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August 2, 2023

Mango Pulled Pork

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by M Parker Reed

Event Manager

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When I was six, my parents taught me to cook my first recipe, which was Whacky Cake, also known as Great Depression Cake. Ever since then, I have loved to cook. When I am in the kitchen, I feel like the chef in Ratatouille who has a rat secretly telling him what to do. The voice in my head isn’t a rodent, obviously, but I have wondered if some past relative of mine is connecting with me from the other side, or if it's just an unconscious part of my psyche manifesting itself. Whatever it is that I feel when I’m cooking, it gives me peace and makes me feel centered, like I’m in the right place doing what I love.

It’s also cheap therapy.

Growing up, my favorite TV channel was always the Food Network, but along with cooking, I also loved the broader field of hospitality. I went to UVU to study Hospitality Management (with an emphasis in Event Planning), which is where I came into contact with Culinary Crafts. I ran into Clayton Price at a career fair and later interviewed Kaleb Crafts as part of an assignment. Starting in May 2022, I began working at Culinary Crafts.

I love the family culture here and the feeling I get from people that “I’ve got your back.” They really walk the talk and take excellent care of the clients as well as the team. I’ve especially appreciated the mentorship of Chris, Sara, Amber, Jinous, and others who have been so generous with their help. Even the owners take the time to teach and share their knowledge.

The recipe I want to share, Mango Pulled Pork, is a creation I developed for an assignment at UVU. My wife (who is very particular about her pulled pork) claims that this recipe is better than her mother’s, but I’d never dare to mention that to my mother-in-law.

Bon Appetit, darlings!

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Mango Pulled Pork

(Serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb pork roast
  • 1 can (11 oz) mango nectar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix 1 cup (not the whole can) of mango nectar with 1 cup of water. Add a dash of onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Pour mixture over the pork roast in a crockpot.
  2. Cook on high for 2 hours. Then semi-shred the pork, turn crockpot down to low, and cook for another 2 hours.
  3. Mix the remaining mango nectar with ketchup and brown sugar. Drain the pork and place it in a mixing bowl. Pour ketchup mixture over the pork.
  4. Season with a dash of pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Stir until evenly coated, then serve.

July 18, 2023

Wedding Cake Catastrophes (and How to Avoid Them)

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Let’s talk wedding cakes. Specifically, wedding cake catastrophes.

Over the last 35+ years that we’ve been catering weddings, we’ve seen all kinds of cakes, from small and simple to enormous, elaborate creations that belong in an art gallery. Whatever type you choose, your wedding cake will be an expression of your personality and style, as well as a special way of sharing your love and appreciation with your guests. No one wants to see your day ruined by something going wrong with your cake.

But, once in a while, that’s exactly what happens!

We talked to three experts about the horror stories they’ve seen and their advice for how to avoid wedding cake catastrophes. Ale Wortmann is the owner of cake by Alessandra and one of our very favorite cake vendors in Utah. Ryan Crafts is, of course, our COO and co-owner of Culinary Crafts. Cassidy Harrison is the owner of Flour & Flourish and the genius behind their real-as-life sugar flowers. Honestly, even up close, you’d swear those things are real! Check out these examples of her work:

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Here’s what the experts had to say.

1. The Sun Is Not Your Friend

Cassidy told us about one of her wedding cake nightmares. Once, she delivered a four-tier buttercream cake to the venue and noticed that the cake table had been set up in full sunlight. It was late in the evening, but there were still a couple of hours before sunset. Cassidy warned the planner that the cake table needed to be moved, but the bride was adamant that she wanted it under the gazebo. There was no way to change the bride’s mind, so Cassidy hurried home to dress for the wedding. (The bride was a family friend.)

When she returned 45 minutes later, the whole wedding party was in a panic. People mobbed Cassidy, apologizing over and over, "The cake! I'm so sorry! The cake!" Sure enough, it looked like a melted candle.

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“Ever since then,” Cassidy says, “I've been really stern about moving the cake table.” Her advice is “Listen to your cake artist about not putting the cake in the sun on a 96-degree day. We aren't being annoying for no reason. Nobody wants a melty cake at their wedding.”

2. Be Careful About Taking Your Cake Outside

“Outdoor pictures are amazing,” Ale says, “but don’t leave your cake outside very long. Even the shade is hot during our Utah summer months. These cakes are made with butter . Fondant also has buttercream underneath, and it will melt, bubble, and crack in the heat.” Leaving your cake outside on a hot day is probably going to ruin it, even if you avoid direct sunlight. Your best bet is to set up your cake indoors and keep it away from any heat sources. (Cakes have been known to melt indoors just from being placed too close to a sunny window.) But heat isn’t the only danger your cake can face in the great outdoors. Rain, wind, squirrels, ants, leaves, dust, dogs, and other outdoor factors can all lead to wedding cake catastrophes.

