Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Tea Shortbread

Shortbread is a wonder cookie.  It has a delicate crunchy texture that rests on a mantle of sweet buttery goodness. Think you can eat just one?  Think again. Shortbread whispers in your ear.  It taunts and teases until you partake of another luxurious morsel, keenly aware of each melting crumb on your tongue.  The notion strikes you.  Food like this should be illegal. Thank G-d it's not.

Shortbread is a simple affair when it comes to ingredients.  It is comprised of flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a touch of salt.  Non-wheat flours or starches are typically added to alter the texture of the cookie which is made without leavening.  Shortbread's simplicity makes it the perfect canvas for a variety of sweet and savory flavors. Green tea is a great addition to shortbread's flavor repertoire, but finding a recipe that doesn't result in a grassy tasting cookie isn't easy. 

The secret to great tasting Green Tea Shortbread is koicha tea, a form of matcha that is used for making "thick tea" in the Japanese tea ceremony known as chadoKoicha is more expensive than usucha (known as "thin tea"), the powdered green tea typically found in stores and catalogs.  The beauty of koicha lies in its verdant sweetness and lack of astringency which is why it fetches a higher price than usucha. The price is worth it when you taste the difference. You wouldn't use regular mushrooms in a recipe that called for truffles, would you?

Green Tea Shortbread
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 70 cookies

·        2 cups all-purpose flour
·        1 tablespoon high quality matcha tea (koicha is best)
·        cup organic yellow cornmeal
·        ½ teaspoon non-iodized sea salt
·        ½ cup (plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter (room temperature/softened)
·        ½ cup (plus 3 tablespoons) organic cane sugar
·        2 large eggs, at room temperature
·        1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon almond extract

·        Divide oven racks into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F.
·        Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
·        In a medium mixing bowl, sift and combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and matcha tea. Mix well with a large silicone spatula.  The resulting mixture will light green in color.
·        Soften butter in the microwave for 15-30 seconds.  It should be softened (not warm or transparent) when it is done.
·        Cream the butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl beat the two eggs and almond extract.
·        Add the butter mixture to the egg mixture and incorporate.
·        Combine wet ingredients with dry ones.  Work the dough with the spatula for two minutes. The dough should be slightly resistant (not overly tacky or hard).
·        Shape one teaspoonful of dough at a time by placing it between your hands and rolling it between the centers of your palms, pressing down very slightly.  Place onto baking sheet in seven rows of five cookies each.
·        Bake for 15 minutes, turning and reversing trays from top to bottom at 7.5 minutes and continuing to bake for another 7.5 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
·        Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
·        Store in an airtight container.

Ito En Matcha-Banreki No Mukashi and Upton Tea Thick Matcha Mathuno Mukashi are great choices for making Glass Petal Smoke's Green Tea Shortbread. If you would like to experience a traditional tea ceremony and live in New York City you can visit the Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York. Demonstrations take place monthly and there is a series of classes offered as well.

Brigette-Keks® Letter Message Cookie Press from Germany is finally available in the U.S.  It was used to imprint the cookies in the photo that accompanies this post.  You can follow your own muse and use any kind of small embellishment in the center of the cookie that you like.

Photograph of tea cookies by Michelle Krell Kydd.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rum Raisin Scones

Some flavor combinations speak for themselves; rum raisin is one of them. Though this recipe requires a bit of preparation (you have to macerate the raisins and get them good and drunk) the baking experience has an interesting perk. As the scones bake the spiced sugar and cream topping caramelizes around the pastry, leaving the baker with little bits of candy to eat once the scrumptious treats have cooled down. Talk about just desserts...

Rum Raisin Scones
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: Two Dozen

