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Tips from Culinary Design Associates on Engaging All the Senses Through Food

by Culinary Design Associates

With a little creativity, food can stimulate all the senses, but one sense should never overpower another. Seek balance in the culinary endeavors and the outcome will be not only delicious but beautiful as well.

2. Consider color when cooking. Vegetables are a great way to liven up any dish. Items such as red, yellow, or orange peppers, in addition to beets, radishes, carrots or bright garnish can really enhance the look of a dish. Just be sure the flavors contribute well to the overall menu.

3. Aroma can be one of the most enjoyable parts of culinary satisfaction. Herbs, spices, and small touches are perfect for this purpose, especially fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, or oregano.

4. If incorporating highly aromatic spices into the dish(s) is not possible, utilize a centerpiece of lemons, crushed cloves, or a lightly scented floral arrangement to arouse the sense of smell. Stay away from highly perfumed bouquets, incense, or scented candles as this will likely overpower the meal.

5. Consider texture as an important component. A combination of smooth, firm, crisp, and soft should all be present throughout the meal.

6. Take into account shapes and sizes as well. Combinations of chopped, shredded, heaping, flat, round, and square can all create an interesting and attractive plate of food.

7. Preparation style throughout the meal can also contribute to variation, such as steamed, baked, grilled, and chilled.

8. Also, contrast the temperatures of the dishes. Hot and cold options are essential, and the cook should create a variety within these categories, such as a chilled soup followed by hot poultry dish, and completed with a cold ice cream dessert.

9. Have fun! Cooking is not only enjoyable for those at the receiving end, but also for the individual(s) in the kitchen. Bon appetite!

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Culinary Design Associates: Exploring Bread Traditions, Part 2

Dinner Rolls

By 3268zauber (Own work) {CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL ()}, via Wikimedia Commons

In the first of Culinary Design Associates‘ postings on bread traditions, we examined two very different approaches, from light, crispy French bread to dense, heavy German bread. Here, we discuss dinner rolls and San Francisco-style sourdough.

Dinner rolls can be made to fit virtually any bread tradition, but there are some slight differences between, say, a French baguette and a French dinner roll. Like the baguette, the dinner roll will be baked for maximum crust and crispiness. Unlike the baguette, however, rolls are meant to be eaten immediately after baking.

Due to their small size, rolls can be served whole. This allows the baker to take liberties one would not take with a standard loaf. For instance, most loaves are allowed to cool completely before slicing, which prevents the interior structure from collapsing. However, bread loses some of its softness in the cooling process. Rolls, because they are designed to be finished in one sitting, do not need to be cooled. As such, bakers can use a flour with less gluten, which provides a softer, silkier texture.

Otherwise, rolls can be made to suit any palate. As seen in the picture above, seeds can be used to decorate the rolls, or they can be “painted” with melted butter, or dusted with semolina or corn meal. Each of these variations adds a different character.
Sourdough, a tradition often associated with San Francisco, can also be found in certain parts of Europe. The souring effect is caused by the development of a certain type of microorganism, the genus lactobacillus, which releases alcohol into the dough as it is rising. This provides the distinctive flavor we associate with the tradition. Other than the “sour,” however, sourdough recipes resemble other bread recipes. The flavors that developed in San Francisco relate to the particular microclimate of the area. The same holds true for sourdough breads from Europe.

Culinary Design Associates: Exploring Bread Traditions, Part 1

Culinary Design Associates: Exploring Bread Traditions, Part 1

Baguettes

At Culinary Design Associates, we offer hundreds of menu items to suit any catered event. Our menu includes a wide selection of breads. Breads from different parts of the world are baked to emphasize certain characteristics that are part of a rich local tradition.

The traditional French baguettes, along with many other types of French bread, are designed for maximum crust. The reason baguettes come in a long, thin shape is that it maximizes the surface-to-volume ratio of the loaf. Baked under the right conditions, French bread, whether baguette, boule, or b√Ętard, should develop a light, crispy crust. This effect stems from the use of steam baking and high temperatures. Modern steam-injection ovens shoot streams of hot vapor into the cooking space, giving French breads their delectable texture. Baking at a high temperature helps to develop the thickness and color of the crust.

In addition, French breads consist of very minimal ingredients. Traditional recipes use only flour, water, salt, and yeast. Allowed to develop slowly over the course of many hours, this approach gives French bread its distinctive flavor. In France, soil and weather conditions also tend toward a wheat with a lower gluten content than American wheat. Diners who prefer chewy baguettes will prefer American wheat; those who enjoy a silkier texture will prefer a French-style flour.

On the opposite end of the baking spectrum, German-style breads often feature whole grains, hearty textures, and bolder flavors than their French parallels. Traditional German “black” bread was baked with whole-wheat flour further supplemented with the addition of excess wheat bran, left over from creating white flour. With their dense, brick-like texture, Westphalian German breads of this type remain popular among diners who prefer a more substantial meal. They pair well with stews, sauerkraut, sausage, and other German staples.

For something in between, diners may prefer a mixed-grain boule or country rye bread. Somewhat heartier than pure white bread, these varieties offer more complex flavors without sacrificing their delicate texture.

Culinary Design Associates: Exploring Bread Traditions, Part 2