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Tastes & Traditions: Brioche with champagne

Tastes & Traditions

Brioche with champagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Ingredients: (Yield : 12 brioches scaled 400g)



Champagne preferment:


Bread flour 450 g
Fresh Yeast 12 g
Champagne 375 g

Dough:



Bread flour 1500 g
Salt 53g
Fresh Yeast 20 g
Sugar 300 g
Milk 375 g
Whole eggs 525 g
Butter 790 g
Golden raisins 600 g
Rum 60 g

Macaron Mix:



Almond paste 50% 270 g
Whole almond powder 525 g
Oil 115 g
Corn starch 115 g
Egg white 200 / 300 g
Vanilla paste 40 g

Finition:



Chopped whole almonds 150 g
Confectionary sugar
200 g

Preferment:

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Mix the preferment with a spatula and store overnight in the cooler.

Dough:

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Mix the dough in planetary mixer like a brioche : preferment, flour, salt, yeast, sugar, milk, eggs 5 min. in 1st speed, then 10 min. in the second speed (until the dough doesn’t stick on the). Add the cold butter and mix 5 more min. in second speed. Add the soaked raisins and mix at first speed until incorporated. Let rest the dough at room temperature during 45 min. Divide and preshape, let rest 10 more min.

Shape:

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Shape and put in exoglass brioche molds. Proof 2 hours at 80 F.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Preparation of the macaron mix:

With the paddle in a kitchenaid mix all the ingredients together and adjust the consistency with more or less egg white.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

The mix must be spreadable, but not liquid.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

At the end of the second fermentation, use a piping bag and a rubban nozzle on top of the brioches.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

With a stainless steel sieve cover the brioches with icing sugar.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Bake at 320F during 30 min. in a convection oven or 356F during 35 min. in a deck oven.

Brioche with chapagne from Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Spotlight: Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Spotlight

Pierre Zimmermann

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pierre Zimmermann's soul is Alsatian, and his heart Chicagoan. From Schnersheim to Old Town, on one fine day in 2009, he took the step to sell the family bakery in the Bas-Rhin and move to Chicago. With his wife Michèle and their two sons, the master baker founded La Fournette, with the idea of recreating his own small local bakery here. It was without counting on the American dream! Today, eight years later, this bakery world champion enthusiastically manages a flourishing business which has become a benchmark for chefs and local clientele alike.

Chef Pierre Zimmermann   

How did you arrive in Chicago?

Between 2000 and 2010, I’d come to Chicago twice a year to teach at the French Pastry School. Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, the founders of the school needed technical advice for breads and viennoiseries. That’s how the story started! At the beginning I jabbered a few words in English, and in my opinion it was a disaster for the students! (Laughs) But, as the years passed, the idea of opening a business germinated in my mind and in my wife Michèle’s. Then one day in 2010 we sold our Alsatian company of over 110 years to come here. We gave ourselves two years to build the concept. Of course to begin with, our idea was a bit smaller and even improvised in a French way of baking bread out the back and producing it out front. But in a city like Chicago, that type of concept doesn’t last long. Faced with a huge demand, we quickly moved on to plan B. In the United States, anything can happen!

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

How was the transition to increased production?

In the end, we didn’t go through the small shop stage that we’d dreamed of, because rents are too high to have a production area in the city. So we very quickly decided to split production and sales. We took a large empty warehouse and had everything built on plan. It was a colossal project for us coming from a small village with only four hundred inhabitants! And we opened on the July 14 2012. Today, we have two units. We got our hands on the one next door and we'd like to buy the next one.

How do you explain La Fournette’s success?

This city had a real need for artisanal bread. Chicago isn’t like Paris where you can go from one patisserie to another. I think La Fournette’s success is mainly due to the quality of our products and the fact that we use natural primary ingredients, even with large scale production. Making fifty baguettes without using improving agents is easy, but when you’re talking about making more than a thousand, then it becomes a real challenge. Also, we have retained a totally artisanal concept, and not mechanized production.

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

How do you maintain a traditional mode of production when you produce so much?

We have only multiplied the number of “arms”: we started out with fifteen and have fifty today. The three thousand breads we make each day are all manually shaped, in a very traditional way; with no preservatives, improving agents or food colours. This also applies to our macaroons; all made with natural food colours. The market exploded and last year we produced one and a half million.

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Does the majority of your turnover come from B to B marketing?

Yes, we supply bistros such as chef Domique Tougne’s (Chez Moi), but also gastronomic restaurants. Our signature is bread and viennoiserie. We also work with hotels for the “VIP receptions” part which represents 50 to 3500 viennoiseries per hotel: Renaissance, Sheraton, Sofitel, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Blackstone,… The quality of our products is known in Chicago and many chefs want to work with us as we select our ingredients and try to be as “green” as possible. From local farms and mills I’ve found butter and flour with equivalent quality to French products. Our eggs come from free range chickens, without antibiotics and our products will shortly be guaranteed without GMOs. At the moment, we are working on a new range that is even more natural, artisanal and local. This is our footprint.

