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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't forget quality!

It's important for all chefs - pastry included - to have great, sharp knives. Don't forget, we slice fruit, breads, cakes, etc. If your knife isn't good, your beautiful hardwork suffers. Here are a few articles about knives:

Bon Appetit:
Food & Wine:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting BOWLed over!

A few weeks ago I was making a new pizza dough recipe, and after I let my dough sit and rise for 2 hours, I needed to divide it into 3 pieces and let it rise again. At that point, the recipe instructed that I put each piece into a separate bowl and let it rise for another hour or so. It's a good thing I have about 6 different mixing bowls of the larger variety.

I just wanted to point out how important it is to have multiple mixing bowls at the ready during your baking adventures. You need them for all kinds of recipes: metal or glass for melting chocolate like a double boiler; any material for separating wet and dry ingredients as well as eggs. Luckily, stores have all kinds of bowls at different price points for whatever your baking needs may be. From Target to Crate and Barrel, you can find some fabulous deals on mixing bowl sets. Just be sure to have enough for any kind of baking emergency, whether it be because you're making three individual pizza doughs or because your recipe asks you to separate ingredients into 4 different bowls! Happy baking!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sticky lips

This weekend I made the most deliciously rich poundcake, filled with two of the most deliciously sticky ingredients - caramel and peanut butter. I took a simple poundcake recipe using these 2 sweet treats, and I added my own flair, creating depth with crunchy peanut butter and a variety of sugars. Check out the final product!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Straight out of the icebox

If you have a working refrigerator or icebox, you can make a delicious cake. There's something about icebox cakes that make me smile...they're quick and easy, and with the creamy pudding texture and cookie taste, they remind me of my childhood. There are so many variations on the recipe, I bet you could even think of one on your own. Here are some easy icebox recipes to get you started:

Espresso and Mascarpone Icebox Cake
(from Gourmet 2004)

  • 3 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese (about 9 oz) at room temperature
  • 1 (9-oz) box chocolate wafers such as Nabisco Famous
  • 1 tablespoon instant-espresso powder*

  • Special equipment: a 9 1/2- to 10-inch springform pan (about 26 cm)

Beat 2 cups cream with 6 tablespoons sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until it just holds soft peaks, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add mascarpone and mix until combined.
Spread 1 1/4 cups mascarpone mixture evenly in bottom of springform pan and cover with 14 wafers, slightly overlapping if necessary. Spread with another 1 1/4 cups mascarpone mixture, followed by 14 more wafers arranged in the same manner. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture on top. Smooth top with a metal offset spatula, then cover pan with foil and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer from freezer to refrigerator and chill, covered, until a sharp knife inserted into center cuts through softened wafers easily, about 8 hours.
Pulse remaining chocolate wafers in a food processor until finely ground.
Beat remaining cup cream with espresso powder and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar using electric mixer at medium speed until it just holds stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.
Remove foil and side of pan and frost cake all over with espresso cream. Sprinkle edge of top lightly with wafer crumbs. Serve cold.
*Available at most supermarkets and The Baker's Catalogue (800-827-6836).

Cooks' notes: Cake, without espresso cream, can be chilled up to 2 days. Cake can be frosted with espresso cream 4 hours ahead and chilled, loosely covered with foil.

Lemon Icebox Cake
(from Gourmet 2008)

  • 4 lemons
  • 1 cup water plus additional for blanching
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (8- by 4-inch) store-bought all-butter pound cake (3/4 to 1 pound), chilled
Make candied peel:
Remove zest (peel) from 2 lemons in wide strips with a vegetable peeler (see Tips, page 118), then cut lengthwise with a sharp knife into 1/8-inch-wide julienne strips. Reserve lemons for juicing.
Fill a 2-quart heavy saucepan halfway with water, then add julienned peel. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Drain peel in a sieve and rinse.
Bring water (1 cup) and 1 cup granulated sugar to a boil in saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add peel and gently simmer until translucent, about 15 minutes.
Remove peel from syrup with a slotted spoon, letting syrup drain off into saucepan. Spread out on a sheet of wax paper and cool to room temperature.
Toss peel with remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, stirring with a fork to coat and separate. Transfer sugared peel to clean dry sieve and shake off excess sugar, then spread out on a fresh sheet of wax paper to dry slightly. Make lemon filling while peel simmers and cools: Grate enough zest from remaining 2 lemons with a rasp to measure 2 teaspoon, then squeeze enough juice from all lemons to measure 2/3 cup. Whisk together zest, juice, and condensed milk. Chill until cold, at least 30 minutes.
Whip cream:
Beat heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl with a whisk or electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. assemble cake: Halve cake crosswise, then trim crust from all sides. Cut each block horizontally into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) squares. Halve each square diagonally into 2 triangles.
For each serving, layer 2 triangles with lemon filling, offsetting corners. Top cake with whipped cream and candied lemon peel.

