Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Pecan Tart

I cannot believe it is the end of December! This past year has just flown by! Has it seemed that way for everyone else, I wonder? Crazy! I hope everyone had a blessed holiday filled with family, friends and lots of joy. :)

It was my privilege ( or should I say is?) to end the year with this month's pick for Chocolate with Francois. My first pick was a bit fancy...Chocolate Paris-Brest. It was  very impressive when finished and tasted good, but this go round I wanted something a bit more down to earth. Right away I knew I would bake the Chocolate Pecan Tart, again. I have baked this tart at least three times. My hubby absolutely loves it and while I am not big on pecan pies, I think this tart is wonderful! And, this time I added a secret ingredient, which I will share with you, and only you. :)

The only negative thing about this post is the fact that there is no picture of a slice of the tart. By the time I got around to slicing it the lighting was terrible. Then, though I told myself over and over not to forget, I kept forgetting to take a picture each time I cut another slice from the tart. And, soon, there were no more slices to photograph!

This is a fairly simple tart to put together. For me the scariest part was making the candied pecans. I was so afraid I would burn them that I checked them every minute or so. But, they turned out fine.

My tart crust wasn't the one from the book. I am extremely fond of the sweet tart dough from Dorie Greenspan's book and use it whenever I need a tart dough. It is so very easy to put together and has turned out perfect for me every time. Why fix something if it isn't broke, right? :)

I also ended up baking my tart about 40 minutes if memory serves me right. Oh, and I had about a cup or more of the filling left over that wouldn't fit in the tart pan. Not sure if my crust was too thick (it didn't seem to be) or my pan too small (it was a 9" pan), but I couldn't get all the filling to fit in the pan. And, I had no chocolate chips so I used chopped bittersweet and milk chocolate instead. I almost forgot to share with you the secret ingredient! That was espresso powder. I added a teaspoon of it to the filling and it added a wonderful layer of flavor...sweet, mocha flavored filling with crunchy pecans, bits of bittersweet and milk chocolate in a tender buttery tart crust. Heaven on a plate! This one is so good. Try it for yourself. Here's the recipe...

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Candies Pecans
Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) pecan halves
1/2 cup (60 grams) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (25 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (340 grams) light corn syrup
3/4 cup (155 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
12 tablespoons (6 ounces; 180 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Tart shell
1/2 cup (95 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
One 9-inch tart shell made from Sweet Tart-Dough (page 249) unbaked
(this is where I used Dorie's recipe)

Make the Pecans: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously spray a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray. Place the pecans in a bowl.
Place 1/4 cup (60 grams) water and the granulated sugar in a meduim saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and immediately pour over the pecans.
 Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, then pour it in the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until the pecans are candied and golden brown. Check the pecans every 5 minutes, as they can turn from golden brown to burnt very rapidly. Remove from the oven, and lower the heat to 350 degrees F if you plan on baking the tart immediately. Let the pecans cool fully.

Make the Filling: Place the flour, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is well combined. (I added the espresso powder here) Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth, then add the melted butter and mix until it is incorporated. Remove from the mixer. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the Tart: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F if necessary. Place the candied pecans and chocolate chips into the prepared tart shell. Pour the filling over the nuts and chocolate, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the tart shell is golden and the filling is set but still soft in the middle. Remove the tart from the oven and set it aside to cool completely before serving. 

If you haven't made this tart, I highly recommend giving it a try. If you have made it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks to all the CWF bakers who joined me this month. Be sure to stop by CWF & see who did join me. :)

Oh, one more thing. I must apologize to my fellow group members for not posting last month's finished product. I did make the Chocolate-Coconut Rochers and fully intended to post how they turned out, but one thing led to another and next thing I knew it was the middle of December. I have included a couple of pictures as proof. :D I really liked these the first day, freshly baked and just cooled enough to bite into them without burning my mouth. After that though, they did not improve with age. The next day they were soft, and almost gummy. The day after that...I ended up tossing the few that were left. I only baked half the recipe and probably ate half of those baked the first day, so I didn't feel too bad about tossing two or three away. :} 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate-Honey Madeleines

Prior to this month's choice, by Julie of Little Bit of Everything, I had never baked Madeleines. I have seen them, and the pans for them, but never had any desire to try them. They looked to me to be fussy cookies, and I assumed they would be a lot of work and they just didn't interest me. Having said all that, when I saw that it was Julie that had picked this recipe I decided I had to give it a go. The fact that they were chocolate madeleines certainly didn't hurt. :)

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. These cookies were really quite simple to pull together. I decided to only bake half of the recipe, not knowing if I would like them or not. I had all the ingredients on hand except for the orange. However I did have orange extract and added a scant 1/4 teaspoon in place of the zest. I had everything mixed up and in the fridge in less than 30 minutes.