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Since when does this demand for traceability exist in Chicago and the United States in general?

It has been a very strong phenomenon for the past five years. The customer is of course interested in the chef who prepares their dish but also the ingredients. Fifteen years ago, French chefs were considered gods in the US, and all they said was taken for granted. Today, it’s a very different story. We are not considered credible if we buy flour filled with preservatives while we say that we use premium products. It is necessary to go to the beginning of the chain, and yet the hardest part was to find people with whom to work sustainably. For example, to make macaroons, we buy almond powder directly from a farm near San Francisco. This is because we have specific hydrometric and particle size requirements. Today, we use a crate of almond powder every week!

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

When did you start working with Matfer?

In the Alsace, I already had Matfer equipment. You know, the catalogue is in every bakery-pâtisserie in France! So I continued when I arrived in Chicago, especially since Matfer was one of our partners at the opening of La Fournette: the company helped us greatly with purchasing our equipment. It is an important choice because when chefs come to the laboratory, the fact that we use Matfer, to them, is a true guarantee of the quality of the equipment.

They say to themselves : “this is a specialist, and if he chose this brand, then there is a reason for it!”

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

 

What utensil do you prefer using?

All of our sandwich bread moulds are in Exoglass. Firstly, the thermal conduction works very well. Then, honestly, there is a real difference between a metallic mould which will always transfer a taste to the bread, which isn’t the case with Exoglass, even with highly hydrated doughs. And for slow fermentation, it’s unbeatable, it doesn’t budge! In the dishwasher, Exoglass holds its own compared with metal moulds. For me, it’s a real advantage. Another advantage with Exoglass moulds is that you can directly shape the dough in the moulds and bake them the same day; you can put them in the refrigerator to bake the next day or even in the freezer before proving. This means you can bake fresh products every morning.

 

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

 

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Another indispensable product?

What’s seriously missing here, are dough containers, so we had them brought over from Matfer France. Stackable containers are a problem with cooling in the refrigerator due to the insulation, whereas trolleys with eight containers leave enough space with good air circulation which ensures better control of fermentation.

Could you share a chef’s tip with us?

To waste less icing sugar on my brioches, I place the Exoglass moulds in such a way that the edges overlap before sprinkling. It’s just a little trick which divides the surface of sugar in two, which is usually lost down the sides of the mould.

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

 

And finally, do you miss the Alsace?

Leaving the Alsace for Chicago was a huge challenge for all the family since we’d never lived there. But Chicago is becoming a little Alsatian; there are a few of us who come together regularly here

“Alsatian mafia” rules! (laughter)

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

 

At the age of 15, Pierre Zimmermann started an apprenticeship at Naegel, a patisserie in the heart of Strasbourg where his friend Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of the French Pastry School (Chicago), also made his debut. Two years later, he ‘returned home’ and joined the family bakery in Schnersheim in the Alsace, where he proudly represented the fourth generation. At the same time, Pierre pursued his studies at the Chambre des Métiers d’Alsace and the Lenôtre school in Paris. He sat the Brevet de Maîtrise (Master’s qualification) in pâtisserie-confectionery-ice cream and that of baker, before brilliantly entering the competition arena. In 1996, it’s the Holy Grail: he won the Bakery World Cup. In 2008, it’s he who coached the French team at the World Cup and is yet again victorious. At the same time, between 2000 and 2010, he taught at the renowned French Pastry School, where he proposed the bakery-viennoiserie programme and created the “Bread program – l’Art de la Boulangerie”. In 2010, he founded La Fournette, working with his wife Michèle and their two sons, Luc and Nicolas. Master Baker, Master patissier and Bretzel d’Or, Pierre Zimmermann is also Member of the Académie Culinaire de France (The French Culinary Academy). He also won the prize for “Best Baguette Chicago 2017

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Chef Pierre Zimmermann

Tastes & Traditions: Hybrid Desserts

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

Tastes & Traditions

Dining in the Age of Digital Dessert

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In a Millennial-informed age of “too much is never enough”, dessert is no exception. While the top trends in delectable sweets used to focus on pairing unusual and unexpected ingredients, the recent rise of hybrid desserts - the innovative combination of two distinct dessert concepts into one - has officially assumed the spotlight. Pastry chefs across the country are getting creative with the latest trend that combines two pastry staples into one sweet surprise.

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

Perhaps one of the most illustrious examples is the Cronut (croissant + donut) made famous by New York pastry chef, Dominique Ansel. What seems like a donut on the outside, once ravenously bitten into, reveals itself to be a buttery, flaky, and often times filled croissant on the inside. In fact, the Cronut became so popular that a trademark was issued to protect the name. Now numerous adaptations exist such as "dossants."

