Friday, February 20, 2015

Resurrecting The Blog!

I’m currently between jobs, a position I originally thought to be detrimental, but now I see it as an opportunity to reassess my life and sort of figure out what I want to do with it. I’m 26, unmarried, have a bachelors degree and a have a whole life ahead of me. I absolutely love what I do, don’t get me wrong, but I work in a high-stress industry and I don’t want it to get to a point where I start to hate what I do. I really don’t ever what to hate what I do! In lieu of all of this, I decided to get away for a week to Florida for a little R&R. What better time than during the winter, especially during the coldest week to date?! St. Louis is experiencing temperatures in the negatives plus snow. Here in Florida we have a high of 72 with a brisk low in the 40s- absolutely perfect!!

So like I said, I’m reassessing my life and trying to figure out what to do with it, so what better time than the present to attempt to resurrect my blog! So I bake delicious pastries for a living (in case you didn’t know) and have ever since I finished Pastry School (I went to pastry school right out of college). I also have a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art, and what I loved about pastries is that it blends both of my passions: art and baking. I’m at a point where I’m starting to contemplate if I want a slight career change. I don’t have a particularly vast skill set that would allow me move into any career, but ultimately I would like to work in a field that combines my passions. I have always loved to blog, especially about food (I know it’s been on a yearlong hiatus), and if I could get a job where I could try new foods or recipes and write about them- that’s the dream right there! Maybe I should become a food critic, wouldn’t that be interesting? I could create different aliases and go incognito to new restaurants, pay in cash, and write reviews about how the steak tartar was superb with little nuances of nuttiness or how the crème brulee was underwhelming as it was over baked- like eating scrambled eggs. I think it would be fun, that is until someone found out it was me and called me out for the scathing review! One of these days I’ll find my niche- I’ll know that “this is where I belong”!


Enough of all of that, I had a wonderful day today. It started with a solo bike ride up to Norman Love Confections where I bought 4 beautiful and equally delicious chocolates. Norman Love is a world-renown chocolatier. His flagship store is located in Fort Meyers, FL, and is also the location where all of the chocolates and pastries are made and then delivered to the retailers, of which there are 2.

The chocolates I purchased. Top row from left to right: Mint Chocolate Chip and Tahitian Caramel (I was told it was Norman's favorite flavor). Bottom row from left to right: Savage Heart (chai spiced chocolate with marshmallow) and Caramel



I couldn't choose just one of the pictures I took of the case. The chocolates are too beautiful for words. 

As I admired the beauty and craftsmanship of the chocolates and truffles this morning, I thought to myself (seriously) this is what I want to do! I had a crash course in chocolates in pastry school (3 weeks) but in that time, I really fell in love with chocolate. There’s an essence of perfectionism, a little OCD sprinkled here and there, and a whole lot of artistic skill. It’s a industry I think I could thrive in, unfortunately there are slim pickings in St. Louis, as there is only one premier chocolatier, Kakao.

After a breakfast of chocolates and green tea, I ran some errands with my mom, made a fresh batch of sangria (recipe to follow), and a big bowl of guacamole (Florida avocados are huge). 
I'm not kidding! Banana for scale.

To finish the day we took a long walk on the beach. Something happened today between high tide and low tide because there was an insane amount of dead starfish, crab legs, and sea sponges on the beach. We also saw 2 jellyfish, found a couple of sea turtle bones, and this strange thing we thought was the skeleton of a sea snake or a plant. 

   After some Googling and a little bit of luck, I found out that it is actually the egg casing of a whelk, which is a sea snail that looks similar to a conch. Inside the, what we thought to be vertebrae, are actually little baby whelks. How interesting?! I guess you really do learn something everyday!
* Not my photo. Borrowed from "http://thehunterandthegatherer.blogspot.com"

I have one more day here, and it has truly been a whole lot of R&R, that I most desperately needed. I don’t have many foodstuffs to report here, but I have some time off to try new recipes, restaurants, cafes, so hopefully (fingers crossed) I will have more to write about in the upcoming days! Below is the recipe for my Blood Orange Sangria! Enjoy responsibly!

