When a Just Ok Bagel Is Not Good Enough, The Genuine Commissary Dials in the Schwartz Recipe

“MJ always has to touch the dough.  Always,” explains Chelsea Hillier, assistant pastry chef.  It’s 5:56 a.m. and work on the day’s prep list has already been in motion for 30 minutes.  We’re spending the morning at the Genuine Commissary, where the energy is decidedly different than later in the day.  It’s… well… therapeutic?

To understand how a place so frenetic can glaze-coat the spirit and spark a twinkle in the eye, you have to be there. In fact, I prescribe a visit with MJ and her team to anyone afflicted with a case of sour attitude or bad day.  It’s a dose of good vibes, creative energy and inspirational collaboration like no other I’ve experienced.  Talk about knowing where our food comes from… They have their hands all over it.

“We started making the bagels because Harry and I went to brunch on Miami Beach,” chef Michael recounts. “Harry’s bagel arrived, and it was like a Lender’s. At this fancy place! I listened to myself as I justified how this could happen — that it’s too hard to make good bagels, so why go through the pain of making sure it’s done right, the extra cost and time associated.  It was then when I realized that was totally ridiculous.  We shouldn’t have to suffer through shitty bagels.  Let’s make bagels!  So Harry and I spent a few weekends after that testing recipes and figuring it out.”

Spreading the peanut butter cream to the nutter shell. Myrtille is one of several commissary staff exclusively working on-site,  not including TGHG chefs overseeing the production or popping in on any given day for recipe testing or other projects related to Michael Schwartz Events.

MJ, whose title of Pastry Chef is more and more savory these days, and Chelsea have totally embraced this thought process and put it into action, with their well-oiled machine.  It’s an exercise in “mental time management”, and to get good fitness there serves them in every aspect of functionality and productivity at the space.  That they are taking on bagels to begin with demonstrates the strength of the operation, and its steady and calculated evolution from humble beginnings in January — both in capabilities and the scope of its role. The commissary now supplies Ella Pop Café with 12 to 14 a day (“We want them to be fresh, and eliminate waste when possible, so no crazy pars,” they say) and 56 on Sunday’s for Michael’s Genuine.

“We used to do the English muffin at brunch, and Chef was like ‘I want you guys to do bagels’ and he gave us this recipe and asked us to develop it,” MJ explains. “It really came to life when we got the commissary and this (combi) oven.  There aren’t a lot of places that make them by hand, from scratch.  We just worked with the dough and used the Rational as our ally to make the best of it in a controlled environment. Before we would boil them, we were trying to be rushed at the restaurant to get it done, and they weren’t right.”

As Chelsea rolls and then rests the dough before pulling them into loops, she explains that the bagels take good chunk of time even if it is only 12 to 14. The key to bagels is keeping a clean workspace, and that also includes your hands.  You don’t want to incorporate more flour or oil than necessary, even the tiniest bit.  They need to sit and rest for the gluten to develop properly in the dough, not too much or they’ll get tense and rip, overextending like a muscle.

“It’s a time to breath and think amidst the craziness of the pace from one thing to the next. It’s like therapy,” she reflects. “The time they need depends. You need more than time to know.  You have to touch them, and use all your senses to know when.  I usually stare at the prep list and contemplate as I’m pulling them.”

Homework.

So much depends on time and timing here for it to all work, from the bagel dough and all its stages including proofing and baking, to adjustments on call times for the staff based on the work load for the week.  When the duck confit goes in for its 9 hour water bath (sous vide) at 8 a.m., you better have completed everything requiring the combi oven by then. In this way, the prep list double as a recipe, which Chef notes only serves if read all the way through before starting.  Then there’s the last minute requests, the fire drills you can’t plan for, like a downed walk-in cooler, that can set things off axis and require smart, creative thinking on the fly. It’s a business of anticipation but also of problem solving.