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

In a similar fashion, Zac Young’s holiday-themed mash up, “PieCaken”, put a spotlight on his restaurant and career - this luxuriously rich hybrid pastry includes decadent layers of cake and holiday pie with a finish of oat streusel. Not unlike Ansel’s Cronut, Young’s PieCaken resulted in a firestorm of braggadocious social media posts from sugar-saturated fans lucky enough to get in on the highly addicting and ever-so-trendy action.

With the modern pastry market now rife with everything from crepe cakes to churro ice cream cones, the question must be asked: what's driving this trend’s popularity? Perhaps it’s an increasingly health-conscious generation choosing to eat less sugar and thus wanting to cram as many sweet flavors into one serving as possible. Or - and this would seem to be a more likely assertion - perhaps it’s the democratically-driven peer pressure of social media and hybrid desserts grabbing more of our collective attention with the all-too-rampant fear of missing out (FOMO).

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

hybrid desserts sherrie tan

In recent years, there is no mistaking social media’s influence throughout the culinary space, providing a landscape where digital influencers and a mass audience protected by the screen between them and their subject matter have the combined power to make or break the success of a dish, restaurant, and/or chef within a single post. So for the time being, it would seem hybrid desserts are enjoying the favor of the social audience at large - and the chefs responsible for leading the charge have the collective approval of their consumers from a granular level.

Who’s to say what the next socially-driven food trend will be? For the time being, we say let them eat PieCaken. Read more about hybrid desserts in this month's featured Chef Spotlight with Sherrie Tan.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Revolving Cake Stand "Stabilodecor", Offset Spatula, Bourgeat Excellence Sauce Pan Without Lid, Non-Stick Crepe Pan, & “Tradition” Flared Sauté Pan Without Lid.

Chef Spotlight: Sherrie Tan

Chef Sherrie Tan

Chef Spotlight

Sherrie Tan

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Moving to upstate New York at the age of 19 to attend The Culinary Institute of America after spending her childhood in the Philippines, chef Sherrie Tan has never been shy about pursuing her passion in pastry. She began her post-graduation journey under esteemed pastry chef Gale Gand at her restaurant Tru in Chicago, moving on next to the renowned Charlie Trotters as assistant pastry chef. She followed this with a stint at the Peninsula Hotel before deciding on a change of pace, taking on new challenges as a cake decorator at Chicago-based Sweet Mandy B's in 2009. Sherrie has since flourished in the world of cakes and cookies, becoming Sweet Mandy B's head pastry chef in 2011. Lucky for us, she sat down to talk about her love of baking while making us a Key Lime Crepe Cake with Pineapple Coconut Jam to toast to the arrival of summer.

Chef Sherrie Tan

Chef Sherrie Tan

Your dessert is inspired by your Philippine heritage. What are some other key flavors from the Philippines you love to bake with?

I actually wanted to do something with ube, because I want the real thing like I can find back home. It’s hard to get it in the U.S. unless you’re friends with someone who actually grows it. I’m actually going to Hawaii to meet with my family next week, and I’ve asked them to bring me some ube goodies!

What does ube taste like?

It’s a root vegetable, and it’s very subtle. It’s very similar to taro, but less starchy. Because of it's subtlety, you put a lot of ingredients on top of it to compliment it's delicate flavor.

Chef Sherrie Tan

While we're talking about foods from other cultures, what culinary culture do you think has the best desserts?

You know what, I love Japanese desserts. They aren’t too sweet – some people may consider Japanese desserts to be bland because they’re less sweet – but I feel like their techniques are so spot on! The Japanese have borrowed a lot from other cultures, like French techniques mixed with Japanese technology. I just love how subtle, simple and clean the desserts are there. And every single component is perfect.

Chef Sherrie Tan

Chef Sherrie Tan

We understand the allure of a crepe cake. For those of us not familiar, why a crepe cake?

I like the texture of it, and it ends up being really visually appealing while still tasting good. It’s worth the extra labor time you have compared to a standard cake.

Speaking of extra labor, are there ingredients that you find particularly hard to work with?

There aren't really difficult ingredients so much as there are difficult preparations. Let’s say you’re making Thai curry ice cream. I like to make the base on my own by getting the raw ingredients and pounding it with a mortar and pestle – that takes a while. With challenging ingredients, it's more the process that can be tricky – and that's where using the right tools comes in! Although maybe when you use fresh coconut that you have to crack into – sometimes that can be pretty difficult!

Chef Sherrie Tan

Chef Sherrie Tan

Other than the standard chef’s knife, which no good chef can live without, what kitchen tool do you find indispensable?

Definitely rubber scrapers. Both professional chefs and home cooks need that in the kitchen, so you’re using all of your ingredients and wasting nothing.

A couple of years ago you saw a rise in global street food and correctly called it as one of the culinary world’s next big trends. So what’s next?