Blood Orange Sangria
Yields 1 large pitcher (approx. 4-6 glasses)

** Little note: I couldn't find blood oranges at my local grocery so I used Cara Cara instead. They are red oranges and have a sweet taste. They work just as well- use if blood oranges are unavailable. 

6 Blood Oranges
1 (750mL) bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon 
1 cup Sprite
1/2 cup Triple Sec
2 Apples, chopped

1. Juice 4 of the blood oranges into large pitcher. (I juiced mine by hand)
2. Chop remaining oranges into pieces
3. Combine all ingredients together in large pitcher, including chopped fruit. 

It's really that simple. I make mine a couple of hours ahead or cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight to allow all the flavors to mix. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Long Overdue Update

I am loooooong overdue for an update, so let's get down to business. Obviously a lot has happened since I last posted: the holidays, seasonal changes at work, and a new family member. My mom got a new kitty named Libby- below she is meeting my dog Stella. They get along like best pals. 


Now onto the sweets...

Every Christmas I make a bunch of iced sugar cookies for gifts for my cousins. In addition to the iced sugar cookies I decided to add a little pizzazz to the cookie boxes by making Rugelach cookies. My friend and former Chef, Lisa turned me onto Rugelach cookies during a photo shoot for a local food newspaper. I took the basic dough and changed up the filling. I made cinnamon rolls, fig newtons, sweet pepper jelly and parmesan, and Lisa's tomato jam, pine nut and parmesan Rugelach cookies. 


These are my cinnamon roll Rugelach. 


These are Lisa's cookies- the filling consists of a homemade tomato jam, toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese. They are very much a savory cookie- they taste like a "pizza" cookie. Next time I may add some pepperoni.

Now onto work. A lot has happened since my last post in October. We started the winter season, which means we have new flavors and food items. We started serving breakfast items from 9am-2pm daily. Breakfast includes egg frittatas (spinach/veggie and asiago/prosciutto) as well as a breakfast focaccia (we hollow out the inside of a focaccia stick and fill it with an egg blend, sausage, and onion). 


In addition to breakfast we have also started serving lunch. We offer lunch combos which includes your choice of soup and open-faced focaccia. Our open-faced focaccia is basically like a sandwich without the top piece of bread. We also toast the focaccia so the cheese melts and it is warm. 


We offer two types of soups (tomato bisque and minestrone) and two types of open-faced focaccia (asiago/prosciutto with an olive tapenade and roasted vegetables with an artichoke spread)


We also have a new cookie- our take on a Fig Newton. It's a shortbread cookie filled with fig and orange. 


Introducing the Mint Chocolate Brownie cannoli. It's our signature Piccione Cream (basically a lightened chocolate mousse) flavored with Creme de Menthe. We use ultra fudgy brownies- we chop and mix into the cream so every bite gets delicious chocolate brownies. 


I wanted to add some of my Instagram pictures from work. On the left are vanilla pasticiotti. From top to bottom on the right is our chocolate raspberry cassata cake, rum baba, and our tiramisu.


An artsy picture of uncooked coconut macaroons.


Our shortbread cookies


With February upon us, we are starting to test recipes and ideas for Valentine's Day. My contribution is "conversation heart cookies" aka decorated sugar cookies (my specialty). I didn't really know what to write on the cookies so I googled conversation hearts and boy have they changed since I last had them. When I last bought/received a box of the candies they said things like "Love you" "Cute" and my favorite "Fax me". Nowadays they say things like "Text me" Friend me" ":)". 



I did see on googled, a candy that said "Nice Ass", jokingly I showed it to my chef who said I couldn't write bad words on the cookies, so I improvised. I gave it to her as a joke, but I think it turned out pretty good!


Here are some other cookies I made. 

Well that's all for now. Hopefully I'll be posting more pictures sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading. Until next time!




