Designing a Vessel or Utensil

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Create a vessel or utensil. I knew this would be the most challenging project this semester for me.
For this assignment we were instructed to create a wooden vessel or utensil that could be used for this thanksgiving dinner.
We initially started the brainstorming process by thinking of as many ideas as possible on post it notes. I really enjoyed the processes and it definitely got my brain thinking about some creative things.
My favorite idea from the brainstorming session was "dent" a gravy boat with a wooden piece sticking out to make a "dent" in mashed potatoes for pouring gravy.
I really love wood furniture, log cabins, wooden utensils, everything! The only problem with this project for me was that the piece was supposed to be made out of wood and when it comes to wooden objects; I think of timeless, classic pieces. I don't think of creative, modern, new things with wood.
After our class tour of the woodshop I came to realize how difficult this assignment was really going to be. I'm not familiar with the woodshop, tools, wood, or anything related. To be honest, visiting the woodshop really dampened my creativity and confidence but was probably good because it brought my capabilities combined with my time limit into reality.
After this visit I returned to brainstorming. I came up with some really fun ideas that I'd love to see at my kitchen table (and that I thought I'd be capable of actually making). A cool leaf shaped vessel for serving, a "peapod" shaped serving vessel, a shallow vessel, a bread bowl with diagonal etching designs and a bowl within a bowl.
I did some searching online and didn't see any bowls with a bowl so I explored my idea a little further through prototypes and sketches. In my mind the bowl would be for mashed potatoes and the bowl within would be for gravy. The fewer bowls to pass around the table during thanksgiving dinner, the better. Another goal I had in mind was to create a vessel that would be easy to clean. There is nothing more annoying to me than trying to wash little cracks and crevices.
I know from this image, it's hard to tell what I was doing with my prototype. I took my favorite bowl that I wanted to made out of wood. I grabbed newspaper to manipulate and envision how big the inside bowl would have to be. I was also having difficulty imagining how the second bowl would have to hang over the edge. So I crumpled up newspaper that hooked over the edge.
My prototypes obviously weren't great. They also didn't give me enough insight into how to make my bowl so I started to draw more options that I wanted to explore.
Not only do I love wooden bowls but I love deep wooden bowls. No matter how much food is in the bowl, I think the deepness makes every meal 10xs better. There is a homey feeling I attach to it.
After envisioning what I wanted, I made a trip to Rockler in Minnetonka. I asked to see wood that would be best for carving bowls and to my surprise, wood is damn expensive!
The deepest pieces of wood I could find were little 6x6" blocks of wood were available but after speaking with the specialists, they cautioned me towards purchasing them. They noted that the blocks of wood were covered in wax which keeps the moisture in the wood. To be able to turn these blocks of wood they would need to be dried for several weeks or else the wood would morph and be more likely to crack. Discouraged, I picked up several nice pieces of wood (within my budget) and decided I would turn them into bowls. They definitely weren't deep but would be able to fit into each other.
They were hard maple pieces of wood and looked pretty normal and sturdy.
I brought my pieces of wood into the woodshop and my first step for making the bowl was to cut out a circle. I found the middle of the piece of wood and made it as wide as possible. If I couldn't get depth I was going to get width.
My wood was mounted on the lathe and after a painstaking hour, hour and a half, I finally got the hang of using the tools and the machine (sort of).
The wood definitely cracked a few times which played into how the end design looked. I was speaking with one of the woodshop specialist and he asked what happened to my initial design. I told him that it's impossible for me to do. I showed him my design idea and he laughed with a sense of understanding. He said with my time and skill level, I was definitely trying to work outside of my element. He also told me that when he turns wood the design changes as he carves.
At this moment I knew I wouldn't be able to make a second bowl to fit within the first bowl and also that making an irregular shaped bowl without the lathe would be out of my bandwidth.
It was at that time that I committed myself to just making a really beautiful bowl. I really evaluated my piece of wood on the lathe and drew out different ways I could design the outside of the bowl.
Luckily, my piece of wood had an irregular and natural component that was on the face of the bowl. I thought it was really beautiful and I decided to keep it and work around it. It definitely made the piece unique.
Unfortunately, as I was sanding my bowl, part of this edge got sanded down. Regardless I still really loved the end result.
When carving my bowl I wanted it as deep as possible with large handles. I was able to get the large handle my creating a large edge and made my depth as deep as possible considering the thickness of the wood.
I sanded and sanded, conditioned and waxed my bowl.
I was finally satisfied with my bowl, the thickness and smoothness.
Took 3 men to get the bowl off of the lathe.
I finished my bowl with mineral oil and beeswax.
Longest, hardest 7 hours I've worked in a long time. It was oddly relaxing and dignifying to complete. Although not the purpose of the project, I developed a new found respect for woodworkers. I now understand why and how long hours of craftsmanship can be poured into one piece.