I think Filipino desserts and cuisine are on the rise. Filipino dishes and flavors have already started popping up, but I think it’s happening more rapidly now. Pretty soon your grandma is going to be asking you, “What’s ube? Where can I find it?”

Chef Sherrie Tan

How has baking in an “old-fashioned dessert” spot shaped your baking style?

My training is mostly in fine-dining, so it was a bit of a culture shock for me to end up baking old-fashioned, home-style desserts. But it opened my eyes. Before I started at Sweet Mandy B’s, I felt like I just had to have to best ingredients for everything all the time. When you’re in fine dining, you use all of these fancy ingredients and have access to that. While I really appreciate that, I think there is beauty in something simple and approachable. There are more great desserts out there other than fine-dining style plated desserts. 

Since we've been talking about desserts this whole time, we can't let you go without asking: Do you have any guilty pleasure junk foodS?

A lot! It’s really bad. Everything doughnuts. Even Hostess! There are also these things called Tastykakes from Philadelphia that I absolutely love. I could eat a whole box of their Butterscotch Krimpets.

Chef Sherrie Tan

Chef Sherrie Tan

As a baking expert, do you have any advice for someone who is intimidated by baking and pastry?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I still make mistakes every day. I’ll still burn a tray or two of cookies or cupcakes sometimes. That’s just the way it is. You just have to do it, and if you make a mistake, you try to do it differently the next time – maybe use a different technique or tool. Change up the ingredients and read up on cooking as much as you can. There is no way to get the intimidation out of the way unless you actually do it.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Revolving Cake Stand "Stabilodecor", Offset Spatula, Bourgeat Excellence Sauce Pan Without Lid, Non-Stick Crepe Pan, & “Tradition” Flared Sauté Pan Without Lid.

Tastes & Traditions: Coffee in the Spice Drawer

edible flowers

Tastes & Traditions

Coffee in the Spice Drawer

Thursday, June 1, 2017

General interest in boutique and artisanal coffee shops has exploded over the last few years as baristas are looking to more complex and interesting forms of brewing. That coffee can inspire such attention to detail and cultish following as a drink may explain why it’s being explored in culinary applications, too. But chefs aren’t just changing the face of the coffeehouse by opening coffee concepts in conjunction with their full-service restaurants — this strong bean is also making its way into cocktails, pastry, and cooking in general.

chef working with edible flowers

edible flowers and tomatoes make the perfect pair

Once coffee is added to a dish, it lends new dimension to the flavor profile as well as a level of exotic appeal. Until recently, this was most commonly seen in a classic combo: coffee and chocolate. It’s unsurprising, then, that coffee has a long history in baking because it's so well suited for sweets. However, coffee can be traced back to at least the 1930s in cocktail applications as well. Irish coffee is credited to a chef in Ireland who tossed whiskey into coffee for American travelers in the 1940s, and Tia Maria — a Jamaican coffee and rum liqueur — has been around since at least the '30s.

matfer prep chef used to slice tomatoes

Today, coffee pairings far outstrip these basic combinations as chefs experiment with the many sweet and savory flavor profiles that can be enhanced by coffee. The caffeinated bean complements many unexpected dishes by adding a quintessentially roasted, bitter, earthy, and complex taste element. Chefs are beginning to test innovative cooking processes, like simmering coffee beans in olive oil to extract their earthy essence into their cooking, or using ground coffee in spice rubs to tenderize and add flavor to meat. From prime rib to spaghetti Bolognese, we are seeing more interesting and inventive uses of coffee for beverages, desserts, and main dishes alike.

matfer prep chef used to slice tomatoes

matfer prep chef used to slice tomatoes

Coffee-infused beer, and coffee sodas will also be making a larger appearance this summer, as breweries are partnering with artisanal roasters to create boozy, coffee flavored brews. The Italian espresso brand illy is responding to consumer request and promoting an “espressoda” – illy espresso, club soda, and vanilla syrup served in a latte glass. As these trends develop and evolve, we can expect to see coffee integrating itself into the general spice drawer for general baking and cooking. Read more about baking with coffee in this month's featured Chef Spotlight with Zac Young.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Exoglass® Tart RingsExoglass® Pastry CuttersExopan® Steel Non-stick Open Savarin MoldPetit Bowl Ludico, & Petit Bowl Evaz

Chef Spotlight: Zac Young

Chef Zac Young

Chef Spotlight

Zac Young

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America 2015, Chef Zac Young has taken the pastry world by storm with his irreverent takes on classic American desserts. From his beginnings working in the wig department at Radio City Music Hall to his all-in-one viral Thanksgiving sensation, The PieCaken, Zac's career has been anything but ordinary. Now the Pastry Director of Craveable Hospitality Group (formerly known as David Burke Group), we were thrilled to sit down with Zac to enjoy his signature wit and pastry wisdom while he whipped up the perfect surprise just in time for Donut Day: a coffee and donut tart.

