20 September 2008

Can Elephant Ears do Upscale? Remembering the Circus. 44

One of the highlights of my childhood was getting to ride on a huge pachyderm, a.k.a elephant. For my cousins and I, the circus was a frequent part of our childhood. On this occasion, the circus made it's home in the dusty dirt floored arena of a historic fairgrounds, whose fairway had seen many, many generations of eager carnival, concert or rodeo goers. The concessions had a looming presence between the main arena and the white washed wood, gray roofed exhibition out buildings who had welcomed 4-H livestock, various crafts and the eleclectic mix of gawkers whose ages were of a varied range.

This was all surrounded by a scenery of ancient Maple, Oak and Locust trees - whose gnarled appearances of lacy leafy canopies gave shade on the hot sultry summer nights and perfumed the air with an earthy sweetness, when these events were usually scheduled. A once proud chained link fence, now disheveled kept watch over the whole property, only the ticket booths and metal arms of the floor to head height turnstile gates allowed slowly for the pandemonium to spill outward and overflow into the street.

The circus was an adventure for my cousins and I, we delighted at the splendor and surprise of all that the circus offered. From the sugary sweet aroma of cotton candy and caramel corn and of course elephant ears, to the buttery unmistakable popcorn aroma and roasted peanuts that permeated the whole grounds.

Concession Stand for Elephant Ears - fried disc of dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Parking Lot Entertainment By M.Markus
To the magic feeling of the performers and smells and sounds of the trained animals. Through our child eyes, these routines did not seem rehearsed, they seemed as though they had been played out especially for us.

The circus has the power to touch a special part in all of us - to harness the child-like wonder and air of magic, as adults, we wished existed.

I think out of all the circus and carnival concessions, elephant ears might be my favorite. The kid in me loves all of there soft, warm and cinnamon-sugar goodness.
Elephant Ear - fried disc of dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Elephant Ear By {ErinKphoto} aka redcargurl
The baker in me knows their is a more upscale, adult version. The Crispy. Crispies use puff dough as a base. You can find a formula for puff dough here in my previous post Formula: Scratch Italian Puff Pastry

Formula for Cinnamon Sugar (home use version) [commercial version should be increased by 8 times]
  • 26 oz all purpose sugar
  • 2 2/3 oz. cinnamon
  • 1 oz. vegetable oil

Mix together cinnamon and sugar first with paddle attachment in kitchen aide (for commercial version use 20 QT), then add oil .

You can store this in an air tight container for future use with breads, cinnamon rolls etc.

Procedure For Making Crispies:

Roll out or sheet puff dough to 5 cm (you can use a yard stick to measure the dough thickness if rolling it out by hand).

You will need to have a dough width of 20 inches. (remember to roll out your dough a few inches wider , then using your hands push the sides in to get the 20 inches width on your yard stick. This is called "shrinking" which promises that your crispies will stay the size you originally made them and not shrink during bake off).

Egg wash (1 egg beaten), the dough rectangle. Spread the cinnamon sugar over the egg washed dough, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered for seem allowance.

Starting at the top of your dough triangles left side, tuck your first 4 fingers of each hand under the edge of the dough - keep your thumbs free, and start by tucking the edge under using the heal of your hand and thumbs until you have spanned the length of your rectangle to the right. Keep repeating until you have tucked all of your dough, creating a tight roll. (it is very important not to press the layers of puff dough to tightly, as this will effect the integrity of the puff dough it's self.)

Once you have a roll, slowly pull the length of the roll so that it is of a uniform length and width. Using a sharp chef knife cut in increments of 1 inch wide pieces using a rocking motion when cutting each piece - you may need to hold each piece while cutting - be careful in the position of your knife blade.

When you have cut all your pieces, using all purpose sugar, spread it out all over your work surface to form a thin layer. Place each piece spiral facing up and roll with rolling pin until paper thin and semi circular. Place crispies on a parchment covered sheet pan, in groups of six (arranged 2 by 2 by 2). Continue adding new parchment onto the finishes sets of six until your pieces are all done.

You can then bake off each parchment sheet containing six crispies until crisp and golden at 375 F °ree; The unfinished crispies can be refrigerated if encased in a plastic bag, knotted tightly (airtight), to bake off later.

These are a very crispy and sticky sweet version of the elephant ear. They make great garnish for custards or cheesecake - break into pieces and arrange by gently pushing into the center of each dessert portion.

Now back to the topic of circuses, I know there is a circus tour starting soon. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have tour dates planned for all over the East Coast and South East corner of the US. There is one Stop in California on the West Coast. You can click on the picture below to see the tour stops below on the map.

To Get more info visit http://www.ringling.com/, where you can purchase tickets or view other fun things.

19 September 2008

Tables Are More Ethstetic Than Utilitarian 6

What is a table? In the world of food, a table was thought to be a key element, not only in the placement meals - but also in the gathering of the guests who invited, would devour it. In current times, the table has taken on a backdrop appeal, more suitable as a place to position the laptop, and very little is discussed there - as digital gadgets have replaced the once lively meal time chatter.

Days are becoming far less about meals and more about classes, appointments, events and schedules. Both children and adults have increasingly growing activities to occupy their time, and statistics show that 40% or more, of surveyed families do not sit down to eat meals together on a regular basis.

One popular brand know best for canned vegetables, Libby's (can you say pumpkin pie?) has brought attention to this state of affairs, by actually launching a whole month of awareness. The campaign entitled "Get Back to the Table Month", is aimed at driving home the benefits of sitting down to meals as a family, to US consumers via the website www.getbacktothetable.com.

According to the website some of those benefits regarding children:

  • Perform better in school
  • Have a lower risk of smoking, drinking, and drug use
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Develop stronger interpersonal relationships
  • Eat healthier
  • Teenage girls develop a healthier body image
Not only are their statistics, but tips on being frugal, coupons, and recipes.

One of the featured recipes is Mexican Tortilla Soup. It is pictured above. A very simple recipe anyone could follow. For a more festive presentation of this soup, more as a side or appetizer instead of an entree - try ladling the soup into into small ramekins or high walled tea cups (without handles), then make up some tortilla fries as garnish.

Tortilla fries can be of varying thickness - what ever you want the final result to look like.

Have 2-3 inches of oil in a pan, allow to get to 350 ° . Start with either corn or flour tortillas tortillas, and taking a vary sharp paring knife or pastry wheel (pizza cutter), which I feel works the best, lay the tortillas on a cutting surface. With sweeping brief cuts, make long strips across the tortilla. When you have a nice pile.

Grab a handful of the tortilla strips, and gently drop the handful into the oil. Fry until they turn golden, or crispy. Make sure the oil is strained from the finished tortilla fries. Let rest on paper towel. When about to serve add the piles of tortilla fries to the soups serving containers, this keeps the fries crunchy.

You can also do this with fresh wonton wrappers, to add to salads or other dishes. Just follow the above steps.

Formula: Scratch Italian Puff Pastry 5

"Pasta Spogolia Al Vermouth Blanco" is a commercial baking formula, and should be reduced for home usage, down to 1/3 or even 1/4 of the original formulation. This formula requires a 20 QT mixer. It is a Full Developed dough. Ingredients are measured by weight - NOT volume.

This is a really lovely puff dough to work with on the bench, it has a nice feel and tastes pleasing.

# = pound (US standard)
BP = Baker's Percent (disregard if not culinary professional)


  • 3# 10 oz. Organic Bread Flour Baker's % (80)
  • 1# 8 oz. butter (use European style, has better plasticity) BP % (20)
  • 1 1/2 oz. salt BP % (2)
  • 1 oz. malt BP % (1)
  • 7 oz. white wine (boxed is fine for this) BP % (10)
  • 1# 4 oz. water BP % (27.5)
  • 3 1/2 oz. eggs BP % (3)
Butter For Roll-in/Fold-in

  • 3# 10 oz. butter (use European style, has better plasticity) BP % (80)
  • 1# 8 oz. Organic Bread Flour


Dissolve salt in cold water.

In a 20 QT mixer with the hook attachment, mix the flour, butter, salt & water until well incorporated. Add the eggs and white wine. (slowly pour in) [NOTE: The amount of water needed depends on the hydration of the flour - different batches of flour from the mill will be drier than others, thus requiring more water that stated. You should always add extra liquid slowly 1 ounce at a time, to avoid over saturating your dough.]

Give the dough an intensive mix. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Mix folding butter & remaining bread flour. flatten the folding butter into a square and reserve in the reach-in /refrigerator.

{When working w/ puff dough - it is critical, for the flakiness & layers to form, to NOT push the edges of your dough down (as if pie dough), you must handle the edges delicately, or it will hinder the steam from forming during bake-off (steam = proper puff & rise).}

Place the butter square (from reach-in) on top of your chilled dough, on the lower half of the dough. Fold the dough in half, completely covering the butter - preform these steps:

  1. Roll out the dough until it's length is 3 times it's width.
  2. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter.
  3. Rotate the dough 90° and roll out the dough until it's 4 times it's width. (Be sure to roll the dough perpendicular to the first turn.)
  4. Wrap the dough n plastic wrap, place it into the reach-in /refrigerator for 45 minutes.
Remove the dough and repeat steps 1-5 as stated above . (roll dough : 1 x 3, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 4)

The dough is now ready to be used. This dough makes up great pastries - turnovers, palmiers, savory pastries - whatever you desire.

Related Posts:

Commercial Formulas Featured On Renaissance Culinaire

Formulas for Muffins, Scones and Pastries Featured On Renaissance Culinaire

15 September 2008

Encourage Your Little Chef, while Encouraging Listening Skills 19

When foodies envision the perfect pizza, the visions are filled with wonderful and exotic ingredients - the texture, the smells and the very process of the pizza production conjure up such great memories and mouthwatering fantasy of new creations.

When cooking with children, pizza is often a dish that gets top attention. It is fun to mix and children love to see the dough rise and are thrilled to spread the sauces and cheese or other toppings upon the pizza.

But sometimes with younger pre-schoolers or those in kindergarten, it can be quite the challenge to hold their attention and keep them focused.

Well that is where Noodleboro Pizza Palace Listening Game comes in handy. This game comes complete with pizzas & real take out boxes, a peel (which doubles as the scoring track /game board) , plenty of toppings. Think of it as a pre-pizza conditioner, to help your kids strengthen those listening skills needed to cook along side you in the kitchen.

When I got the chance to review this game, not only was my 5 yr old excited, but this game was something she could relate to me and culinary. She loved that she would be "cooking" up pizza and earning points when her orders were right. The audio CD was a hit with her too and even my 17 month old joined in and was dancing and clapping. A fun game for the whole family.

Noodleboro Pizza Palace Listening Game Specs:
  • 25 pizza topping cards
  • 2 sets of 25 pizza toppings
  • 2 pizza boxes with pizzas
  • 2 pizza topping trays
  • Chef's Hat Moving Pawn
  • Scoring track
  • CD (21 tracks)
  • Storybook
  • instructions in English and in Spanish.

Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 10.5 x 10.5 inches


Item model number:

Mfr. Recommended Age:
36 months - 6 years

Number of Players: 2 - 3

...this will  be big fun for little chefs  while honing  skills...

In the Noodleboro Pizza Palace ListeningGame storybook "Listen While You Work": Chef Listentino stubbed his toe and has the only pizzeria in town. Suddenly it looks as if pizza eating is doomed for the whole town - until 2 young boys offer to help.  Avery and Earnest tell Chef Listentino they will make the pizzas for him. They get a crash course in proper pizza production, but Avery doesn't listen to Chef, and when the time comes to make pizzas their assembly line goes awry due to Avery's bad listening and communication skills with his partner Earnest.

Although not up to HAACP standards, this book is written in a way that will engage your little chef. Filled
with bright illustrations, and plenty of non-stop silliness.This same theme is echoed in the actual game play:

The "order giver" must select 3 topping cards, most of the ingredients are standard pizza topping such as pepperoni or anchovies, but just like the storybook some silliness carries over in the form of soccer balls, tennis shoes or French fries and other objects edible or not. Order Givers are encouraged to change their orders to help strengthen memory and listening skills.

"Pizza makers" must listen as these ingredients are read out loud, once they have been said it is up to the pizza maker to remember what was said without hints. Each successful pizza order gains the pizza maker another spot on the scoreboard (a.k.a the peel) , whoever advances their chef hat game piece first to the top spot, wins.

The audio CD included in the game has 21 tracks of silly sounds and songs which all coincide with the storybook, that strengthen the overall lessons of the book - bringing the book to life for your kids.

This game is guaranteed to encourage your child's social skills such as working on a team and communicating, all naturally through different sensory stimulations, whether it be from the book, the audio CD or actual game time.

14 September 2008

From Bottles to Bags - Green is both Cool & Responsible 16

In keeping with my eco-friendly theme lately on Renaissance Culinaire I have reviewed two great bags. These bags are not from your typical company who creates a few pieces for their product line that cater to the Green market. These are in fact created by Act2GreenSmart who's Owners Tom & Debbie, who once marketed products under the company brand Shoreline which started in 1995, decided in 2007 with guidance from Tom's education in Conservation of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley and Debbie’s green oriented background to convert the company into a viable, brand using eco-friendly materials through a special process.

According to the companies own research:

Plastic bottles (PET #1) are one of the biggest environmental disasters today. In the United States alone, 230 bottles per person go to landfill per year. That’s enough crushed bottles to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium in California every two weeks.

These bottles, which are made from petroleum, find their way into landfills, rivers, lakes and roadsides. And they never decompose.

We think this is unacceptable. It’s also completely unnecessary. The technology exists today to convert these bottles into high-quality, durable fabrics which look and perform equal to their virgin counterparts. All of our act2 fabrics are made from 100% certified post-consumer PET bottles. You get a top quality product made from one of the world’s most durable fabrics AND save the planet at the same time.

When I got the opportunity to review these Act2greenSmart bags I was ecstatic. I would be sharing with you not only a cool looking product, but one that you and I could feel great about purchasing and using. Act2GreenSmart not only uses environmentally friendly material in their products, but also in their printing inks (vegetable based), promotional materials and product tags (using natural cotton twine to attach them). They also use recycled material to ship their products.

The first bag I got to review was the Act2GreenSmart Shoulder Pouch.
Act2Green Shoulder Pouch

Product Specs:

Exterior Fabric: 450d 100% rPET polyester

Interior Fabric: 150d 100% rPET polyester

Shoulder Pouch Dimension: 7” x 5.5” x 1.5”

Colors: Blue or Olive

This is a really nice substantial bag for being on the smaller side. I received this bag in "Olive", like the messenger bag pictured below.

The outer fabric feels and looks great. It has a very small raised checker look to it, which gives it just enough interest to separate it from similar bags. You can actually feel the durability when comparing the fabric to standard backpack canvas. The hems and stitching are all very well hidden with cording details which also gives this bag a nice style element.

The Shoulder Pouch is lined with a nice buttery lime fabric silkscreened with the Act2green logo. It isn't as dark as the picture to the right.

The Shoulder Pouch has two zippers on the outside, like those pictured to the right except they are in a nickel toned metal as apposed to the brass toned pictured. The zippers are large, light, and curved - making them very ergonomic and allow for easy gripping, if you or someone you know has arthritis or other hand problems - this bag would be easy to maneuver with. Open an outer lined compartment in the pouches outer flap, and a back deeper lined pocket that has two roomy compartments.

Inside the pouch is a standard black metal zipper that reveals a deep lined pocket, suitable for a passport or money. And below this pocket is a smaller lined open split compartment which allows for expansion. Nice for sunglasses or items you need to get to quickly. The magnetic snap closure is hidden and very large also, making it easy to close on those hurried days.

The shoulder strap is a tightly woven strap, which feels comfortable on your shoulder, and allows for cinching up or down for length with aide of a metal ring clasp, and is attached to the Shoulder Pouch bag by metal c-hooks which have a lever to easily remove the strap.

The sticker that was inside the shoulder pouch said that making each pouch uses 5, 16 ounce PET Bottles, and saves 3437 Btu or 1 KWh. That is enough energy to power a laptop for 40 hours!

Overall I would say this is a great smaller bag for weekend jaunts, or times when you can't take a bulky bag with you, yet you still need to take some essentials. It is stylish enough to bring to work or for semi causal activities. Has allot of pockets for it's size. You can find the Act2GreenSmart Shoulder Pouch on Amazon.com

The Second bag I got to review was Act2GreenSmart's Vertical Messenger Bag. When this arrived to my house and I opened the box, I was thinking to myself how I was in so love with a bag, and hadn't even used it yet.

The Vertical Messenger Bag I received was in "Stone", like in the second picture below.

Messenger Product Specs:

Exterior Fabric: 600d 100% rPET polyester

Interior Fabric: 150d 100% rPET polyester

Vertical Messenger Dimension:

17” x 11” x 5”

Colors: Olive or Stone

The outer fabric has a slightly different weave than the Shoulder Pouch, it has a very fine weave similar to a snowboarding jacket. There is no raised pattern, and it gives the bag a very smart modern look. The outer fabric feels very durable, yet still retains the lightweight needed when searching for a messenger bag.

It is also lined with a nice buttery lime fabric silkscreened with the Act2green logo. It isn't as dark as the picture to the right.

The Vertical Messenger Bag has two zippers (as detailed above) on the outside, like those pictured to the right except they are in a nickel toned metal as apposed to the brass toned pictured. The zippers are large, light, and curved - making them very ergonomic and allow for easy gripping, if you or someone you know has arthritis or other hand problems - this bag would be easy to maneuver with. Also great for kids. One is used to open the outer back pocket, it is wide yet shallow, which is nice for loose change or pens. The 2nd opens an roomy outer flap pocket. This pocket is great for a variety of items you need to reach frequently.

The Vertical Messenger Bag's main flap is held closed by two smooth hidden magnetic metal snaps. When you open the flap, you can see the open main lined compartment ,which has 3 long strips of high density recycled material that are sewn into the lining of the back of the compartment and the front has wider overlapping strips that form a movable wall, which seperates the main compartment into two different roomy compartments, making it a perfect place to rest your laptop inside.

The outer area under the flap, has three open, unlined pockets total. The largest is deep and about 10 inches wide.

The Vertical Messenger bag's shoulder strap is very tightly woven, with a nice outer edge detail. It is very comfortable when resting on the shoulder, the materials it is woven out of allow for some give which allows it to form around the contours of your shoulder, yet will hold it's shape. You can adjust the length of the strap also. There is a large loop in the back created from the same outer material, to pick up the bag without using the shoulder strap.

The sticker inside the Vertical Messenger bag said to make this bag: 23 ,16 ounce PET Bottles were used, which saves 15,684 Btu or 4.6 KWh - enough energy to power a laptop for 184 hours!

Overall I loved the Act2GreenSmart Vertical Messenger Bag. It could easily double as a diaper bag or be used for carrying text books. The materials and colors give it a very hip and modern feel. And not only does it look cool while you wear it, but it is roomy, utilitarian and eco-friendly and durable. Very comfortable to wear. You can find Act2GreenSmart's Vertical Messenger Bag on Amazon.com

Kudos to Act2GreenSmart for taking the initiative to reform their company and create such cool useful products out of PET bottles (these bottles have a 1# stamped on the bottom - generally water & soda) which normally go to landfills and take up to 1000 years to decompose.

You can read further about Act2GreenSmart's president Tom's quest and his aspirations by checking out his blog.

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