Techniques

Spiderman 3D birthday cake

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Techniques on November 8th, 2012 by Natacha – 3 Comments

Here’s my latest creation, a Spiderman 3D cake.

It was definitely the largest cake i have ever made, 3 pounds of organic butter and two dozen organic eggs were needed to make this cake !

Spiderman 3D birthday cake

I have been making lots of manly cakes lately…Can’t wait to make a very girly one !

 

 

 

New challenge : Make me a Crab Cake !

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Life, Recipes, Techniques on February 11th, 2012 by Natacha – Comments Off on New challenge : Make me a Crab Cake !

I just finished a cake order that was pretty fun….I was obsessed with it for a few days…A CRAB cake for a little guy that likes to wear his mittens and pretends he’s a crab (i’m a sucker for those personal details)

The client wanted a chocolate mousse filling, but after i tested it i knew the mousse would not hold well in a 3D cake that I would have to carve (but still works well in multi layer traditional cakes). Instead I perfected a swiss meringue chocolate buttercream which was divine, and maybe even lighter than a traditionnal chocolate mousse filling.

Swiss meringue Chocolate Buttercream :

Ingredients :

  • 6 egg whites (organic)
  • 4 sticks of organic butter
  • 1 package of Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips (i liked it better than with the bitersweet chocolate for this recipe)
  • 240g of organic sugar

1. Melt the chopped chocolate over a water bath. Set aside and let cool.
2. Place egg whites and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl.
3. Set bowl over 1 inch of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently until mixture reaches 140°F/60°C  (this step is to pasteurize the eggs)
4. Remove from heat and using an electric mixer, whisk on medium speed until egg whites are cool to touch (this takes a while – should be cooler than your hand).
5. Continue beating, gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces and continue to beat. It will first look watery or separated, but after 10-15 minutes, it will come together.
6. Once desired, pipe-able consistency has been reached, fold in cooled chocolate until well incorporated.

Fondant has been laid

The crab is finished!

View from the side

To get a quote, email me your cake/cookie/cupcake/candy bar project at  : natacha@frenchyfood.com

Subway fondant for ice-cream cake

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Life, Techniques on January 24th, 2012 by Natacha – 1 Comment

I have recently helped a local mother in need with decorations for her ice cream cake. The family really wanted a specific ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins and only gave me a 48 hour notice so i just helped providing handmade fondant  decorations for their cake (she had specific expectations for the cake topper).

Here’s the result:

Icre- cream cake topper + side decorations

 

For those who are not familiar with subway signs and metrocards, here are some examples :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The client applied the decorations herself and here’s her pic :

I am always looking for a good challenge ! Email me for quotes at natacha@frenchyfood.com

What would you NOT do for your kids?

Posted in Life, Techniques on January 18th, 2012 by Natacha – 1 Comment

This is what I wondered when I happily got out of bed at 4am to decorate a princess cake this morning. Having my still jet lagged son walk into the kitchen at 5am and tell me “wow my friends are going to like this” — that was all I needed to hear to make me proud of my craziness! I was sluggish for the rest of the day, but the looks on those little girls faces were priceless. Quitting my Manhattan exec job to trade for moments like this was so worth it! Money really can’t buy you happiness after all….

But back to the cake, my first “princess cake” : strawberry cake with vanilla butter cream and fondant/royal icing decorations… some flavors that I knew little kids would enjoy! I only had 48 hours of notice to get ready and one small batch of fondant at home (that thing is better store-bought) so I had to do a one color dress. Next time I will add layers and various textures and also make it thicker so you can t see all the cake crumbs…

 

 

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare

Posted in Life, Molecular Gastronomy, Recipes, Techniques on January 13th, 2012 by Natacha – Comments Off on Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare

It’s been a very good year or like my husband says “the best ever”…

I ended the year with a meal at an amazing restaurant and met a very inspirational chef : Cesar Ramirez. Unlike any other 3 Michelin Star restaurant, Brooklyn Fare is a BYOB, single-menu prix-fixe, and payment is required to be pre-arranged. (You pay for your meal before you even go, which makes the whole experience easier, and let’s you forget how much you just shelled out.) My husband brought some champagne that was offered by my great-grand mother, it made the whole night even more special.

Champagne Millésimé from "mémé"

Brooklyn Fare has 18 seats disposed in a U-shape with one waitress/sommelier in the middle – although no wine list or actual wines. Cesar and his small crew cook right in front of you through 20+ small dishes and he steps out of the kitchen to talk to patrons and friends. He loved the fact that I was from Alsace and recognized that his cabbage dish (an Alsatian staple) must have taken more than 8 hours to cook. As he served us an egg dish topped by a whole slice of black truffle from Perigord, he yelled “no extra charge”. Cesar (always wearing a crisp white shirt during service, and keeping it white as my husband noted) told me he loves his craft and that the restaurant wasn’t making any money but “that’s not what matters”.

