"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Paperless Literary World

Digital print: Completely replacing traditional publishing?
I've yet to get an iPad, a Kindle, or any of the other eBook readers or related gadgets that are out in stores. I don't have anything against them, personally, it's just a matter of what my fiances will allow nowadays, and not yet getting around to buying any of this stuff.

It's hard enough to keep track of the lightning fast changes happening in digital technology every minute, especially in the realm of publishing.

For dessert, food, and beverage magazines, I tend to prefer a traditional magazine format. Well, I tend to prefer a hard copy for most of my reading. There's something very rewarding and visceral about holding a copy of a book or magazine in one's hands. Additionally, I love the smell of the pages and the sounds of flipping them over.

In the last few years, more print magazines have either folded entirely or gone totally digital...or they continue to fund both digital and hard print format if they and their sponsors can continue to afford it and evolve with changing dynamics in their core audiences.

Gourmet Magazine comes to mind. Gourmet's print magazine was taken off the market by Conde Nast at the end of last year. Why did they fold? Rumor has it that they just could not compete well with a changing audience that reflected recent economic changes and with increasing digital print publishing demands. They simply became out of sync and a lot of their advertising support was also tied into newspaper publications, which were also going out of print.

I recently discovered that there is going to be a digital app called "Gourmet Live" for the now defunct print magazine. The application will be available for iPad and other mobile gadgets. These app will allow users to download digital content, view videos, read articles, browse menus, and look at tons of photos. So it seems that digital apps are another new tangent that magazines, both current and former, are looking into to transition from or broaden to hard print to soft.

So what do my purchasing trends reveal? Well let's just say I have such a huge collection of food and dessert magazines that it's mind-boggling. Stacks of magazines and books dominant a great deal of my closet space and book shelves. I especially love collecting special editions of select food and dessert magazines whenever they are released. I find them to be visual and text-laden treats to gawk at, study, savor, and share with others when I am out of the house and about. I also appreciate the combined technical skills, layout and editing artistry, and literary contributions that go into developing a print magazine. The process behind this creative mosaic of expressed efforts should not become a lost art. So, my purchasing power also reflects a personal desire to support.

One of the magazines I read is Desserts magazine, which is exclusively an online publication. It's a fascinating and very informative magazine with tons of eye candy featuring dessert trends and recipes from all over the world, but I wouldn't mind an actual hard print copy of each edition or certain ones that I've greatly enjoyed in particular. 

Making it so that hard print versions are available for purchase is great for building a physical collection of magazines to thumb through anytime I want without having to log onto the computer.

With that said, of course there certainly are benefits to being paperless, too. No byproducts or waste, no clutter or
ever-growing stacks of magazines taking up space in one's house or apartment, and magazines basically are non-destructible when they are in a virtual/digital format. You can get unlimited copies from an original soft copy source.  

So, what do you think?  

Do you prefer to read your culinary magazines or books on a Kindle, iPad or any other eReader?

Would you ever go out and buy any of those new apps for your mobile toy?

How do you feel about the changes that the publishing industry is going through? Should all reading eventually become paperless?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Baking Adventure 19: Nomtastic Chocolate Eclairs

Photo of some of my chocolate eclairs with vanilla pastry cream

Who dares to say they don't like eclairs?

Not me!

I've totally developed a new-found appreciation for eclairs. I've always seen and had these lush French treats at gourmet bakeries, once in a blue moon.  For that reason, up until recently, I regarded them as an exclusive treat, something I didn't get to have anytime I wanted, unless I was wiling to go out and search high and low for the best offerings of them around town.

So I thought to myself, how cool would it be to make these sweet pastry logs of decadence at home!
Eclair in French means "lightning," although no one is quite sure how the meaning ties into the dessert. (Maybe because they don't last very long on a platter or they always light up faces in a room when finally presented in full glory on a dessert tray? Just sayin'. LOL)
Eclairs are heavenly French pastries made with a choux pastry dough and are the cousins of cream puffs, beignets (which are fried rather than baked) and profiteroles, also made with choux paste. Choux paste is usually made with eggs, flour, butter, water and sugar (if it is for a dessert as choux pastries can be savory, too). The choux paste is piped out, through a pastry bag affixed with a large round tip, in long 4-6 inch strips on a baking sheet to make the characteristic hot dog bun shape of the eclairs. Eclairs are split in half lengthwise, hollowed out, or punctured at the end to make a filling hole and then they can be filled with puddings, custards, pastry creams, fruit preserves, whipped cream, mousses, curds and icings. *exhales* The tops of eclairs are usually dressed with a coat of chocolate ganache, chocolate glazes, chocolate poured fondant, chocolate icing and sometimes alternative toppings like caramel and butterscotch sauces. Yum! 
Through my research, I found that eclairs are rather easy to make, but you must set them up in 3 stages or what I like to call "dessert scenes."
Little Pink Dictionary: Desserts scenes are distinctive parts or stages in a dessert recipe. They are different than merely steps. For example, basic butter cakes often have 2 dessert scenes -- the cake batter-making scene and the icing-making scene: two parts that come together as a whole to create an exhilarating dessert "cinematic" experience on the taste buds and in the mind. When you think of dessert scenes think of a movie totally made out of sugar, sweet spices, and sprinkles comprised of fun and sparkly dessert scenes.
The three dessert scenes for an eclair are the scene for the dough, a scene for the filling, traditionally a pastry cream, and a scene for the topping.

I began my chocolate eclair adventure by doing the dessert scenes in this order and I gathered up the initial ingredients for my choux paste.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Concepts: Pop-Up Bakeries & Bakery Crawls

Bake sales have been going on for quite some time, so they are nothing new, but along with the recent explosion of food truck eateries and secret, closed-door restaurants, pop-up bakeries have become quite the trend.