  •  4 cups all-purpose flour
  •  2/3 cup organic cane sugar
  •  4 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free)
  •  1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  •  2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cassia cinnamon (Chinese Tung-Ting variety)
  •  2 teaspoons ground green cardamom
  •  2/3 cup unsalted sweet butter (chilled)
  •  2 large organic eggs (beaten)
  •  1 cup heavy whipping cream plus 2 tablespoons Mexican vanilla extract (for wet scone mixture)
  •  1/3 cup heavy whipping cream plus 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract (for brushing hand-formed scones)
  •  6 ounces Thompson seedless raisins (organic, jumbo)
  •  1 1/2 cups light rum plus 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract (for soaking the raisins)
  • For topping: 1/4 – 1/2 cup Spiced Vanilla Sugar from The Savory Spice Shop. To make your own mix 1/2 teaspoon cassia cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground green cardamom, a pinch of ground allspice and a pinch of mace with 1/2 cup organic turbinado sugar.
  •  The day before you bake the scones, fill a mason jar with raisins, vanilla and rum (just enough to cover the raisins). Keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Strain and reserve the rum for future infusions.
  •  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  •  Preheat oven to 375 degrees, dividing racks into thirds.
  •  In a large bowl, combine sifted flour, sugar, spices, baking powder and salt.
  •  Put butter on a cutting board and cut lengthwise, forming halves. Half the halves and cut into quarters. The bits of butter should look like square buds.
  •  Add butter to dry ingredients, coating well. Pinch each bud into flat petals and incorporate butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  •  In a small bowl, beat egg and vanilla. Incorporate cream (do not beat cream, gently mix). Add rum soaked raisins.
  • Gently mix dry ingredients with wet ones by hand.
  • Form scones by hand and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. 12 scones (4 rows of 3) will fit on each of the baking sheets. 
  • Brush the tops of the scones with vanilla infused cream. Sprinkle each scone with spiced sugar.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, moving trays form top to bottom and reversing when half done to ensure even baking. The bottom of the scones should be a light tan when they are done. Serve scones warm or set on cooling racks and refrigerate/freeze for future use.
Mexican vanilla has a rich and creamy quality that is well suited to spiced pastry. Spiced Vanilla Sugar from the Savory Spice Shop is preferred as a topping for these scones. Photograph of scones by Michelle Krell Kydd, editor of Glass Petal Smoke.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Does Your Sense of Smell Mean to You?

Many people feel self-conscious when it comes to talking about their sense of smell.  Though objectivity is highly valued in our culture the realm of the senses is subjective.  There are no wrong answers when it comes to personal sensory impressions; feelings and emotions count.  It's easy to understand this concept in principal, but until you experience it for yourself what you've just read is simply a notion.

Glass Petal Smoke has designed a sensory questionnaire to help readers get more comfortable talking about their sense of taste and smell.  In the spirit of good fun (and fairness) I've answered the questions myself and have included them in this post.

The beauty of the exercise is that you can take it as far as you like.  Skim the surface of your sensory memories or dig deeply.  Take the questionnaire alone or share it with a friend.   Whatever you choose the result of taking the sensory questionnaire provides an interesting perk; you inevitably discover more about yourself. 

Sensory Questionnaire Results for Michelle Krell Kydd, Editor of Glass Petal Smoke

1.  What does your sense of smell mean to you?
I consciously catalog scents wherever I am; walking to work, inside the Metro North rail car, in supermarket aisles, restaurants, elevators, gardens and libraries.  There is never a moment when I'm not aware of the smells in my environment.  My senses are always full-on. When I cook, I have a habit of using my nose to evaluate whether or not a dish has balanced flavors as opposed to relying on exact weights and measures.  My sense of smell tells me more about things I can't reckon through vision.  That's key for me.  I don’t favor vision over my sense of smell; they are equally important to me and closely linked with an abiding passion for food and fragrance.  The eyes can lie, but the nose never does.

2.  What are some of your strongest scent memories?
My strongest scent memories are connected to pivotal life events or moments when I was totally immersed in something without distraction.  Kindergarten is a smell to me, a mixture of finger paint, glue paste, grape juice and the generic smell of a school lunch room. The scents I’ve encountered while lake fishing resonate deeply.  The clean smell of freshly caught fish, the smell of minnows swimming in a metal bait pail, the smell of lake water, the aroma of wet earth mingled with aquatic lake life, and the scent of sun-warmed rocks on the shoreline; all of this is deeply ingrained in my memory.

My father was a weekend fisherman and developed a recipe for bait that was a magnet for carp.  It was a mixture of cornmeal, water and vanilla extract.  He would cook the cornmeal down until it had a texture like an al dente polenta and could be molded by hand on a fish hook.  The cornmeal bait smelled amazing when he was whipping it up in the kitchen.  My mother would scold him when he used the “good vanilla” so he took to using vanillin powder, which is much stronger.  That tweak made the bait more potent as a lure and there was more work for my mother in the kitchen as a result.

