Setting no boundaries in the pastry world

For all those pastry lovers who are adventurous enough to stand, drawning up in the chill of a harsh NYC winter before the clock marks 6 am, at the door of one of the most creative bakeries in downtown Manhattan, the name of Dominique Ansel, sounds like sweet melody in their ears. There is a reason for this pastry madness and commotional human behavior. Pastry Chef Dominique Ansel’s marriage between a buttery traditional French croissant with a funky American fried doughnut named “The Cronut”.

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This laminated, glazed, fried in grape seed oil croissant-doughnut injected with the filling of the month, like caramelized apple and Tahitian vanilla cream, born on May 10, 2013 with US Patent has broken the rules of traditional pastry making and has spread rapidly across the national and international borders.

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For his creator and pastry master, Dominique Ansel, “the cronut”, is just one manifestation of his love for pastry, joy for the scientific rigor of the craft, and years of expertise in the matter. Born and raise in Beauvais, France, started working his way up in Fauchon, the Fabergé of sweets on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris, and then in the United States, for six successful years as the Pastry Chef in the acclaimed restaurant Daniel from Daniel Boulud.

dominique & cronut Though he may be the most inventive pastry chef going in New York City and beyond, his early beginning are as humble as his present attitude. With only 16 years old- Chef Ansel started washing dishes and swept floors at a family restaurant. With no money to afford culinary training, he decided to enlist to the military where he managed to get a job in the kitchen. After saving enough money to move to the City of Lights, Paris, his tenacity and hard work paid him the ticket to work his way up to a permanent job at Fauchon. Moving up in the company to the point of opening new shops abroad and training young bakers. Eager to explore new culinary possibilities, back in 2006, he landed in the City that never sleeps, to take over the top pastry job at Daniel. Ambitious enough to spread his wings and unleash his creative mind in the pastry business, Chef Ansel, open his own casual pastry shop and center of operations in Soho, NYC back in 2011. The idea has been simple from the start: traditional creations like macarons, cannelés de Bordeaux and his own version of the Breton pastry kouign amann.

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As creativity started being unleashed, chef Ansel began to think up to the point that many creations inspired by American flavors were born, like: “the Frozen S’more”. A vanilla-flavored core of frozen custard in a chocolate feuilletine wafer under a layer of marshmallow stabbed with an applewood-smoked willow brach and torched to order.

Frozen-Smore-Interior-dominique asel And if you are hungry for more and happens to be in the city this spring, the latest wild creation of Chef Ansel for this season has arrived and caused big commotion as usual. “The waffogato”, an innovative twist on the Italian affogato, in which strong hot espresso is poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In Chef Ansel’s new confection and version of the affogato, he manages to convert the affogato into a breakfast treat, as the vanilla ice cream takes the shape of a waffle enhanced with Belgium waffle bits, and the maple syrup-scented espresso is poured over. Another crazy idea that sets the existence of no boundaries in the pastry world.

Dominque Ansel_waffogato nyc

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A Swedish sweet tradition

The magic of food is that it can take us to discover the deepest secrets that relies between a meal, an ingredient, an aroma, to the history and culture of the country is originated.

During this past Christmas, my friends and I decided to cook traditional food from our countries, that reminds us to this particular Holiday season. That is how I got to learn how to make Lussekatt, by the hand of my friend Elin. These wonderful and tasty spiced yeast-leavened sweet saffron buns,  with a delicate touch of nutmeg and raisins, are a party in your mouth!

The buns are baked into many traditional shapes, of which the simplest is a reversed S-shape. In Sweden they are traditionally eaten during Advent and especially on Saint Lucy’s day on December 13. But I am a believer that once you tried one of this sweet treats, you will want to eat them all year round!

To prove I am a good girl (in case Santa is still around and wants to bring more presents…) I decided to share this traditional recipe with you all.

Enjoy them and include them in your own Holiday tradition!

