Tag Archives: My Day Job

Header_Finest-Bourbon

My Special One’s Birthday: Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

April 2012

April marked another year in my special one’s life, but it also marked the start of a new chapter.  Shortly before his birthday, Jono signed his offer letter, thus accepting an important position at a company that will one day change the world!  The entire world!  It’s also the company that brought us together!  What is that company?  I leave you in suspense.  I spend 40+ hours a week talking about it, whereas, I do not spend nearly enough time talking about whiskey…

Ok…a tad more about my work… part of my job, at the mysterious company, is to make sure the movers and shakers enjoy their jobs, their spaces, represent our values, etc.  A whirlwind brought me into this atypical line of work, and though it’s not my dream job (still figuring out what my dream job is), it’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of something epic!  One of the most inspiring aspects of my day job is being surrounded by passionate, smart people who really, truly love what they are doing.  My special one loves what he is doing, and he worked really hard to get there.  He chalks a lot of his early success up to luck, but I give the credit to that big brain of his.  His foresight and dedication have served him well, and for that I offered a bourbon from the big leagues.  I also offered a silly little bottle ‘o Beam that he may stay humble, stay driven and stay crazy!

I do hope girlfriend privileges will merit a taste of that fancy jockey’s reserve, but for the birthday festivity, I stuck to my own supply.  For a sweet and peppery birthday cocktail, I infused a few extra flavors into a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

1 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar

Fresh blueberries, sliced
Pink Peppercorns
Fresh mint
A drizzle or so of pure maple syrup

Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups of turbinado sugar. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.

Remove from heat and add your infusions.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Suggested serving:  Bourbon + bitters + simple syrup (on the rocks)

Bon Anniversaire Mon Amour et Santé!

Boston Cream Pie For A Boston ParTea

August 2011

Some different (“different” being the best, non-judgmental adjective I can apply to this linguistic observation) Rs are thrown around my day job.  There are also a lot of references to Tom Brady, capes, cottages and sailboats.  Yes, there are Bostonians at my day job!  In an effort to include our wicked smahrt Boston ambassadors in the birthday festivities, I dedicated the theme of the August party to their beloved Beantown.

The birthday cake variety was an obvious choice after choosing the theme…

Note:  The grain really asserted itself in this version, so the cake was denser than the average version of this dessert, and the whole-wheat flavor was evident.  Also, should I just go ahead and call this a Boston Cream Cake, since I skipped using pie pans for the ease of springform?

Cake Directions
*Makes two 9-inch cakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9” springform pan (two if you have them.  If not, bake the cakes one at a time) and set aside.

In a large, mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

Add milk, oil, egg yolks, honey and vanilla.

Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.

Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg white mixture and fold in.

Gently pour half the batter into the prepared pan or divide the batter amongst two pans if you have them.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.

Invert the pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

If using the same pan to bake the second layer, allow the pan to cool, re-grease, add the remaining butter and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pastry Cream Directions
*The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance.  Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat.

Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and turbinado sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain.

Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated.

Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.

Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Let cool slightly.

Cover with a lid. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve.

One taster said unlike most Boston Cream Pies, the chocolate ganache really took center stage on this dessert.  He added he meant that as a compliment.  I of course interpreted it as such because how could a robust chocolate flavor not be a compliment?!?  The moral being, don’t skimp on quality chocolate.  This was the first time I found Green & Black’s baking chocolate on the shelf of my local Whole Foods, and I will be returning to that little nook of the baking aisle again for this intense, rich, dark chocolate.  Since it’s not 100% cocoa, the perk is sneaking a bite of chocolate while baking.

Ganache Directions

Bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.

The rest of the party potluck included libations in tea cups, seafood hor d’oeuvres, salmon spreads, seafood on the grill and New England beers.  Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to experience the real Beantown soon, but in the meantime, this party was a successful spot o’ tea.

A Simple Summer Treat: Mango Lassi Popsicles

July 2011

My lovely coworker offered to share her Indian culture with us via our stomachs, so we gathered for a bbq on a pleasant Saturday evening.  Wanting to contribute but not having the full time to really delve into Indian baking, I brought mango lassi in the form of a popsicle.

Mango Lassi Popsicles
makes ~8-12 popsicles, depending on the size of your molds

3 champagne mangos, puréed
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (2%)
1/2 cup local milk
2 Tablespoons organic agave syrup
big pinch of salt


Directions

Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the blended mango mixture into the popsicle molds and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.

To unmold, run hot water around the outside of the molds for a brief time until you can easily remove the popsicles.

*In the future, I’d probably add a little more agave syrup or use a French Vanilla yogurt to pump up the flavor a bit more.  The diners were satisfied nonetheless.

This one had a little splash of some raspberry juice from a squashed container of berries.

As For the Dinner…

… it was deeeeeeeelicious!

A Belated Bastille Soiree

Juillet 2011

It was time to celebrate July birthdays at my day job, and what better way [for a Francophile party planner] to commemorate than with a French Fête in honor of Bastille Day?!?

