Chef TARA's corner of the internet

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Apple Cider Caramels

Last Saturday some friends of mine were getting together at my house to do a photoshoot. Of course, I couldn't be left out of the action, so I invited Chef Tess to come a bit early to make these amazing caramels. (She shares her side of the story on her blog.) What can I say? These are without a doubt the best caramels I have ever had. The brilliance of adding cider to caramel defies quantifying. I will forever be in awe of SugarPunk for dreaming these up.

Okay, okay on to the goods! Here is the recipe with some of SugarPunk's notes:

Apple Cider Caramels

2 c apple cider

Reduce to 1/3 cup, set aside.

2/3 c cream

6 tbsp butter

Heat to boil, then set aside.

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c corn syrup

1/4 water

Cook to light brown. I have found that my idea of "light brown" and what works with caramel aren't at all the same - I generally heat it to something more like medium-dark amber

Add cream, butter and reduced apple cider all at once, stirring constantly (It will foam up - use a good size pot). Oh boy, they’re not kidding! I always, always scald myself when doing this step.

Cook to 250 degrees, using fairly low heat - you want to take about 10-15 minutes to get it up to temperature. Now this, I just find to be incorrect. The sooner you can get it up to the mid-range of soft-ball, the better. I do use medium heat, but it has never taken longer than 5 minutes to get to temperature.

Pour it into a 8 inch square baking pan that’s been lined with two pieces of oiled parchment paper, one in each direction - this creates a “sling” to pull the caramel out of the pan. This has always resulted in a layer of caramel approximately 1/2 inch thick. If you want thicker caramels (and I usually do), you can use a smaller pan, or I've made a spacer from cardboard that turns my pan into approx an 8x6 pan.

I also sprinkled a little fleur de sel over the caramels at this point, as I find them far too sweet if they don't have a hint of saltiness about them

I've decided that this recipe is my new be all and end all recipe for caramels. I just can't get enough!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Roasted Winter Vegetables

I'm not generally a fan of cold weather, and I'm definitely not a snow girl, but I love this time of year for roasting winter vegetables. Root vegetables might not have that much appeal in and of themselves. I mean, who wants to eat a rutabaga? (Who knows how to even spell rutabaga? I just had to look it up...) Well, I do! As long as it's mixed in with a lot of other vegetables I wouldn't necessary want on their own and roasted in the oven until they start to get that lovely caramelization. Now that's good eats!

What you see here is an assortment of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and onions. I often put turnips in but I didn't see any at the store yesterday. And lest you think this is a lot of work I'll confess to buying the squash and sweet potatoes pre-cut. all I really did was peel a few carrots, parsnips and the rutabaga and cut up a couple of onions. Then I tossed everything in some olive oil I'd drizzled on, added some salt and pepper and my favorite spice blend, and threw it all in the oven at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Now, you might be thinking that's a lot of veggies for just one girl. And it is! But one of my favorite things to do with roasted winter vegetables is to turn them into soup the next day. I'll toss the leftovers in the blender with some chicken stock until it gets to a consistency I like and call it soup - an extremely healthful and tasty soup, I might add.

For tonight, I simply added some spinach and a tilapia filet and called it dinner!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chef Tess, this one's for you!

Salted Caramels!!!

Fleur de Sel is salt that is hand-harvested from seabeds in Brittay, France.

The caramel has to be cooked to just the right temperature....

Ironically this recipe comes from one of my chocolate cookbooks (Yes, I collect chocoalte cookbooks. Why wouldn't I?!?), Chocolate Obsession.

