Chef’s Table (Various Directors – 2015) A+

6 unique chefs from Piedmont to Melbourne are documented in this remarkable Netflix series. This is not a cooking show or an educational food show, it’s rather a portrait of these individuals, what inspires them, their background, cuisine and passions. It looks amazing and is done with such finesse that I cannot wait (and hope that there will be one) for another season. This is the kind of show that Food TV or Cooking Channel should want to produce instead of the utter garbage they churn out.

Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh – 2014) A-

A favorite type of movie of mine is one like this. It is not exactly a biopic, but more of a snapshot of a character framed, acted, paced and shot beautifully. There is not a lot of plot or drama here, just a perfect embodiment of the 19th century painter by Timothy Spall. He is eccentric, not particularly nice but is fascinating to watch. We learn a lot about what inspires him and how he paints. He was perceived as a genius mostly and sold a lot of paintings to the rich and powerful. He had a close and sweet relationship with his father who acted as his assistant and a pretty dysfunctional relationship with the women in his life. This started to change a bit when he meets a widow who runs an inn in a port town that he retreated to and that relationship was one of my favorite parts of the movie. Turner seems to have been one of those who loved art for the sake of art. Painting made him happy and he saw what he does as a gift. One of the highlights of the film is when he refuses to sell his work for a crap ton of money to a rich Londoner. When asked why on earth not, his answer is that he plans to gift it…to the British people.  I do not know if this is factual or not but it was a very lovely touch.

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright – 2007) A

I think  Hot Fuzz might be my favorite of the Corentto Trilogy. In this one the Simon Pegg character plays a super London cop with the cool movie name of Nick Angel. He gets transferred to a small English town because he is basically “too good” at his job and is making the Metropolitan police department look bad. Similar to The World’s End, the small town is not as sleepy, quaint and lovely as it seems. When brutal murders start happening well, Angel and his small-town hapless/drunkard of a partner (played with the series regular Nick Frost) are on the case.

This is the trilogy’s ode to buddy cop movies, complete with fast cuts, one liners, crazy action, crazier conspiracies and the long-time tradition of the mismatched partners. It’s social commentary is, like the rest of the series, deftly wrapped in a very funny cadre of characters who deliver their sharp and witty performances with great finesse.

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller – 2015) A

This thing is basically one long chase scene. That is not to say it does not have a story or plot. It does, it is simple and makes sense. That story though is told in amazingly choreographed action instead of long dialogue scenes. What this is is an insane, fast, loud and purely amazing spectacle. Very few movies can be described as new and unique. I think this one is. Unbelievable that it is from the mind of a guy who’s over 70 years old and whose previous movie was Happy Feet Two!  I did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did but seeing the modified vehicles/war machines rushing and crashing along the dusty post-apocalyptic landscape was a thrill. Same goes for fight scenes that are new and actually make sense. Add to that a kinetic soundtrack involving a truck with a guy playing the drums in the back and another “person” playing a flame-throwing electric guitar in the front. As far as leads go, Tom Hardy is very good as Max but really it is Charlize Theron playing the one-armed Furiossa that steals the show. She is as bad-ass as they come and a character as memorable as Ripley.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves – 2014) B

For a film that devotes about as much time to talking apes as it does to humans, this could’ve been very silly. This essentially documents the start of the ape/human war in San Francisco. Human numbers have been greatly reduced by the “flu” that takes off at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and apes are getting more evolved living in the redwood forests. Friction between the two groups occurs when the humans attempt to fix a power plant on a dam in the ape territory. The film is more complex than that and does a good job in developing believable ape characters. These characters, namely Caesar and Koba,  become instrumental in the power struggle that is at the heart of the movie.

Cronuts at Home

Cronut

According to Chef Dominique Ansel when he created the Cronut he had no clue it would be such a huge phenomenon. He wanted to put a donut on his pastry shop’s menu and figured he’s put a spin on it, thus the Cronut was born. If you have never heard of a Cronut (never heard of it?? Have you been living under a rock?!) it’s a pastry that combines a laminated croissant dough with the shape and cooking process (frying) of a donut.

Cronuts proofing Cronuts6

In his book, The Secret Recipes, Ansel pens down the various creations that made his shop in NYC so popular including the Cronuts. One of the smartest business moves that Ansel did is to trademark the name “Cronut” so now you see a lot of knockoffs out there but none bear that name at least in the US. This is simply a smart business move and he claims that the recipe itself is not really a secret and he lays out a version of it in the book. I’ve made a quiet a few laminated doughs like puff pastry, danish and croissant dough recipes over the years so I was pretty comfortable working with Ansel’s pastry. If you have never made one of these doughs before it might be a bit more of a challenge to get the Cronuts right on the first try. One mistake with my version was not to roll the donuts thick enough in order to get more lofty Cronut.

Butter-Dough Butter-Dough4

The recipe as outlined in the book takes a total of three days, but really most of it is the dough cooling or resting or proofing in the fridge. To make the dough, a hefty square of butter is encased in a yeasted dough and rolled several times and folded. This is done more in the style of puff pastry rather than croissant since the butter block in laid on the dough in a diamond shape as opposed to having its sides parallel to the dough.

Laminated Dough

After several rolls and folds we get a dough with lots of butter/dough layers. When the pastry is fried the water in the butter turns to steam and lifts the dough layers creating the flaky texture that is the hallmark of these pastries.

On the day of frying, I rolled the butter laminated dough and stamped out donut shapes from it. Now, Mr. Ansel does not tell us what to do with the donut holes we get from this process. I was not throwing them away so they got proofed next to the Cronuts. I fried them up as well and rolled them in vanilla sugar.

Cronuts frying

While the dough was resting and proofing, I made the fillings or ganaches. These are very similar to what Pierre Hermè uses for his lovely macarons. They are basically a type of mousse based on white chocolate and heavy cream, flavored with anything from lemon to chocolate and set with gelatin. I like those a lot because they deliver a bright flavor without being overly sweet or heavy. I prepared two different fillings, one with raspberry jam folded in and the other one a simple vanilla bean flavored ganache.

Fillings-Glazes

After frying the Cronuts their sides are rolled in a vanilla sugar mixture. Then the filling is piped in from the top of each one in four spots. This leaves you with holes on the top, so to cover these up Ansel matches a glaze with each pastry that goes right on top. It does not hurt at all that the glaze adds a bit of flavor and looks great too. I created two glazes, the chocolate one went on the vanilla-filled Cronut and the vanilla one went on the raspberry pastry.

Cronuts8

Making a laminated dough pastry or fried donuts at home is certainly not something for an everyday breakfast. Making a pastry that combines the two is not particularly difficult and is really worth it if you have some practice and if you spread out the process. The end result was delicious and delightful. The At-Home Cronut Pastry™ (that’s the actual name of the book recipe) had a beautiful texture and flavors that really shined through. It was a perfect special breakfast for all of us and I will be making them again sooner or later. Maybe sooner rather than later since the kids are already asking for them…

Cronuts7 Cronut2