Friday, November 29, 2013

Jeweled AIDS Ribbon Cookies For World AIDS Day

Even thought it's a holiday weekend, I am skipping my usual end of month post where I publish a round up of all the funny blog posts that made me laugh this month and posting this in honor of World AIDS Day on Sunday December 1.

World AIDS Day. December 1.

A freaky thing keeps happening to me on my weekly visit to the costal Long Island town where my mother lives. Every time I drive by the store front that used to by my childhood dance studio, the song Bad Bad Leroy Brown comes on the radio.

The first time I got chills because right before the song came on, I was thinking about my  wonderful dance teacher who owned the studio and died of AIDS. How much fun I had studying and performing with him for years. 

The second time I heard the song driving in the same vicinity, I just smiled.  The third time  it happened I teared up and just knew it was a sign from him. One of my favorite dance routines he choreographed for us was to Bad Bad Leroy Brown. I still remember some of the moves. 

I remember clearly how devastated  I was when my mother told me he had died of AIDS. This was at the peak of the crisis and I was in the middle of muddling through it with friends and colleagues. One more beloved person to add to that horrendous body count.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Rugelach for Thanksgivukkah

I may be the last one to jump on the Thanksgivukkah train but there was no way it was going to pull out of the station without me aboard. What a fun challenge to create a hybrid Thanksgiving/Channukah treat. Since the first night of Channukah falls on Thanksgiving, these will be on the table for the first and last time for 77,000 years!  A once in a lifetime blog post opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend mentioned his wife was going to make pecan pie rugelach and the wheels started turning.  As delicious as that sounded I wanted to try something different, so pumpkin pie it was.

I make my pumpkin pies with homemade puree but I was fresh out and at this time in the season there was not a sugar pumpkin left in sight anywhere.  So I caved and bought the can. And you know what? It wasn't so bad.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Caramel Rum White Chocolate Truffles

As I write this, these delicious nuggets are sitting in my fridge waiting their turn on the Thanksgiving dessert table. 

When planning my Thanksgiving meal, I try to be practical and first take inventory in the fridges and cabinets to see if there is anything to inspire me as well as use up. I  scored when I found a tub of homemade salted caramel and an excess of white chocolate chips. Perfect ingredients to make truffles.

I dressed them up in copper disco dust and edible gold, then added a shot of rum to get the party started. These were hands down some of the best tasting truffles I have ever made. You can swap out the rum for amaretto or cognac for an even sexier version.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sage Macarons with Pumpkin Bourbon Mascarpone Filling

The sage in my garden is out of control and still going strong. Every weekend I expect it to be dead but each time it surprises me with its hardiness. So there's plenty of sage around and I am hoping it lasts until Thanksgiving.

However when I saw a powdered version in the market, there was no escaping buying it to put in French macaron shells.  I've been experimenting like crazy lately with new French  macarons flavors so please excuse the fact I just posted macarons last week. These were worth squeezing in before Thanksgiving. 

Obviously I had to round out the taste with sumptuous seasonal flavors. More than one was in order. I roasted some sugar pumpkins recently and had the pureed result on hand. A splash of bourbon makes everything better, Thanksgiving desserts especially alluring.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Pumpkin Buttermilk Cake Pumpkin Patch

For years I've always envied the little pumpkin shaped cakes I've seen on blogger and food sites. I finally bought myself two of those mini bundt pans to pull off this little pumpkin cake miracle and of course, they sat in my pantry for over a year.

Since I had the idea for Thanksgiving this year to serve platters of small size treats for dessert (so everyone can taste everything without taking a whole piece of cake or pie then inevitably able only able to take a few bites), it was time to try to pull off this mini pumpkin cake feat myself.

I had leftover buttermilk from a huge cupcake making marathon and some pumpkin puree I made with the first sugar pumpkins I spotted this season. So I put them together to make a pumpkin buttermilk pound cake. The density of pound cake works great when working with cake molds. 

After the mini bundts were baked, I used a sharp knife to  trim the excess cake off of each one and glued the two halves together with some leftover buttercream (also from the above mentioned cupcake marathon.) I cooked up a batch of heavy glaze I used on my Day of the Dead Skull Cake, separated and tinted it with paste food coloring. I used one color to cover the cakes and then drizzled contrasting colors on top. I wanted a more free form, Jackson Pollock technique, instead of imitating perfect pumpkins. I got a little carried away with the drizzle method and there may or may not be stripes of  colored frosting all over my kitchen walls. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Garam Masala Macarons with Mango Vanilla Buttercream Filling

These were a big leap of faith for me. I had thought about using  Indian spices again after making these fennel macarons. However, after a few "eews" over my smoked paprika mac post (not by anyone who tasted them btw, they were deeelish) I was a bit hesitant.

Seeking warm spice fall flavors to use in making French macarons, my love for Indian food and spices plus a recently discovered, mostly forgotten about packet of garam masala sitting in my pantry all collided and convinced me to give this a go as a macaron flavor. Past "eews" be damned, l'm so glad I did. These came out great.

The shells are a bit savory but the sugar in the filling balances them really well in flavor.