When I asked him where he trained (he used an interesting mix of advanced cooking techniques as well as traditional ones) he simply laughed at me…”I learned by working in restaurants!” I was also very pleased to have seen all the great dishware he was using. Cesar told us he has one of the most expensive collections of restaurant china in the world, which is very possibly true: some bowls that balanced on a pinpoint magnet, large plates made out of stone, Laguiole knives…

I used to love David Chang’s simplicity but Cesar took it to a whole other  level…So there you have it: the most fantastic food experience so far!  I just hope that when they get a liquor license it doesn’t take away from the charm of this little restaurant.

Thank you Cesar for one of the best food experience in my life (and my hubby for making it happen !)

Cesar Ramirez - Photo courtesy of Art Culinaire magazine

Hollandaise Science

Posted in Molecular Gastronomy, Recipes, Techniques on September 14th, 2011 by Natacha – Comments Off on Hollandaise Science

My husband dislikes Hollandaise sauce, I love it with white wine poached salmon and steamed potatoes…Huge dilemma !

I tried many version, changed the flavoring, played with the viscosity…But I finally found the solution ( YES -> Highlight of the week).

I made a Hollandaise sauce and then transferred it to an iSi whipper, added a CO2 cartridge and there you go : the result is an amazingly light and foamy Hollandaise sauce.

Ingredients for the 1L iSi Gourmet Whip:

650 g butter cubes (makes about 500 ml clarified butter), 5 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs, 50 g finely chopped shallots or onions, 100 ml dry white wine, juice of one lemon, 1 to 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 to 1.5 bay leaves, 6 crushed black peppercorns, salt, white or Cayenne pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Preparation:

Melt the butter cubes in a pot and bring to a boil (clarifying – approx. 5 minutes). Skim off the foam from the top of the butter with a ladle. Allow the chopped shallots to cook in the vegetable oil without coloring. Add the crushed peppercorns and the bay leaves (broken into pieces), then add the white wine and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for about 3 minutes. Pass the spice stock through a fine strainer. Place the egg yolk, the two whole eggs and 4 tablespoons of the reduction in a metal bowl and whisk it over a pan of barely simmering water (approx. 70 °C / 160° F) until it doubles in size (approx. 1 to 1,5 minutes). Next, carefully stir in the warm liquid butter (approx. 50° C / 120° F), first drop by drop and then gradually increasing the amount of butter added. The mixture needs to emulsify (form a combination of egg and butter). Finally, season the sauce with salt, sugar, white pepper and lemon juice. Pour the sauce into a 1 l Gourmet Whip, screw in two cream chargers and shake vigorously. Keep the filled Gourmet Whip warm in a bain marie at temperatures of up to 65° C / 150° F.

You don’t have to follow that exact recipe, you can easily simplify it and just make a warm emulsion with butter, egg yolks and lemon juice for a quick sauce !

Easy Mango Coconut Sorbet

Posted in Life, Recipes, Techniques on May 16th, 2011 by Natacha – 1 Comment

I have been “playing” around a lot with my ice cream maker recently… Last week i pureed organic strawberries with lemon juice and sugar, then strained it to make a strawberry sorbet. It was delicious but required lots of work and dishwashing…Not really what a busy mom needs…

There had ot be a way to make a healthy sorbet faster and with less mess….So I decided to use my daughter’s babyfood and subsititute milk for coconut milk ! Et Voila !

Ella's mango puree

Ingredients :

  • 2 packets of mango baby food (organic is better)
  • Juice from one lime
  • One can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

 

Mix all four ingredients, chill and then pour into ice cream maker – you’ll end up with a delicious light sorbet…The perfect end to any meal !

 

 

Making my own pasta…

Posted in Cooking tools, Recipes, Techniques on April 20th, 2011 by Natacha – 1 Comment

KitchenAid pasta press

When i saw a pasta extruder that fits my KitchenAid stand mixer, I went nuts and had to have it !

I used a basic egg noodle recipe and I was very surprised at how easy it was to make your own pasta!

And it was sooo much fun, my 3 year old loved watching the macaronis coming out !

To go with it I made a simple Andouille sausage/fresh tomato sauce….we found pasta heaven last night !!

Macaronis coming out of the extruder

Basic egg pasta recipe (for 2 people) :

  • 1 3/4 cup of flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 0.5 to 1 Tbsp. water (adjust)

Mix flour and salt, then add eggs and water in stand mixer, then knead by hand for 2 minutes and prepare walnut size balls of dough to feed the pasta extruder.

The water is critical in the dough, if you put too much it will not work, you needjust enough so that the dough sticks together but remains pliable.

Use pasta extruder and voila ! I let my pasta dry for a couple hours before throwing it into a pot of boiling water with some olive oil and salt, after 2 minutes they started to float, that’s how i knew my mini-macaronis were ready !

Ready to be cooked !

I can’t wait to start experimenting with flavors…etc….Bucatini alla Bolognese for this weekend ! Stay tuned !

