Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 I wonder how many blog entries are titled "Merry Christmas!" today?
  Well, my writing may not be original, but our desserts last night were, at least.  The cookie Santa letters were for "Santa's Snacks," with two warm chocolate chip cookies, two cubes of carrot cake for the reindeer, a mug of Cruze Farm milk and the cookie letter.
  There was a Buche de Noel of chocolate and mocha, with meringue mushrooms and cocoa nib "dirt."  We had a hot fudge sundae and Liz's first BBF dessert, Angel Food, which was angel food cake, candied cranberries, cranberry gelee and white chocolate ice cream.  She made little dark angels of chocolate to perch on top of the cake.
  Tonight, the menu is set, meaning there is one menu, no choices, and we're doing a sampler dessert.  I made fruit cake last week with Jack Daniels' soaked fruit and candied citrus zest, and have been soaking it in vanilla-infused Jack Daniels' all week.  Should be good and pungent by now!  I'll team that with eggnog flan and gingerbread cookies, as well as something chocolate which I have forgotten already!  I have it on the prep sheet, though, so it will get made today.
  But first, Bella and I are going to Mom's to open gifts, with the phone on speaker for a simul-open with my sister in Virginia.  You know, where we open our gifts to each other and oooh and aaah via telephone!

Oh, yeah!  The chocolate dessert is Macaroons!  with a cup of cocoa!  Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fringe Benefits

Today, it was back to work for me after two rather productive days, but since there were only 21 people for dinner tonight, my day could have been quite unproductive.  Instead, tired of my current menu, I came up with a new dessert, A Night at the Pub.  Most people would call it an Irish Car Bomb, but I hate the connotations of that.  This is chocolate stout cake, Bailey's ice cream, Guinness chocolate sauce, with some meringue pretzels and beer nuts.  Yummy, salty, sweet, crunchy, creamy.  I like it a lot.  Quite different from what was going on last week in the bake shop, with Chef Francois Payard.
  His dessert was a brown butter roasted pear on almond gateau with caramelized puff pastry, brown butter vanilla sauce and brown butter ice cream.  It was delicious and beautiful, and he was fun to work with.  He likes to work very fast, and I was nervous most of the time, but I enjoyed it.  And he asked Sam to send me to New York to spend two or three days working in his bakery.  I'll figure out a time to go in January when I'm on my vacation.  He says most of his macaroons and chocolates are made in a factory now, by 60 employees, which isn't something I ever want to do, but I'd be interested in seeing it in action.  And I love New York, so I will go and make sure I have time for art museums and fabric stores.  There are a couple of restaurants I'd like to check out, like Milk Bar by David Chang and Eleven Madison Park, mostly because of the beautiful new cookbook just out this month.
  Last night, I twisted the night away, beading the fringe on the grey tencel scarf.  I put big crystal beads on the ends, and have some beautiful purple, blue and pink beads to go between.  Pictures of that when I'm done, before it goes in the box to San Francisco!
  But now, it's time for bed.  Busy day tomorrow, and the weekend ahead.  Rainy, warm crazy weather and can you believe it's almost Christmas?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speaking French with a Southern Accent

On their way to the Main House.
 At last, the cooking school I've been waiting for all year, since becoming the pastry chef for the second time at Blackberry Farm, is here! Chef Francois Payard ( is here in east Tennessee!  Every time I've been to New York since becoming a pastry chef, I've gone to Payard Patisserie on Lexington to get a box of macaroons.  The pastry display cases lining the entryway were just like the pastry shops in Paris, full of beautiful, precisely-made pastries.  He's famous for his macaroons, and they are amazing.  The shop on Lexington closed, sadly, but I see from the web that he has two new bakeries open in New York.
All plated up and ready to go!
   I didn't find out until Saturday night at 10:30 that I'd be making the dessert for Sunday night, and I had no idea what to make.  It came to me early in the morning that I should combine something quintessentially Southern with something iconically French.  I don't care for Chess Pie, but I've seen a photo somewhere recently of a chess pie made of piped custard, rather than the baked kind.  I pulled out my notebooks from school and saw the St. Honore, a dessert made to honor the patron saint of pastry chefs.  He was the seventh bishop of Amiens in the 6th century.  I have no idea why he's our patron saint.  He never did any actual recorded baking, and his name is invoked against drought.  But, hey!  Bless his heart!  He's got a really cute little dessert!
  It's sweet pie crust topped with a ring of pate au choux, the stuff cream puffs are made of.  That is baked, then filled with chibouste, a cream made of pastry cream and Italian meringue.  In this version, I put some of our peach preserves on the very bottom and topped it with sorghum and Jack Daniel's flavored chibouste.  The cream puffs are filled with pastry cream made with Anson Mills corn flour, since there's cornmeal in Chess Pie, and more vanilla-infused Jack Daniel's.  Then they're dipped in caramel, an long, hot and possibly painful process, then attached to the rim of the cake.  The cream on top is piped with a special piping tip designed only for this dessert.  The schmear on the plate--that's a technical term--is pureed peach preserves.
  Et voila!  A dessert combining both my adopted Southern culture and my French education!  Today is the class lunch after Joseph's demo, and I'll be making Chocolate & Hazelnuts, a stacked torte of choco-nutty cake, Gianduja chocolate, tempered dark chocolate, chocolate mousse and Gianduja ganache.  It's yummy and pretty.  I'll probably make some orange sorbet to go with it, since there's orange zest in the cake, and the tortes are quite small.
  Chef Payard has his cooking demo tomorrow and his desserts will be served tomorrow night at the finale.  I'll be helping him make everything today and tomorrow, so I'd better get up and at it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Like Magic!

Golly!  I sure do love hemstitching!
 On a rare Friday off, though I scheduled a mandatory team meeting at 2 that I can't miss, I have given myself a gift:  Do what I want and nothing I don't want to do.  Well, minus that whole drive to and from Walland, but it's a beautiful day and I can have the sun roof open, and then I can do a little Christmas shopping.
  Anyway, what I wanted to do is weave.  I fixed the mistakes in the too-small-for-shawls warp and threaded the "Lover's Knot" pattern that I found on, a wonderful site with monographs, old guild newsletters and a whole lot more. I hemstitched, which is so much more fun with 16/2 tencel than 8/2 cotton!  Oh, wait.  I thought sarcasm would print in blue.  Guess not.


Once I finished hemstitching, which takes longer when you wander around every few minutes looking for anything else to do, I started weaving the pattern.  Really, is there anything more magical than the way the pattern develops in overshot?  And the pattern looks even better in this photo than real life!  I'm using 16/2 silver tencel in this scarf, but I've also sampled with some lavender 10/2 cotton and some 6/2 black bamboo.  Not sure about the black; I think it's too heavy in color and weight for the warp, but the lavender is lovely, and will come next.  Maybe by the time I get to the third--there are 9 yards of warp, so 3 scarves--I'll have another option, maybe some finer black tencel or bamboo.
  And then I'll look for beads for the fringe, using Susan's methods of beading on fringe from her blog,  She makes beautiful scarves, with amazing beading on them.  Her work is such an inspiration!  Makes me want more shafts on my looms!  But with so many more overshot patterns to try, I'll be busy enough for now.