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3. Don’t Move the Cake

“Transport is the hardest part,” Ryan says. “Most mishaps happen when someone is moving the cake.”

One of Culinary Crafts’ most harrowing cake-moving experiences was a few years ago when a groom insisted on having a 17-tier cake. That’s right; 17 tiers, and each one had to be a different flavor! It took four team members just to carry it, and we had to move it in pieces, four tiers at a time. Everything went well, but nerves were definitely wracked that day!

Our experts advised against trying to move the cake yourself, including delivering it to the venue. Many times, Ale has been horrified to see a client show up to take their cake in a car filled with balloons, kids, and dogs. (Yes, dogs!) “Please don’t,” she says. “The cake is structured to travel well; however, once it leaves our hands, we can’t be responsible anymore.”

Just pay the delivery fee; we promise, it’s worth every penny. Not only will your cake be handled by the experts who made it, but they will be there at delivery to set it up properly and to fix any issues that may have arisen during transport.

4. Keep It Level

Ale’s next piece of advice is “Make sure your cake table is leveled. Even a slight tip on the table can create a huge impact on tiered cakes, especially on tall ones.”

“One time we had this gorgeous five-tier cake,” Ale remembers. “We did all we could to make it level, but this one was quite tricky. I kept tabs on it all night long. I knew the chef at this restaurant, so I kept asking about the cake, and like I told the client about two hours in, the cake was a Leaning Tower of Pisa. No kidding…. I am just glad it never tipped!!!”

If, despite our experts’ advice, you’re going to have your cake outside for a significant length of time, it’s even more important that you check the table for levelness. Don’t just eyeball the table and assume that it’s “good enough.” Ryan will never forget the anguish of watching the legs of a cake table slowly sink into the soggy ground after a rainstorm. Save yourself a lot of stress and grief by putting your cake on a safe, solid, level surface to begin with.

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5. Work With an Experienced Cake Vendor

The best way to protect against wedding cake catastrophes is to work with an expert. Ryan’s advice is, “Choose a cake vendor/baker who has been around for a while. A newcomer might be able to make a cake that’s just as beautiful and delicious, but will they be familiar with all the issues that can arise? Driving on Utah roads? Adjusting to Utah weather?”

A few years ago, Ryan worked with a bride whose mother insisted that she wanted to make her daughter’s wedding cake. She created a gorgeous four-tier cake covered with amazing sugar roses. On the day of the wedding, she wrapped every rose individually in tissue paper and drove the whole thing from St George up to the State Capitol.

They set up the cake at the top of the granite staircase, and it was stunning! Unfortunately, there were problems with the cake right away. The recipe she’d used for the buttercream was too soft, so even in the air-conditioned room, the cake started to sag. As the ballroom filled with guests, they heard a crash that sounded like a wine goblet being smashed on the staircase, then another and another. They looked up to see that the delicate sugar flowers that the bride’s mother had so carefully crafted were sliding off the cake and crashing to the floor. Then the whole cake buckled and started to lean.

How to Handle Wedding Cake Catastrophes

Ryan raced up the stairs and got to the cake at the same moment as the mom. Together, they caught the cake and held it up with their bare hands. The mom was in tears. She wanted to redo the cake, but Ryan said, “It doesn’t look like this cake is dowelled,” and when she responded, “I don’t know what that means,” he knew the cake was doomed.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’ll walk this cake down the stairs and behind the curtain to our back of house. My team will take off the top tier, and when you’ve had a chance to redecorate it, we’ll bring that tier back up the stairs for display. My chefs will save the parts that can be salvaged, and we’ll serve those to your guests.”

So that’s what they did, and as heart-breaking as it was to see the mother’s work of love collapse, it didn’t ruin the evening. Would a more experienced cake-maker have known that they needed to reinforce the cake with dowels and dividing supports? Sure. And they probably would have used a different buttercream recipe, and the whole incident might have been avoided. But kudos to that mother for showing her daughter such love by (a) making a magnificent cake and (b) not letting the cake’s demise overshadow the wedding.

And that leads us to our final piece of advice….

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6. Don’t Lose Perspective

You may do everything right—you may work with an experienced vendor who makes a structurally sound cake; you may keep it indoors and away from the heat; you may set it on a level surface and not move it—and something could still go wrong. The A/C could go out. An unattended child can start licking the frosting. A freak draft of wind could knock a decoration into your beautiful cake. Those unexpected things don’t happen very often, but if they do, it’s important to keep your perspective and not let the day be ruined.

Believe us, after nearly four decades of working in Utah’s catering industry, we’ve done a lot of weddings and seen a lot of surprises. We know how important it is to absorb setbacks, adapt on the fly, and make things work. Even if there’s not a problem with your cake, the flowers will arrive late, or the bride’s dress will snag, or Uncle Kenny will show up inebriated. Whatever goes wrong, keep your cool and don’t let your focus be taken from what really matters.

It might help to repeat this mantra to yourself: “The difference between a catastrophe and a great story is just a bit of time and a little perspective.”

Congratulations to all the couples preparing to cut their wedding cakes this summer. Bon chance! And eat well.

July 11, 2023

Guinness-Battered Onion Rings

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by Joey Howard

Prep Chef

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My stepfather believed in a lot of things, but paying taxes was not one of them. He was retired from the Army, and he had his checks sent to PO boxes far away from our house so the government couldn’t track him down. We moved from state to state, running from the law and living waaaay off the grid.

For a while, we lived in a half-finished house in the middle of freaking nowhere in Montana, 35 miles from the nearest paved road. Once, when I was eight, the truck broke down and our parents had to walk over 100 miles into town to pick up the check. Mom took the two youngest kids with her and left the other four of us to fend for ourselves. They were gone three weeks.

We didn’t have a lot of food in the house, and after four days it was gone. We were able to catch a few fish from the tiny creek that ran through the property, but by the end of the first week it was completely fished out. My oldest brother took his 30-06 and tried to hunt, but there was no game anywhere around us, so he gave up. Then things got bad.

During the second week, we didn’t eat anything. I had blood sugar problems as a kid, so I started to get lethargic. It was like a dream where everything seemed hazy and nothing made sense. I would wake up at random times, look around, and then go back to sleep.

The Best Onion Ever!

Part way through the third week, we found a Vidalia onion in the cellar. I don’t remember which of us found it, but we were so excited that all four of us gathered around and ate the whole thing raw. It tasted so sweet and delicious!

I moved out when I was 16 and have lived on my own ever since, but I’ll never forget the experiences I had as a kid. My crazy childhood taught me how to rely on myself and get through hardships. It taught me to be patient and generous with other people because you never know what their life has been like.

It also made me appreciate food, especially when it’s cooked! And if it happens to be Guinness-Battered Onion Rings, that's the best!

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Guinness-Battered Onion Rings

makes 4 servings

(adapted from seriouseats.com)

Ingredients

  • canola oil, for frying
  • ½ Tbsp hot paprika
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 (14.9 oz) can Guinness beer
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • kosher salt

Directions

  1. Fill medium pot with oil 6 inches deep. Heat over medium high to 350°F.
  2. While oil is heating, line a baking sheet with paper towels for finished onion rings to drain.
  3. Trim ends from onions, peel, and cut into 1-inch-thick rings. Gently separate rings, discarding innermost rings and broken pieces.
  4. Dredge onion rings by coating them in corn starch and then gently shaking off the excess.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and hot paprika. In a small bowl, whisk together beer, mustard, and honey. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring well to combine. Batter should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter.
  6. Dip onion rings into batter one at a time, coating thoroughly. Shake off excess batter and carefully lower into hot oil. Cook small batches until dark golden brown on each side, 2-3 minutes, turning once. Remove with a wire strainer and place on prepared baking sheet. (If you place the baking sheet in a warm oven, you can keep the fried onions warm as you finish your other batches.) Sprinkle lightly with salt while hot.
  7. Continue frying remaining onions in small batches. Once they’re all fried, serve immediately. Allow oil to cool completely before straining and storing.

July 5, 2023

Harvest Peach and Kale Salad

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by Lindsey Christiansen

Field Kitchen Manager

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I started working at Culinary Crafts in 2002, the same year that we catered the Winter Olympics. Back then, it was very popular to garnish platters with loads of kale. We had kale under the vegetables, kale under the poached salmon, kale under everything! It was a very classy look back then, but it was only for décor. No normal person would actually eat the kale. Right?

Well, Young Living was a regular client of ours, and they were crazy for kale! I remember the first time I worked one of our events for Young Living, they ate all the kale decorations under the fruit. We had to keep sending the bowls back to be restocked—not for more fruit but for more kale! I remember thinking, “Why are these weird hippies eating all the garnish?”

Kale, the Superfood

As it turns out, those “weird hippies” knew what they were doing! Now that the rest of us have caught up on how great kale can be, we know it’s super healthy and (prepared right) super delicious. It doesn’t get soggy, so it adds a great texture as well as flavor. Plus, with its nice balance of summer and fall flavors, it always makes me feel like fall is coming.

I’ve enjoyed kale in quinoa power bowls and in lots of keto recipes, but my favorite use of kale is in this Harvest Peach and Kale Salad. My recipe is based on an idea from the website Lillie Eats and Tells, but I’ve made a few changes, including adding grilled peaches. As soon as I saw Culinary Crafts grilling peaches on our big outdoor grills, I knew I had to get that deliciousness into my kale salad and into my mouth!

Harvest Peach and Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 peaches
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 6 cups kale, chopped into small ribbons
  • 3 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (I use a specialty cranberry pear vinegar from Baker and Olive)
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 2¼ cups grilled chicken, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp red onion, diced
  • 3 Tbsp dried cranberries, golden raisins, or dried cherries
  • 3 Tbsp toasted candied pecans, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese

Instructions

  1. To grill your peaches, wash them and slice them in half, removing pits. Drizzle a little honey over them, then put them cut-side down on a grill or pan over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and put aside to cool.
  2. Remove any tough stems from the kale. (I don’t like chewing on kale stems, but who knows? The Young Living people always ate the stems, so maybe they knew something I don’t.) Chop the kale into very small pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, toss kale with the vinegar and salt until kale is well-coated.
  4. Mix in chicken, onion, nuts, raisins or cherries, and cheese. Heap it in a bowl and top it with your cooled peaches, sliced or cubed as you prefer.

Enjoy!

June 27, 2023

How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Coffee

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by Ryan Crafts

COO and Coffee Zealot

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One cold early morning sometime in the fall of 1997, my high school buddy Justin (who had a car) asked if I wanted to skip out on early morning seminary and go get breakfast instead. We drove to Einstein Bros. on Center Street in Provo, where I tasted my very first cup of coffee.

For many, coffee can be an acquired taste, but I loved it instantly. Admittedly, that first cup may have been enhanced a little by the sweet taste of rebellion, but there really was something about the rich and complex flavors of roasted beans that immediately appealed to me. That morning, sipping on what was, by my standards today, probably a very mediocre brew, I discovered a life-long passion.

The Quest

In my late twenties, I set out to learn about coffee and how to brew it. I experimented with different bean varieties, growing regions, roasts, blends, and brewing styles from all over the world. I bought grinders, tampers, presses, siphons, funnels, filters, steamers…all the paraphernalia you can imagine. Most of that equipment is just décor in my home now, and many of the techniques and technologies I tried turned out to be more time-consuming or expensive than they’re worth. But a few of the lessons I learned, I still use, and I want to share those with you. I’ve boiled it all down into a few simple, affordable tips you can use at home to brew a perfect cup of coffee.

But be warned, 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 barely $1, you can brew something much better on your own.

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Ryan’s Tips for How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Coffee

1. Use Fresh Beans

As with most food, fresh quality ingredients are the key to great coffee. As soon as coffee beans are roasted, they start to lose those aromatic compounds that give coffee its distinct flavors and smells. After a few weeks, when the 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. Your best bet is to buy fresh-roasted whole beans from a local roaster (or, if you’re feeling ambitious, roast your own). Along the Wasatch Front, I recommend Publik, Pink Elephant, Blue Copper, La Barba, or the coffee wizardry at caffe d’bolla.

2. Grind Your Beans Immediately Before You Brew

Grinding exposes much more surface area of the beans, meaning you'll be able to get a lot more flavor out of them. Unfortunately, they’ll also start losing their aromatic compounds much faster, so don’t grind until 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 them into a uniform size, giving your coffee a much more consistent flavor. I use a Kinu, but Helor, 1Zpresso, and Hario also make excellent burr grinders.

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3. Use the Right Water Temperature

To extract the best flavors out of your beans, you should brew with water between 195° and 205° F. Below 195°, you won’t extract enough flavor, and above 205° you’ll scorch the beans and give them a bitter taste.

If you boil your own water and happen to live above 4,000 feet elevation (as we do here in Utah), you’re in luck! At this elevation, water boils at 204°, which is right in the sweet spot. You won’t need to worry about overheating; just bring your water to a boil and pour it directly over your coffee grounds.

4. Find the Right Ratio of Coffee to Water

The more water you use in your brew, the more diluted and weak the coffee will be, so finding the right balance of coffee and water (the “brew ratio”) is one 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. Experiment with that ratio and find what tastes best to you.

5. Bloom Your Beans

When you pour water over fresh-ground beans, you’ll notice that the coffee grounds appear to bubble. That is CO2 gas escaping from the beans. If you don't get rid of that gas before you start your brew, the CO2 will form a kind of blanket around the grounds, preventing them from brewing properly. To “bloom” your coffee, pour a little water over the grounds, then give them a gentle stir so that all the grounds get wet. (Use about twice as much water as there is coffee grounds.) Discard that water, wait about 30 seconds for the gas to leave, and then start your brew.

6. Let Your Coffee Cool

One thing I learned from John Piquet, the Coffee Genius at café d’bolla, is that the taste of coffee changes at different temperatures. When it’s too hot, it may smell great, but it won’t taste its best. I strongly recommend waiting until your coffee cools to around 155° before you begin sipping. Then enjoy the range of favors as it gradually continues to cool.

Eat (and drink) well!

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