The strange times we face have shown us at OnBlend that while we may be confined, we are not idle. Novice bakers, wanna-be mixologists and home cooks around the world are taking this time to develop their hobbies into skills. Our community has asked us: what are masters doing at this time to hone their crafts, from home? What advice would they offer the home cook, baker, or mixologist, who wants to explore new home recipes?
We reached out to our network of Chefs and Mixologists with the goal of diving into the at-home mindset of these culinary professionals. Watch # AtHomeWithTEALEAVES to discover delicious home recipes guided by masters of their craft. Read on to discover even more insights.
Culinary: Elevate Your Ingredients
Chef Kenta Takahashi, Executive Pastry Chef at the Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, wants to inspire you to use everyday ingredients in an elevated way. He teaches viewers that comfort food favorites can be elevated into masterful and delightful sweet treats. Chef Takahashi’s favorite pantry staple is sugar. With sugar as his star ingredient, he creates a sweet and delicious french toast.
Chef Steve Benjamin, Executive Chef at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, similarly enlightens us with ingredient tips for cooking at home. Chef Steve’s key pantry ingredient is rice. Rice can be cooked in large quantities and saved in the fridge to reuse in different home recipes. A versatile ingredient, there are many use-cases for rice, and enhances the scope of a wide range of recipes.
How does Chef Benjamin elevate this everyday ingredient to a 5 star level?
Whatever you have as fresh ingredients…Just add more colors and make it more fancy.
– Chef Benjamin
The finishing touch to this elevated creation is lemongrass. “I really love lemongrass, because it can stay for a very long time in your fridge.” With its long shelf life, lemongrass makes an excellent decoration to complete the experience.
Encouraging creativity with local ingredients, Chef Benjamin’s suggested at-home grocery list includes eggs, olive oil and fresh produce.
As soon as [these ingredients] are in my fridge, I try to combine everything and challenge myself to create something nice.
– Chef Benjamin
Chef Benjamin tells us, “all the foods we are using right now, and especially during this pandemic, are local foods.”
Mixology: Enliven Home Happy Hour
To get inspired with at-home cocktails, we turn to expert mixologists Craig Schoettler, Executive Director of Beverage and Corporate Mixologist for MGM Resorts International, and Grant Sceney, Creative Beverage Director at Fairmont Pacific Rim. They offer a wide scope of lessons.
Get Fancy with Candy
Schoettler urges us to look at ingredients in a new light, with the incorporation of the not-so-common cocktail ingredient, cotton-candy. By incorporating cotton candy, a classic cocktail is enlivened and creates an impressive tableside illusion.
As cotton candy is made from sugar, Shoettler suggests using about 25% of the typical amount of sugar for the cocktail. “A great little magic trick for your guests or friends”, the cotton candy disappears when the cocktail is poured.
Ice as a Device
Sceney’s lesson for the at home mixologist without easy access to exciting ingredients is to focus on basics and “think about your drink”.
One thing that is overlooked quite often is the ice you’re using to chill your drinks.
Teaching the logic behind selecting the perfect cocktail ice, he describes to viewers how to elevate at-home drinks.
Be very weary of the kind of ice you’re using. The last thing you want is a watered-down, over diluted drink.
So what type of ice is best? This depends on the style of drink you’re trying to achieve.
Pastry: Bake to Impress
Focus on Details
During his time at Railtown Cafe, Executive Pastry Chef Alex Abley perfected the ultimate scone dough. The perfect complement to an at-home afternoon tea, scone dough preparation is made easy through Chef Albey’s simple steps. Chef Abley’s method uses basic ingredients in a specific way. His methodology includes focusing on a crucial detail: the temperature of his ingredients. For example, cold temperatured ingredients inhibit gluten development and ensure a flaky, moist and deliciously crumbly texture.
After mixing the dough, Chef Abley patiently finishes the dough by hand to avoid overworking the dough.
You have to be careful not to overwork your dough. You don’t want the mixer to go too fast. Let it take its time.
– Chef Abley
Chef Danielle Marelli, Pastry Chef at the Langham Chicago, encourages viewers to experiment with classic ingredients, using pantry staples as vessels for creativity.
Chef Marelli demonstrates using pantry essentials to make pâte à choux – a staple of the French pastry kitchen. She exemplifies how this French staple can be adjusted for a myriad of recipes to make irresistible treats at home such as éclairs, cream puffs, churros and more.
When I first learned how to make pâte à choux in pastry school, I thought it was so complicated, but it’s not – It’s super easy.
Chef Marelli creates this delicious dessert using common household ingredients: milk, water, sugar, butter, flower and eggs. A light and versatile pastry dough, pâte à choux can also be further elevated using tea, by combining sugar and tea in a food processor, creating a tea-flavoured sugar.
I think tea is an underutilized ingredient that everybody has in their house. I like to steep tea in my cream and infuse it. Right now is a really great time to experiment, especially if you’re an avid home baker.”
“Now you have a really fancy dessert for your family tonight, using the most common ingredients sitting in your pantry, and you probably didn’t even know it.” – Chef Marelli
See below for Chef Marelli’s complete pâte à choux recipe.
Cooking in Quarantine
Turning to those in our networks and communities is crucial during this time. By cooking a meal, crafting a cocktail or baking a dessert, one can infuse playfulness into home cooking. Creative innovation in the kitchen can serve as a mechanism of escape from the daily obstacles we are facing during these challenging times. For this reason, the art of culinary truly is one of life’s simple pleasures.