Thursday, February 24, 2011

Promised Photos

Greetings from sugar land!  Suzie, a p.m. pastry cook, is the only one of us who remembered to take photos of my new desserts, and she sent them to me last night!  To the left is the Strawberries & Toast:  toasted pound cake, browned butter buttercream, fresh strawberry jam and an orange-ice milk float.  It's supposed to be a play on breakfast, hence the float of orange juice and milk.
 To the right is Coconut Cake, which is what it is, a very sweet, sticky southern thing, served with lime cream and coconut-lime "glass," two kinds of sugar that are boiled to hard crack stage, cooled, ground up with coconut and lime zest, then remelted to resemble glass.  Kinda like a lollipop!
 One of my favorites is the Peanut Butter Pie.  Remember our adventures in the Larder with thousands of jars of peanut butter?  I had to use some in a dessert; it's just that yummy. This is the version that will be in the upcoming cookbook, but in individual portion here, topped with peanut brittle.
 This is the one I'd order if I was eating at the hotel:  Mocha.  It's a play on a French classic, L'Opera, which is cake layered with coffee syrup, chocolate cream and coffee buttercream, then topped with slightly crunchy chocolate glaze.  We serve it with cream from a syphon bottle and topped with these lovely little candied crunchy bits we buy.  They're caramelized nuts, ground up and dipped in hard chocolate, very addictive.
And this is Chocolate Mousse, served with coriander whipped cream and caramelized rice krispies.  I ripped this dessert right out of Pierre Herme's Chocolate Desserts book, because it's so lovely, simple and delicious.  Apparently, blogger thinks it looks better sideways.
  There are ten more desserts, but not all the pictures would download politely.  As they downloaded one by one, I noticed that every single one is BROWN.  Now, I've been heard telling people who insist on putting unrelated garnishes on desserts for "color" that brown is indeed a color, but seeing them all together makes me long for spring, when there are a lot of other colors!  Oh, there is the red in the strawberries, but I confess that those are Florida strawberries, and early ones at that.  In two months, South Carolina strawberries will start creeping in, and they'll be lovely, sweet, deep red throughout...   Ah, spring!

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Day Jitters

  Today was my second first day as Pastry Chef at Blackberry Farm!  My first first day was way back in June of 2004, and I believe I was a lot more nervous then than today, but it was still a little nerve-wracking!  I felt that everyone was looking at me!
  I was supposed to make chocolates with the outgoing pastry chef, but he had to make a big, over-the-top cake for some guests.  I should have taken a picture of it, because it was WAY over the top.  He asked me to make their other dessert, a blackberry bread pudding from the very first Blackberry Farm cookbook.  Here it is, in progress.  Kind of a humble dessert, but in the cookbook, it has four accompaniments, which it did not get today.  I just made some lime curd to be passed with it.
  I had fun most of the time, but spent quite a bit of time dealing with personnel issues.  Wouldn't it be nice if being a chef was just cooking or baking?  But it's not.

  Tomorrow, I will be making chocolates, and I will take lots of photos.  On Wednesday, I'll start testing my new menu, and I promise even more photos then!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

On Monday, I wrote about being on a roller coaster, and I did sincerely wish to get off.  Really.  But on Tuesday, a friend told me she'd heard a rumor.  I assured her I knew nothing about it, beyond making a couple of remarks about replacing the outgoing pastry chef because I was bored to tears with stuffing okra and making peanut butter.
  Someone took me seriously.  A couple of someone's, actually, and they met with me today to offer me the position.  And now I am no longer a Preservationist.  I have one more day to pickle beets with strawberries (184 jars short of the last order!), and pickle some collard greens for an event in South Beach next week.  I have the weekend off, the last weekend I'll have in a long, long time, and then, it's on to my next chapter.
  I spent a few hours this afternoon writing menus, and to say I'm rusty at it is an understatement of great magnitude.  I want a new direction, a new inspiration and a new signature style.  I know I want classic techniques that showcase southern, seasonal elements.  I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fame, Fortune and Okra

 My assistant, Melanie, is stuck in Chicago, due to the massive storm that hit there earlier this week.  She had time to go to the Williams-Sonoma store to take pictures of our product there.  Now, people have been emailing me photos of the stuff in West Town Mall here in Knoxville, and that's really nice, but somehow, a mall in Chicago makes me feel much more... important?

  The okra was last seen on this blog in September, when we finished the 6850th jar.  I just found out two days ago that the man who was supposed to take over the okra re-orders thinks it's "too time consuming," and okra in February is "too costly," so he wants to back out.  Which means, of course, that we'll be back to making it soon.  I've spent most of this week filling the first re-order for peanut butter, but haven't made much headway with Melanie in Chicago and Dustin on paternity leave.  I think it'll be difficult to convince anyone to help me fill jars with okra again, but on my side is the fact that February is very slow at the hotel, and cooks will need hours enough to overlook the unpleasantness that is pickling okra.
  Today, I'm off work to clean and rearrange my house so that I can host GULP tomorrow.  GULP is the dinner group I belong to, you may remember, and the number has swelled to 17 for tomorrow night's feast.  The dining room will poke well into the living room, and I'll have to borrow chairs, but I have enough plates--from Williams-Sonoma!--and enough flatware.  I'll be pilfering pine boughs from the townhouses behind my house, buying all the white candles I can find around town and bringing back the Christmas tree for one last hurrah before it becomes just another tree in a pot.  The theme is Victorian Christmas, inspired by one member's reading of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  There'll be dramatic readings, lots of red and green and lots of festive feasting.  I'll report more afterwards!