Fleur de Sel Caramels
flavorless vegetable oil for the pan
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split horizontally
1 c heavy whipping cream
2 T corn syrup
1 T butter
1/2 t fleur de sel, in fine grains
  • Line the borrom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. lightly coat the paper and the sides of the pan with flavorless vegetable oil.
  • Put the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Use an unlined copper pot if you have one. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occaisionally with a wooden spoon, until the sugar melts. Then continue to cook, without stirring, until the sugar turns dark amber, 5 to 6 minutes. To check the color, dab a small amount of the syrup on a white plate. if any crystals form on the sides of the pan as teh sugar darkens, wash them down with a wet pastry brush.
  • While the sugar is cooking, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar is the correct shade, stir in the corn syrup. Remove the pot from the heat and put a sieve or splatter guard over it. Wearing an oven mitt, slowly pour the hot cream into the sugar syrup a little at a time. The mixture will sputter and foam. Be careful, as it is very hot.
  • When the bubbling subsides, return the pan to medium heat and cook undisturbed until the mixture registers 252 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, immediately add the butter, and stir with the wooden spootn. Add the salt and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let cool at room temperature.

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Chocolate dipping fools!

Yesterday I got together with my friend Chef Tess for a total chocolate fest! Stephanie and I were fast friends in culinary school, had lost touch and were recently reunited. It's been so fun catching up and sharing in our mutal obsession with all things culinary - especially all things chocolate!

We started out dipping some salted caramels that I had made earlier. Salt? In the caramels? Yep! A perfectly divine combination...

If I'm a sucker for all things chocolate, truffles have to be at the top of the list of what I like. The smooth, silky, creamy centers that melt in your mouth after you break open the thin chocolate shell... Keeping with the caramel theme, these were milk chocolate caramel truffles.

What's a chocolate dipping day without cheesecake lollipops - one of my all time favorites?

I'd share more of what we did, but I'm feeling a bit snackely and might need to do a bit more product sampling. Can you blame me?

In the meantime, you can see more pictures here or on Chef Tess's Blog.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cranberry Butter & Real Maple Syrup

So my friend Stephanie found me this week. We went to culinary school together and had lost touch for many years. So far we've kept each other up past 1am every night and can't seem to stop talking shop! I have a feeling that you'll see my long neglected blog updated more regularly from here on out. It's been so nice to reconnect. I feel like a part of me that has been semi-dormant for a while is alive again! Thanks, Steph!

At any rate, another friend asked me to cook breakfast for a meeting she has Saturday morning. We did that last quarter, and it was a ton of fun. Originally I had planned to make my Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes, but then it hit me that it is finally starting to be fall around here and it might be fun to make something more in season. Here's what I came up with: Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes with a Maple Cranberry Butter, Maple Syrup and Toasted Pecans. Mmmm mmmmm goood! Well, maybe not for my waistline.....

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Think I'm In Love!

All these years my friends have tried to convert me to using a Bosch. I've never had anything against them - I just didn't see a need for one. I could do everything I needed and wanted and more in my trusty old Kitchen Aide. You know, the one I inherited from my parents that they bought when I was in junior high... I won't mention how many years ago that was! But, several months ago my Kitchen Aide gave up the ghost. Well, not entirely, since the motor still works great, but the arm that lifts the bowl up has lost its screws, and I for the life of me can't put it all back together again. Oh, we're still friends, and I still use it - by balancing the bowl on an inverted ramekin. Which is fine for whipping cream or mixing a cake batter - but an impossible jerryrig for kneading bread. Fortunately I have a generous friend who's been willing to loan me her Bosch for many a month, but I never got around to it...

Until now!!!!! I asked her if it wanted to live at my house Sunday afternoon, and she told me it had asked her just that morning when it was going to get to come over! Since it seemed to be mutually agreeable I stopped by and got it after church. I made bread. And again yesterday I made bread. Today I bought more flour and made more bread. I'm considering getting up early tomorrow to make more bread.

I made some friends at work today with fresh bread, and I'll likely make some of my neighbors happy tomorrow. This week I reconnected with a friend from culinary school who let me know she's tweaked my recipe for cottage dill rolls, and I'm dying to make more bread just so I can try it out.

