Monday, January 16, 2017

Baking with Flavor: Spiced Pear Clafoutis Made with Kefir

Spiced Pear Clafoutis is a delicious French pastry that is charmingly rustic and easy to make. The classic version of clafoutis has a firm custard or flan-like texture that enrobes the fruit (typically firm summer cherries). In France the term flaugnarde is used to denote clafoutis made fruits other than cherries, but the designation isn’t strictly adhered to.

Glass Petal Smoke’s recipe for Spiced Pear Clafoutis was designed with flavor and good health in mind. It utilizes less fat and sugar than traditional clafoutis, favoring coconut sugar for the caramel nuance it imparts to the pastry. The combination of almond and vanilla extracts with dark rum is otherworldly—and you can smell it as the clafoutis bakes in the oven and the butter sizzles on the sides of the ceramic dish.

The amount of Penzeys Cake Spice used in the recipe for Spiced Pear Clafoutis is minimal and that’s deliberate. A teaspoon and a half adds just enough warmth to inspire perfect alchemy between the extracts and the rum. Reduced fat doesn’t mean reduced flavor if you combine complementary ingredients together. Penzeys Cake Spice contains China cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves—flavors that marry well with vanilla, almond, pear and rum.

In baking, small adjustments for the purpose of creating flavor with less fat and sugar can tantalize taste buds. The beurre noisette (brown butter) crust that forms on Spiced Pear Clafoutis tastes like a financier when it breaks on the tongue—a flavor experience that is decadent and unexpected. This is accomplished with the addition of unblanched almond flour, organic wheat pastry flour and unsalted pasture butter.

Spiced Pear Clafoutis can be eaten for dessert or as a breakfast pastry. Feel free to add a touch of whipped cream or non-fat Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. If you wish to experiment with other flavors to make your own version of clafoutis use firm fruit and complementary flavor combinations of your choice. The possibilities are endlessly delicious.

Spiced Pear Clafoutis
(Serves 8)
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Combine pastry flour, cake spice, salt and almond flour in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. 
  • Mix kefir, vanilla extract, almond extract and dark rum in a separate bowl (or pourable measuring cup). Using a fork, stir ingredients until they’re well blended. 
  • In a separate bowl beat the eggs with a whisk. Add sugar and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. 
  • Add the kefir mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. 
  • Cut the pears into quarters, removing stems, seeds and blemishes (skin stays on). Roughly chop the fruit forming small rustic-shaped cubes. 
  • Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and combine using a large silicone spatula. 
  • Add pears and use the silicone spatula to fold the fruit into the batter, making sure that all the pieces are well coated. Set aside to rest for five minutes. 
  • Butter the pie dish. 
  • Pour the batter into the dish, using the silicone spatula to spread the batter evenly so the pears are evenly distributed in the plate. 
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center is dry when removed. 
  • Allow the clafoutis to cool on a rack while it’s in the ceramic plate. Serve slightly warm or refrigerate.
Glass Petal Smoke recommends keeping a sealed two-cup jar of dark rum mixed with raisins in your refrigerator (enough dark rum to cover the raisins). The raisins will infuse the rum with flavor over time and you can use the infused rum in many pastry applications. You can use the raisins in Glass Petal Smoke's recipe for Rum Raisin Scones, which freeze well and are made with butter and heavy cream.

Invest in a 9-inch ceramic pie dish. It distributes heat evenly and you'll find many uses for it. Stick with lighter colors to avoid overbaking.

Specific brands are used in Glass Petal Smoke's recipe for Spiced Pear Clafoutis because they perform well. You can use other brands if you like, but Penzeys Spices is highly recommended. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Smell of Vintage Pantene Shampoo

The smell of vintage Pantene shampoo is as dear to me as the smell of old books. Although they smell nothing alike, the two stand side by side in my olfactory mind and are linked by a teenage memory.

It's a sunny day in the late 1970's and I'm walking down Fordham Road past the Thom McCann shoe store in my neighborhood. I'm about to cross the street to get to the Bronx Central Library on Bainbridge Avenue. I see my ex-best friend from childhood with her new best friend as they are leaving Nardi Hair Salon. They've just gotten their hair done and the light from the sun makes their long hair (brown and red, respectively) look like rivers of color undulating in the sun.

I would always tell the redhead that her hair was orange and wasn't truly red. (Anyone who ever owned a box of crayons would know that.) I avoided both girls on my way to the library because seeing their carefree post-coif stroll reminded me that my family had less money. (As an adult I was informed that the fathers of both girls dabbled in graft and cronyism so who knows who really "paid" for those haircuts.)