Cooks' notes: •Candied lemon peel can be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
•Lemon filling can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Even Steven...cake.

In order to make a beautiful, level cake, you need to have perfectly even cake layers. It might seem impossible, but with the right equipment you'll be able to level your cake. It is important to have two tools for creating even layers:

A high-quality turntable (such as this one from Ateco:

A serrated cake knife

Once you've taken your cake layers out of the oven, cooled completely, then allowed to chill in the freezer for a short period of time, they will be easier to cut without crumbling. Place one layer on top of a cardboard cake round on top of your turntable. Slowly using your cake knife, start cutting the cake through the center, rotating the table as you go. Remove your top half and put aside. Trim the uneven part of the cake to make it a clean layer. Do the same with the top part, as well as the other cake rounds you've baked earlier. By using a turntable, it is easier to cut the cake into even layers.

Don't get discouraged...this takes practice. When baking, everything needs to be done slowly and gently because desserts are delicate. Happy baking!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Peanut buttery Valentine

Hi all! I hope you had a lovely President's Day break...I was very busy. My fiance and I celebrated our Valentine's Day on Saturday, so I could have time to bake and make a delicious dinner. After much deliberation, I chose a double chocolate peanut butter pie recipe. The crust was a chocolate-chocolate graham cracker, which added depth of chocolatey flavor. The filling, of the oven-free variety, was made with crunchy peanut butter to add texture, cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. The pie was topped with a thick layer of ganache (chocolate and heavy cream), and sprinkled with roasted peanuts. Like an elegant and grown-up peanut butter cup, this pie was a Valentine delight!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweet and sour

The weather outside has been feels like spring is coming soon! I'm starting to think about all of the fabulous, light flavors I'll be using in the springtime to make delicious desserts.

When I think about some great flavors for spring cakes, I like to remember citrus - lemon and lime. These flavors make great curds, pies, and even flavors for the cakes themselves. Citrus can cut the sweetness in a very dense, rich cake, and add depths of additional flavors. If you've never made a lemon curd, it's actually very easy, but will look impressive to all of your guests. Ina Garten has an easy recipe for you to try. Let me know how it turns out...happy baking!

Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Curd

  • 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


1. Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer.
4. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Channeling Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

I do love the Disney classics. Cinderella is one of my favorites - her Fairy Godmother can do anything with a wave of her wand and now, so can YOU! Don't be afraid to go wild when you're baking. It's easy to turn a good ol' cookie recipe into a deliciously fabulous cupcake! One thing I like to do is take interesting flavors that I love in cookie form (Girl Scout cookies anyone?) and try to recreate them into cupcakes. Here are some examples:

According to Little Brownie Bakers, Samoas are tender vanilla cookies, covered with caramel, rolled in toasted coconut, and striped with a rich, chocolatey coating.

The cupcake version: coconut-vanilla cupcakes with caramel cream cheese frosting and chocolate and caramel drizzled on top.

One of my favs, Tagalongs: Tasty cookies topped with creamy peanut butter and covered with a luscious chocolaty coating.

The cupcake version: chocolate cupcakes with creamy peanut butter cream cheese filling and ganache glazing the top.

Thin Mints, one of the most popular flavors: A thin wafer covered with a smooth chocolaty coating. Made with natural peppermint.

The cupcake version: chocolate cupcake with chocolate-peppermint frosting and a half of Thin Mint to decorate.

Those are just a start; what kind of cookie would you turn into a cupcake?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Truffles that don't come from the ground

Have you ever had a rich, delicious, tender truffle and wonder, how the heck do they do this?! Well it's actually pretty simple. For the basic recipes, you'll find they're all mostly the same. You need time to melt chocolate, time to form the balls and let them cool, and time to decorate.

Be adventurous and try a batch at home. They're always a crowd-pleaser and look much more complicated to make than they actually are! Here's a simple recipe you can follow to make your own at home.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 bars (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/4-in pieces OR chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup ground nuts
  • 1/3 cup coconut
1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and butter.
2. In a medium sized skillet, bring 1/2 inch of water to a slow simmer. Set the saucepan in the skillet over low heat. Stir mixture just until chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat. Pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl. Cool, cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
3. Pour the cocoa, nuts, coconut, or other topping ingredients into separate pie plates. Line an airtight container with waxed paper. Dip a melon baller or small spoon into a glass of warm water and quickly scrape across the surface of the chilled truffle mixture to form a rough 1-inch ball. Drop the ball into the cocoa.
4. Repeat with the remaining truffle mixture. Gently shake the pie plate to coat truffles evenly. Transfer truffles to the prepared container, separating layers with additional waxed paper. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 3 months.