Plate as a Canvas

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For this project, I wanted to be sure that I really challenge myself with being creative. I also wanted to try and hit as many of the basic design rules that were discussed in class from visual design elements. Throughout my beginning stages of design I kept the following in mind:
- Nature
- Odds
- Golden rectangle/triangle ratio
- Analogous colors
When it came to picking out my canvas, I considered a wide variety of options. I really wanted to work with a colored canvas at first but after thinking about my ability to manipulate and create color I decided that white would be my best bet. There are a wide variety of white plates- the challenge would be finding a unique one to use.
I have limited access to traveling so I was only able to look through a variety of stores. After searching around Kohls, JCPenny, Macys, Pier1, Anthropologie, Kitchen Window and Target, I settled on a white plate I accidentally ran into from Target.
It was flat, rectangular, simple and modern.
From looking at various examples of Dianne's desserts and searching online I was inspired to use circles. I wanted my plate to have a circle theme and design around it. My only concern was whether it would look odd on a rectangular plate.
I started my processes by listing materials that I knew I wanted to try and use.
- Cake
- Chocolate
- Pumpkin
- Honey
- Marshmallow
- Graham Crackers
From these main ingredients I already knew that I would have analogous brown/orange colors. To add to this color wheel, I wanted to incorporate the color red. The simplest way I knew of being able to do that was with strawberries. Whether they turn out red or pink, I think it would fit into my color scheme.
What I learned from Architecture and macaroni- was that I knew I wanted my design to be as vertical as possible. I would do that with a combination of all three of my ingredients, cake, chocolate, pumpkin & strawberries, marshmallows, & graham crackers. The challenge with this for me is not being able to draw 3 dimensional sketches.
From our experimentation lab day I was playing around with different chocolates. I knew it was an element that I wanted to incorporate not only because I love eating it but because I knew that there was so much I would be able to do. I'd watched several YouTube video tutorials of how to make different types of chocolate garnishes and I wanted to try them all. I had purchased both Ghirardelli chocolate as well as Nestle chocolates. I learned quickly that manipulating chocolate wasn't as easy as it looked. The Ghiradelli melted fine- however kept melting and wouldn't hold its shape outside of the fridge for very long. The Nestle chocolates were hard to melt- period. That was when I learned about tempered chocolate.
That day I also played around with canned pumpkin. I thought it would be a fun ingredient to experiment with. Unfortunately Diane's techniques weren't shared until the end of class. Nonetheless it gave me plenty of inspiration and ideas.
I began brainstorming again and my ideas seemed to come together some more.
- Graham cracker crumble
- Cranberries
- Honey mousse
- Strawberries

Graham Cracker Crumble:

I then listed the different ways I could manipulate cranberries and strawberries
- Dried
- Puree
- Sliced thinly
- Halved
- Carved
I loved the colors from both the cranberries and strawberries and knew I had to incorporate them both.
Dried strawberries and dehydrated cranberry:
After a frustrating 2-3 hour trial- I surrendered to honey mousse (which I wanted to quanelle). I still don't know how to make it correctly.
I played with a lot of different chocolate variations but nothing really stuck with me. I made a lot of different designs on ice water, more vertical pieces in a cold water cup, dried flat, and curled. I also played with a variety of colors. I had dark chocolate, peanut butter color, white chocolate and pink.
I began my sketching with the golden rectangle and triangle. I seemed to do the best with asymmetric balance. I started with some pretty simple ideas. As I got into it you can see my images begin to get more complex and more creative. I eventually moved away from the circle and started to use chevrons. I though the cake would look nice cut at a slope/angle and in the shape of a chevron. I will definitely try and create as many of my sketches as possible.
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When it came to using actual materials I found it more difficult to imitate my sketches than I had imagined. Although warned, I was unprepared for cutting the fragile cake. My cake also had a fair amount of air bubbles and when I got a good cut- sometimes cake would be missing. I cut out a variety of circles, chevrons and triangles at varying heights. I also played around with a melon baller and got two fairly good circles of cake. After trying to imitate my sketches I learned quickly that they were merely brainstorming tools and idea starters- not actual templates. I tried a lot of different combinations.

For my final composition I ended up creating a piece that incorporated different elements of a few of my drawings. I was really happy with my design because I was able to still use my main ideas. I was able to use circles, strawberries, and chocolate. I had one big accomplishment of the day- I made my first quenelle. Though far from perfect- I'm still very proud of myself. I'd incorporated quenelles into my sketches but had no idea if I'd be able to make them.
Practicing quenelles:
As you can see in the image below, I used my cranberry puree and made part of a circle. I started with a full circle but felt that it removed the 'movement' from the plate. I off-set the hole in the circle with a piece of round cake to accent the opposite side of the plate. The red accent color was incorporated wholly through the part circle of the cranberry sauce but I wanted to balance the dried strawberries and add a more vibrant color with strawberry sorbet. I also thought that the strawberry sorbet made the dish look less dry and more appetizing as a whole.
I think I learned the most from this project- things that I'll definitely take away and can use in the future. I learned how to make good puree, a quenelle and chocolate garnishes. I also think I learned a lot personally though my sketches.
Special thanks to Diane Yang.
Bon attempt.

Amuse Bouche

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Project number two was to create a one bite hors d-oeuvre, amuse bouche, with an October Minnesota season fruit or vegetable to be created with texture and novel food pairing.
Unlike my last innovation with rice project where I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, this food and texture pairing was a big challenge for me.
I started off initially very interested in pears but didn't limit myself to one particular ingredient.
I had many different ideas and decided that I would try them all- or, a variation of them.

I began experimenting by using Knox Gelatine. I mixed it with every weird, interesting thing I could find in my kitchen. The plan was to first see what I could gelatinize and later figure out what nice food pairing/texture would complement it.

I took everything from:
1. Balsamic vinegar & mustard
2. Almond milk
3. Almond milk & banna
4. Sweet radish pickle juice
5. Pureed pear, apple and lime
6. Pureed pear, carrots & apple
7. Pear juice
8. Pomegranate juice (was not red/sweet)

Unfortunately, after exhausting myself from Knox Gelatine, I realized my gelatine mix didn't have the right ratio of gelatin to water and nothing was jelling.

I moved on and decided it was time for experimenting with sodium alginate and calcium chloride that was provided to us for the course.
I purchased every liquid dairy product imaginable to try and make the best gelatin balls possible. I used ingredients like milk, almond milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream and vanilla yogurt.
I mixed multiple things together and had to really utilize the yogurt to keep the mixture thick. What I realized was that I had to use a certain amount of yogurt for the mixture to keep the appropriate consistency to be able to gel but at that point the yogurt overpowered any flavor I added.