The day builds momentum from the instant Chelsea opens the kitchen, a mind-blowing (cue the new emoji!), eye-squinting 4:30 a.m. on Sundays.  The morning is the most hectic because because the team needs to knock out all orders for the restaurants, to supply everyone — and they want things fresh.  They base everything off Ella’s timeline so that means 8:30 a.m. delivery. On days there are early orders for Michael Schwartz Events, that could be 7:30 a.m.  Rye Butterscotch Brownie trimmings make it all better, of course. So does the surprise, creative elements unique to each day.

“We never do the same thing. Everyday is different,” Chelsea smiles.  “There are certain routines and things we need to make. Sometimes we do cupcakes or special cookies.  Whoever is making the donut gets to make what they want to make and have a creative outlet.  If we want to bring something in we always make sure we have a plan for it.  I’m working on developing the brunch menu to reflect the arrival of season.  So if I bring in pears, we find ways to cross utilize them across many restaurants and formats.”

Then there’s the fun of watching MJ and Chelsea bat back and forth like a tennis, crosschecking tasks and playing off each other’s moves and sensibilities, which are opposed in the most fluid and collaborative way.  Complementary, like any effective creative pair.

“I think everybody at the commissary really enjoys working here,” MJ reflects.  “We all come with a purpose and work equally as hard, and at the end of the day that’s what worth it.”

Cruller & Unusual, Just How We Like Our Fall Desserts

Spot the cruller, drag the cruller. It’s how MJ wants us to pot de crème this season.

When you ask Pastry Chef MJ Garcia how she approaches developing new desserts, she tells you it’s just like the savory side of the kitchen.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given she’s closer than ever to the big picture of the sourcing process now running the Genuine Commissary. Seasonality drives it all, as specific ingredients each become the focus around which dishes and desserts are built.

From apples to pumpkin, now is the time to get a bite, lick and drizzle of fall.  Ella Pop Café is increasingly becoming an outlet for creative development thanks to a format conducive to quick product turnover and pastry case production in small batches.  A visit could yield anything from Pumpkin Cupcakes to Gingersnap Pumpkin Donuts, often a canvas for seasonal flavors.

Right now, Michael’s Genuine®’s dessert menu is full on fall with three new items, Apple Pie with toasted oats ice cream and salted caramel, Maple Pot de Crème with french crullers, and Turkish Coffee Ice Cream Trifle with cold brew syrup, meringue cream and ginger snaps.  Recent specials have included Sticky Toffee Pumpkin Pudding and Pumpkin Ice Cream.

“Apple and pumpkin are so versatile and play really well in both sweet and savory,” she explains. “Going extremely homey, like apple pie, just makes sense.  And then there’s just so many different places you can go with it.  We’ve been pushing ourselves this season to be smart with cross utilization, but also have a little fun while we’re at it, too.”

Keep your eyes peeled to Instagram for daily specials as the season unfolds.

 

[RECIPE] We Fancy Cheese Puffs | Playing the Temperature Game for Perfect Choux Pastry in Gougères

Wednesday’s Rancher Appreciation Supper (tickets and menu here) at Harry’s Pizzeria® is about more than meats the eye.  The occasion is a celebration of delicious product from a source we trust and can stand behind, a commitment that Michael is making long term for our neighborhood American pizzeria as it grows.  Beef and pork raised right, tastes right.  But what happens behind the scenes to make it all happen for the dinner on the culinary end orchestrates resources and talent across our group, from menu development to execution.

This morning we visited our commissary kitchen where much of the heavy lifting for prep happens for our restaurants and special events to zero in on the process through the humble cheese puff or gougère.  A flurry of activity since 5:00 a.m. dances around not skipping a beat from one item, one hot minute, to the next, cooks methodically Sharpie-striking the day’s butcher paper prep list taped to glass racks. MJ keeps her cool “off to get [her] ass kicked” on the next thing.  Jean checks on Michael’s Genuine’s pastrami in the cabinet smoker wafting a peppery sweetness over the range where MJ begins her pâte à choux.  The key throughout the process is use of temperature and its control.

“What I love about the choux dough is it is so rustic. You have to really get in there with your hands to make something beautiful and simple,” she explains, bringing the water, milk, salt and sugar to a boil in a saucepan before adding the butter and then the flour, paddling, turning and whipping with a wooden spoon aggressively. “Instead of a raising agent like yeast or baking soda, we use a mechanical leavener — moisture from fat and the steam that escapes when heated.”