(Adapted from a Ghirardelli truffle recipe)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who cares about a valentine?

Happy Valentine's Day! Or, as one of my friends always says, Happy Singles Awareness Day! I hope you had an awesome day. I decided to make a delicious, healthy dinner, but this weekend the dessert will come out! Tune in to find out more...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy (almost) Valentine's Day!

Greetings lovely readers! Happy pre-Valentine's Day! Do you have plans yet? I am currently working towards my goal wedding weight, so baking for me can sometimes be tricky (because I loooove desserts!). My Valentine's Day plans are going to be postponed until this weekend, so I'll have plenty of time to run, run, run before I eat, eat, eat! I am still in the process of deciding what I really want to make for my sweetheart...apparently a little of everything is not an option. If you've read my blog, you know I'm more of a vanilla girl over chocolate, but Valentine's Day is a time for chocolate to shine, so I'm going to have to make an exception. There are so many things you can do with chocolate these days, the options are limitless.

If you're feeling overwhelmed with what to make, the first step I'd take is to go to one of the websites I mentioned last week...they're ready for the holiday! Otherwise here are some ideas:

Always a winner!

Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Filling


  1. 1 stick unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
  2. 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  4. 6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
  5. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  6. 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  7. Pinch of salt
  8. 4 heaping teaspoons of cold, store-bought caramel sauce
  9. Flaky Maldon sea salt for sprinkling
  10. Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.
  4. Spoon two-thirds of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of caramel into each ramekin. Sprinkle with sea salt and cover with the remaining chocolate batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Run the tip of a small knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.
(Food and Wine)

Looks harder than it is...

Chocolate Souffle


  • 1/3 cup sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites
  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream
  • Special equipment: a 5 1/2- to 6-cup glass or ceramic soufflé dish


Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar, knocking out excess.
Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and stir in yolks (mixture will stiffen).
Beat whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add 1/3 cup sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat at medium speed, then beat at high speed until whites just hold stiff peaks. Stir about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly.
Spoon into soufflé dish and run the end of your thumb around inside edge of soufflé dish (this will help soufflé rise evenly). Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 24 to 26 minutes. Serve immediately.
Cooks'note:•Soufflé can be assembled up to 30 minutes before baking. Keep, covered with an inverted large bowl (do not let bowl touch soufflé), at room temperature.

Looking for a challenge?

Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake

  1. 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  2. 1 stick unsalted butter
  3. 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  4. 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. 1 cup water
  6. 2/3 cup crème fraîche (6 ounces)
  7. 3 large eggs
  8. 3 large egg yolks
  9. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  10. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  11. 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  12. 1 tablespoon baking soda
  13. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  14. 1 teaspoon salt

White Chocolate Ganache

  1. 1 pound white chocolate, chopped
  2. 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  1. 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  2. 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Frosting

  1. 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  2. 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 1/4 cup corn syrup
  4. 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  6. 1 tablespoon brandy
  7. 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
  8. 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  9. Bittersweet and white chocolate shavings, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 15-by-12-inch jelly roll pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, melt 6 ounces of the chopped chocolate with the butter and vanilla over very low heat, stirring gently. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and let cool slightly.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa with the water and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Let cool slightly, then whisk the mixture into the melted chocolate. Whisk in the crème fraîche.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs, egg yolks and both sugars at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt and transfer to a sifter or a sieve. Sift the dry ingredients and fold into the cake batter with a large spatula until fully incorporated.
  4. Spread the batter evenly between the prepared pans and sprinkle with the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate. Bake the cakes in the lower and middle third of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the centers spring back when lightly pressed; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans.
  5. In a medium bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water, melt the white chocolate. Remove from the heat. Pour off the water in the saucepan and wipe it out. Add the heavy cream and butter to the saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and small bubbles appear around the edges. Whisk the hot cream mixture into the white chocolate. Set the bowl in a cool place until the ganache is firm enough to hold its shape, at least 1 hour.
  6. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream until small bubbles appear around the edges. Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream on top. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate has melted, then whisk until smooth. Set the bowl in a cool place until the ganache is firm enough to hold its shape, at least 1 hour.
  7. In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate over very low heat, stirring frequently. In a small saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, cocoa and water and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brandy and melted chocolate. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  8. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, beat the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate mixture. At low speed, beat in the confectioners' sugar.
  9. Cut out a 5-by-11-inch cardboard rectangle. Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper over each cake and top with a flat cookie sheet or cutting board. Invert the cakes and remove the pans. Keeping the paper attached, trim each cake to an even 15-by-11-inch rectangle, then cut each cake into three 5-by-11-inch rectangles; you will have 6 rectangles.
  10. Spoon a small dollop of the chocolate frosting onto the cardboard rectangle and transfer one cake rectangle to it; peel off the paper. This will be the base. Spread half of the white chocolate ganache on the base and top with another cake rectangle; peel off the paper. Spread half of the dark chocolate ganache on the cake and top with another cake layer, peeling off the parchment. Spread with 1 1/4 cups of the chocolate frosting. Repeat with 2 more layers, peeling the parchment off the cake rectangles and spreading them with the remaining white chocolate ganache and dark chocolate ganache. Keep the sides even as you build the cake by smoothing them out with a metal cake spatula. Top with the final cake rectangle and peel off the parchment. Coat the sides and top of the cake with a smooth layer of chocolate frosting; refrigerate briefly to set the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting over the cake and garnish with the chocolate shavings. Carefully transfer the cake (on its cardboard base) to a platter and refrigerate until firm. Using a hot knife, cut the cake into slices while cold and let come to room temperature before serving.
Make Ahead:The cake can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks.
(Food & Wine)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Your best tool!

