apprentice. This book has been a “staff pick” multiple times from many different ICC employees because it offers a glimpse into what the industry used to be like and tells his unique story in a very approachable way. The Apprentice also includes recipes.

Whether you like short essays or a long narrative, if you love food writing, we have something for you in the ICC Library. These and many more are all available for circulation. Stop by and pick something up for a little inspiration.

Be sure to follow the library on Twitter @intlcullibrary where you will see updates when everything new arrives!

Play with your food: Ode To (Late) Summer

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

Did you miss me? To say I’ve been busy would be an understatement.

Two weeks ago I did this:

Pirate Ship Chocolate Showpiece

Then a few days later I did this:

James Beard Foundation International Culinary CenterJames Beard House Dinner

And a few days after that I did this:

World Wrestling Entertainment cake

I’m more than halfway through my pastry program at ICC and find myself pushing even harder to find a ceiling I’m beginning to think does not exist. Projects have gotten very ambitious and thus more time-consuming. So whether you missed me or not, I missed you and writing for this blog.

With Labor Day coming up along with the one-year anniversary of my Frozen S’mores I decided to reinvent them as a plated dessert. It’s early apple season, and Union Square is packed with beautiful apples just hours off the tree.

Union Square Market Apples

Combining those, some bourbon, and the S’more, I think of this plate as a farewell to summer on the last BBQ holiday of the season and a welcome to the dawning fall. And in the spirit of summer we get to blow stuff up one more time.

Special Equipment:

  • Stand mixer with whisk and paddle
  • Ice cream maker
  • Food processor
  • Cedar sheets, soaked for 20m before use
  • Propane torch

The recipes for the graham crumble and the ice cream can be found in the original Frozen S’more post so I won’t waste space retyping it here.

BOUCHON BROWNIE

This formula is from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. I simply scaled it up 25% and baked it in a different mold than the “bouchon” created by the bakery.

  • 178g unsalted butter, divided 100g/78g
  • 63g all-purpose flour
  • 63g Dutch unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8t salt
  • 95g whole egg
  • 203g sugar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla paste
  • 141g semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sift the flour and cocoa powder, set aside.

Melt 100g butter, place the rest in a heat proof bowl. Pour the hot butter into the bowl and allow it all to mostly melt with a few small pieces remaining.

In the stand mixer whisk egg, sugar, and vanilla to combine well. Alternate adding the butter and dry ingredients until all are fully combined, scarping the bowl as needed to ensure proper mixing. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the batter and let it rest for 90 min in a cool spot (don’t chill it). At this point the batter can be chilled for up to 2 days but must be brought back to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly grease the molds/pans with melted butter and pipe the batter in. Bake the brownies 20-30 min until a tester comes out clean (test more than one spot in case you touch a melted chip). Cool the brownies for 10 min in the mold, then unmold and cool completely on a rack.

Keep the brownies wrapped airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days.

BROWN BUTTER-BOURBON APPLES

  • 3 apples, firm for cooking, peeled, ½” thick rings with the core removed
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 40g sugar
  • 25g bourbon

Heat the butter in a pan (preferably over an open flame). Add the apples in an even layer and cook, turning once for about 4 min until the butter starts to brown. Add the sugar to each side and cook for another 2 min. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bourbon all at once. Tip the pan over the flame to ignite the steam and flambé the apples until the flames recede. (If you don’t have access to an open flame use a long lighter to ignite the bourbon).

Remove the apples from the pan to another plate and use as soon as possible.

ASSEMBLY

Wrap the brownie in a cedar sheet, and while holding it with a pair of tongs hit it with the torch to warm it slightly and impart some smoke flavor. Unwrap the brownie and place it on the plate. Fill the trench with crumble. Arrange a warm apple slice next to it and spoon a quenelle of ice cream on top of the apple slice.

Smore plated dessert

I have to say it’s good to be back. Those two weeks away from writing felt like an eternity. Thanks for reading.

Stay hungry.

Nick

Food as art (and architecture): Top 10 pastry feats by Jansen Chan

ICC’s Director of Pastry Arts Jansen Chan engineers a marshmallow ski lift, hangs 4,000 cream puffs upside down and makes cookies strut down a fashion runway. He loves a good challenge.