I ended up baking the Madeleines the following night after I got home from Starbucks. I knew if I didn't bake them that night I wouldn't have another chance to bake them before the 30th. So, after the hubby went to bed I heated up the oven and got ready to bake my first ever Madeleines.

Not having a Madeleine pan I used my mini muffin pan. Thanks Julie, for posting that hint. I also used cooking spray to prepare the pan. I used a star tip and pastry bag to pipe the batter into the pan. I was hoping the cookies would retain the swirls. They didn't. :( But, they baked up in the time recommended in the recipe and smelled delicious as they baked.

When I pulled the pan from the oven I saw I had about a dozen mini muffins. As I mentioned, no ridges or swirls remained after baking. I flipped them onto the prepared pan and after placing the pan in the sink, I picked up one to try. What? Thirty seconds isn't enough cooling time? :D Maybe not, but after smelling them bake I couldn't wait!
Delicious! A bit hot, but so yummy. Tender inside, a slight crunch on the edges. I can't say I tasted the honey. I had my doubts about whether I would taste it considering there was only 1/2 a tablespoon in the recipe. I could taste the orange flavor. It didn't overpower the chocolate, and I like the combination of orange and chocolate. I tried another one, just to be sure the taste and quality was the same. And then tried another one. :) So good! I may have tried one or two more before putting them away. In my defense I was only following the directions in the recipe. Francois says these should be eaten the day they are baked, as they aren't as good the next day. You know what? He's right. The next day I had one and it was nowhere near as yummy as the couple 5, or maybe it was 6 that I had the night before. It was chewy-er, rubbery-er (is that even a word!?!). The flavor was still good, but the texture had changed completely. Definitely better eaten the day they are baked, fresh out of the oven.

Overall? I would call them a success. Simple to put together. A lot of flavor. Light and delicious. I would love to try the regular ones as the recipes I have read call for lemon zest. I also think if I made these again I might add a bit more honey and skip the orange zest altogether. See if the honey flavor comes through. So, my thanks to Julie for choosing a great recipe. I am glad to be able to cross Madeleines off my list of things I haven't baked. Still have to try fresh croissants but that will be another day. :) Swing by CWF to see who else tried these and what they thought of them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One (or several) reason I haven't been blogging lately

I have a few minutes this afternoon and thought I would try to post some pictures of the reason I haven't been blogging lately. Besides cleaning houses during the day and selling coffee at Starbucks at night, I have had several cake orders in the past two months. Thought I would share a few pictures of them with you. :)

This first one is a topsy-turvy cake I did for a baby shower. It is a White Almond Sour Cream cake with a simple butter-cream icing. I was given an apron and I scanned the design and then used my edible printer to print out several sheets of the design which I cut into ribbons and wrapped around the cake. I used a photo editing program to erase what was written in the hearts and write "baby girl" in each one. (They knew it was going to be a girl). I also cut out one heart and one rose from the pattern and placed them on the cake. It was a big hit at the shower.

The next cake is a birthday cake for a woman who likes the west. Her sister ordered the cake and asked me to do a "western-y" themed cake. This is what I came up with. It is another White Almond Sour Cream cake with the "ground and hills" in Fluffy Dark Chocolate  buttercream and the sky and clouds in an Almond buttercream icing. The horse is a frozen buttercream transfer.

After that I did a groom's cake for a UVA graduate. The bride asked me to make a Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese icing and to make it in a UVA theme. I decided to color the icing blue and ice the cake with it. Then I did a frozen buttercream transfer of the "V". The sabers are made from gum paste colored orange.  I heard from the bride (as I was setting up her wedding cake) that everyone, including the groom, loved the cake.