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

From wigs to whisks, what was it like switching careers?

Scary? I was kind of naive coming into this industry. I didn't really know what I got myself into. By the time I figured it out, it was too late. I was hooked.

What was the first dessert you ever made?

Cookies are actually what sparked my interest in pastry. I started playing with recipes, and fell in love with creativity within the confines of science, which I think is the heart of pastry.

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

When was the last time you tried a pastry or dessert that completely blew you away, and what was it?

Dominique Ansel is best known for the Cronut, but I'm obsessed with his Kouign-Amann. It's basically an extra sugary croissant baked into a ring so the edges are crispy and the center is gooey and buttery. They are even better hot out of the oven!

What is your favorite quality about pastry?

Creativity within the confines of science. Every dish is a challenge, a puzzle, an equation. It is mental, physical, and artistic.

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

What was the inspiration for this tart you’re making us today?

It's a play on my French training mixed with my slightly over-the-top American style of desserts. It also glorifies the donut.

How do the tools that you use affect your creative process?

I love tools and toys! Sometimes, I'll see a Flexipan® and the shape will inspire a dish. I'm also always looking for inventive ways to use the tools that I have, like baking on the back sides of a Silform®, or setting a panna cotta in a glass placed on an angle in a French Bread Pan. I actually got the idea for the tart by looking at the Savarin Exopan® Molds. I thought, "Hmmm, that looks like a donut... what if I made a kind of finessed but fun coffee and donut tart?"

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

What 3 ingredients do you use on a daily basis?

Aside from the obvious like AP flour, butter, and eggs... crème fraîche, blueberries, and bourbon.

What would you do without butter?

I'd survive, but life would not be as great.

What is your favorite coffee to use in your baked goods?

Something that is fresh. Coffee has a shelf life. I like to use something that's locally roasted.

How do you bake with coffee without overpowering the dessert?

I like to do a cold infusion. I take the beans, gently toast them in the oven to wake up the oils, then add them to cold cream or milk and let it sit overnight. It gives a lot of flavor without being acidic.

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

Do you taste everything that you make?

I do... but just a taste... except for ice cream, then I have a very big taste.

What is a pastry chef’s secret to staying fit?

It's all about balance. I'm not willing to sacrifice delicious food, so I have to work extra hard at the gym. I alternate between Pilates and Hot Yoga, which also gives me time to clear my mind.

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

How did it feel to have your #PieCaken go viral?

Strange. I actually had no clue what was happening. My friends kept texting me, "Hey, you are on Kelly & Michael." "Hey, you are on the Today Show... In Australia!" It took on a life of its own. I was focused to keeping up with orders.

What would be the ultimate mash up dessert?

Bourbon, ice cream, and a nap!

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

Zac Young makes coffee and donut tart

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Exoglass® Tart Rings, Exoglass® Pastry Cutters, Exopan® Steel Non-stick Open Savarin Mold, Petit Bowl Ludico, & Petit Bowl Evaz

Tastes & Traditions: Tomato Season and Edible Flowers

edible flowers

Tastes & Traditions

Tomato Season and Edible Flowers

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

With the growth of visually-driven social platforms, food is trending towards needing to be as appetizing to the eyes as it is to the palate. Bright and flavorful vegetables, fruits, and plants serve as either the garnish or the main component of home-made or chef-driven creations, allowing us to dive into Spring with plenty of opportunity for fresh and vibrant dishes. As the desire for farm-to-table dining proliferates, more and more people are turning to their own green thumb in creating edible gardens for their fruits, vegetables, and garnishes. 

chef working with edible flowers

edible flowers and tomatoes make the perfect pair

As tomato season is escalating into full gear, home gardeners and farmers market aficionados will enjoy a vast array of tomatoes, spanning from cherry, yellow pear, roma, or heirloom varieties. One of the tomato’s many benefits is that once they begin growing, they flourish, yielding a robust crop that creates the need for innovative uses for all of the extra tomatoes. 

matfer prep chef used to slice tomatoes

From homemade ketchup, to fried green tomatoes, to topical skin cleansers and sunburn ointments, tomatoes are nature’s superfood. Smoking tomatoes gives them an extra depth of flavor and allows for longer term storage, and adds an extra interesting kick to any dish they are incorporated in. 

summer is the perfect time for edible flowers and tomatoes

chef carefully placing edible flowers with tweezers

Edible flowers used as a garnish will pump up the flavor and visual aesthetics of any dish that warrants a fresh, springy flourish. Borage is a particularly vibrant and delicious flower, easy to grow, and loved by honeybees for some additional love to the rest of the garden. Borage is said to “make the mind glad” – as new science has shown that the plant stimulates the adrenal glands, giving people who consume them a mild energy buzz. Borage is great to grow with tomatoes, as they both respond particularly well to sunlight, and the honeybees drawn to the borage will help facilitate the healthy growth of the tomatoes. 

edible flowers and tomatoes in tarts on matfer silicone mat

edible flower and tomatoes make the perfect pair

Modern use of cooking and garnishing with edible flowers originated in England, with flower-infused teas and jams, that have expanded into flower-adorned main courses and desserts. As chefs embrace this resurgent trend, we can expect more home cooks to take to their gardens to enjoy fresh, garden-to-table Spring produce, for easy and healthy daily cooking. Read more in this month's featured chef spotlight with Casey Thompson.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Flat Bottom Mixing Bowl, Exopat® Nonstick Baking Mat, Multi Cut Prep Chef, Geisser Messer Knife, Exoglass® Inividual Deep Tartlet Mold, & Blue Steel Oven Baking Sheet.

Chef Spotlight: Casey Thompson

Chef Casey Thompson

Chef Spotlight

Casey Thompson

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

From owner of the luxurious Aveline Restaurant in San Francisco to shrewd restaurant and hotel consultant, Chef Casey Thompson has taken the culinary world by storm. She began her journey as a prep cook at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and now spends most of her time in Napa working with local farmers and wineries. Chef Casey is a female entrepreneur and entertainer who has a passion for teaching and learning new things in the culinary space. She shared her story one evening as we sipped chardonnay and watched her bake a tomato tart adorned with edible flowers.

Fresh tomatoes and edible flowers

Chef Casey Thompson preparing pastry dough

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE THAT YOU HAVE HAD IN DEVELOPING YOUR COOKING STYLE?

I am influenced everyday by chefs that get up early, get to the market and those that continually push. It helps me to push myself. Beyond that, I think travel and cookbooks drove me to develop a style of my own. It taught me different cuisines and techniques in such beautiful places or in pictures of color.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT TO YOUR “SOUTHERN TOMATO PIE” RECIPE?

Ha! I would say mayonnaise. Because it really does make the world go ‘round. I am Southern and I was raised to love it on everything, even chips! I’ve been told that I put too much mayonnaise on sandwiches when it is squishing out of the holes of my bread. I say, that's when it's just right. It's savory, rich and decadent.

Chef Casey Thompson parbaking the tartlet shells

HAVE YOU EVER BOUGHT A PRE-MADE PIE OR TART CRUST BEFORE? DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAKING IT AT HOME?

Of course! And, really, I have had talks with many different pastry chefs, and there is nothing wrong with a good quality artisan frozen crust. I like to make my dough, roll it out and then chill and "rest" it. It's ready to go when you are ready to put it in the pan- there is no waiting for the dough to temp. In making the dough, I absolutely love using the ceramic beans from Matfer. The perfect pie or tart hangs on the precise quality of the crust, and the beans can be reused, they cool quickly, and they hold the crust’s shape perfectly.

Chef Casey Thompson chopping scallions

Chef Casey Thompson slicing fresh tomatoes

HOW DO THE TOOLS THAT YOU USE IN COOKING OR BAKING MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE END-PRODUCT?

There is a reason why a sharp knife makes or breaks the success of a chef. The right tool for the job is so important, and now that there are tools designed for the chef-studied to be more efficient and of more quality, we can be better at our jobs. If the tool can help us to continually cook and have the product come out moister, fluffier, more even in color than ever before, that's a score! In making the tomato tart, I was so taken aback by how easy and fast it was to slice with the Prep Chef! The slicer we currently have is somewhat bulky and difficult to clean, so my staff has been so excited to start using it to expedite their prep time.

Chef Casey Thompson preparing the filling

Chef Casey Thompson picking her edible flowers

YOU’VE TRAVELED A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT CUISINES. WHERE DO YOU PLAN ON GOING NEXT?

We are having a really busy year. We're "planning" to visit Japan and Italy this year, but it's already May! So, I better get these trips in motion. I love to travel - it wakes me up and makes me feel alive.

AT MORADA, HOW DO YOU SOURCE YOUR LOCAL INGREDIENTS?

It's really easy to do this in SoCal. For goodness sake, I have Chino Farms down the road. We are very fortunate. We have trucks pull up to our backdoor with things I have never even heard of! It's so educational for all of my cooks.

Filling the tartlets

HOW OFTEN DO YOU COOK WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS?

I love them. Any time they work, I try to make the dishes even more pretty with flowers. It's like eating in a garden. I expect a butterfly to come down and join you.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO PREPARE TOMATOES?

Hands down, warm from the sun, sliced, olive oil, Maldon salt and fresh black pepper. I drizzle a good lemon on them and go to town. Just like my grandmother did from her garden. They don't need much when they are good. 

Chef Casey Thompson baking the tartlets

Chef Casey Thompson placing tomatoes on the tartlets

IF WE WERE TO GROW OUR OWN GARDEN, WHAT HERBS, VEGETABLES OR FLOWERS SHOULD WE START WITH?