Nardi used salon versions of Pantene shampoo and conditioner that they advertised in their second floor window which included generic headshots of tony models donning the latest hairstyles. I remember seeing giant gallon containers of Pantene shampoo and conditioner sitting next to the hair washing stations at Nardi when I met a friend who worked there on weekends (she and I took on summer jobs as soon as we turned 13).

The smell of Pantene that was sold in gold-topped bottles at the drugstore in the 1970's was out of this world. A blend of heliotrope, creamy sandalwood and musk perfumed every strand of hair in a hedonic afterglow diffused by body heat.

The salon versions of shampoo and conditioner had the same prestige scent, but they were more aldehydic which was in step with smelling like an expensive French perfume. (Prestige hairsprays also benefitted from this type of well-executed functional perfumery, which mimicked classic perfumes.)* I don't know why I remember this, but when I think about the shampoos of my youth I can remember all of their smells.
*Functional perfumery can be more challenging than traditional perfumery as functional perfumers, who are chemists, have to manage naturally occurring odors in personal and household products. They are the unsung heroes of the art of perfumery.

In the late 1990's, after jumping on the all-in-one shampoo and conditioner bandwagon, the scent of Pantene took a fruity turn and smelled like a collection of headdresses worn by Carmen Miranda that had been curated for an exhibition in an overripe fruit museum. I hated Pantene for doing this and started buying shampoo sold in salons.

I enjoyed reflecting on those two undulating rivers of brown and red hair that were etched into memory. I wanted to resurrect that remembrance with my sense of smell. Last year I bought a bottle of Pantene Pro-V Overnight Miracle Repair Serum that is formulated to condition hair as you sleep. The hair remedy is packaged in a pump dispenser that cannot be sniffed like other items in the hair care aisle. (The most public smelling you'll ever see happens in the hair care aisle because hair care aisles are veritable smell museums.) This serum had an interesting side effect after I put it on my hair that evening. Once the product was absorbed it began to react with the heat generated by my head, which was resting on a pillow.

An olfactory bouquet of vintage Pantene bloomed and resurrected memories in the dark. It was a powerful sensation that felt like dreaming with my eyes open. The smell of vintage Pantene allowed me to witness the past in the present, and was perfumed by the fact that how I felt about what I was sensing belonged to me and no one else. Not even a Faded Glory and Frye boot-wearing mirage that chose to be friends with an orange-haired girl instead of me.

Many people crave the scent of vintage Pantene shampoo. A post titled "That Old Pantene Smell" and others like it echo this nostalgic sentiment. Rumor has it that Infusium 23 elicits a Pantene flashback that goes back to the Hoffman-LaRoche formula. Pantene was purchased by Proctor and Gamble in 1985.

Shampoos of note from my childhood include: Body on Tap, Castile shampoo, Breck, Earthborn, Egg Shampoo, Flex, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Lemon Up, Pantene and Prell. It's not uncommon for popular scents to reappear in the formulas of other brands decades later. If you are bent on the smell of nostalgic shampoos visit the Vermont Country Store. They are currently offering versions of Lemon Up and Egg Shampoo.

Human hair retains scent longer than skin retains the smell of perfume. This is due to the layers of overlapping cells that form the cuticle, and heat generated by the scalp.

Faded Glory was a brand of designer jeans that were popular in the 1970's.

The Bronx Central Library was located in a building designed by McKim, Mead and White (they designed Columbia University and Pennsylvania Station in New York City). The Georgian revival style of the two-story structure and the inclusion of a wing along the rear facade provided a haven for inquiring minds and book lovers of all ages. You could feel history as soon as you walked inside and smell knowledge wafting out of the pages of books. The building, which was known as the Bronx Central Library when I was growing up, is no longer open to the public as the library has been relocated and is now the Bronx Library Center. The historic structure has been unoccupied since 2005.

Image of Hair Collage by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Smell and Taste of Music: Lemon by Bachar Mar-Khalifé

Can you smell and taste music?  You can if you watch the video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon" which is based on a romantic poem by Egyptian poet Samir Saady. Saady clearly knew that anyone with the good fortune of encountering a citrus tree dripping with fragrant blossoms couldn't deny that nature is the ultimate perfumer. This is evident in the poet's words, which are translated from Arabic to English:

by Samir Saady

The lemons are ripe on the tree
And whoever shakes the tree
after it has been watered by rain,
will fill his lap with lemons.

How beautiful you are, night of the moon
when my love appeared.
And whoever shakes the moon
his eyes are the moonlight.

The lemon tree blossoms
shock the rocky hearts.
When its flowers appeared
I smelled its perfume's love.

