Archive | January, 2011

The Incredible Edible Marzipan: Play-Doh for Adults

29 Jan

Marzipan Pears and Lemons

I can’t remember my very first taste of marzipan but I know from an early age, that I was instantly hooked. My mom did her everyday grocery shopping at Giant, AP, and Safeway, but then there were a few trips a month to gourmet food retailers Sutton Place and Someplace Special. And it was at one of these gourmet retailers that I first begged her for a box of carefully selected modeled marzipan.

Maybe it was the doll house size or the exuberant colors of the marzipan that first drew me in, but the taste also captured me. It was perfumey and honeyed but with a slight bitterness and had a moist, tender and sticky core. For a small child, the charms of modeled marzipan were simply irresistible. Peeking through the glass display case and viewing the perfect lines of pastel-colored miniatures such as half-open pea pods containing, indeed, pea-sized peas, or tiny cats and rabbits with chocolate whiskers, and spotted mushroom caps, opened up a wondrous and fantastical universe for me.

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Ten Things That Surprised Me about Culinary School

23 Jan

I get asked a lot of questions from curious friends and colleagues about my decision to belatedly attend culinary school. Of course, the most FAQ I get, from those who did not witness the process I went through beforehand,  is” How did you make up your mind?” I’ve written about my deliberations previously in my inaugural blog post, Linzer to Litigator. I am writing this posting to give you a glimpse of my world as student in the baking and pastry program at Johnson & Wales, and specifically to highlight a few things, both serious and trivial, that surprised me, and may surprise you, about my current undertaking.

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The Label Says “French Silk,” But This Pie is All-American

16 Jan

Chocolate Orange French Silk Pie

It was in 1951 that Betty Cooper won the third annual Pillsbury Bake-Off contest for home cooks with her now-classic recipe for the Chocolate French silk pie. I didn’t know any of this until recently, when I had to complete a research assignment on “specialty pies” for my Pies and Tarts lab at Johnson & Wales. When I first saw the words “Chocolate French Silk,” my mind was blank. Obviously it was chocolate (a good thing), but what was French silk? It sounded elegant, old, classic, and well…It had to be, it is French, right?

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Cheerwine: North Carolina’s Answer to New England’s Moxie

11 Jan

Diet Cheerwine

I first glimpsed it when I was in the baking aisle searching for unsweetened chocolate and pastry flour. I am not a regular soda drinker, so I am generally oblivious to what I see on the soda shelves–the strident colors immediately making me turn my head. But this was different. Something I’d never encountered. A liter bottle of a soft drink called Cheerwine. I made a mental note to myself to remember this name…

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The Little Dutch Oven That Could: Soup for the Snow

10 Jan Cornmeal Dumplings Simmering

Today, I awoke at 5:30 am to discover the city of Charlotte blanketed by a pristine pre-dawn snow. I had been following the weather forecasts for the past few days, but I am ever a doubting Thomas, having grown up in precipitation-alarmist DC, and despite having lived through  last year’s snowmaggedon there. Sure enough, the meteorologists were correct and school was closed for the day. My feelings were mixed about a day at home. On one hand, extra time to relax, watch some TV (and write this blog) are welcome opportunities. On the other hand, I dread future lab make-up days that may be scheduled by  Johnny Wales for less than ideal times. (Today would have been our prep day for our practical on pies and tarts tomorrow.)

Ambivalence aside, I resolved to return to bed. But by that time, I had already eaten breakfast and was a bit restless. So I busied myself with some reading and other tasks. I watched the news reports promising sleet and ice for later tonight and the segment on pre-snow grocery shopping madness. Seems pasta was the biggest seller, which makes sense. Easy to cook, filling, and comforting on a cold day.

Just like the dumpling soup I made this weekend, a recipe from the January issue of bon appétit magazine. I’ve been on a bit of a vegetable kick lately. So when I saw this recipe for a hearty “southern-style” soup of cornmeal dumplings, with andouille and mixed greens, I couldn’t help but test it out. Dumplings definitely make good dinner companions in the snow.

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Heaven Can Wait, I’ll Take Entenmann’s: Confessions of Forbidden Food

8 Jan

IlovechocolatecoveredEntenmann’sdonuts…. There, I finally said it. It is a secret I have held for perhaps 10 years, as it has been at least that long since I held one in hand. I walk by them in the Harris Teeter with my head down. I spy them out of the corner of my eye, piled high on tables with coffee and crumb cakes (meh), poundcake (bleh), and chocolate chip cookies (hmmm) as I make my way to the dairy section to buy guilt-free cottage cheese with fruit or soy milk. But every time I take that stroll of shame, I end up fantasizing. Fantasizing about me face down in  a box of chocolate donuts, yellow cake crumbs flying out of both corners of my mouth, my face smudged (or fudged) dark with the evidence. Think Paul Giamatti in Sideways but with donuts instead. Why don’t I just give in, you say? Because with Entenmann’s chocolate donuts, there is no such thing as eating one. You’ll eat five before the box lid closes and you throw it away. Really, the Cracklin’ Oat Bran slogan works better here.

What suddenly made me confess my forbidden love for a product Krispy Kreme and other donut aficionados would deem wasted calories? This week, I have been enjoying my new subscription to the food literature journal Alimentum. Upon perusing its website, I came across a very intriguing  posting about “Secret Foods.” For confessing your food sins, you could get an additional issue free.

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