(Click on the invitation to see the party pics)

To really motivate the potluckers’ French brainstorming, I sent an inspirational food collage prior to the party:

I may have both drooled and cried over my keyboard when assembling the above collage (click the collage to enlarge).

As for me, I decided to try my hand at a nutty Breton cake.  I must confess, this cake did not match all my memories of the motherland version.  I may have been guilty of slightly over mixing, but I also venture that my fatigued food processor just didn’t hack into those hazelnuts enough.  Thus, I still encourage following this recipe thanks to some really rave reviews, but really grind those hazelnuts and mix lightly.  Suggestion number deux:  this cake is quite lovely (and maybe more appropriately) served with coffee or tea.

Voila.  Bon courage!

Hazelnut Gâteau Breton

Cake Ingredients

1 ¼ cups organic, evaporated cane juice sugar
1 ¼ cup local honey
1 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, husked
12 large egg yolks (local/free-range)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
2 Tablespoons potato starch
2 large egg yolk beaten with 4 teaspoons water (for glaze)

Layer/Garnish

Fig Compote (or jam of your choice)
Whole strawberries with stems attached for garnish

Whipped Topping Ingredients

3 cups organic heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the Hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange hazelnuts on a stone baking pan and place on middle oven rack.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until toasted and fragrant.

Allow to cool slightly.

Rub the hazelnuts together in a linen towel to remove the husks.

For the Cake

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 rectangular pan.

Combine ½ cup sugar and hazelnuts in processor; blend until nuts are finely ground but not pasty.

Combine 12 egg yolks and remaining ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl; whisk until well blended and slightly thicker, about 2 minutes (do not use electric mixer).

Whisk in honey and then the hazelnut mixture.

Gradually whisk in the melted butter.

Combine the flour and potato starch in a separate bowl and then sift over the batter; stir just until blended (batter will be thick; do not over mix or cake may be tough).

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with offset spatula (layer will be thin).

Brush top generously with egg glaze.

Using back of tines of fork, deeply mark crisscross pattern atop cake, marking 3 times across in 1 direction and 3 times in opposite direction.

Bake cake until deep golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then remove pan sides and cool cake completely.

*Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.

For the Whipped Topping

Chill a medium-sized bowl in the freezer.

Remove the bowl from the freezer.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer (unless going for forearm glory) to beat until stiff peaks form.

Chill until ready to use.

For the Assembly

Cut the cake into two layers.

Spread a thick layer of fig compote followed by whipped cream.

Add the top layer of cake.

Pipe whipped cream onto the sides and garnish the top.

Add the strawberries with stems for the final touch.

It’s not a French Fête without CREPES!

I made crepe batter, but I knew better than to attempt the batter splatter portion of the process.  I’m just not all that seasoned at spreading and flipping.  I am, however, very well versed at eating crepes.

The Crepes
Makes approximately 20 crepes

2 ½ cups organic, unbleached all purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
10 eggs (local/free-range)
2-1/2 cups organic whole milk
2-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs.

Gradually add in the milk and water, whisking to combine.

Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.

Relinquish the bowl of batter to the crepe master at the griddle and then transition to this important question:  What type of crepe combination do I want (first)?

Fin.

Dear The South, I Miss You. (Chocolate Pecan Pie w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream)

June 2011

It was time to celebrate the June birthdays at my day job, and though I was pretty freshly returned from my Southern Sojourn, I was already missing the South.  Accordingly, I rather selfishly picked the theme, so I would, in the least, vicariously return to my road trip state of being.  The party did not disappoint.

(Click on the above image to see the party pictures)

I even propose that it was our best fulfilled theme so far… fried chicken, fried fish, homemade cornbread, chess pie, buttermilk biscuits, beans ‘n greens, science ice cream (not so much Southern, but we are an R&D group, so science has to creep in somewhere) and this decadent pie by yours truly…

Southern Style Chocolate Pecan Pie
with Boozy Bourbon Whipped Cream
*makes two pies (one w/o cream for the kids, one w/ cream for the adults)

Crust

Leftover and frozen from the birthday pies
Keep frozen until the filling is ready.

Filling

2 cups local, pure, maple syrup
2 cups organic, light brown sugar
*1 ½ Stonyfield chai ice cream, melted
2 Tablespoons molasses
8 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
10  large egg yolks lightly beaten (local/free-range)
3 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 bar of Ghirardelli’s chocolate (72% cacao)

*Most pecan pie recipes will call for heavy cream.  Being very short on both heavy cream and time, I looked into the freezer at an ice cream option that was admittedly a little freezer burned.  Not wanting to waste it, the little tub had sat idly in the freezer door until this new daughter of invention moment!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

2 cups organic heavy cream
4 Tablespoons bourbon (Bulleit)
½ cup organic, light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the maple syrup, sugar, ice cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the butter and salt into the syrup mixture until combined.

Whisk in the egg yolks until they are incorporated.

Scatter the pecans evenly in the pie shell(s).

Break the chocolate bar into chunks and disperse over the pecans.

Carefully pour the filling over the pecans.

