Sunday, November 9, 2008

On food and my life.

These are times of change. At 25 I'm now starting to follow the true path of my life and making my first real committment. This path is leading me away from many of my friends but I don't want to stop walking it. Working in the pastry field again fills me with a bizarre mixture of contentedness and hunger. I love working with food, but I hunger to be better, to learn more, to create as much as a can. Its a dissatisfaction thats oddly juxtaposed itself with a form of near peace. Maybe I'm masochistic? I love it at work when I start to get slightly backed up in my brain over the things I need to make, and which should be made first to allow for proper timing and to maximize the few hours in a day. Should I make the sponge for that bread and then apply the crumb coat to the cake, so that I can chill it and then apply the sponge to the dry ingredients and work on the formation of the dough while the frosting sets up? Yes! But at what point to I refresh the garnish station, cut the previous cakes, make a new batch of truffles, bake more cookies, and replenish the iSi whip cream? Oh, and I can't forget to make more caramel sauce, and damnit! Wouldn't you know, we're all out of icing for the rest of that cake... Its moments like these that I shut off the rest of the world and my thoughts focus on work. Even when the work is done its hard for me to turn back on.

As I said food is my life. Not becomming my life. IS my life. Currently I'm reading How to Be a Chef, which is excellent and highly recommended. Next I'll be studying Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible which is by the same pair of authors, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. And I've just gotten Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. Pair that with In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daly and I'm hoping to really up the ante on my ability to create recipes.

Also my choice in culinary schools is changing. The French Pastry School was recommended to me by Master Chocolatier Norman Love, above even the French Culinary Institute. And taking into consideration that I'm from Chicago, all my extended family is there, my friends have moved there, the tuition is HALF of my beloved FCI, and Christine-HOLY CRAP ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I LOVE HER WORK!-Ferber is a frequent guest chef, well, I'm heading up to check it out and take an extended education class in the beginning of December. The only thing bringing me pause is I did fall in love with the FCI, and NYC, and the internships available. Especially one with Chef David Arnold, a rising star in the scientific culinary scene. So only checking out the school will let me decide. The French Pastry School also has a working relationship with the Four Seasons, the Hyatt, and the Ritz, which was exactly the path I wanted to take my career. I think the choice is obvious, even though hard.

Marshmallows on the Atlantic



Feeling the need to really get into it all (I don't consider camping as getting away from it all, but instead further emersing myself into the world) I packed up my brother's car and headed down to the Florida Keys for a one night, two day camp out. It was nice and cold (in the low 60s, upper 50s, Huzzah!) and I knew that this served as the perfect excuse to make some fresh marshmallows. Arriving extra early into work one morning I boiled down a nice simple syrup and beat it with some gelatin until I had what one could consider the porterhouse of marshmallows. One giant half sheet pan full of dense, spongy, soft, white confectionary goodness.

Cutting these revealed wonderful and rather large pillowy cubes of nostalgia. Not many people continue their love affair with marshmallows into adulthood. Back in Sept on a recent trip to NYC I remember taking the subway from Bushwick up to Chelsea just so that I could get some vegan marshmallows from the Whole Foods. Marshmallows are a classic, especially on camping trips and I promise you people will be impressed when you tell them that you've made your own. Most people fall into believing the myth that they are difficult to make. Sticky? Yes. Difficult? No. And a fresh marshmallow is leagues above the bagged varieties sold at your local grocer. Upon toasting these beauties developed a nice, slightly crunchy shell, a la' creme brulee, that held a molten gooey mess inside. Truly perfect for slightly charring and snacking on at 7:30 in the morning while watching the sun come up over the Atlantic on a chilly laid back morning.

This batch was shared with two lovely gentleman who had camped out at the site next to mine. Mark Adams (of ) and Hugh are close friends who travel the countryside by motorcycle. Hugh is a budding shamen and Mark is an accomplished oil painter. They are both very sweet guys who traded Tanqueray Rangpur Lime Gin with Rose's Lime juice for some fresh marshmallows and a campfire. I consider it a good trade. Mark was so taken with the alien appearance of the roasted marshmallow that he painted a still life of it, which can be found on his blog, check it out! He also was such a sweetheart that he is mailing me the original, which will proudly be displayed on my wall for years to come.

I doubled the recipe so that it would fit into a half sheet pan and I would have plenty to share with people.
3 envelopes unflavoured gelatin
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 TBL vanilla extract
Veg oil for spraying the pan
Powdered sugar for coating the marshmallows.

1.Oil a 9x13' pan, set it aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, soften the gelatin over 3/4 cup water. Cover the bowl and set it aside to allow the gelatin to soften until needed.
3. Combine the sugar, 3/4 cup of the light corn syrup, and the remaining 3/4 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan. Place the pan over med. heat. Stir until the sugar dissolved completely and the mix comes to a boil.
4. Using a candy thermometer to gauge temp, cook the syrup without stirring until it reaches a soft ball (240*F.) Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining corn syrup.
5. With the mixer at high, beat the hot syrup into the large bowl with the gelatin in a slow steady stream. Beat for 10 minutes, possibly less until the mixture triples in volume and becomes very stiff. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth the top as much as possible using a thin, flexible spatula, or wide knife dipped in water. Set aside uncovered for 8-10 hours at room temp, or till mixture is cool and firm.