Seattle Chocolate Tour

January 20, 2010

I went up to Seattle this weekend to visit my awesome sister.  What a fun trip;  I got to see her hip hop group in concert, meet my pen pal and well-known blogging buddy Elissa from 17 & Baking, and take a Chocolate Indulgence Tour of the city.  And the tour is quiet accurately named, as one basically walks around a few city blocks visiting the most plush and swanky chocolate boutiques, indulging in an excess of chocolate.  From coconut cream pie, to cheesecake, to truffles,  I was not left hungry.  And as much as the calories pained my body, I highly recommend this fun experience.  Sorry about the funky lighting, I was in and out of shops!  Check it out…

Our First stop was the bar at the May Flower hotel where the bar tender took the group through chocolate cocktail making.  This right here is a combination of coffee liquor, dark chocolate liquor, and rum… perhaps something else.  Well, he topped it with rosted coffee beans and boy was it delicious.  Nothing like a shot of rum in the morning…

Next, we walked on to Dahlia Bakery

We were first treated to the famous triple coconut cream pie.  Now how is this chocolate?  well… the white chocolate shavings of course! ok so not super chocolate, but it was SUPER delicious.  YUM.

Next were chocolate crinkles that were chewy, gooey, rich and delicious

Next, we walked over the Caffe D’Arte, where we were served strong and dark chocolate mocha.

I also volunteered to help make latte art!

Next stop: Chocolate Box

This place has so much going on:  coffee bar, gelato, handmade truffles, confections, and bakery.

And of course we got samples…. ( more like a meal!)

Here is my mom enjoying an incredible chocolate enrobed gooey brownie.  so good!

chocolate cupcakes with a dark chocolate ganache filling and swiss merengue buttercream:

also, we tasted these dark chocolate lemon truffles that cut through the flavor and left a pleasant and unexpected taste

The group then walked down to Pike Place Market to the Confectional a.k.a. the place to get the best cheesecake

My favorite stop on the trip.  Both desserts served here were the bomb.  Now I’m a total chocolate fanatic, rich dark chocolate that is, but surprisingly y favorite thing happened to be this white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

“HOLY SH*T.”

Next was a death by chocolate deliciousness, “sipping chocolate.”

Warning: this sip could kill

cloves and cinnamon make this flavorful and warming.  I couldn’t believe they even serve an 8 oz size.  One could be killed.  enough said.

cheesecake:

Next and last stop (thank god!) was Fran’s Chocolates at the new Four Seasons Hotel

More Chocolate.  I’m not going to lie… I took the last few truffles home, I couldn’t eat anymore!

As a bona fide chocoholic, it was awesome.

New Year’s Resolution

January 18, 2010

New Year’s Resolution:

1.  Blog more.

I’m trying not to bake as much after the holidays;  take a break if you will.  After a record-breaking butter intake in December 2009, it only seems fitting.  So I’m trying to eat right, stay healthy, exercise, and well… blog.  But less baking and more blogging doesn’t particularly make sense!  Well, I though about this, and there is more to blog about than just French pastry cream and butter pie crust.  My baking adventures are not limited to my own little kitchen.  I will still be baking, with a more health conscious approach  and also find fun things I can share with you all.

However, I did promise you that recipe  for the chocolate toffee shortbread from Christmas in my last post.  So easy and a great crowd pleaser.  I gave several bags away as gifts.

The Shortbread:
2 sticks softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour

Mix until crumbly. Press into 9×13 pan and bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until the top is just lightly browned.  Poke holes with a fork to let the steam escape.

Like This…

I then made Elizabeth Falkner’s sinfully delicious sticky toffee sauce.  This is easy and utterly amazing, I have yet to taste anything else like it.  Use it to fill cupcakes, top ice cream. layer in cakes or anything else, the possibilities are endless.  This sauce gives a decadent, rich, buttery and slightly salty flavor to anything it touches.  I knew I wanted to use it in this bar.

Sticky Toffee Sauce: (makes about 3/4 cup)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of kosher salt

Use a medium sauce pan to melt the butter over medium/ high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and add the brown sugar and cream, stirring just to moisten the sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until the thermometer registers 225 degrees F.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt and set aside to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for three days.

I cooled the hot shortbread for about 10-20 minutes and then poured the sticky toffee sauce.

Make sure to spread it all over the surface, then refrigerate for about 20 minutes to set up

While the shortbread chilled, I melted about 2-3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips over a double broiler, and added a few teaspoons of canola oil.