Lussekatt Ingredients:

150 grams melted butter

1 gram saffron

18 oz milk

50 grams fresh yeast

250 grams Quark

1-1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cardamom

1 tsp salt

1 whole egg

3 cups All purpose flour

1 cup raisins

Lussekatt procedure:

In a big bowl combine the melted butter, slightly heated milk and yeast, and mix well. Add saffron previously grounded with a mortar and pestle, sugar, salt, cardamom, one egg and raisins.DSCN3739Mix well to combine and gradually add the sifted flour

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Combine until a dough that pulls out of the bowl forms. Be careful to not overwork the dough. Cover the dough inside the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and or plastic film and let it proof in a warm environment (like on top of your stove) for 1 hour or until double in size

DSCN3750Once it proofed, work the dough on a clean floured table. Cut it in quarters and start shaping little logs of dough that will be shaped in a reverse S-shape

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once you shape your lussekatt, placed them in a buttered baking pan, cover with kitchen towel and or plastic film, and let them proof once more time, about 40 minutes to an hour

DSCN3755Once proofed, egg wash your pastries and bake them in a preheated oven at 400 F for 5 to 8 minutes or until nice color

DSCN3763let them cool and enjoy them with milk and good company!

DSCN3769DSCN3765You will enjoy every bite of these sweet pastries… I guarantee it!

Ciao Bologna!

My Italian blood is calling, and a visit to my relatives from the Northern Italian Region of Emilia-Romagna, is on the list. So, after getting my carry-on ready, I am on my way to la cittá di Bologna!

DSCN2324This city well-known as a cultural and tourist centre, being the home of one of the most prestigious universities of the world: la Universitá di Bologna, is also a great culinary choice as it offers everything your palate could desire

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Splendid Parma hams, tasty Parmigiano Reggiano, pig rearing, aceto balsamico, milk and dairy produce, and an endless paradise of pasta fresca in a variety of forms and shapes like: ravioli, tortellini (for which there are around 101 different recipes invented in Bologna-as the locals say), agnolotti, capelletini, lasagne and more, . And, as my grandmother Angela used to said: “the secret of a great fresh pasta is using always the fresh ingredients and never change the recipe”. Believe me, every rasdora (housewife) in Bologna master this respect and technique for the art of pasta making. Pasta dough is carefully kneaded, pulled out by hand or rolled out thin with a rolling-pin that pass through generations to generations as a precious trophy

DSCN2426Many Italians cities have a nickname that describes its historical origin. Bologna is known as: Bologna la Dotta (Bologna that Learned) alluding to the fact it is the home of Europe’s oldest university founded in 1911, and Bologna la Grassa. Even though the epithet “fat” sound a little bit negative, it reveals the preference for the ample and sumptuous cuisine of their native city. What this means? Simple: cooking according traditional recipes, respecting the ingredients and spending long time in the kitchen. Forget about innovative cuisine in this part of the world. It is all about tradition. A beautiful tradition that is served and tasted at the table of each Italian home as well as their restaurants

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Like my paccheri pasta con Ragú alla Bolognesa that was enjoyed to the last bite!

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But nothing says more Bologna la Grassa-culinary speaking- than Mortadella

DSCN2429Ground pork meat and long strips of fat that gives the mosaic appearance and the unique taste, plus the secret mixture of herbs that every Italian butcher will add, gives mortadella its incomparable taste that makes everyone happy

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Sausages like: salama da sugo (pig’s liver and tongue wrapped in a coating of ground neck of pork), coppa (delicious antipasto made with meat from the pig’s neck), pancetta (fatty bacon from the belly of the pig), salsiccia (fresh sausage made from pork and beef mixed with baco) and cotechino (made with pork rind, lean pork, fat and seasonings),  a favorite in Emilia-Romagna served with lentils and sauerkraut

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but, what else makes Bologna a fantastic culinary and cultural destination?

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We can not forget about the delicious and traditional pastries like: torta di risso, one of my favorites served at Gamberini, a magical pasticceria that first opened its doors back in 1907

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Turrone, panforte, cannoli, spumeti, biscotti, chocolato, gelato,… all ready to transform your life in a Dolce Vita!

