Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best Ever Make-Ahead Potato Gratin Casserole

 Hello my darlings! It has been a crazy couple of weeks as we're busting out all the stops getting things together for the Bistro. Here's where we are so far on the interior. The rest of the equipment is coming really quickly!  The floors, walls and electrical are all in place. There's been a slight delay on the opening date so keep checking should be in the next couple weeks. 

When I haven't been in the kitchen working on perfecting the new menu with Chef Benjamin at Stonebridge Manor we've been catering some remarkable and beautiful weddings. Thing have been so wicked-fun! Benjamin is super easy to work with, quick to smile, and totally professional. Seriously. What's not to love? Look at him. He's just a freakin' fun dude! Yup. I've finally found my match in crazy-weirdness in the kitchen. Big things ahead with this guy!
 At any rate, one of my favorite things to do for large-scale events is get a lot of preparation done the day before the function, and though this isn't the exact recipe we use at the Manor, this is one of my all time favorite potato gratin casserole recipes because of the fact that I can make it ahead of an event and still have time the "day of" to do the fun this...

So, here's the simple recipe for the potatoes. They're perfectly cheesy and loaded with awesome flavor. 

Chef Tess Make-Ahead Potato Gratin
12 servings

5 ½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8th inch thick (about 10 potatoes)
2 cups sour cream
2 cup whole milk
2T salt
¼ cup flour

¼ cup butter or olive oil
2 medium onion, minced
3T garlic, minced
2tsp Thyme, fresh (or1 tsp dry)
2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
2tsp white pepper

1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese or Asiago, shredded

Make the gratins: combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Making sure to Prep and assemble the sour cream, milk, salt and flour in a bowl before slicing potatoes (so they don't brown). Do not store sliced potatoes in water or the gratin will be watery and flavorless.

 Saute the minced onion and garlic in butter until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, fennel seeds and pepper. Add the sauted onion mixture into the potato mixture. Turn bowl of potatoes into a 9 by 16 inch GREASED baking dish, pressing the potatoes into a flat even layer.

 Top with cheese. 
  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees 1 hr 45 minutes. Transfer the gratins from oven to a cooling rack. Cool uncovered 45 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated up to 3 days.
 For service: Remove from the fridge and allow to warm to room temp (about 45 minutes) remove the plastic wrap. Bake at 450 degrees uncovered for 25-30 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

There you go my darlings! Make some great potatoes!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Latest Wedding Cake...Country Natural Fall Cake

 My friend Nikki is getting married today and she asked me to bake her cake. It is a country wedding, very casual, but still classy enough to need something special.

I had to share the pictures.
 What do you think of this trend in cakes?

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, October 6, 2014

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Cake Fondant

Recently I taught a class on how to make rolled fondant for cakes and I wanted to share the recipes here on the blog for those who were unable to attend the class. It is really not very difficult to make and tastes a ton better than the stuff in a box, plus it costs a heck-of-a-lot less! We made two varieties, one traditional and one using marshmallows. Both were delicious! My favorite for ease and flavor was by and far the one based on marshmallows. I think a lot of people will be surprised to see how inexpensive it is to make. For around $1 a lb to make compared to up to $10 a pound pre-made and packaged. That adds up quickly when you're frosting a large cake!

My  4 Ingredient Easy Homemade Rolled Fondant 
Adapted from the Cake Boss (here)
  • 16 oz marshmallows, mini
  • 2lb powdered sugar
  • 1Tbsp corn syrup
  • 2 tsp natural flavored oil or flavor extract (here)
Directions: Grease a large wooden spoon or silicon spatula with oil.  Transfer to a plastic bag and cover tightly until ready to use, allowing to rest at least 5 hours.

Melt marshmallow in microwave for about 2 minutes in a large glass bowl. Yes.  I used a microwave. It is just fast and easy. If you want to melt it on the stove, you can do that as well, but it will take about 5 minutes and you'll need to stir it constantly. 
 Add the corn syrup and flavor along with a gradual addition of the sugar, stirring until the sugar is assimilated.
 When dough becomes too stiff to knead by spoon, transfer to a well oiled counter top and knead 5 minutes until smooth. I had to add a little more oil to the surface about half way through kneading.  Some folks have been saying that this can be done by machine, but I've not found a machine strong enough to handle it for home use. The larger commercial bakery mixer will work if you have access to them. 


 Lightly oil the outside surface of the fondant so it doesn't stick.  Transfer to a plastic bag and cover tightly until ready to use, allowing to rest at least 5 hours.

 To cover a cake with fondant: Dust a clean pastry cloth, or a smooth, clean surface, with cornstarch and roll the fondant with a rolling pin until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Make sure that the fondant is large enough to fit over the top and sides of the cake. Slide both hands under the fondant and carefully center it on top of a cake that has been freshly iced with butter-cream. (The icing makes the fondant adhere to the cake.) Dust your hands with cornstarch and smooth the fondant, starting at the top and working down the sides until the entire surface is even and flat. Cut off the excess icing around the bottom of the cake with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Decorate the cake with butter-cream or royal icing. This fondant keeps a cake fresh for two days at room temperature. Do not refrigerate a cake with fondant icing. 

Want to see how to make these fabulous roses? 

The next recipe is the more traditional fondant. It has some specialty ingredients like the vegetable glycerin that I had to find at a cake decorating store. You may be able to find it online also. 

Traditional Homemade Rolled Fondant
Adapted from Colette Peters, Cooking Live here
Yield:icing for 2 9-inch cake, 4 inch tall

  • 4 pounds confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup glucose (found in cake decorating stores) or white corn syrup
  • 3 Tbsptablespoons glycerin (found in cake decorating stores)
  • 1 teaspoon oil based desired flavoring 
  • food coloring (if desired)
  • Cornstarch
Directions: In a large bowl (do not use metal), sift the sugar and make a well in the center. In a small saucepan, add the water and sprinkle the gelatin on top to soften for about 5 minutes. Begin to heat the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is dissolved and clear. Do not boil. Turn off the heat and add the glucose and glycerine, stirring until well blended. Add the flavoring. Pour into the well of sugar, and mix until all of the sugar is blended. Use hands to knead icing until it becomes stiff. Add small amounts of confectioner's sugar if the mixture is sticky. Form the mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in an airtight container. This icing works best if allowed to rest at room temperature for about eight hours before using, particularly if the weather is humid. Do not refrigerate. 

There you go! Homemade awesome fondant! cake decorating

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First Glimpses of the Bistro, the Chefs and the progress!

Those who have been following the recent changes in the Chef Tess adventure were probably just as surprised and excited as we were to hear that we'd be starting a little Bistro here in Mesa, Arizona as part of the amazing venue at Stonebridge Manor . Someone was asking me, "Why is it called  Stonebridge Manor?"...Yes. There is a  stone bridge.  The bridge was added by the visionary owner of the manor, Michael Mills when he purchased the property in 1998. It had previously been a private mansion (details here).  

Michael upgraded the facility dramatically by adding impeccably manicured grounds, an elegant ballroom, a spacious outdoor pavilion and  a state of the art new catering kitchen.   Over 2600 weddings and special events later, his attention to detail, leadership, and the reputation of his staff are undeniable.  This guy is seriously awesome! 
When  Michael Mills asked me if I would be interested in heading up the Bistro part of the food and beverage division of the manor, Palm Street Culinary, my heart almost skipped a beat.  How long have I been talking about running a cafe or bistro?  The reality set in this week as I got to nail down a few details on the menu and take some photos of the location's progress.  "The Bistro" will be located on the East side of the manor.  By the way, we haven't set the name of the cafe/bistro yet so I'm referring to it as the "Bistro" until we get a real name set. Michael Mills has created an unparalleled level of quality in his previous ventures and this will, undoubted be another wonderful success. I'm honored by the trust he is putting in me.  This bistro isn't a wedding venue. It is an on-location foodie destination. It will tantalize and surprise! The best part is, that it will be where you can find me every day of the week.

There is a beautiful Victorian fence surrounding the courtyard dining area and when you arrive, this is what you will see... 
(minus the picture of me dancing the jig and cheering to see you!)
 Feel free to walk through the gate and say hello. Smooches. Hugs. Cheering! Pastries handing from my ears if you're lucky...

There will be outside seating to enjoy the Arizona sunshine, as well as a full take-out menu.
I can't wait to share with you what we'll be serving, but it is still a surprise!   The prices will be more than reasonable and it will be open for lunch initially and then we'll be adding breakfast (and hopefully dinner) down the line. The faster the place takes off, the better chance of adding the additional dining times. So, please help spread the word. It means a lot to us.

Doesn't it just make you happy looking at it?!

 My favorite corner to sit in on the patio has trees covering the bistro tables and is an ideal place to just relax for hours. 

Right now, as you walk through the french doors into the actual shop, this is what you'll see...

It appears that the Bistro is indeed an analogy for my life and though things are calm, stunningly awesome and cool on the outside, there is a lot of work on the inside that needs to be done.  Thank goodness there are a lot of people who are willing to help make this dream a reality and I've been blessed to work with two outstanding chef's on this project.  

Chef Mika D.Chevalier is the head chef/food and beverage director for Stonebridge manor and Palm Street Culinary.  I have already learned that he is one of the most high-energy, fun, detail-oriented French guys I know. Actually, I don't know many French guys, but Mika keeps things interesting.  He is very quick to laugh and I imagine that there will never be a dull moment working with this guy. So far, he's lived up to my expectations.  Mika has full run of the place, and I'm thankful for his many years of experience in management and as a chef.   He is known for his meticulous attention to sanitation in the kitchen. Thank goodness! We'll get along!

Chef Benjamin Romine  is the man!  Currently, during the days,  I'm working along side this remarkably cool guy, on the wedding catering for the manor. He has many years of restaurant experience and I'm so thankful for him. Admittedly it has been a few years since I worked in a kitchen full time in this capacity. He's been very patient with me. Thanks Ben!   Ben will be helping develop the menu and kicking my butt in the kitchen with his wicked martial arts skills. So far he's been an absolute doll. He's in charge of catering. I'm in charge of the Bistro. We'll work together like peas and carrots. So far so good. 

Truth be known,  I feel like I've found my new home. We're already a crazy zany bunch! 3 chefs who love food, are passionate about ingredients and quality, and who are cheering each other on to success. It is refreshing teamwork and I'm thrilled to be part of it!  We anticipate that the grand opening will be the first week of October  or so! Hopefully everything comes together that quickly, but it may be a bit longer.

The Bistro (not the official name..again I'll keep you posted on what it will be called) 
will be located on the East side of  Stonebridge Manor:

4000 E Palm St,
Mesa AZ 85215
(480) 641-3131
View Map

 Join me on the Chef Tess Bakeresse Facebook Page as I post updates for the menu, the name of the "Bistro",  and all the inside progress! I'd love to see you soon! Seriously. Sooooo excited!!! Onward and Upward darlings! 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chocolate Waffles of Women's Divine Happiness

 I'm a waffle person. I really am. I shouldn't share this with you but I have got this waffle problem. Wait. She's just using the word "waffle" instead of "awful". What a dork.  I love evil chocolate waffles. They're delightfully divine and well...I shouldn't eat them endlessly. On the other hand...there are five fingers. Look. If chocolate sugar free 9 grain waffles are covered with a no-sugar added natural tart-sweet strawberry amaretto compote with toasted walnuts and fresh slices of banana, I'm really not being evil right? I'm sharing some bliss. Right?

I know what you're thinking,"Enough talk. Spill the beans sista'!" I hear ya. Don't get your girdle in a twist. I can only type so fast and then I need more chocolate to keep up my strength.We've discussed this phenomenon in depth among the ladies and here it is.

 The unmistakable woman chocolate truth:
  • Truth: Never underestimate the power of a woman who needs to eat chocolate and still fit into her jeans. It's an evil vortex of genius.
  •  Truth: All  really bad  female headaches can only be cured by rubbing an intense dark sea salt soiree bar in the mouth and counting to 100.
  •  Truth: The secret cure  to female moodiness that has baffled husbands for years is to do a choc-incantation while holding a chocolate doughnut with each index finger for added balance. This incantation must be done while wearing chocolate ceremonial garb...
  •  Woman wearing ceremonial garb must also be  watching at least 2 hours of Pride and Prejudice...particular during a certain cycle of the moon that will only be discussed in secret woman circles (in hushed tones) for fear that men will actually understand us.
 **Men Please note: there are 3 days in the month that men must never question the seemingly evil chocolate force that overtakes a girl and can only be cured by creamy smooth dark squares of chocolate taken orally...and alone. Let her hide in a closet undisturbed during this phase and you will find peace in the land. Deny her chocolate during this phase...and sleep on the couch with a pillow over your...never mind. I've been told that during menopause this phase is extended from 3 days to 3 years. I'm getting a villa in France for that phase Here.

 To my husband Ace, I'm sorry. 3 years is a long time but I think it would be better if you didn't see me like that. Knowing Ace, he'll probably follow me anyway and just pat my shoulder and say (in a hushed tone), "poor, poor, thing." {By the way if you've never seen my favorite movie Harvey then that last "poor, poor, thing" won't mean a thing to you.}
 There is however, the very high chance that Ace will  throw  his hands in the air and say, "FINE!#$*%***# Have it your way Mrs. INSANE!!...France is really nice this time of year!"  

Here we go ladies. It is time to be sucked into the vortex of evil genius. I sense there is still some good in you. { Giggle. Giggle.}

Chef Tess' Chocolate Waffles of Woman's Divine Happiness

2 cups 9 Grain Baking Mix or My homemade bisquick
1/2 c baker's cocoa
1 tsp Sweet Leaf Stevia Drops stevia drops (I love the vanilla or hazelnut flavored ones)
1/3 cup Whole egg powder or 3/4 cup egg whites or 3 eggs
1/2 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
1 3/4 cup water (use only 1 1/4 cup water if you use real egg)

Directions: Combine all ingredients.

Vanilla creme stevia drops are perhaps my favorite.
 Bake in a well oiled waffle iron. Serve warm with any sugar-free fruit topping of your choice. I use mashed fresh strawberries, and some frozen raspberries topped with some toasted walnuts and banana. 

 Eat chocolate waffles on any day that you as a female crave chocolate. That would be, of course, any day that ends in the letter "y"...As in " y-not eat chocolate today"...and "y-question my authority as a woman?"Wait. She's just using the letter "Y" in place of the word "why". What a dork.

There you go. Make chocolate waffles. Fit in your jeans still. Your training is complete.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crispy Bacon Jalapeño Popper Stuffed French Toast with Blackberry Syrup

Big news everyone! After many months of soul searching, praying, working 3 jobs and almost going crazy... I've accepted a position to head-up a breakfast and lunch cafe here in Mesa, Arizona at the  beautiful wedding venue, Stonebridge Manor.  The name of the cafe is still to be announced.  It  is scheduled to launch the first week of October, but I will keep everyone posted on the Grand Opening!
Isn't it beautiful?!!!

I will still be doing my Friday night classes at Shar's and selling bakery items until things get too crazy. I'm scheduled for Friday nights until the end of the year.  Yes, with a real schedule I will also be able to teach private classes in the evenings, but they will probably be fewer and farther between.  

That being said, I'm going to be sharing a lot more breakfast and lunch ideas, along with everything else you've come to love and expect here on the blog.  I'll be working a lot less hours than I have been the last few months and I will finally be able to post a lot more awesomeness!  

That brings us to today's recipe.  Initially when I developed this recipe, it was for a contest to win a years supply of eggs from our local Hickman's Farm eggs.  I have teenage boys, so I thought it would be a good fit. I actually got really  busy with work and didn't ever send in the recipe but I decided that with the changes in my life and things happening so quickly around here to launch a cafe, that this would be a good recipe to add to the menu.  What do you think?  Mind you, I really won't give the full recipe for the menu here on the blog. I have to have some secrets. However...I think that sharing this will make a few of you hopefully think about coming down to see us! Seriously, until we get our permits, I can't share the menu at all! 

This is a savory stuffed French Toast sandwich. If you can, use bread made from our simple recipe for  No Knead 4 Ingredient Overnight Bread Anyone Can Make.  Between two slices of thin French bread there is a remarkably savory filling made with cream cheese, bacon and jalapeno with a hint of garlic and sharp cheddar cheese. The sandwich is dipped in a savory egg coating and then covered with a crispy cornflake-Parmesan layer. When the sandwich is pan-fried it is remarkable. Warm and crispy from the pan and oozing with the jalapeno-bacon and cheese mixture,  it is drizzled with a savory-sweet blackberry black-pepper syrup. I think it is probably the best breakfast sandwich on earth. 
Crispy Bacon Jalapeño Popper Stuffed French Toast with Blackberry Syrup
2- 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup seeded, minced, fresh jalapeno
1 cup bacon crumbles
1T fresh minced garlic

Savory Egg batter:
4 Hickman's jumbo eggs, cracked and whisked
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
½ tsp fine minced garlic
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground cumin

1 cup corn-flake crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Tangy-sweet Blackberry Syrup:
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

You will also need 12 slices thin sliced sourdough French Bread (depending on how large the slices, usually about 4 inches by 4 inches). 

Mix the filling ingredients.
 Fill slices of bread generously with filling, enough to make approximately 6 sandwiches. 
One for my family to share. The rest for me. 
In a container the size of the sandwiches, combine the cornflakes and the Parmesan. 
In a separate container combine the ingredients for the egg coating. set up a dipping station.  
Dip the sandwich in the egg mixture and coat well. Then coat with the corn flake mixture.  Continue until all the sandwiches are coated. 
 In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the sandwich in a few Tablespoons of bacon fat or vegetable oil. 
 Prepare the blackberry syrup by combining all the syrup ingredients and stirring until smooth.  Drizzle over the warm toast.

There you go my darlings.
More amazing ideas to come. 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess