I'm Jess, a grad student and food photographer obsessed with chocolate. I love things made of sugar, lasers strapped to helicopters, and silly hats.
Come visit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for stories about food, bakeries in Seattle, and my most definitely being up to no good.
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Tag Archives: food
(No Cake Day today; I’ve been in shoots everywhere. The regular deliciousness resumes next week.)
I’m not a big fan of “healthier” desserts. Let me clarify – I love healthy desserts. I’m all for roasting a bunch of cherries or plums, adding honey and calling it good, or just eating a pound of honeydew. If I need a sugar boost, I’ll make a sundae that’s 70% fruit, or make all-fruit sorbets. I’m even okay with substitutions, like decreasing sugar and replacing it with applesauce in recipes, or black bean brownies.
What I don’t like are desserts that “taste like the real thing” but aren’t, in the interest of saving calories, and only calories.
I’m talking about anything where cool whip is added instead of whipped cream, or all of the many offenses against sweet tooths using artificial sweeteners. Using pounds of margarine because it’s “healthier” than a tablespoon of butter.
There are only a few situations for me where that makes sense:
You’re trying to make food for someone with food allergies/dietary restrictions
Food technology has said that X is unsafe to eat or there’s a less disastrous ingredient to substitute. (I’m for replacing store bought with homemade marshmallows in just about everything, except rice crispy treats, which don’t seem to work otherwise.)
There’s nothing wrong with eating healthier. I’m trying that myself, even when all you pretty much see on this blog is sugar. What concerns me is that, in our obsession to eat healthy, we lose sight of the real point of limiting sugar: eating well. You’ll eat that aspartame-laced ice cream and skip on the epic salad with roasted broccoli because the greens have too high of a calorie count. That makes me sad, not because it happens, but because of why it happens: that calories – and staying thin – are what we’re supposed to care about over our own enjoyment as women. Because women are the ones flooding Pinterest with healthy alternatives, quick fixes, and recipes, the mix of messy, overfrosted cakes and diet smoothies. (Men are as well, but for slightly different reasons.)
I get that I’m coming from a place where I generally eat what I want, which gets into whole other issues of privilege. There are writers who have touched on that subject with far more grace than I ever will, and I hope you’ll do your own research, because how we view food isn’t how I want to live. I want to live in a world where all we eat both for nourishment and to make ourselves happy, because food is such an amazing and important daily part of our lives. One that we’re often forced to take for granted.
But sometimes, you need to escape from the arguments and want dessert. It’s then that I turn to ganache – delicious, loaded with antioxidants, none of that 45% “dark” stuff. We’re talking 70% at a minimum, no added sugar outside of the chocolate itself, and sweetened with just honey and vanilla.
The other day, I was invited to make truffles with Theo Chocolate at one of their classes. I’m going to write a whole article about the class experience over on Crave Local, but I just wanted to talk about the truffles themselves.
Truffles, for all their simplicity, are delicate to work with. You lose a lot of chocolate to your hands, and if the ganache isn’t warmed up enough when you coat it with tempered chocolate, then the ganache breaks through, looking like it’s weeping.
I’m all for small bites of amazing desserts, and yet I always go back to ganache. It’s simple, yet delicate to master and control, and changes subtly every time I try a new chocolate or varietal. And that’s the one thing that always amazes me: that the simplest desserts can be the most intense. And I’ll take that for my health every day.
If you want to make a ganache, there are recipes everywhere, and you should always experiment. Steep the cream with mint, ginger, whatever herbs you feel like, but don’t stop with just one try if it seizes, or one method that works. Make it your own.
Before Chris got his first job in Seattle, he decided that we should go for omakase. So, a few days after he finished his interviews and was hired, we did.
For the uninitiated, omakase in a sushi restaurant means letting the chef serve you as they wish, with some care for your allergies if necessary. We tried ours at Mashiko, and it was a huge range of textures and flavors, from dainty Kumamoto oysters with yuzu, to tuna tartare, to cod liver and octopus, the final salty dish that our stomachs simply gave up on. While I haven’t tried it again since, I’ve definitely let Daisuke Nakazawa steer me as he wants at Shiro’s, which has been delicious, so I’d love to see what he could come up with.
While writing the post on citrus-free desserts, I realized it would also be beyond amazing to let a pastry chef do a dessert omakase. A lot of dessert work has to be done in advance of service anyway, from letting custards sit to drying meringue. So in theory, like a sushi chef, a pastry chef could make you small bites to order, morsels based on their whims and your responses.
Heck, I wish this existed as a food truck or pop-up – nigiri-sized bites of desserts to pop in your mouth as you sit and chat, chef’s choice. All built to order, like custom cocktails, following confectionary dreams and whims of the moment, rather than investing all of your remaining appetite in one flavor attack.