Actor Charif Ghattas directs the music video for "Lemon". He is also one half of the comedic duo that salts Saady's "Lemon" with puckering insights regarding the way tastemakers in the arts have a habit of getting tied up in themselves at the expense of others. When devoid of ego this metaphor extends to those who are lost in love, but are too shy or scared to pursue it. The chemistry between Ghattas and Khalifé is as powerful as are the video's synesthesia-inducing effects.

"Lemon" begins with Ghattas swinging a lemon on a string in an effort to hypnotize his subject who is a musician. Bachar Mar-Khalifé's character is cooperative, but unaffected, and proceeds to play harpsichord notes on a computer keyboard as he sings using a mop-headed duster for a microphone (the duster is later flipped and the prop is used as a flute). He is yellow and so is his lei-wearing sidekick. Calisthenic dabbling in tennis, paddleball, ball bouncing, hula hooping and soccer ball juggling ensue. This is followed by the musician allowing himself to be tied up in lemon-colored tape, which takes the lemon metaphor in an interesting direction.

The incarnation of lime from the video "Lemon"
and her fabulous eyelashes

The scene shifts and the musician appears standing upright as an attractive woman in a short lime-colored dress walks towards him to the beat of a heart monitor. Lime enters his lemon world batting large green eyelashes. The woman in the green dress is the embodiment of lime and uses her fruit as a sensual prop. The musician is entranced which is something his hypnotist/coach could not accomplish at the beginning of the video. C'est l'amour, no?

You can taste the lime juice as the woman consumes her own essence by ravaging the tart green fruit with her teeth. The synesthetic effect of the video kicks in as lime is transformed into a palatable sense object when lemon and lime hold court in the same space. A can of 7 Up® and a spritz of Eau de Cologne would do well here as memories of lemon and lime rise to the surface and generate cravings.

The lime woman disappears as quickly as she arrived leaving the aftertaste of a mirage in her absence. The musician's comedic counterpart reappears and after getting tipsy and ties up the musician in lemon tape once again. This time is different than the first as there is no option of escape; the musician is transformed into a living piece of lemon art and he didn't get the girl. This is why you press replay on the video more than once and think of lemon and lime for days after watching the video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon".


Bachar Mar-Khalifé is a French Lebanese singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. He is a graduate of the Conservatory of Paris and is the son of the legendary Eastern-Lute player Marcel Khalifé and singer Yolla Khalifé. His brother, Rami Khalifé, is also a musician.  

"Lemon" is composed by Bachar Mar-Khalifé and appears on the album Ya Balad (translation: O Homelandwhich is available for download on iTunes. There are two remixes of Khalifé's "Lemon" song. One remix is a collaboration with Deena Abdelwahed. The other is a version featuring Yolla Khalifé (this version of "Lemon" is ripe for a movie or television soundtrack and is hauntingly beautiful).

Image of the lemon tree replete with blossom and fruit by Elena Chochkova.

Image of a lemon in hand and the actress who portrayed the incarnation of lime is from the video of "Lemon" are the property of Bachar Mar-Khalifé.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Scent in Film: Master of Perfume

When was the last time you saw a video for a perfume brand that felt like poetry? Mi7 Cairo created Master of Perfume for Abdul Samad Al Qurashi (specialists in Oud fragrances) and did a brilliant job of speaking to the mystery of scent and scent creation; literally. The video manages to do this in only two minutes, which is a minute under the online standard for attention grabbing.

Glass Petal Smoke has transcribed the narrator's monologue in Master of Perfume as it embodies the kind of questions inspired by wearing a fragrance that doesn't feel separate from one's "self." You can also listen to the video for Master of Perfume in Arabic as an unfamiliar language can be experienced as emotion through intonation.

Master of Perfume

How did you become the master of scent?
That passing rebellious shape-shifting ether.
How did it surrender its freedom?
The keys to its chains?

Who taught you the language of air?
Words of the wind
What breeze whispers,
The meaning of the silence of dewdrops.

From where that knowledge of ancient secrets?
Of the darkness within the darkness,
The source of all light.
What authority do you hold over Oud,
Amber, Musk?

To what power does the blossom surrender its essence?
What does the heart choose to present which words cannot express?
How did you capture that uncontested mastery of perfume?

Abdul Samad Al Qurashi.
The masters of royal scent. 

Another example of the poetic approach to branding is Prada's Thunder Perfect Mind starring Daria Werbowy. It's longer than the three minute standard for capturing attention online (it clocks in at 4:47 minutes), but it's worth a look. The video is inspired by Gnostic Nag Hammadi text and is a modern riff on female archetypal essence. American mythologist Joseph Campbell would have loved it.