3.   What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment)?
I love flowers, particularly the narcotic scent of freshly cut tuberose flowers.  Tuberose, like many heady white flowers, gives off more scent at night.  Night pollinators decipher the olfactive code and can be seen flitting around the flowers in the evening.  This is a good example of nature as a metaphor for the effects of wearing perfume.

Pipe tobacco also intrigues my nose; it is a kind of incense to me. When I was a child my pediatrician smoked a pipe at his desk.  The tobacco had a sweet cherry vanilla aroma that was gentle and syrupy.  The doctor was a friendly fellow and the aroma of his pipe added an element of intrigue to his “healer” persona; just like his stethoscope.

Vetiver, a type of aromatic grass, has an intense affect on me.  It is as if I was wired to detect it and it was configured to render me powerless to its charm.  If a man is wearing Vetiver by Guerlain I will smell him instantly and feel the need to ferret him out of a crowd. When I was dating my husband he accidentally spilled some of the eau de toilette on his carpet before I arrived for dinner.  The carpet was next to a radiator so the fragrance inadvertently perfumed the living room.  I had to gather my wits about me when I walked into the apartment because I didn’t want him to know I had a weakness for vetiver.

Kalijira rice is a miniature basmati rise that has an extraordinary perfume.  Prior to cooking, it emits notes of bran, popped corn and blond wood, qualities that are common to its basmati cousin. When the kalijira grains begin to cook creamy aromas of coconut, jasmine and sweet grass fill the entire house with a compelling fragrance that can last up to half a day.  If I am ever asked to give an example of “food as perfume” kalijira always comes to mind.

4.  Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
I love the smell of phosphorus when a match is struck and the smell of burning wood that you get when the flame winds its way down a match stick.  I also enjoy the smell of roll caps used in toy guns after they've been ignited.  They smell like matches mixed with a metallic burnt paper odor.  The smell of a burning fireplace is also quite lovely.  I enjoy the way the aroma of a fireplace perfumes your hair and your clothes; it is a way to wear fire without getting burned.

5.  Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
The smell of sofrito intoxicates my senses.  Sofrito is a Spanish mirepoix of garlic, peppers and culantro (an herb similar to cilantro), olive oil and other ingredients based on the Latin culture it is inspired by.  It transforms whatever it touches with a savory quality that tastes delicious.  Sofrito recipes are highly guarded secrets in Spanish cooking, similar to family recipes for tomato sauces in Italian culture.  Because sofrito can be used as a base in so many dishes it becomes the signature of the cook.  The parallel with perfumery is amazing.  There are some perfumers whose work has a distinctive style that can be smelled immediately; just like cooking.

6.  What smells do you most dislike?
I have disdain for cloying volatile odors and the smell of decay. Gasoline, lawn fertilizer, sardines, and pungent cheeses immediately come to mind.  The Canal Street subway station in New York City has the rankest odor I have ever encountered, especially during the summer months.  Olfactively speaking, it is an architectural durian; a mixture of urine, decaying fish, vomit and fecal matter.

7.  What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
I never liked the smell or taste of cumin, especially when it is highly pronounced in a dish. It smelled dirty and sweaty to me.  As I cooked more Indian food at home I learned to appreciate spice mixtures that utilize the spice and fell in love with Kala Masala, which utilizes intense spices like black cumin and black cardamom.  I finally woke up to cumin after I spent a week in perfumery school at Givaudan.  I was given a blotter dipped in diluted essential oil of cumin to smell and could detect a refreshing anise-like quality that was addictive and cooling, a quality in cumin I never noticed before.  I distracted myself from my surroundings by repeatedly bringing the blotter to my nose and had to make a conscious decision to stop smelling.  It was as if I was hypnotized by cumin.  I used to despise cumin, but I love it now.  Funny how it can be that way with people too; you can learn to love the difficult ones.

8.  What mundane smells inspire you?
Petrichor is a word for the fluid flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.  It is also the word for the smell of rain on dry earth, which I adore.  I live near the historic Old Croton Aqueduct and take walks there regularly.  I consciously key into the way the dirt feels under my feet and enjoy the variety of soft, moist and unyielding textures.  There is this moment, just before the rain falls, when you can smell something changing in the air.  The dirt on the Old Croton Aqueduct path is usually dry because the path is embraced by tall trees. When raindrops start to fall you smell earth and water as two distinct entities because they haven’t had a chance to mingle. I love that smell and the alchemical moment that exists before the two disparate elements combine.