Originally from Northern California, Jansen Chan began his career as an architect, but quickly found himself unfulfilled by the slow pace with which construction projects took shape. Heeding a lifelong love of baking, he moved to Paris and earned a pâtisserie diploma, then mastered the craft of baking and pastry, progressively getting jobs in more and more prestigious San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York City restaurants. His desserts have been featured in high-profile media including Food Network, Food & Wine and Art Culinaire. He joined The International Culinary Center as Director of Pastry Arts in 2012.

Find out where the ambitious and passionate pastry architect finds his inspiration and channels his creativity:

Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you found yourself in pastry?

JC: Architecture will always be my first love. It was apparent that I had a drive for both pastry and design in my youth. In my free time as a kid, I grew up playing LEGO, while watching Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS. The two concepts probably fused because I really have found myself doing the same thing as an adult.

I chose architecture as my first profession mostly because it was a feasible career path, and I really enjoyed the creativity in design. Being an architect taught me discipline in processes and critical thinking for artistic challenges. But luckily, my passion for baking and pastry only grew deeper and I found myself dedicating all my energy to it. Going to culinary school and working in diverse kitchens cemented my life in pastry.

How do you come up with ideas?

JC: Ideas are a mix of inspiration and natural conditions. Inspiration comes from all walks of life: a museum piece, a design on a fabric, or even a mention of a word – and creates a chain-reaction of possibilities in my head. This is tempered by the parameters of reality, which isn’t necessarily bad. By understanding the medium (chocolate, sugar, etc.) and the physical conditions and limitations, I can create a dialogue with the idea to develop something unique. Generally, I find ideas that challenge me most attractive because a little bit of fear is a good thing.

What is your most memorable project?

JC: Every big project creates memories. The season finale of Food Network’s Halloween Wars, Season One, had the added pressure of being on TV and the marathon effort of filming two weeks of challenges; those were outside conditions and not actually part of the project.

A more recent memorable project was probably the Upside-down Croquembouche for the L’Occitane store. The concept was to do a modern spin on a French classic. The Croquembouche, which is a pyramid of cream puffs held together by caramel, is a classic French celebration cake. I wanted to create a life-size (six feet!) version, that hung upside down and lit up from within.

The project required precise engineering (a light foam core infrastructure that held lights), 4,000 cream puffs, hot caramel, hundreds of sugar paste leaves and a pastillage base (er, rather crown) – all to be held by two high-strength clear wires. The scariest part was that the entire showpiece was put together in a traditional conical form, only to be flipped upside-down onsite and latched on to a ceiling hook. Surprisingly, the flip was quick and painless – due much to good planning and helpful chef and student assistants.

How have your desserts evolved over the years, and who or what had the most influence on you?

JC: When I first started cooking and learning about baking and pastries, I was obsessed with the individual components of the plate. I wanted to learn each technique and each recipe, whether it be a decoration or a baked product.

Turns out, the harder part was the composition of the plate. I took time for me to understand that creating a dynamic and visually interesting dessert is where the true challenge lies. Mastering techniques is a requirement, no doubt, but the most irresistable dishes are the ones that go beyond that and take a diner for an experience.

All of my chefs that I have worked for have taught me something that has aided to being the chef I am today. The last pastry chef that I worked for, Sandro Micheli, gave me the discipline and confidence to be my own pastry chef.

Do you think creativity is a natural talent, or is it something anyone can learn?

JC: I think creativity is not learned, but rather cultivated from within. Everybody has some creative talent. It may come in different forms – some are less visual and more conceptual. Most adults don’t develop their creative side enough because they have less opportunities to exercise that part of them. People assume creativity is one thing, when in reality, it can be anything that you produce, construct, generate, foster, or imagine, and then share. One of our big goals for the ICC Pastry Arts program is to help students tap into their own creativity.

What are you currently working on?

JC: My latest scheme is to create a beautiful pastillage showpiece that also functions as a marble run. Rather than merely suggest movement in this artistic piece, an actual marble will run from top to bottom within the showpiece. This will make for an engaging and interactive showpiece that clearly demonstrates how engineering and sugar can come together.

