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Sunday
Mar142010

Tartelets of the Table: Chocolate Tartelet Recipe from Alabama Studio Style

When I received a sample copy of Alabama Studio Style: More Projects, Recipes, & Stories Celebrating Sustainable Fashion & Living in the mail, I was initially perplexed--although it is beautiful, it seemed like it was a book of sewing and home projects.

But then I found it: the recipes. Scattered throughout the creative sewing and home projects are several delicious recipes--most notably this one, for chocolate tartelets. Filled with creamy chocolate that falls somewhere between custard and ganache, these are an extremely delicious dessert, and they've definitely made me curious about some of the other recipes in the book, including coconut cupcakes. And there is a DIY project for homemade cake plates...

Chocolate Tartelets

Adapted from Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin

You'll need: one pie crust, separated into 12 3-inch tartlet servings (use your favorite recipe for a 9-inch pie)

Note: a similar full size pie recipe is on the Alabama Studio Style site!

For the filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

For the meringue

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Filling procedure

In the top of a double boiler, combine 1 cup sugar and the flour. Add buttermilk and simmer over boiling water for about 15 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Beat the egg yolks, and then add them to the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa with enough boiling water to form a paste, and then whisk this paste into the double boiler mixture. Return to heat and simmer over boiling water until thick. Remove from heat, and add butter and vanilla. Cool, then transfer to prebaked pastry tartlet shells.

Meringue topping procedure

While filling is cooling, preheat oven to 325, and prepare meringue as follows: in a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture stands in a peak. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Gently fold in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Spread on top of prepared tartlets and bake until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes.

Sunday
Mar142010

Cake Byte: Portland's Pix Patisserie Now Shipping Macarons!

Pix Pâtisserie in Portland, Oregon is pretty much the cutest place ever, and I feel sorry for anyone who has never visited.

Happily, now you can get a taste of the action even if you don't live near Portland: they've just started to ship their macarons nationwide!

Per a recent press release, owner Cheryl Wakerhauser

gives a nod to the classic French macaron with some taste make-overs for many of the 30 rotating flavors. The macaron flavors at Pix are inspired by artisan ingredients and the highest quality products available such as locally distilled Trillium Absinthe, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Fleur de Sel Caramel, and homemade peanut butter...and tempts the flavor palate with hints of sweet and savory from maple bacon to pumpkin spice, espresso, curry and Taylor Fladgate 10-year Tawny Port. And, there are always the French classics represented like cassis-violet, pistachio, and chocolate (only the Pix chocolate is triple chocolate dipped in 75% origin chocolate). For the real adventurer there is the Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho flavored with Trillium Absinthe and loaded with chocolate covered pop rocks.

Here's the full list of flavors:

  • Raspberry
  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • Hazelnut
  • Passion Fruit
  • Espresso
  • Rose
  • Cheesecake
  • Taylor Fladgate 10-year Tawny Port
  • Pistachio
  • Chocolate Cinnamon
  • Curry
  • Spanish Almond and Sherry
  • Coconut Rum
  • Blueberry
  • Cassis Violet
  • Candy Cane (seasonal)
  • Spring Bank 10 Scotch Whisky
  • Fleur de Sel Caramel
  • Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Chocolate Covered Cherry
  • Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho (Trillium Absinthe and Chocolate Covered Pop Rocks)
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Chestnut Whisky
  • Maple Bacon
  • Apple Pie
  • Sesame Matcha Tea
  • Lemon Basil
  • Triple Chocolate 

Like, whoa.

Want the 411? These macarons are available in a 14-piece Chartreuse Box or seven-piece gift tube online with USPS overnight delivery and a 4-day advanced order on their online store. For a catered selection of flavors available by the dozen, please contact info@pixpatisserie.com. Shipping costs are $30 for the first dozen and $5 for each additional dozen. 

Friday
Mar122010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Chocolate Facts for American Chocolate Week

Guess what? March 14 marks the start of American Chocolate Week. Like you needed a reason to eat chocolate, right? So, inspired by a list sent to me by Ask.com featuring 10 facts about chocolate, I've added to the list so that you've got a baker's dozen of sweet factoids about the dark and dreamy stuff:

Who invented chocolate? While Nestle and Johnny Depp would lobby for Willy Wonka, history awards the honors to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico and Central America.