I'm in love with the smell of Pierepont Morgan’s Library in the East Room of the Morgan Library.  So many scents mingle there.  The aroma of leather-bound books with yellowed paper, the scent of antique wood bookshelves and furniture, the dusty dry lanolin smell of old wool carpets; all of these mix together with the olfactive quality of heaviness that a room with little sunlight possesses.  Mr. Morgan’s study has a perfume that is typical of antique libraries and a touch of something that is unique to the architecture of the room.  I haven't returned to the library since the McKim building was renovated.  I'm afraid that the smell of the library will have changed and don't want to replace my memory of it with something new. 

9.  What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?
The smell of oven roasted chicken lingering in the hallway of an apartment building reminds me of my childhood.  Each floor in an apartment building has its own olfactive personality at dinner time.  It is a kind of enchantment, a time when the scent of various cultures begins to mingle, something that is uniquely American.  My mother was a stay-at-home-mom and dinner was an extension of her desire to nurture the family.  She seasoned chicken with two simple ingredients: Sweet Hungarian paprika and garlic salt. When the chicken was done roasting the spices would lilt above the aroma of crisped chicken skin.  That smell is ingrained in my memory.  The fact that the aromatic experience can be resurrected by cooking makes it transcendent.

10.  What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
Before my father went to work, he would come into the room where my sister and I slept and give each of us a kiss.  He was a loyal user of Vitalis®, a hair tonic that was popular in the 60's and 70’s.  Some of it would linger in the room after he left and it was his little gift to us. Vitalis® has a fresh, masculine smell, a bit like an eau de cologne with a pleasant oiliness that magnifies the clean scent of human hair. I would often pretend to be asleep when he came into the room because I could smell him more with my eyes closed; I was a budding smellist then.

My father worked in the garment district and when he came home he brought the smell of the leather shop with him; it perfumed his clothes, his skin and his hair.  Leather was my father’s second skin and it greeted  my sister and me when we welcomed him home with hugs.  It's why I love the vintage formulation of Cuir de Russie by Chanel.  The leatheric aspect of the perfume—which is tannic, smoky, and sharp—is enveloped in florals.  This gives the leather an impression of sweetness, a quality that my father was known for throughout his life.

11.  What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
The scents that remind me of home are associated with housekeeping, beauty products and cooking. There are functional smells from my childhood, like Lemon Pledge® Furniture Polish, Joy® Dish Detergent, Adorn® Hairspray, Ponds® Cold Cream, Jergen’s® Hand Lotion, Cashmere Bouquet® Soap, Bain de Soleil® Orange Gelee and ChapStick® Lip Balm.  Then there are foods that remind me of childhood, like the savory smell of onions caramelizing in a pan, the scent of percolating coffee and the proverbial aroma of an American breakfast; complete with buttered toast, eggs-over-easy and bacon. Butter was the honey of my childhood.  I put it on everything, even peanut butter sandwiches.

The smell of mimeographs also reminds me of growing up.  Mimeographs preceded today’s copier machines and paper copies made in this fashion had a trace of solvent on them that smelled like violets.  When teachers passed out mimeographs kids would often hold them up to their noses and smell them.  It's a classic baby boomer memory.

12.  What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
The smell of grass reminds me of family trips to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.  The grass was always covered with dew in the morning and had a distinctive smell that was sweeter than freshly cut grass. The green blades would squeak under my feet and were slightly slippery, leaving chlorophyll marks on my canvas sneakers.

I visited Cape Cod for the first time last year and have a distinct fragrance memory from that trip.  It is the scent of sea grass mingling with the clean briny smell of the ocean in North Truro. The smell of sea grass is fresh, verdant, salty and a bit hay-like.  I remember walking in the dunes and the way the aromas of the landscape would mingle there.  That smell is tattooed in my mind.

13.  Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.
 “[this] is amchur. Made from black salt and mangoes dried and pounded, to heal the taste buds, to bring back love of  life.”       -- The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (p.72)
In the early days of the spice trade properties of health and magic were ascribed to spices.  This was largely due to the fact that spices were used as medicine and many were cultivated in exotic lands with polytheistic cultures.  In The Mistress of Spices, author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni gives voice to the healing power of spices in the hands of a kindly sorceress who is disguised as a spice shop keeper.  Tilo tends to the psychic and physical wounds of her customers under the guise of selling ingredients for cooking.