Even macarons filled to order could be super intriguing.
I mean, I do this normally when I raid the fridge, building desserts based on whatever’s close at hand, but to me there’s something magical about the idea of trays of sliced cakes, macerated fruit, and other dessert components already laid out, just waiting for that finishing touch of icing.
If someone makes it happen in Seattle, I’ll so be the first in line.
Even if I can’t convince any of my favorite pastry chefs to try this out, it would work great for a party with picky friends. Instead of trying to frost and decorate everything in advance, you can just cut up squares of cake then lay out bowls of toppings, from puff pastry to mousse. People could make their own desserts, from small plates to verrines, and everyone would get enough frosting for once.
I hope you’re all enjoying midsummer! Or close enough to it.
Some link love from around the blogosphere:
There’s an adventure race on the 28th, which mainly sounds like an excuse to be silly and run around Seattle. If I wasn’t such a walking disaster, I’d be there.
There are twelve tickets left for Seattle Brisket Experience 6, people. Twelve. What do I need to tell you besides it will involve authentic Texas barbecue, something Seattle gets to enjoy once in a blue moon?
The Bellevue Regional Library is finishing construction – and having a car show to celebrate. Not that excited for the show, very excited to see that library back in fighting form.
I know it’s summer, but I’ve been craving tea, and things that go with tea. Like these raspberry white chocolate scones or toasted coconut and berries charlottes or the Lady Grey trio made of tea, orange and chocolate which I am totally making the second I have enough spare time. Anything where a crème brulée is mentioned as a palate cleanser is definitely worth investigating.
Or maybe I just really want cookies. Probably both.
If not any of those, what about a Gâteau St. Honoré? It’s on my ‘things to attempt’ list for the summer, and always a showstopper. The overachiever in my wants to make a chocolate one.
Next week on Monday will be the last of the Play With Your Food series, which really means I’m looking for new ways to destroy my kitchen. In the interim, you can review your dice rolls or try getting up close with your food, and get ready for one more game.
I’ve been checking out Flee, this awesome travel site that lets you pick your budget and set up mini-trips. I can’t wait for them to expand, but for now I’m looking through their options to Portland and San Francisco.
In totally unrelated news, get ready for Pride, which starts festivities today and continues next weekend. I loved taking photos last year, and I’m sure it will be fantastic, even if you can only attend the parade. Given that this is the first year with legal marriage in Washington for my gay and lesbian friends, I’m sure it will be extra special.
Have an awesome weekend! What are all you awesome people up to?
(Warning: food discussion ahead to make Andrew Zimmern proud. Vegans, I’d go read my sundae post or something.)
In one of my management classes, we discussed surprise and how vital it is. One of the takeaways was that surprise is one of the best ways to learn, and that not being surprised means you’re not growing. I love being surprised by food.
This is a series for a collaboration between Kiri Callaghan, me, and our helpful friends at Theo Chocolate and Guimauve Confections. We regret nothing except that the marshmallows disappeared all too quickly.
Back in February for my very first test of Guimauve Confections, I made inside-out s’mores with their Neapolitan marshmallows, which are delicious, but also ridiculously messy. These mallows, once roasted, are gooey, near-liquid flavor bombs held together by the thinnest of crispy sugar shells. Great when you’re eating them solo, not so great when you’re trying to hold things between them and not wreck your clothing.
Would absolutely make them again, only I’d eat them with chopsticks. And have a hoard of damp washcloths nearby for the collateral damage. Or maybe I’d make them into something closer to a confection: roast smaller marshmallow pieces, let cool, then dip in chocolate and top with a piece of graham cracker.
For Marshmallow May, Guimauve sent over some s’mores marshmallows, which are exactly what you think they are – chocolate and vanilla swirled marshmallows with soft graham cracker chunks both on top and mixed in. Eating them straight out of the bag, they’re a bit messy with all the crumbs, but you won’t care. They’re giant soft, fluffy, wonders, things you wish you could have eaten when you were six, and the chocolate and vanilla mallow streaks are distinctly delicious.
Keeping it classic, I decided to turn them into meta-s’mores: s’mores made with s’mores marshmallows. (I did try to stack them with more marshmallows for meta-meta-s’mores, but the jenga heap of a dessert collapsed way too fast.)
You can use whatever chocolate you want, but I decided on Theo’s 45% Salted Almond, which gave salt and crunch to the finished s’mores. I’m always a fan of salt to increase the sweetness, and there’s something magical about milk chocolate in s’mores. Maybe it’s from mainly eating them with Hershey bars as a kid, but it’s just awesome.
I made them inside on a rainy day; I’d love to roast these outdoors now that the sun’s out. Since they’re huge, I cut my marshmallows in half before roasting and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. All I tasted was a bite of my childhood dreams.