Tony is all about food. His ongoing food events and special projects have been featured in the press. To learn more, you can view his gallery, read his blog, or simply contact him directly.

Archive for the ‘eggs’ Tag


Mo’ Butta’ Mo’ Betta’

Today I’m going to blog about brioche. It’s been long overdue, let me explain why.

It all started a few weeks ago when I received an email from the Culinary Institute of America. The Culinary Institute of America. I had to read the message a few times so the words could sink in. Dean Sciacca, a dean at the culinary school and reader of my blog, was inviting me to give a talk on storytelling and culinary tradition at their Hyde Park campus in New York. I had never done any public speaking before; not outside of school at least. I was excited, nervous, curious, honored — all at the same time. I wrote back with the most enthusiastic yes I could possibly muster in an email, all while keeping my cool (I think).

It was my first time riding Amtrak. The entire experience was pleasant: no need to show up hours early or stand through long lines, and the seats weren’t bad either — very comfortable. The sky was overcast with large billowy clouds stretching across the horizon. Next to me on the train was an equally charming American expat. She had moved to New Zealand and was back to hike along the Appalachian Trail and visit family in Virginia. She was starting to develop a Kiwi accent, which I thought was really neat. We talked a little about life, traveling, food (of course), but mostly, we stared out our window at the Hudson. The train ride went by quickly that way. As soon as the train neared Poughkeepsie, the clouds, almost as if they were greeting us to our final destination, moved aside to reveal a beautiful summer day.

Dean Sciacca met me at the Poughkeepsie train station where we met in person for the first time. I remember thinking she is just as cool in person as she had been in her emails. And I’m not just saying that because she’s probably going to be reading this — she really is that cool. We clicked instantly. Two people passionate about food and technology. One of our first conversations was about how much we love our iPhones. At that point I knew I was in good hands.

The short ride from the Poughkeepsie train station to Hyde Park reminded me a lot of Ithaca, NY, where I went to school; it’s a very quaint and agricultural area. I dropped off my bags at the hotel and we made our way to The Culinary — that’s how they refer to it there.

bright, sunny day at The Culinary
fountain at culinary institute

When we arrived at The Culinary, Dean Sciacca introduced me to Jason, a senior culinary student and bread enthusiast, who gave me a quick tour of the campus before dinner. I should state now, for the record, that I don’t think any college campus offers better food to its students. The system is brilliant. Since so much food is prepared in the production kitchens each night, students only swipe their campus ID cards to gain access to any of the themed production kitchens. Dean Sciacca arranged for us to have dinner at Chef Eisenhauer’s Mediterranean production kitchen that evening.

Chef Eisenhauer’s Mediterranean Kitchen
production_kitchen

As we entered the kitchen the expediter asked me which of the four Italian dishes I was having that evening. I remember all the entrees sounded delicious, but I went with the chef’s recommendation, gnocchi served with a velvety duck ragu and toasted pancetta bits. My order was shouted across the kitchen and the line continued.

Dean Sciacca and I split up for dinner and I joined a group of culinary students to fill me in on what student life was like at The Culinary. The dining hall we entered was not like the ones I remembered back at school. This looked like it came right out of a scene from Harry Potter. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was majestic with an elaborate cathedral ceiling, stained glass windows and regal architecture. We grabbed our beverages and took a seat at the back of the dining hall, with a view overlooking all the students enjoying their meal.

gnocchi with duck ragu and crispy pancetta
duck_ragu

Each bite of the gnocchi was like biting into one of those billowy clouds from earlier that afternoon. In fact, I’m convinced that’s where they ended up, on my plate. The gnocchi was light and airy, and floated gracefully in the duck ragu, which was not overly heavy like a traditional ragu, but had a rich silky texture to it. Then there was the pancetta. Oh, the pancetta — crispy pieces of pork goodness sprinkled over the gnocchi. It was perfect. Slightly salty and a nice crispy contrast to offset the soft cloud-like potato gnocchi.

I posted some more photos from the rest of my trip on flickr. But, I have to tell you about the brioche. This brioche is excellent.

The inspiration to blog about brioche came from Jason, the bread aficionado who had shown me around campus. I have never heard anyone talk about bread more passionately than him. He liked talking about food, but bread was his passion. At one point I remember asking him what his favorite bread was, and without the blink of an eye, or a hint of hesitation, he said, brioche. That’s how I knew what my next blog post had to be on.

mise en place
mise_en_place

Until last week, I had never made brioche at home. I’ll admit that the thought of baking bread, particularly something like brioche, was pretty intimidating. That was something I left for the experts, like Jason. The most elaborate bread I had made up to this point was Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, and maybe Focaccia, if you consider that elaborate.