Right now, my inspiration is to connect with the audience. I found it challenging in this time of technology to hold the attention of an average person. A simple way to do this is to have an approachable and relatable aspect that connects with the audience. Another project I’m fascinated by is deep-fried wedding cake… more to come!

[Update: see Jansen’s Sugar Marble Run on YouTube]

Sugar-Marble-Run_chan

10 inspiring, dynamic and creative pastry constructions by ICC Director of Pastry Arts Jansen Chan

Upside-down Croquembouche (L’Occitane Project 2014)

L'Occitane-Verbena-2014_chan

Chocolate Eiffel Tower (Food Network Challenge – Chocolate Landmarks 2008)

FWChallenge-Eiffel_chan

Gingerbread Street Scene (ICC Dec. 2013) w/ Moving Streetcar

Gingerbread Lighthouse 2010 (Oceana, Dec 2010)

lighthouse_chan

Gingerbread Ski Chalet 2014 (ICC Dec 2014)

Gingerbread House ICC

Cookie Couture (ICC Feb. 2015)

Adler Wedding Cake (Sept 2011)

adler-cake_chan
Photo by Tina Doshi/KSD Weddings

Chocolate Custard Brownie Dessert (Oceana, 2008-2012)

brownie_oceana
Photo by Paul Johnson/Oceana

Fruit and Vegetable Empire State Building (March 2014)

empire_chan

Gingerbread House (Food Network Halloween Wars, Episode One, Season One)

halloween_chan
Photo via Food Network

Grad Meets Grill

Photo via FoodNetwork.com

ICC alumna Angie Mar is the new “Chopped Grill Masters” grand champion!

She found her competitive voice during the tournament and let her food do the talking for her, cooking by relying on her gut despite at times hearing comments from the judges that would have discouraged less confident chefs. Certain basket ingredients almost threw her for a loop, like the rattlesnake in the appetizer round and the kokoretsi in the entree round, but she didn’t let that dictate the way things would turn out. Going into the dessert round alongside Stan, she was more determined than ever to show off her control of flavor in her final dish. And in the end she earned the title of Grand Champion, leaving with the $50,000 prize money and knowing that her plates got her to the finish line.

Read Angie’s interview on the FoodNetwork Blog.

More than 50 ICC alumni have competed on Chopped over the years

ICC graduates come well-prepared for the challenges presented by Food Network’s Chopped kitchen. Chopped is a cooking competition show where four chefs have seconds to plan and 30 minutes to cook an amazing course with the basket of mystery ingredients given to them moments before the clock starts ticking! Course by course, the chefs will be “chopped” from the competition. Chopped is a game of passion, expertise and skill — and in the end, only one chef will survive the Chopping Block.

Participating ICC graduates included Antonia Lofaso, Chris Nirschel, Kat Ploszaj, Andre Marrero, Elisabeth Weinberg, Helen Park, Hugh Mangum, Jason Khaytin, Palak Patel, Rachel Willen, Ruth Cimaroli, Vandy Vanderwarker, Kyle Bernstein, Zoe Feigenbaum, and many more.

Watch the latest episodes at FoodNetwork.com

rachel
Photo via Food Fix Kitchen
palak
Photo via ChefPalakPatel.com

Library Notes // Please Excuse the Mess, Librarians at Work

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

Have you been by the library recently and noticed any changes? Piles of books in places they don’t belong? Long stretches of empty shelf? Flags of post-it notes lining the books? We are library staff hard at work updating our classification and cataloging system! What does that mean exactly? Well, I hope it means by the completion of this project you will better be able to find whatever you are looking for.

Think back, way back to school. Remember old Melville Dewey and his Dewey Decimal system? Here’s a brief refresher. Born in 1851, Melville Dewey was a librarian, founder of the American Library Association and Library Journal.

Melvil_Dewey

He felt that the classification systems of the day were incomplete so he developed his own system while working at Amherst College. At that time, most libraries assigned permanent shelf locations to books in the order added to the collection. Dewey was the first to shelve books in relation to subject. The system uses three digit numerals for main categories followed by fractional decimals which allow for more detail. From General works (000) to History & Geography (900) there is a number for any type of information and every piece of knowledge.