Happy Friday! Today I'm going to give you a tip for the best tool you can have on your kitchen counter. Enter the KitchenAid mixer! This bad boy comes in multiple quart sizes, is heavy duty, and starts around $300 (though you can get rebates on different websites!). For a serious baker, or someone who loves to bake, this will definitely be your best friend. Making buttercream frosting is a long process - usually at least 10 minutes of mixing. Rather than holding onto your mixer, waiting for the egg whites to cool so you can continue your baking, wouldn't you like to let it mix on its own, and work on something else? Plus this looks fabulous on the counter and comes in a variety of colors! Here's a link to get you started:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Where's your recipe?

I love to test new recipes. I love the end result and seeing the joy it brings people, perhaps after a tough day at work. In order to be a great pastry chef, you have to be willing to take ideas from others, work with different kinds of people, and create your own recipes. For starters, you need to know where to look to get great recipes that you can either adapt or share with the world! Here are some of my favorite websites:

Food and Wine:
Bon Appetit:
Food Network (I get some from here, but I prefer browsing the other sites first)

It's also not a bad idea to check out other peoples' dessert blogs! There are some interesting bloggers out there, willing to show you some fabulous recipes.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be active! Be healthy!

There are plenty of ways to get your family involved in the cooking. If you love to cook and you can make the time, you can find endless recipes on healthy eating in 30 minutes or less. Giada, for instance, has some great recipes. Desserts can be lighter too, if eaten in moderation, and it's a great way to involve your family. When using fruit, ask the kids to help chop some strawberries (they can use a plastic knife). Show them the safe way to chop (finger tips pulled under, slowly slice) and let them help. Kids love to be in the kitchen and feel important. I start my cooking classes with children at 4 years old - I've had kids cracking eggs at that age! Let them know that cooking is fun for everyone and they can always help at any age. Here are some healthier recipes to get you started:

This one is from Nick Malgieri. His cake cookbook is one you need on your shelf if you are looking for basic, classic cake recipes. For a special treat, have a little bit with some cool whip and add a few berries on the side.

Lemon Buttermilk Poundcake
Makes 1 10-inch cake

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon strained lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 10-inch Bundt pan, buttered and floured

1.                  Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
2.                  Combine butter, sugar, flour and baking powder in mixer with paddle. Beat on low speed 2 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and add to mixer in three additions, beating 1 minute between each addition. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until cake is well risen and well colored and a knife inserted between the edge and tube emerges clean, about 1 hour. Place cake on a rack in pan.
3.                  For glaze, combine 1/2 cup water and sugar and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and vanilla. Unmold cake and brush glaze evenly all over outside of cake. Allow to cool.

Try this healthier adaptation to the classic strawberry shortcake. This recipe comes from the Food Network kitchen...not bad from a TV station that doesn't want to hire pastry chefs.

Strawberry Shortcakes


·         1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·         3 tablespoons sugar
·         1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         3 tablespoons cold (salted) butter, cut into small pieces
·         1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk
·         1 large egg, slightly beaten
·         1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
·         1 tablespoon sliced almonds


·         Cool whip
·         Strawberries, sliced
·         Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)


1.      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2.      Shortcakes: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
3.      Whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk, the egg, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture and lightly mix with your hands just until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix.
4.      Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 7-inch round about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 8 equal sized wedges.
5.      Space the shortcakes evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
6.      Once cool, split shortcakes in half and fill with a dollop of cool whip and some strawberries. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Define it.