Brioche, for those who have never had it, is an enriched bread made with flour, butter (lots, and lots of butter), eggs, yeast, and a bit of milk. How much butter you add to your brioche distinguishes it between a poor man’s brioche and rich man’s brioche. I decided to follow one of Jason’s friend’s motto for this one: “mo’ butta’ mo’ betta’.”

make sure your yeast is alive n’ kicking
yeast

If I’ve learned one thing from baking bread is that you always, always, want to check to make sure your yeast is alive and kicking. 10 minutes in the beginning can save you a lot of pain and heart ache. Flat, dense brioche is no good. Check your yeast.

add butter piece by piece
butter

This is the scary part. The butter. If you’re squeamish about this sort of stuff, cover your eyes and scroll down to the next post. Brioche isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but the problem is that it’s so incredibly and utterly delicious. Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that the French know what they’re talking about when it comes to cuisine, but particularly bread. Bread is their thing. They are to bread what Shakespeare is to literature; masters, that is. Three sticks of butter and four eggs. That’s what it takes.

egg wash
eggwash

After you saturate the dough with good quality butter and give the gluten a workout, you’ll want to refrigerate the dough for at least 6 hours or better yet, overnight. This is probably a good time to do a few sit ups or pushups, if that will help you sleep better at night. I just use it as an excuse to eat extra bread the next day.

78g
weigh_the_dough
light coat of egg wash
brush_eggwash
brioche loaf
brioche_loaf

Brioche Loaf

yields 2 loaves

Components

  • 576g bread flour
  • 340g good quality butter (3 sticks), soft but pliable
  • 4 eggs
  • 7g dry active yeast
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 14g salt
  • eggwash

Putting them all together

  1. Dice the butter into smaller pieces and set aside.
  2. Stir yeast into lukewarm milk (no more than 115 degrees F) cover and let sit in a warm dark place for 10-15 minutes. If your mixture is foamy and full of tiny bubbles, you’re ready to begin. Otherwise, you may have inactive yeast. You can add a tiny drizzle of honey to the milk mixture to speed up the process.
  3. Mix together the flour, milk mixture, eggs, and salt and mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes or until the dough barely begins to come together.
  4. Begin to add the butter, piece by piece, until all of it has incorporated into the dough.
  5. Once the butter is fully incorporated, continue mixing the dough on medium speed for 15 more minutes, or until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
  6. Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Lightly grease 2 2-lkb loaf pans.
  8. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces (approx 78g each).
  9. Roll each piece into a ball and place it into the loaf pans to form 2 rows of 4 in each pan. Brush the loaves lightly with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap, and proof in a dark warm location for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  10. Brush with egg wash a second time and bake in a 400F/204C oven until the crust is a deep golden brown and the sides of the bread spring back fully when pressed. This usually takes 30-35 minutes.
  11. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes: Make sure you have a powerful kitchen stand mixer for this.

Print

brioche with basil-infused peach jam
brioche_breakfast

*My friend Lecy Mayes made the basil-infused peach jam for me as a gift — the flavor combination is spectacular!

Special thanks to Dean Sciacca for hosting me at the Culinary Institute. Chef Eisenhauer for the delicious dinner that came out of her Mediterranean production kitchen. Laura Pickover for attending my talk and sharing her awesome blog. Jason (the bread expert) for giving me a tour around campus and inspiring me to make brioche at home (my new favorite bread). Diana and Stephen for having dinner with me the first day. Chris and Phil for giving me a second tour around campus and showing me around the Hyde Park. And finally, all the faculty, staff, and students at the Culinary Institute of America who hosted me and made this culinary adventure of a lifetime possible. Thank you!

The Cookies the Doctor Prescribed

When I was a kid I was baffled by the cruel idea that anything full of flavor was supposed to be unhealthy. Never mind where babies came from, I was more concerned with philosophical questions like, why ice cream tastes better than my steamed broccoli? And until I developed an appreciation for veggies and the usual suspects, my nutrition primarily came in the form of Flintstones chewable multivitamins and vegetables strategically hidden in my food, something my mom was an expert at.

While I was in Italy this past winter I came across these curiously ugly cookies that stood out among the gorgeous layered cakes and tempting pastries. Not only were these cookies pretty ugly, but they weren’t cheap either; and had it not been for the three consecutive customers that ordered them in front of me, I would have probably never discovered the wonders of brutti ma buoni, which literally translated means, ugly but good.

mise en place

Imagine a decadent cookie that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and has no added fat or flour! It sounds unnatural, almost sacrilege, but these traditional Tuscan cookies are pure genius. All their fat comes from the natural oils in the nuts and are they’re cleverly held together by nothing more than beaten egg whites.

it’s like magic

Traditionally, these cookies only had hazelnuts and maybe a few almonds, but I like the combination of the different nuts. You can use any combination you prefer as long as hazelnuts remain in the picture. The neat trick that I tried* to demonstrate via my 3-step diagram is to roast the hazel nuts in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes; then spread them over a clean kitchen towel, cover them, and rub them against each other. You’ll notice some of the nuts are stubborn and hold on to their skins for their dear lives. The best (and most enjoyable) solution to this is to bake more than you need and eat the ones that don’t cooperate.

