Tag Archives: brownie

A peek into GIAPO’s kitchen

Chefs aren’t made in the kitchen.
Chefs are made from something they have deep inside them –
an inner flame that burns brightly… with purpose, curiosity and passion.
In reality, true chefs pursue the creation of something better than yesterday and when they think they got it, they realise they don’t.
~ Gianpaolo Grazioli

A smiling face opens the door, and we walk through to the area behind the counter. I peek into the cosy kitchen and see that it resembles a laboratory – only it is fitted with stove facilities and edible ingredients. A purple cap finds its way to my head. I take in the sight of 24 cracked eggs caught in a bowl, yolks bobbing in the gloopy pool of whites. I smile at the myriad of utensils, pots, bowls, trays and litres of milk that line the shelves and fridge. I stare out the window at the other humans walking to work (and smile knowing that I will join them soon… BUT not just yet).

Slowly, a sense of unfounded familiarity and tingles of exhilaration wiggle through my toes.

I am in GIAPO’S kitchen.

This morning, Giapo is baking brownies to make brownie gelato. Fresh cream is whipped till it tries escaping from the mixer with violent jerks, and leaves in its wake a beautiful mound of butter. No store-bought chocolate is used (he uses fresh butter, choice cocoa powder and cocoa butter). Giapo gives me a sample of cocoa butter to taste – I am a little put off by its name because it sounds like a lotion, but I am struck by the luxurious quality of it, the way it reminds me of an edible bar of creamy soap – creamy but clean and not sticky in any way (“wow!” is what I want to say). In the course of the morning, he also makes a beautiful batch of dulce de leche and the bit I taste fresh from the pot leaves me feeling a little like I am walking on air.

The way everything whirls, mixes and cooks around me reminds me (just slightly) of one of my favourite Disney moments. I am as intrigued by the beautiful brownie-making process as I am by Giapo’s solid understanding of the science behind food/cooking. (The science of food is not yet my forte. I cook and bake by way of a certain random madness, and without an understanding of why ingredients act the way they do).

So I enjoy myself immensely watching the brownie come together, but I can’t shake off this funny feeling that lingers in my mind the whole time I am in the kitchen… until Giapo tells me he’s going to make a chocolate gelato and combine that with the brownie to make brownie gelato.

This is the moment at which everything feels illogical and marvellous all at once. Questions and answers start flying in and out of my head in rapid succession.

WHAT! WHY! I want to say. How does any of this make sense? Does everyone even really see/understand just how much work goes into this? Couldn’t you take more shortcuts? Couldn’t you use less good (and thus costly) ingredients? Why don’t you let supermarkets/stores etc carry your products? Why do you bake brownie from scratch? Why and how do you invent so many new flavours every single week? Why do you do what you do?

I’ve asked some of these questions before. But even as these questions surface in my mind, everything now makes complete sense in my heart. I already know that yes, GIAPO is a business with overhead costs. Yes, there is nothing to stop them from taking a few time and money-saving shortcuts. Yes, they could easily rely on market knowledge and stick to flavours that have been proven to be popular with the masses (rather than take a chance with experimental flavours). Yes, they could arrange for supermarkets and other stores to stock their gelato.

But the way I see it, GIAPO is not your average business. It’s a people-loving business/”Wonka factory”/thought leader/research lab/innovative centre/delicious gelato parlour and more, rolled into one magic entity. I think it’s less about sticking with the proven, or focusing on profits, or abiding by what some would label as “sense”…

The way I interpret it, it’s about the execution of a mission. Loving food and loving you. Fanning that inner flame. Embarking on a quest to experience life by tasting everything. Combining science, art and passion. Holding strong to values and principles in a society that doesn’t do this as much as they should. Pushing boundaries. Following a dream and vision. Having the courage to go where passion says to go. Making something gobsmackingly delicious, just ‘cos. Revolutionalising gelato, food and eating. Taking pride in their work. Having fun along the way.

And, as they say, giving you food that is as it should be – good for you. With a lot of love, commitment, excellent techniques, quality time and ingredients (no shortcuts or artificial content), and a sparkling dose of genius.

It’s taken me two days to write this post, and still I am not sure I have expressed myself adequately. But thank you for reading my clumsy words. If you’re in Auckland, please visit GIAPO and bring everyone you know. If you are not in New Zealand, well, get here. It’s a thoroughly beautiful country. And go to GIAPO.

Grazie mille Giapo, for the lovely privilege of spending an hour with you in your kitchen!

Giapo – 279-291 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677

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Chocolate and walnut (best ever) brownie

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine, nutrition researcher, as quoted in The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars

I am sorry about the terrible quality of this photograph – I should’ve protected your eyes, I know… if it helps, though, I can promise you that you won’t be apologising for bringing this to a party.

This recipe is based largely on Molly Wizenberg’s recipe (which also works like a dream). I decided to try it with kahlua and walnuts just ‘cos I had some on hand.

    Chocolate and walnut (best ever) brownie
    Recipe modified from Orangette
    Ingredients:
    1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    226g unsalted butter
    170g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    2 cups granulated sugar
    dribble of kahlua (approximately 1 tbsp), or 1 tsp vanilla extract
    4 large eggs
    170g walnut pieces (optional)
    Method:
    Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 175°C.
    In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside. If adding walnut pieces, put them in a separate bowl, add in the approximately ¼ of the flour mixture and give it a quick toss.
    Cut the butter into chunks, and melt the butter and the chocolate together in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently. When the chocolate and butter have melted completely, add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture, and stir it for 30 seconds; then remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the kahlua or vanilla extract. Leave in a cool area, or pour it into a clean bowl.
    Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a medium bowl, and whisk by hand to combine. Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don’t scramble from the heat. Beat the remaining sugar and eggs on medium speed until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped eggs and sugar into the chocolate mixture. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the flour and salt, then the walnuts and remaining flour.
    Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 8-inch square pan (I used a ceramic tray this time, and it worked fine). Bake the brownie for around 30 minutes. It should have risen a bit, and the top will turn dry and a little crackly. Baking times may vary depending on your oven, so stick a knife or toothpick into the centre after 25 minutes to see how it is progressing. It should be gently set – not too raw, but still deliciously gooey. Cool the brownie in the pan on a rack. When it is cool, cut into rectangular bars to serve.

This brownie is quite rich, as you will gather from the amount of chocolate and butter used – so a small tray goes a long way. It’s very slightly crisp on the outside, soft and gooey and swirly-sweet inside. The walnuts make it a happy brownie too.

My opinion on brownie is that they should be nothing less than decadent and luxurious – and I think this comes pretty close to fulfilling that criterion!

Unswirly

Dear Cheesecake Brownie,

I know pleasure should be derived as much from the journey as from the destination – but I cannot hide my disappointment. See, I’d love to say I am wholly pleased with how you turned out, but the truth is… I am not (even though I do accept all the blame in this instance).

I am sorry that I swirled you so much with a rough wooden spoon instead of a sleek dull knife or dainty spatula… how I regretted it the moment your surface turned into a slushy brown! It took just a few seconds to ruin your face. I wanted to turn back time and swirl you again, carefully this time…

When I took you out from the oven, it was with a mildly heavy heart that I did so:

I mean… you could have looked like this instead! If only I had been more careful. (last image (c) David Lebovitz, recipe here)

You do, however, still taste quite nice ;-)

Swiiiiirrrrirl.

Like a sack of gold…

If rich food can kill, people live dangerously here.
~ Alice Furland

… rich food galore tonight in the Treehouse, with Matt, Jono and honorary flattie Ms Char :-)

From Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#34 Carrot Cake – page 259 (which Matt is taking to work, thankfully)
#35 Pan-Fried Veal Chops with Lemon, Sage & Mascarpone – page 315

Matt taught me how to ‘chop’ walnuts today: with a wooden ladle? Looked like fun too…

Carrot rain.

Getting ready to cook the ‘veal chops’ (ok, they are actually lamb chops because veal was nowhere to be found at Moore Wilson’s)

Rich, rich sauce…

Finished products:

Non-cookbook:
A simple salad of carrot, capsicum, mesclun, lemon, mint
Brownies from Orangette: see ‘Best-Ever Brownies’ (mix pictured near the top of this post)

I’m a little lacking in prose tonight, the day has gone by so quickly… I am sleepy… goodnight…

Oh! Before I forget!…… 1. Thanks Matt for cooking some of the time with me! and 2. Last day of ‘Revolt of the Mannequins’… the dear ones escaped!

Alright, goodnight for real now. Au revoir.

Can’t stop cookin’

I could give up chocolate but I’m not a quitter.
~ Author Unknown

It’s so difficult to stop cooking!!!

Made a modified version of spiced brownie this morning – recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen.

This one has a lethal amount of chocolate (partially hidden in the photo), butter, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa. Sweet and moist…

It’s still a little difficult to think about what to cook without a recipe to guide me, but I feel myself getting a little more comfortable slowly with cooking – able to modify recipes and substitute things to avoid massive grocery bills – able to judge better when a cake is done – always having fun in the kitchen, amidst a few inevitable frustrating moments.

I think I’m coming to trust myself a little more now with recipes too, with folding and whisking, letting things work themselves out – and I find that this attitude extends a little more into life sometimes… sometimes I catch myself being so calm that I wonder where the old jumpy impatient me has gone. I still explode in accordance with my natural crazy passionate self – but at least I have a little more calm in my heart, too.

Cooking then, I think, is so good like that – like dancing. It’s art and expression, learning, exercising freedom, tripping over, getting up again – and just laughing throughout the process. Sometimes alone, sometimes with others. But you practise more with yourself and once you’re ok with laughing and crying comfortably alone, you have alot more fun. Both cooking and dancing do so much for my soul and teach me valuable lessons on how to live.

Here’s to a good week.

Balance is salad and brownies

Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
~ Fran Lebowitz

In line with the title of this post, I’m going to write a little about our flat’s fair & balanced dinner tonight. It was a tip-toe dance in the form of salad… brownies… (and vodka in the middle).

Nothing from the cookbook tonight. I found a pasta recipe somewhere online – and oops, neglected to snap a photograph of it (careless me!) – but let me tell you, if you have no meat or vegetables in your fridge, you can opt to dress your penne rigati with a cup of vodka, a cup of chicken stock, half a cup of cream, a tin of tomatoes, fresh basil, shallots & garlic (these proportions for a sauce which serves 4). Your penne will take to its red gurgly gown like a fish to water, and smile and curtsey on your tongue. I kid you not.

This random salad here? If you are interested, this is roughly (from memory) how it was composed. I didn’t measure anything sorry, so you will just have to cross your heart and fingers and trust in your ability to make magic. This is how I make salad most days, with what I happen to have or grab in the vegetable aisle – and with the knowledge that I do not need skill or steps in salad-making, I need to put together the finest of fresh things and let them perform.

    Ingredients:
    chicken fillet, cubed
    cajun seasoning
    dried oregano
    capsicum, sliced
    sugar
    a few dried apricots, cut into thin slices
    fresh mesclun & spinach
    1 lemon wedge
    salt & pepper to taste
    Method to my madness:
    Drizzle some olive oil into a pan, and add chicken cubes when the oil is hot. Season with cajun, oregano, and a pinch of sugar. Fry on high heat until the chicken cubes are nicely browned. Lower the heat and cook until chicken is well-cooked, but not to the point that it becomes dry.
    Remove chicken from pan, and set on a plate to cool slightly. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry capsicum slices on high heat until they are scorched in places. Remove from heat to cool slightly as well.
    Add the chicken and capsicum to the rest of the salad ingredients, and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the entire mix.

Emma and Claire came over tonight and made what I call their Imagination’s Brownie. They made it up (how do people successfully make brownie without a recipe?? I am amazed!) It was impossibly rich (containing 1 entire block of dark chocolate for 6 of us… golly) – and totally wonderful. Lucky flatties and me! :-)

And here it is, the weekend… have a great one. Hope it is sunny where you are (we are sorely lacking in sun at the moment, tis a disgusting stretch of unreal so-called Summer).