Next we have the first of two weddings I had on the same day. This one was two tiers of White Almond Sour Cream (what can I's my most popular flavor) cake with Cinnamon buttercream and one layer of Espresso Sour Cream cake with Caramel filling. The cake was covered in fondant, which was impressed with a diamond pattern and small silver dragees were attached to each point of the diamonds using royal icing. The flowers are gum paste, hand painted and then dusted with a pearl luster dust. When the bride told me what she wanted I thought it would be too busy, but once I finished setting it up, I loved it!

The other cake that day was actually both cupcakes and a small 8" cake. Around the top of the 8" cake were ribbon roses made from chocolate fondant. The bride had a cupcake stand made and I placed 144 cupcakes iced in almond buttercream colored blue and chocolate buttercream. The 8" cake was to be placed on the top of the stand and used for the bride and groom to cut. They didn't have the cake topper when I set up the cupcakes so the cake with the topper was going to be placed on top of the stand later that day. Which is why I don't have a picture of it on the stand with the topper on it. :) The cupcakes were vanilla, chocolate and white almond. :)

This last one is not really a cake but a 12" chocolate chip cookie. The Mom (who last year I did a "Pizza" cake for one of her other sons) contacted me and asked if I could do a Lego cake only use cookie in place of cake. Turns out this son doesn't like cake or icing. I made all the legos using fondant. The squares and rectangles were easy. Each little nub though was a bit more labor intensive. I cut out the nubs using a #10 icing tip. Then, each block got 4 or 6 drops of water and each nub was placed on the drop of water, gluing it in place. Once dried I used royal icing, sparingly, to attach each block to the cookie. When the Mom picked it up she was thrilled with how it turned out and hugged me. I love baking for people. :)

So, that is one of the reasons I haven't been around lately. Or I guess it's 6 reasons. :) Hope to "see" you soon!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm still alive :)

Long time, no "see".  :}

I recently received an email from a fellow blogger/friend, Pam (Thank you for your concern Pam). She noticed I hadn't posted anything recently and wanted me to know she noticed, and to let me know that she was thinking of me and hoped all was okay. So, I thought I would take a couple of minutes tonight and say hello to anyone who has missed me.

Life has been extremely crazy for the last couple of months. I can't recall if I mentioned that my husband's Uncle had been murdered. It was pretty traumatic for the family. The trial for the man accused of the murder was in September. I am glad to say that he was found guilty of the murder and of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The jury gave him 3 years for the firearm charge and 25 years for the 2nd degree murder charge. While it won't bring back Uncle Jerry, we are pleased that justice was served.

Then, later last month, my Mom's oldest sister passed away. As much as I wanted, I was unable to go to South Carolina to be with her and the rest of the family. I had two weddings booked on the same day (at the same time an hours drive from each other!) and had to stay at home to take care of business. The cake for one wedding and the cupcakes for the other wedding turned out great. I will post pictures later.

In addition to all that, I have also been busy during the day and Starbucks at night and weekends. Today I worked 9 to 5 at Starbucks.  It has left little time for me to do other fun things, like baking and blogging. Not that I am complaining. I am grateful to have the work. But, it seems like the only baking I have done lately has been for customers. I did bake for my Secret Baker last month, and baked for my Secret Baker this month. And, I made some delicious Caramel Crumble Bars after receiving some from my Secret Baker. (Thank you Leslie!) They were soooo good I had to find the recipe and make them again. I baked a delicious Pumpkin bread recipe that I will post later. It makes two 8x4 inch loaves. I kept one and am mailing the other one to my Secret Baker.

I am doing well emotionally at the moment. My doctor has tweaked my medication and we seemed to have found a good combination for me. I am feeling better about myself and my life and finding I have a bit more energy to do the things I need and want to do.

So,  for the moment, that's that. :) I promise to try and post on a more regular basis. I am not sure if I can keep up with my commitments to my baking groups and may have to drop out of them. But I will still try and bake an occasional recipe that's picked. In fact, last week I made the Chocolate Ganache ice cream from Dorie's "Baking" book. It was (is) fabulous!! Creamy, rich, so chocolaty. The hubby mentions how good it is each time he has some. :)

Thanks again for checking in on me. It is really nice to know I have friends out there that miss me. <3

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD - Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I love, love, love shortbread cookies. The sandy, buttery, melt in your mouth goodness that shortbread cookies are all about. And, since finding Dorie's cookbook, I have learned to bake my own crumbly, crunchy shortbread cookies. This week, Donna of Life's too short not to eat dessert first (which is one of my motto's btw!) chose Dorie's Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. And, what a wonderful choice it was. Thank you so very much Donna! Not only was it a big hit for me, I shared it with the gang at Starbucks and even with a couple of favorite regulars and everyone who tried one Loved! them. Can you say Christmas presents? :)

Super easy to put together. I even made it easier on myself by using mini chocolate chips. I used two packages of Via, Starbucks instant coffee (really good to drink and great in recipes) (And, no, I don't get commission!). The hardest part for me was leaving the dough in the fridge for several hours to chill. Oh, and waiting for the wonderful smelling, as they baked, cookies to bake.