In your average general library, each of those number classes will have a little something in it. Most likely, anything on the topic of food or cooking will be classed under Food & Drink (641) but here at ICC, the library is anything but average. Our collection contains many volumes on specific subjects and also has grown fairly quickly which makes the arrangement more than a little confusing. Our goal this summer is to re-arrange everything in a way that makes it easier for you to find whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a guide to Japanese knives, a cookbook from Fat Duck or an atlas of wine regions.

culinary_library

My wonderful intern Laura started with a full shelf read to see what we had and where it belonged. Meanwhile, I created an abbreviated guide to the Dewey Decimal System, listing only the topics relevant to our collection. Next, we started the slow process of examining each book section by section to determine whether it was properly labeled based on content. When we arrived at Wine (641.22) we recruited an outside expert, the Bed-Stuy Somm and Executive Editor of ICC, Michelle. For the heavy lifting we brought in volunteer and aspiring chef/veterinarian Alejandro. Slowly but surely the collection is becoming more accessible and more organized.

food_wine_library_new_york

I’m sure you don’t want to check out my Dewey Decimal manuals, but if you are a fellow cookbook lover, we have several selections you may like to browse. Thanks to Melville and Laura they are now much easier to find. So stop by and take a look at the new and improve ICC Stacks.

  • 101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes Edited by Marvin J. Taylor and Clark Wolf
  • Cookbook Book by Annahita Kamali and Florian Bohm
  • The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers and Recipes that Made the Modern Cookbook by Anne Willan with Mark Cherniavsky
  • Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob

Play with your food: Macarons and Memories

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

I take my immaturity very seriously. It is the deepest well of inspiration I can tap. So many of my creations begin with the same sentiment – “Do you remember?”

Here’s an example:

A friend of mine is very allergic to nuts and therefore missed out on the bounty of macarons I brought home during the Petits Fours unit. I felt awful as he sat aside while everyone, myself included, got to enjoy my progression from ok to really good to “beat that Chef Torres.” I promised him that the weekend project would be nut free macarons just for him.

Pretty standard so far right? Here’s where my train of thought rolls onto some bumpy track. One day riding the (actual) train home I thought “hey I want Salisbury steak one day soon,” which lead to “man remember how terrible (i.e.: delicious) those frozen TV dinner ones were?” which led to “remember how good it was when the corn got into the brownie?” Right there I dove for my notebook and wrote “sweet corn-chocolate mac!!”

That night (I can’t read or write on the train for more than a minute or two) I wrote what would become Sweet Corn Macarons with Brown Butter Chocolate Ganache.

That was all I planned on making this week since I SHOULD BE STUDYING FOR MIDTERMS but after visiting a craft market on Saturday and picking up some very fresh jams from my favorite local brand I called an audible and, writing the recipe in my head on the way home, added Coconut Macarons with Orange Ganache and Pineapple Jam to my agenda. They taste exactly like an Orange Flintstone’s Push-Up. Do they even make those anymore? This information is vital to the course of my week.

Finished 2

Special Equipment

  • Stand mixer with whisk
  • Candy or instant read thermometer
  • 4 half-sheet pans
  • Silicone baking mat(s) or parchment paper

MACARONS
Let these be a lesson in entertaining even the dumbest ideas.

Both cookies use the same mixing method (Italian Meringue) for its added stability. I have a double oven at home and can accommodate 4 pans at once. If you don’t then just make one then the other. Whatever you do don’t save any batter, as it will deflate. Pipe the entire bag then do the next one when you’re ready.

SWEET CORN MACARONS

(400g – enough for 25 1 ½” diameter sandwiches)

  • 85g corn flour
  • 110g powdered sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 25g water
  • 75g egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 30° syrup for brushing
  • sea salt flakes for garnishing

COCONUT MACARONS

(380g – enough for 25 1” diameter sandwiches)

  • 20g coconut flour
  • 160g powdered sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 25g water
  • 75g egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt

Pulse the flour and powdered sugar in a food processor very fine, sift and set aside.

