Jennie Miller is always interested in experimenting with innovative and interesting dessert ideas.
Miller is the executive pastry chef for Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and creates desserts for all of the casino's eateries, including Jack Binion's Steakhouse, The Eatery and banquet facilities.
The chef recently competed in a national contest presented by The American Culinary Federation and received a silver medal for a dark cherry mousse with cherry gelee dessert titled Chocolate and Cherry.
"The theme was America the Beautiful and we were asked to make a plated dessert or a cake," Miller said.
She chose a plated dessert and combined mousse, gelee, cherry sauce, cherry sorbet and other ingredients to produce the Americana-themed dish. The contest took place in early August in Florida.
Miller has been the recipient of several other awards in the past including bronze medals, being named student chef of the year and chef of the year through the ACF organization. She belongs to the American Culinary Federation Chefs of Northwest Indiana as well as the head group The American Culinary Federation.
American Culinary Federation Inc., was founded in 1929. The organization's website describes it as "an organization based on promoting the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels."
Miller said it really didn't take too long to decide what she was going to make for the competition and then she continued to perfect it.
"It took about a month and a half to nail it down. I started with what flavors I wanted," she said. "Then I made people (such as family, friends and co-workers) eat it over and over again. Every chance I got I experimented with it," she said.
Miller said at Jack Binion's she occasionally experiments with new pastry dishes for the menu as well as for special events presented by the restaurant and casino.
During a recent special event, she came up with a boudino, or pudding-style dessert recipe.
"I enjoy playing with flavors," Miller said, adding she views pastries and desserts as art. What keeps Miller excited about her career is that "you're never done learning."
She said the art and industry is "always changing" but she likes that it has some "serious tradition" surrounding it.
Miller, whose heritage is a mix of Polish, Czech, German and Russian, said her maternal grandmother was a great baker and cook.
"I have my grandmother's handwritten recipes. She was a big influence on me," the chef said.
Miller, who is from Princeton, Illinois, is a resident of Valparaiso. She and her husband Jeremy are the parents of son Dorian. The chef studied culinary arts at Ivy Tech Community College in Gary and East Chicago. To learn more about Miller's creations, visit her Instagram page @chef_jennie_cpc.
The following recipes are for the recent Budino and Caramel Cremeux Miller made for a special event at Horseshoe Casino.
Yield: 12 (1/4 Cup) servings
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
1 tablespoon Spiced Rum
6 each Large Egg Yolks
2 tablespoons Corn Starch
1. In a heavy bottom pot combine the heavy cream, brown sugar salt. Heat over medium heat until it starts to steam.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch until smooth.
3. Take the pot off the heat and add 1/3 of the hot mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together. This step tempers your egg yolks so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
4. Pour egg mixture into the pot with the rest of the hot mixture. Place over medium heat to continue cooking. Stir constantly with a spatula so that the mixture does not burn to the bottom.
5. Continue to stir over heat until the mixture thickens. Once it has thickened, cook an additional minute. This extra minute will cook out any remaining corn starch flavor.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
7. Pour into individual ramekins or cups. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered at least 2 hours to set up.
Notes: If the pudding splits, don’t panic, it has happened to us all! Pour budino into a blender or food processor. Blend on high until it comes back together. No one will ever know.
Yield: approximately 2 cups
1 each (0.25 ounce) Envelope Unflavored Gelatin
2 Tablespoons Water, Cold
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Heavy Cream
4 tablespoons Salted Butter, Soft
1. Stir gelatin into cold water and set aside to set up.
2. In a large pot bring heavy cream to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large pot (stainless steel so you can see the color of the caramel) heat 1/4 cup of the sugar over medium high heat until the sugar begins to melt. Shake pot occasionally to heat evenly. DO NOT STIR. Reduce heat to low when the sugar is almost all melted. Add another 1/4 cup sugar and continue to cook. Repeat with the last 1/4 cup sugar and continue to cook until completely melted and golden in color.
4. Pour approximately 1/3 of the hot cream into the caramel. Be extremely careful, it will bubble up and release steam. Stir until incorporated. Repeat 2 more times to incorporate the rest of the hot heavy cream.
5. Add butter and stir until fully melted and combined. Boil, stirring constantly, for five more minutes.
6. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir until the gelatin is completely melted.
7. Pass caramel cremeux through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof container. This will remove any bits of hard caramel that may remain.
8. Press cling wrap directly on the surface of the cremeux to avoid a skin forming.
9. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.