crushed, but slightly coarse

Before the days of shiny and pretty kitchen appliances, Italians would crush the nuts using a mortar and pestle and whisk their egg whites by hand. Sounds outrageous, right? But back then when you said you were cooking, you were really cooking. Today you can use what you want to get that same semi-fine texture on the nuts and stiff peaks on the egg whites.

mounds of nutty-chocolate goodness

In order for the mainly egg white batter to come together, you have to cook it over medium low heat before baking it. Once the batter thickens you can scoop it onto a sheet pan and bake the cookies in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside and crunchy and chewy on the inside.

a look inside

I don’t think it’s humanly possible to resist a freshly baked batch of cookies cooling on a rack. They’re so soft and delicate at this point that eating them becomes effortless, which could be dangerous.

brutti ma buoni

I wasn’t joking around when I said these cookies were ugly! You can imagine how these stood out against their dainty neighbors on display at the patisserie. The traditional recipe doesn’t even call for cocoa powder, but I feel like the chocolate/hazelnut combo is one that can’t be passed up.

Although these cookies are probably healthier than your average butter/flour-saturated cookies, they’re not an invitation for gluttony. These cookies still have plenty of sugar and should be eaten in moderation, like all foods. And that’s precisely what I’ve come to realize since my veggie-avoiding years as a child. Flavor along with all its associated “unhealthiness” should not be avoided, but rather enjoyed in moderate amounts.

Brutti Ma Buoni

approx 18 cookies

Components

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, peeled
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup almonds, peeled
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • zest of an orange
  • zest of a lemon
  • 2 tsp frangelico (or any nut liqueur/extract)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, dutch process
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

Putting them all together

  1. Toast the nuts until golden brown and allow to cool.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak.
  3. Mix the nuts with the sugar and pulse in a food processor until you reach a semi-fine consistency.
  4. Fold in all the ingredients into the whisked egg whites (carefully so as to not lose too much volume).
  5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  6. In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, cook the mixture until slightly thick 20-25 minutes. This will yield a thicker batter that won’t flatten out in the oven.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake the cookies at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until dry on the outside and still slightly moist and chewy on the inside.

note: These cookies are perfect gifts for the upcoming holiday season. Pretty packaging for these cookies is a must, though.

Print

Zabaglione with a heaping tbsp of THANKS!

Ever since I could reach the stove, I’ve been cooking in the kitchen (refining my taste along the years). I remember mixing melted cheese with ketchup one time, but I’ll spare you the details of my culinary mishaps. My family, however, has always been extremely supportive and perfected the art of masking their displeasures with the widest grins on their face.  I, after all, was their favorite little chef.

once a foodie, always a foodie
drinking tea

Next month will be Olive Juice’s 1st birthday and I suck at keeping things under wraps.  Last week, one of my dreams came true when I finally made it on TV to showcase two of my signature dishes: pasta alla zarina and baba ganoush. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a support network that has grown beyond my family to include my friends and fellow food bloggers around the world.  I wish I could one day meet the faces behind all the delicious-looking blogs I visit on a regular basis; but for now, I would like to dedicate this post to everyone who has tuned in and especially to those who’ve taken the moment to comment and send e-mails.  You have inspired me to keep doing what I love and this Italian zabaglione is for you – buon appetito!

mise en place
mise en place

Zabaglione (or Sabayon as it is known in France), is a basic dessert sauce made from whipped egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine.  I took the liberty to add a splash of amaretto, I hope you don’t mind.

zabaglione never met a berry it didn’t love
zabaglione with berries

The sauce is super easy to put together all while having the benefits of sounding extremely elegant.  All it takes is whisking all the ingredients over a double boiler until the sauce is light and fluffy and you could form ribbons like the one shown above.

zabaglione con frutta
zabaglione con frutta

Fresh summer fruits is my preferred canvas for this rich sauce just because it brings a refreshing note to each bite.  Of course, it goes well with just about anything.

Zabaglione

yields approx. 325 ml

Components

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 110 g sugar
  • 125 ml marsala
  • a splash of amaretto

Putting them all together

  1. With an electric mixer, whisk the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl until well blended.
  2. Transfer to a double boiler and continue whisking for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is light and fluffy.
  3. Remove from the double boiler and continue whisking until the sauce has cooled down slightly.
  4. Serve slightly warm over fresh fruit.

Print

 

Clips from the morning show!

 

Pasta alla Zarina

Creamy Spinach Pesto

 

Baba Ganough

Middle Eastern Roasted Eggplant Dip

Rebecca & Me
Rebecca & Me
Pretend News Anchors
Pretend News Anchors
post-production/exhausted
post-production/exhausted