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Friday, February 27, 2015

Culinary School - Special Session: International Desserts


Culinary School: Special Session (02.24.15 & 02.26.15)

International Desserts: Baklava, Churros, Shebakia, Rugelach, Seffa, Mochi with Anko (Red Bean Paste), and Bak Tong Go



What the #*$ is that?

Even though the world of dessert is limited only by the creativity of a good pastry chef (or a college student with a case of the munchies), so much of what Westerners envision as "dessert" has evolved from a handful of innovations that became traditions in the patisseries of France and Vienna.


But there's a world beyond Pate Sucree and Chocolate Mousse. 

Some of it is challenging. The gelatinous-textured, yeast-flavored Bak Tong Go White Cake is unlikely to become a tasting menu staple at Per Se. But Shebakia -- deep-fried, honey-soaked cookies from Morocco -- were a revelation. 

Sorry, Escoffier. Time to expand those horizons.

These recipes were part of a two-day elective focused on International Desserts at The International Culinary Center (which was founded as The French Culinary Institute... I guess the whole "expanded horizons" thing is catching on).
  
Seffa - Couscous with Almonds and Raisins




    - The Recipes -



    Item:

    Baklava


    Description:
    A Mediterranean dessert made from layers of paper-thin Phyllo dough and nuts. The dessert is baked and then soaked with a sweet syrup that is absorbed into the pastry.

    Flavor profiles vary by region. Baklava can be made with pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts or sesame seeds. Greek preparations tend to favor spicier syrups with cinnamon and cloves. Middle Eastern versions tend to be sweeter and more floral, often using rose or orange blossom water.

    Baklava



    Item:

    Churros


    Description:
    Also covered last month as part of the full Professional Pastry Arts Program Syllabus, I will never complain about making more Churros.

    A Churro is a deep-fried tube of dough, commonly rolled in cinnamon sugar and served warm. In Spain, Churros are often served at breakfast with hot chocolate (go Spain!). In Latin America, they may be served with, or even filled with, Dulce de Leche.

    The traditional dough used for Spanish Churros does not contain any eggs. It is extremely thick and must be extruded with a special tool. And without the emulsifying and leavening power of the eggs, these Churros are dense. Latin American Churros, by contrast, use a dough more similar to Pate a Choux, and the final product is more like an American Yeast Doughnut.

    Churros


    Item:

    Shebakia


    Description:
    Shebakia was a bit of a revelatory dessert! 

    These saffron-flavored, deep-fried, honey-drenched cookies come from Morocco where they are traditionally served during Ramadan. 

    Making these cookies is... tricky. Not only are there over 20 ingredients (many of which are spices, making for a deliciously flavorful dough), but the cookies are formed through a highly manual series of rolls, cuts and folds. As a result, families will typically come together and make large batches at one time, forming assembly lines to facilitate production.

    In the end, it's worth it. They're truly unique! 


    Shebakia Mise en Place


    Shebakia Dough to be Formed

    Shebakia Dough Formed

    Fried Shebakia



    Item:

    Rugelach


    Description:
    If the complexity of making Shebakia is unappealing, but you still need a delicious cookie (and that box of Oreos just won't cut it), might I suggest Rugelach.

    Rugelach means "little twists" in Yiddish, referring to the rolled crescent-shape. Like Baklava, the specific recipes have evolved over the centuries from region to region. Most versions are made from a dough enriched with dairy-fat such as Cream Cheese or Sour Cream. The dough is rolled thin, layered with sugar and an assortment of nuts, fruits and spices. The dough is then rolled tight, sprinkled with sugar and baked.

    The end product has a texture that remarkably resembles the laminated dough of a delicious danish (but without all of those folds and turns!)


    Rolled Rugelach with Cinnamon Sugar, Nuts and Raisins

    Rugelach

    Rugelach



    Item:

    Seffa


    Description:
    Another creation hailing from Morocco, Seffa is a subtlety sweet dish made from Couscous. The Couscous is steamed, often with dried fruit such as raisins, and then soaked in a warm mixture of milk, butter and sugar. The final dish is plated with fried nuts and garnished with spices.

    Given its gentle sweetness, Seffa may be served as a sweet side dish at dinner rather than as a stand-alone dessert. 

    Seffa



    Item:

    Mochi with Anko (Red Bean Paste)


    Description:
    A product of Japan, Mochi is a gelatinous dough made from glutinous rice flour. The dough boiled and steamed before it is rolled, cut, and wrapped around various fillings such as Anko (sweetened Red Bean Paste) or Green Tea Ganache.

    Mochi is an acquired taste... or rather, an acquired texture. It is extremely sticky and gelatinous. People either love it or hate it.

    Mochi is also reportedly responsible for an alarming number of asphyxiation deaths in Asia. Swallow one of these desserts the wrong way, and you're in trouble. The Heimlich Maneuver will not dislodge these sticky mounds.

    Mochi with Anko (Red Bean Paste)



    Item:

    Bak Tong Go (Steamed White Cake)


    Description:
    Bak Tong Go has the distinction of being both an acquired taste and an acquired texture. This Chinese Steamed White Cake, a common snack for an afternoon tea, takes the gelatinous texture of Mochi, makes it even stickier and adds the strong aroma and flavor of yeast.

    While somewhat dense, the yeast does leaven the cake somewhat during a long proofing period that occur prior to the cake being steamed. The end result is a network of honeycomb-like cells throughout the cake.


    Industrial Sized Steamer

    Bak Tong Go


     

    Take a look at the full syllabus

     



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