Final Project - Katie M & Lee T

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Our final project was to combine everything we learned in previous assignments and then cater to 80+ people. We had both presented primarily desserts throughout the semester and quickly decided that we'd like to do a dessert for the final project. Ange Wang guest lectured on "Experience Design" and led a brainstorming activity in which we came up with the following storyboards:
Hot Chocolate Experience Brainstorming

Relaxing Tropical Experience Storyboard
Feedback from pitching our two storyboards

Based on feedback from our peers we chose to go in the direction of the "Tropical" experience and wanted to serve mini mixed drinks. We came up with a setting in which our area would be enclosed and heated with mini heaters to give a "tropical" feel. Our users would be able to sit and enjoy a mini cocktail, relax, and enjoy the warmth in comparison to the freezing cold, MN weather.
Relaxing Tropical Experience Ideation
Then we found out we weren't able to serve liquor and went back to coming up with ideas. One was that we would serve two options and the guests would be told what specific activity would burn off whatever they had just ate, they would perform the activity, and then be able to eat whatever they had just 'earned'. Due to logistics, we decided against this one.

Then, we went back to the hot chocolate experience and worked from there. We tried coming up with ideas to make it work. This lead to the idea of making s'mores! We were both excited about this idea and decided to go forward with it.

Brainstorming for hot chocolate/s'mores

After talking, we decided to try an attempt at making little campfires out of s'more ingredients. The graham crackers were to resemble little wooden logs, the marshmallow would have red and yellow food dye swirled through it and it would combine to make orange, giving it a "fiery" look and be orange flavored, there would be chocolate inside to make it a "s'more" and red spun sugar would be on top to resemble flames and cinnamon flavored to be 'fiery'.
Sketch of campfire s'more

For Monday's guest critique, we prepared orange flavored marshmallows, homemade graham crackers, and cinnamon spun sugar. We also had chocolate to use, but weren't sure how we wanted to incorporate it into the final product. The purpose of this was to test how the ingredients tasted together, their mouthfeel, and an idea of presentation. Classmates were very excited about this, judges were not.

For Wednesday, we decided to make dehydrated meringue bowls (plain, eggnog, and peppermint), chocolate mousse filling, and assorted toppings such as chocolate bobas, graham cracker crunch, and candy cane crunch. Based on feedback, we needed something to provide a different texture besides soft and felt baked meringues would provide this. The chocolate mousse would provide a creamy, smooth texture, and the toppings would allow the guest to help create their own experience. The plan was to have each guest choose one of the three flavors of meringue bowls, then one of us would pipe in chocolate mousse, and they would then be able to choose their toppings. The morning was spent on the more time-consuming preparation of separating eggs, making the chocolate mousse, and graham cracker dough. Then, in the afternoon we would be back at 4, which would allow 2 hours for dehydrating the meringues, finish prepping the toppings, and getting set up before 7. However, our prepped eggs had been put in the freezer instead of the fridge. We let them defrost on the counter and they whipped up fine, so we figured they would be okay. When baking, they fell apart, which can happen with frozen egg whites. Now it was 5 PM with two hours until the event and we didn't have much to present. We could only work with what we had and do our best to come up with something s'more related. We decided to use the graham cracker dough to make tiny squares, pipe on chocolate buttercream, top with whipped cream, and dust with candy cane dust. Luckily we were fortunate enough to have help from Joe Mueller and had a great time in the kitchen. We were able to have something to present! The experience we were presenting had to be completely changed and the wrappers reminded us of opening a box of chocolates and the s'more bites resembled little chocolates.

Recipes for components making up S'more Please:
Graham crackers -

Chocolate buttercream - from "Sugar Baby" by Gesine Bullock-Prado

Whipped Cream -

Candy Canes - crush candy canes in a spice grinder until desired size.
Final product (Photo by Chef Steven Brown)
Lee sellin' it! (Photo by Kate Maple)

Thanksgiving Tinkering

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Assignment 4 (Second to last one!) was to make a wooden vessel that could be used for Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday). The only rule besides 1. make it out of wood and 2. something for Thanksgiving, was 3. NO SETS. (I had to keep reminding myself of this the whole time).

The first day of this module was spent brainstorming and learning about techniques. My favorite ideas I came up with during the brainstorming session (redrawn for this blog) were:
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Wonka Thanksgiving (that doesn't end in a giant blueberry)
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Pilgrim Shoe Salt and Pepper Shakers
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Gravy Mayflower (Gravy Boat)
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Turkey Head (Mr. Potato Head for a turkey!)