Pour the chocolate on….

definitely missing something…. to make it more festive I sprinkled gingerbread men on the surface 🙂

Chill the entire thing for about an hour to let it set completely.  You can take it out and slice it right away, then let it sit out because it tastes best at room temperature.

Perfect!

I happen to be up in Seattle at the moment visiting my sister and another special friend… I made her favorite cookies to bring up to her.  Look out for the recipes in my next post!

Christmas Baking

January 4, 2010

2009 was my family’s first real Christmas in a long time.  I don’t know why, but one year my parents decided not to get a tree and fuss over Christmas.  Well, this made me very sad.  Firstly, because Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday; I just love the music, gift giving and general spirit.  Second, because my birthday is on the 23rd of December and the celebration on Christmas itself is like a birthday present to me.  Third, well I wasn’t getting very many presents!  Anyways, my family hasn’t had a really traditional Christmas in quite some time, so I was pretty ecstatic when I learned we were getting a tree and hosting a Christmas dinner party.

Of coarse, I made dessert.  I had a request for a sugar-less dessert because of a health condition, so I came up with a seasonal fruit galette adapted from Martha Stewart.

I used a combination of organic pears, persimmons and apples, about three cups.  I mixed this in a bowl with 1 tablespoon on cornstarch, two teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt.

I put the filling in the center of a 14 inch round pie crust, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border, and then I folded the crust over the sides.  I mixed an egg yolk and a tablespoon of cream and brushed the edges so it would bake up with a nice golden/brown color.  The only sugar I used was a small handful to dust the edges of the crust.

I baked the galette for about 1 hour until the juiced in the center were bubbling (activating the cornstarch)   and the crust was golden brown.  I dotted the top with a bit of organic strawberry jam.

This was so delicious.  No one could believe that I didn’t add any sugar to the recipe.  It was the consumed within minutes after I put the dessert out.

Next, I made Martha Steward’s Sweet Potato Cupcakes.  These were great!  The cupcakes were soft, delicious and moist.  But perhaps next time I will use an actual frosting instead of her suggested toasted marshmallow and nut topping, even though I love using a propane torch to toast the marshmallows!  I never use the broiler, a torch is so much more fun.

Here is the recipe:

Double click the recipe to enlarge.

I whipped up some decadent chocolate toffee shortbread too.  Everybody loved this.  The recipe makes a 9×13 inch pan so I had a lot to keep and give away as gifts.  You really should make this, super easy and so good!  I’ll do another post with more pictures where I leave the recipe.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas Cookies

December 25, 2009

Here is just a fraction of my holiday cookie baking.  Sadly, these were the only two recipes I managed to take pictures of so far.

Anyways, on a happier note I just won a giveaway from Patrica’s blog: http://browniesfordinner.com/!  Patrica has such a wonderful blog with tons of recent holiday cookies.  I won Dorie Greenspan’s famous book!  Something I have wanted to get for over a year now. I read the email about two minutes ago and it absolutely made my night!  I have never won anything like this before. yay me.

I made sugar cookies.  This recipe is from recipiezaar and claimed by a blogger to be the best recipe ever.  Although I didn’t find them to be “the best”, they were pretty decent.  I made a batch of royal icing from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition desserts and  decorated them with sprinkles.

Granny’s Sugar Cookies
Recipezaar
Makes approximately 84 cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (do not substitute!)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream sugar and butter till fluffy; add eggs and vanilla, beat well.

Combine dry ingredients and gradually add to creamed mixture till completely blended. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour to prevent sticking. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until just faintly golden around edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks. Decorate with frosting if desired.

To make about 1/2 cup of Royal Icing, combine an egg white and a pinch of cream of tartar in a bowl and whisk until foamy.  Sift 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar and add to the egg mixture 1/4 cup at a time.  Beat for about 2 minutes until smooth. Can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Next are the S’mores cookies.  These are supper delicious with crushed graham crackers, Hershey’s bars, and mini marshmallows.  They have been making an appearance on tons of blogs and I knew I had to make them!  Somehow, my cookies didn’t turn out looking quiet as beautiful as everyone else’s. They ended up looking pretty chunky and rustic looking, not very round and flat, but I think it gave them good character 🙂 I love how you can see the Hershey’s chunks!  Please Enjoy!

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
2 Hershey bars, chopped

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, remove from oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a piece of a hershey’s bar into each cookie. Return to oven and bake for 3 more minutes. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

I am thankful for the pie

December 10, 2009

Have I really waited until December 9th to post my thanksgiving recipes!?