Not sure when your Bosch is coming home...I think I'm in love!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Two of my best friends have birthdays today. One of them lives in Oregon, but I'm blessed to have the other here and got to make a cake for the occasion! I had done some recipe testing a couple of weeks ago, but as it turns out, that idea didn't translate as well as I'd have liked to a full sized cake. Frankly, it just wasn't worthy of her! Not a problem, I went back to my old standby for the base and then got creative with the decorating.

It's a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling in the middle. From there, I covered it with caramel milk chocolate ganache and then decorated it with the caramel dark chocolate ganache stars. I was really pleased with how the ganache spread and piped both - it had the perfect consistency. I also had a chance to use one of my chocolate transfer sheets, with a musical theme - reflective of my friend.

Happy Birthday, girl! I hope you have a great year. Sure love you....

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cooking Project!

So, I got to have Jessica and Mallory over for a cooking project while their mom went to the temple this afternoon.

They focused on making six little mini-cakes while I made a small pinwheel cake which they decided to share with Bishop.

They had so much fun rooting through all of my supplies and putting all the little decorations to good use. I'm so glad they came over!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Blog Update

My friend Robin asked me the other day why my blog isn't linked anywhere, and it reminded me of how long neglected it is. You may have noticed that I've done an update, which should have been totally transparent to you, but obviously I've lost all my pictures. I'll have to go back and see what I can restore at a later date.

At any rate, if I'm going to be committed to blogging a bit more frequently I'll also have to spend more time in the kitchen - or at least more time documenting what goes on my kitchen! This week I've been doing some pastry testing, planning a cake for one of my best friend's birthday that is coming up in a couple of weeks. So far I've been practicing technique as well as flavors. We've eaten a lot of mistakes, and this is one that turned out well enough to document:

Can you tell I love chocolate?

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jordann's Graduation

Well, my best friend was out of town at a family reunion when her daughter was finishing up cosmetology school. She asked me if I'd make a cake to help her celebrate with her classmates on the last day. Here's what I whipped up. Doesn't she look great?

I was inspired by the chocolate covered cherries I saw at Sprouts so I bought them and went from there. I flavored some whipped cream with cherry jam for the center and then covered the whole thing in chocolate mousse - Jordann's favorite! I had to add a little of the gold leaf I'd been saving for a special occasion to finish it off!

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Natalie's Cut Out Cookies

I've long been a fan of sugar cookies, and I thought I had the best recipe in the world - until I tasted my friend Natalie's cookies, that is! We don't get to see each other very often anymore, since she now lives in Portland, but we're always up got a good cooking project when we do get together. She is in town this weekend, and we got together last night at my request. She had gone to a class in Portland to learn how to do the royal icing for sugar cookies, and I wanted to learn how to do it too. Here's what we came up with:

It was actually a lot easier than I thought. I don't think these are too bad for our first try! The trick is getting the icing the right consistency for the outside edges and then thinner to flow inside. Oh, and they tasted great too! I meant to use my lemon oil as flavoring but somehow ended up with orange. At any rate, they got rave reviews!

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Birthday Girls!

I've had the opportunity lately to make a couple of birthday cakes for friends' kids.

Jordann turned 18 about a month ago and requested a chocolate mousse cake for her party. Her mom also made some amazing cupcakes.

Then her cousin Emma wanted a homemade cake to help celebrate her baptism and eighth birthday. Her mom has 11 brothers and sisters, many with kids of their own, and her dad has 6 siblings also with their own kids. Needless to say, family gatherings have a large number of people, so Emma wanted a big cake.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pumpkin Caramel Bundt Cake

Between the holidays and teaching more cooking classes, I find myself in the kitchen more and more lately. Tonight we're having a women's meeting for church, and I've ended up doing dessert for 60+ people. They wanted something fall-like, so I decided this pumpkin caramel bundt cake would be just the thing. Three other women were kind enough to bake a cake each, so all I've had to do is assemble. In retrospect, this may not be the easiest thing to serve, but it's so yummy I'm sure no one will mind! After all who can resist pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing, homemade caramel and toasted pecans? Mmmmm mmmmm good!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shout Out!

