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Blog posts of '2017' 'June'

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