Saturday, October 12, 2013

Piccione Pastry Photo Blast

The seasons are changing, therefore our pastries are changing. I haven't posted since earlier this summer so I thought I might put up a quick photo blast about what's been going on at Piccione Pastry. 


We changed our hours and now open at 9am every day except Mondays (we're closed). Now we are serving some new breakfast items. This is our cheese danish. We are currently playing with some new shapes of the danish, so when you come in it may not look like it does here. 


We are also featuring a Pecan Sticky Cinnamon Roll. This is Chef Martin rolling out and cutting the Cinnamon Roll dough. 


The Cinnamon Rolls all cut and trayed up- ready for the fridge. 

The Cinnamon Rolls baked and looking delicious. They are about the size of a softball and go great with our Pumpkin Spice Latte.


Another new breakfast item we have is our egg Frittata. We have a veggie and a prosciutto frittata. The crust is made of puff pastry so it's extra flaky and delicious. 


A new fall item we are offering until November is a Pecan Tart. It's topped with toasted meringue and a piece of chocolate. 



We are also offering a poached pear tart. This tart has had many makeovers- this is the first edition of the tart. The filling has mascarpone, drunken cranberries and dark rum. The pear has been poached in Chardonnay and fall spices. The top is sprinkled in sugar and bruleed. 


This is the second edition and current design of the pear tart. We wanted a more interesting design that would catch someone's eye. Our Chef designed it- I'm still practicing- it will probably take me a few mornings to really ace it. 


Here is the same pear tart but the pear has been poached in Port Wine instead of Chardonnay. Both flavors are offered. 



Since early summer we have been offering a Napoleon, which has layers of flaky puff pastry in between layers of our Piccione Cream. It is topped with royal icing and striped with chocolate ganache. In the photo above you can see how Chef makes the herringbone pattern which Napoleons are most known for. Napoleon's are technically a French pastry, although Italy has their version (we are making the French style), it has been selling so well we decided to keep it around a little longer. 


Chef decided to switch things up and make this Napoleon chocolate. So instead of having layer of vanilla cream and topped with royal icing, it has layers of chocolate cream and is topped with chocolate ganache and striped with royal icing. 


This summer we offered 2 new cannoli flavors (not offered now). I am a little surprised I didn't post these because they were two of my favorites. We had a cookies n' cream and a gooey butter cannoli. Definite crowd favorites. They may be making their return sooner than you think!

 Every Tuesday from 8pm-9pm we have Cannoli Hour where all cannolis are half off!!! If you live in St Louis please stop in Piccione Pastry! You won't regret it!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Piccione

I wanted to put up a quick photo blast of what has been going on at Piccione Pastry, and what we have coming up!


When I open in the morning this is how I fill the cannolis. I organize them by topping, and lay out all the shells at once. The 4 rows on the left are all topped with powdered sugar, the top right 2 rows get chocolate and the bottom 2 rows get white chocolate. 


These 2 pictures hopefully gives you a better visual of what I do in the morning when I open (which isn't every morning, mind you). This case is our refrigeration case- it houses all the cannolis on the top (which are not ready yet). The tiramisu is on the top as well. The middle shelf houses the cassata cakes and cream puffs. Then on the bottom we have the cheesecakes, featured items (right now is a napoleon and a chocolate raspberry cake), as well as some cookies that need to stay cool. 


The right side of the case is at room temperature and houses all the cookies, as well as our seasonal tart, pastaciotti, and pound cake. 


This was a cannoli flavor we featured briefly this summer- a s'mores cannoli. It is filled with our Piccione cream and mini marshmallows and topped with chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. 



This summer we featured lots of peach desserts. This is our peach melba. It is one of our most underrated desserts. It has raspberry sauce on the bottom, a scoop of vanilla gelato, and roasted peaches on top with an almond biscotti. 



This is our peaches n' cream cannoli with toasted hazelnuts. It is no longer offered to make room for our fall desserts. 