I have to give a great big shout out to The Decorette Shop in Tigard, Oregon. They have one of the greatest candy and cake supply store I've ever seen. I was fortunate enough to take a chocolate class there in April with my friend Natalie who lives in Portland. I alternate between being totally jealous that she lives so close and totally grateful that I can't just pop in and spend money at will.
Natalie was kind enough to drop in a couple of weeks ago and pick up some icing decorations for my upcoming class in Utah and my chocolate class here at home. These are small - about 1/2 inch and will go on some of the chocolate dipped oreos. While the icing decorations aren't on their website, I'm sure that the nice people at The Decorette Shop would be willing to take a phone order and ship them out. By the way, their prices are extremely reasonable compared to anything else I've found on the internet. Most I've seen end up running around $1 each while these are closer to $1.50 for the six stockings or for twelve sets of holly leaves.

I'm really excited about my upcoming classes! If you're dropping in from Mental Tesserae and would like to join us on Saturday, just coordinate that with Julie using the email address on the flyer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Upcoming Classes

My good friend Julie over at Mental Tesserae has invited me to Utah to teach a cooking class, and I couldn't be more excited. I recently finished up a five week series and I have a couple of classes planned for here in Arizona, and I'm bursting with ideas, so this couldn't have come at a better time.

Another good friend Natalie is getting a jump on her holiday treat making. When she shared an idea for making white chocolate truffles to be adorned with candy cane bits I volunteered to try to figure out the ratios for a good truffle center recipe. I'm not too keen on candy canes, so I did decorate mine differently, but I couldn't be more pleased with the results!

White Chocolate Truffle Centers

8 oz real white chocolate (not chips - the word chocolate must be on the label)
1/3 c heavy cream
1 T butter

Chop the white chocolate into small pieces, no larger than traditional chocolate chips. Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream and the butter until nearly a boil - visibily steaming and bubbling. In a small mixinb bowl, pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit undisturbed for 5 minues. Remove the wrap and stir together until well blended and somewhat shiny. Let set for a few minutes until it begins to cool. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Once it is firm you can scoop out small balls with a small scoop or melon baller. Roll in your hands to round them out. Dip as you wish and enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's All About the Chocolate!

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to doing some recipe testing from the chocolate class I took with my friend Natalie in Portland back in April. These were some chocolate caramel truffles I made. I had never heard of incorporating caramel into the truffle filling, so this was something new for me. I made the first batch according to their recipe which uses A'peels instead of actual chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked them - for not being real chocolate, that is. The texture was great, and it was one of the easiest truffle fillings I've ever worked with. The nice thing is that this gave me a chance to try out my chocolate transfer sheets.

Since then I've made several batches using Ghirardelli milk chocolate, and the flavor is amazing. I find that the Ghirardelli milk has caramel overtones anyhow - though not as much as Lindt - so it worked nicely. The first time, I used blocks of chocolate that I purchased at Trader Joe's. After that I tried a batch with chocolate chips which are cheaper and more convenient. The chocolate chips actually made the filling easier to work with than the chocolate blocks - because the texture is closer to the A'peels in the original recipe. Unfortunately, because of the lower melting point in the cocoa butter, the truffles made with real chocolate don't stand up to the cutting and dipping required to use the transfer sheets effectively so I went back to rolling them. Honestly, the people I've share them with haven't minded at all! Someday, when I grow up to be a real chocolatier, I'll have a guitar and it'll be worth more recipe testing to get consistencies better.

Mmmm, mmmmm good!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Announcing New Cooking Classes!

Now that I've started a new career and have more control over my time, I've decided to teach 1 or 2 classes out of my home each month. Of course, I am always open to teaching more classes in your homes as well.

