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  1. The Michelin Guide adds one star and subtracts another. “We rarely find anyone who can say he has lived a happy life, and who, content with his life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest.” ~ VIRGIL Last month I read Nicholas Chelminski’s engrossing account of the rise and tragic fall of Bernard Loiseau, The Perfectionist. The narrative carefully details all points on the inverted curve which represented the life course of an elite French chef. When does growth threaten to destroy the very soul that makes a business highly successful? Loiseau was a chef totally permeated by the demands of his vocation, consumed by the goal of obtaining the coveted Michelin 3 stars and never wanting to exist in this world without the highest esteem from his clientele, journalists, and confrères. He came to the mortal realization in the last month’s of his life that the mills of the gods were grinding relentlessly and that all his protean efforts would soon be terminated—by his own grievous self-inflicted action. Recalling the wisdom of T.S. Eliot, “In my beginning is my end.” How poignantly true that had been of Loiseau! Now we are informed of the demerited ranking of Colicchio, concomitant with the higher positioning of Gordon Ramsey in the New York culinary firmament. Michelin freely giveth les étoiles—and extinguishes them with equal suddeness. Is excellence in any field of endeavor worth the irredeemable costs imposed by such unrealistic levels of anxiety? You can only be Promethean for so long, before the consensus is that you’re suffering from an obsessive personality disorder. Psychotherapist Dr. Jay B. Rohrlich (NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Hospital) stated in one of his books that "work-addicted people remain perfectionistic, and they fruitlessly persist in their obsessions with mastery and control. They experience imperfection, Elliot Jacques notes, 'as bitter, persecuting failure.' They cannot transcend imperfection by accepting it; instead, they feel defeated by it." Thankfully, this grim fate is not definitional of the career of every chef & restaurateur.
  2. “There are many wonderful flavored basils—anise, cinnamon, lemon, opal, spice, and the robust Italian Genoa Green. Basil blooms vary in flavor according to variety as the foliage does, but all taste of cloves with a hint of citrus and mint. The best way to remove the florets from the basil plant is to snip the stem closely above and below each flower whorl, discarding the stems in between which are sometimes bitter.” Source: Susan Belsinger, Cooking with Flowers (Ward Lock, 1991); p. 33 “A single container filled with several basils, perhaps lettuce leaf, cinnamon, lemon, Thai, and purple [including ‘Dark Opal’ and ‘Purple Ruffles’], offers a wide choice of seasonings throughout summer and well into fall." Source: Georgeanne Brennan & Mimi Luebbermann, Little Herb Gardens (Chronicle, 1993); p. 48. In issue 75, p. 16 of Art Culinaire, Lidia Bastianich & Fortunato Nicotra shared their recipe for Fresh Pea Cake with Basil Ice Cream & Pistachio Brittle. Parisian artisan Patrick Roger sells basil-flavored chocolates. Chocolatier Kekau offers exotic Meyer-Lemon & Basil confections. Peruse the Bon Appétit & Gourmet archive of basil dessert recipes. Alain Labrie served Basil Sorbet with a Basil Tuile & Berry Coulis. Jerry Traunfeld created Basil Mint Agar Gelatin with Nectarines. Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja in Denver offered Mini Angel Food Cakes with Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Compote. (Restaurant Hospitality, October, 2006) In their book, Desserts with a Difference, Sally & Martin Stone included several basil-infused dishes: Baked Basil Cream Soufflés over Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Basil Cream Raspberry Tart Basil & Peach Ice Cream Granita di Basilico
  3. Compared to the estimable advice provided by aguynamedrobert (post #4, above), Bobby Flay’s 20-word instruction for Apple Cider Reduction is abstractly simplistic. Kudos to aguynamedrobert for his exactitude! And thanks to andiesenji (post #2) for sharing a range of suggested uses for the end product.
