RSS

Blog posts of '2017' 'April'

Tastes & Traditions: Lavender & Earl Grey

Lavender and Earl Grey make the perfect pair

Tastes & Traditions

Lavender & Earl Grey

Monday, April 3, 2017

When looking for the sacred in daily moments, there’s no need to look further than a mindfully brewed cup of tea or a spray of fresh flowers. Tea-drinking developed in Eastern cultures through ceremonious, rigid performance, and it has embedded itself in European culture and custom through fastidious, quotidian use. All problems can be solved and all relationships strengthened over a cup of tea.

Earl Grey tea leaves in a measuring spoon

But whether hailed as a path towards spiritual awakening or simply a morning ritual that sets the tone for the day, drinking tea can aid us to savor moments of our routine and appreciate the present. Akin to the adage advising us to “stop and smell the roses,” these sensory experiences allow a peace and presence of mind that lets us appreciate life to the fullest. Taste, sight and smell are ignited with the natural simplicity found in flowers and tea. It’s no wonder that they’ve found their way into baking, too, where they add distinct dimension, flavor and feeling to each recipe.

Lavender and early grey have both found their way into baking

Tea’s versatility draws out the earthy, floral, fruity, spicy and even smoky flavor profiles of standard desserts, whether the dry leaves are mixed into the ingredients or steeped for a more nuanced flavor. French, Asian and California cuisine have all experienced an increased prevalence of tea-inspired desserts and savory dishes, allowing chefs and bakers to play with the various flavor profiles and bring their dishes to the next level. The flavors are intriguing, and most importantly, unexpected; this allows chefs the “surprise and delight” factor in their cooking that keeps guests talking and brings in new audiences.

Tea leaves make a great addition to many recipes

Countering tea’s versatility, lavender packs a robust punch with its fragrance and flavor profile, yet it is also beginning to stand alone as an herbal/spice component in both savory and sweet dishes. Edible flowers are a growing trend in culinary spaces. They add dimension for both the eyes and the taste buds, enhancing a chef’s offering for all sensory outlets. The edible flower trend is thought to have been derived from a general expanding interest in eating healthy and colorful food, along with the new wave of Nordic cuisine centered around foraging and repurposing herbs and plants that have long been ignored.

Floral notes like lavender are also a welcome addition

Chefs, mixologists and pâtissieres everywhere are embracing the farm-to-table trend, and taking foraging to new heights of authenticity by sourcing an evening’s menu earlier that same the morning. Virgilio Martinez rocketed his Peruvian restaurant to the pinnacle of success after leveraging Peru’s immediate terroir, and using interesting and unknown plants and herbs from different altitudes to allow guests to taste the land at each level. Similarly, Blue Hill Farm’s Dan Barber in New York sources his produce from the farm each morning, and LA mixologist Matthew Biancianiello forages his local surroundings to help corral farm-to-glass into the mainstream.

Sprinkling lavender on blueberry tarts

Like most modern, cyclical trends, tea and edible flowers were initially used in more heritage applications that centered on eating from the wild. Ironically, as we progress technologically, we tend to yearn for more bespoke and antiquated forms of production and produce that yield organic, natural outcomes. A general consumer disposition towards farm-to-table food and drink, and the incorporation of complex, natural ingredients in cooking and baking, appear to be on the rise as new culinary concepts scramble to keep up. This suggests that the trend of floral and tea-driven infusion in sweet and savory cuisine will continue to expand and develop in the years to come. Read more in this month's featured chef spotlight with Waylynn Lucas.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Elevo Thermometer Spatula, Exoglass® Round Pastry Cutters, Exoglass® Fluted Round Tart Mold, Standard Disposable Pastry Bag and Matfer Silicone Pastry Brush.

Chef Spotlight: Waylynn Lucas

Chef Waylynn Lucas

Chef Spotlight

Waylynn Lucas

Monday, April 3, 2017

From her role as a judge on Food Network's Cake Wars to her Los Angeles-area bakery fōnuts, Waylynn Lucas is an award-winning pastry chef who defies conventions. Her unique style embraces the marriage of nostalgia with modern flavors and techniques. This is exemplified by fōnuts' most popular offering – doughnuts that are baked, not fried, and that exist in an eye-popping riot of colors and flavors, ranging from the gluten-free and vegan Coconut Passion Fruit to the decidedly meaty Chorizo Cheddar. We caught up with Waylynn for an afternoon, talking about her passion for pastry while she baked her Chocolate Blueberry Earl Grey Lavender Tart for us.