These were definitely silly and I enjoyed coming up with them. I didn't feel like taking any of them forward into the assignment however. This meant I needed to start brainstorming again. I listed all things Thanksgiving that I could think about and paired up different things. My favorite ideas from this was:
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A wishbone championship board, which was set up like a football field
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A wishbone Thanksgiving tray
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Serving platter that had a large wishbone holding the tray

I decided to go forward with the wishbone that held the tray and started by making a large, foam prototype of the wishbone.

I wasn't happy with how this looked and also found something almost identical for sale at Pottery Barn. This led to me deciding to start from the beginning. I didn't feel strongly about carrying either of my other ideas forward so I observed at home during mealtimes. I noticed the amount of work it was to get hot serving dishes to and from the table and using trivets for them as well. I decided to make a portable trivet. I chose not to prototype it as it was a square of wood (pretty sure I could handle that) with 2 handles. I found Black Walnut wood in grampa's workshop that would work well as well as 2 Purple Heart Walnut wood pieces. IMG_2417.jpg I chose copper wire to hold them to the main board because of their color and bend ability. (This is something that if I were to make it again, I would reevaluate how it was executed). I sanded each piece and drilled holes in the handles and main board. I then held them together with bent copper wire. IMG_2421.jpg I tested it out by carrying things around on it and it worked quite well!

The finished product!

Honey Spice Cake Creations

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Yes! Cake! I love cake...

This assignment was to design a plating for Diane's Honey Spice Cake using what we learned in the graphic design portion of Food + Design. This gave the assignment a lot more direction than the last two (no complaints with either!) Since I have (some) experience in this, I felt more prepared. Pastry work is my favorite part of cooking - besides eating!- Within the pastry realm, chocolate work is my favorite so I knew I wanted to use that as well.

I consulted one of my favorite chocolate books to find a listing of best fruit/chocolate pairings to try in class and at home. (Andrew Shotts' Making Artisan Chocolates)

I used my findings to first make a list of the three different pairings I wanted to try together. I also chose 3 different areas to try and incorporate in each dish. They are listed as well.
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Then I set to trying it out! I let inspiration take me where I felt I should go - it was a more free-spirited experimentation at first.

The first plate shown is primarily milk chocolate with white chocolate accents, pomegranate seeds, and honey spice cake. I made the chocolate pieces by tempering the chocolate (Ghirardelli) using the seeding method and proceeded to use a chocolate mold to make the rectangles, and the acetate/combing/combining method to make the striped pieces.

I also made a plate using coconut, white chocolate, marshmallow, plum, and honey spice cake.
I was happy with both, however it wasn't the final look I wanted. I wanted something more sleek and simple. I thought to get this look, I'd need to cover the cake with ganache. I decided to make a layer cake using whipped white chocolate ganache, spice cake, and dark chocolate ganache. I used white chocolate to do the detail work on top.

I knew this was the right path, but it needed some refinement. It had the simplicity and contrast I was looking for, but it needed to look right on the plate and have height. Then... it SNOWED!!! I knew I had to celebrate this by going a more winter route and use white chocolate as my main component with the spice cake. I also knew the blackberries would give it a great contrast. White chocolate ganache can have more of a yellow tint to it so I wanted to cover the sides in bright white whipped cream. I chose to layer the cake with 2 layers of blackberry jam for tartness and a layer of whipped cream to lighten the palate a bit more. I know flavor wasn't a priority with this assignment but I've been conditioned to always keep it in mind! Plus, if I make something I want to eat, I find that others usually do too. I kept the same idea the white chocolate on dark chocolate had with a simple hinting at what the main flavors were by using blackberry jam to detail the cake and plate and by adding one, beautiful blackberry on top of the cake.

Here it is! (It was really awesome btw... I'm glad I didn't have to share :) )

My foray into -Food Science-

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For assignment 2, we were to innovate an "amuse bouche" or "one mouthfeel" of food that had been created with texture and novel food pairing in mind. It also needed to have at least one ingredient, the main one, be currently in-season in Minnesota

To start, I made a mind map of everything *fall* that I could think of in 2 minutes. I gave myself a time limit because I love fall and could have spent more time than would be productive on this mind map.

Next, I made a list of the fruits and vegetables in season for October in Minnesota.

Then I made a small flavor bouncing chart a la Achatz based on butternut squash.

I roasted some butternut squash to start experimenting with...

I browned some butter.

I prepared a sampling plate based on what I felt were the most interesting combinations.

Some of them weren't so good... I thought that raspberry and squash would be so great, that I had found the most perfect combination. Boy, was I wrong! It tasted horrible!
I also realized that to have only one bite of squash, it wasn't the most pleasant texture or aftertaste to me. It also seemed somewhat dry and would need a lot of modification to make it good. I wanted something simple and that had minimal aftertaste. I started over by making a lot of different gels to see what tasted good and what didn't.

