Thursday, May 26, 2011

Risky Business: Black Licorice Caramel

In part starting this whole business thing was to try and keep me engaged and interested in what I make (also I'm a control freak so umm yeah). With this I have risks. Like this weeks experiment with Black Licorice Caramel Macarons (the above photo). I love black licorice, adore it so I personally have no issue adding that flavor to a whole lot of things, but, and here it gets risky; how many other people actually like black licorice in America? I have to admit it seems to be rather limited. 

I have a friend Lisa, who told me and also gave me some caramels that were licorice caramels and I thought they were absolutely delicious. So I thought that I would use the same idea in a macaron. A simply caramel (sugar, cream, butter, salt) and add some pure anise oil to the mix. 

The test this week: how many people will buy it? My suspicion, very few. BUT, I'm thinking that the few who do find it will be awfully excited about it (just like I would be). 

We'll see!

The menu this week: 
Homemade Rhubarb Jam (5 acre Farm WA)
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache ('Better than Fair Trade' chocolate)
Zesty Lemon Buttercream (organic butter, organic cream, organic and fair trade confectioners sugar) and
Black Licorice Caramel (organic butter, organic cream)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Asparagus, I adore you!

Seriously I loovvee asparagus. It is chewy and juicy, it can be smoky, sweet, pungent and salty.  Right now (and I mean 'right' now ladies and gentleman) is asparagus season in Washington State, and I have consumed close to five pounds of it in the past couple of weeks. 

Tonight I decided to continue the asparagus theme. So I decided to make a simple tart out of the stuff I had in my fridge/freezer. This consisted of some good quality puff pastry (good quality = butter + flour and maybe some salt. But that's the type of good puff that I like), some asparagus, some stinky cheese, a couple of onions and some fiddle head fern bits.  All the produce has come from the local farmers markets, so pretty top stuff. 

 I love to caramelize onions, as I feel they always add a nice slightly sweet base to any savory dish without adding too much texture. The asparagus was roasted with some olive oil and a bit of salt for 15 min, then I sauteed the fiddleheads in some nice cultured butter. 

To construct I placed (rather messily I totally admit) the puff in my tart ring, layered a whole lotta cheese on the bottom, placed the onions, then asparagus and fiddleheads. I sprinkled it lightly with salt then Josh helped me make a quick cream custard (cream + eggs + salt + pepper = custard) I poured it over the top. 

It is baking as we speak ... I have tasted the components separately - and they are all pretty tasty. So my guess is that the tart will be pretty delicious!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Markets

Wow, what a reception. I really had such incredibly low expectations about who was going to buy my product that I was incredibly delighted to find that people were a. really curious about it or b. very excited about finding macarons. So thank you everyone who came and checked out the stall!

I had a blast selling them, although I had forgotten how fatiguing customer service can be, it was great to be able to gauge how much people liked the product because they were right (literally) in front of me. I always find the kids the most telling though - it's all about whether they can keep eating it after the first bite or not. 

This past week I made 4 types of macarons, which I think is a good number (a good variety and I can experiment enough to keep myself interested!). So I'll keep the 4 macaron varieties per week. 

This past week I made:
 Hazelnut Buttercream Macaron,
 Fleur de Sel Caramel Macaron, 
 Bitter Sweet Chocolate Ganache Macaron and 
 Fresh From the Market Rhubarb Jam Macaron. 

My personal faves amongst that lot were the Fleur de Sel and the Rhubarb. I think having grown up with my opa growing rhubarb and my nana cooking it has giving me a healthy regard for its good and bad qualities (sometimes they can overlap... I love the tartness, but sometimes it can be waaaayyy too much), but I do tend to like my rhubarb on the tart side, and I also incorporate a healthy dose of lemon zest for extra zing.

While at the markets I did keep a look out for rhubarb, but unfortunately I didn't find any. So this coming week at the markets I will be doing all dairy based fillings (verses a homemade jam which is dairy free). 

I'm hoping for sunshine! On Sunday it absolutely bucketed down, and was generally a tad sad and cold, so I plan on having sunshine and a little warmth on the weekend!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank you!

Wow, the trials and tribulations of starting a food business in the lovely state of Washington. 

I thought it would be easier - but I have learned a ton in the past year about organization and most of all persistence. I'm pretty nervous about selling my product - one that I have invested so much thought, effort and time into and having people choose to or not to invest in it. However, there have been some awesome people who have really helped make it easier:

Josh you are one of course! My Mum, my mother-in-law Jane, Jenny of "Jenny the Pie Lady" who has always been so encouraging, my friends Ayumi, Tricia, Lisa and Deniz who have been listening to me talk about this for a seriously long time! My baking buddy Jamie - why did you have to move to Texas?! my old boss Elena (of the awesome choc. shop GrendelSweets - I know shameless plug, but their chocolates are really lovely)- so thank you all so so very much, because let me tell you this has been no easy task, as I am not usually one to take a lot of risk (or any really...). But here I am, on the cusp of starting the markets.

I was talking to a baking buddy yesterday actually about a project we had to do in Baking school. It was the crappy "5 year plan" assignment. We were told to try and figure out what we wanted to do in a five year period, and my plan was to sell tarts at a farmers market as I've always loved to make tarts. We were also required to interview someone that we admired in the industry to ask advice. This is where Jenny comes in. I had been eying of her beautiful pies for quite some time (huge, medieval looking pies like the ones that little blackbirds would pop out of) and so I asked her to be my interviewee....In other words, I'm pretty close to where I hoped I would be in 5 years. Maybe not tarts, but with another product that I find satisfying and challenging to make; French Macarons. 
I think I need to say "thank you" to the people who have been reading this blog. It has been incredibly encouraging to read the comments and support people have shown me, and it has certainly kept me baking. 

So here is to a new chapter - let's see where it leads!