Chef Waylynn Lucas baking tart

Chef Waylynn Lucas rolling out pastry dough

So what drove you to create your first fōnut?

It sort of happened by accident. It was a gathering of minds at the right moment at the right time, for the idea to emerge. It is something that fits perfectly with my dessert style as a pastry chef. I love reinventing old classics, and giving them a modern spin and whenever possible making it a bit healthier if I can.

WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION COME FROM FOR THE DESSERT YOU ARE MAKING US TODAY?

I wanted to combine some of my favorite things like chocolate – who doesn’t love that – with fresh fruit, which I always love in my desserts, as well as tea for its warming, flavorful and aromatic qualities. And, finally, it features lavender, which is beautifully scented and soothing.

Chef Waylynn Lucas working with pastry dough

What kind of flavors do you gravitate toward and why?

Anything well balanced, fresh and vibrant. I gravitate more towards savory flavors as I am surrounded by sweets all day. I need the savory to balance me out. I surprisingly don’t have a huge sweet tooth.

Chef Waylynn Lucas works with earl grey tea leaves for her tart

Chef Waylynn Lucas working with chocolate

THE CREATIVE PROCESS CAN BE CHALLENGING AT TIMES. DID YOU HAVE ANY EARLY STRUGGLES AS A PASTRY CHEF?

I did and still do. It became much easier once I got out of my own way and stopped trying to create desserts that had to be earth shattering and insanely unique. Not all desserts can be that and the ones that are become that much more naturally. That is what makes them special. I had to stop trying so hard and to be open to finding inspiration in new ways, and in every place I could find it. Once I opened my world to more than just food the inspiration came from flowers, nature, art work, memories, sculpture, music, just about everything. Make it taste good first and foremost and sometimes less is more.

Chef Waylynn Lucas filling tart shells

MAKING GOOD PASTRY CAN BE SUCH AN INTRICATE PROCESS. HOW DO TOOLS MAKE YOUR WORK EASIER – OR HARDER?

Pastry is such an intricate process, it requires a lot of patience. Technique and precision is everything. Having the right tools can really make or break a recipes final outcome. That is why I love Matfer. They have everything I need to get any job done, from breads to chocolate work, to plated desserts. Their tools are of such high quality, they really help you attain that precision that is needed in pastry. The exoglass molds are a perfect example of how innovation and new technology can make baking something so simple as a pâte sucrée tart dough so much better and take it to the next level. It has given us chefs just what we need. Something that cooks quickly and evenly, and cools almost immediately; you can literally grab the molds right out of the oven. They are lightweight, super durable and easy to clean. Pure magic!

Waylynn Lucas and blueberries

WE COULD EAT FŌNUTS ALL DAY. THAT’S WHY WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT OTHER DESSERTS YOU LOVE. WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE DESSERT – THE ONE YOU’D SERVE AT A DINNER PARTY TO YOUR GUESTS?

I love ice cream. It reminds me of being a kid. It is impossible to be in a bad mood eating an ice cream cone. Well most desserts this applies to, which is why I got into desserts in the first place. To make people happy and feel like a kid again whenever possible.

I love making Pavlova for dinner parties. It is such a simple yet complex dessert, and an easy way to incorporate whatever fresh fruits are around and really keep it seasonal and versatile. It is not something you see very often so it impresses your dinner guests for sure!

Chef Waylynn Lucas finishing tarts

Chef Waylynn Lucas carrying tarts

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WATCH SOMEONE TRY A REALLY GREAT DESSERT FOR THE FIRST TIME?

There’s nothing like it. Part of the reason I got out of the restaurant industry and wanted to own my own business was to be able to take part and witness customers enjoying my desserts. As a chef we spend countless hours in the kitchen working, cooking and creating dishes. Then we never get to see its final purpose. Once it leaves the kitchen and heads out into the dining room, it’s gone. Having my own bakery allows me to interact with the customers, get their feed back and watch their reactions while they eat my desserts. There is no greater compliment than watching someone’s eyes light up and the smile come over their face after taking a bite of something delicious. Great food can create a memory, an experience. That is what I seek out, and I don’t feel I’ve done my job unless I’ve accomplished that.

Chef Waylynn Lucas tarts with blueberry, lavender, and earl grey

Chef Waylynn Lucas laughs while holding her tart

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Elevo Thermometer Spatula, Exoglass® Round Pastry Cutters, Exoglass® Fluted Round Tart Mold, Standard Disposable Pastry Bag and Matfer Silicone Pastry Brush.