This year, I took the opportunity to purchase a $15 ticket to see Chef Gale Gand: pastry chef, author of cookbooks, 8-year host of the Food Network’s “Sweet Dreams,” as well as a founding partner of the restaurant Tru in Chicago (among a bajillion other accomplishments!).
I chose Chef Gand’s session because I love to bake. But I still consider myself a novice with just a few trusty recipes under my belt, and I don’t tend to stray from those. So, I was interested to find out upon arrival that Chef Gand would be sharing her recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies with those of us in the audience.
Before Chef Gand came to the stage, we enjoyed a presentation by a Master Sommelier who spoke about the choice of wine that we would enjoy with Chef Gand’s creation.
It really was interesting to hear him speak about the incredibly intense learning and examination process that it takes to become a Master Sommelier. But even with his depth of knowledge and expertise, I was happy to hear him share his favorite piece of advice when it comes to wine selection: “Drink what you like, when you like, with whom you like.” Works for me!
In this case, what we were drinking was the Tepusquet Vineyard Viognier from the Cambria Winery. Our Master Sommelier led us through the process of picking up the tropical, fruity notes in the aroma, and the floral notes in the flavor. I can’t claim to have picked up on all that on my own ;). As someone who prefers white wines over red, I can just say I enjoyed the glass.
When Chef Gale Gand arrived on stage, she greeted the audience with a smile and immediately continued in the personable, light-hearted tone set by the Sommelier.
She also greeted us with a surprise: today, she would be demonstrating two recipes. Even though this was a pastry demonstration, Chef Gand started with a quick recipe of a unique and easy take on a traditional chick pea hummus using frozen peas, garlic, mint, and olive oil to create a Pea and Garlic Dip that maintains its vivid color and flavor for at least 4 days in the refrigerator. (The culinary demonstrations are also presented on screens so everyone can watch the chef’s techniques.)
She kindly brought enough to share ;).
But next it was time for the main event: the Salted Caramel Brownies. Chef Gand demonstrated the entire process, beginning with melting unsweetened chocolate and unsalted butter together for the cocoa base. While this can certainly be done in a microwave, Chef Gand said she prefers using a double broiler, simply for the fun of watching it melt!
After the addition of sugar, eggs, and flour, it was time to add the ingredient that really gives these brownies a nice little “wow” factor: bits of chewy caramel pieces (which was especially fitting, since Chef Gand had just made her first ever visit to the Germany Pavilion’s Karamell-Küche that very day).
And with a sprinkling of sea salt over the top, here is the end result: the Salted Caramel Brownie.
Can you see the touch of caramel peeking our from the bottom right corner? What’s really cool about this dessert is that it appears pretty basic to the eye. But each time you bite into one of the chewy caramel “surprises” tucked in the brownie, it really delivers a burst of buttery flavor along with a variation in texture from the dense brownie to the gooey caramel. It’s a fun twist on a basic brownie that’s totally do-able.
I have to admit to some preconceived notions that I held before attending the demo. I assumed I would enjoy watching a master chef — and I did. Chef Gand was full of fun, and her passion for great food came through in everything she shared. But I hadn’t expected to walk away with a recipe I really could make myself. Yes, I know that’s the point of the whole thing ;), but I walked in assuming everyone around me in the audience likely had a lot more kitchen experience than I. All truths told, I’ve never made brownies that aren’t from a boxed mix, but I will definitely give these a try from my own home, from scratch. If you are interested in giving them a try, too, here is the recipe.
From what I could gather, this seems to be Gale Gand’s M.O. — approachable, tasty recipes that are still special creations.
And with that, it’s off to the kitchen… I’ve got some brownies to bake 🙂 !
Have you attended a culinary demonstration during the Food and Wine Festival? Please let us know about your experience with a comment!