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Cover: Founding Flavors


31Mar 13

Use Your Five Senses To Become a Dessert Connoisseur

I have recently been retraining myself to slow down when I eat for the purpose of truly appreciating what I’m consuming.  I’m not talking about enjoying the act of eating.  Rather, I’m referring to the use of all my senses to taste food, more specifically desserts, so that my awareness of the texture, color, smell, flavor, and ingredients used enable me to recall them later on when I’m experimenting in the kitchen.

It’s amazing how taking a little extra time to savor a dessert helps you discover a new level of complexity in something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie.  All of sudden, you realize that your taste buds pick up something salty before the sweetness of cookie dough and chocolate spread across your palate.  Or, you realize that the reason you enjoy the cookie so much is that it is a little crunchier from the outside and gooey on the inside.

Even though, at first, I felt silly analyzing my dessert-as I impersonated a wine connoisseur looking for notes of Madagascar vanilla and hints of toasted almonds-the extra effort paid-off when I decided to make pistachio ice cream.

A few months ago, I walked into an ice cream shop and had the most extraordinary pistachio ice cream I’ve ever eaten.   That’s pretty much all I remember from my first visit because by the time I thought to use my senses, it was too late.  But each time I went back to the ice cream shop, I’d take a moment to inspect the ice cream.  It had a soft shade of green that instantly left you feeling calm.   And, what I originally thought were pistachios, actually ended up being bits of pistachio paste.  Finally, the biggest surprise was that the slightly crunchy texture I felt was not pistachios but white chocolate.  Who would have known!  Especially, since it was exclusively labeled as pistachio ice cream.

Well, this past week I recalled the various aspects that made the pistachio ice cream so memorable and incorporated them into my own version, which is listed below.  The result was identical to the one I had eaten at the ice cream shop.  And, I have to admit that the one ingredient that made a world of difference was the white chocolate.  That’s right, the one ingredient that would have gone unnoticed had I not taken a second to contemplate and discover why I enjoyed the ice cream so much in the first place.

Whether you are a pro or just starting to learn to use your senses to appreciate what you consume, I would love to hear about your discoveries and creations.  So, leave a comment or send me an email with any stories or recipes you’ve mastered.


Pistachio Ice Cream Ingredients:
Egg yolks: 4 / 80 grams
Heavy cream: 1 ½ cup / 337 grams
Pistachio paste: ½ of the block
Skim milk: 1 ½ cup / 337 grams
Sugar: 1 cup / 225 grams
Vanilla powder: 2 tablespoons/ 14 grams
White chocolate shavings: 4 -5 tablespoons / 30 grams

Pistachio Paste Ingredients:
Pistachios: ¾ cup / 100 grams
Powdered sugar: ¾ cup /100 grams
Simple syrup: 3 tablespoons / 54 grams (To make simple syrup, place equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  Allow the simple syrup to cool completely before using it. )


1. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Combine egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla powder into a mixing bowl.
3. Once the milk and cream mixture have come to a boil, add half a cup of it to the bowl containing the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla powder.  Make sure you are constantly mixing the ingredients as you add in the milk and cream mixture so that lumps are not created.  This process is referred to as tempering.  Then, pour the combined mixture into the saucepan containing the remaining milk and cream mixture.
4. Reheat the saucepan and use a thermometer to ensure that the mixture reaches 170-180°F.
5. Place the mixture in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
6. To make the pistachio paste, simply add all ingredients to a food processor.  Then, shape the paste into a rectangular block, cover, and refrigerate.
7. After at least 6 hours, remove the ice cream mixture from the refrigerator and pour into the ice cream maker.
8. Add one to two drops of green food coloring to the mixture.  Continue to add food color to get your desired shade of green.
9. After 25 minutes, use your hands or a grater to create pistachio paste shavings and add them to the ice cream maker.
10. Finally, use a grater or knife to create the white chocolate shavings and add them to the ice cream maker.
11. After 30 minutes, pour the ice cream into a container and place in the freezer or serve.