This was my favorite peach sweet. It is a peach and almond frangipane tart topped with candied almonds. It makes a delicious breakfast with a cup of tea! I am sad to see it go. 


The peaches are out the door to make room for our new fall desserts! We have always offered bomboloni but with a dipping sauce. We are now trying our hand at filling them to order. I am not particularly sure what filling flavors we have settled on- I assume a vanilla, chocolate, and a jelly. You get 3 bomboloni per order. 


This is a sample of some of our new fall desserts- a pecan tart, a pear tart, and 2 types of frittata. We are expanding our breakfast items to pair with our new fall hours- opening at 9am! Come in a get a frittata and a cup o' joe at 9am! (Starting Sept 10).


Fun latte art made by our awesome baristas!




Sunday, July 28, 2013

Piccione Pastry

Now on to the good stuff! I got a new job! I work at a new-ish (as of April) Italian pastry shop called Piccione Pastry located in the Delmar Loop. I started the first week of June and I have learned so much. I love my new title- Pastry Artist- it combines both of my degrees and my passions. The pastry artist is responsible for making sure the case is always up to par and stocked appropriately and that everything is made up to standard. In the morning the pastry artist fills the case, makes cream puffs, tarts, fills cannolis, cuts cakes, etc. Throughout the day we bake off cookies, make cakes, etc to make sure we have backups of everything for the week. I am responsible for doing all of the above, but I am trying to learn how to make everything properly including all of the doughs, sauces, yeasted doughs, rolling and frying cannolis. I am really enjoying my job because there is always something new to learn and most everybody is eager and willing to teach. Also that we change the menu to offer seasonal items- starting in August we will be featuring select peach treats!



In St Louis we have a magazine (St Louis Magazine) that, every year selects restaurants, cafes, bars, people, shops to be on their "A-List". This year we received the award for "Best Pastries" and were invited to set up a booth at their annual A-List Party. I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend with Mary (barista- making the funny face), Laura (my boss),  and Martin (head Chef). This is our table where we featured select cookies and our famous Ricotta Pound Cake


Apricot and Raspberry Spritz cookies 


Another thing I am loving about this place is that they encourage us to come up with new ideas for the shop. Recently in June we had a cannoli contest, which I dubbed the Iron Cannoli. The contest was to come up with a flavor that will be our new featured seasonal cannoli flavor. I'd only been there for about 2 weeks, and my flavor was chosen...at least for now. I made a birthday cake cannoli- it's our traditional cannoli with sprinkles. Sprinkles make everything better! Right now we are featuring another cannoli- the Campfire Smores cannoli, but my birthday cake cannoli is still in the case. We don't make occasion cakes, or sell whole cakes so this is a nice alternative. 


We make Bomboloni which are donuts that are served with a dipping sauce (chocolate, raspberry, lemon). These are them frying. We toss the in cinnamon and sugar. 


Just filling some cannolis in the morning. We offer 10 flavors. In the picture from top to bottom we have pistachio, traditional, chocolate chip, and raspberry chocolate chip (not offered).


Some cannoli shells frying


Coconut macaroons. We drizzle them in chocolate. Whenever I do it, it always ends up looking like abstract art.


In July we started serving gelato. This has vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate! 


As a gluten free option we have a gluten free cannoli shell. I had never seen anyone order this so I had to get a picture of it! On one side is pistachio and on the other is chocolate chip. Best of both worlds. 


For a short period of time we offered "Lobster Tails" which were "cones" made from our Sfogliatella dough and then filled with cream. 


This is the lobster tail shell. This one in particular was not useable but looked like a slinky.


The mocha cassata cake. This is my favorite cassata cake. A cassata cake is sponge cake soaked in a run simple syrup. This one has vanilla and chocolate sponge cake with mocha cream icing, and covered in ganache. 


Now we're talking- save the best for last. This is my all time favorite item we offer. It is our tricolor italian cookie. It's a dense almond cake in layers (sandwiched with a thin layer of apricot jam) and dipped in chocolate.