Kenny Francoeur is a fan of spending time in the kitchen creating baked goods, pastries and other items.
"I enjoy pastry-type things," said Francoeur, who is the dance captain/swing for the touring production of "The Book of Mormon." The show continues to Dec. 2 at The Oriental Theatre. FYI: Visit BroadwayInChicago.com.
Among favorite items for Francoeur are eclairs, macarons and jams.
"You can use jam for anything," Francoeur said, adding it's great on toast, for use in topping a plain sheet cake and more.
Francoeur said he likes to cook and bake for others and enjoys sharing a meal with people.
"Cooking and baking are communicative activities and are a way of nurturing someone," he said.
Francoeur said it's important for him to cook when he can because it allows him a way "to take control over my diet."
The performer said he's a fan of cooking shows. "I devour those shows," he said. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is a favorite of his. "I absolutely adore her. I like the way she talks about food," Francoeur said. Ina Garten is another favorite.
The following recipe for a tasty Blackberry-Peach-Ginger jam is from Francoeur.
*A note on jam setting: The best part about jam is that you can make it as runny or firm as you like. On a low temperature, you can continue to cook out the liquid in the jam until it has the consistency of paste, or you can cook it JUST until it starts to gel and have a runny, goopy mess to dip bread or pastries into. To test the "done-ness" of your jam, you can do two things. The first is the spoon test. Dip the back of a spoon into the jam, then run your finger down the middle of the spoon. If the mark of your finger through the jam holds, then your jam has cooked enough and will set nicely: not too runny, not too firm. If the mark disappears because the jam spreads back out, you might want to continue cooking it for another five minutes, then check it again.
Another way to test your jam is the plate test. Put a plate in the freezer for at least five minutes before testing. When the plate is ready, take it out and put one drop of jam right into the middle of the plate. After 10-15 seconds, tilt the plate on its side. If the drop doesn't run down the plate, then it has set enough. If the jam does run down the plate, cook for another five minutes, and then do the test again.
6 peaches, peeled and cubed
18 ounces blackberries
1 tablespoon ginger, finely minced
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Place all of your ingredients in (at least) a four-quart pot. Mix the ingredients to make sure they are well combined and that the seasonings are completely dispersed throughout. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
2. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook it for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure that the fruit doesn't burn to the bottom of your pan.
3. After 10 minutes, it's time to make some decisions. If you want your jam UBER chunky, just mash the cooked fruit in your pan using the back of your mixing spoon or a potato masher. If you like a smooth jam, you can transfer the jam (in batches) into a food processor, or use an immersion blender.
I like a decent amount of pulp in my jam, so I use my immersion blender to take care of any medium-large sized chunks in the jam. The added bonus to blending the whole blackberries is that it breaks open the blackberry seeds, releasing pectin which will also help your jam "set".
Alternatively, if you are looking for a more translucent jam, you could mash the jam with the back of a spoon/potato masher and then pour the jam through a wire sieve into another pot and place it back on the heat. This will give you a smooth jam with no pulp. This will also keep your jam "clearer" since you wouldn't be grinding up seeds into the jam, causing the jam to take on an opaque quality. Without the added pectin from the blackberry seeds being blended in, you may have to cook this mixture on the stove for a few more minutes.
4. After blending your jam, or not, keep it down at a simmer on your stove top and perform the previously mentioned SPOON TEST. If the mark left by your finger stays, then your jam has cooked enough to gel when it lowers to room temperature. If not, cook for another 5-10 minutes and try again until it is successful.
5. Let your jam cool and start eating! If you know how to can properly and are comfortable doing it, go ahead and can your jam. If not, you can keep the jam in an airtight container in your fridge for 2 weeks (but I doubt it will be around long enough to expire)!