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Oh, (Pumpkin) Fudge.

pumpkin fudge

I mean this both literally, and figuratively.

I made fudge the other day – pumpkin fudge, to be specific. I was excited – I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, and it sounded amazing and looked pretty easy, especially with my pastry school background. Well, one can never be too confident.

As I moved through the stages of the recipe, things seemed to be going fine – although each step took forever – I wondered if maybe I was doing something wrong – but I came to learn later that was actually the one thing I was doing right. The mixture finally reached 232 degrees, and I stirred in the spices. And here, is where I dropped the hubcap full of lug nuts –  instead of patiently waiting for the mixture to cool on its own to 110 (which seemed to be taking an ETERNITY, especially after already having waited and waited and waited for it to finally become hot enough), I decided to place the bowl over an ice bath. BIG MISTAKE. It sure did speed up the cooling process, but it made the end result more like pumpkin caramel than fudge.

soft and chewy pumpkin... caramel?

soft and chewy pumpkin… caramel?

So, in the end, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. At the same time, it was still pretty good – good enough where I’d intentionally do this again to yield the same result. It tasted like concentrated pumpkin pie squares.

pumpkin pie bites.

pumpkin pie bites.

And seriously, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? I’ll just have to keep the fact that it was supposed to be fudge a secret. ;)

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in candy, confections, holidays, Indulgences

 

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The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #2: Planete Chocolat.

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It was still lightly snowing when I left the first stop, Galler Chocolatier, and began making my way to the second chocolate shop on the list. Little did I know, I’d only have to walk a few short blocks to reach a place that was “simply different” – in a simply wonderful way. I patted myself on the back for doing such an efficient job with the mapping of the tour as I turned the corner and was greeted warmly by none other than….

Stop# 2: Planete Chocolat.

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As soon as I peered through the window, I realized that they weren’t kidding – they really ARE simply different. The first thing that I saw to support this statement was the most charming little chocolate punchbuggy.

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beep, beep!

As I began making my way around the store, I noticed other fascinating objects, crafted entirely from chocolate. There was a fish…

what do you call a fish with no eyes?

what do you call a fish with no eyes?

….and the cutest chocolate shoe that I almost couldn’t resist – I had to remind myself I only had two days in the city and I’d never be able to get it home intact.

do you have this in a size 7?

do you have this in a size 7?

In the very back of the store, was this somewhat odd and out-of-place seating area. I strolled back to investigate, and off to the left, in the direction of which the seats faced, was a creepy life-sized scene behind a glass wall that looked like colonial Americans toiling on some domestic craft (chocolate making?). I can’t recall exactly what it was all about,  I was too creeped out to take a picture of it, so now I’ll never be sure, which is probably for the best.

take a load off fanny.

take a load off fanny.

I will guess that this whole setup had something to do with the chocolate making workshop they host and to which the polite young fella behind the counter invited me to attend later in the day. If only I had more time.  Speaking of the counter, I finally circumnavigated the entire shop, and wound up at the counter, ready to make my purchases. I wanted some of the fun shaped chocolates they had, but I also fell in love with a glamorous little red box, and had to buy it, without even knowing what was inside. I had complete faith it would be great. I was right.

sometimes you can judge a box by it's cover.

sometimes you can judge a box by its cover.

What was in the  glamour box, you ask? Well it was an assortment of 6 chocolates, in unique shapes that reminded me of puzzle pieces. But it was the flavors that really made the box a winner – like Jasmine, Rose, Cinnamon and Caramel Mocha.

just delovely, and delicious.

just delovely, and delicious.

As for the chocolates I selected for myself, i chose half based on the cool shapes and half based on flavor. I just had to have the chocolate lips (which wound up being strawberry cream filled but not the gross kind you find in boxes of chocolates in the states that you bite into and wish you had chosen more wisely – this was actually rather tasty). I also opted for a pistachio flavored chocolate and a white chocolate hazelnut. Yum and Yum.

make her open the box.

make her open the box.

All in all, Planete Chocolate was by far the most fun shop on the tour. There were so many interesting and quirky things to see, you can’t help but smile when you walk in. And then again when you walk out and taste the chocolate brilliance that unfolds in your mouth with each bite.

To be continued in the next post: Stop #3: Leonidas – it may be a chain, but it’s one worth wearing (or tasting).

 

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The Paris Patisserie Tour, Stop #2: Pain de Sucre.

On the heels of a very succesful first stop on the tour at La Chocolaterie de Jacques Genin, I forged ahead with a skip in my step and a truffle in my hand to:

Stop #2: Pain de Sucre.

Although only a mere 15 minute walk separated them, Pain de Sucre could not have been more different from Jacques Genin. There was no inside seating first of all – this was an order at the counter and go kinda place, although they did have a few tables right outside facing the street. This was something I’ve never seen anywhere but Paris, and just adore the concept – every shop, cafe, restaurant, etc, sets up seating outside along the street, FACING the street, encouraging you to people watch. People love watching people and people love being watched. It’s a win-win.

Anyway, Pain de Sucre was like the pastry shop from outer space. It was super modern inside – stark white with splashes of red, and a simple, clean display. The rainbow of macarons were like a beacon against the otherwise white background, and I was instantly drawn to them. The flavors sounded astronomically delicious, and it was very difficult to choose which ones to get! So, when in doubt, go with the prettiest colors, I always say.

stack of macs.

I wound up with (from top to bottom): chocolate, walnut, caramel, and pistachio. I was sitting outside at one of the little people watching tables, when I took this photo. It took about four tries, as every time I got them to stand and was about to snap the photo, they tipped over. The people next to me were not speaking english, but I could tell by their tone that they were giggling at my photography fails. Finally, I got a good stack shot, and was able to eat them. They were all better than any macaron I’ve had in the states, but the clear winner of the group in both the looks and taste category was the walnut,. Sometimes it’s what’s on the outside and the inside that counts.

walnut tops chocolate.