I realized I had essentially just made a bunch of jello shots... and red cooking wine does not make a very good jello shot. Frangelico and Chambord, not quite as bad but fairly bitter in the aftertaste category. Maple syrup + gelatin = one sticky blob. Beurre Noisette (Noisy Butter) or Brown butter + gelatin = yummy butter taste without oil... hmm... maybe I could try something with this and the raspberries I really liked from the squash? So I tried different things with raspberries.
IMG_2176.jpg I had really liked the creme anglaise I made for the squash, so I made some more to try with the raspberries.

I also made a couple more lists of colors I wanted my new dish to have and foods that fit each category.

I really enjoyed working with the food chemicals on Oct. 9th in lab and would have -loved- to work with more than just 2 types. I also would have loved to spend more time experimenting in class with different types of mixtures and the food chemicals so I was more prepared for the absolute disaster I was about to have...

My creme anglaise mixture didn't take well to its new setting. Ew.

I was out of food chemicals by the time I got done trying it with different liqueurs, creme anglaise, and molasses. So I used regular creme anglaise until the final project when I could experiment with more!

I had the cutest company the whole testing period! Usually she lays down in the kitchen when I'm cooking but I got her to sit for the camera with some bacon.

The final day went awesome! Hectic... but awesome. I was able to, with a lot of modifications, get the creme anglaise pearls to work. (for the most part) The beurre noisette gel worked great and set properly. The raspberries... well... they're always awesome no matter what. Those are the components of my final amuse bouche as seen here.
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The Evolution of Figgy Puddin'

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Sept. 10th-
The first assignment for Food + Design is to innovate a dish using rice or orzo! This feels a little overwhelming for me since I can think of many possible options using rice... Far less when using orzo. In culinary school, we used many types of rice in various ways. We used orzo only a few times in soups and pilafs. I've used both in home cooking situations, but I'm not sure if it would qualify as "innovative". I tried to brainstorm all the ways I've used both previously to make sure my new dish would be "creative" enough.

Sept. 12-
Still feeling overwhelmed with coming up with an "innovative" dish. I made a seafood consommé with orzo, hoping it would inspire some creativity. I thought about some of my favorite dishes at Alinea and why I liked them. There was a course brought to the table in a glass straw of bubble tea size. It had a clear liquid, gels, and many other interesting things. It had a nice clean finish and turned out to be a palate cleanser. Who knew?? I thought about making an orzo/seafood dish inspired by this. I gave a fair amount of consideration to the holder that would hold the straw, such as giving it an aromatic scent.

Sept. 16-
Went to Victory 44 with Joe to try some new dishes to get ideas of what other chefs are doing in an innovative way. Had some amazing dishes! Too full to blog much.
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Sept. 17-
I looked through most of my favorite cookbooks to get going on the project. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I was looking!

After that, I went to the local food co-op to see what I could find of interest.
I came back with mission figs, hazelnuts, balsamic vinegar, mint, orzo, honey, and 3 kinds of cheese. I picked up mascarpone, quark, and neufchâtel. I knew that I wanted to highlight the figs because they have such a good flavor and interesting texture. However, I wasn't sure how I'd end up using figs based on the direction my dish took and the flavor profiles I wanted to give it.
I then proceeded to do some flavor testing to see how different combinations tasted together.IMG_2030.jpg

Sept. 23-
I continued experimenting in the kitchen at 5 AM. Things can get a little weird around this time...IMG_2056.jpg
My breakfast cereal gave me the idea to have an element of surprise -which I got when I knocked the box over and they rolled everywhere!-.IMG_2058.jpg I thought it would be awesome to incorporate something into a fig that was surprising and possibly rolled out. I tried stuffing it with frozen neufchâtel balls.
This did -not- go according to plan. They didn't do anything and looked kind of sad. Plus it wasn't incorporating the orzo. I googled "Figs" to see what I came up with because I wanted to use them somehow as one of the main components of my dish. "Figgy Christmas Pudding" was one of the first things I came up with, which was a cake. I thought that I could take orzo and treat it like rice, making an orzo pudding. Then, I could stuff the figs and also incorporate the element of surprise!
Sept. 25 - THE BIG DAY!
Today was the day the final assignment was due.
I presented "Figgy Puddin'" which was my remake of the classic "Figgy Christmas Pudding". It consisted of chilled fresh figs, stuffed with neufchâtel orzo with hazelnuts, honey, cinnamon sugar, heavy cream, and balsamic vinegar. There were 3 figs on a plate and they were drizzled with warm, homemade honey caramel.
This is my "recipe"
and this is my final edible product design, "Figgy Puddin'"!
I really enjoyed this project and *can't* wait to start working with food chemicals in class next week!