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17Mar 13

Stracciatella Marshmallows

It is true that one can find creative inspiration everywhere but I never expected Peeps to serve as my muse for the creation of Stracciatella Marshmallows.  You read correctly…Peeps…those little marshmallow candies that bombard every grocery store and pharmacy aisle in America about this time of year.  As we become hypnotized by their bright yellow and pink colors, we start to tell ourselves “who cares that they are not truly representative of what a Spring chicken or bunny should look like and why bother contemplating why these sugary treats never seem to melt regardless of how long they are in the microwave.”  For those that think I might be exaggerating, might I point out that only a few weeks ago when our politicians were debating the fiscal future of our country with budget cuts, the Washington Post was announcing calls for participants to join the Seventh Annual Peeps Diorama Contest.  And, it was this particular announcement that reminded me about how absolutely delicious and entertaining marshmallows are in the world of desserts.

So, I started searching for homemade marshmallow recipes and realized that most stick to the same generic vanilla flavored marshmallows with occasional deviations to something a little more unique like peppermint.  But for something so simple to make, there really are endless opportunities to get creative, not only with flavors but also with how you opt to shape your marshmallows.  Below is an easy recipe for Stracciatella Marshmallows that combines a vanilla base layer with shaved milk chocolate and finally topped-off with a chocolate flavored layer of marshmallow that is shaped using a Linzer cookie cutter.


Gelatine: 2 packets
Water, cold: ⅔ cup
Light corn syrup:  ⅔ cup
Salt:  ⅛ teaspoon
Sugar: 1 cup
Vanilla powder: 1 tablespoon
Cocoa powder: 2 tablespoons
Shaved milk chocolate: ½ cup

1. Place ⅓ cup of cold water and gelatine in a standing mixer bowl and whisk on low.

2. Place ⅓ cup of cold water, light corn syrup, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the mixture reaches 240°F, which should take 8-10 minutes.










3. Once the mixture reaches 240°F, pour it into the standing mixer and whisk on high for 8 minutes.








4. Add in the vanilla powder to the mixture and whisk for another 30 seconds.

5. Pour half of the mixture onto a pan covered with aluminum foil.

6. Use a spatula that has been greased with oil to evenly spread the vanilla marshmallow layer.







7. Sprinkle chocolate savings over the vanilla layer.







8. Now, add in cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and whisk for 30 seconds.

9. Cover the pan with the chocolate layer of marshmallow using the spatula to spread it evenly.







10. Top off with chocolate shavings and powdered sugar.







11. Allow the pan to rest overnight.

12. Use a Linzer cookie cutter to shape the marshmallows.  Apply additional powdered sugar if the marshmallow becomes too sticky.

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03Mar 13

14 Must-have Supplies for Making Memorable Homemade Desserts

The more I bake, the more I’m convinced that anyone is capable of creating wonderful and impressive homemade desserts.  The secret is ensuring you have the proper equipment and use top-notch ingredients.  But, accumulating the proper supplies can be overwhelming, especially when you are new to baking.  There are so many products on the market and, often times, they are sold as items exclusively used for making one particular kind of baked good.  The reality is that you can produce an array of desserts from donuts to croissants to lemon meringue pie with the same 14 must-have baking supplies listed on www.foundingflavors.com.


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18Feb 13

Expand Flavors in Your Culinary Repertoire

We all do it.  You walk into your kitchen and decide to whip up a dish using whatever you have in your pantry.  Sometimes your efforts to improvise leave you feeling rather impressed with your natural culinary talent.  And, other times, not even your mother could tell you how good your creation is with a straight face.

A few weeks ago, I pulled out a sponge cake from the oven, drizzled simple syrup over it, and proceeded to open the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator looking for inspiration.  As I sliced fresh strawberries to place in between the sponge layers, I whipped up coffee flavored cream to spread over the sponge cake.   Since the combination of flavors sounded perfectly normal to me, I was a little taken aback when a friend came over and inquired as to whether these two items actually go together.  The question had never crossed my mind!  I love strawberries and drink coffee everyday, so why wouldn’t they go together?

This conversation lead me to discover www.foodpairing.com, a website dedicated to exploring the science behind the molecular make-up of different foods to determine which items are best paired together.  Once you create an account, you are able to select a specific ingredient, like strawberries or coffee, and then see an interactive web of options that will complement your meal.  The purpose of the website is not to dictate what you should put together but rather to provide you with a list of choices that you might not have considered or, even better, not even known existed.