This month I'm excited to present a weekend brunch class and a class all about crepes. I've made crepes several times lately, and I'm excited to share with you some of the new things I've learned.

Remember that my goals for a class are to teach you things that are dazzling enough you can't wait to serve them to company yet easy enough that you'll be sure to make them.

Are you hungry?!? Come to class!

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Lollipops!

Recently I spent a weekend in Portland with my good friend Natalie. Among other things, we attended a chocolate and candy making class at The Decorette Shop in Tigard. I was so pleased to get a few new recipes and learn some tricks. I can't wait to try out more of what I learned there.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Southwestern Beef Tenderloin with Chipotle Mashed Potatoes


My friend Shauna and I came across this recipe and had to give it a try! We've made it 3 times since then, and it just gets better and better.

Not only is this dish worthy of fine dining, it is really easy to prepare and is relatively healthful as well. The potatoes are made with buttermilk and just a smidgen of butter - and since they are made with Yukon Gold they are naturally yellow and buttery. The chipotles give them just a bit of a kick and balance out the sweetness provided by the brown sugar rub on the steaks. The steaks are topped with a small pat of a compound butter made with parsley and lemon. All the components add up to reduced fat (compared to what you'd expect) but full flavor!

This is in the works for my next cooking class. I'm not doing much in March, but I'm gearing up for quite a few in April. Mmm mmm good!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Chocolate Class

This post is dedicated to Julie, the most brilliant person I know. She may turn me into a regular blogger yet. Well, if I can stop being intimidated by her blog, that is. Julie has helped me figure out how to post pictures more easily and now to see that people actually had left comments. I apparently had some blogger feature turned on that didn't post comments until I had "moderated" them. Hopefully I've got that turned off now. At least I'm relieved to know that I have had a few readers here and there....

At any rate, here's a photo from our chocolate class.

As you can see, I've had a lot on my plate lately! :-) Despite careful planning and my grandest of intentions I found myself up at 5:30AM the day of the class to do some quick recipe testing. What if I could make the truffles just a little better?!? I'd scanned various recipes online the night before and decided to give one a try. Oh my stinking Hanna! I think these were the best truffles I have ever made. I'm pleased to have a new base recipe that I can use and can move on to experiment with new flavors and enhancements. This version had a touch of Vietnamese cinnamon. I can't wait to try it with a bit more cayenne.

We packed a lot into a 2 1/2 hour class. we made 4 kinds of truffles, caramel and chocolate covered pretzel rods, dipped oreos, dipped pink peppermint marshmallows and caramel s'mores cookies. We never really made it to the molded chocolate hearts, but I don't think anyone cared.

At any rate, now that I've perfected the marshmallow recipe I'm happy to share. Oh, and by the way, I did remake them the day after my last post - with 1/2 the amount of water!

Homemade Marshmallows

3 tablespoons (3 packets) powdered gelatin
1 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting pan and marshmallows
Butter, for greasing pan

In a medium sized saucepan soak the gelatin in the cold water. After the gelatin has softened, approximately 10 minutes, add the regular sugar and then gently dissolve over low heat, approximately 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks and then fold in the sifted confectioners' sugar. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin mixture. Increase the speed and beat until white and thick. The volume should double in size and should form between soft and firm peaks.

Line an 12 x 9 inch baking dish with high sides with foil, grease slightly with butter, and coat with confectioners' sugar. Alternatively, you can use a baking sheet, but the marshmallows will not be as tall. Pour marshmallow mixture in and top with more sifted confectioners' sugar. Leave out overnight or for at least 3 hours to set. The marshmallow should be light and spongy when set.

Loosen marshmallow from edges of tray and invert onto a large cutting board. Peel off foil and use a large knife to cut the marshmallows into cubes. Dredge each piece in confectioners' sugar.


Pink Peppermint Marshmallows – add 1 tsp peppermint extract and 6 drops neon pink food coloring after you pour in the cooled gelatin mixture.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pink Peppermint Marshmallows

One of these days I'll learn to keep better track of my recipes....