The finished product was a perfect shortbread cookie with a strong coffee flavor and just a hint of chocolate, in spite of how loaded with chips each cookie looks. The espresso was definitely the dominating flavor. Which was fine with me. The only person who really wasn't crazy about these was the hubby. He is not a big coffee drinker and found the flavor to be too strong for his tastes. But, he was in the minority. :)

So once again I would like to send out a great big thanks! to Donna for her choice. This recipe would lend itself to indefinite variations and I can't wait to try some other combinations.  Like cinnamon and apple bits. Or chocolate and peanut butter chips. Or pecans and chocolate chips. Hmmm, wonder if it's too late to start a batch now. :) If you would like to see what the other TWD'ers did, go here.

I will leave you with a couple of pictures of my last two cakes. The mermaid cake was for my Starbucks boss's little girls. They were having a combination birthday/pool party Saturday. And the presents cake was for a co-worker of my daughter. A baby shower cake for the soon to be mom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

TWD - Oatmeal Breakfast Bread (muffins!)

Hi all! I missed the first two recipes this month,(busy working)  but I am here with the third recipe for August.  That recipe, Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, was picked by Natalie of Oven Love. She has lots of yummy recipes posted and great photos to go along with them. Be sure to stop by and check them out.

I have family visiting right now. My Mom, Dad and younger brother are here from Florida. They will be staying till Wednesday morning. Last night we had a house full with the three of them, me and my hubby,  and my two kids came out with their spouses. We had spaghetti, fresh baked bread, and for dessert, chocolate bread pudding (from Dorie's cookbook!) There was a lot of talking and laughing. Tons of pictures taken. Great time!

This morning I decided to bake the Oatmeal Breakfast Bread to have with our coffee. Only I decided to bake muffins instead of a loaf of bread. I thought the muffins would be easier for everyone to grab and eat and that muffins would be ready much quicker than bread.

This was a quick recipe to put together. Mix up the topping using brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. The batter was easy to mix up. Flour, sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,salt, baking powder, baking soda, oil, applesauce. I folded in some raisins that I plumped with some boiling water. Then lined two muffin tins with baking papers and using my large scoop, I filled each of the muffin papers about 3/4 full and popped them into the oven.

I set the timer for about 25 minutes and when I checked them, they were done. I pulled them from the oven and set them out to cool. My brother was chomping at the bit to try them. He said they smelled delicious, which was true. My Dad said he wasn't interested in them, because he doesn't like oatmeal baked...he likes oatmeal in a bowl with milk and brown sugar, but doesn't like oatmeal cookies or oatmeal bread. Kind of like me with bananas. I love bananas fresh but can't take them baked in anything. Mom was neutral, though she did say the muffins smelled good while they were baking.

Once I had photographed the muffins for my blog, I tried one and my brother tried one. Delicious!! Dorie says to wait for the bread to cool before eating it, but the muffins were wonderful warm from the oven. Soft with a tender crumb, and the light taste of cinnamon. The topping was crunchy and sweet. The raisins nice and chewy. I ate two and my brother ate 4!! He was going to eat more, but decided he was going to show a little self-control. :) Mom tried one and talked Dad into trying one. And, he liked them! He was going to have a second one, but thought I had counted them and didn't want to eat muffins that were set aside for someone else. Oh well, he can have more tomorrow morning!

So, thanks Natalie. Great choice! It was a big hit here at my place. If you want to see what the rest of the bakers thought stop by TWD and check it out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Chicken" and Dumplings with Oven Baked Carrot Fries

Back in early July my daughter's best friend, Leslie,  posted this message on her Facebook page...

"My aunt is putting together a family cookbook and wants 4 recipes from me. I'm pretty sure I know which ones I want to submit, but I need to make sure the recipes are clear and repeatable. Anyone willing to be a recipe tester for me?"