I liked the fact that Pain de Sucre was different – it retained its title of  “most unique” of all the shops I visited throughout the tour. It also was the only one with the sweet outside people-watching seats. And now I’m on a quest to recreate that walnut macaron.

To be continued in the next post: Stop #3: La Boulangerie Jean-Noël Julien. When one shop closes, another is still open nearby and should have been on the list to begin with.

 
 

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The Return of Recipe Sunday: Banana Caramel Cake.

I was starting to feel guilty for abandoning Recipe Sunday for the past two weeks, so I decided that I would make up a recipe tonight on the fly and hope that it turned out good enough to post! Well tonight I give thanks to the baking gods, because it sure did. It’s a pretty simple cake, too, with a simple cinnamon glaze on top. I found this funky cake pan with raised dots on top mixed in with all the old pans my Aunt passed down to me, and I’ve been dying to use it, so I figured, what the heck – lets use it tonight, just for the pure joy of trying something new.

Dr. Seuss would totally bake a cake in this.

Ok, I admit it – I used caramel flavoring and not “real” caramel. Don’t tell my pastry school teachers. ;P

And away we go….

glaze of glory.

Banana Caramel Cake (In a funky pan):

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp caramel flavor

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup AP flour

1/2 cup fat-free or skim milk

1/2 of a medium-sized banana (mashed)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Mix sugar, egg, oil, and caramel flavor. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to egg mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the mashed banana. Baking time will vary depending on what pan you use, but it took 25 minutes in the funky pan.

Cinnamon Butter Glaze.

Combine 1/4 cup butter (melted), 1 tsp cinnamon, and add confectioner’s sugar until desired consistency is reached (I used 1/2 a cup).

 
 

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mousse: it’s what’s for dinner.

So I’m kind of excited that I’ve learned how to make a bunch of different mousses in my class this summer – caramel mousse, mascarpone mousse, chocolate mousse, fruit mousse, and my personal favorite – peanut butter mousse. The problem is that the class runs from 7 to 11. At night. I go straight from work to class, without eating dinner. So, by the end of class, I’m always starving. So what do I do? Yep, I eat the product.

peanut butter mousse cake. if this cake were a man, i'd marry it.

And now, I’m addicted to mousse. It’s so light, and fluffy, and delicious. I mean, half of it’s air right? So I’m really eating only half the calories, since we all know air is calorie-free.

there's chocolate caramel mousse (and air) in there.

Now, the wheels are churning, and I’m working on some Small Indulgences incorporating mousse. Cupcakes filled with a complimentary mousse? Mini mousse pies? Or maybe even stand-alone mousse cups! Thoughts? Suggestions? Any mousse-related mini-desserts you’d like to see? If you can dream it, and it involves mousse, I can make it. Or die trying. Ok, I probably won’t die. But a mousse-induced coma is a concern. It could happen.

fruit mousse on the bottom, hope on top.

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in cake, mousse

 

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balls of (salted caramel) cake.

I love cake balls. I have no idea why no one thought of this sooner, or if they did, market it sooner. Not only is it a great way to recycle cake crumbs, but it’s also a great way to control your dessert eating habits. When a slice of cake or a cupcake is put in front of you, you’re gonna eat it.  The same goes for a cake ball, but it’s about 1/3 the size of a cupcake, if even that, and you have the choice of whether to reach for another, or slap yourself on the hand and cut yourself off after 1 (or even 2 – that’s still not even a whole cupcake).

Not to mention, cake balls are super easy to transport, and resist the heat of summer better than the average cupcake, since the icing is mixed in with the cake, rather than piled on top.

So, my decision to make cake balls to bring to an outdoor pool party this past weekend was an easy one. I had some salted caramel cake left over and a bit of the icing as well. So, that settled that. Everyone loves salted caramel, so I really couldn’t go wrong. However, I wanted to add a little something extra to the balls. I whipped up some caramel, and drizzled it across the top of each one, adding  that extra touch of fabulousness. 

have a ball.

Also unlike a cake or cupcakes, I took none home. All the balls were gone. I was kinda bummed about that. I guess I’ll just have to make more and keep them all to myself, completely defeating the purpose of the cake ball to begin with.

By the way, a few of the party guests commented that these tasted like pancakes (and that’s a wonderful thing).

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in cake balls

 

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cinnamonamonamon!!

The Swedish Chef isn’t the only one who loves cinnamon. It’s hard not to love it – it’s also hard to describe what makes it so lovable. When I think of adjectives to describe cinnamon, I think of brown,  bitter, pungent… none of which sound like things one would love. However, something about cinnamon is incredibly irresistible. When its smell comes wafting out of a warm, just baked dessert…it’s all over. You lose. Cinnamon – 1, you – 0.

 It’s not just for winter either. When mixed with the proper compatibles, cinnamon can add the perfect spice to your summer treats. 

I would not have experimented with cinnamon in the summer though, had it not been for a friend who loves it so much, she begged me to include it in a dessert I had planned to make for a going away party we were both attending. I figured, what the hey – I’ll give it a shot.

I started with a chocolate cake base - the person who the party was for actually requested chocolate, so I figured I should honor that since it was his party. I added some cinnamon to the batter. I tasted. Mmmm…this was going well…

I whipped up a batch of caramel cinnamon buttercream, which I crafted the recipe for on the fly. The result:

come "cin" with me.

So yeah, this experiment in cinnamon was a success. I am adding these to my standard year-round cupcake offerings – cinnamon isn’t seasonal anymore.

 

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