Chef-in-Residence: Catch up with Isaac

Chef-in-Residence: Catch up with Isaac

When 2017 Chef-in-Residence Isaac Saunders arrived in Captiva in January, he spoke about his particular interest with the garden and his excitement about working with ingredients indigenous to the island. Six months into his residency, he is sharing two new recipes he created using unconventional vegetation, such as Hong Kong Orchids, grown on the property.

Check out the recipes below. 

Coconut and Preserved Hong Kong Orchid Sorbet

Makes 3 Pints

Coconut Cream                                                     1 Qt
Hong Kong Orchids Preserved in Sugar              To Taste
Salt                                                                       To Taste
Sorbet Stabilizer                                                  .05% of Total Base Weight (Or as instructed per the specific stabillizer used)

This is a very simple recipe that can be made very quickly and without too much planning if you have a good blender and an ice cream machine.  The biggest part of the process is cleaning and preserving the flowers.  You can use any edible flower you have available to you as the process is the same regardless.  First take your flowers and gently rinse them in cold water.  Then soak them in water overnight in the refrigerator.  The next day take the weight of the flowers after draining the water and mix them with 2 parts sugar by weight.  For example, if your flowers weigh 250 grams mix them with 500 grams of sugar.  This mixture should stay in your refrigerator for about a month before you use them.  The longer they stay in the sugar the more flavor you will extract, to a point.  Try to stir the mixture every week or so as the flowers tend to fall to the bottom. 

To make the sorbet, bring your coconut cream to a boil and place in the blender.  Add about ½ cup of the preserved flowers and a teaspoon of salt and blend on high until the sugar dissolves and the flowers have broken down.  Taste and reseason as you see fit but remember that because you will be eating the ice cream cold you will need to season the base more heavily.  Once you have seasoned the mixture to where you want it, thoroughly blend in your stabilizer.  Chill the mixture in an ice bath before putting into your ice cream machine.  Spin until the mixture reaches your preferred texture and enjoy!

Tea Soaked Sesame Cake

Makes One 8x10 Inch Cake


Butter                                                                     ½ pound or 210g
Sesame Oil                                                             ½ Tablespoon
Sugar                                                                      2 cups or 370g
Extra Large Whole Eggs                                        4 ea
AP Flour                                                                 2 ½ cups or 340g
Lightly Toasted Sesame Seeds                               ½ cup or 70g
Baking Powder                                                       ½ teaspoon or 2.5g
Salt                                                                          ½ tablespoon or 4.5g
Milk                                                                        1 cup or 240g
Pan Spray

For the Tea Syrup:

Your Favorite Tea                                                    4-6 Cups
Your Favorite Honey                                               To taste

The tea syrup should be made first and let to cool as it should be applied at room temperature.  Make your favorite type of tea to the strength you prefer.  Here at the residency we dry herbs and flowers from the garden for teas which gives this syrup a very distinct flavor.  I personally like to err on the strong side as I enjoy the bitterness from a strong steep in combination with the sweet sesame cake.  Once you have brewed your tea, season it with honey and a little bit of salt and allow it to come to room temperature.  Set aside for later use.  This is also the point at which you could add a little bit (or a lot) of liquor or hard alcohol to your syrup to liven it up if you are so inclined. 

Preheat oven to 375

To start the cake recipe we want to have everything measured out into individual containers and brought to room temperature.   The flour should be sifted before being mixed thoroughly with the sesame seeds, baking powder and salt.  The first step of making the cake batter is to cream the butter, sesame oil and sugar, either in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer.   Let the mixture cream for at least 10 minutes until it looks light and fluffy and some of the grainy texture in the sugar is gone.  Make sure to scrape the bowl a few times during this process to ensure an even texture.  Once this is done, add your eggs one at a time until completely and evenly combined, again making sure to scrape the bowl and mix thoroughly.  The next step is to alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk in two stages.  That meaning that first you add half the dry, mix on the lowest setting for 2 seconds, then half the milk, mix again for 2 seconds, the rest of the dry, mix for 2 seconds, and then finally the rest of the milk.  Now, before you mix it again, be aware that the texture of the batter will look a bit clumpy at this point, that’s what we want.  For the final mix you’re going to crank the mixer as high as it will go and whip the batter for maybe four or 5 seconds which should give you a nice homogenous batter.  This is the most dangerous part of the recipe as people tend to over mix during this final step… Don’t do it! The cake will be tough and chewy and dense if you do! Once you have your batter made, gently place it in a baking dish lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with some sort of pan spray to prevent it from sticking to the dish.  When putting the batter into the dish it is important to touch it as little as possible with your spatula but under no circumstances should you tap the dish on the table to level out the batter!  A lot of the leavening in this cake comes from the expansion of the steam trapped in the small bubbles that we formed when creaming the butter, sugar and egg mixture in the beginning of the process.  Smacking the table with the dish will burst all of these fragile bubbles and give you a flat dense brick, not ideal… Once the batter has been safely put into your baking dish let it rest with a damp towel over the top for about 20 minutes at room temperature before you bake it.  Bake at 375 in the middle of your oven for 15 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 15 minutes.  Check for doneness by using a cake tester, if the cake is not done continue to bake at 5 minute intervals checking and rotating every time you go back into the oven.  After the cake is done let it cool on a wire rack for a total of 30 to 40 minutes.  After the first 10 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool uncovered for the remainder of the resting period.


Depending on how you want to showcase the cake you can either cut it into pieces appropriate to your use or leave the cake whole.  I prefer to cut the cake before soaking as it opens up the more absorbent interior.  When applying the syrup, spoon a generous amount onto the cake over a wire rack above a tray of some sort.  The excess syrup will drip through the cake and onto the tray.  After soaking you are ready to serve!