  4. In addition to the KA volume – from which I’ve made, thus far, only the Devil’s Food Cake & Scottish Shortbread – you may consider the purchase of one or more of these titles: Bob's Red Mill Baking Book by John Ettinger Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking (Fair Winds Press, 2007) Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers by Daniel Leader Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman The Spelt Cookbook by Helga Hughes
  5. A recipe for Peach Upside-Down Chocolate Cake is offered by California Cling Peach Board. I baked this cake (using fresh fruit) two months ago for an octogenarian neighbor of mine who is very fond of peaches -- and chocolate, too. Lawerence
  6. BOLILLOS To make 12 plain bread rolls: 1 oz. fresh yeast 14 fl. oz. warm water 2 tsps fine salt 2 Tbsps sugar 1 lb. 4 oz. AP flour 2 oz. lard srhcb: Should you be interested to read the method of preparation, please notify me. Lawrence
  7. My bagel recipe has been very dependable during the past 15 years: 1 Tbsp dried yeast 1 tsp sugar 2 cups lukewarm water 3 Tbsps oil 3 Tbsps sugar 1 Tbsps table salt 4-5 cups flour 4 quarts water boiled with 2 Tbsps honey Deflate the dough after its proofed, let rest 15 minutes, covered. Roll into 10- by 12-inch rectangle, cut into 12 strips.Shape the rings and place them on baking sheet. Let stand 20 minutes. Cook 7 minutes in boiling water, turning once. Glaze them with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse salt or poppy seeds. Bake at 375°F 20+ minutes until done.
  8. The NY Times described Chef Zuckerman’s desserts as “a life-changing experience.” I'll briefly supplement some of the book's dessert titles mentioned by loladrian, above: Chocolate-Almond Cracks Goat-Cheesecake Enrobed in Hazelnut Brittle Goat Cheese & Purple Basil Soufflé Maple-Star Anise Mousse Vanilla, Brown Butter & Almond Tea Cake Mandarin Ice Cream Granny Smith Apple, Dried Fig, and Dried Cherry Winter Fruit Compote Roasted Medjool Dates Stuffed with Cashews, Currants, and Candied Citrus Barlett Pears Poached in Muscat Wine Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Espresso Truffles with Walnuts The enticing chapter headings in The Sweet Life are: Tarts Cakes Cookies Custards, Puddings, Crèmes, and Mousses Soufflés Ice Creams, Sorbets, and Frozen Desserts Roasted Fruits & Fruit Soups Chocolates & Candies Edible Garnishes & Snacks Sauces & Creamy Accompaniments
  9. Salt’s obvious purpose in the making of bread is to enhance the flavor. But it has another, very important effect: it retards the action of the yeast. Also, it helps to strengthen the gluten in the flour and make the dough more elastic, resilient, and less sticky. A dough too low in salt will not bake to a crisp crust. Since salt is often so important to successful bread making, what of those people who are forbidden salt in their diets? If the salt is completely omitted, the amount of yeast must be cut down or the bread will rise too fast and will not have a pleasing texture. Secondly, the bread must be kneaded a little longer to develop the gluten (especially true of rich egg-&-butter breads such as Challah or cheese bread). The crust should be brushed with water midway through baking to ensure crispness. If a person has only to limit salt intake and not curtail its consumption altogether, it is preferable to use a certain amount of salt in the bread. After all, the salt contained in one slice is quite small if only 1 measured teaspoon has been used in a whole loaf.
  10. Chocolate-Caramel Tart w/ Poached Pears & Pear-Brandy Gelato Apple-Blackberry Crisp w/ Almond Streusel & Honey Gelato Pumpkin Cake w/ Mascarpone Icing & Spiced Cranberry Sauce More extravagant: Pumpkin Cake…the icing topped with a melange of toasted pecans, dried apricots, candied pumpkin cubes, and poppyseeds. Individual Pumpkin Upside-Down Cakes served w/ Ginger I.C. & Maple-Caramel Sauce. Pumpkin-Pecan Tart w/ Orange Sherbet Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake, layered with dark chocolate mousse, served w/ crème anglais and a pirouline cookie Cranberry-Pear Tart Orange-Cardamom Pots de Crème served with Pistachio Biscotti Apple Crisp – Baked heriloom apples, chopped dates, cranberries, dried blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hazelnut maple-butter crumb crust. Alsatian Plum Tart w/ Cinnamon I.C. Tangerine Granité w/ Cranberry Compote & Creamsickle Panna Cotta Pumpkin Crème Caramel served w/ Apple-Cider Syrup & Cinnamon Langues de Chat, Pumpkin-seed Praline. (Beverage: Triple Cream Sherry) Roasted Pears w/ Brioche Fr. Toast stuffed w/ Mascarpone & stewed fruits. Kids menu might include a Chocolate Brownie Bread Pudding topped w/ housemade Nutella I.C. Later in the Fall: Quince Tart served w/ Cardamom I.C. & Pomegranate Sauce