What is the bestselling chocolate bar? Snickers!

How is chocolate made? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are roasted and then ground into a powder. The cocoa powder is then mixed with variations of sugar, milk and cream to make different types of chocolate.

What was CakeSpy's first word? If you believe my mom, the first word I ever uttered, aside from "ma" and "pa" was "chocolate".

Why can’t dogs eat chocolate? The long answer above has something to do with methylxanthines. The short answer involves diarrhea and your new shag carpet.

How can I melt chocolate evenly? Size does matter. Chop the chocolate into uniform pieces to ensure that all the pieces melt at the same speed in a glass bowl over boiling water (double boiler).

Why is fair trade chocolate good for the environment? Fair trade practices can vary in their environment benefits, but it does empower farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

How do I make chocolate mousse? Pretty easily actually - all you need is finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, unsalted butter, coffee, heavy cream, eggs and sugar.

Why is dark chocolate good for you? It is packed with flavoniods that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. 

Should you eat chocolate after working out? Per Wikipedia, A study from James Madison University, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, showed that post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk provides equal or possibly superior muscle recovery compared to a high-carbohydrate recovery beverage with the same amount of calories. 

Which came first, the cookie or the chocolate chip? Chocolate chip cookies were invented before the morsels. The cookies were invented in 1933 when Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts added cut-up chunks of a semi-sweet Nestlé chocolate bar to a cookie recipe. The cookies were a huge success, and Wakefield reached an agreement with Nestlé to add her recipe to the chocolate bar's packaging in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Initially, Nestlé included a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, but in 1939 they started selling the chocolate in chip (or "morsel") form. 

Who doesn't like chocolate? Jesse Breytenbach, who did a graphic novel on the subject. But we'll forgive her, because she's awfully clever.

Chocolate is deadly: In that famous shower scene in Psycho, it's not blood running down the drain--but chocolate syrup. Guess that was easier to get away with when filming in black and white!

Tuesday
Mar092010

Mac Attack: Sweet French Lessons for Beginners at Versailles

Let's face it: nobody wants to be the American in Paris who can't even take a stab at bonjour. But I know it can be hard to get motivated to learn a new language, so I've put together a sweet lesson of useful phrases, all taught by the sweetest of fluent speaking teachers--French macarons--in the sweetest of classrooms: the opulent Palace of Versailles.

Commençons! 

What to say when those freedom-loving French ladies bare all? You tell them to reign it in. Translation: "Be Modest!"

Even though you're in a foreign country, you should never feel like you can't speak your mind. Translation: "My apartment is nicer."

If you're enjoying yourself, by all means, let it be known! Translation: "I'm the king of the world!"

Because you never know when you'll brush shoulders with greatness...Translation: "Hello Descartes. What's up?"

Now, little macaron, that's just rude! This is a family site.

Be polite, but do let your desires be known. Translation: "I'm hungry!" and response "Where's the beef?"

Of course, you should be aware that sometimes different cultures have customs which we might not understand. Translation: "The horror!"

...and of course, because we are at Versailles, let's give a little shout-out to Marie Antoinette's famous declaration. Roughly translates to "Let them eat cake!"

See? You're practically fluent already. Learning French was never so much fun--or so délicieux.

Tuesday
Mar092010

Sweet Art: Brave for Illustration Friday

Be brave, little Cuppies! Really, he's just a big softie.

For Illustration Friday's theme this week: Brave.

Tuesday
Mar092010

Big Funfetti: Funfetti Cake Mix Cookie Sandwiches for Serious Eats 

Cookie sandwiches involve so much awesome. In one single unit, you to get two cookies and delicious filling, and you get to eat them all at once.

But there's always room for more awesome at the cookie sandwich party, as I learned when I prepared a batch of sweet sandwiches using Betty Crocker's Cooky Book and the finest of cake mixes—the kind with a built-in rainbow. What better pick-me-up for dull winter days than a double dose of dense, moist, lightly tangy, cakey cookies sandwiched with rich, sweet, buttery frosting?

Here's the recipe, but you can also find it (and more) over at Serious Eats!

Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies

Ingredients

For the cake mix cookies

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 package funfetti or rainbow chip cake mix

For for the filling (optional):

  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar, depending on your desired consistency

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Note: the original cookie recipe called for 8 to 10 minutes at 375°F, but I found that baking slightly longer at 350°F worked better for my cookies.
  2. Cream the butter and cream cheese. Blend in egg and vanilla.
  3. Add cake mix in two parts, mixing well (it will be a super thick batter—if it is too stiff, add a small quantity of heavy cream to the batter and mix well).
  4. Using a small cookie scoop, drop balls of cookie dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between the cookies.
  5. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool cookies for at least 15 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack; the cookies are very delicate when they first come out of the oven and they will break if you try to transfer them too soon.
  6. Once completely cool, add a generous dollop of frosting to the bottom of half the cookies, and then sandwich the rest of the cookies on top to form something that vaguely resembles a whoopie pie, but tastes like something else entirely.
  7. If you want the filling, go ahead and prepare it by mixing the butter until fluffy in your electric mixer; add the vanilla and then the confectioners' sugar, bit by bit, until it has reached your desired consistency. Thin with cream or milk if desired, and adding a few drops of pink food coloring never hurts.

 

Monday
Mar082010

Gimme More: Pisco-Infused Alfajores Recipe

C is for Cookie, but A is for Alfajor.

Say what?

If you've never heard of them, alfajores are definitely one to add to your alphabet of sweets: a delectable type of crumbly cookie commonly sandwiched with indulgent dulce de leche.

Though most commonly associated with South American countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Perú and the South of Brazil, these cookies actually take their roots in the Arab World: per Wikipedia, "the name alfajor is derived from Arabic الفاخر, which means "fancy" or "great" sweets. The archetypal alfajor entered Iberia during the period of al-Andalus."

Though this sweet treat has a long history, I took a more modern approach by making a Pisco-infused batch (with thanks to Gran Sierpe, who kindly donated some Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, with which to test out some recipes). The brandy adds a slightly sophisticated bite to the sweet cookies, compelling you to take bite after bite to try to figure out the source of the je ne sais quoi.

Want to make your own? Here's the recipe I used.

Alfajores

Adapted from About.com's South American Food

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Pisco (I used Gran Sierpe)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, OR 1 cup vanilla buttercream, for filling
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut, finely chopped (optional)

 

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix briefly.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture, blending with your fingers until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and Pisco, and mix with your hands until the dough is homogeneous and smooth. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. For this step, either follow the original recipe by rolling out dough to 3/8" thickness, and cutting into 2 inch circles--OR, do as I did and roll the dough into a log and then slice cookies to your desired thickness (I liked fat ones, maybe 1/4 inch thick).  Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, until they are barely golden brown. Let cookies cook 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to rack to cool completely (they are quite fragile until they cool).
  7. To fill the cookies, spread one cookie with dulce de leche and top with second cookie (note: as I found out, buttercream works beautifully too--picture below). If desired, roll the edges in the coconut. Store in an airtight container.

Monday
Mar082010

Cake Byte: Sweet Avenue Bake Shop Offers Custom Cupcakes to Ship Nationwide

A frequent question posed chez CakeSpy is "how can I ship cupcakes?". Well, there is the option of shipping them in mason jars, but other than that I'd probably be better at advising you on how not to ship cupcakes.

Happily, NJ's Sweet Avenue Bake Shop is now offering some sweet shipping options for their award-winning vegan cupcakes. They do small quantities so it won't break the bank, and you have the option of a DIY cupcake kit wherein it comes with all of the necessary bits and bobs and you decorate your own; or, they also have a fun customized option, so that you can upload a picture for custom cakes and send them to someone you love (how 'bout sending a big picture of your face to mom?). Here's the 411 from Sweet Avenue Bake Shop:

DIY Cupcake Kit: $25 (shipping included)

The Decorate It Yourself Cupcake kit includes your choice of three cupcakes, three frostings, and your choice of 3 sprinkles. Do you want all chocolate? Red velvet and cream cheese? Peanut butter frosting with rainbow sprinkles? It's all fair game. We'll even include some frosting wands to get you started. These kits are great for kids, as a gift for a friend, or just as a way to try out our cupcakes if you can't make it to our New Jersey bake shop.