There is something magical about the notion of ingesting something that has the ability to both heal and transform us.  Whether we realize it or not, every single one of us needs this kind of experience in order to transcend the parts of ourselves that are ego-driven and attached to material things.  It's an archetypal need.  At its core The Mistress of Spices emphasizes the the power of affecting another's well-being through intention.  That's a magical concept, whether you're standing over a hot stove or not.

Several bloggers have taken the Glass Petal Smoke "Sensory Questionnaire" and posted their responses online. A big thanks to everyone who has participated (and those who have promised to let me know when they've posted in the future so I can add their link).
Yesterday's Perfume
The French Exit
Scent of the Day
Eau MG
Eyeliner on a Cat
Olfactaria's Travels
Plume Perfume

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Persian Shortbread: Fearless Baking with Flavor

Altering recipes for flavor is tricky business.  Anyone who's ever ruined a batch of cookies knows how disheartening the consequences of  pastry bungling can be.  You pull the trays out of the oven and the errors of your ways are written all over the cookie sheets for everyone to see.  You're a "cookie killer"; time to get a scarlet tattoo of your new name and give up baking for good. 

Baking is a precise science, but that shouldn't deter adventurous flavor seekers.  Redemption is a recipe away and its name is shortbread.  The ingredients are few and the possibilities are endless.  Here's the secret; don't alter moisture, wet/dry ingredients or shortening.  You have complete freedom when it comes to adding flavor via extracts, spices and/or citrus zest.  Just make sure your flavors complement each other.

Not sure if your flavors are a good match?  Consult books with flavor pairing charts or use online tools such as Cuuks or FoodPairing.  Not sure about proportions?  Look at other recipes for flavored shortbread and deduce.  Don't let celebrity chef culture turn you into a lily-livered chicken.  All bakers and cooks have a successful sleuth living inside of them; feed yours.

Persian Shortbread
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 48 Cookies

·      1 stick of unsalted sweet butter (softened at room temperature)
·      ½ cup organic cane sugar
·      2 large organic eggs
·      2 cups Arrowhead Mills® Brown Rice Flour
·      ¼ teaspoon baking powder
·      1¼ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
·      6½  teaspoons true vanilla extract

Alternative Flavor:
Use in place of toasted sesame oil and true vanilla. Add cinnamon to flour and Tahitian vanilla to egg mixture when using this method to flavor the shortbread.  The smell of these cookies baking is intoxicating.
·      2 ½ teaspoons China cassia cinnamon
·      2 tablespoons Tahitian vanilla extract

·      Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
·      Combine brown rice flour and baking powder in large mixing bowl and set aside.
·      Using a fork, blend butter to achieve an even creamy consistency.
·      Add sesame oil to butter and incorporate.
·      Add vanilla to butter/sesame oil combination and blend by hand. Follow with the addition of sugar.
·      Beat two eggs by hand and add to the liquid ingredients.
·      Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. 
·      Roll one heaping teaspoonful of dough between the palms of your hands to ¼ inch thickness.  Place on  cookie sheet in six rows of four.  (You can also use a one-teaspoon capacity cookie scoop as the dough is on the soft side.)
·      Bake for 18 minutes, reversing trays and moving them from top to bottom after 9 minutes to ensure even baking.  The cookies should be lightly browned on the edges when they are done.
·      Remove cookies from baking trays and allow to cool on cookie racks.
·      Store in an airtight container.

Persian Shortbread is inspired by nan berenji, a rice-based cardamom and poppy seed cookie with roots in Iran.  The cookie is part of the baking repertoire of Sephardic Jews and is especially popular during Passover as it is not a leavened wheat product.

Brown rice flour, which is available in health food stores, is substituted for white rice flour in the original recipe.  It adds texture and a nutty nuance.  The combination of  vanilla and toasted sesame oil builds on the Middle Eastern origin of the cookie, and is a deliberate riff on sesame halwa.