I made lovely homemade marshmallows over Christmas for our Hot Chocolate Party. Apparently I didn't save the recipe from my computer. This only makes a frustrating experience more frustrating. See, I decided to make the marshmallows after watching Tyler Florence make them on a holiday Christmas special. I dutifully recorded the episode and watched his segment again and again, of course writing down all the ingredients and steps to making them. Imagine my dismay when I checked the recipe on Food TV only to find that the published version was entirely different!

I made marshmallows according to Tyler's instructions. They turned out OK. I made them according to the published recipe. They were great. I made them a couple of more times, always good. I had decided that I might try them with a little less gelatin, however. But of course all I had at Christmas was a list of ingredients and a few scratchings pretending to be instructions on a scrap paper. Who knows where that is now?!?

Well, I decided for my chocolate class I'd make Pink Peppermint Marshmallows to dip in chocolate! So, since I can't find my scratchings, I looked up the marshmallow recipe again on Food TV's website. Alas, they changed the recipe! They even noted some of the changes. I was pleased - since they adjusted the amount of gelatin called for in just the way I was thinking I'd try it. Unfortunately, the amount of water seemed to be double what I remembered - but of course I can't verify that without my scratchings. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh! What could I do but make the marshmallows according to my new recipe?

Tomorrow will tell how they turn out. I predict that I'll want to make them again with 1 cup of water instead of two.

Know what I learned? I NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE GREAT COOKING SPIRIT! I should've followed my instincts.....

Tomorrow I'll let you know how they turn out.


Oh, and here's a sneak preview at a packaging idea I'm working on...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Come to My Class....

The teaching bug has caught up to me, and I'll be starting cooking classes again. I've added a link on the right to share more information. First class scheduled is a Valentine Make and Take Chocolate Class! I was inspired by all the great chocolate books I saw in Portland. I've never done a Make and Take class before, and it should be a lot of fun. Besides, who doesn't love chocolate?

My friend Natalie taught me how to make these great boxes - no glues required - that I think we'll be using. Two pieces of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper and a pair of scissors is all you need. I love it because there are so many applications, and the variations are endless.

Check back often as I'll be adding more classes to the curriculum. Next step is to add another six weeks course, with a lean towards healthy and delicious dinners...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Will Write for Food!

I've been meaning to get back to this blog for a long time, but I was frustrated with issues related to uploading images. Two things have happened to encourage me to work through my frustration:

1. I spent the weekend with my good friend Natalie in Portland. I got to spend a couple of hours at Powells, where one of my proud purchases was a book called Will Write For Food! I'm hoping that as I read it, I can get better and better at the actual writing here on my blog.

2. My friend Julie - who is one of my heroes - has an amazing blog and advised me today that she overcame all of her image issues by publishing using Firefox. Here I am on my first try, and I'm delighted with the results. (Finally got that d--- picture of the peanut butter bars to post from last October!)

One of my other proud purchases in Portland was a book on chocolate: Chocolate Obsession. Look for future updates as I experiment with its recipes.

Finally, one of the highlights of the trip was a trip to Moonstruck Chocolate. They had some of the finest truffles I have ever eaten.At any rate, I hope to be back more often. In the meantime, may the Great Cooking Spirit be with you....

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

I've been itching to make something again, and as the weather hints at cooling off for fall, I guess I've had the urge to bake. These delightful cookie bars come from Barefoot Contessa - and they truly taste like a wonderful pb&j sandwich only better. The first time I made these I didn't bake them quite long enough, nor did I use the parchment paper. This time around I baked them until they were fairly golden on top and around the edges. They are still tremendously gooey, but I think baking them much longer would just dry them out - they are meant to be ooey gooey. Also, the parchment made for really easy lifting out of the pan to cut them into bars.