You’re looking for the “V” to form and then it’s ready to pipe.

MJ prefers her base with a little more flavor so she cuts the water with equal parts milk, adjusting the butter accordingly.  Keeping an eye on moisture content and knowing what to look for at the various stages of cooking will yield the right result.  She likes to finish cooking it by drying it as much as she can on the range.  Looking for a film to form on the bottom of the sauce pan, MJ then takes it just a tad longer over the heat.

“I’m looking for it to become dry enough to sustain the structure of the dough when I add the eggs later,” she adds.  They’ll be tempered with the help of the whiz of a gigantic paddle in the smaller (30 quart) of her two Hobart mixers and a paint job she learned back in culinary school — spreading the dough on the sides of the mixing bowl to let just the right amount of steam escape before adding the eggs so they incorporate perfectly.

“When you are trained originally in pastry you start with traditional French patisserie to learn the basics,” MJ reflects.  “I always rely on the foundation of the technique, but it’s the instinct for cues in the behavior of the technique that develop over time and serve to make a recipe really work.”

Gougères

Yields about 3 dozen

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 scant cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cups gruyère, shredded
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Pre-heat oven to 375° F.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat bring salt, sugar, milk, 1/2 cup of water and butter to a boil, mixing to combine with a wooden spoon.  When a froth begins to form, turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour.  Mix with wooden spoon continuously for 3-4 minutes or until a light film forms on the bottom. Keep stirring vigorously for another minute or two to dry the dough so it easily pulls away from the pan.  It should have a smooth, paste-like texture. Remove from the heat.  Using the wooden spoon, scoop the dough and spread on the sides of bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  This will allow just enough heat to escape before adding the eggs to ease their tempering.  Add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny, making sure that each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.  Don’t worry if the dough looks like spaeztle as the eggs are beaten in, this is normal; the dough will come together again.  Let the dough sit for a minute, then beat in the grated cheese. You’re looking for the dough to form a stiff “V” on the paddle, then you are ready to pipe.  Using a rubber spatula, scoop dough into a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip for better control when piping.

Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper — if you are using parchment, you can pipe a small bit of dough on the corners and in the center of the sheet to use as glue for the paper.  Pipe about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère leaving about 2 inches between the mounds. Sprinkle each with a little parmigiano.

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees F.  The initial blast of heat will activate the steam and make them rise, then lowering will dry them out without burning them.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the gougères are golden and puffed.  You an also pull one from the oven to test for moisture inside and continue to bake accordingly.  Serve warm, or transfer the pans to racks to cool.

Keeping the Miami Spice Season Real with Subject to Change Menus at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink

At Michael’s Genuine, the city’s annual Miami Spice restaurant promotion is about doing it right, or not doing it at all.  It’s what we’ve come to expect Michael to harp on each summer as it approaches, and we’re glad he does.  The reminder serves a few purposes.  For the kitchen, it’s a call to action for the chefs — they better understand why we participate and have seasoned guide rails to kick off the process in the right way. The opportunity forces the kitchen to work within a formula that encourages critical thinking on everything from cross utilization of product to how to incorporate seasonal ingredients that are available and abundant. The objective is to offer guests a great value, something they want to eat that isn’t just a prix fixe thrown together from what’s on the menu already, and a reason to come back to try something new with weekly changes. Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza and Pastry Chef MJ Garcia have heard the call loud and clear.

“It’s important we create a well-balanced offering, not phone it in,” Michael explains.  “We look closely at what makes the most sense to execute with the greatest benefit to our guests.  Sometimes having a structure like this can be a great tool for smart creativity.  If we do it right, Spice can be a platform to introduce new dishes to our regular menus.”

MGFD will offer Miami Spice Lunch ($23 – Monday-Thursday) and Dinner ($39 – Sunday through Thursday) including a choice of Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert from August 1 to September 30. In addition to the 3-courses included in Miami Spice, the restaurant will also run a selection of dishes from its regular menu as optional supplements at special prices. The Genuine Hospitality Group Beverage Manager and Sommelier Amanda Fraga will feature a cocktail for $10, with accessible wines highlighted from the wine list for convenience on the back of the Spice menu. Pricing is not inclusive of tax and gratuity, and menus will change regularly throughout the two months to fully embrace the program the genuine way.

Our initial menus are above, but when we go live Tuesday, August 1, they will be available and updated as weekly changes are made at michaelsgenuine.com.

[Video] [Recipe] Rosemary Pine Nut Tart

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Your Thanksgiving table will thank you for this.  Each year, we gather to share in the bounty of the season and no matter how delicious the savory spread is, from customary turkey to rainbow of side dishes, I always look forward to dessert.  There are no fewer than four pies on the table, all homemade and no one alike from crust to filling.  My mother would have it no other way and boy does it make the holiday complete.  From the stages of preparation that materialize on the counter days in advance with currents of bakery smells flowing through the house, entry of self control-challenged persons is ill advised, as is wandering around on an empty stomach.

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Click to watch and learn from the professional, then don’t be scared to give it a whirl yourself. Source: Foodable TV

With the luxury of step-by-step video instruction from Michael’s Genuine® Pastry Chef MJ Garcia, I had the confidence to ask for the recipe to attempt her stunning Rosemary Pine Nut Tart at home and add another notch in my apron sash.   What are you thinking about making this Thanksgiving?

Rosemary 🌲 🌰 Tart

Invoking taste memory adds depth not only in meaning and enjoyment of a dish, but layers of flavor, too. Here Michael’s Genuine pastry chef MJ Garcia conjures Queimada, an ancient Galician ceremony from the mountains where a traditional spirited drink of orange-infused aguardiente called Orujo Gallego is passed around.  With its use of a specialty ingredient like pine nuts and decorative garnish in powdered sugar-dusted rosemary sprig, this festive dessert transports even the diehard Miami snowbird to a forest of towering furs on a snowy December evening, plumes of chimney smoke rising in the distance.

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Makes one tart

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
2 egg yolks
1 cup brandy
Peel of 1 orange, such as navel
3 sprigs rosemary
6 eggs
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 1/8 cups corn syrup
2 cups honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups pine nuts

Begin with the pastry dough or “pate sucree”. In a large stainless steel bowl sift or whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter, pinching to rub into the dry ingredients just until the size of small peas. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Add 1/3 cup cold water and the yolk, mixing with your hands until it barely comes together and doesn’t develop too much gluten. Divide in half and wrap each pound of dough tightly in plastic. You’ll use one for the tart and must refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to using.  Stow the other in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator the day before baking for a December gathering.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Prepare the brandy syrup by placing a large sauté pan with brandy, orange peel and rosemary over medium high heat. Once bubbles begin to form, carefully flambé by tilting the pan toward the gas range until the fumes ignite the liquid. For electric or induction, use a long lighter or match and touch the edge of the pan to spread the flame. Simmer until syrup is reduced by half and set aside to cool.

Roll out one tart crust on a cool, floured surface until a scant 1/4 inch thin. Gently fold in quarters to more easily transfer to a greased 12 inch tart pan. Work with your palms to mold the pie crust to the inside edge of the pan while using your fingers to press the crust to the edge evenly. Clean the edges of overhanging dough. Line the pie crust with parchment paper a few extra inches larger than your tart tin and fill with weights such as dry beans. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and blanche in the oven for 10 minutes, remove the weights by pouching the edges of the parchment, and set aside. The crust shouldn’t take on any color at this point, as it will finish baking with the filling. Raise the oven temperature to 325°F.

For the filling, whisk the remainder of the ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl with the syrup, adding the pine nuts last and mixing until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the tart crust lined tin and return to the oven being careful not to spill as it will burn on the baking sheet. Bake for 22 minutes or until pine nuts develop a deep golden brown. Cool on a rack before slicing.

Slice and serve with crème fraîche whipped cream, a spring of fried rosemary dusted with powdered sugar and a wine-poached pear half, although a dollop of quality orange marmalade would do quite nicely, too.