Sorry. I’m lame. busy, busy school.  Today I had three projects and a paper due.  I stayed up until 2:30 am  last night and fell asleep on the couch, only to wake up to my dad at 7:15 am with 20 minutes to spare before I had to leave the house.  Mad rush down to the gas station, I grab a cup of coffee, wait out in the unusually frigid 30 degree morning air, jump into my carpool, head to the city and make it into my first period with a minute to spare.

I have to make a hip joint for anatomy class.

I have to make a surrealist art object and write a paper explaining it en Francais.

I have an essay due on the Dubliners by James Joyce for my AP english class.

I have to document and present my science research project and attend a three hour seminar after school.

Every spare moment of the day I’m scrambling to put together the next project. fml.  But I got it all done. yay me. and attended the painfully long science research seminar for my eighth period class. wooot. So now I’m home and have a whole lot of time to bake and relax. WRONG.  I have a whole lot of time to begin the rat-race cycle once again. Two english essay final exams on Friday to be prepared and much, much, much, much more to do.  But enough about my lameness.  Let’s get to my delicious Thanksgiving shall we?

I am so blessed and thankful.

I have an amazing, wonderful family.

I am thankful for my health

I am thankful for laughter

I am thankful for my friends

I am thankful for music

I am thankful I am able go to such an amazing school!

I am also thankful for this pie.

Delicious, rich bittersweet chocolate nestled in a creamy filling bursting with buttery toasted pecans on a  heavenly, flaky crust.  This was my rich chocolate pecan pie.  Twas good… to say the least.  We took the leftovers back home from our friends house and my mom ate it for breakfast.

I also baked up some NY Time CCC dough I had in the freezer and made a delicious tasting, but pathetic looking apple tart (noticed it is not pictured), but the recipe is amazing. I’ve bloged about it before.

The dinner was scrumptious of coarse: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beens, carrots, cranberry sauce, dressing/stuffing,layered salad and the most delcious honey/ bbq ham I have ever tasted.

The layered salad was pretty awesome too.  Just put together in layers in the serving dish and tossed up all together right before serving.  It’s almost like a coleslaw; creamy with lettuce, tomato, peas, onions, bacon and more.  I usually like really simplistic, healthy foods, but it’s thanksgiving; I guess we are all looking for something a bit more indulgent.

Other desserts (NOT baked by me) were these chewy ginger and sugar/ shortbread type cookies as well as this other pretty apple pie.  We also had a great pumpkin pie. (not pictured)

Try this awesome chocolate pecan pie out.  I got it from Annie’s Eats, she has such a terrific blog.  I followed this recipe to the T but used a pre-made gluten free pie crust for the sake of time.  I posted the crust recipe anyways. Enjoy for you holiday baking!

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into medium cubes (about 16 pieces)
3 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into small pieces
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions:
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the cubes of butter to the bowl and mix on low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal and the largest chunks of butter are not much larger than peas.  Add the water to the bowl and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until chilled.

On a lightly-floured work surface, roll the pie dough out into a 12-inch round.  Transfer the round to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pie pan.  Trim the edges as necessary and create a fluted pattern using a finger to make the indentations.  Freeze the dough-lined pie plate until firm and very cold, about 30 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to lower middle position and heat the oven to 375° F.  Remove the dough-lined plate from the freezer, press a sheet of foil inside the pie shell and fill with ceramic baking beads.  Bake about 30 minutes, until the dough looks dry and light in color.  Carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue baking the crust 5-6 minutes more, until light golden brown.

While the pie crust is baking, make the filling.  Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the double boiler but maintain the simmering water.  Stir in the sugar and salt with a wooden spoon until the butter is absorbed.  Beat in the eggs, corn syrup and vanilla.  Return the bowl to the double boiler and heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is shiny and hot to the touch, about 130° F on an instant-read thermometer.  Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

As soon as the pie shell comes out of the oven, lower the oven temperature to 275° F.  Pour the filling into the pie shell.  Scatter the chopped chocolate pieces over the filling and press into the filling with the back of a spoon.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven about 50-60 minutes, until the pie looks set but slightly soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed with the back of a spoon.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 4 hours.

the two-faced bunt

October 9, 2009

I made a bunt.

and it was pretty boring….

perhaps I should decorate it…..

with chocolate?

or fresh blackberry buttercream??

I say both.

mmmmhhhmmm…..