For Fairfielder Hannah Kaminsky, the world truly is her oyster. That's because the 23-year-old blogger was the recent winner of a competition held by the Bravo cable television network, and was awarded a prize of $3,000 to spend on a vacation anywhere in the world. That sure beats the heck out of most, "What I did on my summer vacation" stories.
Kaminsky was one of five food bloggers invited to participate in a cooking competition that ran in conjunction with the Bravo program, "Around the World in 80 Plates." On the show, 12 chefs traveled across the globe, creating recipes based on each city's customs, cultures and cuisines. Meanwhile, the five bloggers were asked to create a recipe based on each location. Kaminsky was discovered by the network because of her blog, "Bittersweet" (www.bittersweetblog.wordpress.com).
"Originally, my blog was a craft blog," said Kaminsky. "But I would experiment with recipes and write my own. About two years into it, there was easily more craft than food on my blog pages," she said. "Eventually it became its own entity." Chock full of recipes and food reviews, it would be remiss not to mention the lush, mouth-watering photography.
Kaminsky has been a vegan for about nine years. She officially made the decision to swear off animal products when she was a freshman in high school. "I definitely have a sweet tooth," she said. So it seemed only natural that she create all desserts for the blogging competition. "All the other bloggers were doing savory dishes," she said. "Making desserts gave me an advantage because I'm passionate about it."
The first location in the contest was London, England, and Kaminsky decided to combine two traditional English desserts: banoffee pie and sticky toffee pudding. The result was "Banoffee Sticky Pudding," which she described as "ultra-moist banana pudding drenched in lightly boozy toffee sauce, and topped with brûleed banana slices. Lightened with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over the still-warm pudding, [and] a final crown of a crispy, dehydrated banana."
Things only got more decadent from then on, when she paid homage to France with Speculoos Plaisr Sucre, Morocco with Rose Water Panna Cotta and Thailand with Mango Sticky Rice Parfaits. There were nine locations in all that Kaminsky had to create recipes for.
"We were given the basic scope of possible locations from the beginning, but we weren't told which place would be the next stop until a week beforehand," she said. It certainly kept me on my toes, but allowed enough time to start brainstorming for other dishes in between." Kaminsky said the deadlines made her anxious, but also gave her the opportunity to push herself.
Although she's only 23, Kaminsky is already a published cookbook writer. Her first book, "My Sweet Vegan" (Fleming Ink, 2007) was produced when she was 18 years old. Since then, she's authored "Vegan a la Mode" and "Vegan Desserts," and is currently working on a book about pies. When she's not busy creating recipes, Kaminsky is pursuing her bachelor of fine arts in photography, which is her true passion. "Photography has really become the main point of my recipes," she said. "I'm very visually driven. I like to imagine how something will look and then I think, `How can I make it happen?'"
In the meantime, however, she has a tough decision ahead: Where will she travel to with the prize money?
"I'm still trying to figure it out," she said, "but now all signs are pointing strongly to Thailand. I'm just dying to do something truly different and make some new stories."
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at eatdrinkshopcook@gmail.
Following are two dessert recipes by Hannah Kaminsky for the cooking contest staged in conjunction with the Bravo television program, "Around the World in 80 Plates:"
SPECULOOS PLAISR SUCRE
10 Ounces Dark Chocolate, Finely Chopped, Melted, and Tempered
12 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Finely Chopped
3/4-Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4-Cup Speculoos Spread
1 Cup Water
1/2-Cup Confectioner's sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Cup Roughly Crushed Speculoos Cookies
1 1/3 Cups Speculoos Spread
6 Ounces (1 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Melted
1/4-Cup Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
2 Cups Crispy Rice Cereal
Starting with the chocolate sheets, use an offset spatula to spread tempered chocolate onto plain acetate sheets, or chocolate transfer sheets, large enough to cover a baking sheet. Mine had been rolled up for quite some time, so in order to get it flat, I had to tape down the corners with masking tape; you may choose to do the same, just to prevent it from sliding around. Spread the chocolate very thinly and as evenly as possible. Allow them to set, undisturbed, until completely solidified. If your kitchen is particularly warm, you can place the whole sheet in the refrigerator to help them firm up. Once solid, warm a sharp knife to allow for smoother cuts, and slice the sheet into 2-by-4-inch rectangles. Set aside.
Next up, prepare the ganache. Simple place the chocolate and "milk" in a microwave-safe dish, and heat on full power for 60 seconds. Let sit for 60 seconds more, and then stir thoroughly, until completely smooth. If there are still a few stubborn pieces of chocolate that haven't fully melted, heat again at intervals of 20 seconds, stirring well after each heating, until smooth. Let cool until firm enough to pipe. You may wish to hasten the process by chilling the mixture in your fridge, but don't just leave it there, because it will set to hard if allowed to reach such a cold temperature. Set aside.
Moving on to the dacquoise, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan.
Place the speculoos spread, water, sugar and vanilla in a blender, and process to emulsify. Scrape down the sides of the container if any of the spread is sticking, and blend once more, until the liquid mixture is entirely homogeneous.
Separately, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in a large bowl. Pour the liquid mix into the dry goods, and whisk just until the two are combined to create the batter. Transfer to your prepared jelly roll pan, and smooth it out into a thin but even layer. It may not seem like enough cake to cover all that space, but just keep spreading and you'll get there! Sprinkle the crushed speculoos cookies equally over the entire surface.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out cleanly. Let cool completely before proceeding.
For the praline, simply mix together all of the ingredients until well incorporated, and quickly spread it on top of the cooled sheet of cake. This mixture is extremely thick and sticky, so I would highly recommend lightly greasing your offset spatula before going at it. It only gets thicker as it cools, too, so don't waste any time or let it sit there unattended. Spread it out as evenly as possible, to ensure that the rest of your layers follow suit.
Last, prepare the chocolate chantilly according to the recipe linked, and take a moment to thank Herve This for his brilliance.
Okay, now we're finally ready for assembly! Slice the praline-topped cake into rectangles measuring 2 by 4 inches. Load the ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip, and pipe ganache in a zigzagging pattern across the top of each piece. Place a sheet of chocolate on top, and pipe another zigzag of ganache over that. Add another sheet of chocolate, and now grab your chocolate chantilly. Place that into a second piping bag, this one fitted with a large round tip, and pipe two straight lines lengthwise down each piece. At long last, finish it all off with a third sheet of chocolate. You're done! Now, savor every single bite; this isn't an ordinary, everyday sort of treat!
Makes approximately 18 to 24 servings (depending on how many scraps you eat during the process).
ROSE WATER PANNA COTTA
2 Teaspoons Agar Agar Powder
2/3-Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
6 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
2/3-Cup Vegan "Sour Creme"
2 6-Ounce Containers Greek Coconut Yogurt
2 Teaspoons Rose Water
1/2-Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Cold Water
3 Bags Hibiscus Tea
1/2-Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
2 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Water
2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
1/8-Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Sliced, Toasted Almonds
Fresh Mint Leaves
Lightly grease six 3 1/2-inch fluted mini tart or brioche molds and place them on a sheet pan for easier maneuvering. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the agar, "milk" and sugar until no lumps remain. Set the pan over medium-low heat, and gently whisk until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Take the pan off the stove to stir in both the "sour creme" and coconut yogurt, mixing until smooth, and then return it to the heat very briefly. Cook the mixture just until bubbles begin to slowly break on the surface, whisking the whole time. Add in the rose water and vanilla, whisk to incorporate, and quickly transfer the contents of the saucepan to your prepared molds. Gently tap each one on the counter to knock out any air bubbles before smoothing out the tops with a spatula. Let cool completely at room temperature before thoroughly chilling.
For the hibiscus sauce, plunk the tea bags into the water in a small saucepan. Place it on the stove over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and cover, allowing the tea to steep for 20-30 minutes. Once deeply rose red in color, remove the tea bags and allow the excess liquid to drip out, but do not squeeze them since this will cloud the mixture. Separately, stir together the sugar, orange zest and cornstarch until thoroughly combined, and add these dry goods into the saucepan. Return to the heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid bubbling and fully thickened. Let cool before chilling in the fridge.
To make the almond brittle, begin by combining the sugar, water, corn syrup, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Resist the urge to stir, and gently swirl the pan to mix the contents instead. Bring the mixture up to a boil, and continue to cool until the sugar caramelizes and turns a pale amber color. Meanwhile, set out a silpat or piece of parchment paper nearby where the brittle can come to rest. Once the sugar syrup has reached the right shade of golden brown, quickly stir in the sliced almonds to coat them evenly in the mixture, and waste no time in pouring everything onto your prepared silpat or parchment. Smooth out the brittle into as thin a layer as possible. Let cool completely before breaking it into pieces.
To serve, spoon about 1/4- to 1/3-cup of the hibiscus sauce onto the plate, and turn out one panna cotta on top. Wedge a piece of the almond brittle into the crest of the panna cotta, fan out three citrus surpremes alongside, and sprinkle pomegranate arils on top. Finish it all off with a few mint leaves to garnish. Repeat for the remaining plates.
Makes six servings.