I should probably mention that Leslie is a Vegan, so that meant that any recipes she wanted tested would be dairy-free, meat-free, egg-free, and so on. Not my usual fare, but I have read Leslie's blog, 'Cause I Eats Me Spinach, and have often thought that many of the dishes look and sound delicious. So, when Leslie posted the request I volunteered to try one or two of the recipes. I offered to try either Oven baked Carrot or Sweet Potatoe Fries, or "Chicken" and Dumplings. Leslie took me up on the offer and sent me the recipes for both dishes. So, last week I gathered all the ingredients I would need and printed copies of her recipes, and dived into my first Vegan dinner.

Other than having trouble getting my hands on the "chicken", all the ingredients were easy to find. Carrots, vegetable broth, garlic, flour, spices. I decided to use frozen spinach in my dish, rather than kale or mustard greens. I know I like spinach and I wasn't sure about the others. :) The chicken I finally found in the refrigerator section in the specialty foods section of a local grocery store.

The main dish was very easy to put together. Leslie's directions are precise, clear and easy to understand. I kept the printed copy of the recipe nearby and referred to it as I put everything together.

The carrot fries were even easier to put together. I have done a similar dish with zucchini in the past and was excited to try the carrot version.

I brought everything to the table, and set it in front of the hubby. Bless his heart, he will eat anything I cook at least once. He has often told me I don't have to make a particular dish ever again, but he always gives it a try. He was a bit apprehensive but dug in.

We were both very pleasantly surprised! The soup was rich and flavorful. The dumplings were soft yet hearty. I cleaned my bowl and looked over to see that the hubby had cleaned his too. Next thing I knew, he was standing by the island, eating "seconds" straight from the pot! Even Patches liked the "chicken"! As for the carrot fries...fabulous! Baking brought out the sweetness of the carrots and the spice blend I used added just enough flavor without overpowering the carrots natural taste.

So, if you would like to give a Vegan dish a try, make it this one! I don't think you will be disappointed. Thanks Leslie! It was fun making this and a delicious surprise eating it! :)

"Chicken" & Dumplings
Serves 2

Soup Ingredients:

1 packet fake chicken product of choice (Morningstar Farms' Chicken-Style Strips, available in the freezer section of just about every grocery store anywhere these days, is perfect for this)
2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you love garlic; I typically use 4)
1 large carrot, cut into half-rounds
2 handfuls coarsely chopped kale, mustard greens, or collard greens (optional - I love the added color and nutritional value the greens give to the soup)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil, or vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute (Earth Balance is incredible)
4 cups vegetable broth of choice - the richer in flavor, the better!
1 to 2 tbsp animal-product-free Chicken Seasoning OR a combination of rubbed sage, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and basil
1/2 tsp salt

Dumpling Ingredients:

1 cup flour (I use whole wheat, but I think just about any flour would do)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp olive oil, or room temperature vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, or vegetable broth


1. Brown the fake chicken in a medium-sized skillet with a little olive oil. Set aside.
2. Mix your dumplings: In a bowl, combine all dumpling ingredients and mix until a slightly wet dough is formed. Set aside.
3. In a medium-sized stock pot, heat the olive oil/vegan butter sub over medium heat for just 1 minute. Add the minced garlic and carrot and cook 2 minutes, stirring often to keep the garlic from burning.
4. Add the 1/4 cup of flour and combine with the olive oil/vegan butter sub to make a paste, or roux. Add a little of the veggie broth to help incorporate the flour, if needed, until your roux is a nice, smooth paste.
5. Add the rest of the veggie broth and the seasonings and stir to fully combine. Also add the kale/greens at this point, if you are using them. Bring the soup to a boil, stir in the pre-browned fake chicken, and then make the dumplings by dropping small spoonfuls of the dough into the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the dumplings have cooked and the soup is nice and thick.

Oven-Baked Carrot or Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4 as a side-dish

8 large carrots or 4 medium-to-large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1~2 tsp sea salt

Optional Ingredients:
1~2 tsp chipotle chili powder, Garam Masala, or any spice or combination of spices you like, really.