Combine 100g granulated sugar and 25g water in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Combine the egg whites, tartar, and salt in stand mixer. When the sugar begins to boil begin whisking the eggs at medium. Cook the sugar without stirring to 240F then very carefully stream it down the mixer bowl into the egg foam. Whip at medium-high to stiff peaks.

Meringue

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue in two additions until the batter reaches the proper consistency. This is a bit tricky to describe but when scooped with a spatula it will fall back into the bowl in a semi-fluid almost lava-like stream with a break or two. It’s not ready if it plops back in like a jam and it’s over mixed if it streams like a batter.

Pipe 50 rounds of each batter on a silicone lined sheet pan(s) about 1 ½” apart. Firmly tap the pans on a hard surface to evenly spread the rounds into flat circles. Place them in an area with a good draft and let them dry out until a skin forms on the surface that barely gives when lightly touched.

Piped

*If you don’t let it dry enough the surface won’t be strong enough to hold in the burst of steam and the top will crack. If they look like this then it wasn’t dry enough. Be sure to turn the trays to make sure they dry evenly.

Broken

While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 325°F and make the ganaches and syrup.

BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE GANACHE

(150g)

  • 75 dark chocolate, fine chop
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 50g heavy cream

Place the chocolate and salt in a heatproof bowl. Cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until golden brown and aromatic, add the cream and bring to just below a simmer (right as steam starts to rise). Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate, wait 30 seconds, stir from the center out to combine. Pour into an uncut piping bag (with no tip), flatten out, and chill until ready to use.

ORANGE GANACHE

(130g)

  • 3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 3/4 Tsp cold water
  • 130g white chocolate
  • 1 drop orange food coloring gel
  • 100g heavy cream

Bloom the gelatin in the cold water and set aside. Place the chocolate and food coloring in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just below a simmer and pour it over the chocolate, sit 30 seconds while you microwave the gelatin about 15 seconds to melt. Add the gelatin to the chocolate and stir from the center out to combine. Fill another uncut piping bag the same as above and chill it until you’re ready.

30° SYRUP

(115g) – “30°” simply means 130% sugar to water

  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 50g water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil to dissolve. Remove from heat, keep at room temperature.

BAKING AND ASSEMBLY

65g pineapple jam with small fruit solids in it

When the macarons have developed a proper skin bake them for 8-12 minutes, rotating halfway, until they are well risen and barely browned along the edges. Remove them from the oven, brush the corn ones with 30° syrup and sprinkle them with salt flakes, cool them in the pan on a rack.

Baked

Once cooled, carefully free them from the baking mat and pair up like cookies.

For the Corn/Chocolate ones, pipe a thin layer of ganache just inside the border of one cookie, place another on top and apply very gentle pressure along the edges to push the ganache to the edge and even out the cookie.

For the Coconut/Orange ones, pipe a ring of ganache around the border of a cookie then place a small amount of jam inside of it. Don’t press this sandwich as hard as the corn, these cookies are super delicate and the jam will spread too far.

Bullseye

Once finished, keep them chilled until ready to serve. Macarons get better with age and what is a slightly crispy cookie on day one will become an incredibly soft and chewy one by day 3 as it absorbs the moisture in the filling.

Finished 3Finished 1

When I was a kid (an actual kid, not a 28 year old one) I had a chemistry set that I was never really allowed to play with. Seriously, what kind of children’s chem set comes with highly toxic chemicals? I always wondered at the secrets inside of those little bottles. Now creation and discovery are processes I get to experience every day. “What would happen if?” “I wonder how this will taste.” “What in the world caused it to do that?!”

Honing my skills has opened up that chem set in a manner of speaking since fresh fruit tastes much better than hydrochloric acid. Every market visit is like getting to sift through those bottles and see what their contents can do.

Whenever someone asks where an idea like these macarons comes from, my usual response is a shrug and something along the lines of “I just thought it would be cool so I tried it.” It’s a simplification of the torrent of memories and fun ideas I try to bring to life each week.

Thanks for reading! Stay hungry,

Nick

See also:

Play with your food: Puff Pastry and Burnt Honey Ice Cream

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

We have a saying in class, a motto adopted from Chef Tom: “Make it work!” Those have become the three most important words in my life (aside from “more gummy bears”). Things will go wrong in the kitchen, it’s inevitable, and you just don’t have time to fuss over it. There’s nothing to do but find a way to make it work.