The recipe for Persian Shortbread is gluten-free.  Vegetarians can experiment with non-dairy substitutes for butter, such as Earth Balance, which is available in stick form.  Adding ¼ cup of ground flaxseed meal to the dough adds fiber and makes the dough less sticky (great if you prefer to hand roll the cookie dough between your palms). 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vintage Oolong: One Haute Cup of Tea

Oolong is a semi-oxidized variety of Camellia sinensis that falls in between the green and black family of teas. It is known as a digestive and is commonly served at the end of a meal in Chinese restaurants. Tie Guan Yin is a type of Oolong with an interesting pedigree; it is connected to the bodhisattva of compassion in the Buddhist pantheon of deities.

The attribute of mercy was particularly important to the goddess Guan Yin. She was keenly aware that sickness, aging and death are unavoidable in this life and in one story is said to have introduced the tea plant to a farmer who tended a dilapidated temple that was dedicated to her. Guan Yin pointed out a tea bush and prescribed the method of infusion to the farmer. He then went on to introduce tea to his people. The name of the tea, translated from Chinese to English, is "Iron Goddess of Mercy". If you've ever reached for this tea after a night of overindulgent feasting then you've experienced the promise implied in its name.

Vintage Oolongs, historically the drink of  royalty and the elite, are making their way into the offerings of reputable tea purveyors in the United States. They are far more complex than first grade Oolongs which produce amber-hued infusions that are mildly astringent and redolent of chestnuts. 20 Year Aged Oolong from Radiance Tea House & Books in New York City is an impeccable example of what proper aging of a good Oolong tea can do. The process involves roasting the moisture from the tea (typically yearly) until the desired time has passed to achieve a proper vintage. The resulting brew is best appreciated in slow and mindful sips.

Radiance Tea 20 Year Aged Oolong produces a ruby-colored liquor that begins with smokey fruity floral notes and transitions into chestnut nuanced with spice. What happens next is sublime and provocative; a bouquet of cinnamon, coconut, raisin and plum unfurl with a wisp of caramelized chocolate weaving between the appearance of these distinctive flavors.

In the world of taste vintage teas are no different than other aged food products like wine and cheese. Increased trade with China and an intense interest in the health benefits of antioxidants derived from tea will result in wider availability of vintage teas, despite their high cost. Glass Petal Smoke believes that this growth will be driven by chefs, mixologists and specialty tea bars in the coming decade.


The tea painting in this post is the work of Diane Root, daughter of food writer Waverley Root. Diane Root is a painter and an editor. In 2008 she wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine about having lunch with Picasso as a young girl. It is infused with her creative spirit and trademark joie de vivre.

The 20 Year Aged Oolong from Radiance Tea House & Books sells for $30 an ounce. Other aged teas are available, including a delightful 10 Year Aged Tie Guan Yin. Radiance Tea House & Books is located at 158 West 55th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenue, in New York City. 212-217-0442

Upton Tea, which sells a broad range of Oolong teas, has a wonderful page dedicated to explaining the different types of tea and how they are produced. It's a terrific primer for the budding tea enthusiast. If you are a green Oolong fan, their selection of Formosa Oolongs are superb. Spring Dragon is a Glass Petal Smoke favorite. 800-234-8327

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eye on Scent Culture: Aliage by Estée Lauder

Leaves take all kinds of strange shapes, as if to invite us to examine them. Star-shaped, heart-shaped, spear-shaped, arrow-shaped, fretted, fringed, cleft, furrowed, serrated, sinuated; in whorls, in tufts, in spires, in wreaths endlessly expressive, deceptive, fantastic, never the same from footstalk to blossom; they seem perpetually to tempt our watchfulness, and take delight in outstripping our wonder.—John Ruskin

The universe is very clever at orchestrating wonder when we least expect it. For Estée Lauder, one of those moments occurred during her travels. “I’d picked up a green leaf in Palm Beach one day, deeply inhaled its scent with wonder, and knew I had to recreate that scent.” The resulting fragrance was Aliage, a timeless green chypre released in 1972 that continues to inspire.

Estée Lauder
Estée Lauder was driven by the desire to create a sporty scent that was sophisticated without being overwhelming; a fragrance befitting the tennis court and the gym. The concept was clear, but the execution was decidedly complex, resulting in a formula that included over 300 ingredients. The fragrance pyramid for Aliage varies slightly, depending on the source. In Fabulous Fragrances II author Jan Moran provides these key notes: Greens, Peach and Citrus in the top, Jasmine, Rosewood, Pine and Thyme in the heart, and Oakmoss, Musk, Vetiver and Myrrh in the base.