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, and any spices. Set aside to let the flavors mingle.
3. Chop the carrots or sweet potatoes into large fry-sized pieces. I like "steak fry"-esque wedges for both kinds. These fries - especially the carrot variety - will shrink as they roast in the oven, so you might want to cut them bigger than you think you should. I usually cut a large carrot in half along its length, then cut the thicker upper part into quarters and the narrower part in half.
4. Add the carrot/sweet potato pieces to the bowl and toss to coat evenly with the oil, salt, etc. Spread the pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet so that they aren't touching one another.
5. Let cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. Stir them around a bit, put them back in the oven, and let cook for another 10~15 minutes, until the fries are soft and lightly caramelized. Serve by themselves or with something to dip them in!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Beignets without Creme Anglaise

Here we are with another installment of the monthly group Chocolate with Francois. This month we are are making Chocolate Beignets with Creme Anglaise. That is the recipe that Julia of Always...leave Room for Dessert picked for July.  Be sure to stop by her beautiful blog. Its filled with gorgeous photos and fabulous recipes.

Francois says in his book..."This is my version of the American doughnut: a ball of ganache that is dipped in a great beer-based yeasty batter, then fried and served with a creme anglaise dipping sauce instead of icing..."

I read the recipe and seeing that it served 8,  I decided to scale it back. I was also making Chewy, Chunky Blondies that day and knew we didn't need full recipes of two different desserts. And, since the Beignets should be served immediately I decided to just make a few so we could try them, and not spoil our dinner. :)

There are four parts to making these...the batter, the ganache, frying, and the dipping sauce. I decided to skip the creme anglaise. I have made it in the past and while it was delicious, I didn't feel like going to the trouble of making it just to dip a couple of beignets.

I am pretty sure I did my math right with quartering the recipe, but I started having trouble when I added the flour into the beer and yeasty water. Instead of having batter, I had dough. :( I added some more beer until the dough thinned out some and became more batter like.

Then I did the ganache. That turned out fine. I put the little balls in the freezer to firm up before the next step.

I mixed up an egg in a small bowl and put some panko (Japanese bread crumbs) in a another bowl. I added some fresh oil to my fryer and pulled the ganache balls from the freezer. My beer batter had been sitting on the counter and it had bubbled up as described in the recipe.

It seemed weird to dip the luscious ganache balls into egg and then into bread crumbs. After all, that is something that I would usually do with chicken. I tried to then be sure to completely cover the balls with the batter. As I pulled each ball from the batter, I dropped them into the hot oil. Fried them for 2 or 3 minutes, then scooped them out and placed them on paper towels to drain.

I dusted mine with a little powdered sugar. Once I was sure they were cool enough, the hubby and I tried them.

Yummy! The frozen ball of ganache in the center becomes soft and melted. The batter surrounding the ganache is crispy/chewy. The beignets aren't really sweet. But they are delicious! Don't let them cool off and then try to eat them...once cold they become rubbery. They are definitely best served warm from the fryer.

I would like to try these again...perhaps for breakfast some lazy Sunday. And maybe I will make the Creme Anglaise and try them dipped instead of dusted. :) Be sure to stop by CWF to see what the other bakers thought of this pick. Thank you Julia! I really enjoyed these.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chewy, Chunky Blondies

I'm baaaaaack! Skipped last week due to the bananas in the recipe and because the hubby and I, with two of our friends, went on a motorcycle trip to NC. We went to Grandfather's Mountain, Linville Falls, and Mount Mitchell. We had a really great time and were gone from Thursday afternoon until late Sunday afternoon. I spent last Monday recuperating from the trip and 827 miles on the back of a motorcycle. Oh, but the sights we saw and the memories we made...well worth the callouses on my butt! :)

This week Nicole of Cookies on Friday picked our recipe, and she picked a winner. I knew when I read this recipe that I wanted to make it. While I am a die hard chocolate fan, every once in a while there is something very comforting about a Blondie. Chewy. Brown sugary. Rich and satisfying. But, I seldom think to make them. It always seems to be brownies.

I was off Monday (as I usually am) and decided to bake for two of my groups...TWD and Chocolate with Francois (which I will post later). (I also made "Chicken" and Dumplings and Baked Carrot Fries and will post about that later too). But, right now, it's all about these Blondies.

I made these just as called for using chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts and coconut. I had them whipped up and in the oven in no time. I baked mine for 45 minutes, which was when the knife inserted in the center came out clean. About an inch all the way around the border of the pan the blondies were tall. But, the middle or rest of the blondies didn't rise as much. I flipped them out of the pan and then flipped them back over and allowed them to cool.

