California and most of the West Coast is in the middle of a huge heat wave right now and I hope you will forgive me if I rerun one of my favorite posts. I had planned on baking a cake, but with the heat soaring well above 100, that would heat the kitchen too much and our air conditioning is already running at capacity. This is a lovely dessert from one of America’s best chefs, Elizabeth Falkner and one I know you will enjoy! And bonus, it is gluten and egg-free!!
I love taking cooking classes. No matter how much I think I may know I always learn something new. It can be something as little as a new way to utilize a common kitchen tool, a trick to protect me from making a common baking mistake, or some new information about ingredients or the way they are combined that completely changes the way I think about a dish.
Last year I had the pleasure and honor of attending a cooking class with the amazing Elizabeth Faulkner. The founder and executive chef at Citizen Cake and Orson, she is a delightful woman with an extraordinarily creative approach to food and its presentation. Renown for her ability to apply classic techniques to updated food combinations, eating at her restaurants is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Elizabeth grew up loving food and cooking. After majoring in film studies and graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute, she worked in the food industry to pay bills. She often found herself in the kitchen, cooking for her co-workers and managers. Eventually she worked in the pastry departments at some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants including Masa’s, Elka and Rubicon.
When she went to dinner at Traci Des Jardin’s restaurant Rubicon, she was thrilled by the creative and beautiful dishes on the menu. But when it was time for dessert she was decidedly unimpressed. She knew that she could help make the desserts as spectacular as the rest of the menu. She approached Chef Des Jardin with examples of her baking skills, suggestions for dessert options and was hired on the spot. In 1997 she opened Citizen Cake and won accolades for her desserts. With a beautiful wood-burning oven on site, she just couldn’t resist serving pizzas and the menu evolved to include savory items as well as desserts.
While she has always loved the sweet side of life, Elizabeth knew that she wanted to express her vision with savory foods as well and opened Orson in 2008. Noted for its duck-fat French fries, a burger with foie gras, creative thin-crust pizzas and outstanding comfort foods with a twist, Orson was the kind of place everyone in San Francisco loves. A cozy dining area attended by highly skilled servers, a large oval bar that dominated the room and a seating area adjacent filled with soft sofas and lounge chairs, urging groups to relax and enjoy spending time together. Orson was a perfect destination restaurant. NOTE: Elizabeth closed both restaurants in San Francisco and moved to New York to open a new restaurant in Brooklyn.
You can get a feel for Elizabeth’s brilliance in her award-winning cookbook Demolition Desserts. Illustrated by her brother, it covers everything from the cookies, brownies, and cupcakes she has long been known for, an extensive list of core recipes everyone should know, to the more elaborate plating techniques and ingredient combinations that have made her legendary. Each one has a streamlined version to help home cooks who don’t have as much time to dedicate to complicated preparations.
Her most recent cookbook is Cooking Off the Clock: Recipes from My Downtime. Most chefs love to cook even on their days off and Elizabeth is no exception. The difference is that when they are in the restaurant they are fulfilling the need and desires of their customers. When they are at home they can cook the meals they grew up on, their own comfort foods. This book covers all of her favorites, many classics with new twists, and things that you can put together for weeknight dinners and when entertaining family and guests.
When I heard that Elizabeth was offering classes, I leapt at the chance to learn from one of my favorite chefs. Ice creams are one of those desserts that everyone loves but few venture far beyond vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. Elizabeth challenged us to look at it as one component of a larger offering, making daring combinations that she shrugs off as just a different way of looking at food. Our first taste was a traditional vanilla that was enhanced with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of porcini salt crystals. It was incredible, the oil and salt offering a complexity and texture that were eye opening.
While most chocolate ice creams are rather bland and ordinary, the Mocha Gelato she made for us was absolutely incredible. It explodes in your mouth with a deep, rich chocolate flavor that is enhanced by espresso. Despite the absence of egg yolks, it coats your tongue with a sensation of a full-fat ice cream. One bite of this gelato and you will swear off any other version. I have found my chocolate gelato nirvana, and it is thanks to Chef Faulkner!
Above all else, Elizabeth wants everyone to have fun – while eating and creating memorable meals for others. Dive into today’s ice cream and then go buy Demolition Desserts and Cooking Off the Clock to discover more of Elizabeth’s dynamic creations!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
As Chef Elizabeth emphasized, do not limit your horizons when it comes to ice cream. Consider it simply a cold sauce, not required to be sweet. Savory flavors, like her Bleu Cheese Ice Cream, are absolutely astonishing. She serves this as part of deconstructed buffalo chicken wings, with fried chicken “nuggets,” a scoop of the bleu cheese ice cream and a hot Tabasco-spiced barbecue sauce. It will completely change the way you think about ice cream and its roll in our cuisine.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free, but as always watch the ingredients for gluten contamination. As a bonus, this is also egg-free!!
Kitchen Skill: Tempering Ingredients
Tempering is the act of gently combining cold ingredients into hot. Always utilized when introducing eggs into a hot liquid, it is also used to improve the consistency or resiliency of a substance. You start by whisking the cold ingredients thoroughly. Then add a small amount of the hot liquid, stirring constantly. Add a little more of the hot liquid, warming the cold ingredients sufficiently so that when you stir them into the remaining hot liquid they are incorporated smoothly. This also helps reduce clumping and resulting lumps. If you ever do wind up with lumps, just strain the mixture through a wire sieve and it will be perfect!
Icy Cold Chocolate-Mocha Gelato
Chef Elizabeth Faulkner former chef/owner of Citizen Cake and Orson, San Francisco
Yield: About 1 quart
1 quart milk
3 oz corn syrup
4 oz granulated sugar
1/2 oz cornstarch (make sure it’s gluten-free if needed)
2 oz cocoa powder (make sure it’s gluten-free if needed)
8 oz chopped milk chocolate
1 oz shot of espresso
1 tsp espresso powder (make sure it’s gluten-free if needed)
Place the milk and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to just below a boil, scalding the milk. Remove from the heat.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and cocoa powder. Use a whisk to blend thoroughly. Pour about 1 cup of the hot milk into the dry ingredients, whisking to blend. Stir this mixture back into the remaining hot milk in the saucepan. Return to the heat and simmer over low heat for 4 minutes, whisking constantly.
Place milk chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Pour the hot milk mixture over the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted. Add the espresso and espresso powder. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted and all ingredients are well blended.
Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 8 hours before churning according to manufacturer’s instructions.
You can serve small scoops of the ice cream on top of silver dollar pancakes. Sprinkle the top with very finely chopped nuts, cocoa nibs, brittle, etc. Decorate the plate with a stripe of coffee caramel if desired.
Create a New Tradition Today!
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