I do this every year in my own garden- tomatoes (Sun Gold), basil, chives, thyme, and strawberries. We also have citrus trees, cherry trees, plum and pear out back. It is Napa after all. All things good right out the backdoor. I love succulents because they live for me. :) I do roses. They are so wonderful. You either love them or hate them. They remind me of my grandparent’s houses.

Placing on the edible flowers and the final product

Chef Casey Thompson holding her tart

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Flat Bottom Mixing Bowl, Exopat® Nonstick Baking Mat, Multi Cut Prep Chef, Geisser Messer Knife, Exoglass® Inividual Deep Tartlet Mold, & Blue Steel Oven Baking Sheet.

Tastes & Traditions: Lavender & Earl Grey

Lavender and Earl Grey make the perfect pair

Tastes & Traditions

Lavender & Earl Grey

Monday, April 3, 2017

When looking for the sacred in daily moments, there’s no need to look further than a mindfully brewed cup of tea or a spray of fresh flowers. Tea-drinking developed in Eastern cultures through ceremonious, rigid performance, and it has embedded itself in European culture and custom through fastidious, quotidian use. All problems can be solved and all relationships strengthened over a cup of tea.

Earl Grey tea leaves in a measuring spoon

But whether hailed as a path towards spiritual awakening or simply a morning ritual that sets the tone for the day, drinking tea can aid us to savor moments of our routine and appreciate the present. Akin to the adage advising us to “stop and smell the roses,” these sensory experiences allow a peace and presence of mind that lets us appreciate life to the fullest. Taste, sight and smell are ignited with the natural simplicity found in flowers and tea. It’s no wonder that they’ve found their way into baking, too, where they add distinct dimension, flavor and feeling to each recipe.

Lavender and early grey have both found their way into baking

Tea’s versatility draws out the earthy, floral, fruity, spicy and even smoky flavor profiles of standard desserts, whether the dry leaves are mixed into the ingredients or steeped for a more nuanced flavor. French, Asian and California cuisine have all experienced an increased prevalence of tea-inspired desserts and savory dishes, allowing chefs and bakers to play with the various flavor profiles and bring their dishes to the next level. The flavors are intriguing, and most importantly, unexpected; this allows chefs the “surprise and delight” factor in their cooking that keeps guests talking and brings in new audiences.

Tea leaves make a great addition to many recipes

Countering tea’s versatility, lavender packs a robust punch with its fragrance and flavor profile, yet it is also beginning to stand alone as an herbal/spice component in both savory and sweet dishes. Edible flowers are a growing trend in culinary spaces. They add dimension for both the eyes and the taste buds, enhancing a chef’s offering for all sensory outlets. The edible flower trend is thought to have been derived from a general expanding interest in eating healthy and colorful food, along with the new wave of Nordic cuisine centered around foraging and repurposing herbs and plants that have long been ignored.

Floral notes like lavender are also a welcome addition

Chefs, mixologists and pâtissieres everywhere are embracing the farm-to-table trend, and taking foraging to new heights of authenticity by sourcing an evening’s menu earlier that same the morning. Virgilio Martinez rocketed his Peruvian restaurant to the pinnacle of success after leveraging Peru’s immediate terroir, and using interesting and unknown plants and herbs from different altitudes to allow guests to taste the land at each level. Similarly, Blue Hill Farm’s Dan Barber in New York sources his produce from the farm each morning, and LA mixologist Matthew Biancianiello forages his local surroundings to help corral farm-to-glass into the mainstream.

Sprinkling lavender on blueberry tarts

Like most modern, cyclical trends, tea and edible flowers were initially used in more heritage applications that centered on eating from the wild. Ironically, as we progress technologically, we tend to yearn for more bespoke and antiquated forms of production and produce that yield organic, natural outcomes. A general consumer disposition towards farm-to-table food and drink, and the incorporation of complex, natural ingredients in cooking and baking, appear to be on the rise as new culinary concepts scramble to keep up. This suggests that the trend of floral and tea-driven infusion in sweet and savory cuisine will continue to expand and develop in the years to come. Read more in this month's featured chef spotlight with Waylynn Lucas.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Elevo Thermometer Spatula, Exoglass® Round Pastry Cutters, Exoglass® Fluted Round Tart Mold, Standard Disposable Pastry Bag and Matfer Silicone Pastry Brush.

Chef Spotlight: Waylynn Lucas

Chef Waylynn Lucas

Chef Spotlight

Waylynn Lucas

Monday, April 3, 2017

From her role as a judge on Food Network's Cake Wars to her Los Angeles-area bakery fōnuts, Waylynn Lucas is an award-winning pastry chef who defies conventions. Her unique style embraces the marriage of nostalgia with modern flavors and techniques. This is exemplified by fōnuts' most popular offering – doughnuts that are baked, not fried, and that exist in an eye-popping riot of colors and flavors, ranging from the gluten-free and vegan Coconut Passion Fruit to the decidedly meaty Chorizo Cheddar. We caught up with Waylynn for an afternoon, talking about her passion for pastry while she baked her Chocolate Blueberry Earl Grey Lavender Tart for us.