Image Printed Cupcakes$45 (shipping included)

Custom image printed cupcakes are now available! Send Sweet Avenue your favorite image and enjoy six personalize and delectable treats.
 
Don’t want your own image? Select from our assortment of pop culture edibles such as the popular Twilight Cupcakes featured on People.com! To inquire about image cupcakes, email info@sweetavenuebakeshop.com.
 
For more information or to order, visit sweetavenuebakeshop.com.

Monday
Mar082010

Peppermint Sweet: Homemade Thin Mints a la Baking Bites for Serious Eats

Smug, smug little Girl Scouts. Those sweet little sugar pushers can be found all over around this time of year, lurking outside of drugstores and markets with their addictive little missives of sweet cookies.

Oh, they seem so friendly and accommodating now. But what happens in a month or so, when they're gone and you've got a serious jonesing for some Samoas or Thin Mints?

You make your own, that's what you do.

Armed with a recipe from Baking Bites, I tested out a batch of my favorite, Thin Mints. While I wouldn't say that they're a clone version of the boxed kind (the texture is a little different, and the taste a little...fancier), they will indeed give you that much needed fix. Now if only I could figure out how to make a little plastic sleeve for them to fit in...

For the full writeup and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Mar082010

Ultra Violet: The Blackcurrant Violet Religieuse from Laduree, Paris

Walking into Laduree in Paris is a bit like walking into Tiffany or Cartier: it is one of those supremely luxurious places that has the ability to make you feel fancy by simply walking through the door.

Laduree's Champs-Elysees Location, complete with Ladureemobiles!Of course, while both are luxury brands, buying a few of the delights spun from sugar at Laduree is far more reasonable to the typical shopper than shelling out cash for something silver (or gold, or platinum, or diamond-studded) from Tiffany.

Not only is it a delightful place to visit, but it's an important landmark in the world of pastry: founded in 1862, the cafe pioneered the concept of the salon de thé. Per the Laduree site:

Under the Second Empire, cafes developed and became more and more luxurious. They attracted Parisian high society. Along with the chic restaurants around the Madeleine, they became the showcases of the capital.

The beginning of this century found Paris wrapped up in a frenzy of distraction and going out in public. Parisians flocked to the Universal Exposition. Women were also changing. They wanted to make new acquaintances. Literary salons and literature circles were outmoded.

Ernest Ladurée’s wife, Jeanne Souchard, daughter of a well-known hotelier in Rouen, had the idea of mixing styles: the Parisian café and pastry shop gave birth to one of the first tea salons in town. The “salon de thé” had a definite advantage over the cafés: they permitted ladies to gather in freedom. Jeanne Souchard succeeded in combining the turn-of-the-century trend to modernism with knowledge of the merits of a craft transmitted by her family.

So you can probably see why visiting Laduree is one of those pivotal pastry experiences that every sweet tooth should experience at least once (even if the company which now owns it, Holder, is responsible for putting macarons in French McDonalds too).

While they are perhaps best known for their macarons, on this visit, I had my eye not on the little sweetburgers but on their iconic and infinitely lovely religieuse.

A religieuse is a pastry which is said to take its name from its resemblance to a nun's habit--but being composed of choux pastry filled with thick custard and topped with delicate and pretty icing with buttercream piping on the sides, some harcore pastry lovers might argue that the name stems from its taste, which approaches an absolutely religieuse experience.

And at Laduree, they have a few different flavors; we chose the intriguing Blackcurrant-Violet, which is described as "Choux pastry, blackcurrant & violet flavoured confectioner’s custard."

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of lavender or rose-infused pastries, which I feel often can err toward tasting a bit perfumey. However, if there is one that could turn me around, this would probably be it: while assertively flavored, the violet flavor is beautifully done: buttery and floral and full. But like I said, it's powerful--I don't think I could polish one of these off in the same way that I might attack, say, a chocolate variety, but it sure was a delight to share and savor with others (we shared it among a group of four).

But as always, it was a delight to visit Laduree. Next on my list to try there, though? The Marie-Antoinette, an exquisitely appointed little cake...or maybe the mont blanc? 

Laduree has various locations in Paris and beyond; for locations and more information, visit laduree.fr. And as a P.S., if you want to try making your own religieuse pastries, why not check out this excellent post on Not Quite Nigella?

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