DSCN2360The tradition of the city…

DSCN2345The music of their hearts…

DSCN2260The celebration of their culture and food…

DSCN2346and, let’s not forget the celebration of their first passion: fútbol, that will make you scream: forza Italia!- at any game

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The richest produce of their soil

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The richest juice of the grapes in their vines …

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All these and much more, makes this amazing city full of tradition and culture, a destination that will warm your heart, body and soul. Ciao bella Bologna!

A taste of my sweet Paris

Finally it has come, my visit to Paris. A magical city with charm and beauty all around

Many reasons can bring you to this City of Lights. You name it: fashion, art, culture,romantic scape, etc. For me it’s all about pastries. So, I have raised the bar and my goal was set: map on hand, comfortable but fashionable shoes, camera on hand, and an empty stomach ready to taste the best pastry and chocolate creations this magical city has to offer! Time frame?: 48 hours. Ready, set, go!

eiffel tower picMy list of best patisseries and chocolate shops of Paris has many names on it: Laduree, Pierre Herme, Jean-Paul Hévin, La Maison du Chocolat, Patrick Roger, Gérard Mulot … but, after visiting them all, I have chosen to dedicate this post to one of my favorite patisseries as my palate has tasted and spoken: Cafe Pouchkine

DSCN1666With no less appreciation for the rest of patisseries from my list, Café Pouchkine Paris, has captivated my eyes and all my taste buds. Located in the ground floor of the Printemps Department Store, the renowned pastry chef Emmanuel Ryon, has accomplished to honor each classic French pastry with his unique touch of Russian flavors and ingredients that represent him

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Caramel, chocolate, pistachio, lemon, vanilla, rum, fresh fruit, spiced flavors of the world that burst in your mouth and awake all your senses take many forms in Cafe Pouchkine!

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All bring us together to this amazing patisserie that enchants you with its Russian charm as soon as you enter through its doors

blog pic-eclair cafe pouchkineéclairs with many flavors like chocolate and caramel

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Millefeuille made of caramelized puff pastry between layers of light Bourbon-vanilla chantilly

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Cakes full of flavors and textures, like the Caramel and Honey cakes

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and one of my favorites: The Prague Cake, traditional chocolate genoise, with layers of mousse au chocolat, spiced with chunky green apple marmalade

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not your typical strudel at Cafe Pouchkine. A bite of this fine pastry filled with apple compote and pistachios, will delight your senses to the extreme!

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amazing chocolate creations for all seasons

blog pic-macaroons cafe pouchkineUnique macaroons in shape, color and flavors that are impossible to resist

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A beautiful Rose Pouchkine made of pistachio biscuit with fruit compote and pistachio cream embellished with white chocolate petals kissed by golden leaves

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and because sometimes simple is the best, this tarte aux amandes, was my first choice to start my day in Paris, with a cup of hot chocolate… Bonjour!

DSCN1688With many incredible choices it is hard to choose your favorites, but I have to say that the Gateau citron meringue called my attention

DSCN1690its heart of sharp lemon surrounded by a smooth and fluffy genoise cake, with the delicate touch of a rich and soft meringue, can take you to the other realm!

DSCN1871Saved for later: my Baba Stainlas. Believe me when I say that you have not tried a real baba rum cake until you taste this one!

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A spiced cake, with a center of caramelized vanilla-rum creme and caramelized pate phyllo dough for an extra crunch and contrast in texture, that is out of this world!

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Finally, after my two days of best pastry hunting, with a full stomach, a warm heart and exhausted feet, I happily can said: mission accomplish. Once again, my sweet Paris, got me craving for more!

Chocolate truffles: what a sweet mistake!…

Oh, chocolate truffles… wonderful delights! … Do not  be foolish by their hard chocolate exterior  as their creamy interior will melt your heart and soul with each taste.

What a remarkable day, during the 1920s, when in the kitchen of the famed French culinary artisan: Auguste Escoffier, the chocolate truffle was born. As the books recorded, one of his apprentice who was following his daily kitchen routine of making pastry cream, accidentally poured the hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared eggs. As he realized the chocolate and cream mixture hardened allowing him to work the chocolate paste, he started forming a bumpy ball to not waste the precious chocolate. Then, for an extra touch, he rolled his new creation in cocoa powder. This curious apprentice was so shock by their resemblance to the mushroom-like truffles of the French countryside that he called them: Chocolate truffles!

