December 23, 2010

Holiday Cookie Platter

I'm all about the cookie platter when the holidays roll around.   Because I'm a baker I don't go for the store bought kind.  For me it's homemade treats or nothing.  What better way to show how much you care than with cookies from your own kitchen?

The key to a delectable platter is variety, it is the spice of life after all.  It's nice to offer people different tastes and textures.  And let's face it, wouldn't you rather see an assortment?

Linzer Cookies
Spiral Sables

December 22, 2010

Walnut Snowballs and Coconut Pyramids

If there were ever two cookies that heralded the holiday season it's these two, walnut snowballs and coconut pyramids.   I only make them in December - any other time and it wouldn't seem right.

Walnut snowballs go by many different names: Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, noel nut balls, etc.  Whatever their name they taste delicious and are my absolute favorite holiday cookie.  They're super simple to make and despite the generous coating of powdered sugar they aren't too sweet.

The coconut pyramids are just shaped macaroons.  For the first time in a year I'm making a macaroon that isn't of the French variety and this version is a lot more forgiving!  Like the snowballs, these macaroons are lightly sweetened.  To shape the cookies in to pyramids I used a silicone mold but you can easily do it by hand or with a bench scraper.

December 21, 2010

Macaron Gifts and Deep Thoughts

I decided to go the minimalist route when I was packaging the macaron gifts.  This way they were the stars of the show, just as they should be.  Aren't they so pretty?  I love how they look like little jewels in a box.  The flavors I made were lemon, passion fruit, raspberry, pistachio and chocolate.

Some of you know that it was the mysterious macaron that inspired me to start this blog.  That was back in August of 2009.  Sixteen months and countless failures later, as well as a few triumphs, I would say my skill in macaron-making is a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Maybe 7 1/2 if I'm feeling generous. 

Why not rate myself higher?  Because no matter how often I think I've "got it"  the macaron gods laugh, sending me right back to the drawing board.   I have two Achilles heels: thin shells and pesky air pockets inside the macaron.  Despite my efforts to course correct they always seem to plague my cookies.  I'm not sure if it's me, my technique or the ingredients.   If only I had a better understanding of the chemistry of it all.   My journey continues.  But then again, isn't the imperfect process what  keeps me coming back for more?  Food for thought...

December 20, 2010

Linzer Cookies

I'm in the zone, a baking zone that is.  I just survived a marathon of non-stop baking this past weekend and came out victorious.

Nine pounds of cashew toffee (the last batches!), seven pounds of candied nuts, six kinds of cookies (including five different flavors of macarons!), two dozen chocolate cupcakes and one dozen mini fruit tarts.  Not too shabby...I even surprised myself!  Thank goodness the gas oven didn't die on me. 

The fruits of my labor will be gifted to family and friends to enjoy over the holidays.

These linzer cookies are in honor of my mom who's a big fan of any kind of cookie with nuts in it.   As a kid whenever I would bake my mom's first comment after tasting the finished cookie would always be, "can you put more nuts in it?"  Didn't matter if the recipe called for it or not, the woman wanted more nuts!

Traditional linzer cookies are made with hazelnuts but I had leftover pecans in my pantry so I used them instead.  They turned out just as delicious I think.  I love how sophisticated the cookies look with their blanket of powdered sugar and tiny jewel of raspberry jam peeking out.  

December 18, 2010

Spiced Candied Nuts

Be forewarned: these nuts are seriously addictive.  And it doesn't help that the recipe is so easy to make.   These nuts are fabulous with drinks, for snacking or topping on your favorite salad.   We're talking instant gratification!

Candied nuts make a great homemade Christmas gift and I'm surprised it's taken me this long to make them.  But most recipes I found weren't to my liking.  Any sign of curry powder and cumin and I ran for the hills.

I finally found a great recipe from the Smitten Kitchen that only used cinnamon and cayenne pepper as the spices.  That's what I'm talking about!  Save yourself some money and buy your nuts at Costco.  I bought a 2-lb bag of pecans for less than $9.  Think I'll be making more batches.