I spent all morning today making puff pastry to bake off some mini summer fruit jalousie. The pâton was as good as I could ask for, I was ahead of schedule, and they came together beautifully. Then I put them in the oven…

One of the trickiest things about baking that I bring up often is adapting to your environment and today I learned that my oven and puff pastry do not get along at all. The key to great puff is the rapid evaporation of moisture to steam to push each individual layer up and apart, which is classified as mechanical leavening. At the recommended temperature of 375F my oven just doesn’t seem able to do that. When I went to rotate the trays a bunch of half risen jalousie braising in melted butter greeted me. It was ugly and I was not happy at all.

The ice cream came out perfectly to no one’s surprise.

There are multiple periods of inactive steps when making puff pastry that you can use to prepare other things you will need. I listed the recipes in the order I have them in my notebook, by no means should you follow this order. Read them over and plan your day as you’d like knowing you’ll have lots of free time as the dough rests, compotes cool, and ice cream freezes.

Special Equipment

  • Stand mixer with paddle
  • Ice cream maker

BURNT HONEY ICE CREAM

It’s summer and at this point I can’t stress any more how much I love frozen things, so buckle up because the temperature here in New York isn’t dipping anytime soon and my ice cream machine has many more jobs ahead. This recipe uses the best honey I’ve ever had. TruBee Honey is a great apiary in Tennessee I’ve been following for a very long time. Their Summer Wildflower is the edible incarnation of laying in a field of flowers on a hot day. In other words, perfection.

  • 100g wildflower honey
  • 220g milk, room temperature
  • 260g heavy cream, room temperature
  • 135g sugar, divided 100g/35g
  • 8g vanilla paste
  • 70g egg yolk
  • pinch of salt

Bring the honey to a boil in a saucepan large enough for the remaining ingredients and let it cook for about 2 min until darkened. Add the milk, cream, and 100g of sugar – return to the heat and just bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and honey.

Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar (I added an extra drop of honey here because I don’t play no games) and temper them with the hot cream mixture. Return the custard to the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. Strain into an ice bath and cool to about room temp, then chill until ready to process.

PUFF PASTRY
750g

If you’ve read my cronut recipe then you should already be familiar with the process of forming and folding a pâton. This dough is much simpler than that one. Where the cronuts were leavened both mechanically and organically this classic puff is all mechanical, which explains the much larger amount of butter for the beurrage.

  • 190g cake flour
  • 190g bread flour
  • 4g salt
  • 55g beurre en pommade (mash butter until it resembles Vaseline)
  • ice cold water
  • 375g beurrage

Paddle the flours, salt, and pommade until very small pieces remain then gradually add the water to just barely bring the détrempe together, finishing it by hand with small amounts of water. Form the détrempe into a square, wrap and chill it for about 20 min while you form the beurrage.

Form the pâton with the beurrage and détrempe and give it a total of three single (letter) turns – fold it in thirds just like a letter – resting about 20 min between each one. Chill the folded pâton until you are ready to use it. It can be frozen at this point for up to 2 months.

SUMMER FRUIT COMPOTES

Markets are flooded with stone fruit and berries right now and I wish I had the time to just cook all of it but I have to settle for weekends. Both of these recipes are prepared using the same method and all of the fruit is roughly diced to about 1/4”

Stone Fruit Compote:

  • 560g nectarines
  • 540g peaches
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Strawberry Kiwi Compote:

  • 400g strawberries
  • 300g kiwi
  • 80g sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Place all of the ingredients for each filling into a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until softened slightly, drain and cool on plastic lined sheet pans to room temperature. Chill until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY AND BAKING

You can’t hear it but I just sighed as I got to this line. Know your oven, that’s all I can say. Take some scraps after building the jalousie (chill them until you’re ready) and bake it off at 375 for 15-20 min. If you get a pool of butter then raise the heat between 400-425 and try moving the tray closer to the top of the oven. The great thing about puff pastry is that it is easy to read and troubleshoot.

