You Had me at “Chef”

When I tell people that I bake and decorate cakes for a living, they generally get really excited. Most of them make me promise to make their wedding cake, or ask if I’ve ever seen Cake Boss.If I really want an amusing response, all I have to do is throw in the fact that on top of that, I’m also dating a chef… “Oh my gosh! You have to open a restaurant together! Does he cook for you every night? Does the fact that he’s a chef intimidate you when you cook for him? You probably have gourmet meals every night! Aww that’s the cutest thing ever, I can’t wait to eat at your future restaurant!”

Marrying someone in the same industry isn’t for everyone. For many, it leads to a huge amount of stress, and sometimes makes it hard to differentiate your personal and professional life. For me though, it works perfectly. Brandon is talented, hard-working, and understanding, and these qualities span both his personal and professional life. He’s super great <3 Honestly, I’m extremely blessed to love someone who completely accepts (and actively participates in) my ridiculous life-and-career-consuming obsession with food. He gets it. Plus, because he is a chef, working beside him in our tiny apartment kitchen allows me to learn more about the art that I love so much.

I have to admit that the method and technique for this recipe actually came from my man! I know, I know. I’M the pastry chef, I should be the one schooling him in that department, right? Well, fortunately for Brandon, he’s starting to get a leg up on my pastry competition.Part of his job as a cook on the Garde Manger station (those are the guys the cook your appetizers at fancy restaurants) is to prep and plate the desserts! Sometimes I will get a call or text while he’s prepping, asking me about the creaming method, or how to improve upon his lemon curd making skills. It’s adorable, and I love helping him break down the very particular art of baking in a way that a culinary-minded person would understand.

This small amount of pastry experience is what spurred the conversation about what to do with all of the apricots sitting in our fridge. In response, he started describing how they make a seasonal nectarine ginger jam at the restaurant (um yeah, doesn’t that sound awesome?).In order to make it, he covered the peeled nectarines with a house-made ginger syrup and cooked it until it reached a jam-like consistency. This intrigued me, because typically when you make jam, you throw everything into the pot (water and sugar separate, not in a syrup), and let it cook. However, by making a syrup, it would allow you to really infuse it with a flavor, such as the ginger, before the fruit is added. What a great idea! How about Apricots and Earl Grey tea? Genius. Thanks Chef, you’re cute AND smart.

This is a “small-batch” recipe, and will make about 1 1/2 cups of finished jam

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar1 cup water1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice1 Tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves, or *1 Earl Grey tea sachet (I prefer this brand)About 1/2 lb Apricots, pitted and cut in half- leave the skins on! (this amount can vary. If you don’t have exactly 1/2 a pound, or have a little bit more, that’s completely fine!)Method:

1. To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, orange juice, and Earl Grey tea in a medium-sized sauce pan, and place over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil to dissolve the sugar, and turn off once you reach the boiling point. Let the tea steep in the syrup for 5 minutes. 2. *(If you are using a tea sachet, remove the bag after the 5 minutes and skip the rest of this step.) Meanwhile, place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl large enough to contain the sugar syrup. Pour the syrup mixture through the strainer and into the bowl to remove the large Earl Grey tea leaves (See picture below). It’s ok if some leaves remain! Use a small spoon to press on the tea leaves to extract any remaining flavor.

3. Rinse your syrup pot clean. Place your pitted and halved apricots and finished syrup into the pot, and put back on the burner over medium heat.4. Once the jam comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low during the thickening process.5. Your jam should take about 15-20 minutes to travel through all of the cooking stages (shown below), depending on the amount of liquid in your apricots and the strength of your stove (I have a gas range, and the flame is super strong, even on medium heat!).

6. Once the jam is boiling, it will start to foam (top right). If you look closely, you will see pockets of very thick foam (it resembles the foam on top of a beer). Skim this off with a spoon during the cooking process. You may stir the jam periodically to ensure that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. 7. Soon the boiling will slow down and the jam will become thicker and have a gelled look to it (bottom left). At this point you will want to stir more frequently, maybe even with a rubber spatula, to make sure that the jam doesn’t stick and burn. 8. To test the jam, stick a spoon in the freezer for a few minutes. Place a drop of jam on the spoon. If it holds its shape and doesn’t run watery liquid down the sides of the spoon, you’ve reached the right consistency!

9. The final step to this jam is optional. If you prefer to have large pieces of apricot (almost a compote-like consistency), then leave the jam as is. If you are like me though, you probably want a slightly chunky jam that you can spread on your toast! In order to achieve this, I pulsed the finished product a few times with an immersion blender. Just be sure to completely submerge the blender so you don’t spew molten hot jam everywhere! 10. Since I am keeping this jam for my own consumption, I just poured the contents into a jar, covered it, and stuck it in my fridge. However, if you are planning on canning this item or giving it as a gift, I would definitely refer to this guide to show you the proper way to can jam! I hope that this recipe inspires you to cozy up to your favorite chef (or chef wannabe!) and create something together! Cooking and baking isn’t just about what you create, but who you create it with or for. Let me and Brandon know if you’ve created anything chef-inspired lately!

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