When I clicked on coffee and looked under the fruit category, I was glad to learn that strawberries do go with coffee.  However, there were other fruits that would have been more suitable such as pears or a bergamot.  I was particularly excited about the bergamot because until I reviewed the food web, I had not heard about this pear-shaped orange.  It was also fascinating to learn that between the spectrum of pears or bergamot and strawberries, I could have opted to use raspberries, rambutan, or lychee.  The latter two being tropical fruits that I never imagined would have gone well with coffee.  Now that I’ve discovered this reference, I want to pass it along to you since-in addition to providing you with an array of ingredients to consider incorporating into your culinary repertoire-it also provides recipes for meals, desserts, and cocktails.


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18Feb 13

Kiwi Sorbet

I’ve been practicing making various sorbets with my latest creation being a delicious, all natural Kiwi sorbet.  While I’ll expound upon the Kiwi sorbet recipe I used, I want to take a minute to discuss some of the lessons I’ve learned about making sorbet.

For starters, unlike ice cream, it is not necessary to use a thermometer when heating up the mixture.  Instead, you simply mix sugar and water in a saucepan and allow it to boil.  The second thing to consider when making sorbet is whether you are going to use fruit juice or fruit puree.  Either is fine, but the consistency of the sorbet will differ depending on which one you use.  Fruit juice usually does not contain sufficient fruit fibers, which means that the sorbet is a little icy once frozen.  If, however, your preference is a sorbet with a smoother texture, you can add an egg white to the mixture (I’ll explain when this is done later on).  If you are going to use fruit juice, my preference is to skip the egg white because the overall taste better resembles that of the actual fruit used.  Finally, there is the fruit puree option, which is my personal favorite and the one I used for making the kiwi sorbet.  It takes about 15 minutes longer because you have to make the fruit puree first, but it really has a more enhanced flavor.  And, the texture is smooth without having to add an egg white because of the fruit fibers contained in the puree.


Sugar: 34g or roughly 3 tablespoons (for puree)
Kiwi: 340g or roughly 5 kiwi
Water: 300g or 1½ cups
Sugar: 150g or 2/3 cup
Lemon juice: 2 tablespoons

1. Peel and slice kiwi.








2. Place sliced kiwi in a saucepan with 34 grams of sugar.








3. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes and stir occasionally.








4. Pour mixture into a blender and puree.








5. Now, bring water and 150 grams of sugar to a boil.*








6. Remove from heat and add in the kiwi puree and lemon juice.

7. Stir, cover, and store in the refrigerator for at least six hours.








8. Then place the mixture in the ice cream maker and allow it to blend for 30 minutes.








* If you are going to use fruit juice, start with step 5. And, if you plan on adding an egg white to the mixture, stir this in after step 6.

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30Dec 12

Happy Holidays and For Heaven’s Sake Buy an Oven Thermometer!

This Christmas, I learned the importance of ensuring that your oven temperature is accurate when I attempted to make Black Forest Cake.  I was so excited as I navigated through the grocery aisles looking for sour cherries, powdered sugar, and chocolate.  I had found the perfect recipe so my fear of a disaster or having to endure several trails and errors was completely eliminated.  I could already hear the oohs and awes of family and friends as I walked in with my Black Forest Cake.  And, once I started beating the eggs with sugar and folding in the sifted flour, I took care to listen to the sound of the batter as it thickened to ensure it was just right.

I felt très Julia Child, waltzing around in my festive apron and opening the oven to bake the chocolate sponge cake layers at 325°F.  After exactly 15 minutes, I pulled out the cake because I was following the recipe to a T.  As I let it cool, I noticed it was about an inch flatter than what it should have been.   “No worries,” I told myself. “Who needs a three layer cake, when you can have a two layer cake!”  Well, that was the moment that my Christmas Day baking took a turn because not only was it an inch flatter, it also happened to be undercooked at the top, which by undercooked I mean that the batter started oozing out when I cut into it with a knife.  And, the bottom… was overcooked.  Just lovely.

Now, I was not only running late to Christmas dinner but I had no Black Forest Cake!  I frantically ran around town looking for a bakery to be open to salvage the day.  The pain of picking out another cake was too much to bare, so instead I selected an apple tart to ease the baking dagger going through my heart.  I had done everything right…the ingredients, the timing, and the mixing.  What had gone wrong?