Cut out rectangles from the dough, the amount and size are up to you, but make sure that half of them are just slightly smaller than the other half. “Dock” the smaller rectangles by poking a bunch of holes in them – these are the bottoms. Fold the larger ones in half lengthwise and make three cuts in the fold for vents – these are the tops. Egg wash the edge of the bottom layer, spoon some compote in the center, lay a top piece over it and trim just enough edge to even them out. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.

Assembly1Assembly2Assembly3Assembly4

Once everything is assembled brush the tops with egg wash, being careful not to use so much that it runs over the edges (this will inhibit rising by gluing the layers shut). Bake the pastries for about 15-18 min or until golden brown on the top and bottom while remaining very light in the layers.

Cooking

LEMON GLAZE FOR STRAWBERRY JALOUSIE

  • 50g powdered sugar
  • 50g lemon juice

Whisk the glaze and drizzle over the strawberry jalousie while they are warm.

Cool the pastries on the pan completely.

Since I don’t have any beautiful pastries to show you this time around you’re going to get an ugly one and a quick little lesson in how puff pastry works. Lucky you.

Breakdown

If you look at the far left of that pastry you’ll see how it slid off of itself. That’s because the moisture held in the butter didn’t transform into steam quickly enough and instead spent too much time as a liquid causing the layers to slip like a mini buttery landslide. If done properly, it will shoot straight up instead with layers even more defined than what you see in the middle there. That’s what I meant when I said that puff pastry communicates well as it is being prepared. One look and I immediately knew what was going on.

That’s how you make everything but what do you do when it all falls apart? You listen to Chef Tom and make it work! So here’s another motto of mine – “When in doubt, sundae.”

Sundae

I am really bummed I couldn’t bring you guys some really good puff pastry. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to make (partially because I am very good at it) and I actually considered skipping this week and just scrapping the whole thing. But imagine how boring things would be if everything was perfect all of the time. Missteps breed important lessons if you let them. The most important one of all being those three little words – “make it work.”

Stay hungry.

Nick

PS – It’s midterm week so I may not have a post for you after this weekend in order to study. If that’s the case I’ll be back with something cool (get it?!) next weekend.

See also:

Play with your food: Cinnabun Roulade Cake

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

I have a confession to make. I do not like cakes. I didn’t know this until starting pastry school mostly because I didn’t know what it meant to build a real one. It is a ton of work to build something even as simple as the cake in this post. Having been through two cake units I now have a world of respect for people who focus on this particular field.

Mostly I don’t like cakes because I am not as naturally talented at making them as I hoped to be going in. So like anything it takes a lot of work to get better. There are so many techniques to master in order to build a cake. Mixing while maintaining an egg foam and inhibiting gluten development, baking to just the right level of doneness, creating and working with a myriad of fillings and coatings, decorating (which is a whole skill set on its own), all while monitoring and adapting to your environment.

It’s a lot of work, and while I may not particularly enjoy it the knowledge and skills to be gained from mastering the production and creation of cakes crosses into every facet of pastry arts (I have come up with several ice creams and frozen desserts progressing through this unit alone).

Now I may not like cake all that much but here’s something I do love – cinnamon buns! So I combined the two to get in some seriously good practice over the weekend and bring you the Cinnabun Roulade Cake.

Special Equipment:

  • Stand mixer
  • Silicone baking mat(s)

These are all recipes done in class that I have tweaked for this particular project.

CINNAMON PÅTE A CORNET

Pate a cornet is easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s a paste that can be spread over stencils or piped into any shape or design you can imagine. Freeze it on a silicone baking mat then pour a batter over it and bake it like normal and when you flip it over and unmold it you have a perfect design incorporated directly into the cake. It’s tattoos for cakes and totally awesome.

  • 83g butter, room temperature
  • 83g sugar
  • 75g egg white
  • 75g pastry (or cake) flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar light and fluffy then gradually mix in the egg whites to completely emulsify. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa and mix until just combined. Spread or pipe the paste onto a silicone baking mat as desired and place it in the freezer while you mix the cake.

Cornet1

CINNAMON BISCUIT CAKE

Roulade cakes are a lot of fun to make. When baked properly the cake sheet is super pliable, enough to tightly roll, and really neat to play around with and feel elasticity of the crumb. Oh, and it’s pronounced “biskwee.” Say it right or run the risk of getting beat with a wooden spoon by a Frenchman.