Sometimes cookbooks and recipes seem like they're written in another language! Here's a list of a few abbreviations and definitions that will help you the next time you pull out your recipe (I noticed these in the last couple of recipes I've posted):

T: tablespoon
tsp: teaspoon
C: cup
lb(s): pound(s)
oz: ounce
BP: Baking powder
BS: Baking soda

3 tsp = 1T

Double boiler: Fill a pot about 1/4 full, and set to simmer. Place a bowl on top (metal or glass) and melt butter or chocolate using the simmering water. Do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl or it will burn the chocolate!

Best way to prepare a pan: Spray with cooking spray. Line with parchment. Spray parchment.

Happy baking!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Sunday!

It's Superbowl Sunday! Woot woot. If you're having a superbowl party, but still haven't quite figured out what to make, OR if you're attending a party and forgot that you will need to bring something along (you will), fear not! I'm going to give you a few quick tips.

The key here is foods that are easy to pick up and don't take too many bites. We are, of course, talking about desserts here. If you didn't get online to in time (you're missing out on the world's best brownies!), you can still make some of your own. Brownies are always a winner at a casual, low-key party.

Outrageous Brownie
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups diced walnut pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13x18x1 1/2 inch sheet pan.
  2. Melt butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly.
  3. Stir together eggs, instant coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir in warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir 1 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and the 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to chocolate batter. Pour in prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well, and cut into squares.
For faster results, try these awesome double chocolate cookies a la Martha Stewart:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 pound milk chocolate, 4 ounces coarsely chopped and 4 ounces cut into 1/4 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Melt 4 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate with butter over double boiler. Let cool slightly.
  3. Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium until combined. Reduce speed to low, gradually add flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  4. Using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes. Cookies should be soft.
  5. Let cool on parchment on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in air-tight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Enjoy the superbowl!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Temperature matters

While baking, the temperature of your ingredients will help you create the perfect confection. For cakes, your recipe will usually tell you to first cream the butter and sugar. If you let your butter sit to room temperature before mixing, it will become soft and more pliable. The butter will cream easier with the sugar if it's soft. Keeping your milk and eggs at room temperature will also make a difference when you're mixing. While melting chocolate, be sure to let it cool before you add it to your other ingredients. You don't want scorching hot chocolate to curdle your eggs and ruin your beautiful batter. Keeping the eggs room temperature will also help prevent curdling. Remember baking takes time, but the results are worth it!

Bon Appetit has a few tips for softening butter quickly:
Many recipes call for room-temperature butter because it is easier to beat. If you're stuck with a just-out-of-the-refrigerator stick, try these tricks to soften it up fast.
  • If you have a little time, cut the butter into small cubes and let it sit out at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • If you have less time, try microwaving the butter in 5-second bursts. Be careful not to let the butter melt.
  • If the butter is frozen, try grating it. The small pieces will soften almost immediately.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make it mint!

I recently had an order for a chocolate cake with mint frosting. I was dying to try a fudge frosting I'd found in my notes, but it wasn't mint: so I used it to create what I was looking for.

Baking can seem scary because it's an exact science, but if you follow the directions, you absolutely make a beautiful dessert. If you've got the hang of it, try experimenting with flavors. When a recipe calls for vanilla, see what happens when you add a different extract...try to make it natural rather than artificial. In the case of my fudge frosting, I needed to make it mint. There was no vanilla in the recipe, so instead of substituting I just added mint. I added peppermint extract one tablespoon at a time, until I got the right amount of minty goodness. Here's the recipe:

Fudgey Mint Frosting

  • 16 ounces high-quality milk chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (softness is key!)
  • 1 1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons peppermint extract
1. Place chocolate and butter in a large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water  (just about 1/4 full, not even) and let melt. Remove bowl from water and whisk until smooth.
2. Whisk in sour cream and corn syrup until completely mixed.
3. Add peppermint, 1 tablespoon at a time, and taste with a spoon to check for flavor.
4. Let frosting stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes. It won't hurt to sit longer than that; it thickens very nicely.

(Adapted from Bon Appetit, 2010)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Books on the shelf

In order to be a great pastry chef, you'll need an arsenal of great cookbooks. Everyone has their own tastes, but here are a few of my go-to's:

Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (great muffins, delicious cookies)
Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma (great Italian desserts)
The Bread Bible  by Beth Hensperger (fabulous breads)