Chef Waylynn Lucas baking tart

Chef Waylynn Lucas rolling out pastry dough

So what drove you to create your first fōnut?

It sort of happened by accident. It was a gathering of minds at the right moment at the right time, for the idea to emerge. It is something that fits perfectly with my dessert style as a pastry chef. I love reinventing old classics, and giving them a modern spin and whenever possible making it a bit healthier if I can.

WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION COME FROM FOR THE DESSERT YOU ARE MAKING US TODAY?

I wanted to combine some of my favorite things like chocolate – who doesn’t love that – with fresh fruit, which I always love in my desserts, as well as tea for its warming, flavorful and aromatic qualities. And, finally, it features lavender, which is beautifully scented and soothing.

Chef Waylynn Lucas working with pastry dough

What kind of flavors do you gravitate toward and why?

Anything well balanced, fresh and vibrant. I gravitate more towards savory flavors as I am surrounded by sweets all day. I need the savory to balance me out. I surprisingly don’t have a huge sweet tooth.

Chef Waylynn Lucas works with earl grey tea leaves for her tart

Chef Waylynn Lucas working with chocolate

THE CREATIVE PROCESS CAN BE CHALLENGING AT TIMES. DID YOU HAVE ANY EARLY STRUGGLES AS A PASTRY CHEF?

I did and still do. It became much easier once I got out of my own way and stopped trying to create desserts that had to be earth shattering and insanely unique. Not all desserts can be that and the ones that are become that much more naturally. That is what makes them special. I had to stop trying so hard and to be open to finding inspiration in new ways, and in every place I could find it. Once I opened my world to more than just food the inspiration came from flowers, nature, art work, memories, sculpture, music, just about everything. Make it taste good first and foremost and sometimes less is more.

Chef Waylynn Lucas filling tart shells

MAKING GOOD PASTRY CAN BE SUCH AN INTRICATE PROCESS. HOW DO TOOLS MAKE YOUR WORK EASIER – OR HARDER?

Pastry is such an intricate process, it requires a lot of patience. Technique and precision is everything. Having the right tools can really make or break a recipes final outcome. That is why I love Matfer. They have everything I need to get any job done, from breads to chocolate work, to plated desserts. Their tools are of such high quality, they really help you attain that precision that is needed in pastry. The exoglass molds are a perfect example of how innovation and new technology can make baking something so simple as a pâte sucrée tart dough so much better and take it to the next level. It has given us chefs just what we need. Something that cooks quickly and evenly, and cools almost immediately; you can literally grab the molds right out of the oven. They are lightweight, super durable and easy to clean. Pure magic!

Waylynn Lucas and blueberries

WE COULD EAT FŌNUTS ALL DAY. THAT’S WHY WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT OTHER DESSERTS YOU LOVE. WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE DESSERT – THE ONE YOU’D SERVE AT A DINNER PARTY TO YOUR GUESTS?

I love ice cream. It reminds me of being a kid. It is impossible to be in a bad mood eating an ice cream cone. Well most desserts this applies to, which is why I got into desserts in the first place. To make people happy and feel like a kid again whenever possible.

I love making Pavlova for dinner parties. It is such a simple yet complex dessert, and an easy way to incorporate whatever fresh fruits are around and really keep it seasonal and versatile. It is not something you see very often so it impresses your dinner guests for sure!

Chef Waylynn Lucas finishing tarts

Chef Waylynn Lucas carrying tarts

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WATCH SOMEONE TRY A REALLY GREAT DESSERT FOR THE FIRST TIME?

There’s nothing like it. Part of the reason I got out of the restaurant industry and wanted to own my own business was to be able to take part and witness customers enjoying my desserts. As a chef we spend countless hours in the kitchen working, cooking and creating dishes. Then we never get to see its final purpose. Once it leaves the kitchen and heads out into the dining room, it’s gone. Having my own bakery allows me to interact with the customers, get their feed back and watch their reactions while they eat my desserts. There is no greater compliment than watching someone’s eyes light up and the smile come over their face after taking a bite of something delicious. Great food can create a memory, an experience. That is what I seek out, and I don’t feel I’ve done my job unless I’ve accomplished that.

Chef Waylynn Lucas tarts with blueberry, lavender, and earl grey

Chef Waylynn Lucas laughs while holding her tart

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Elevo Thermometer Spatula, Exoglass® Round Pastry Cutters, Exoglass® Fluted Round Tart Mold, Standard Disposable Pastry Bag and Matfer Silicone Pastry Brush.