From that time on, chocolate truffles, are one of the most irresistible treats with impressive taste and fancy looks enjoyed by all ages.

Why not celebrate this accidental truffle birth by gathering your family and friends around the kitchen and making some?. They are so easy to prepare. Have fun and do not be afraid of making any mistake!

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Ingredients

250 grams of bittersweet chocolate (I personally prefer Valrhona Guanaja 70%)*

1/2 vanilla pod

100 grams of heavy cream

80 grams of honey

50 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

200 grams of bittersweet chocolate, for dipping

80 grams of cocoa powder

Procedure

1.- Finely chop the chocolate

2.- Open the vanilla pod in the half and scrape the seeds into a saucepan with the cream and honey

3.- Boil up the cream mixture and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Mix well until an even paste and add the butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave to cool at room temperature until firm

4.- Make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place them in a tray lined with parchment paper. Leave in the refrigerator to stiffen

5.- Roll each chocolate truffle in cocoa powder. Leave them to dry for 1 hour

6.- Temper the rest of the bittersweet chocolate reserved for dipping. Place a small amount of tempered chocolate in your hands enough to roll the balls covering them very well

7.- Finally, roll the balls again in cocoa powder. Put them in a sieve and gently shake off any excess of cocoa powder

Vivre le macaron!

When it comes to choose my favorites sweet indulges, “le macarons” are on top of the list. Let’s be honest, who can resist to this wonderful “small round cake with almonds”, described by  Francois Rabelais, a gourmet writer who first mentioned the macaroon in 1552 in the Quart Livre

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Introduced by Catherine de Médicis’ Chefs, this delicacy’s origins are Mediterranean, probably by the region of Andalusia in Spain. By 1492, before the expulsion of the Jews, food eaten had to be flourless and unleavened. Voila!, le macaron was the perfect answer to those restrictions.

This “cake of the blessed” as the Greeks used to call them, was introduced to France as a petit four and was quickly spread. By 1864 they were still biscuits made of almonds, egg whites and sugar. Soon the time of glory will take place by the skillful hand of the talented Louis-Ernest Ladureé, who revolutionised the macaroon.

Coffee, chocolate, vanilla and raspberry were the common flavors used for these petit fours with a fruity or creamy filling presented in gorgeous boxes signed by famous designers like: Sonia Rykiel and Anna Sui. Later on, Pierre Hermé who first started at Ladureé and then open his own pastry empire, reworked this classic with new tempting flavors and fillings, like the latest creation of this author: “the ketchup macaroon”

With no doubts, the macaroons are a signature of fine baking worthy to have a marked day in the calendar as “The Day of the Macaroon” stablished by Pierre Hermé by 2006. Who can resist to them? just a bite to this delicacy is enough to be enchanted.

Now that you know a little bit more about these wonderful delicacies, in case I inspired you enough to make them, here goes the recipe. Let’s get baking!

RASPBERRY MACAROONS

  • Before you get started in this challenged business of making macaroons, it is very important to follow these tips during the recipe process for optimum results:
  • Only use fresh egg whites that were clarified on the previous day. Take them out of the fridge at least 2 hours before preparing the macaroons
  • Choose the best quality of fine white almond powder. Always sift the almond powder and weigh it again after it
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar in order to be very fine

Ingredients

200 grams of egg whites

50 grams of  granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

5 drops of pink food coloring

450 grams of sifted confectioners’ sugar

250 grams of white almond powder

A pinch of salt

200 grams of raspberry jam

Procedure

1.- In a bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with the granulated sugar, the salt, the fresh lemon juice and the food coloring until very stiff peaks. Pour the sifted confectioners’ sugar and almond powder over the whisked egg whites. Stir with a spatula until the macaroon batter is homogeneous, smoother and shinier. Be careful to not deflate the batter too much as the macaroons will lose their round shape when piping

2.- Prepare a clean pastry bag with a small round pastry tip. Fill it with the macaroon paste. On a silicone baking sheet placed on an oven tray, shape into balls of 1 to 1-1/2 inch of diameter, for petits-fours macaroons. Lightly tap on the back of the oven tray to help the paste to spread smoothly. Let the piped macaroons dried at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Tip: slightly touch the surface of the macaroon to prove if they are dried

3.- Bake the macaroons in a preheat oven at 300˚ F for 10 minutes.

