Michel et Augustin cookiesWhen French bakery Michel et Augustin arrived in the United States in 2014, its founders brought with them what they describe as a “kooky” idea: Invite people to visit, send them away with cookies to share with friends.

It’s not really all that kooky. Lots of businesses grow by giving away samples. But for these people, it’s practically a religion. If you go to one of the monthly open houses at their modern space in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, you leave with a bag, several packages of cookies, and instructions on what to do with them:

“In your hands? 18 cookies to share. There’s 1 for you and 17 for your friends, family, roommates, neighbors, colleagues, grandma, cousins, bus driver, poney club…”

Untitled
French cookie maker Michel et Augustin welcomes the public to its Brooklyn, NY, home at monthly open houses. Guests leave with bags of cookies.

Odds are, giving one of these cookies to someone will make them a fan. The cookies are really good. Few other baked goods found on grocery store shelves have this much rich butter flavor. Even a commercial baker friend that I shared the cookies with was impressed.

“We want to bake very indulgent cookies,” says Antoine Chauvel, who heads the Michel et Augustin’s sales effort in the United States. “We try to use the best ingredients in the market, very simple ingredients, basic ingredients you can find in your own kitchen – fresh butter, wheat flower, intense chocolate. No weird chemicals.”

Decadence like this is not cheap: a package of eight cookies sells for $7 or $8. And the company has found some grocers reluctant to stock their products because their cookies have a shorter shelf life (about five months) than cookies with highly processed ingredients.

So far, Michel et Augustin cookies can be found in supermarkets in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Tri-State area, including Fairway, Gristedes, Westside Market, and CVS stores. The company’s dark chocolate and lemon meringue squares also are sold at Starbucks stores nationwide. (For an interesting account of how the Starbucks deal happened, check out this article from AdWeek.)

“If they like the cookies, they will tell their friends,” says Chauvel. “We believe in word of mouth.”

Perfect pickles in 30 minutes from Doug Levy on Vimeo.

Although pickles have a history as a “slow food,” a way to extend the life of fresh vegetables long past their harvest, sometimes there’s a need for pickles right now, not after days or weeks of curing in brine. Enter kitchen chemistry, or “molecular gastronomy,” and you can have real pickles in about a half hour.

The process actually is quite simple. Using a whipped cream canister, you can force the brine into the vegetables in minutes instead of waiting for the brine to be absorbed organically. Food grade nitrous oxide pushes the brine into the vegetable cells without influencing the flavor, same as it does when making whipped cream.

The process works, and works well, for just about any kind of pickles. (The technique is also quite useful for other infusing flavors in other recipes, too, such as quickly marinated meats or flavored spirits.)

A few words about equipment you will need:

  • A whipping siphon. Any whipping siphon will work. Consider purchasing one that is intended for both hot and cold use. The one I have cost about $35 on Amazon.com (affiliate link.) You can also buy a kit that contains a whipping siphon and small packets of agar-agar, xanthan gum, and gelatin for various other molecular gastronomy kitchen fun.
  • Nitrous oxide cartridges. Kitchen siphons use either carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitrous oxide (N2O,) depending on what you are making. CO2 is used for carbonated beverages. N2O is for infusions, including fast pickles. There are many different brands of cartridges on the market. Cheaper ones are from China or other Asian countries. Others are from Europe and claim higher levels of purity. Here is an article on a website that sells cartridges that gives a good overview.  I bought 50 from Amazon for about 50 cents each (affiliate link.)

Here’s the recipe to follow.

Fast pickles using whipping siphon
Print Recipe
Using a whipping siphon may not be intuitive, but the same process that infuses cream with air also can be used to force brine into cucumbers or other vegetables to make real pickles in 20 minutes. This recipe is adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-bread-and-butter-pickles.
Servings Prep Time
4 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 20 minutes
Fast pickles using whipping siphon
Print Recipe
Using a whipping siphon may not be intuitive, but the same process that infuses cream with air also can be used to force brine into cucumbers or other vegetables to make real pickles in 20 minutes. This recipe is adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-bread-and-butter-pickles.
Servings Prep Time
4 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Slice cucumbers evenly (a mandoline works great for this,) then place in colander and sprinkle salt over them. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients, then heat in saucepan while stirring. Remove from heat when sugar dissolves. Allow the brine to cool. (Place the saucepan in a larger pan with ice water to accelerate this.) Add the cucumber and onion to the brine, mix completely.
  2. Place the cucumber mixture into the chamber of a clean whipping siphon. Do not fill more than 2/3rds full. Close whipping siphon. Use one cartridge of nitrous oxide, following instructions that come with the whipping siphon. Shake the siphon and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, cover the nozzle of the siphon with a measuring cup or other container to prevent brine from being squirted on yourself or your kitchen. Depress handle to release the gas, then unscrew siphon top. The pickles are ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

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Occasionally a slice of bacon can be just fine.

People have been abuzz all week since a World Health Organization report suggests that bacon and processed meat increases cancer risk. That’s likely a valid conclusion based on decades of science. In fact, I remember reporting on a study that showed this in 1988. But this doesn’t mean you should immediately halt eating processed meats. Just be prudent. Moderation, as with all things. 

Here’s an article by Julia Belluz, who covers health for Vox.com that tells more. 

The WHO’s new warnings about bacon and cancer, explained – Vox

Tourism officials report normal situation in Puerto Vallarta after powerful hurricane; no loss of life and limited damage

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – SATURDAY OCTOBER 24, 2015 – 1PM (CDT) – Puerto Vallarta has returned to normalcy with all hotels, the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) and cruise port open and operating at 100% capacity. Puerto Vallarta weather is back to its typical clear skies and sunshine.
Jalisco State Authorities and Puerto Vallarta hotels started to transfer tourists and locals back to Puerto Vallarta from the shelters where they had been taken; when authorities determined last night that Hurricane Patricia would not be touching the city and was no longer a threat.
No human loss or infrastructure damages have been reported as a result of Hurricane Patricia.

Source: Puerto Vallarta Back to Normal After Hurricane Patricia

When the egg industry challenged Hampton Creek, a company selling a product it calls Just Mayo, many people scoffed at yet another Goliath v. David battle. According to a report today, the egg industry trade group’s president has stepped down as a possible consequence of her effort against Hampton Creek.

The issue is whether the words “mayo” or “mayonnaise” legally refer to a product that must contain egg. From a legal standpoint, the law seems to favor the egg industry: The federal government established standard definitions of common words on food labels so that consumers have some chance of knowing what is inside a package. “Mayonnaise” is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations at 21CFR169.140, which clearly says that mayonnaise must contain egg and may not include food colorings to simulate egg. What is not so clear is whether the word “mayo” is covered by the same law, which only refers to “mayonnaise.” This is the stuff lawyers love and drives most people nuts.

In the meantime, consumers still can make their own decisions.

Source: Egg Industry Group CEO Steps Down After Vegan Mayo Scramble – ABC News

Thanks to Susan MacTavish Best http://livingmactavish.com for posting this where I could see it.