While certain ovens may not distribute heat evenly or factors such as the weather might impact the final result of baked goods, like a sponge cake, people all around the world are still able to successfully create these desserts in their kitchen.  While you might not be able to prevent certain factors from occurring, there are some that can be remedied such as ensuring that the temperature displayed on your oven is the actual temperature inside your oven.  For me, this was the issue with the Black Forest Crisis of 2012.  Consequently, I have purchased an oven thermometer, especially after learning that ovens set to the same temperature can vary up to as much as 90 degrees!  So, do yourself a favor, and invest in an oven thermometer so that your culinary self-esteem doesn’t take a hit by your oven’s temperature being off!


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16Dec 12

A Delicious Stroll Through the Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

This year, I embarked on a holiday journey to Germany to experience the tradition of European Christmas markets.  My only expectation was that I’d encounter a healthy overdose of everything related to Christmas, trying all sorts of goodies along the way.  While I made various stops in markets throughout Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich, my favorite was a Christmas market in Munich.  Situated in the heart of Munich, the Christmas market in Marienplatz provided a magical experience with the gothic New Town Hall building serving as the backdrop for an illuminated Christmas tree towering over the market.  Walking through the various booths filled with Christmas trinkets and food stands selling mulled wine known as Glühwein, bratwurst, and a gloriously overwhelming selection of sweets, one easily comes to understand why so many people flock to Germany each year to partake in the holiday celebrations.

While most of my behavior was rather civilized, I had occasional moments when I was unsuccessful at resisting the urge to shove innocent bystanders, as I followed the scent of sugar and spices towards booths filled with sweets.  There were gingerbread cookies decorated with frosting dangling from colorful ribbons.  Then there were pastries filled with apples, plums, marzipan, and poppy seed, as well as Berliners – donuts filled with jelly.   Hidden behind the crowds, there were crepes and hot chocolate.  And, not to be forgotten were the rows of almonds covered in sugar, and Chocolate Kiss’ consisting of chocolate-covered domes filled with a soft, creamy meringue offered in flavors like amaretto and rum raisin.

Regardless of what time of year you visit Germany—and Munich in particular—you are quickly impressed and intimidated by this country’s appreciation for the art of scrumptious and elegantly presented pastries.  But, as you stroll through the streets and markets, looking into various booths and pastry shop window displays, you are left with the sense that the holidays are recognized as the perfect time to showcase all these sweet treasures.

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09Dec 12

Kick-off Your Holiday Party with Eggnog!

If you want a quick and simple way to add a personal touch to your holiday party this year, try making eggnog from scratch.  This recipe makes roughly 6-8 servings.







Sugar: ½ cup
Egg yolks: 4
Milk, skim: 1 cup
Milk, whole: 2 cups
Heavy cream: ½ cup
Nutmeg, ground: ¾ teaspoon
Anise star: 1
Cinnamon: ½ teaspoon
Ground cloves: 1/8 teaspoon
Vanilla extract: 1 tablespoon
Rum: ¼ to ½ cup


1.Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl and then set aside.

2. Place skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream, anise, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ½ teaspoon of the nutmeg in a medium saucepan and turn the stove on to a medium range.  Stir occasionally, as you let the mixture start to simmer.

3. Now, pour a little bit of the heated mixture into the egg and sugar mix and stir for 10-20 seconds.  Then pour this mixture back into the medium saucepan and let the entire mixture simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and lifting the saucepan from the heat if the mixture starts to froth.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and continue to stir for two minutes.

5. Strain the mixture and allow it to cool for 30 minutes.

6. Add the vanilla and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to the mixture, stir, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

7. Now add in the rum, stir, and refrigerate overnight.

8. Taste the eggnog before serving to determine if you’d like to stir in a little more alcohol or ground nutmeg.

9. Enjoy.

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02Dec 12

Canela-Apple Cookies

The holidays are my favorite time of year.  Not just because everyone seems to be a little friendlier or because of the endless decorations and music, but because it brings me back home.  Sometimes physically and other times mentally.  This past week it was the latter that brought back memories of my grandmother’s holiday baking.  Growing up, my grandparent’s house was always well stocked with all sorts of goodies but the most coveted treats were her perfectly pressed cinnamon and sugar cookies.  The second she’d place them out, one-by-one we’d suddenly appear in the kitchen, as if by coincidence.  As I started thinking about these cookies, I also remembered several of her other desserts, including apple filled empanadas.  And, that’s how I got inspired to combine a bit of the two and create the Canela-Apple Cookie.   It has an outer cookie layer that resembles the flavors in her cinnamon and sugar cookies, is lined with a touch of homemade caramel, and then filled with spiced baked apples.