My first "successful" spoon (as in being able to get ingredients onto a spoon), I built was intended to be a type of deconstruction of marmalade. I boiled beets and sugar, and blended it together with ginger, honey and lime. I wasn't able to gelatinize because of my silly mistake with making the Knox Gelatin so I mixed the mixture in with sodium alginate and tried to create gels in calcium.
If you hadn't already guessed, it definitely didn't work.
I moved on quickly and decided to keep the beets whole, and put thin slices on spoon. I then mixed sugar, ginger, lime and honey and tried to create balled gels. Again, the mixture failed when I tried to create gels.
I had the thought that the more ingredients that I took out of my mixture the better success I'd have with making gel balls but when I took the ginger out and created ginger candies by reducing the ginger and then cooking it in sugar, the ginger over powered all other tastes and was very strong.
When I poured my remaining lime juice into my sodium alginate and back into the calcium, I was finally successful in making a gelatinized ball.
But I was far from happy with my creation.

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My next spoon attempt was a surprising mistake and the result of frustration after using most of the ingredients I could get my hands on from my kitchen.
I sat down and started from scratch. I took the most common/basic Minnesota grown food I could think of and ran with it. I sliced it up into rectangles and placed it on my spoon. It looked simply beautiful.
Unfortunately, the apple was the only thing on my spoon.
My mind immediately ran to breakfast and I grabbed eggs. I was talking to a roommate through my cooking process and wanted to show me a new trick they'd learned. They took an empty plastic water bottle and sucked the yolk right out of the egg whites. I was amazed.
And so I was left with egg whites and fried them with salt. I put my eggs on a slice of apple and was satisfied. So i filled my spoon with fried egg whites.
I wanted to find syrup but the next closest thing I found was honey so I added some honey, tasted my trio combination and wanted to move onward. My only successful gel (lime) was added. I assembled my dish and before I tried it I threw in the only cheese I have in my fridge (brie) and declared myself successful.
I was indifferent about the lime. Probably biased towards the added ingredient because I couldn't gelatinize anything else.


I woke up the day of the critique and reflected on my creation. I decided that if I wanted to stick with my breakfast theme I should go all out and use bacon and real maple syrup. As I looked up ways to make real maple syrup I decided that it wasn't a significant detail and to be happy with my honey choice (I didn't know how to get last minute maple flavoring). I also decided that instead of the large amount of salt I used on my egg whites to instead use the oil from the bacon to help me cook my eggs. Unfortunately in class I found that the bacon grease wasn't salty at all. I had attempted to caramelize onions but without butter/sugar it didn't work. I also decided to stop being complacent about the lime balls in my spoon and to gelatinize apple cider to add to the apple taste in my amuse bouche. Unfortunately when I added the apple cider to the sodium alginate it lost a significant amount of sugar and taste. I tried to substitute the lost sweetness with sugar but didn't get a large change. I also created the gelatins and lost them in the calcium chloride because they were near clear and very transparent. I added red coloring dye but the sweetness was still absent. The clock struck 10:20 and I had not assemble my spoons.
Unhappy with my result but happy with the bacon in hand, I served my unpleasantly designed spoons.
Through some of my diary trials I experiment with trying to thicken my mixtures with corn starch but was disgusted by the starchiness. If I could go back and redo my project I would have experimented more with the correct mixture of gelatin or taken the time to experiment with xanthan gum. I was very intent on trying to incorporate beets in my recipe but was very unsuccessful. If I could go back I would be even more persistent on trying to make it work. I love the color and the sweetness of a really good beet.


Next bon attempt.

Innovating with rice 4S

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I woke up with an idea.
I did not just write that to add corny excitement to my blog.
I grabbed a pan and started heating some sugar at a low temperature.
I poured the caramelized sugar into a muffin tin and swirled the lava-like mixture around until the entire surface was covered.
At this point my biggest fear being worried that the sugar would get stuck to the muffin tin and all I did was create a big scrubbing project for myself but at this point there was no turning back.
I stuck the tin in the freezer and waited. I was really excited and called my mom- she told me she wasn't intrigued. (tough love).
As I waited I made my rice pudding. When I was done, I pulled the sugar out of the freezer and carefully pulled it out of the tin. I had the biggest smile! It was so much easier than I had imagined.
I put the rice pudding inside of my sugar cup.
It was cute but then I decided to flip it over so that It would be more like crème brulee.
I thought I was a genius but when I went to eat it the sugar was too thick to break through and eat.
I learned a lot of lessons though and had a lot of fun making my sugar cup. My next attempt will probably be with a thinner sugar cup and I'll have to be sure to pull the cup out right before it is served to avoid stickiness. If possible I want to use the cup as originally intended and torch the top with sugar like a real crème brulee. Probably too much sugar but how bad could a chocolate surprise inside be? Maybe lemon?

