Late summer passion

  So summer is soon coming to a close in Van City but it certainly has it's claws digging to stay well into the end of the month. I have to say it is the best time of the year for local produce: peaches, nectarines, pears, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, TOMATOES, peppers, you get the idea.

  Bartlett pears have been amazing this year and we purchased quite a bit so I pondered what to do with a few of them as a dessert. I knew pears and mint are nice together but I didn't just want a plain and simple crumble. Ginger and lemon are nice together and I imagined they would work with mint
and pear as well. So this became my creation: Bartlett crumble with mint, ginger, lemon and browned butter all with honey drizzled on top! I made sure to scale and write down measurements in case it was awesome...and yes it was; however, I am gonna take out the brown sugar.
Bartlett pear crumble

Baking baguettes at Terra Breads

  I work at Terra Breads in Vancouver and we go through a lot of baguettes but not nearly as much as they produce during the graveyard shift. These are ones I baked a week ago. Seven slashes is traditional, not five!
Baking rye at Terra Breads

Spelt sourdough pancakes

  So that beautiful sour that would have been a year old in a month went down the drain due to an invader, the dreaded house fly. What was I to do now? "Start a new one," I said, but after some procrastination I was handed an even better sour from a close and awesome baker. And so a few nights ago I made pancakes with it. Spelt with a nectarine, peach and rosemary compote topped with maple and butter :)

Halibut over pesto risotto
  I also love to cook, if you haven't noticed, and the other day showed a good friend of mine how to make southern gnocchi. I also craved me some halibut and risotto so I made a pesto risotto and subbed the pine nuts for almonds as well as crusted the halibut with pepper and coriander. It works really well as the spicy and citrus-like coriander pairs well with the cool refreshing pesto!
Pudding and shortbread

  The same night for dessert I made a sea salt dark chocolate pudding with a simple shortbread infused with peppermint leaves. A classic combo made new!

Ciao tutti!


Summer love

Biga and sourdough


puff base

choux paste for profiteroles and cake

best profiteroles I made!

Saint-Honore cake

Reversed Puff apple turnovers

A few Projects I created this past month: Bread, as per usual; a Saint-Honore cake made with a red currant/peach chiboust and home made puff; apple turnovers using apples I picked from the neighbourhood park; gnocchi alla Sorrentina.

The cake was for my parents 37th anniversary and the apple turnovers were made using the rest of the puff pastry dough I made for the bottom of that cake. Everything came out pretty amazing!


13 years since...

...I last drew a self portrait. I just realized this and dug up the one I drew back when I was 14 or so. HA!


Happy birthday to my oldest bro!

 I made a local strawberry and 78% Cacao Berry chocolate mousse cake layered with a vanilla sponge that is soaked with a peppermint syrup. It was awesome!!


Creating good eats

After taking care of a few errands this morning I needed something hearty to replenish my stamina. I felt like pasta-since it's quick to make for one I decided on making it fresh, using Anita's organic whole wheat flour. A little left over Rag├╣, fresh ricotta, fruitty extra virgin olive oil and some local strawberries to cleanse the palate makes for a good lunch.
 Over some time I have been developing my own chocolate chip cookie dough. After quite a few experiments I think I have got the product I want. Nice and soft yet a little chewy with a slight crisp touch around the edges. I use Cacao Berry's 72% dark chocolate nibs for the chocolate chips because a couverture chocolate has a much deeper flavour and better mouth feel then say a Hershey's chip.

This is a classic chocolate chip recipe I concocted but I felt like adding some cocoa powder and almonds to change it up a bit today.

"Chocolate chip cookies again!?" Exclaimed my mom...My dad could care less, if it has chocolate he's okay with it. She then demanded me to make her one of her favourite cookies, Cucidati. They are a Sicilian date filled cookie made during Christmas and are usually shaped like a Fig Newton or can be rolled like a jelly roll. I decided to change it up and add citrus zest to the dough, instead of dates I made a local cherry honey compote and added almonds.

I made some Calabrian Easter bread called Cuzzupe a couple days ago, also from the top of my noggin', but forgot to take a picture before the damn thing was devoured by my parents. I wrote down the measurements as it came out to be the best one to ever come out of our oven, even my mom can vouch for that! Fluffy, a little lemon and some anise liquor for a kick. There was a moment where I added the liquor and thought, "shiiiiit, I killed the yeast." Just after I remembered yeast is an alcohol shitting organism!