What is a pop-up bakery?

A pop-up bakery is a temporary bakery, often featured as a scheduled "bake sale" event by an established bakery that either has a dedicated storefront (otherwise) or only presently caters and offers its products in various shops or online.

Some bakeries will host pop-up bakery events in random places to keep customers and fans guessing where the next bake sale will be. Others will host pop-up bakeries at special events, in a temporary space for an extended period of time, or at other eateries, such as restaurants or delis.

In LA, bakeries such as Cake Monkey Bakery and Platine Cookies have participated in pop-up bakery events. Cake Monkey opened up a pop-up bakery in Silver Lake a few months ago and scheduled bake sales on the weekend. Platine Cookies hosted a pop-up bakery with British fashion designer, Anya Hindmarch for a fund-raising benefit.

Although bake sales aren't known to rake in big bucks, they are great for cross-promoting and networking with other businesses, increasing exposure for bakeries, and expanding a shop's fan base by bringing in a larger local target audience. Overall, they bring excitement, engagement, and adventure to a company's profile.

As for bakery crawls, I'd like to think of bakery crawls as a gathering of pop-up bakeries, where various bakeries will show up at a mutually agreed upon spot or space (indoor or outdoor), within a collaboration, and all participate in offering their sugary wares to voraciously, sweet-toothed customers. Bakeries will sell for a few hours or until everything runs out. If a bakery has a dedicated storefront or a website, this is the best time for businesses to pass out business cards and stylish take-home menus (usually showing other goods that are for sale online or in their usual shop), and spread awareness in general.

Some people might consider bakery crawls in the exact same context they view pub crawls, which means that a bakery crawl can also simply be a themed outing for a group of people, in an area around a city where there's likely to be a string of bakeries in close proximity to one another that everyone can visit back to back. A lively social day out, basically.

That definitely sounds like my kind of fun.
Little Pink Dictionary: I have this term that I coined for a day filled with adventure and fun from very early in the day to late in the night: Candy Day. A candy day is a day where one continuously delights the senses by partaking in enriching, often soul-warming, and spirited, pleasurable activities. A candy day can be had alone, with a like-minded and equally enthusiastic romantic partner (my favorite), or a group of fun-loving friends and acquaintances.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baking Adventure 18: Extreme Chocolate Cheesecake

Half-view of Extreme Chocolate Cheesecake (click on all photos to enlarge)

How often do you book time for a chocolate vacation?

What's a chocolate vacation, you wonder?

A chocolate vacation can be literal, as there are many exotic and brilliant places to travel to in order to research and explore pure fine chocolates and fantastic chocolate dessert creations, but a chocolate vacation can certainly be a traveling-without-moving experience, too...and often is.

For those lucky people, chocolate induces a lush and addictive state of euphoria when consumed, placing them into a lulling chocolate coma which can last for hours. That's a chocolate vacation, my cacao cohorts.

Inside Info: Unfortunately, as much as I LOVE chocolate, I don't enjoy the effect it often has on my system. The darker and more concentrated the chocolate is with cacao, the stronger those effects are for me. There are others like myself who experience the same averse reactions from consuming chocolate and more research is coming out on this as I type. The rewarding, drug-like, euphoric effects only last a brief time for me, regardless of how much I adore the flavors of chocolate. After chocolate consumption, that short spurt of joy passes for me and my moods crash and send me into the land of chocolate nightmares or perhaps a down state worthy of being called "chocolate psychosis." I'll allow myself to have chocolate on a rare occasion knowing they'll be consequences, but that doesn't stop me from experimenting with chocolate desserts and recipes. OK, I am lying, those consumptive occasions aren't so rare. I can be hardheaded at times, you know...
So, let's move onto cheesecake and how it all ties in with the talk of chocolate...

For starters, I'll mention that I've had a weird love affair with cheesecake over the years. I used to be absolutely bonkers about cheesecake when I was a little girl. It was one of my favorite desserts, then by the time I entered my teenage years, my love for cheesecake waned. I could take it or leave it but, of course, never hated it. I just became picky.

I began to think that most cheesecake batters either created a peculiar flavor in the mouth the longer I kept a forkful on the tongue or left a weird aftertaste in the mouth that I didn't care for. As my mid-twenties approached, my love for cheesecake picked up again because I began exploring a variety of cheesecake flavors and styles in restaurants and deli bakeries and found types and batters I preferred more. Some cheesecakes definitely taste better than others depending on what is used in the batter.

♥ I'll have to do a info-focused cheesecake entry someday because there are so many different ways to make a traditional cheesecake according to custom and region and it's tremendously fascinating to learn about.

I've made cheesecakes before, but my play was limited and they were mostly no-bake cheesecakes or those made in pie crust pans without a really stable batter.

Vanilla Peach Cheesecake with fresh peach preserves
In the last couple of weeks, I've been busy experimenting with cheesecake-making again and after making a tasty vanilla peach cheesecake, I moved on to visions of "Cheesecake in Chocolate! Now playing at your local theatre!"

I love that cheesecakes can come in so many different colors and flavor profiles other than the traditional, plain, cream-colored variety. A hyper chocolate cheesecake made from chocolate through and through sounded superb and I couldn't wait to try it out.

I took it upon myself to research a lot of different recipes and come up with what I think is a good cheesecake recipe to experiment with as a base batter. Most of my research finds recommended baking cheesecakes in water baths for a smooth, evenly-baked, creamy consistency that didn't crack. This is something else I'd never done when making cheesecakes.