At any rate, here is the recipe:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cottage Dill Rolls

These are one of my favorite things of all time! I first became acquainted with Cottage Dill Rolls in culinary school, when we made them as part of our advanced baking and pastry class. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. In fact, I became friends with the instructor of that class, and as I progressed through the program, she'd usually find a way to come find me to share one on Cottage Dill Roll night - fortunately that was every 3 weeks. I later took the recipe to Deer Valley where I did my pastry externship and baked the dough in loaf pans for a lovely cottage dill bread. I don't make them often enough, but I've had "itchy fingers" lately (my friends know that to mean my fingers get all wiggly when I talk about my next creative culinary project because I can't stand the excitement, or to mean that I haven't had a culinary creative outlet lately and need to think of one.) and conference weekend seemed like a lovely time to get some baking in.

Alas, I had actually tried to make a batch last Wednesday, only to discover that my yeast was dead, so today was my second attempt. This time I let the cottage cheese and the egg come to room temperature before starting so they wouldn't slow down the development of the yeast. And with new yeast they came out amazingly well. Soft, pillowy, rich rolls with a hint of onion and specks of fresh dill, topped with egg wash and kosher salt. My mouth is still watering.... I'm thinking Cottage Dill Rolls will have to be part of my upcoming Holiday Foods class curriculum. They're a great part of Thanksgiving dinner.

For those of you who are inclined to give them a try, here's the recipe:

Cottage Dill Rolls
1/4 c warm water
2 T sugar
1/4 oz dry yeast
6 oz cottage cheese
1 egg
2-4 T minced onion
1 T fresh dill, chopped fine
1/2 t baking soda
10 oz AP flour
1 egg
2 t water or milk or cream
kosher salt

Proof the yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, egg, onion, dill, and baking soda. Add the yeast and mix. Add the flour and knead until you have a firm but smooth dough. Let double in size. Form into 2 oz balls and let rise again. Mix the egg and water or milk or cream together to make an egg wash. Paint the rolls and garnish with a good amount of kosher salt. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. (It took 20 minutes in my oven, and I rotated them halfway through.)


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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cheesecake Lollies!

I must admit that I can be a Food Network addict at times. It is fun to see so many different food shows, and I learn quite a bit too. Alton Brown, Barefooot Contessa and Giada are my culinary heroes because they cook food that can actually be recreated and is darned impressive. Now, am I complaining because I can't make my own version of sharp fin soup when I see it on Iron Chef? Not so much. But I love it when I get an idea and am up to trying it in my own kitchen.

The other day I saw something on Road Tasted that looked so good and fun and easy! I didn't think there was any way it could be as easy as it was, but it was: Cheesecake Lollipops.

I didn't bother going to the effort of making my own cheescake. I bought one that I knew was good quality and sheered off the top section, putting it into my Kitchen Aid. After whipping it soft with the paddle, I piped it into ping pong ball sized globs onto some parchment paper. It was easy to put the sticks in, and then it was off to the freezer. Impatient, as I was I waited nearly an hour before dipping - though I'm sure several hours or overnight would have been better.

The trick is to make sure that all of the cheesecake globs get covered and that you even get some of the chocolate onto the stick. There were several that got nearly covered, and then when I took them out of the fridge the cheesecake sort of oozed out of the holes. I wiped that off and did some patching with a small pastry bag, but those lollies didn't look quite as nice.

I can't wait to make these again and make lots of variations. It would be fun to add some peppermint to the cheesecake and then garnish the pops with crushed candy canes. Or, as my friend suggested, what about a pumpkin cheesecake later decorated like a jack-o-lantern? How about some amaretto in the cheesecake and then dredge the lollies in chopped almonds. I could go on and on..... Chocolate lollipop heaven!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy, Happy Birthday!

