Her favorite toys are unsalted butter, good chocolate and heavy cream. Everything she makes is from scratch and everything she makes ' depending on her whim ' rotates on several menus in town. If you've got an envie for White Chocolate Bread Pudding, look no further than Charley G's. Got a taste for Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Truffles? Find someone with a membership to Le Triomphe. Her signature at Masala is an Indian-inspired White Chocolate Cup with Mango Mousse. And at the new Picante on Ambassador Caffery, a Mexican classic, Tres Leches, is the star of the dessert menu.
Barras spends her time between the four kitchens, whipping up standards and dreaming up new combinations, building a reputation for such exquisite desserts that even the most jaded diner saves a little space for her sweet treats. She's always been interested in food (her grandmothers taught her to bake), but her career plans definitely didn't include butterfat and hot fudge. An Ohio native, Barras was pursuing a degree as a dietitian at Ohio University and moonlighting as a dishwasher when she fell off the wagon.
"I was washing dishes at the Yacht Club, then they moved me up to salads, then I was cooking on the line and somewhere along the way, I fell in love with pastry," she says. She studied under a French and a Canadian pastry chef, one who revealed the secrets of chocolate and another who taught her the light-handed work of pastry dough and sugary confections.
Nineteen years ago, she arrived in Lafayette and got a job invigorating the food service at Lafayette General Medical Center. Oil was king in Lafayette, and the hospitals were fÃªting their doctors; LGMC tried to lure them in its doors by hiring Barras to make pastries exclusively for the medical staff. Business was good at the hospital, and Barras started selling cakes to the public. "That was back in the day of [Lafayette General CEO] J.J. Burdin," Barras says. "When I worked there, we actually made good food come out of the hospital kitchen. His philosophy was good food would make people feel better and get healthy faster." A dozen years later, the hospital downsized, and pastries disappeared from the food service.
Barras began freelancing for the dessert carts at local restaurants, concocting specialties to suit the character of the different menus. Monday, Wednesday and Friday she can be found in Charley G's kitchen. "Charley G's has a local flair. They always have to have bread pudding, crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e, pecan pie and the Sugarbuster chocolate mousse." Don't let that mousse fool you; while the only sugar comes from the high quality semi-sweet chocolate, it's enriched with whipped, heavy cream. "It may be low sugar," she says, "but it's not fat free." The rest of the dessert cart is up to the imagination of Barras, and that's the same sort of arrangement she has with Le Triomphe, Picante and Masala. "This week, I made a chocolate raspberry mousse, coconut cake, a flourless chocolate cake topped with tiramisu mousse, and a pineapple cake, along with the house specialties."
And what does Barras serve at her house for the holidays? Pumpkin cheesecake. "People might not think they like pumpkin," she says, "but one taste, and I've got them hooked."
Graham cracker crust
1 Â½ cups graham cracker crumb
1/3 cup melted butter
Blend together and press into the bottom of a greased spring form pan. Set aside.
1 Â½ pounds cream cheese
Â½ cup sugar
Â½ teaspoon vanilla
Cream together with an electric mixer. Set aside.
1 cup sugar
Â¾ cup solid pack pumpkin
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 Â½ teaspoon mace
1 Â½ teaspoon ginger
Fold together in a separate mixing bowl. Blend well with the cream cheese mixture by hand.
Pour into spring form pan, bake in a water bath at 300 degrees for 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean when tested in the center of the cake. Chill before cutting. (Barras wraps her spring form pans with aluminum foil to keep the water out of her cake pans in case they leak.)
TRES LECHES CAKE
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
9 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
9 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well after each addition. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until whites form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a rubber spatula. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
Condensed Milk Topping
2 cups half and half
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
In a small bowl, stir together the 2 cups half and half, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Pour the mixture over the cake until it won't absorb any more and let soak overnight.
Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
The next day whip the chilled whipping cream with the sugar, pipe over soaked cake. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.
SUE'S LITTLE CUP OF JOE
1 pound of moulding chocolate (available at Party Time on Pinhook)
Blow up 10 balloons to the size of the cup you want. Then dip them into melted molding chocolate and place them onto a cookie pan lined with wax paper, put them into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes then re-dip and chill for 2 hours. At this time you can pop the balloon and remove it, and you have a cup. If you want it to look like a coffee cup, make a handle out of the same chocolate by piping it into a "S" shape, chill, then attach it with some melted chocolate. Keep in a cool area until you are ready to fill.
Â½ pound cream cheese
Â½ cup sugar
Â¼ to Â½ cup Kahlua liquor depending on how strong you want the coffee flavor to be
Cream together. Set aside.
3 cups heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
Whip together. Fold all but Â½ cup of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and pipe into your coffee cups. Garnish with remaining Â½ cup of whipped cream.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Cypress Bayou GM hosts open house.
New hires, promotions, transfers in Acadiana business
The scion of a landmark Four Corners restaurant climbs back into Lafayette’s culinary scene as franchisee for a popular burger chain.