Karyn Khoury of Estée Lauder
Shortly after Aliage was released two women fell in love with the same fragrance. It has led each of them on an enduring path. Aliage was the first fragrance of  Karyn Khoury, who cherished the scent in body lotion form. Khoury later studied fragrance creation under the tutelage of Estée Lauder and is Senior Vice President, Corporate Fragrance Development Worldwide for The Estée Lauder Companies. Jane Shanky Taylor, a teenager living in Queens, New York, was searching for a fragrance to suit her lifestyle and was compelled by Aliage. The fragrance was not foisted on her at-counter; instead Jane chose to follow in the footsteps of her mother, an Aliage aficionado. (This influence is sometimes ignored by marketers as it doesn’t smack of teenage rebellion). Decades later Aliage is still Jane’s perfume of choice. “People always ask me what I’m wearing and I’m always amazed. Aliage doesn’t feel like a fragrance to me; it feels like a part of me, a part of my life.”

Aliage: A sporty fragrance for women
Estée Lauder created Aliage to meet the needs of modern, independent women who bought their own fragrance, women who, “…were tired of the standard perfumes of their mother’s generation, the tired familiar names of fragrances made for a generation of women who blue-rinsed their gray hair and had croquignole waves etched into their scalps.” The fact that Jane embraced the scent her mother wore says a lot about the cultural shift sensed by Mrs. Lauder, who transformed the 1970's archetype of the "liberated woman" and actualized it in a perfume. It also says a lot about the way people respond to their sense of smell. Chypres can be highly animalic and resinous despite the presence of fruits and florals in the formula. The addition of fresh green notes infuses Aliage with a timeless quality that tempers its classic pedigree and  lends buoyancy.

Jane Shanky Taylor
Aliage is a niche player in The Estée Lauder Companies' portfolio of fragrances. It's not always displayed at counter, but a simple request will allow one to procure this timeless treasure. “The fact that someone has to get it for me makes the purchase feel special,” says Jane “but it also makes me nervous about whether or not it will be at counter the next time I'm there. I hope they never stop making it.”


Lauder, Estée. Estée: A Success Story. New York: Random House, 1985, p.90.

Leaves in Myth, Magic and Medicine was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 1997. Author Alice Thoms Vitale, a librarian, completed the book when she was in her nineties and describes it as an "historical herbal". Its pages are filled with Ms. Vitale's delicate autoprints of leaves as well as interesting folklore. If you possess Estée Lauder's affinity for nature you will find inspiration in its pages. The book is out of print, but worth seeking from reputable dealers.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eau: The Scent of Moroccanoil®

The magic of fine fragrance lies in two important qualities; composition and the ability to trigger memory. Functional products--like shampoos, moisturizers and detergents--can be as olfactively provocative as an expensive perfume. The frequency with which they are used, combined with the utilitarian “problem solving” aspect attached to their performance, creates loyalty and emotional attachment. Sometimes a functional product hits the market and leads consumers by the nose. Such is the case with Moroccanoil®.

The Moroccanoil® hair care line nourishes, protects and fortifies hair by utilizing fairtrade argan oil and cutting-edge technology. The scent, however, is a clever provocateur. The composition includes the familiar aroma associated with hand lotion (classic white floral aldehyde) and introduces a mashup of suntan lotion, white amber and milky musk. The combination is luxurious, sensual and addictive, evoking memories of warm sandy beaches and vibrant turquoise waters, (something not lost on anyone paying attention to the colors used in the packaging of Moroccanoil® products).

Devotees of the brand have requested that the potent olfactive cocktail be made into a perfume. A Moroccanoil® eau has not been made to date, but there is a way to use the product as a scent. The solution lies in layering; the same principal used when applying fragrance on skin. Hair, unlike skin, holds onto fragrance longer. Combining at least three Moroccanoil® products is recommended. Glass Petal Smoke suggests Moroccanoil® Shampoo, Conditioner and the Hydrating Style Cream. Don’t let the “oil” in Moroccanoil® stop you from using the treatment oil; it is quickly absorbed and doesn’t weigh your hair down. Warning: the desire to use the Treatment Oil as a perfume is tempting.