So, I realized quite late last night that today is Lane's bithday. But, of course, I didn't have the ingredients on hand to whip up a birthday cake and didn't have it in me to think of what I could come up with with what I did have. That is, until I realized that I had a package of Oreos and some dipping chocolate. Lane is one of my favorite coworkers, and it doesn't hurt that he's my best friend's little brother that I've known forever. He needed a birthday treat! So, I decided to fix him up on my lunch hour this afternoon.

These aren't the actual Oreos I gave him. After all, who has time for all that variety in one lunch hour? And then to take a picture? But this is a sampling of Oreos I've done in the past. It felt good to get my wiggly fingers back in action again. So I got busy again tonight.....but now it's late so that'll be a blog for tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Lane!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chocolate Dipping Fool

Norm Johnson's wedding reception was tonight, and I helped out in kitchen. I had helped Jan (his mom and my good friend) brainstorm some ideas for food, and then I went and dipped strawberries. It is such a pleasure to be able to make something so beautiful, something that tastes so good, and something that delights people as much as chocolate dipped strawberries do!
As fun as it was to work on the food, it was even better to see old friends. I got to visit with Julie Peterson, Marsha Turk, Jolene Cottle, Sue Cottle, Sandy Brown, and others from the ward. What amazing women! I am so glad for the time I got to spend years ago in the same ward and for enduring friendships.

It was also really fun to see all the Johnsons. They are so nice and kind and make you feel so good everytime they see you. They are a neat family. Jonathan is really growing. It was great to see Rob and Erma too!

I am tired - but it's a really good tired!

G'night all!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Une Soirée Parisienne! part deux

Also, while in Paris, I got to visit E. Dehillerin, a pastry supply house that has been helping foodies get the proper equipment since 1820! You know the phrase "like a kid in a candy store?" Well, it was invented for times like this! Natalie walked in with me and looked around for a minute or two before announcing that she would be waiting outside reading a book. I think she knew I could have stayed in there forever and spent the equivalent of what the entire trip to Paris cost! I lusted and coveted to my heart's content for quite a while before going out to meet up with Natalie. She asked me where my bags were, and I commented that I wasn't sure I could justify spending much in there. And then I realized that it would be positively sinful to leave Paris without a little something from there. I ended up with 2 sets of pastry molds - one of which I promptly put to good use for tonight's soirée.

So, for the dessert we used the heart molds. We layered chocolate cake and white cake with a nutella mousse, then covered the whole thing with ganache. We plated it up with a bit of hazelnut and plaid chocolate! Mmm mmm good!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Une Soirée Parisienne!

While in Paris, Natalie and I actually ate twice at the Cafe Delmas - well we were actually at La Crêperie d'à côté (The creperie next door,) but I didn't realize that until we were home. At any rate, the crepes were so amazing that we actually ate there twice. Both times, I had Le Casino, which to the best of my recollection was a crepe filled with ham, mushrooms, onion and gruyere then topped with a soft fried egg. Utterly heavenly. While we enjoyed the first time around, we were completely stuffed and had to forgo the dessert crepes. The 2nd time, we went at the end of a long day of sightseeing and WALKING - and after we were thoroughly doused in a rainstorm. We only wanted comfort food! After another go 'round of Le Casino I had a chocolate crepe, while Natalie had the crepe with caramel ice cream and caramel sauce. It may well be one of the best things I have ever eaten - at least the bite I had! [I might add that our server there was most delightful. I'm sad I didn't get her name, because she was one of the nicest people we met all week. It was in part because of her hospitality that we wanted to go back after being soaked in the rain.]

So, Julene and I had a few friends over for dinner tonight. She wanted a little soirée in honor of my recent trip to Paris with Natalie. We had fun creating the menu - and I got to use the fun new placemats that I bought at the Louvre. I did my best to recreate Le Casino, and I think I was fairly close - though I did cheat and use an herbed crepe since I've never made the traditional buckwheat crepe that they use in France for their savory dishes. I also didn't stay true to the folded format of the crepe - thus leaving room for Dave's amazing spinach salad.

Come back tomorrow to see what we had for dessert!