 

On a lighter note, my mother-in-law would love for the world to know about her favorite cosmopolitan cocktail recipe…So there it is :

Ellen's cosmo

 

1.5 oz. Absolut Raspberri vodka

1 oz. Triple Sec liqueur

1/2 oz. Ocean Spray Cranberry Cocktail

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secrets of Macarons

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Recipes, Techniques on January 17th, 2011 by Natacha – 3 Comments

I always loved French macarons (not to be confused with coconut laden macaroons). I had a discussion with my friend Muriel and she asked me if I ever tried to make any…That’s where the idea of making some stemmed from.

As I looked for recipes, I realized there was many tricks to it and also that it would take me several days…

Secret #1 :

The egg whites needs to be “aged”…YES “aged ! I had never heard of such things but basically you need to separate whites from yolks 2 or 3 days before baking, loosely covered in the refrigerator (but watch out – they need to be taken out 2 hours before starting to make teh recipe so they end up at room temperature). Also depending of the humidity you may need to add powdered egg whites to them when you make your recipe. If you are not yet scared of the process, continue to secret #2…

Secret #2 :

Choose superfine sugar because it’s the easiest to incorporate.

Secret #3 :

The almond flour needs to be fresh and slightly dried in the oven before use and it also needs to be superfine !

Secret #4 :

I was shocked to find out that the color of the shell came from food coloring….Yes I must be living in La-La land.

Now the shell recipe :

Ingredients :

  • 2 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 2 3/4 powdered sugar
  • 1 cup aged egg whites at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. powdered egg whites
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • gel paste food coloring (liquid would be compromise the shells)

Mix almond flour and powdered sugar (if you feel brave : blend and then sift together – i didn’t). Beat egg whites + egg white powder and salt and when they start to rise, add sugar and food coloring. Then incorporate almond mixture with egg whites mixture by hand until the batter falls in a wide ribbon when you raise the spatula. Then you are ready to start piping (tip#8) 2 1/2 inch shells separated by 1 inch on a parchment lined baking sheet.

And then let it sit for 15 minutes (that’s the secret to make them develop “feet”) then bake in a convection oven at 300 degrees – bake for 14 minutes exactly (after the first 5 minutes, open the door briefly to let the steam out – yet another secret).

Let the shells cool completely before taking them off the parchment paper.

Now for the filling : possibilities are endless, i decided to go with a chocolate ganache :

  • 7 ounces dark chocolate (65% to 70% cocoa content)
  • 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (preferable european style – Yes I’m that much of a snob)

In a saucepan over low heat, stir chocolate, cream and honey until melted. Remove from heat and stir in teh butter.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes, until thick enouh to spread or pipe.

Fill the macarons and cover in airtight container, in the fridge for 12 hours to let the aroma of the filling develop into the shells – I warned you – several day process).

So good !!!

Those macarons were AMAZING, it was a great way to end our Holiday meals. And now I understand why people charge up to 3$ a piece for those puppies….They are indeed very labor intensive.


Steaks by Alan

Posted in Recipes, Techniques on November 15th, 2010 by Natacha – 3 Comments

As a few of you requested tips to grill steaks, my father-in-law kindly agreed to write a post on steak grilling (which is definitely not my specialty – handling the grill is more of a “man” thing, I think). – Enjoy !

Steaks

Filets:  minimum 6 oz each
Tbone: minimum 1 lb each
Rib steaks:  minimum 1 lb Each

Cover steak(s) with a thin film of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn on the Grill to high and heat to a minimum of 550 F

Place steaks on the grill directly over the flames at a 45 degree angle (on the middle so you don’t burn the outside too much).
Close the grill and cook for approximately 2 minutes (note 1)
Turn the steaks over and cook with the top down for the same time in the previous step.

Open the grill and lower the gas to medium
Turn the steak over again and place it on the grill at the opposite 45 degree angle.(note 2)  Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes (Note 3)
Turn steak over and continue cooking
As soon as the top of the steak shows liquid on top monitor the internal temperature with a good meat thermometer (note 4-6)
Remove from grill at temperature and serve immediately (Note 7)

Notes:

Note 1: This time depends more on the type of steak than it’s size.  For Filets I usually do about 2.5 minutes.  For more fatty cuts (NY strip, rib, etc) I limit this time to 2:00 minutes.
Note 2: If done correctly the grill marks should form a diamond pattern.
Note 3: This time is dependent on the thickness of the steak and your particular grill temperature at medium.  Times quoted are for steaks about 3/4″ thick on a small Weber grill..
Note 4: Chef Alan recommends:

CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

Note 5: All thermometers suffer from something called a stem effect.  Essentially that means meat thermometers tend to read lower than the actual temperature.  Thus while this thermometer recommends 130-140 F for rare, I need to take the meat out around 125 F for rare.  Same for medium.  The thermometer recommends 140-160 and I typically take the meat off at 135 – 140F.
Note 6: If you want to add a little garlic flavor you can sprinkle a little garlic powder on the top of the steak about 2 minutes before it is finished.  I don’t find it necessary.
Note 7: If you are cooking really large steaks (10 oz and up filets, and over 1.25 lb T-bones, etc), these steaks will continue to cook internally after they are taken off the grill so again they should be taken off the grill at the low end of the range you are aiming for.