When I was pretty sure they were cool enough I cut them into small bars. I anticipated them being rich so I cut the bars smaller than I would cut brownies.

Man, are these ever good. Someone in the comments said something about "crack blondies". So true!! These are addicting. They are chewy with a thin crust on top that starts out crispy then disolves into buttery, sugary goodness. Though not usually a big butterscotch chips fan (still don't know why I had a bag of them in my cupboard!) the chips added a warm, caramel-like undertone to the blondie. The walnuts added great texture and the chocolate chips just the right amount of richness. Soooo good!! I'll be right back...

Sorry, I had to go grab another one of these. That last paragraph got my mouth watering. :D

So, thank you Nicole! I loved these and so did the hubby. If you would like to see what the rest of the gang thought of this week's pick, click here. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Brrrr-ownies!

Karen of Welcome to our Crazy Blessed Life picked this weeks TWD choice. She picked Brrrr-ownies. I was excited to see brownies as the choice, until I read the recipe. When I saw that Peppermint Patties were to be used I started having my doubts.

I am not a big peppermint person. I used to like peppermint. But that was before a Christmas party at which I got a little over intoxicated on Rumplemintz, a very potent peppermint schnapps, and finished my night praying to the porcelain god. :}For some reason, ever since that night, long, long ago, I am not too crazy about peppermint. Go figure.

However, the hubby loves peppermint. Peppermint patties, peppermint gum. Peppermint ice cream.  I love him in spite of that. And, because I love him in spite of his love of peppermint, I decided to bite the bullet and make these brownies for him.

These were so simple to put together. Melt some chocolate and butter. Mix in some sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Fold in some chopped up peppermint patties. I have to admit, it seemed a terrible shame to me to "ruin" a perfectly delicious tasting brownie batter by adding the patties, but I went ahead and added them. Poured the whole bowl of batter into a buttered foil lined pan and baked away.

I peeked at the brownies after about 28 minutes, to see how they looked and was horrified to see white bubbles of peppermint patties oozing up out of the crust. (At this point I had not read the P&Q). I figured it was too late to do anything about it, and left the pan in the oven for another  few minutes till they were done.

I followed Dorie's directions for peeling off the foil, but had several spots of brownie/melted patty that stuck to the foil. I forged ahead, grabbed a knife and cut the batch into 16 small bars. Took some pictures and set the brownies aside.

Later, when the hubby tried them, and sang his praises about how delicious and chocolate-y and moist and chewy they were, I decided to try a little bite to see what all the fuss was about.

Wow! These things are soooo good. Dangerously good. Moist. Chewy. Rich. Full of dark chocolate-y flavor. Surprisingly not overly peppermint-y. There is a cooling sensation in your mouth as you eat them, but I really didn't feel like I was eating peppermint patty laced brownies. I loved them!

These I will make again and I am thinking all kinds of candy bar additions...Milky Ways, Snickers, peanut butter cups...the list goes on and on. If  you would like to see what the other bakers thought, head over to TWD and find out. Me? I think I might go eat me a brownie. :)

On a different note...I had a busy week (busy compared to how it's been anyway) in my baking business. Thought I would leave you with a few pictures of the cakes and cupcakes I made this week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Tarte Noire

I recently posted a picture of this tart on Tumblr and as of now, only 8 hours later, it has been re-blogged over 100 times. So, I thought I would re-post the original post, with the recipe, for anyone who might have missed it the first time. This is a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, from her book "Baking, from my home to yours". If you could only have one baking cookbook, this is the one to have.
Hello again! I hope that this finds everyone well and rested after a big holiday weekend. Did you have a cookout? Did you watch a fireworks show? Did you spend time with friends and family? I did all of that and also played in the pool, slept late, and, made one of the best desserts I have made in a long time. What dessert would that be you ask? It was this weeks TWD choice, Tarte Noire, that Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life picked.  If she lived closer I would visit her so I could kiss her for choosing such a fabulous recipe. Well, I probably wouldn't kiss her, but I would definitely hug her or shake her hand or something. This may be my favorite recipe so far. I kid you not. Please drop by Dharmagirl's blog and get the recipe. You won't be sorry.