4.- Allow the macaroons to cool before removing them from the silicone baking sheet.

5.- Garnish the macaroons with raspberry jam and then stick them together in twos.

blog pic-raspberry laduree macaron

Argentinian flavors in a bite

For all those who have requested many times my recipe for the Argentinian empanadas” (Argentinian style meat turnovers), here you have it. Now you can try to make them at home and share with family and friends at all times. They are the perfect food to make, bake, freeze and store in individuals packets and have them ready to go. Take them to the office for lunch (you will make new friends I promise you), get them ready for your kids so they can have a healthy snack when they come back from school or hide them for yourself in the fridge (good luck with that!). You can enjoy them either hot or cold. They are so easy to make that you are not going to believe it!. Once you have conquered this recipe nobody can stop you from making your own creations by replacing the meat filling with anything you like (try ham & cheese; tomato, mozzarella and ham; spinach & ricotta; cooked tuna, and much more)

You can either try to make the crust or use frozen pastry dough sold at your grocery store. If you go for the second option, allow the dough to defrost in the fridge overnight before using it.

For those who like to challenge themselves in the kitchen and have more time to spare, here goes my recipe for the empanada crust. Notice that this recipe is best for baked empanadas instead of the fried ones. If you ask me wich one I prefer or like most, the crust for baked empanadas is the answer as it is a healthier choice and stores better.

Crust for baked empanadas:

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of Salmuera (brine). Prepare a concoction with dissolved salt in hot water and left aside until cold.
  • 4 ounces of butter or margarine

Preparation
To make the crust, place the flour into a bowl and mix the margarine or butter into the flour using your fingers. Pour the Salmuera slowly into the mix and mix it with your fingers just until the dough comes together and can be formed easily into a ball. Let the dough rest (outside the fridge) for about half an hour. Divide the dough in small balls the size of half an egg. Then roll with a roller pin out to a thickness of 1/8-inch making a rounded shape.

Filling:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons Corm oil
  • 1 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped in small squares
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green olives, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped spring green onion (only the green part)
  • 1 tablespoon ground hot and sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground red dry spicy peppers
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

In a large saucepan, melt the butter with corn oil together, and place the onions and stir them until transparent. Add the ground beef, next add the raisin, spices, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and stir with a wooden spoon to keep the meat broken-up. Pour over about a half cup of water and let it cook for about 10 minutes or until meat is completely cooked. Once cooked, place the filling in a bowl, let it cool off, cover it and put in the refrigerator (for better taste) overnight, otherwise if time does not permit, leave the filling for about an hour in the refrigerator. Once you have the mix cold then is when you add the hard-boiled eggs, green olives and spring green onions.

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk or water

Filling the empanadas:

Take the dough you let to rest and divide the dough in small balls the size of half an egg. Then roll it out with a roller pin to a thickness of 1/8-inch making a rounded shape from each ball. Spoon the filling onto one half of each leaving room to fold in the other half and seal. Tab some warm water with your fingers, place in half of the ends so the dough will stick better, press the edges with the tip of a fork or you can do what we call in Argentina “repulgue” which instead of using the fork to seal you flip it upwards and press with your fingers. Place on a non-stick baking pan or add a thin layer of butter to the pan. Combine the ingredients for the egg wash and brush each empanada at the top. Pre heat the oven to 350 F and bake them until the crust turns light brown. Buen provecho y a disfrutar!

Do not be intimidated by doing the “repulgue”. Keep trying and remember that with good practice you will become a pro! You also have the option of closing and pressing the dough with the help of a fork

Time for me to make a visit to the kitchen and look for these delicious snacks in my freezer… so much working deserves a good prize! Yummy!