I wanted something fruity and gentle for the filling so I added fresh pureed mango to vanilla buttercream. I have to get out of my buttercream filling rut but I had a ton leftover from a cupcake making spree. Adding a second element like mango is a sad excuse for creativity and happens way too often on this here blog but it does add another tangy, sweet flavor layer to the macaron.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Big Glitter Scorpion Birthday Cake Fail

For a scorpio, my scorpion experience has not been great so far. Once in Belize, I made the rookie mistake of leaving my hiking boots outside my room overnight and neglected to shake them out before I stepped into them the next morning. A scorpion had made a bed out of my left boot and was a wee bit pissed off when I tried to jam my size eight and a half tootsie on top of him.

Ouch is an understatement. My thoughtful and knowledgable doctor, then boyfriend, now husband offered to pee on my foot to give me some relief.


The good dr. trying to throw me off a boat in Belize

For my birthday, which was last Friday, a detailed plan was crafted by moi  to make a delicious glittery cake shaped like a scorpion. In anticipation, several days before, a large batch of delicious chocolate fondant was made and tinted brown with paste food coloring. The interwebs were scoured to study and curate chocolate spice cake recipes. One was selected and executed with some changes. The perfect shades of disco dusts were procured. Leftover espresso buttercream was defrosted. Craft wire was purchased to make sure the cake's stinger would wave proudly in the air.

The evening before the big event I finally settled down to sculpt the cake. I built the body by cutting pieces of cake, crumb coating them with the buttercream then covering the pieces with rolled out chocolate fondant.  The stinger was formed by stringing pieces of chocolate fondant in ascending sizes on the craft wire.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dallmayr in Munich - Be Still My Foodie Heart

This is my my Valhalla. The shop I love most in Munich and the gourmet shop I love most of all. No matter how many fancy food shops I've been in all over the world, my heart will always belong to Dallmayr.

Once purveyor to the Royal Bavarian Court, the store dates back to the 17th century and carries world class goods. I discovered this food fairyland on my very first trip to Munich many years ago. Jet lagged and wandering the Marianplatz, I accidentally stumbled through its exquisite threshold and thought I might be in a dream.  

Just to be sure, I came back the next day and still had to pinch myself it was real and I have never been the same since. From then on, all my consequent Munich trips (until I moved to the city) included several visits a week. And my first apartment in Munich was around the corner from Dallmayr. It wasn't intentional but most serendipitous. Dallmayr is still my favorite store to shop for gifts to bring back to the States.
Admittedly. I am not much of a meat eater and I never eat anything that comes from the sea but I find myself lingering over the fish and fleisch counters.  It's the display and packaging that enchants me most. Even the rows of sausages and caviar hold my attention.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cakelets with Maple Glaze

These fall inspired caklets were an audition for a Thanksgiving dessert. They passed the test with flying colors.  At Thanksgiving, I like to provide an array of homemade desserts in small individual portions. 

People appreciate this after a huge meal because most want to participate in the dessert feast but are too stuffed from dinner. Instead of yet again piling up their plates with slices of pie and cake, I find it've better to serve several options in small pieces so people can taste a bit of everything on their own digestive timetable.

Which brings me to these cakelets. I fell in love with this lovely Wilton pan, purchased it  a few years ago and never used it. This past weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to test drive both the pan and the recipe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Easy Cranberry Ricotta Whole Wheat Muffins

My mother is so cute. Since she has been aware of this blog, she's always cutting recipes out of newspapers and magazines for me. Luckily for me, she has excellent taste when it comes to the interesting and unusual. At 84 she also has a mind like a steel trap. Recently I mentioned I had leftover ricotta from making galettes for weekend guests and the next time I saw her, she handed me this recipe. It was for a cake but I made muffins out of it.

Of course, I also switched up most of the ingredients and added a sugar spice topping but there is still nothing unusual about this recipe other than it did help me divest myself of some of the leftover ricotta. What won me over was how quickly it came together with no mixer involved so I thought I'd share it.

 I made them on a Sunday morning for weekend guests, which made the no mixer drama a plus, especially when you are setting out a breakfast feast. There was hardy approval all the way around.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Clove Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

I don't know why but these seemed to be the perfect November French macaron flavor. I love love love clove, probably much more than most people. The word love is even in clove. 

So, it's confession time. Sometimes when I am rummaging through my spice cabinet and come across jars of powdered or whole cloves I will open and sniff. I know. Pathetic. At least I haven't graduated to putting out lines on the kitchen counter and snorting it. The aroma just evokes crisp air and general  Fall into Winter coziness to me. 

So it was inevitable clove would find it's way into macaron shells on this blog.

The first week of November officially ends the Halloween funsanity and takes me into a serious countdown to Thanksgiving mode. It's all about the planning, the recipe gathering, tweaking and testing, the invites and the table decorations. I thrive on it. 

I'm not sure this recipe makes the cut, as clove can be an acquired taste. That's ok for now. I'm fine with the idea of eating these all by myself instead of foisting them upon guests.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day of the Dead Skull Cake

I finally caved and bought one of these pan last year in an after Halloween sale. I am so glad I did. This was a really fun project to do but you have to set aside several hours or divide the project up over several days.

First of all, the cake takes about two hours to cool completely before you can assemble it. Then there's the decorating time which is as much or as little as you want. You can just sift powdered sugar over the baked cake and call it a day but that's not how I roll. It's also not why I bought the pan. I envisioned making many glitter skulls, painted, disco dusted skulls and adhering lovely flowers and leaves. 

Initially I was going to cover mine with fondant but I chickened out at the last minute and went with a heavy glaze. If you do use the glaze and want to draw in it or adhere decorations, make sure you are super gentle as it will crack if you press too hard. You won't have that problem with fondant.