Bon attempt.

Innovating with rice 4

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I was really disappointed with my last baking attempt and so I went at it again. I was at a creative stump and decided to stick the rice pudding straight into the oven.

I'll just say- I probably won't be baking my rice pudding for my final project.


Bon attempt.

Innovating with rice 3GS

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To stick with my flavor map I choose to experiment with egg.
I whisked the egg and added some brown sugar to the mixture to keep the dessert consistently sweet.
I added some milk, not sure what that did, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
I then added in the rice and mixed it all together.
I poured the mixture into a muffin tin and baked it. Not sure how long it sat in there but when it came out of the oven, it looked like a breakfast meal.
It wasn't a great taste, but not terrible. The consistency was a bit odd to me and there was definitely too much egg. It lost a lot of its sweetness- maybe that was why it wasn't favorable to me.
It was not fun trying to pry it out of the tin.
I did another trial run with some baking soda added to the mixture.
The texture was much better and the 'muffin' was less dense making the egg taste less intense. The brown sugar surfaced which created a beautiful bronze look to the 'muffin'.
I'm sure there is a much way to bake rice pudding- maybe during my next attempt.

Innovating with rice 3G

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In my early exploration of rice pudding I had created a flavor map which consisted of rice in the center and egg, corn, coconut, lemon, mango, banana, vanilla, honey, caramel, and brown sugar surrounding it.
I came across a piece of lemon cake in my apartment which my roommate had bought and snagged a piece.
It was delicious on it's own but I wanted to change the texture so that it was less soggy and flimsy. I threw the bread on a pan and toasted each side.
I used the rice pudding as a spread across the lemon bread and loved the flavor combination. I know that if I were to make this in the future I would puree the rice pudding so that there are no distinct grains of rice texture.
I wonder what the rice pudding would taste like with a jam? I probably should have tried that over the peanut butter I decided to add to the pudding.
I should probably stick to my flavor map.

Innovating with rice 2.0

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My next experiment was basic. I sprinkled Hersey's milk chocolate shavings onto my rice pudding.
I loved how it tasted but it was very over powering.
I love chocolate but I wasn't in love with this idea.


Innovating with rice

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As an Asian American I grew up eating my fair share of rice... or more. So I grew up eating a lot of rice but my rice was always basic steamed white rice. Although I have not spent a lot of time working with orzo I want to be able to make rice in more than one way because I know it will always be a staple in my diet.

My creative juices weren't flowing in the direction of a meal and almost instantly I knew that I wanted to create a rice dessert. I had heard of rice pudding but have never made nor eaten it. I looked up a few recipes and I decided that the first step would be attempting to make a basic rice pudding before I tried to innovate it.

This is what happened...

I made 1 cup of rice in my rice cooker.
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Poured 1 cup of milk into a pot.
Next I added about 1 cup of coconut cream.
I splashed in some vanilla.
The coconut wasn't sweet at all so I added some sugar.
Next I added the cooked rice. I heated the mixture on medium heat until the consistency was what I had imagined.

I really surprised myself and liked the finished product! I knew that I wanted to experiment with the grain. Perhaps short grain which for me was sticker in lab? Or maybe blend the rice so that there is no grain texture at all?
I also had other questions that came upon me as I ate my first bite; how does coconut cream compare to coconut milk? What flavors go with coconut? Is there a topping I can add?

Until next time... that was my first bon attempt.