Ideas for what to publish in à la minute can come from the least obvious situations. Back in January on the morning of the big Women’s March I met a number of friends in San Diego’s Little Italy to head to the Civic Center where the march was gathering. When I reached the parking lot pastry chef Joanne Sherif, who owns Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, was handing out the most stunning madeleines. Coated in sugar and grapefruit zest, you could almost eat the fragrance before taking a bite. And the bite! Crunchy from the sugar coating but with a bright citrus flavor in the subtly sweet chewy cookie. At that moment that’s all I wanted and I told her I needed her to teach me how to make them.

She did. And she added a chocolate version to the mix.

Now publishing recipes is all well and good but what you really get here is the benefit of Joanne’s expertise–her tricks and tips. When it comes to madeleines, which she considers more of a cake than a cookie but with a thick, cookie-like dough, Joanne’s firmest piece of advice is to refrigerate this dough for at least two hours before baking (and you can even refrigerate it overnight).

She has two reasons for insisting on this. The first is that you want the flour fully hydrated. The second is you want it completely chilled when it gets into the oven. Like bread baking, the steam for the cold moisture when it hits the heat will give it “oven spring.” In other words, it will help it puff up.

Another suggestion Joanne has, and this is for the chocolate madeleines, is to use a top grade cocoa. Joanne discovered Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge, which she adores. I found it on Amazon’s and Sur La Table’s websites, along with Guittard’s own site.

Finally, again for the chocolate madeleines, add a bit of espresso powder. This brings out the flavor of the chocolate.

Now if you aren’t a grapefruit fan, no worries. You can use any kind of citrus. The day I was with Joanne, she had blood oranges and the reds and oranges in the zest were striking. And assuming you have leftover citrus sugar, don’t toss it! Instead, says Joanne, use it to sweeten iced team, rim a cocktail glass, or add to a homemade salad dressing.

Finally, before you place the dough in the madeleine forms, brush a little butter inside the forms to make sure the cookies won’t stick. And don’t fuss over smoothing the top of the dough. Use your fingers to press the dough into the molds but as they bake, the top will smooth itself.

Chocolate Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder
100 grams all-purpose flour
90 grams cocoa powder
pinch salt
185 grams plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup cocoa powder

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and espresso powder. Slowly add flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix and then slowly stream in 185 grams of melted butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl several madeleines. Place cocoa powder in a sifter and sift cocoa over madeleines. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are topped with cocoa powder. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Citrus Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups sugar
2 pieces of citrus, zested (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit all work)

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Slowly add flour and then butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the sugar and citrus zest. Place several madeleines in the bowl and gently toss them in the sugar and zest mixture. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are coasted in the sugar and zest mixture. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Do you make desserts for clients? If so, what are your favorites to prepare?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Cocoa Buckwheat Crepes1

Two weeks ago we featured a wonderful post by APPCA member Jim Huff, describing the development of his recipe for his Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding. Recipe development is a key part of being a personal chef as you adapt ideas into dishes that both represent your culinary point of view and address client preferences or dietary needs. Maybe you have a concept in mind—transforming a traditional dish with gluten into something equally delicious but gluten free. Or you love a concept for a recipe but the ingredients either aren’t seasonally available or not regionally available.

So, you work it. You substitute ingredients, adjust amounts, and eventually voila! You have your your dish. But sometimes you give it a good try and it fails. Dismally. Then what? Well, you keep going to find a solution or—if it becomes clear the original concept is a nonstarter—you just move on. Here’s an example:

Will Gustwiller is a chef I know in San Diego. He started out as a truffle maker, which is when we became acquainted. But his interests were broader and he started branching out, incorporating chocolate of all kinds into savory dishes. His place, Eclipse Chocolat, started hosting special chocolate dinners. About four years ago he moved to a larger space in a nearby neighborhood which gave him the opportunity to create a sit-down cafe with a regular menu.

I joined him one day while he was working on a new concept for a savory cocoa buckwheat crepe. Not unlike your own kitchen when you’re experimenting with dishes, we had a hell of a time with a variation Gustwiller was trying with the crepe. He wanted to make it both vegan and gluten-free. The gluten-free part we had down. We were using buckwheat after all. But we found that soy milk and going egg free just didn’t work. Not only did it not come together well, it tasted dreadful. So, out that batch went. We tried some other options but they, too, failed. It was clear this wasn’t the day this recipe was going to turn vegan so we moved on and went back to his tried-and-true batter with dairy. You’ve probably had that experience in one way or another, too.

But the good news is that this is still a wonderful dish. The crepe has minimal sugar so not only does it work well in savory dishes, it doesn’t overwhelm a sweet dessert filling (like the strawberries I intend to try the recipe out on). Once we reverted back to the original recipe, it took less than an hour to get all three components together and ready to eat. One of the secrets to its success is filling the crepe, folding it into quarters, then putting it in the oven briefly to crisp the pancake’s edges. The result is a firm crepe with a hint of cocoa. The creamy shallot filling is sweet from the caramelized shallots and Riesling but just a bit tart from the crème fraiche. Topping it off with the mushrooms adds another dimension of flavor with a little bite from the fresh green onions. It’s rich, but not overwhelmingly so for a first course. This is definitely something you should make if you’re catering dinner parties or brunch.

Savory Cocoa Buckwheat Crepe with Shallot Filling and Mushroom Sauce
from Will Gustwiller
Serves 4

This crepes make a terrific first course for a dinner party or main course for brunch.

For crepe:

Ingredients
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup skim milk
1 1/4 cup water (thin as needed)

Making the crepes

 

Whisk together ingredients and strain to remove clumps. Since there’s no gluten, there’s no need to rest the batter but you can refrigerate before using if you want to make it ahead of time.

Heat a nonstick sauté or crepe pan, spray with a little vegetable oil. Ladle in about a quarter cup of the batter and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. Depending on the pan size you may need to add a little more batter. When the edges start to curl and the crepe has set, flip it over and let it finish cooking briefly, then flip onto a plate. You can separate the crepes with wax paper. (You can also freeze cooked crepes, layered with wax paper.)

For shallot filling:

Ingredients
1 cup shallots, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Riesling wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt to taste
1/2 cup crème fraiche

Caramelize shallots in butter and deglaze with the wine. Remove from the heat and finish with remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Shallot and mushroom sauces

For mushroom sauce:

Ingredients
1 cup + cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup + Riesling wine
4 green onion tops, sliced
salt to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in a pan with plenty of room. Deglaze with wine and season to finish. Top with green onion slices.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a flat crepe, add a couple of tablespoons of the shallot filling and spread the filling over the entire crepe. Fold into quarters. Place on a baking sheet and put into the oven for five minutes. Remove and plate the crepes. Top with the mushroom sauce and serve immediately.

Adding mushroom sauce

Do you have a recipe you’re still trying to perfect? Share your story! Maybe a colleague has an idea for getting it to work.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!