Cinnamon and sugar cookies
All-purpose flour: 2 cups
Baking soda: ¼ teaspoon
Butter, unsalted: 6 ounces or 12 tablespoons
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Egg, whisked: 1
Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon

Homemade caramel
Alcohol of your choice: 1 teaspoon (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Butter, unsalted: 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons
Cream of tartar: 1/8 teaspoon
Heavy cream: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: 1 cup

Spiced apple filling
Alcohol of your choice: 2 tablespoons (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Apples, gala: 2
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg: ½ teaspoon
Sugar: ¼ cup

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine all of the cookie ingredients in a bowl and mix.

3. Flour your baking surface and roll out the dough into a thin layer.  If the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin, simply place a bit of flour on the surface of the dough.










4. Create your desired shape using a cookie cutter.  Since it is the holidays, I opted for a snowman.








5. Gently lift the cutout using an icing spatula or knife.

6. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

7. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool.

8. Then, mix sugar and cinnamon on a plate and gently dip the front side of the snowman in the mixture until it is fully coated.








9. Line up the snowmen in pairs because each Canela-Apple Cookie will require two cutouts.

10. Now, you’ll prepare the caramel by placing one cup of sugar in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir occasionally as you allow the sugar to melt.








11. Once the sugar has melted and has a light amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  The caramel mixture will bubble up a bit so keep stirring until your left with a caramel that has a smooth consistency.








12.  The caramel will start to harden so you’ll need to work cautiously and quickly as you use a spoon to drizzle caramel onto one snowman for each pair of cookies.








13. Now, it’s time for the apple filling.  Chop two gala apples into small squares and then combine the spiced apple filling ingredients into a saucepan and cook over medium heat.








14. Once apples are tender, use a potato masher to gently break the cooked apples apart.








15. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

16.  Use a spoon to place the apple filling over each caramel lined snowman and then gently press the remaining snowmen on top to create a cookie sandwich.








17. At this point, the caramel has hardened, which is why you’ll need to let the cookies sit for at least three hours so that the caramel melts into the apple filling mixture.  If you don’t have time to wait this long, you can skip the homemade caramel altogether and purchase a pre-made caramel spread.

18. Use a decorative platter to serve your cookies and enjoy!

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02Dec 12

Heavenly Dark Chocolate Gelato

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on a quest to make a flavorful homemade gelato that maintains the creamy texture of store-bought brands.  I tried endless recipes, which called for various combinations of skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream, and half-and-half.  The results ranged from flavorless to icy to a soft custard and then finally to a heavenly dark chocolate gelato that made the frustrations of the past two weeks well worth it.



Ice cream machine

Chocolate shavings, preferably with 65% cacao content: ½ cup
Cocoa powder, unsweetened: ¾ cup
Cognac: 2 tablespoons
Egg yolks: 4
Half-and-half: 2 cups (2 cups of whole milk can be substituted but it will not be as creamy.)
Heavy cream: 1 cup
Powdered milk, skim: ¼ cup
Sugar: 1 cup

1. Place sugar and one cup of half-and-half in a medium saucepan and let it simmer on low heat for one minute, stirring occasionally.








2. Whisk the four egg yolks in a bowl.  Then add a little bit of the heated sugar and half-and-half mixture to the eggs and stir for ten seconds.  Now, pour this mixture into the saucepan containing the sugar and half-and-half mixture.









3. Add the cocoa powder to the mixture and allow the mixture to simmer on low to medium heat.  You can use a jam and sugar thermometer to wait for the temperature to rise to roughly 170-180°F.  If you don’t have a thermometer you can let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The mixture might start to splatter so lift the saucepan from the heat, as necessary.








4. Now, stir in the remaining cup of half-and-half, the heavy cream, and powdered milk. Stir mixture for 2 additional minutes on low heat.








5. Strain the mixture.








6. Once the strained liquid gelato mix has been collected in a bowl, add the cognac and stir.








7. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least six hours.

8. Now, add the chilled mixture into your ice cream machine and let it run for 30 minutes.








9. During this time, use a chocolate shaver or a vegetable peeler to collect ½ cup of chocolate shavings from the best quality dark chocolate bar you can find.  I used Felchlin’s Grand Cru Maracaibo 65%.








10. 15 minutes into the mixing of the ice cream, pour in the chocolate shavings and let machine run for the remaining 15 minutes.

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