Glass Petal Smoke requested the name of the perfumer who created the scent of Moroccanoil®. Representatives of the brand declined to reveal the perfumer or the fragrance house. The perfumer, however, is welcome to contact the editor of Glass Petal Smoke in confidence. The public knows little about functional perfumers (and the suspense is killing me).

Something which is described as "aldehydic" smells fatty, watery or a bit like a "snuffed candle". The most tangible example of the smell of aldehyde is the scent of steam emanating from an iron as it glides across a shirt. Chanel N°5 contains an overdose of aldehyde and is a benchmark for this quality in perfumery.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pork Perfume

In case you haven't noticed, pork has made a comeback. Bacon in particular has noticeably escaped the confines of the breakfast table, making appearances in dark and milk chocolate bars, brownies, and ice cream. Those who are more than bacon curious can turn to Heather Lauer's book Bacon: A Love Story for more savory and sweet ideas. (Her blog, Bacon Unwrapped, is also a delight.)

Those who truly worship pork take note. Zingerman's Deli successfully ran Camp Bacon in June ("the Davos of Bacon") and plans on bringing the gourmet event back in 2011. Ad copy in their summer catalog reflects their evangelical porcine enthusiasm. Offerings include a "Praise the Lard Gift Box" and Crespone Salami from Verona Italy that is so good the headline reads "Pork Perfume".

Who knew that salami would go luxe?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Smell Culture: Truck Stop Eau

When you are on the road, traveling from state to state, you get a glimpse of what life is like in other places. Ohio is not far from New York, but their smell culture might seem a bit foreign to those of the perfumista persuasion. This photo was taken inside the ladies room at a trucker's rest stop. Warning: Attempts to suppress laughter may result in failure.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 Fancy Food Show in New York City

The Summer Fancy Food Show, June 27-29, in NYC is North America’s largest specialty food trade event and attracts 2,400 exhibitors showcasing over 180,000 specialty foods and beverages. It is, quite frankly, a flavor and fragrance lover's dream event. Glass Petal Smoke readers are invited to attend at a special discounted rate of $25.00. Click on this link to register for the show. See you there!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Persian Lime Poppy Seed Cake

There is something about the first burst of spring green that awakens the senses. Scintillating shades of vibrant chartreuse remind us that new beginnings are on the way. The earth beneath our feet yields with each instep, flaunting its fertility as it stirs our own desire to make the dormant manifest in our lives.

Each of us has an olfactive palette that reminds us of spring. With it we gauge the season and review memories of the people, places and things that have shaped our lives. We also have a gustative palette which allows us to express the light of longer days and ensuing verdancy. This recipe for Persian Lime Poppy Seed Cake, developed by Glass Petal Smoke, is an ode to a fleeting moment in time. The combination of citrus zest and lime oil creates a bright backdrop against earthy poppy seed. The result intoxicates taste buds with a tender sensuous crumb and deeply refreshing flavor. Seasons may come and go, but with Persian Lime Poppy Seed Cake, spring can resurrected with the turn of an oven dial.

Persian Lime Poppy Seed Cake

Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd

· 2 cups organic pastry flour
· 1 cup granulated turbinado sugar
· ¼ cup poppy seeds
· 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
· ¼ teaspoon baking soda
· ½ teaspoon non-iodized sea salt
· 1 cup low sodium/low fat buttermilk (room temperature)
· 2 large organic eggs (room temperature)
· ⅓ cup unsalted butter (softened)
· zest of one small organic lime
· ¼ - ½ teaspoon Boyajian® Lime oil
· 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

· Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
· Grease one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (or three 5.75 x 3 inch loaf pans) with cooking spray.
· In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle in poppy seeds and mix together.
· In a medium sized bowl, mix eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla and lime oil. Add buttermilk and lime zest, and incorporate.
· Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the wet ones. Incorporate wet and dry ingredients together, folding gently.
· Pour batter into prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes (30 – 35 minutes for smaller loaves), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
· Cool for ten minutes. Remove from pans and place on wire rack to continue cooling. Store in the refrigerator. The large loaf yields 10-12 slices, the smaller loaf yields 5-6 slices.

Boyajian® sells marvelous food grade citrus oils. Feel free to experiment with lemon, tangerine and orange, making sure to complement with the appropriate citrus zest (1 tablespoon for large citrus fruits, full fruit for smaller citrus fruits).