For a party you could serve the nuts in festive cones made out of wrapping paper.  For gifting I'll be packaging them in clear cellophane bags with a nice ribbon.

More holiday treats to come...

December 14, 2010

Snow Globe, Moose and Snowflake Sugar Cookies

I'm loving how this year's batch of holiday sugar cookies turned out.  I think they're too cute to eat.   What do you think?

The snow globe I totally copied  from the Martha Stewart Show.  The episode aired last December and ever since then I've wanted to make them.

You can find the moose cookie cutter as part of a set sold by IKEA, available only during the holidays.  My friends Anne-Marie and Henning gave the set to me and I adore all baking-related gifts.  When I was in Norway last month I saw the coolest thing at the supermarket.   Flavored powdered sugar in chocolate and strawberry!  To frost the moose I made royal icing using the chocolate version.  What's so great is that I didn't need to tint the icing brown.  On top of that it had a really nice chocolate taste.

And the snowflake?  I  haven't made them in a long while so I thought it was about time to make them again.  Especially when they're finished off with silver dragées.

Stay tuned for more holiday cookies.....

December 11, 2010

Cashew Toffee Packaging

Here's the packaging I went with for this year's cashew toffee.  Even though brown and sage green aren't your typical holiday colors I thought they complimented the toffee beautifully.   

The brown candy boxes are from this place and the sage ribbon I found at my favorite new shop, The Ribbonerie, in San Francisco. They have every type of ribbon you could ever imagine..and lots more!  The finishing touch was a sweet gift tag designed by NM Designs.

So far I've made just a little over fifty pounds of toffee and it's not even for me!  These boxes were ordered by  family and friends.    I haven't even started making the candy I need for gift giving.  I'll probably need about 15 more pounds before the season is over.   Good thing I only do this once a year.

December 5, 2010

Miracle Frosting

Can't believe that Christmas is less than three weeks away.  I'm one of those overzealous people who likes to extract as much holiday spirit out of the season as possible.  Where was I the morning of Black Friday?  Not in line at the mall, that's for sure.  I got up super early and headed to Home Depot to get my Christmas tree of course!

Christmas is also the busiest time of year for me and my kitchen.  So far I've made about 25 pounds of cashew toffee and that's only half of what I need.  My poor fridge is busting at the seams with it.  Thank goodness I stopped eating the stuff a long time ago. 

I needed a break from candy making and wanted to bring a treat in to the office for my boss's birthday.  He likes anything chocolate so I went with cupcakes since they're easy to serve.  Instead of frosting them with my usual swiss meringue buttercream I ended up trying something new.

November 27, 2010

Crostata for the Daring Bakers

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was to make a crostata, an Italian tart made with pasta frolla (a sweet short crust pastry dough).  

Crostata is a great dessert for novice bakers to try because it's so easy to make and the finished product looks and tastes really delicious.  All you need to do is line a tart tin with the pasta frolla, spread some jam and, if you're feeling adventurous, cover it with strips of the pastry dough arranged in a lattice design.  Bake for about 30 minutes and there you have it!

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

November 21, 2010

Kings of Pastry

Just saw the documentary "Kings of Pastry" at the Balboa Theatre.  For anyone who's a fan of French pastry it's a definite must see.  Who knew a three day competition  could be so tumultuous?  Not me, but it makes for great entertainment!   

Petits Fours

This weekend I took a fantastic petits fours class offered by Dragonfly Cakes.   Luckily I didn't have to travel very far; just across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.   You may have seen Dragonfly's adorable little cakes on the Williams-Sonoma website.   Well, I can confirm that not only do they look good they taste absolutely delicious.   Just a touch of sweetness, exactly how I like it.   

Brooks and Andrea, our instructors, were so nice and extremely helpful answering all of the students' questions.  There's a reason why I haven't attempted making petits fours thus far.  After seeing the process at Dragonfly Cakes they are definitely a labor of love.   But they are so darn cute.  Hmmm, could they be my next baking obsession????  Stay tuned to this blog and find out! 

November 19, 2010

Elin's Baby Shower

I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said that Elin's baby shower was a complete success.  It was a fabulous party and all the guests seemed to really enjoy themselves.  Baby showers are relatively a new thing in Norway and has only recently made it's way across the pond.  Norwegians usually wait until after the baby is born before giving gifts but I'm so glad that Elin decided to buck with tradition.   

October 31, 2010

M.I.A. in Oct

I'm still here...I promise.  Sorry I haven't been posting so much this month but I haven't stopped baking!  Far from it.  For the last few weeks (and months!)  I've been busy testing out treats upon treats for my dear friend Elin's baby shower.   I'd love to share them with you now but I want everything to be a surprise for the guest of honor.   The shower is next Saturday and I can't wait!  I'll be posting pictures shortly thereafter.   Please stay tuned....

October 25, 2010

Go Giants Cake

The San Francisco Giants clinched the 2010 National League pennant and are heading to the World Series!

Ok, so I'm the first to admit that I'm not much of a baseball fan.  Frankly the sport is a bit too slow for my taste and there are too many confusing rules.  But it's great to see the Bay Area uniting behind its motley crew of a squad.  Black and orange has blanketed the city and Giants fever is contagious!

So as the Giants face the Texas Rangers in the World Series I wish them the best of luck, and for good measure, I'll throw in a few Hail Marys too!  


October 8, 2010

Giveaway Winner Announced

Congratulations to Lynda who has won the $40 CSN gift certificate!!!  Her favorite Halloween candy is mini Snickers bars...good choice! 

Thanks to everyone who entered.

October 3, 2010

Chocolate-Raspberry Torte and a Giveaway

The November/December 2010 issue of Cook's Illustrated is on newsstands now  and I highly recommend you pick it up.  As soon as I saw the Chocolate-Raspberry Torte I knew I had to make it right away. 

You wouldn't think that something that looks this good would be so easy to make, right?  Wrong!  It's so simple to make and it will easily impress your family and friends.

Chocolate and raspberries go perfectly together here.  For folks who don't like their desserts too sweet this is right up your alley.  The chocolate flavor is rich but the tart raspberries complements it beautifully.  I'm definitely adding this cake to my repertoire and you should too!

Now for the giveaway....

Once again I have a $40 gift certificate for CSN Stores that you can win.  If you haven't heard of CSN Stores you should check out their website.  They have anything and everything you could think of: bakeware,  dining sets, furniture, etc.  The world is your oyster!

To enter, just answer the following question in the Comments section of this post by 12pm PST Thursday October 7th.    The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on October 8th.   

What's your favorite Halloween candy?

RULES: Only one comment per person allowed and you MUST include your email address  in the comment to be eligible.  Sorry, but that's the only way the winner can be notified to claim the gift certificate.  CSN only ships to addresses in the US and Canada.   There may be international shipping charges for Canadian addresses.

September 24, 2010

Gluten-Free Lime Shortbread Sandwiches

I first glimpsed a version of these cookies on foodgawker, posted by Jamie (aka Sophistimom).  There's nothing I love more than a simple shortbread cookie, especially one bursting with citrus flavor. 

I tweaked the original recipe a bit and made them gluten-free by replacing the all-purpose flour with superfine brown rice flour.  It worked like a dream.   The finished cookies were delicious and you can't even tell the difference.  The crumb is tight and crisp, just how a shortbread should be.  I gave samples to two gluten-free friends and both gave the thumbs up.  

September 19, 2010

Baby Brioche

I buy baking equipment and supplies like it's going out of style.  What can I say? It's an addiction, just like some ladies can't get enough of shoes and bags.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some stilettos and hobos just as much as the next gal, but I'll never have my fill of tart tins, decorating tips, cake pans and cookie cutters.  My pantry is already overflowing with treasures I've amassed over the years but that doesn't deter me one bit from buying more.

I've found some great things at Kamei, one of my favorite restaurant supply stores in San Francisco.  They've got everything you can think of, plus a thousand more.   Whenever I go I can't help but buy something.   

On a recent visit I found these fantastic disposable aluminum tartelette tins.  At only $2.39 for a pack of 200 you can't get a better deal than that.  They're my new favorite baking vessel and I've used them for individual brownies and fruit tarts.  

I was hankering to make some bread and I thought the tins would be perfect for baby brioche.    I love brioche, but then again who doesn't love a rich and buttery egg bread?

September 18, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba! Cookies

A friend ordered Yo Gabba Gabba! themed cookies for his 2-year old's birthday party.   Have you seen this kids show on Nick Jr.?  I haven't, but from what I've heard it's like Sesame Street on crack.  Since I wasn't familiar with the show I had to rely on images I found online for inspiration.

These cookies were fun to make and I applied a few new decorating techniques.  Fondant was used for a majority of the decorations, especially the eyes.  Why?  Because white royal icing sometimes has a tendency to absorb the base coat color which wouldn't look so nice in the finished cookie.  

Happy Birthday Ava!  Hope you like your cookies!!

Wanted to share a picture from the party..isn't this the cutest display?

September 6, 2010

Bikini Sugar Cookies

These sugar cookies were commissioned by a friend's wife for a bridal shower she was hosting.  She saw them on some website and asked if I could replicate.  I was happy to oblige.  

Think they turned out really cute although the pale pink base is a bit too similar in color to the white polka dots.  Next time I'll make it more vivid so that it really pops.

September 4, 2010

Zebra Striped Japanese Cheesecake

Doesn't this Japanese cheesecake look really cool?  I think so.  I love the zebra stripes! What makes Japanese style cheesecake different from your usual American version is its light and airy texture and subtle sweetness.  

I do enjoy a slice of New York style cheesecake every now and then, but even the thinnest slice can feel like a ton of bricks because it's so darn dense.  The Japanese interpretation uses a lot less cream cheese and relies on French meringue (egg whites and sugar whipped to soft peaks) to give it  the signature souffle-like fluffiness. 

I'd been yearning to make a Japanese cheesecake for quite some time and my sister found this recipe for me on Not Quite Nigella.   It's actually a combination of two recipes: Japanese cheesecake and Zebra Cake, a popular dessert in Eastern Europe.

The stripe effect is easier to achieve than you might think.  You basically drop spoonfuls of chocolate and vanilla batter alternately in the center of the cake pan, one right after the other.  The batter spreads out by itself and creates the stripe pattern.     

My only disappointment was that the cheesecake deflated once it cooled.  Will have to figure out what happened, but as I always say, "still tastes good!"

August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Baked Alaska

Fire and ice....I think that pretty much sums up the essence of the Baked Alaska.  I've never made it before so I was looking forward to completing this month's DB challenge.: brown butter pound cake and pistachio ice cream enrobed in a cloud of meringue and then brûléed to  perfection.  

Baked Alaska seems so retro, doesn't it?  Couldn't you just picture Mad Men's Betty Draper, in her finest 60s garb, proudly presenting the Baked Alaska at a dinner party for one of Don's prospective clients?   

The quickest way to brown the meringue is by using a propane torch.  No I'm not a pyromaniac but when you need instant flames that's the only way to go in my opinion.  Don't even bother using those rinky dink torches they sell at houseware stores for making crème brûlée.  They don't have enough BTUs to toast a marshmallow.   Trust me, I've tried them.  Just be careful when using the propane torch.  You might get a bit overzealous like me and burn some of the meringue.  Oh well, still tastes good!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

August 23, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes with Mango Curd

I think most people have a love/hate relationship with coconut.  Which side are you on?  Me, I'm definitely pro-coconut.  But I caveat that by saying I absolutely love coconut in sweets, not savories.   Oh gosh, not in the savories please.  

These cupcakes have a refreshing tropical flare to them.  The white cake is tender and moist with just a hint of coconut.  The mango curd has a silky texture and a bit of tartness from lime juice, which is a great contrast to the cake and swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  

Just seeing the mounds of coconut piled on top of the cupcake brings a smile to my face.  If you weren't pro-coconut before I challenge you to try this recipe.  Who knows, you just might change your mind.  

August 21, 2010

Pistachio Ice Cream

I'm back on my ice cream kick.  This time I had to make another favorite...pistachio!   Pistachio is what I call my touchstone flavor; it's what I measure all ice cream by, whether it's commercially made or homemade.  Because, I figure, if you can make a fantastic tasting pistachio you can make all the others.  

This ice cream is rich, creamy and bursting with pistachio flavor.   It actually reminds me of the pistachio gelato you'd find in Florence.  Hmmmm...gelato.  It brings back so many great memories of my friends and I travelling in Italy.  I swear I think we had gelato at least three times a day. 

The key to the ice cream's intense flavor is pistachio paste.  It's expensive as hell but it's worth it in this recipe.  I was lucky enough to receive a tub of this liquid gold a while back and I've been hoarding it like crazy ever since, using it almost exclusively for macarons and now ice cream.  I'm down to the last few spoonfuls so you can bet that  I'm savoring every remaining morsel.  

August 20, 2010

CSN Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the $40 CSN gift certificate is...Kayla!  Her favorite bread is toasted ciabatta with butter and pomegranate jelly.  CSN will contact you directly with your prize.  

Thanks to everyone who participated!  The most popular bread seems to be French baguette...good choice!

August 14, 2010

Dutch Oven Bread and a Giveaway

I tend to focus most of my baking on sweets: cakes, cookies, cupcakes, ice creams, etc.  Since I don't really eat what I make, I like to give it away, those extra lbs. have fortuitously been kept at bay.   But lately I've been yearning to bake something different.  Something that I don't normally make and would actually want to keep for myself.  Something like....bread!

There's nothing better than a slice of warm, crusty bread with a smear of creamy butter.   So simple, so straightforward, so delicious.  

I'd heard about a bread that requires almost no-kneading and is baked in a Dutch oven.    Mark Bittman was the first to write about it in the New York Times and then Cook's Illustrated came along and made their little tweaks, as they do so well, and improved upon the recipe.

This bread is so easy to make you wouldn't believe it.  It literally takes less than 5 minutes of prep and the rest of the time is spent letting the dough rise and then baking it in the oven.   Be forewarned: the smell of fresh baked bread permeates throughout your house like a drug.   This bread is crusty, chewy and has great texture; all it needs is your favorite topping. 

Now to the giveaway...

The people at CSN Stores contacted me recently to see if I wanted to participate in a giveaway.  I checked out their websites to make sure everything was legit and I wholeheartedly give them my seal of approval.  It's a great source for  just about anything, especially cookware and bakeware.    

So what's up for grabs?  A  $40 CSN gift certificate.  Why not use it to get your own Dutch oven and bake some of this bread?  Me, I'm partial to Le Creuset.

To enter, just answer the following question in the Comments section of this post by 12pm PST Friday August 20th.  The winner will be chosen randomly.

What's your favorite bread and how do you like to eat it? 

FYI:  One comment per person and you must include your email address to be eligible.  CSN only ships to addresses in the US and Canada.   There may be international shipping charges for Canadian addresses.

Good Luck!

August 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Cake

August rolled in and I didn't even realize that it was the first anniversary of this blog.  Boy how time flies.    Happy Birthday Treats!   Here's to many more years....

My nephew Christian's birthday is also this month.   He's turning 8 this year and his favorite cake is yellow, from the box, with chocolate frosting, from the tub.  Funny, it's the exact same thing  my siblings and I would get on our birthday when we were kids.

Making the cake from a box mix was not much of a challenge.  Isn't it about time this quintessential cake was elevated from its humble supermarket aisle beginnings? 

This recipe is all things a birthday cake recipe should be: really easy to make.  You'd be surprised how quickly it comes together and the cake is moist and delicious.  Sure, it takes more time than the box mix, but trust me, the end result is so much more satisfying.

August 1, 2010

Dulce de Leche Triple Chocolate Brownies

After making the dulce de leche ice cream I became a bit obsessed.   I couldn't get enough of the stuff, as evidenced by several cartons of homemade ice cream currently  chilling in my freezer.  

This time I even managed to get my hands on a jar of La Salamandra  from Sur La Table and swirled it in with the ice cream.   Eat your heart out Haagen-Dazs! 

After making the ice cream I had some caramel leftover and couldn't possibly let it go to waste.  What to make, what to make?  Brownies!!  

These brownies are rich, chewy and fudgy with an intense chocolate flavor.   Perfect for any chocoholic in your life. 

July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was something I could really sink my teeth in to... ice cream cake!  And how fitting considering that it's National Ice Cream Month. 

The dessert is comprised of swiss roll cake slices encasing fudge sauce and two different flavors of  ice cream.  Decided to go a bit architectural with the cake component .  Rather than roll it up, as is tradition, I stacked the layers.  I really like the striped effect of the finished product.  

I used the mint chip and dulce de leche ice creams that I made recently for the filling and whipped up a quick fudge sauce to complete the dessert.  What a great challenge!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.-

July 26, 2010

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Whenever I travel somewhere I inevitably end up at the local supermarkets.  It's always a must-see for me and luckily a habit my friends have gotten used to, and graciously put up with!

Even when I was a kid I loved going to the grocery store.  I  remember passing up going to the movies with my sisters so I could go food shopping with my mom.   Supermarkets are such a great place to discover new foods and unusual souvenirs. 

It was on one of these jaunts when I was visiting Buenos Aires a few years ago that I discovered dulce de leche.  Dulce de leche: one of Latin America's greatest gifts to the culinary world.  Jars of the sweet, creamy milk caramel were stacked sky high on the supermarket shelves.  So many different brands and varieties.  One taste and I was hooked.

This ice cream pays homage to that wonderful concoction. Lately I've been obsessed with Haagen-Dazs' dulce de leche ice cream and I think my version comes pretty close.  The only thing missing are the swirls of dulce de leche mixed in with the ice cream.  Too bad  those jars I brought back with me from Argentina are long gone.

July 25, 2010

Mint Chip Ice Cream

I've mentioned in previous posts that San Francisco doesn't have a traditional summer.   It's pretty much the exact opposite.  June, July and August around here rank as some of the coldest  months in the year.  Fog, fog, fog.  It's kind of funny actually.   But it kind of sucks too; especially when you hear about clear, blue skies just 20 minutes outside of the city.  Oh well, can't really complain when you live in one of the best places on the planet.  

July is National Ice Cream Month.  Did you know that?  To celebrate this distinction I pulled out my ice cream maker from the cupboard and made some mint chip ice cream. 

This isn't like the mint chip I grew up.  You know, the kind that was tinted bright green? This ice cream is naturally flavored and colored using actual mint leaves, hence the pale color.   When you take a bite the first thing you notice is the distinct, yet subtle mint flavor followed by a hit of bittersweet chocolate.  So refreshing!

July 24, 2010

White Peach Pate de Fruit

My brother has a white peach tree in his backyard that seems to explode with fruit every summer.   Kind of ironic that its bounty is so abundant since he doesn't really tend to it that much.  When the fruits are ripe everyone in the family stops by his house to pick peaches fresh off the branches.  This year's harvest seemed to ripen a lot quicker than usual.  Not wanting all that juicy goodness to go to waste I used the white peaches to make pate de fruit, a French fruit jelly.    

The pate de fruit and I have a checkered past.    A few Christmases ago my sister and I  read about them on Alexis Stewart's blog.  We then suffered from delusions of grandeur and foolishly thought we could make a few batches to give away as holiday gifts.  Easy, right?  Easy, wrong!  Little did we know that it wasn't so  simple and unfortunately it was a costly lesson.  Down the trash bin went our hard earned money in the form of gourmet frozen fruit purees, glucose and tartaric acid cooked to a hard, sticky goo.

But this time was different: a) the peaches were free and the only special ingredient I had to buy was Certo liquid pectin (five bucks at my local Safeway), and b) I used a recipe from the queen of all yummy things, Helen from Tartelette.  Once again her recipe was fool proof and the pate came out fantastic.  Exactly the right texture and flavor I was looking for.  Think the pate de fruit and I have reached an accord.

July 18, 2010

Blueberry Scones

Sunday is the best day to do nothing.  Going back to work the next day is daunting enough so I literally make Sunday my day of rest.  I normally start the day by reading the paper and listening to Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion on NPR. 

If I've put off cleaning my flat, which I often do, I'll then have some breakfast.   For something quick and easy I turn to a bowl of fresh fruit topped with greek yogurt and granola.  If I'm craving protein I'll go with eggs and toast.   For something baked, but not too sweet, I like to make these blueberry scones.

Scones are definitely a favorite of mine.  They're like a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.  I love them for breakfast but equally as much for afternoon tea with some clotted cream and jam.  Yum!

This recipe is really versatile and you can substitute the blueberries with currants or other dried fruit.  If you omit the fruit altogether it would be absolutely delicious as the base in a strawberry shortcake.

July 11, 2010

¡Viva España! Macarons

2010 has been a stellar year so far for Spanish athletes.  One of my favorite tennis players, Rafa Nadal, won the French Open and Wimbledon.  And the Spanish soccer team defeated the Netherlands today to win the World Cup for the first time in the country's history.  They'll be partying for days from Madrid to Malaga, and all points in between.   

In celebration of Spain's thrills of victory I made a red and yellow macaron in homage to their flag.  I actually had a ton of leftover egg whites in my freezer so I thought I'd make macarons this weekend, in five different flavors.  As providence would have it once I filled the macarons I was left with one lemon shell and one raspberry one.   Octopus Paul himself couldn't have predicted that one.

¡Viva España! 

Strawberry Tarts

Baking is so much more than a hobby for me; it's my "force", my creative outlet and at times a much needed stress reliever.  So when I can help someone else find the joy in baking  that's icing on the cake.  

Spent the 4th of July weekend in Boston and Cape Cod visiting my dear friend J.  She and I go way back; we became fast friends when we discovered our host families lived within a block of each other in Dijon.   Nevermind that I ended up moving out after two weeks to live someplace else, at least our friendship endured the relocation!

One of J.'s requests when I came was to help her with some of my recipes.  First on the list were the cherry blossom sugar cookies I made a few months ago.  Easy enough.  I  showed her some  decorating tips and tricks and her cookies came out great.  As an encore I introduced her to  the  wonder of homemade fruit tarts.   She was already of fan from when we were students in France so she was excited to learn how to make them herself.

I showed her how to make my favorite crust recipe, the Sweet Caillat crust, along with a simple pastry cream.  Topped off with fresh summer fruits and you've got  yourself a real crowd pleaser. They were a hit with J.'s family and friends and I know she'll be making them often. 

By the time I flew back home I was even more inspired to find new variations on this delectable  treat.  A recent post from one of my favorite blogs, Cannelle et Vanille, featured an apricot tart made with a lemon shortbread crust.   To entice me even more the crust was gluten-free and didn't require rolling.  Who could ask for anything more?  

This crust is fantastic and so easy to make.  I dare say that I think I actually prefer it over the Caillat crust because it is so flaky and crispy.  Try it for yourself!

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