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Cover: Founding Flavors

Recipes with Flavors

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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11Oct 12

Vanilla Extract on the Rocks, Please

As I started drafting this blog entry, I got distracted when I overheard a 60 Minutes report entitled The Flavorists: Tweaking tastes and creating cravings.  I encourage you to check out the news clip because it examines the food flavoring industry and its overall impact on obesity in society as food is enhanced with flavors designed to entice our taste buds.  The timing of the report was quite apropos given that I was writing about creating homemade vanilla flavoring.  My favorite part of the news clip is when reporter Morley Safer states that vanilla flavors can come ‘from a gland in a beavers backside.’  Yuck-a-luck!

And, while I’ll attempt to refrain from being hypocritical–because come on who doesn’t love munching and sipping on all sorts of store-bought snacks that are infused with these flavors–I do have to say that I couldn’t help patting myself on the back for making my own beaver gland-free vanilla extract where I knew that there were only two ingredients: alcohol and vanilla beans.  So, if you’d like to take a break from artificial flavors and so called natural flavorings, please read on.  Did I mention alcohol is involved?

This is perhaps the easiest recipe I’ve made in my baking journey thus far.  As noted above, the only ingredients are sliced vanilla beans and a good quality vodka.  I purchased my vanilla beans online and opted for the Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans.  I sliced the beans, which really look more like vanilla strands, and placed them inside of an airtight bottle (the vanilla beans only appear once you cut open the vanilla strand).  Next, I grabbed the vodka, which if I could describe the look of horror on my husband’s face when he saw me reach for the Belvedere vodka I would.  But, let’s just say he was not amused and neither was I after I compared its price tag with other vodkas.  While I have since convinced myself this was an ‘investment’ in my future pastry skills, I’d take note from the Making Vanilla website, which contains a lot of useful information and states that you really just need to make sure the vodka you are using contains 35%-40% alcohol.  Once the vodka and the vanilla beans are combined and tightly sealed, place the container in a dark, cool area for a minimum of a month but be sure to shake the bottle once or twice a week.  After at least a month has passed, pour the mixture through a strainer covered with either cheese cloth or two paper towels.  And voilà , you are left with vanilla extract that can be stored and used as a truly natural flavoring for your desserts.


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17Sep 12

Let the Baking Begin!

Hello! Every Sunday I’ll be posting my latest blog describing my baking experiences in hopes that it will enhance your day with a bit of laughter, as well as lessons I’ve learned in trying new recipes or techniques that you might find useful. But for today’s blog, I’d like to get you caught up to speed by sharing what I’ve been up to the last few months.

When I first decided I was going to explore the world of sweets, my first task was to find a baking book that could start the process of guiding me through my learning experience.  As soon as the book arrived in the mail, I tore open the package and turned to the first page ready to try my hand at a Black Forest cake or strudel. And that’s when I realized that the first step of baking was going to be patience because there wasn’t any mention of a Black Forest cake in the first chapter, let alone the second or the third! I’d be starting out with the basics, which up until that point I thought were items like chocolate chip cookies. But in the baking world, it turns out, the basics are learning how to make egg wash so that you can add shine to a pastry or blanching nuts to remove the skin off of them. I wanted desperately to jump ahead but I forced myself to remove my chef’s hat and put on my apprentice apron. Can you believe it? Barely five minutes into my journey and I had already been demoted.

But, now that I’ve started to make my way through the first chapter, I have to admit I find myself utterly amazed by these ‘basic’ techniques that really make me feel more like a magician than a baker.  It’s such a rewarding feeling to see the instant results of your work. It’s fascinating to see how all of a sudden a bit of sugar, butter, and flour is transformed into something completely different than its original form.  I also must say that with the time I’ve spent learning some of the baking basics I’ve started to trust my instincts, adapt recipes to my liking, and find various recipes of the same dessert to learn what others have tried.

So, now that you’re an insider into my baking world, let me welcome you again to the Founding Flavors blog! I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you and hearing what you have to say.


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