For This Pastry Team, Working Smart Means Cross Training with Donuts

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The 9 a.m. donut handoff! Ella GM Sandra Pepin receives the goodies from MGFD’s pastry chef MJ Garcia.

Every morning Pastry Chef MJ Garcia gets into Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink around 5:45 a.m. and takes survey of her stock.  Then it’s time to cross train.

“If I ran a special that had pastry cream the day before, I’ll use it for a donut at Ella,” she explains.  “The other day we did butterscotch pudding here, so that became the filling for a chocolate glazed there.”

Restaurants like Michael’s flagship with its vast menu and myriad meal periods require a lot of rotation of product. MJ’s cross training routine makes for a fit operation, one with limited waste not at the expense of creativity. It’s a canvas that offers an outlet for new ideas to develop with discipline and structure because they are built on making something special from what’s around. “If you think about it from the culinary side, donuts are like the soup,” she points out.

Since our light and airy café first opened in late spring last year, the “Ella Daily Donut” (#elladailydonut on Instagram) has become a fixture in the display case, coveted for its surprising array of flavors and formats.  It was around the time MJ rejoined The Genuine Hospitality Group after a four year hiatus from Miami in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with husband (and now Cypress Tavern Chef de Cuisine) Max Makowski.  Her first placement was at ella, where she learned a tremendous deal about desserts in a retail environment, not to mention the benefit of direct customer feedback at the counter.

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Rainbow of Flavors: Here, lemon and coconut ensconced on their perch in the morning light.

“I noticed things… saw the pastries and how they were behaving.  Fresh fruit like strawberries will look fantastic in the morning but they wilt and go pale by the evening,” she recalls observing.  “You have to think how many hours a particular donut is going to stand up.  At 7 p.m. closing it has to look as good at as it did at opening. So you have boundaries.”

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Sometimes the donuts would be too big or too little.  MJ made note of all these things at ella, and translated them to improvements on that offering, not to mention best practices for her department at large at Michael’s Genuine.

“You have to keep a lot of factors in mind while you do these seemingly simple things,” she continues. “Yeasted donuts are more irregular in the way the dough behaves and there is more room for error.  It can overproof which creates big air pockets which can explode in the frier!  You also have to be careful not to overwork the dough which will develop gluten and produce a tough, dense result.”

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Lemon Meringue donut in all her oozy glory; the perfect ratio of filling to fried dough dusted in sugar and laden with sticky, caramelized meringue topping.

The preparation of the yeasted dough is a one day process with bulk cold fermentation in large tubs to develop flavor, refrigerating overnight. Then she rolls it out and punches it, and waits an hour before frying. But as important as the foundation may be, the ultimate test is in the merchandising… read: decoration.

“Decoration is everything,” MJ agrees.  “We eat with our eyes, so when building the donut we play with color, texture and form, from punched or filled, to toppings like chocolate crunch balls and Oreo cookie crumbles.  If I made lemon lavender syrup and I have lemon juice, I’ll make a Lemon glaze and add coconut flakes. People love cookies and cream, and chocolate always makes sense on weekends!”

MJ says her team, helmed by pastry assistants Alexandra Sarria (lead) and Chelsea Hillier, “harass the Instagram” for feedback from customers, as well as those who post their own photos of the donuts. This feedback mechanism is invaluable, since they aren’t at the café to interact when people are eating them.

“Cypress sometimes gets leftovers, so my husband will let me know how they are and what his team thinks. It’s hard sometimes, so we take what we can.  Of course there’s the morning crew at Genuine. Those guys are a great source of feedback, especially when you catch them sneaking the scraps!”

A Brunch Menu of Bottomless Indulgences Saturday 2.20 at Cypress Tavern

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CT_Indulge Brunch MenuCypress Tavern’s Indulge Brunch is Saturday, February 20. We are so excited to finally share the menu! Enjoy a family-style brunch with 3 courses of multiple dishes, a choice between two special bottomless cocktails for the occasion, and a goody bag curated by Indulge magazine celebrating its new food issue with our chocolate truffles and more. It’s all included for $79 per person plus tax and gratuity. We are booking through ticketed reservations, so guests can pick an available time from 11am-3pm to indulge; it doesn’t all start at once. Join chefs Michael, Bradley and Max for a super decadent and delicious meal, 4 weeks from today. Tables are going to look insane, so book now to ensure you’re at one of them! CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS!