My mom always said I can't bake rustic like her and just wing it; needless to say I did and she likes these. :)
Nothing like bitter sweet dark chocolate molting out of a warm cookie!



Mise en place. Butter cream, macaronage, french meringue
 So I am officially employed at the award winning bakery, Terra Breads! After a month of doubting I got a call back! Feels like I never left and also like it has never calmed down since Christmas.
If you have not tried anything from them start with the pizza bianca or the pecan fruit bread and enjoy, as you put those "no carb" crap diets to rest and just EAT because "we eat to live."
piped out and drying
 On a related note the head baker at Terra Breads, Mary, makes some damn good pastries called macarons. No not the American macaroOns which are made with coconut but the Parisian almond meringues which can be flavoured any way you want and sandwich any filling from jam to ganache.
I'm not a fan of making such dainty items but because I have never tried or made a macaron and the idea of flavour pairing had sparked an urge to go out and grab ingredients to give them a go.

 So basically they are made from four ingredients: egg whites, sugar, icing sugar and almond flour. I can't stand the artificial colouring (as you can see on the left) some bakeries add to them so if you have seen them before and look at mine don't be fooled :) The almond flour and icing sugar are processed to a fine powder ( finer the smoother and shinier the top) and then folded to a certain point into the egg white meringue. That's it!
 You can have them on their own or sandwich them together with a filling. My pairings were: green tea, passion fruit butter cream; fresh basil, lemon butter cream and saffron, lemon butter cream.

They didn't turn out exactly the way they should be but after some advice from my teacher and Mary I will attempt them again...sometime later :)
Needless to say they were still great and everyone enjoyed them.



Amazing what three simple ingredients can create with a little bit of heat. My yeast is a natural culture called a sour where you let water and flour ferment, as well as capture the wild yeast and bacteria, for some days until you see some action in the form of bubbles. This culture will last your lifetime as long as you continually tend to it by the means of "feeding" or refreshing it with equal amounts of flour and water.

So last night I prepared some bread dough with this culture, at about 23%, and let it enjoy itself acting on the sugars of the flour for a good 4 hours. At about 3:30 I punched down any large pockets of gas and shaped the dough into four loaves and placed each on a board covered with a cloth. In the refrigerator until 10:00 and then let them proof outside until 14:00 where I then got to see them spring up in the oven with life.

This method of long and slow fermentation is what gives artisan bread it's notorious crunchy golden crust and chewy open crumb. Buon appetito! 



I made bread and drew, HA! Easy way to stay occupied while endeavoring through this weather and waiting for a job call.


Croissant experimenting

I have always been curious during class as to know how some bake shops like Thomas Haas and the few I visited in Paris are able to create croissants with massive volume and visible flaky layers.

I have been doing a little research and decided to experiment with how many and which turns to give the dough. Also I think the thickness of both the dough and butter as well as the final rolling to make up the product as well as the baking temp will affect the way the product looks.

So in the end I decided on having the dough as thick as 8mm and the butter at 6mm. I enclosed the butter without a single-fold and proceeded with a book-fold and then a single fold.

I shaped two different batches from the same dough but changed a few variables. The second batch was proofed at a cooler temperature for 4 hours instead of a little warmer for 3. I also hit them with a preheated oven of 246C and immediately dropped the heat to 218C. I believe this will give them more height by allowing the moisture in the butter to quickly evaporate.

I also rolled them out a bit thicker than the first by at least a mm or more but I think this created more crunchy rather than crispy layers.

The problem I had with both however was butter leaking during baking. This can be either bad enclosure of butter (not an even layer of fat and dough), weak flour (when oven spring happens, layers tear apart and butter seeps out), low temperature (butter melts before dough can rise), too much butter or under-proofed.
I can say judging from the photo, my layers of butter and dough are pretty nicely made, the temperature I baked both was high enough and my butter to dough ratio was industry standard (25% butter weight to dough).
Where I think the problem might be is I didn't have enough strong flour available(AP, bread) so I mixed what I had with pastry flour, this also affected the proofing because I can physically see the layers being split apart on the surface.

My next attempt will be to use European style butter which is "dryer" than the other stuff, use the right flour and try three single folds.
In the end they still turned out well and the family devoured them.
first batch

layers of dough and butter



visible layers during proofing

not the honeycomb center I am looking for

double egg yolk glaze

you can see where the layers have teared

second batch with much thicker layers from a thicker final roll-out