21 December 2009

Trablit Troubles


Trablit is a super expensive coffee extract,  roughly $2 for one ounce.  It is basically reduced espresso.  It is used in many pastry applications because you can acheive a rich coffee flavor without adding a ton of liquid and throwing off the balance of the ingredients.  Mark makes his own at the Patisserie.  He starts with two cups of espresso and finishes with just enough to flavor some buttercream.  He's making a lot of it now to flavor the Buche de Noel components but that's another story.

Mascarpone is the equivilant of cream cheese in Italy.  It is much richer and less sweet however it has the same basic consistancy and the Italians would use it for the same applications as we use cream cheese.  It is my favorite thing to spread on the Chocolate Cherry bread that I make on occasion.  Like trabilt, Mascarpone is very costly.

Trablit and Mascarpone...anyone guessed where I'm going with this.  Yup, tirimisu!   I completed an 18 week pastry internship at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida during culinary school.  One of my responsibilities was to mix the filling for the tirimisu, which is an incredibly popular italian dessert with coffee, cream and lady fingers.  Done right, it is very tastey.  At the Ritz, we had to produce hundreds at a time for banquets and the restaurants on property.  The filling was mixed in a 60 quart mixing bowl.  I emptied at least 10 pounds of mascarpone and an equal amount of heavy cream (also expensive) into the bowl.  This mixed until it got nice and fluffy then I added the trablit.  A couple weeks before this particular mix, the banquet kitchen brought us a box of flavorings they didn't need.  They were cleaning house and discovered a bunch of pastry stuff.  In the box was a jar with a steaming coffee mug on the label and the inscription was written in Asian characters.  The contents were thick and dark, just like trablit; steaming coffee = trablit.  The Ritz is teaming with chefs from all over the world so I figured this was a trablit equivilant from Asia that one of the Asian chefs in banquets must have ordered.  Good for us in the pastry kitchen because we did't have to buy it.  I dumped the whole bottle in the mixer.  I tasted the filling to make sure I added enough and yick! that wasn't trablit...it was soy reduction!  Of course it wasn't a steaming cup of coffee, it was a steaming bowl of Ramen.  Hundreds of dollars of cream, mascarpone and soy...there's no coming back from this.  It's like adding salt instead of sugar to a cake mix.

The pastry chef, Frederic Monti, was a screaming Frenchman ala Gordon Ramsey.  He made everyone cry.  The last person I wanted to tell about my mistake was Chef Monti but I had to inform someone.  I walked into the pot room to grab the garbage can and our dishwasher asked what was wrong.  She was a firey Hatian lady who had filed a complaint against the chef when he told her she stinks like garbage.  Velma didn't stink, the remark was just one of his wonderfully motivating quips.  Lucky for me, I speak a bit of Hatian Creole and this lady liked me.  When I told her what I did, she hastily removed the bowl and cleaned up my mess.  She told me not to tell anyone, she'd take care of it.  She quickly cleaned the bowl and gave it back to me to start anew,  all before the chef walked out of his office. 

I am not a fan of hiding these matters from your boss and a smaller place would notice the missing ingredients but the Ritz was different.  Velma was privy to the 10 minute tirade the day before because I over baked the gingerbread men and the 20 minutes Chef Monti yelled the previous week because I rolled the scones to thin.  She knew I needed a break and she knew the cream wouldn't be missed.  Here's the big, huge, never-forget-this, moral to the story.  No, it's not 'taste ingredients before you add them', though it could be.  It's not 'never work for a hotel or other major corporation', though that's my motto.  It is 'be kind to your support staff!'  Make friends with the dish washers and garbage men, no matter where you may be.   It will pay off in the future...I promise.  Oh, and always remember, you're not the first to make a mistake.  At least one person has already added soy to the tirimisu!

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