Thursday, January 31, 2013

Valentine's Baking Ideas & January's Funny Food Blogger Posts

The celebration of love is two weeks away and the next posts here will be showcasing some  new Valentine's Day themed treats. 
In putting this retro post together, I noticed  how many past recipes have the words "pink" and "sparkly" in front of them. Hmmmm.

I'll be back on Monday with the start of a new round of Valentine's treats. In the meantime, Here are some of my creations from Valentine's Days past for inspiration. Clicking the picture or caption takes you to the original post.

Cherry Vanilla Hi Hat Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Dark Chocolate Ganache Folk Heart Brownies with Sugar Candy Roses

Glitter Fondant Embossed Heart Sugar Cookies

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Butter Rum Muffins with hot Cocoa Streusel

The temperature drop made me do it. 

These are decadent as all get out but the freezing cold this past week had me dreaming of hot cocoa and hot buttered rum. 

A little out of season perhaps? Who cares and who says there are seasonal restrictions on hot beverages flavors that warm you up from the inside?

I took two classics and married them together for this dense sugary muffin that's packed with flavor. It may not be health food but paired with my morning coffee on a snowy weekend was sheer bliss. 

For the streusel, I used instant hot cocoa packets with mini marshmallows. A little trashy perhaps, so sue me.

The recipe below does not produce a large crumb streusel but it melts perfectly into the muffin and adds a nice jolt of crusty sugar to the warmth of buttery rum.

Friday, January 25, 2013

San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition - Guest Post at The Blogger Connection

This past Wednesday I was invited by The Blogger Connection to attend a great NYC event sponsored by San Pellegrino, their Almost Famous Chef Challenge at the Astor Center and write a guest post.

The program consists of 10 regional competitions (nine U.S .and one Canada) where students compete before the influential media and renowned chefs throughout January and February, leading to the final competition in March in Napa Valley, California. New York was the location of the Northeast competition.

During the finals competition, regional winners showcase their culinary skills for the chance to win more than $20,000 and a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef. Winners from past S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competitions have gone on to become successful restaurateurs.

Hop on over to The Blogger Connection to read about this great contest and a fun evening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Smoked Paprika Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling

When cleaning out my spice cabinet recently,  I set aside some things to try to work into macaron shells. Smoked paprika and sumac sit in the front of the shelf as I use them both often in cooking and salad dressings. I've already made shells with sumac, so it was time to take on the smoked paprika.

What I was most surprised about was the color. I didn't think this spice would tint the shells such a vibrant shade. Bonus.

I went through several elaborate plans for fillings, many with several ingredients. Then I realized I was just over thinking it. Thee was some leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge. Done and done.

There was a risk both the bitterness of the smaked paprika and of the dark chocolate might be too much when paired together. The result, however, was a delightful macaron with rich powerful flavor.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Brown Sugar Persimmon Caramels

Ever since I whipped up a batch of Smitten Kitchen's amazing Apple Cider Caramels for Thanksgiving this year I keep dreaming up different caramel flavors. 

With a package of very ripe persimmons in my fridge, it was a sign to experiment with adding their flavor to caramel candy. The only question was how?

The internets revealed a recipe for brown sugar caramels using sweetened condensed milk, a can of which happened to be sitting in my kitchen cabinet. I took a risk and replaced the corn syrup with persimmon syrup. 

The result was delicious but the consistency was very soft. Not so soft that I couldn't cut the candies and wrap them in wax paper. They also didn't stick to the paper when I unwrapped them. But they are soft (and easier on the teeth) so I stored them in the fridge

Friday, January 18, 2013

Root Beer Espresso Ripple Ice Cream

With endless amounts of egg yolks left over in my fridge from making macarons, the cheap way out is always to fire up the ice cream maker. So back to my weird flavor fun. 

This ice cream is way more exciting than it looks. A deceptive, innocent almost bland appearance for a dessert that provides a flavor explosion in your mouth.

It's been awhile since I used root beer extract. I don't drink soda with the occasional exception of root beer and sometimes ginger ale. I was so excited when I discovered root beer extract and used it in my Root Beer float Chocolate Truffles and Vanilla Bean Doughnuts with Root Beer Glaze

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Silver Macarons with Lavender Buttercream for a Wedding

Last September two of our dearest friends got hitched. In lieu of a gift, they asked me to make the favors for the wedding.

Two silver macarons with lavender filling in a silver bag for each guest.

Tasked with making about 160 macarons, I started the shells the weeks before, freezing them. I had never made so many before and it became quite an ongoing production with baking during the week in the city and on the weekends before in the country, carefully shlepping the shells between them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Apple Tart

The owner of the company I work for is someone I have known for 16 years. He's Italian and I was surprised to learn a few months ago his favorite treat is apple pie. An Italian who has chosen America as his home and apple pie as his dessert of choice. Love it.

Last week for his birthday, I dropped the Mad Hausfrau flavor insanity and made for the very first time a plain apple tart for our surprise office birthday celebration.

I have had Angela's pie crust recipe from Spinach Tiger bookmarked to try for some time now. So glad I did. It was so perfect. I was intrigued by the instructions (freezing everything including food processor blade). Repeat, it was perfect. Even with only 1 teaspoon of added sugar, the result was simply delicious.

For the filling I went with a hybrid between Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen's recipes and instructions and improvised from there. I used Macintosh and Granny Smith apples and for spices, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and just a hint of added lemon flavor.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Vanilla & Chocolate Cookies - Four Ways

This is an old school recipe from one of my vintage German cookbooks. What's great about it is it's simple to mix up and you cancreate them in any combination of flavors and colors. Green and red for Christmas, Red and pink for Valentine's Day, Lavender and Yellow for Easter, for example. They also make a great gift in the recipient's favorite colors and flavors. Sports team, club or school color, you name it, the sky's the limit.

Surprisingly, I did my first run of these cookies in simple chocolate and vanilla. I just wanted to get creating the shapes down. I was very pleased with the result and it was fun making the different styles out of the dough. This would be a good project to do with kids as well.

The four shapes are Zebra, Checkerboard, Coin and Snail.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Orange Nougat with Apricot Seeds and Golden Raisins

When I was in Turkey this past September I managed to make to to my favorite place to buy Turkish Delight. These are not the tourist stuff sold at airports and in souvenir shops.

This is true gourmet Turkish candy is so many colors, flavors and textures, it made my  head spin.

I discovered this shop on my trip to Istanbul before this one a few years ago. Located by the gorgeous Blue Mosque, I managed to make my way back there from memory. So glad I did.  They had the best sample platter ever.

I purchased several boxes of treats to bring back for myself, family and friends and also some good Turkish coffee.

Sadly, those empty boxes have long since been thrown in the trash but something clicked recently when I saw this gorgeous post at Adventures in Cooking.  It reminded me of all those delicious treats. So in my quest to use up all those bits and pieces left over from the holidays, I decided to try her recipe for nougat.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pineapple Pistachio Brown Sugar Scones

I still have waaay too many bits and pieces of nuts and dried fruits left over and crammed in my cabinets from the holidays. Last weekend I emptied them out onto the counter and started mixing and matching them into fun combinations to bake with. Desperate not to return them to our tiny NYC city kitchen because I could almost hear the other things in the cabinet heave a sigh of relief.

First up are these scones. I loved the color and flavor combination of pineapple and pistachio. They were begging o be wrapped in a brown sugar scone. I topped them off with a brown sugar glaze but they are delicious plain as well.

They came out divine. Seriously delicious and flavorful. Dr. B who is not fond of baked goods devoured two. That speak volumes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ginger Macarons with Dark Chocolate Port Ganache

Are you recovered from the festivities and the season? Me, I am simply celebrating getting off the looong holiday party train. I churned out platter after platter of decorated sugar and gingerbread cookies, French macarons  and chocolate truffles for so many events and parties I've lost count. And of course no time to photograph or blog about most of them. Honestly every time the urge came to whip out the camera, I thought,  does the December blogoshpere really need another picture of a cute gingerbread man or snowflake cookie? Nahhh.

With that being said, the star of this first post of the new year is a macaron flavor worth sharing. These were created for the huge cookie platter I made for my friends' New Year's Eve party.

For the macaron part of the platter I took a break from all the color and glitter. I wanted to make a warm elegant flavor with a bit of spice. The port adds a nice sweet layer of flavor to the chocolate ganache that pairs perfectly with the sting of the ginger shell.