Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Website!

Please visit my new website at for portfolio updates and blog posts!

See you over at the new site!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

CAD on a Rainy Day

It's raining cats and dogs outside today, so I made some delicious French toast with lemon curd, and then sat down to model one of the peelers I sketched in November. 
[ Modeled in Solidworks | Rendered in Luxion Keyshot Pro 5 ]

Thanks for reading,
A :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano

Welp. The holidays have come and gone, and then some. I got to go home for a ridiculously short vacation for Christmas, where I got an awesome present: a vintage-design Imperia pasta machine!
The downside: that baby weighs about twenty pounds and couldn't make the trip in my suitcase to Cayman after Christmas, so it's hanging out in Alabama for a little while.
The solution: frantically purchase ingredients and force feed your family copious amounts of pasta on your last night in town.
The result: behold! My first fancy-edited GoPro video. As if I don't look nerdy enough standing on chairs to photograph almost everything I bake or consume, I jerry-rigged a camera to my head with a backwards headlamp. No one was at all surprised. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading, 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Updates & Sketches

First and foremost, my deepest apologies for having been absent for so long!  

The last 4 months involved visitors, a trip home, a little sickness (just some sniffles, really) and work, lots and lots of work. If you're ever rolling your eyes at retail stores displaying Christmas in October, know that somewhere in the depths of that store, there is a designer ever so slowly turning into the Grinch and turning gray far too early. We'll suffice it to say that planning a holiday floor set is no small task.

Today's project is not a sweet baking one or a photography one, but one that goes back to my roots in school.  I've been missing sketching and brainstorming lately, so here's a little peeler set I drew up after needing too many types of peelers for one recipe. 

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Little Figgy Pies and a Frootshoot

My best friend got married this past September, and had an awesome honeymoon in California. With all that CA has to offer, they basically got four vacations in one.  For a few days, they stayed at a little bed & breakfast where there were trees abundant with figs.  She raved about these figs; how they grew in this adorable, peaceful little garden, and you could just pick 'em and eat 'em right there, as many as you wanted! 

As I listened to her tales, I realized, "I've never had a fig," and then suddenly I had a mission.

I decided, then and there, that the next time I saw figs for sale I was buying those things, pronto, no questions asked. 

But fig season was over.  

For nine months, all I saw were weirdo dried figs and taunting Fig Newtons. But then! There was shipment to the sunny shores of Grand Cayman all the way from California, and with it came fresh figs! This called for a celebratory frootshoot of these strange, Humpty-Dumpty-meets-Cone-Head-shaped, beautiful things. 

I don't think that I've yet mentioned that I've made it my mission to read all of Beth Kirby's {local milk} blog from start to current (and also watch Breaking Bad, and eventually Friends).  Her blog and writing and photography have been fueling a lot of my inspiration/motivation.

My plan, if I ever crossed paths with some figs, was to make her Fig Balsamic & Rosemary Hand Pies. And so I did.

*Note: the only change that I made in Kirby's recipe was using Pepper Chevre Goat Cheese, instead of plain, to add a delicious little kick.
*Another note: I used the leftover juices from the filling as a salad dressing. It was definitely corn-starchy.  In hindsight, I should have added more balsamic and honey to mask that.

Fig Balsamic & Rosemary Hand Pies, copied almost verbatim from {local milk}

Yields about 18-22 4" hand pies

1 recipe of Buttery Pastry Shell from smittenkitchen (or the pie dough of your choosing)

For the Filling
2 cups of figs, cut into 1/2″ size pieces
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8th cup good balsamic vinegar
1/8th cup honey (raw sourwood)
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
pinch of kosher salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
goat cheese (optional)
1 egg, whisked
sugar for dusting (turbinado, sanding, or regular sugar work for this)

First prepare your dough which should then be divided in two, shaped into flat discs, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and chilled. Allow it at least one hour to chill in the fridge, or pop it in the freezer to speed up the process.

Mix figs, sugar, balsamic, honey, rosemary, and salt in a medium bowl and let macerate for about 15 minutes (it can sit longer, even over night, to no ill effect).

Heat oven to 425°F.

Carefully pour off about 2 Tbsp of the liquid from the figs and mix with the 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Stir this back into the figs to thicken.

Roll out half your dough to about 1/8th inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface. Rotate the dough and flour as needed to keep from sticking. Using the cutter of your choice (You can use 4″ and 2″ biscuit cutters to make tiny pies and tinier pies, but you could do shapes or whatever you like.), cut the dough out. If making double crust hand pies cut an even number, if making half moon hand pies then you needn’t worry about it. Lay cut-out dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the fridge to chill for about 5-10 minutes. Again, you can just put them in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Fill a small bowl with cold water and set to the side. Whisk your egg in the bowl to use as a wash. Remove dough and fill with a scant table spoon of filling for half moon pies and a heaping tablespoon of filling for double crust pies. If making 2 inch pies, use about a teaspoon of filling. If you wish, use a little less filling and top with a small dollop of goat cheese (or Pepper Chevre Goat Cheese!).

To seal the pies, dip your finger in the cool water and run your finger around the rim of pie. Either fold over or top with second crust and press carefully but firmly to seal all around. Seal with the tines of a fork if desired.

Once pies are filled place them back into the fridge or freezer to chill for 10 or 3 minutes respectively. Remove from fridge and cut vent holes in the tops of the pies. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Chill once more before baking.

When ready to bake place the pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet on the middle rack and bake for 5 minutes at 425° F. Reduce heat to 350° F, rotate pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pan every five minutes to promote uniform browning. Place pies on racks to cool.

Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to browse over at {local milk}!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pot-Luck Pop-Tarts

About a month ago, I had brunch (not alone, but with friends, gasp!) at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.  We sat in the restaurant for no less than six hours.  I felt quite European just wasting my day away with food and friends and Mimosas. (Appropriate.)  In our six hours of conversation, it came up that we should have a pot luck get-together. "We'll call it Ladies Who Lunch! nighttime..with miscellaneous foods!" It took place last night, and it was a splendid evening.

When we were divvying up who was bringing what, I was basically like "Dessert, ya'll.  I got this." I made 3 dishes: Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (recipe below), and Florentine&Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches (Well, that's a fib. I really just assembled these. I purchased the cookies in-store, and then melted chocolate and pressed them into sandwiches.)

I'd been wanting to try making pop-tarts for a while.  I had pinned at least 6 different recipes about 3 months ago, and just hadn't gotten around to following through with it.  The recipe that I based mine off of called for 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour.  However, I like pastry flour because I feel like I'm doing fancier things when I use it. (...a logical reason...right?) I went to the Google to find out if the chemistry wizards of baking would allow for such a thing.  I didn't quite get an answer, but I did gain some good ole' knowledge. I never knew why we had so many flour options. Sure, you want bread flour for bread, and pastry flour for pastries, but I now know that the reason behind it is that newly-popular buzzword gluten. Flours with low protein contents will generate less gluten and flours with high protein contents will create more.  The more gluten in a baked good, the more structure and density you'll have (bread), whereas a small amount of gluten will yield light and airy products (cake and pastries).  
Here is the approximate protein content of all the common types of flour:
Bread Flour: 14 - 16%
All-Purpose (AP) Flour: 10 - 12%
Pastry Flour: 9%
Cake Flour: 7-8%
I decided that it was safe to use equal parts pastry flour and all-purpose, because I prefer crumbly, airy crusts more than dense ones. PS - it was a good decision. I think that these can be voted my best tasting pastry to date.  Their look, however, was definitely more on the rustic side. 

By the way, before I get into the Pop-Tarts recipe, if you'd like the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Recipe, it can be found from The Butter Queen herself, Mrs. Paula Deen. 

Pop-Tarts, adapted from The Candid Appetite
Yield: 9 toaster pastries, or 18 miniature pastries

For the Pastry
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups Pastry Flour
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) Unsalted Butter, cold, cubed
4 Tbsp. Ice-Cold Water, plus more as needed

For the Filling
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
Egg Wash
1 large Egg
1 Tbsp. of water 

For the Glaze
3/4 cup Powdered Sugar, sifted
4 tsp. Milk, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and salt; pulse a couple times to combine the ingredients. Throw in the cold, diced butter, and pulse 10 more times or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about the size of peas. (I don't have a food processor, so I did this with a hand mixer and large bowl; I had to occasionally help flatten the butter by squeezing cubes between my thumb and index finger. It was a messy task.)

With machine/mixer running, add ice water through the opening on top of the lid, in a slow, steady stream, one tablespoon at a time,  just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. It should form a ball and come away from the sides. It is very important not to over process the dough. A way to test the doug is by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still dry and doesn’t come together, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into disks and tightly wrap in plastic. Place the disks in the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (I did overnight.)

To assemble the toaster pastries, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to thaw for a bit. This will help you roll out the dough, and make it easier to work with. (Note: If you live in the Cayman Islands and keep your apartment at 80
°, turn your AC down a touch, or else your dough is going to become incredibly temperamental.) Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the sides of the dough so that it measures 9×12 inches in size. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cut each piece of dough into thirds and then each third into thirds again. You should end up with 9 rectangular pieces, each measuring 3×4 inches. Using a ruler will make this process easier.
Preheat oven to 350

Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough pieces. This will be the “bottom” of the tart; the egg will help glue the lid on. As I was going to an event with more than 9 people, I needed more than 9 tarts.  Instead of the traditional top-and-bottom assembly, I actually folded each 3"x4" rectangle in half to make smaller tarts. The result is more bite-sized, but just as delicious! Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, making sure to leave about 1/4 inch of space on the edge. Brush the second dough pieces with egg wash as well, and place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Crimp the edges with a fork all around the edge of each rectangle. This will ensure the tarts do not open up during baking.  
As I was going to an event with more than 9 people, I needed more than 9 tarts.  Instead of the traditional top-and-bottom assembly, I actually folded each 3"x4" rectangle in half to make twice as many smaller tarts. The result is more bite-sized, but just as delicious! If doing smaller tarts, place a heaping teaspoon of filling more toward one half of the rectangle. Fold in half, and then proceed with pressing the edges firmly and crimping with fork. (I crimped the folded edge as well for continuity's sake.)

Gently place the tarts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart five times with a skewer or tooth pick; this will allow the steam to escape, so that the tarts will become light and airy instead of flat pop-tarts. Brush the tops with extra egg wash. Refrigerate the tarts, uncovered, for about 30 minutes (or pop in the freezer for 10ish). This will allow the butter in the dough to chill and firm up causing a flakier crust.

Remove tarts from the fridge and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until they’re golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Let the tarts cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until it reaches a spreading consistency; it should be thick but not too thick. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to glaze each tart. Allow the glaze to harden before eating. Store them in an airtight container. To reheat, place in a 350° oven and heat for 10 minutes. Or you can pop them in a toaster to warm them for a few seconds. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fruit Galettes

I do this funny thing when I shop.  If I see something I like, I don’t buy it.  I take a picture of it on my phone, and then I consider buying it for about 3 months.  (This is not the case with food.  If I see a food I like, it’s in the cart, through the check-out lane, and eaten on the drive home.)  If I still want it after 3 months, I go back and buy it. As cost-savvy as that may seem, I actually don’t advise that shopping method.  Seasons change, and things in retail disappear to mysterious outlets forever and ever. 

One instance of a successful 3-month postponed purchase is my Tartine cookbook, the aforementioned cookbook that I've been reading on the beach.  I bought it about a year ago when I was living in Atlanta, and proceeded to bake my first pastry, ever.  I adventurously chose Fruit Galettes. It took me almost 7 hours. My BFF roommate woke up to a note I’d deliriously written at 3 AM making some terrible Harry Potter joke about house elves. That was a little over a year ago.

I decided to give them another go.  We received a shipment of blue velvet apricots at work – designing for a grocery store has its perks. The general consensus was “Blue Velvet Apricot? AKA, a plum?” Yeah, sort of.  It looks like a plum, but it tastes almost like a salty apricot.  I’m not a fan of apricots because they aren’t very sweet, but the fact that these are slightly salty brings out the subtle sweetness and it is just delectable.  (slightly salty subtle sweetness, say that five times fast.)

The Tartine recipe yields a dozen single galettes, or 2 pie-sized galettes OR 1 pie-sized and 6 single. I chose the 6-to-1 combo.  I paired the blue velvet apricots with blueberries for the singles.  I was really bummed that I ran out of apricots for the last 2, and had only blueberries to fill them with, but this turned out not to be a terrible thing. The larger galette waited patiently in the freezer for the maximum of 3 weeks to be a delicious cinnamon apple galette with hazelnut crumble for July 4th when my favorites came to visit the islands :) Note: It didn't get photographed. 

As I said, the blueberry-and-more-blueberry galettes were a supposed let-down. Because of their boringess, I decided to jazz them up with a lemon vanilla cream on top and, oh my holy crap, it was lick-the-plate-clean good. In the end, I was sad to have only two.

Fruit Galettes by Elisabeth M. Prueitt &Chad Robertson in Tartine
For the dough
2 cups Unsalted butter, cubed, very cold
1 cup Water, very cold
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
2 1/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 2/3 cups Pastry Flour

About 6 cups of Fruit, cut-up depending on fruit/size, sauteed if needed
Granulated or brown sugar sprinkled to taste
Lemon juice if desired to add 

Egg Wash
2 Large Eggs Yolks
2 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
Granulated Sugar sprinkled

To make the dough, cut the butter into 1 inch cubes, and place them in the freezer. Measure the water, dissolve some salt into it, and put it in the freezer as well. Chill for about 10 minutes.
Measure all of the flour onto your work surface.  It is not necessary to mix your flours at this point, as they will become well mixed as the dough is being made.  Spread the flour out into a rectangle about 1/3” deep. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour, toss a little bit of the flour over the butter so that your rolling pin won’t stick, and then begin rolling.  When the butter begins to flatten into long, thin pieces, use a bench scraper to scoop up and fold the sides of the rectangle so that it is again the size that you started with. Repeat this rolling-scraping 3 or 4 times.
Make a well in the center of your dough.  Pour the water into the well and begin to cut it into the dough using the bench scraper – folding the sides into the center and “cutting” the water into the dough. Keep scraping and cutting until the dough is shaggy mass.  Shape the dough then into a rectangle about 10” x 14”. Lightly dust the top with flour, roll out the rectangle until it 50% bigger. Fold to reshape to original size, roll out to 50% larger and fold back to size again.  Do this 3-4 times until you have a smooth and cohesive dough.  You should have a neat rectangle measuring about 10”x14”.
Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap, and chill well for about an hour.

While the dough is chilling, prepare your fruit. Hull berries, pit peaches and cut, pit apricots and half or quarter, sauté apples or pears, etc.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Divide into 2 equal portions if making pie-sized galettes, or 12 equal portions if making individual galettes. To roll a circle from what is roughly a square, start with the dough positioned as a diamond in front of you, with the handles of the pin at two points of the square. Roll from the center towards each end, flattening the center, but not the two points that are nearest and farthest from you – leave those two points thick. Rotate and repeat with the thick points. You should have a square that has little humps in between the pointy corners.  Roll out the thicker areas, and you will begin to see a circle forming.  Keep rolling until the dough is a little more than 1/8” thick for large galettes (14” diameter), or a little thinner for individual galettes (6”-7” diameter). To transfer the large galettes to a baking sheet, fold into quarters to ensure that it will not break. Transfer individual circles carefully. Chill until firm, 10 minutes.

Fill the centers of the circles with fruit leaving a 2” diameter on large galettes, or a 1” diameter on individual galettes.  Taste the fruit for sweetness to determine how much sugar you should use to sweeten it. Sprinkle sugar, typically 2-4 tbsp. for large or 1-2 tsp. for small. You may also want to add a squeeze of lemon juice to some fruits if you feel it necessary for taste (blueberries, blackberries, apples, pears). Fold in the sides of the circles to partially cover the fruit, being sure not to leave any valleys for fruit juice to leak out. Chill until firm, 10 minutes.

While chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and make the egg wash. To make the egg wash, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Brush the egg wash over the pastry edges, and sprinkle them with granulated sugar.

You can bake the galettes immediately, hold them unwrapped for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, or you can skip the egg wash/sugar, wrap the galettes air-tight, and freeze them for up to 3 weeks. When ready to bake if previously frozen, remove from freezer, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake immediately.

Bake the galettes until the crust has visibly puffed and baked to a dark brown, and the juice from the fruit is bubbling inside. 45-60 minutes for large galettes, and 40-50 minutes for small galettes. Rotate the baking sheets 180 degrees and switch the baking sheets between racks at the midway point to ensure even browning. If you are baking them straight from the freezer, add 10 minutes to your baking time. If the pastry is browning too quickly, reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees, or place foil over the tops of the galettes. Remove from the oven and serve hot, warm, or room temp.

Thanks for reading, now go bake some galettes!