  11. "A house is beautiful not because of its walls, but because of its cakes." ~ Old Russian proverb Here’s a basic lemon mirror suitable for glazing a 9-inch diameter surface. Perhaps this basic recipe may not comply with the level of sophistication in which you regularly work. Yet, it may satisfy the purpose for some, shall we say, less fastidious patissieres... 1½ tsps unflavored gelatin 1 fl. oz. purified cold water 6 fl. oz. boiling water 1/3 cup superfine sugar pinch of salt 2 fl. oz. strained fresh lemon juice Few drops of yellow food coloring (opt.) Soften gelatin in cold water. Add boiling water and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add sugar & salt; stir until dissolved. Blend in citrus juice & coloring. Set bowl in larger vessel filled with ice and let stand until mixture is syrupy and begins to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes – do not let set. Brush paper-thin layer of mixture over top of cake (or, I suppose, a bavarian). Refrigerate until set. Pour second layer over; total thickness should not exceed 3/16 inch. Refrigerate until mirror is set to preferred consistency. BTW, Ms. Greenspan notes that Chef Hermé’s “Transparent Glaze” -- flavored with lemon, orange, & vanilla -- can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for a week or the freezer for a month.” (p. 38)
  12. “…what passes for pizza abroad is all too often a travesty.” ~ Ciro Moffa, Neapolitan chef “Pizza is literally one of those timeless dishes whose provenance can’t be accurately dated. All that can be said for sure is that the idea of a flat unleavened dough topped with whatever was at hand (usually olive oil and spices) dates back to pre-Biblical times in the Middle East. The original "pizzas' of the Babylonians, Egyptians and Israelites probably resembled modern "pita pizzas" more than anything else.” Source: “In (practically) the beginning, there was pizza.” (Food Management | August 2002) I have retrieved from my files an article written by Richard Owen for The Times of London three years ago, titled “Italy lays down law on the perfect pizza.” Strict new guidelines decreed by the Italian government say that real Neapolitan pizza must be round, no more than 35 centimetres in diameter, no thicker than 2 millimetres in the middle, with a crust about two centimetres thick. Excerpt from Owen’s article: “Pizza derives from the flat bread common to Mediterranean cultures and has enjoyed near-mythical status in Naples since the Magherita—topped with tomato, mozzarella, and basil—was invented in 1889 in honour of a visit to the city by Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I. Its ingredients were chosen to echo the red, white, and green of the Italian flag.” My understanding of the basic distinction between Pizza Margarita and Pizza Napoletana is that the latter generally has included anchovy fillets, sliced onions, and ripe olives to the topping. Pizza Rustica would add artichoke hearts, sliced salami, and shrimp. If garlic-stuffed sausage was included on a basic Margarita style, it would be known as Pizza con Salame d’Aglio. And so forth…. In Naples, wouldn’t the local forno continue to make its dough with fresh yeast? Even on the Balearics (islands off the coast of Spain which include Mallorca & Minorca), the Coca de Trampo Mallorcina is made with a base of yeast-raised Spanish peasant bread dough. See, eg., Las Mejoras Tapas, Ceñas Frias y Platos Combinados by Gloria Rossi Callizo (De Vecchi, 1975). Please note that I am by no means disputing anyone’s endeavor to employ their “Hooch” starter! You're empowered! It is, to my mind, a peculiar omission on the part of Nancy Silverton, not to have offered instructions for a naturally leavened pizza dough in her otherwise impressive volume, Breads from Le Brea Bakery. Just sayin'. Lawrence
  13. I must not hesitate to praise the masterful appearance of ChefCrash's baklava creation. Here is a historical backgrounder to the development of the Middle-Eastern baklava: * The name baklava is based on the Arabic word for nuts. * The name for the thin dough, phyllo, is a Greek word meaning leaf. * In the Byzantine era, cinnamon and cloves were added. * The Arabs introduced rosewater and cardamom. * The Ottoman Empire added walnuts and honey. Ground and finely chopped nuts are still layered between the sheets—most often used are walnuts and pistachios, but the nuts can vary based on what is available in the area. The whole is baked and soaked in a solution of sugar and either lemon juice or honey, spices and rosewater. Each region of the world has its own variations on the syrup in which the baklava is baked. Sometimes it contains honey and sometimes it doesn't. Today's baklava may also contain dried or fresh fruits or even chocolate. Source: She Knows Cooking Smart (Coincide Publishing | March-April, 2006) Toward “perfecting” baklava: “Layer store-bought phyllo dough with three separate layers of nuts (a combination of almonds and walnuts) flavored with cinnamon and cloves. Clarify the butter for even browning. Be sure to cut the baklava completely (don't just score it) before baking, then pour over a sugar syrup flavored with honey and lemon. Finally, allow the baklava to sit overnight before eating—the flavor improvement is worth the wait.” Source: COOK’s ILLUSTRATED | March 2004 (A pistachio version containing cardamom & rose water is appended to the feature article.) When shopping for rose water, look for the superior triple-filtered product which isn't based on alcohol. Orange-flower water is used in the syrup for a recipe delineated in Saveur (issue #54). An equal weight of strüdel pastry can be substituted for the phyllo. Or a 13-oz. packet of storebought puff pastry can be used rather than the commonly designated 1-lb. quantity of phyllo sheets. Cut the puff pastry into six equal pieces and roll out thinly to fit dimensions of the baking pan. Layer the pastry with the nut mixture, using only 2 oz. melted butter. The richest version of baklava I’ve prepared was filled with a chocolate-date-nut mixture soaked with a spiced syrup. Nevertheless, I expect most people would prefer a basic chopped-nut product -- served with an optional iced mint tea or, perhaps, a glass of sweet Sherry or Sauternes. Lawrence
  14. An oil is a fat. However, it is common practice to use the term “fat” for those substances that are in a solid state while at room temperature. Those that are liquid at room temperature are called oils. Fats from animals are solid and, generally, fats from plants are liquid at room temp. The notable exceptions are vegetable oils from the coconut and palm nut. Even though their saturation profiles differ, both animal and vegetable fats are composed of a glycerol molecule with three fatty acids. Shortening is classified as a fat because it is a solid at room temp. Shortening can be made with animal or vegetable fats—or a combination of both. Fat is the vehicle that transports fat-soluble vitamins through the body. Without a fresh supply of fat as anenergy source, and if your body has used up its stored fats and carbs, it is forced to resort to its supply of protein. (Fat is also essential for cell development.) It is imperative to understand that both over- and under-consumption of fat is harmful to good health. Biscuits are most commonly made with either butter or vegetable shortening. Butter imparts its special flavor to the baked goods, as well as flakiness; whereas, shortening (a lower-cost alternative) does produce a tender biscuit—albeit one that has a noticeably greasy coating in the eater’s mouth. Wonderfully soft biscuits are made using heavy cream, which has the advantage of not requiring the baker to cut in a solid fat with a rapid technique to achieve a particular non-heated texture. Search the recipe archive at the Cook’s Illustrated Web site for a first-class version of cream biscuits. Recipes for flaky biscuits often call for using butter & shortening together. See, for example, Cook’s Illustrated | January 2006; Beverly Cox, Biscuits, Pancakes, and Quick Breads (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 2004; Robert Cornfield & Kathy Gunst, Lundy’s: Reminiscences and Recipes from Brooklyn’s Legendary Restaurant (Morrow, 1998). A recipe for a scrumptious bannock (shortening & buttermilk) is printed in The Macphail Homestead Heritage Cookbook. Vegetable oil alone is the fat stipulated for Orange-Glazed Sticky Biscuits in James Villas’s Biscuit Bliss (Harvard Common Press, 2004). A mouthwatering shortening-&-buttermilk skillet biscuit recipe is supplied to the article “Biscuit Tales” by Julia Lee (Saveur | April 2000). Oil & buttermilk are added to biscuits recommended as an accompaniment to “sausage gravy or fried chicken (Saveur | April/May 2003). Haystack Mountain Biscuits used a blended mixture of peanut butter & shortening! (Herb Walker, Oklahoma Cookin’ (Baxter Lane Co., 1976). There are also numerous variations for yeast-raised buttermilk biscuits. Recipes for rich-tasting British-style scones are included in books such as Shelley & Bruce Richardson’s Year of Teas at the Elmwood Inn (Butler Books, 2001); Anton Edelmann’ Taking Tea at the Savoy (Trafalgar Sq. Pub., 1999); and Beth Hensperger, The Art of Quick Breads (Chronicle, 1994). Finally, we can prepare sheets of delicate sour cream biscuits. See, eg., the Sour Cream, Orange, and Lavender Biscuits in Jesse Z. Cool, Breakfast in Bed: 90 Recipes for Creative Indulgence (Morrow, 1997). Hardtack (aka “teethdullers”) were fatless biscuits, comprising only flour, salt, and water. They must've soaked them in bourbon to render them palatable.
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