  • 195g cake flour
  • 8g cinnamon
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 300g egg white
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g sugar
  • 200g egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.

Prepare a French meringue by whisking the egg whites, tartar, and salt at medium high until slightly foamy then slowly adding the sugar and whisking until stiff peaks form.

Mix a scoop of meringue into the egg yolks to bring the consistencies closer to each other, then very gently fold the yolks into the meringue, leaving the mixture streaky. Gently fold the dry mixture into the meringue working as quickly and efficiently as possible. The more you have to work to incorporate the ingredients the more you will deflate the meringue. (It’s a tough process to get down that I have struggled with until only very recently.)

Spread the batter evenly over the frozen pate a cornet and bake for ~15-18 min or until the cake begins to pull from the edges of the pan and springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool the cakes in the pan for about 10 min then unmold, remove the baking mat, and cool completely on a rack.

Cornet2

CINNAMON SPICE CRÈME MOUSSELINE

Crème mousseline is a pastry buttercream, so yeah, it’s pretty great. This one is flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves and adds a warm aromatic flavor that boosts the cinnamon in the cake. Normally pastry cream is made by cooking a crème anglaise with pastry cream powder which is starch with some vanilla flavoring. Pastry cream powder is tricky to find so a mixture of cornstarch and flour with some vanilla extract works just as well.

  • 473g milk
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 125g sugar, split 75g and 50g
  • 50g egg
  • 40g egg yolk
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 10g all purpose flour
  • 40g cornstarch
  • pinch of cloves
  • 10g cinnamon
  • 150g butter, RT
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar

Bring the milk, cinnamon sticks, and 75g of sugar to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for ~20 min.

Remove the cinnamon sticks, return to heat and bring to just barely boiling. Whisk the egg and yolk, vanilla, flour, cornstarch, cloves, and cinnamon until thickened. Temper the egg mixture with the milk, whisking constantly to combine.

Cook the mixture, whisking constantly and vigorously, until very thick and resembles the consistency of pudding. Pour the cooked pastry cream onto a plastic lined sheet pan, cover and cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, paddle the pastry cream at medium high until smooth. Add butter, cinnamon, and sugar and beat until very smooth.

ASSEMBLY AND GLAZE

  • 250g powdered sugar
  • 113g butter, melted
  • 87g milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Assembly1Assembly2

Cut the cake sheets lengthwise to the desired width (which will determine the height of each layer). Spread a thin layer of mousseline onto each strip and roll them up tightly, for the base layer use two strips to make a good thick round. Continue forming as many layers as desired to build a tower.

Assembly3Assembly4

Whisk the ingredients for the glaze until well combined and thick (add more sugar if too thin). Pour the glaze into a container with a spout or anything to facilitate pouring and microwave it for about 15 sec to barely warm. Pour the glaze over the cake allowing it to run down from the top.

Finished1Finished6

At this point you can add any decorations you’d like or leave the cake as is. Personally I wanted to practice my buttercream flowers, so I made a batch of disgusting “buttercream” with Crisco and powdered sugar and popped them on the cake. What you do is entirely up to you and your imagination.

Cakes are hard. But do you know what else they are? Immensely popular. I have made it explicitly clear that I don’t enjoy making them yet currently have four projects in development that I have been asked to make outside of school. I suppose that’s the greatest lesson they’ve taught me so far. I may not love this particular area of pastry arts the way I do others but that doesn’t give me an excuse to check out of it. If anything it doubles my motivation to be better with each cake I make.

Finished2Finished3

This is an industry that thrives on breaking the rules as much as it respects them, and cakes are all about honoring both tradition and what your customer wants. It’s a humbling experience to go from the freeform creation of something like the Linzer Cones or Cocktail Pops to working within the boundaries of building a cake as rich in tradition as a Sachertorte or designing a wedding cake for a friend. No matter the project though it’s all a means to the same end – to put a smile on someone’s face.

And let’s be real, happiness is eating an 18” tall cinnamon bun with no utensils.

Thanks for reading and stay hungry.

Nick

See also: