Culinary Crafts recently had the honor of co-catering an event alongside world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing team. The occasion was a retirement celebration for one of Utah’s movers and shakers, Todd Pederson, Founder and CEO of Vivent. With 600 guests, it wasn’t the biggest event we’ve done, but it certainly was one of the most memorable.Days before the gala, Chef Puck’s team joined us in our Pleasant Grove kitchen and bakery, and preparations began. What a joy to collaborate with these consummate professionals who are not only masters of their craft but are so gracious, down-to-earth, and easy to work with! With our reduced staff (due to Covid), we had to scramble to find 75 team members to handle service. UVU’s Culinary Arts Program kindly recommended two dozen of their students, and they did a fantastic job. The incredible evening began with butler-passed hors d’oeuvres. The highlights of the world-class menu were Japanese and U.S. wagyu beef, served side by side, followed by the most delicious banana cream pie you’ve ever tasted! A surprise concert from pop star Justin Bieber topped off the fabulous evening. Since the event, our relationship with Chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing team has continued. Four of our chefs and bakers were asked to help him cater Super Bowl LVI, and we look forward to other future collaborations.
May 4, 2022
May Recipe of the Month: Perfect Pizza
A few months ago, Culinary Crafts had the privilege of co-hosting an event with renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing crew. For our May recipe of the month, we’re going to share one of the appetizers we served at that party, our perfect pizza. When we do pizza for big events, we make it in big applewood fired ovens, but when we bake it in our own ovens at home, this is the recipe we use.The key to perfect pizza (besides using delicious, fresh ingredients) is the dough. If you prepare and bake the dough correctly, it’s going to taste delicious no matter which of your favorite toppings you put on top. For perfect pizza—with a light, chewy inside and crispy outside—you’ll want to prepare your dough the day before so it has time to proof overnight.
Dough Ingredients (makes enough for three 12-inch pizzas)
- ¼ oz yeast (one packet)
- ¼ oz sugar
- 2 ⅔ cups water
- ¼ oz salt
- 1 pound of flour (half all-purpose flour and half bread flour)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let them sit while you measure out the other ingredients.
- Add the salt, flour, and olive oil to your bowl. Mix slowly for 3 minutes. (If you’re using a KitchenAid, use the speed setting of 4.) Adjust the dough’s consistency as needed by adding a little more water or flour. Then increase the speed and mix for another 4-5 minutes.
- Dust your hands lightly with flour before you handle the dough. Divide your dough into three even portions. (Or, if you prefer to make two larger pizzas, simply divide the dough in half.)
- Roll the dough portions into round balls and place each of them into an airtight container. You can use regular bowls if you cover them with plastic wrap, pressing it down over the dough. Eliminating air will keep the dough from drying out.
- Place the dough in your fridge overnight.
- Approximately 15 minutes before you’re ready to work your dough, remove it from the fridge. Turn on your oven to 500 degrees or as high as it will go. Place a pizza stone or metal baking sheet into the oven to pre-heat. Use more than one stone/sheet if you’ll need more surface area to hold your pizzas.
- As your oven is heating, dust your hands with seminola, cornmeal, or regular flour. Dust a flat counter surface where you’ll work your dough. Also give each of your dough balls a light dusting.
- Work the dough balls using the technique shown in the first three minutes of this video.
Pro Tip: When our chefs are making pizza at an event, they don’t always have a convenient surface to work on, so they stretch the dough in the air. The technique is similar except that you let the dough hang from your thumbs as you turn it, using gravity to help stretch it. Use whatever technique works for you, but don’t use a rolling pin—if you squash the dough flat, it will lose all that wonderful airiness that it gained by proofing overnight!
- When your oven is heated, remove the hot pizza stone/cooking sheet and give it a light dusting.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a baking sheet, flip it over and use the bottom side to cook your pizza. That way, when the pizza is done, it will slide off the hot sheet easily.
- Place your stretched dough onto your stone or cooking sheet. Use a pizza docker or a fork to score the surface of the dough. Don’t make holes all the way through the dough; just lightly indent it to prevent large air pockets from forming when it cooks. Air pockets will cause bubbles that tend to burn.
