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Friday, October 28, 2005 

Happy Chef Blogging Friday!

Meet Pastry Chef Sue McCown of Earth & Ocean at The W Hotel – Seattle, WA

Sue McCown was both raised and trained in the culinary arts in San Francisco. Sue attended the California Culinary Academy where she trained to become a professional chef and graduated with honors.

In 1990, Sue left San Francisco for the Pacific Northwest, taking a position at Campagne. After a few short months, Sue left line cooking and took over the restaurant’s baking operations. She enjoyed the energy level provided by working for a modern day French restaurant in the heart of the Pike Place Market, next to Chef Tamara Murphy. Her experience at Campagne molded her style, character and love affair with desserts.

In 1993, Sue moved to The Alexis Hotel, working side by side with Executive Chef Emily Moore. The Painted Table was one of Seattle’s first four-star restaurants, and Sue had the ultimate challenge and pleasure of catering to such guests as Ivana Trump, the Sultan of Brunei, as well as to locals. Sue received several awards in her two years at the Alexis: Chocolate for Choice, the Peter Rabbit Carrot Cake Contest.

Sue moved to the Sorrento Hotel in 1995, where she produced interesting desserts for this world-class, nineteenth century Seattle landmark. One year later, Sue worked with Wolfgang Puck to open ObaChine, where she fashioned such whimsical items as Sweet Dim Sum for Two.

Sue oversees the on-sight creation and baking of all pastry products for W Seattle’s hotel catering and banquet functions and for Earth & Ocean. The opportunity to work for this contemporary hotel and restaurant is the culmination of eleven years of self-training in the pastry industry. Sue participates in numerous charity events and competitions, while continually tantalizing Seattle with her creative seasonal dishes utilizing products from the Pacific Northwest.

Her favorite ingredients:
Vanilla bean, Brown sugar, Powdered sugar

Her three tips for dessert success: 1. Read your recipe. 2. Get all your mise en place together beforehand. 3. Plan your timing correctly.

Triple Chocolate-Peppermint Cookie Sandwich

Adapted by StarChefs
Yield: 30 Servings

Chocolate-Peppermint Ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

Triple Chocolate Shortbread Cookies:
¼ pound unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

White Modeling Chocolate:
9 ounces white chocolate
5 ounces light corn syrup
A few drops red food coloring
A few drops green food coloring
Powdered sugar, for dusting

For Chocolate-Peppermint Ganache:
Place chocolate in medium-sized bowl. Bring heavy cream just to boil and pour over chocolate. Let sit for two minutes, then stir to combine. Stir in peppermint extract. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

For Triple Chocolate Shortbread Cookies:
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to mixer and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl at least once. Add white and bittersweet chocolates and mix until chocolates are evenly distributed.

Between layers of plastic wrap, roll dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Peel off top layer of plastic and place back on dough. Flip dough, peel plastic off what is now top. Cut cookies with 2 inch fluted cookie cutter. Place about ½ inch apart on 2 or 3 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Re-roll scraps and repeat. There should be at least 60 cookies. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, 6 minutes each. Cookies will seem underdone, with no crunch. Let sit 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Let firm up for at least 1 hour.

For White Modeling Chocolate:
In double boiler or bowl set over simmering water, melt white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup. Continue stirring until chocolate thickens and becomes sticky. Wrap tightly in plastic and let rest two hours at room temperature.

Pull off two 1 ounce chunks (about 1 Tablespoon each) of modeling chocolate. Using gloves, massage a few drops red food coloring into one chunk. Repeat with other chunk, using green food coloring. Divide remaining plain modeling chocolate into quarters. Flatten two quarters into rough squares about sandwich bread thickness. Flatten red chocolate into a square the same size. Sandwich the red square between the two plain squares. Make five equal length strips. Turn on their sides to expose colored stripes and gather all strips together. Gently work together into a lump. Repeat with green chocolate and remaining quarters.

Sprinkle small amount of powdered sugar onto pastry mat or silpat and gently roll red lump to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2 – 3/8 inch size round fluted cookie cutter, cut as many circles of dough as you can. Pull up scraps and gently reroll and cut until you’ve used up all the chocolate. Be careful not to overwork the chocolate or it will lose its marbled pattern. Repeat with green lump.

To Assemble:
Spread scant Tablespoon of Chocolate-Peppermint Ganache on underside of Triple Chocolate Shortbread Cookie, leaving small amount of ganache on spreader. Place another cookie on top of ganache, and dab rest of ganache on top. Gently place a circle of red or white chocolate on ganache and press so that chocolate adheres. Repeat with remaining cookies, ganache & modeling chocolate.

1. Read your recipe. 2. Get all your mise en place together beforehand. 3. Plan your timing correctly.

A good adage for cooking in general. Sadly I tend to mess up on No. 3, or don't have a No. 1 and improvise, badly.

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