When 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…”
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.”
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.
Ever thought about pushing a few buttons from your iPhone while still in bed so that you can stumble into your kitchen a have a fresh cup of coffee instantly? You can do that now. A new GE refrigerator has a built-in single-cup coffee brewer and can be controlled from a smartphone app – from your bed, or anywhere else.
When I first saw the news release about this GE Cafe refrigerator with a built-in Keurig K-Cup coffee brewer, my reaction was that this is a bit much, maybe suited only for the luxury set or gadget-lovers. After I saw a demonstration, my tune changed completely. In fact, I started regretting that I bought my own new refrigerator a couple of months ago, before I learned about this fancy fridge, which I found pretty compelling.
The unit, which lists for $3,300 (and is on sale at Lowe’s for $2,969 through Dec. 1,) has all the features one would expect of a modern French door style refrigerator, including adjustable shelves, excellent lighting, touch-screen controls and Energy Star rating. But it also has the Keurig coffee attachment that slips onto the external hot water dispenser, powered by an instant-heating system so that there’s no concern about hot water affecting the refrigeration inside.
“This is the way people are thinking about coffee these days,” says cookbook author Katie Workman, noting that single-serve coffee consumption has doubled in the past two years. Workman was given one of the refrigerators and has been test-driving it for a couple of months and demonstrated it at GE’s media event in New York. She said the energy efficiency was one of the more noticeable features, and her family liked the convenience of being able to choose their own hot beverages and make them quickly, one at a time. (Workman, whose latest book is Dinner Solved, also is one of my cousins. Her 2012 cookbook, The Mom 100 Cookbook, earned wide acclaim and was named one of the Five Best Weeknight Cookbooks of the past 25 years by Cooking Light.)
Indeed, the National Coffee Association found in its latest survey that single-cup coffee brewer ownership has gone from 15% in 2014 to 27% of consumers in 2015. More than half of Americans drink coffee daily, according to Daily Coffee News, a trade publication. Keurig Green Mountain, the maker of K-Cups, has also responded to critics who cite environmental concerns with a plan to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020 and pointing out that single-serve coffee brewing reduces wasted coffee and wasted water. For a thorough analysis of the environmental issues surrounding K-Cups, read this excellent article by James Hamblin of The Atlantic.
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.