Place the pie in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake until the filling is set and the center jiggles slightly when the pie is shaken gently, 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool for one hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours to one day.

Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream

Place a large bowl in the freezer until chilled.

Remove the bowl, and add the cream, bourbon, sugar and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form.

Pipe onto one pie (the adult pie) and store additional cream for the big kids who dip into the kid-friendly pie.

Lemon Poppy Seed (& Almost Lavender) Bundt Cake

April Showers Bring May Babies…

It was time to celebrate our May babies at work!  My idea was a birthday party cake with hints of a floral flavor.

Ever since my bartender friend talked about a lavender infused vodka, I’ve been on a quest to produce a lemon-lavender dessert combination.  It has been a long while now.  I just can’t seem to get my hands on lavender when I need/want it (another sign that I should just move to the South of France?!?!).

The first recipe I found years ago left me confused as to what distinguished “edible lavender” from regular lavender.  A cashier at Whole Foods told me it was the growing method- whether or not it was grown without pesticides.  In which case, shouldn’t we start saying “edible tomatoes” versus “tomatoes?”  I tossed out the “edible” qualifier and focused on stores where there would be no risk of a pesticide laden upbringing.

Still nothing.

Finally, a friend disclosed the elusive source of lavender in the dried form:  the East End Food Co-op.  Unfortunately, my time was crunched, and the co-op didn’t fit neatly into the food and party shopping errands.  Lame excuse.  I know.

Alas, I tried another trick I read in a recipe:  lavender seeds?!?!  Unfortunately, I winged the purchase, and the one packet I bought didn’t cover the quantity used in the recipe I had referenced.  My other last ditch effort was the dried lavender from a tea bag.

In the end, this was really a lemon poppy seed cake, and my quest for the lemon-lavender combination continues.  The glass-half-full side of this is that … like an explorer venturing the uncharted world, there are still lavender explorations to be had?

Lavender woes aside (or lavender optimism of a continued quest aside?), one dessert partaker referred to this as crack cake, so at least the lemon did its duty.

Let’s Face It:  Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

Cake Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
3 tablespoons of poppy seeds
1 stick organic, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 cup local heavy whipping cream
2 lemons (zest and juice)
4 local, free-range eggs
1 organic chamomile & lavender tea bag
1 packet lavender seeds

Icing Ingredients

1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic powdered sugar

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a Bundt pan.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, sugar and zest, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time and then the lemon juice; beat for another minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, the tea bag contents, poppy seeds and lavender seeds.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Beat until smooth.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan, and smooth with a spatula.

Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before inverting onto a plate.

For the Icing

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Drizzle over the cake once it has cooled completely and been inverted.

A German Chocolate Cake for “Apriltoberearthweberfest”

April 2011

There’s a German at work, and a man born on Earth Day.  Thus, with little rhyme or reason (well, Germans are an environmentally focused nation, no?), I slapped all those ideas into one new theme:  Apriltoberearthweberfest 2011 (celebrated just a bit before Earth Day for logistical reasons).  We had German beer, bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel and other potluck provisions. 

For the dessert and birthday component, I added my version of a German Chocolate Cake.  I say “version” because my major tweaks were cocoa and coffee in the frosting.

German Chocolate with Pecans

Cake and Cake Stand

Little German Choc Cake

Slice and Glass Cover

German Chocolate Cake

Cake Ingredients

6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
6 Tablespoons Dutch-processed 100% cocoa powder
2/3 cup boiling water
2  2/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup organic light brown sugar
2/3 cup Agave syrup
1 teaspoon salt
7 large, local, free-range eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Frosting

2 24-oz cans of organic evaporated milk
7 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups organic light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine
1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 Tablespoon instant coffee
1 Tablespoon cocoa
2 cups local, heavy whipping cream

For the Cake

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees  F.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line a glass 9×13 pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the chocolate, cocoa and boiling water in a bowl until smooth and let cool.

Combine the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl.

With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, agave syrup and salt until combined.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture lightens in color and sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute.

Scrape down the bowl, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well to combine.

Reduce the speed to medium, and add the chocolate mixture and vanilla until incorporated.

Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of sour cream, and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter amongst the two pans.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

Whisk the evaporated milk, cornstarch, butter, brown sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling, about 3 minutes.  Add the instant coffee and cocoa, and mix well.  Continue to cook until the mixture is thickened, about 7 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat, and add the vanilla.

Assembly

Remove the round cake from the springform pan.  Slice it into two layers.  Add the frosting to the upper side of the base layer.  Sprinkle with the chopped pecans and coconut flakes.  Add the second layer of cake.  Frost the entire cake.  Sprinkle coconut flakes and chopped pecans.  Use larger pecan pieces for a garnish.

*Use the rectangular cake to create an alternative layer cake using only the chocolate frosting because Julia doesn’t like coconut flakes or nuts in her desserts (so she says). You probably have a Julia in your life too.

Rectangular Version

Happy Birthday Weber!

PS:  I had to leave the party a little early to look at a moped. More on that to come!