Thursday, October 16, 2008

Artistic Chefs

My fascination with cooking combined with my desire for beauty can sometimes make my orientation towards perfectionism unbearable. On the other hand, when I come across something which is both pleasing to the eye and the palate, my exultation is immense. I want everyone to catch a glimpse, partake in a share of the magnificent bounty. I get so excited at the sight of beautiful food!

My modest friend, Emma, is one of those artisans who never ceases to amaze with her rich flavors and elaborate displays. She is has a particular knack when it comes to baked goods. Her cakes dazzle every viewer. She has an incredible eye for detail. There is symmetry, balance, color -- all of those elements you would expect to find in a fine painting or sculpture -- she utilizes in her culinary creations. Actually, I am nearly reduced to tears cutting into her beautiful creations. How can one mar such an exquisite piece of art!

This is her Buche de Noel from last Christmas. My favorite part is the marzipan mushrooms! They make it seem like she took the 'log' right out of the forest!

Her cute cupcakes with gummy gingerbread men...

Her grandmother's chocolate rose birthday cake.

She's created so many other amazing concoctions. Among my favorites: her saffron bread, herb braid bread, a German Apple Pancake, pumpkin jelly name a few! (Unfortunately, I failed to take photographs so I cannot share a visual image with you... :-( These are her photographs. She's a lot wiser than me! ) She is my greatest inspiration when it comes to the cooking and baking. We have so many awesome memories together in the kitchen....

She has taught me so many baking techniques and recipes I can't even begin to tell you the half of them. The most indispensable recipe she taught me was one for pie crusts. I have used nearly every filling imaginable, from sweet to savory, inside of it. (In fact, I just put together a triple batch to bake the pumpkin pies for my brother's birthday party on Saturday...)

I don't think she'll mind me sharing it with you.... :-)

Pie Crust

2 1/4 c. flour (you can mix and match)
3/4 t. salt

3/4 c. butter
5 or 6 T. ice water

Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl with the beater attachment on your mixer. Put the mixer on the lowest speed. Cut the butter into 5 or 6 pieces and add to the bowl of flour and salt. Watch out...the butter may cause the flour to jump out of the bowl!
When the butter is the size of peas, gradually add a Tablespoon of ice water at a time. You want the dough to just stick together. (Sometimes it takes me more than 6 T. when the air is really dry. The amount of water used will depend on the level of h
umidity where you live.) Don't leave the mixer on too long or it will make your dough tough. Form the dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.
It yields 2 pie crusts. Ideal for your autumn apple pies!

This is a quiche I made with the crust. The darling baking dish was a gift from Emma.

Next post, I'll share the creations of a chef friend who dazzles wedding guests...


healthily sanguine said...

Hurrah for Emma! And I agree, that is the best piecrust recipe in the world. BTW, I still need to try that feta quiche recipe!! Oh, it will be so good some crisp autumn evening...yum.

hot garlic said...

This is so great! What a great friend. I love having mentors who are great friends who teach me so many things, and occasionally I get to be that friend too, which is also fun.

She is definitely talented! I can make something taste good, but I have challenges making baked goods look pretty so if you can do both you are a real pro!

Tina said...

Love the name of your blog!!! :)

'Akaterina said...

I wonder if you have ever had the pleasure of tasting any Audra Cole's delectable creations?

As one who aspires to be a culinary goddess, Emma and Audra have become my heros... eh...heroines in the kitchen. Pastries and desserts have me at a loss. But that doesn't mean I won't enjoy eating the fruits of their labour!

Laurel said...

I haven't had the chance to partake of Audra's culinary handiwork, but always appreciate good bakers! :)
Since I originally wrote this post 3 years ago, I am amazed now how much Emma's technique and love of baking has affected me and my interest in baking/cooking.
I say, keep at it yourself attempting pastries and desserts -- it takes practice but it is a wonderful skill to hone!