We had my hubby's best friend come and stay with us for the weekend. He arrived on Saturday and settled in for the festivities. We cooked steaks on the grill...nice juicy rib-eyes. Some corn and some baked fries rounded out the meal. We went out in the field after dinner and had our own little fireworks show. My hubby set off the fireworks while I snapped photos and the hubby's best friend shot video.

The guys hopped in the pool after the fireworks show and floated around for a while. I was a bit too cool for me to get in the water. Then, before bed, I served the two of them a slice of the Tarte Noire. They loved it! They both scarfed it down in what seemed like seconds, and all but licked the plates clean. I like it when something I make brings such a satisfied expression to my hubby's face, not to mention his friend's face(who, after all these years, is also my friend).

I put this recipe together in no time early Saturday morning. I decided to make the chocolate shortbread crust and it came together quickly and perfectly in my food processor. I baked it after letting it sit in the freezer for 30 minutes. When I pulled it from the oven, to cool before adding the ganache, I got the brilliant idea to cover the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of caramel! I thought about nuts, but decided to just go with the caramel.

The ganache came together as easily as the crust, becoming this dark, shiny, smooth bowl of deliciousness. :) I used a combination of bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolate and poured it over the caramel in the crust. Put the tarte in the fridge for 30 minutes to set up and then sliced a piece for myself  a picture. Yeah, that's it. For a picture. :)

I also tasted it, just to see if it was okay before serving it to the guys later that night. Couldn't serve them something I hadn't checked was edible, right? The ganache was silky smooth and  so creamy. Not too sweet. Rich and delicious! The caramel underneath was a perfect touch, adding just a little sweetness and texture to the chocolate. And, the crust? Crunchy, tender, buttery, chocolate-y, and perfect against the creamy chocolate and chewy caramel. With as easy as this was to put together, I can see making it again and again. I wonder if you could do a white chocolate version. Almonds would be wonderful in this too. Maybe in the crust. Of course, it was fabulous just as I did it, and I would certainly make it the same again.

So, a really big, BIG thanks to Dharmagirl for this weeks pick. Just awesome! And, check out what the others thought of it by clicking here. :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Macarons

Hello fellow Chocolate with Francois bakers! Long time no post from me. I have missed you all and can't tell you how wonderful it is to be back!

This month's recipe was Chocolate Macarons chosen by Leslie of Lethally Delicious . Leslie is a fabulous baker (you really are Leslie!) and someone I am glad to call friend. Be sure to stop by her blog and check out some of the wonderful recipes she has made.

I have made macarons before, but never using this method. I almost didn't make these as I was afraid of the whole cooked sugar into whipped egg whites juggle I would have to do, but, since it had been so long since I had baked with the group, and, since it was Leslie who was hosting, I decided to put my fears aside and just dive in.

I am so glad I did! I did have some of the sugar harden on the side of my mixing bowl and some small pieces of that hardened sugar made it into the cookies, but, other than a few bumps here and there, the cookies turned out wonderful. Well, actually the first batch ended up scorched a little. I think they baked a tad too long and I ended up cutting back on the baking time by 2 or 3 minutes. The rest of the batches turned out perfect. All but a few of the cookies had "feet", that ring of bubbly looking cookie around the bottom edges. Each puffed up and spread out perfectly. I think I could have piped them a bit larger as I ended up with about 50 individual cookies and I only made half the recipe!

The cookies were delicious just plain, no ganache. They were crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Rich with the flavor of the chocolate. I really had to sternly talk to myself in order to stop eating the cookies as they were cooling on the rack. I kept popping one into my mouth every time I walked by them. :)

I did manage to save a few and dipped them into the cooled and slightly thickened ganache. I didn't think they could be any better than they were, but I was so wrong. The ganache added a whole other dimension of chocolate, richness, and texture to the cookies. Absolutely Fabulous!  I lost count of how many I tasted, strictly  for quality control purposes. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :D)

I had only one complaint. Once the cookies went into the fridge, as Francois says they should be stored, the texture changes. They are no longer crispy on the outside. Don't get me wrong, they were still delicious and it didn't keep me or any of the people I shared them with (the hubby and the gang at Starbucks) from devouring them, but I think I liked them better freshly baked, still crisp and airy. But, crispy or soft, these are some dangerously delicious cookies, at least around me. They are a little bit of work, but so worth the effort. Give them a try!