- Top the pizza with your favorite ingredients. Be careful not to overdo the sauce! Too much sauce will prevent the pizza from cooking properly, and you’ll end up with a soggy underside. If you’re using fresh herbs like basil or spinach, we recommend leaving those off until the last few minutes of cooking. Otherwise they’ll overcook and wilt.
Pro Tip: If you like lots of sauce, consider baking your perfect pizza “Detroit style” by placing your cheese and other ingredients directly onto the dough. Then you can add the sauce on top of the other ingredients so that it doesn’t touch the dough. Or you can even wait until the pizza has finished baking before topping it with all the sauce your heart desires!
- Place your pizzas in the oven and keep a close eye on them as they bake. You may have to rotate the pizzas after a few minutes to give them an even bake. Once your crust is bubbling and forms a dark, golden brown, you know it’s done.
April 14, 2022
April Recipe of the Month: Arugula Salad with Asparagus
Spring is the time to celebrate all things fresh! Our April recipe of the month, arugula salad with asparagus, snap peas, and parmesan, is one of our favorite ways to feature delicious veggies that are in season right now.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
- ½ pound of arugula, washed and dried
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, deveined, blanched, and cut on a bias
- 1 cup avocado, diced
- 5-10 spears of asparagus, blanched and shaved with potato peeler
- 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tbsp mayonnaise
- ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1⁄6 – ¼ tbsp sugar
- ¼ lemon zest
- 7 ½ tbsp canola blend oil
- Combine all of dressing ingredients except oil in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- While blender is running, slowly add oil until emulsified.
- Adjust seasonings to taste.
- In a large bowl, toss arugula with dressing.
- Plate the arugula (approx. 5 servings).
- Top with peas, pistachios, avocado, asparagus, and cheese.
Blanching the veggies takes off their bitter edge and makes them a bright vibrant green color.
When zesting citrus, only zest the outer layer. If you get to the white fibrous part of the citrus (called the pith) you've gone too far. The pith is very bitter.
If your greens and produce start to look limp and wilted, you can give them new life by submerging them in ice water for a few seconds. They’ll perk right up!
April 5, 2022
Culinary Crafts Hosts Team USA Olympic Party
March 27, 2022
Ryan’s Top Tips for Brewing Incredible Coffee at Home
Use fresh beans
How important is it to use fresh coffee beans? Let me put it this way: I’d rather have coffee improvised with a sock, an old pot, and a campfire if I get to grind my favorite beans fresh each morning, versus coffee from the latest expensive brewing machine using pre-ground, stale beans. As with all food, the ingredients matter much more than the tools.
Short science lesson: When beans are roasted, they go through a chemical change called the Malliard reaction. Not only does it turn the beans dark brown, it also creates aromatic compounds in the beans that give coffee its distinct taste and smell. But here’s the catch. The moment beans are roasted, those aromatic compounds start to fade away. After a few weeks the beans simply won’t smell or taste as good. Once beans have lost those compounds, there’s only one way to save the coffee: dump out that hot mess and start over with some fresh beans.
Have you noticed that beans off the grocery store shelf don’t print the date of when they were roasted? That’s because grocery store coffee is almost always past its freshness window. Sure, they can vacuum pack the beans and keep them fresh a little longer, but you can’t count on grocery store beans to be in their prime. Your best bet is to buy fresh-roasted whole beans from a local roaster. Or you can try one of the subscription services that will send you fresh-roasted beans every few weeks. If you’re feeling ambitious you can roast your own, but that’s the subject for another blog.
For the absolute freshest beans, buy local. We have some fantastic roasters along the Wasatch Front including Publik, Pink Elephant, Blue Copper, and La Barba (which is sold at Harmons). If you want an extraordinary experience with a coffee genius, visit John Piquet at Caffe D’Bolla. His regular menu only offers espressos, but ask for the siphon menu. You’ll see why I treasure all the time I’ve spent there!
If beans are past their fresh date, they can still be used to make pretty good coffee if you cold brew them! But don’t waste your really good beans on cold brew. The best a cold brew will ever give you is pretty good coffee.
Grind your beans just before you brew
Grinding beans greatly increases the amount of surface area that’s exposed. Exposing more surface area means you'll get a lot more flavor out of the ground beans when you brew them. Unfortunately, as soon as beans are ground, they’ll start losing their aromatic compounds at a much faster rate. So if you’re trying to get the best-tasting cup of coffee, it makes sense to grind them only when you’re ready to brew.
One piece of equipment that’s worth investing in is a burr grinder. Unlike regular blade grinders that just bash the beans into random-sized pieces, a burr grinder mills the beans between two grinding plates until the pieces are all a uniform size. With a regular grinder, you’ll have tiny bits of bean that get overexposed during the brew, giving the coffee a bitter, sludgy taste. At the same time you’ll also have larger pieces that won’t be exposed enough, adding a sour, acidic taste. If you use a burr grinder, all the bits will be the same size, so you can get a consistent flavor. You may have to try some practice runs to find the perfect grind for your machine, but whatever size of grounds you’re aiming for, a burr grinder will help you hit it precisely and consistently.
You can spend thousands of dollars on a burr grinder, but the Kinu hand grinder, at around $200, is my favorite. 1Zpresso and Helor make comparably great grinders. For lower budgets, the Hario Skerton Pro is a good ceramic grinder. It’s not the greatest, but at around $60, it may be the best value for the price.
Use the right water temperature
To extract the best flavors out of your coffee, you should brew with water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 195 degrees, you won’t get enough flavor from the coffee. Above 205 you’ll scorch the beans and get bitter chemicals that should have been left in the beans. Perfect brewing involves finding that temperature “sweet” spot.
If you’re boiling your own water, you may need to let it cool a bit before you start your brew. Remember, water naturally boils at 212 degrees at sea level, and the boiling point gradually decreases as you go up in elevation. If you live above 4,000 feet in elevation (as we do here in Utah), you can pour boiling water straight over your beans, since our water boils at 204 degrees. The lower your elevation is below 4,000 feet, the longer you’ll need to let your water cool before you brew.
One thing I learned from John Piquet is that the taste of coffee changes at different temperatures. If you drink your coffee too hot, it may smell great but it won’t taste its best. John encourages his customers to begin sipping their coffee when it cools to around 175 degrees and then enjoy the changing range of flavors as it gradually cools.
Find the right ratio of coffee to water
In addition to temperature, the amount of water you use also affects the brewing process. The more water you use, the weaker the coffee will be. Finding the right balance of coffee and water (a.k.a. the “brew ratio”) is key to making a perfect cup of coffee.
Personally, I use 240 grams of water for every 15 grams of coffee, a ratio of 16:1. You’ll want to experiment with that ratio depending on how rich you want your coffee to be. As you’re experimenting, try to be as consistent as possible in your measurements. This brings us to the second piece of equipment that’s worth investing in, a digital scale. It’s impossible to control exactly how much ground coffee fits into a scoop, but a digital scale will allow you to measure by weight, giving you a precise and accurate measurement every time.
There’s an ongoing debate about what kind of water (tap, bottled, filtered, etc.) makes the best coffee. My two cents: unless you’re doing espresso, the type of water usually doesn’t make much difference. But I don’t recommend using distilled water. Just like food is enhanced by a little salt, a perfect brew needs a small amount of minerals in the water, ideally around 150 parts per million. Distilled water is too pure and will make your coffee taste bland.
Bloom your coffee
If you grind fresh beans just before you brew, you might notice that the coffee grounds appear to bubble when they first touch water. What you’re seeing is CO2 gas escaping from the beans, a phenomenon called “the bloom.” If you don't get rid of that gas before you start your brew, the CO2 can form a kind of blanket around the coffee grounds, preventing them from brewing properly. To bloom your beans, pour a little water over the grounds. Then give them a gentle stir so that all the grounds get wet, and wait for about 30 seconds for the gas to leave. Use about twice as much water as there is coffee grounds. In other words, if you’re starting with 40 grams of grounds, use about 80 grams of water in your bloom.
Over the years, I tried a lot of techniques and technologies in my quest to brew the perfect cup. Most of them turned out to be more time-consuming or expensive than they’re worth. But these five tips I’ve discussed are simple, tried, and true, and I guarantee that if you give them a try, you’ll taste a dramatic difference. I should warn you that once you’ve tasted how good your home-brewed coffee can be, it may spoil you. You’ll have a hard time forking over $6 at Starbucks when, for 50 cents, you can brew something much better at home.