 

Here’s What’s for Dinner at ella after 2!

 

Ella_after 2_menu_finalOne week from this Thursday, Michael heads behind the counter for ella after dinner service again.  He just finished the menu, and wine director Mr. Eric Larkee the wines. We definitely aren’t in Hanoi anymore!  There are a few spots left at 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27.  Click here to snag a ticket before they’re gone!

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Stumbling upon MGFD pastry chef Amy Kalinowski’s first round of hempseed baklava testing!

[RECIPE] Check Mate! Chocolate Chess Pie

It was seriously too good not to share. Last night we OMG’d at O Cinema for the last time this summer thanks to an incredible performance by Harry’s Pizzeria chef de cuisine Daniel Ramirez. The menu was a piece of Michigan food history like hand-held pasty pies  — akin to empanadas closer to home — made into pot pie for family style service.   When Danny mentioned this to Devin, a pastry cook at MGFD, duck fat crust was born.

I was on dessert duty again, this time parchment liner-free (thanks Chef!) and had the self control-rattling task of portioning out MGFD pastry chef Amy Kalinowski’s decadent chocolate chess pie. I knew things would get messy based on past experience with two sheet trays of Banoffee, so this time crema was going to be dolloped to plate.  A triumph!  Chess pie is actually chest pie. Like pies you can stack in a chest for safe keeping.  It’s a southern thing, a piece of food culture that lost the t over time.

Luckily for us here, a guest returned from the theater with a request.  Seconds?  No, a slice of altruism!  She inquired about the recipe, a sweet ending to the meal she will produce this weekend for some very lucky home-bound summer campers.  So here you have it: Danny’s adaptation of Amy’s dessert (with her approval of course!) currently on the menu at MGFD, for your home kitchen.  After a summer at the mess hall, this might actually be dangerous.  Proceed at your own risk!

OMG’d Chocolate Chess Pie

Yields 2, 12-inch pies

2 1/2 cups butter, melted
3 cups semi-sweet dark chocolate, melted
25 ounces evaporated milk
10 whole eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla paste (or 1 vanilla bean)
2 tablespoons coffee extract
5.5 cups of sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 packs Oreo cookies
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 pound melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, and coffee extract for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until incorporated.  In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk to incorporate. Set aside in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap while you make the crust. Pulverize the oreos in a food processor, like bread crumb size and in a large bowl mix with flour and melted butter by hand until the consistency of wet sand.  Spray pie tins with lots of pam coating. Press the oreo crust into the pans. Make sure it’s nice and tight, and even thickness, about 1/2 inch throughout.  Pour in the batter to fill. It doesn’t rise so do be scared to fill your pans to the level you want. Bake for 30-45 minutes. It should be firm with slight wiggle to it.  Let cool on a rack for about a hour.  Enjoy topped with whipped cream and berries, vanilla ice cream or simply powdered sugar for chocolate heaven. Any way you slice it, you can’t go wrong!

Duck, Duck, Pork: Harry’s BBQ Night Menu is Here!

HP BBQ Night_menu_5.8Make a run for it!  With summer in our sights, it’s time to roll out the smoker again at Michael Schwartz’s casual neighborhood joint in Miami’s Design District and welcome a local brewery to pour for dinner. Harry’s Pizzeria welcomes Wynwood Brewing Co. for a night of local beer and BBQ in Miami’s Design District on Tuesday, May 19 beginning at 6:30 p.m.  We now have a mouthwatering menu certainly fit to chase with beer!

We are also excited to have a guest chef join us important to the story of Michael’s Genuine Home Brew. Chef Leonardo Maurelli of Central in Montgomery, Alabama was there when Michael first met Back Forty Beer Company at a 2011 Auburn University event for tornado relief. A native of the Republic of Panama, Leonardo shares his unique multicultural take on traditional southern dishes and cuisine. We know he will bring the BBQ mojo on a collaborative menu with Harry’s own chef de cuisine Daniel Ramirez!

Click here for tickets ($68 includes it all!) — an indoor and outdoor stationed menu of BBQ, sides and dessert, all you care to drink Wynwood beer (special treatments, too!) from our counter, tax and gratuity. We love mixing it up at Harry’s Pizzeria and couldn’t wait to start the summer off with some BBQ.  See you there!