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Tag Archives: valentine’s day

The Great White Chocolate Debate.

white chocolate

Over the weekend, I took part in WHYY’s 5th Annual Chocolate Tasting. I love WHYY, and have since I was a wee lass, so I’m happy to do anything that promotes them and helps raise money to keep them doing what they’re doing. It’s good stuff, and good people. 

Anyway, this year, I made over 400 Oreo and cream cheese truffles to support the event. I use the term “I made” loosely, as my boyfriend stayed up until almost 1 AM on Valentine’s Day to help me get them all dipped in chocolate and ready to go. He’s a very dedicated and hard-working assistant, not to mention a fast learner. So yeah, I had help.

There were to be two varieties: plain Oreo with milk chocolate coating, and mint Oreo with white chocolate coating. They looked like so:

a team effort.

a team effort.

 

So needless to say, before we let them leave the house, we had to taste them. Being a white-chocolate lover since I received my very first Easter basket, I went for the white, whereas my BF went straight for the milk chocolate, claiming he’s not a fan of white chocolate. That got me thinking – white chocolate really is not for everyone. You never hear someone say “Yeah, white chocolate is just ok.” It’s either “Mmmm!! I LOVE white chocolate!” or “Eww! I HATE white chocolate!” usually accompanied by “It’s not even REAL Chocolate!” Yes, that’s true – white chocolate is basically chocolate with the chocolate removed, which therefore logically speaking would make it not chocolate.

white not-chocolates?

white not-chocolates?

I have a theory though. If we were to globally wage a campaign to change the name of white chocolate to something else – removing the “chocolate” from the name in the same fashion it’s been removed from the confection itself – i think more people would accept it and enjoy it. No, it does not taste like chocolate – and by giving it a name that would lead folks to believe it does can be deceiving, and frankly, turn people off before they even give it a real chance. I think a new name would solve this problem, and give white chocolate the love it rightfully deserves. Of course, I have no idea what that name should be…White Not-chocolate? But that still has “chocolate” in the name itself and also just sounds too negative. White Candy? That’s a little generic and no one will have a clue as to what they’re about to eat. White Cocoa Butter? That’s a little better…but the “cocoa” could still cause confusion. White Sugar Butter? That actually sounds kinda gross. I don’t know….any suggestions? 

 

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Shimmy, Shimmy, Coconut Cake (with Lemon Buttercream).

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My Mom’s birthday recently passed (she share’s her special day with Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of fact), and of course I did what I do best, and baked her a birthday cake. Last summer, I had made a Lemon Coconut Cake that she was particularly fond of, and went as far as saying that I should make that cake for her. So…that’s just what i did. I used my recipe for the cake (you can find it here), but I did something a little different for the frosting this time. Instead of using lemon juice or real lemons, I used lemon extract. I know, it sounds like cheating; but if you had tasted this icing, you’d cheat too. It may have been my favorite icing to date, and I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts! If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself – the recipe is at the end of this post You can thank me later.

baked birthday bliss.

baked birthday bliss.

Once I had iced the cake with the lemon buttercream and covered it with fresh coconut, I felt like something was still missing. It needed a topper. The cake I made last summer had a cherry on top – that looked great! But I didn’t have any cherries…so I began scanning the kitchen for something that could work. Being it was just before Valentine’s Day, I had a container of conversation hearts just sitting on the table. I scoured them all, in search of the perfect message for the top of my mom’s cake. And there it was: “For You.”  Because, that’s what is was, after all.

pure and simple.

pure and simple.

My mom loved the cake, and just as I  had hoped, she sent me home with about a third of it. Don’t worry, I shared it with friends – only after eating a large piece myself, of course. :)

Anyway, as promised, here is the new Lemon Buttercream recipe. Enjoy!!

Lemon Buttercream (new and improved version!).

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (room temperature)

4 oz shortening

1 lb 6 oz confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp lemon extract

1/2 oz water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment. Add the lemon extract and water, mix until shiny. If you want a thinner consistency, just add more water.

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in birthday, cake, Recipe Sunday, recipes

 

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Never Too Late for Love.

Yes, I know Valentine’s Day was 4 days ago….but I was busy playing Cupid and never got the chance to post the pictures of my 2013 Valentine’s Commemorative Treats. Instead, I spent the day giving them out, and helping make others’ Valentine’s Day a little more special. I can totally get into this Cupid thing.

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Cupid, draw back your bow…

Anyway,I had been having so much fun dipping cookies in chocolate, that I decided to keep the fun going with some cupcakes. So, the night before Valentine’s Day, I whipped up a batch of pound cake cupcakes, and because it was a special occasion, even added a little something extra to the batter…

liquid love.

liquid love.

I baked these little love gems, and allowed them to cool completely.

and it begins.

and it begins.

Once cooled, I dipped the tops of them in melted chocolate, dipping half of them in red…

red, the color of desire.

red, the color of desire.

…and half of them in pink.

think pink.

think pink.

I topped each with a conversation heart, and hand delivered them to folks the next day as my personal “Valentines.” I had really wanted to give out Valentines this year anyway, and was going to have cards made up, however converting desserts into Valentines seemed like a much better way to truly spread the love. And who doesn’t love a cupcake?

 

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Half Moons (aka Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookies).

chocs

One of my favorite things to use my baking ability for is supporting a good cause. Last night, I did just that. I participated in an event called “Chocolate”, hosted by local public television station, WHYY. Not only has WHYY been around since I was kid, but it was on this very station where I faithfully watched Sesame Street everyday, and still could to this day, if I so desired. A childhood without Sesame Street is like a cake without icing. Or, a cookie without chocolate. Sure, a chocolate chip cookie can be an amazing snack on its own – but have you ever had one dipped in chocolate? I decided to give back to the community by offering up this very thing. I started with my very own dream cookie recipe.

a dough to build a dream on.

a dough to build a dream on.

I made two varieties – the standard chocolate you see pictured here, and an alternate version with white chocolate chips. I baked them into cookies.

what comes is better than what came before.

what comes is better than what came before.

Now here’s where I was alone, I took a right, I didn’t know what I would find there. I cut all of the cookies in half while they were still a little warm and let them cool. Next, I took each of the “half moons” and dipped it entirely into melted chocolate. Milk chocolate for the milk chocolate chips….

it's getting better all the time.

it’s getting better all the time.

…and white chocolate (colored pink in honor of Valentine’s Day) for the white chocolate chips.

pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I did some in plain white as well, for the sake of variety. I put them on display and left it up to the people to decide their fate.

The results: two days of baking, cutting and dipping over 400 half moons – all vanished in less than two hours. Cutting them in half way key – a full-sized dipped cookie would have just been too big and too rich. But a half? Now THAT’S the perfect Small Indulgence.

 

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Recipe Wednesday: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

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So before I get into the Chocolate Shop Tour of Brussels, I really wanted to share this recipe for the cookies I made last night, not only because they turned out so good, but also because I feel I’ve been neglecting the kitchen lately, having not baked anything for almost 3 weeks, and neglecting the kitchen means neglecting sharing recipes; and as we all know sharing is caring. So because I care, I made Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

The only problem was that I couldn’t decide if i should use regular Reese’s cups or the Reese’s hearts. Valentine’s Day is not so far off, so the hearts seemed appropriate, however, I wanted to make sure that upon first glance, one could tell these were peanut butter cup cookies. So, when in doubt, use both and just make more cookies.

When all was said and done, I had about half of them that were the classic “cup”…

the cup we all know and love.

the cup we all know and love.

….and half that were a chocolate and peanut butter homage to love.

melt my heart.

melt my heart.

I started with a recipe from The Hershey’s Cookbook for those peanut butter Hershey’s Kiss Cookies. I made a few minor adjustments, swapped the kiss with the cup (or heart), and created a cookie masterpiece for peanut butter cup lovers everywhere.  Beware: the dough is a little bit TOO good. I believe I may have eaten about 4 cookies worth of dough before I even started baking them. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit more restraint than I. :)

 

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

What you’ll need:

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup shortening

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

48 mini Reese’s cups or Reese’s hearts (or some combo of the two totaling 48)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter and shortening. Add in the sugar and brown sugar, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add egg, half and half, and vanilla, and mix well. In a  separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture, 1/3 at a time, beating well between each addition. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and using a small ice-cream scoop, scoop and shape the dough into one inch balls. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges. While they are baking unwrap your chocolates, so you have them on hand and ready to go. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, start pressing the cups/hearts into the cookies (they will crack around the edges – that’s ok). Remove them from the baking sheet, and let them cool completely.

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xoxo

 

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Recipe (two days after) Sunday: Valentine’s Day Petits Fours (Part 2)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Petits Fours are done, and have been shared with the world (and by world, i mean my office) on this fine love-commemorating holiday. When we last saw them, the petits fours were assembled, and chillin’ like Bob Dylan. Next step – they get iced with poured fondant. Here’s the recipe.

Poured Fondant.

What you’ll need:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup water

1 TBSP glucose or light corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 drops red food coloring (to make it pink)

What you’ll do:

In a saucepan, heat the confectioners sugar, water, and corn syrup, stirring constantly until smooth. Add the vanilla, and stir until its thin enough to pour, but coats the back of the spoon.

Place the petits fours on a wire rack, above a sheet tray (to catch the run-off, which can be reheated and reused). Using a ladle, pour fondant over top of the petits fours, one at a time, making sure to completely cover all the sides. You will most likely need to reheat the fondant at some point. I had to, a couple of times.

Plop a conversation heart on top while they are still warm, so it sticks. Let them cool completely, and start sharing the love. :)

edible love.

 

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Recipe Sunday: Valentine’s Day Petits Fours (Part 1).

Rather than upset myself by staying up extra late to complete a project that would turn out much better if I exercised a little patience and spread it out over two days, I’ve decided to break this Recipe Sunday into two parts. Tonight, is the prep. Also, this is a little different from previous Recipe Sundays. It does include recipes, however, it’s more of a project tutorial, rather than a lesson in baking. I’m not going to provide a recipe for the cake itself, mainly because these can be made with any flavor of cake you choose, but I recommend something basic – vanilla, chocolate, red velvet…something that blends well with others. There are three other components as well:

Strawberry Jam (Recipe previously posted here)

Cream Cheese Icing (Recipe included below)

Poured Fondant (Recipe included in Part 2)

And away we go….

Valentine’s Day Petits Fours (Part 1).

First, make your cake of choice. Bake it in a well-greased half sheet tray – you wont have to cut the layers in half mulitple times if you do it this way. Next, prepare your….

Cream Cheese Icing.

What you’ll need:

1 8oz package cream cheese (softened)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (softened)

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the confectioners sugar one cup at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Next, prepare your Strawberry Jam. Let it cool completely.

While that’s cooling, you can prep your cake. Cut cake into small squares, about an 1″ in size.

hip to be square.

Cut the squares in half, lining up the tops and bottoms.

divide and conquer.

Drop a small amount of strawberry jam on each “bottom.”

Radar about to be “jammed.”

Pipe some cream cheese icing on top of the jam.

top that.

Put the corresponding tops back on, cover the entire sheet with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge.

put it back on!

Go to bed.

To be continued…..

 

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cupcake love.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. However, I must pay homage to it, because, if it had not been created by large corporations to generate sales in an otherwise dead time of the year, I may not have ever found my way into baking. For it was my lack of gift ideas many, many years ago that led to my first attempt at really creating confections. Sure, I’d made box cakes before that  – with jarred icing. Nothing fancy – no decorating, or writing or anything of that sort. So while looking through the pages of a magazine, I stumbled across decorated Valentine’s Day cupcakes, with personal messages, hearts, etc. “I can do that!” I ambitiously declared. So, I got some tubes of icing with some plastic decorating tips, and went to work. I wish I had a picture of them – they were – well, not like the ones in the magazine, to put it nicely. But they weren’t a cake wreck either. There was real potential there. My boyfriend at the time loved them too – they tasted even better than they looked, and he was impressed with the time I put into the gift. His reaction, combined with the fun I had making them, inspired me to keep at it.

So here I am, keepin’ at it.

Years later (I will not say how many, at the risk of revealing my true age), I’m still making cupcakes for Valentine’s Day. This year, I made a chocolate coffee cupcake, with coffee-infused frosting, and a thin mint Girl Scout Cookie on top.

nothing says love like baked goods.

Practice really does make perfect. And even though these cupcakes looked and tasted 10 times better than their ancestors, the reaction they garnered upon receipt was the same. So get out there and make something sweet for your sweety. Plus if you’re lucky, they’ll share with you. It’s a win-win.

 

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get your heart on.

 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I am not and have never been a fan of VD. I just don’t get it. It’s not because I’m bitter from spending it alone  (going on year 14 of being “coupled” on V-Day), nor do I have any Valentine’s Day horror stories. All in all, my V-Day history is a rather pleasant and even enjoyable one. The part I can’t stand is the “faux romance” it perpetuates. Contrary to the skeptical facade I put forth, I am and have always been a hopeless romantic. I believe in fate, destiny, and what is meant to be. I see signs pointing toward true love in everything. As I got older, I just learned to hide it better. Valentine’s Day on the other hand, is not a holiday for real romantics – it’s created for those who don’t know what romance is – for those who need to be reminded of what it means to be romantic. And son, if you need to be reminded, than you’ve got bigger problems than a teddy bear and saran wrapped heart full of chocolates could ever solve.

Anyway, as a creator of confections, however, I am required to embrace the holiday of hearts, and in that regard, I actually do. My love for baking Valentine’s Day goodies is inversely proportionate to my loathing of the holiday itself. In fact, it was Valentine’s Day cupcakes for an old boyfriend that opened the door to the land of confections for me to begin with. And I’ve upheld that tradition, and created something special for Valentines Day every year since.

This year, I bring you the two-tone heart sugar cookie.

cookies worth hearting.

  I mean, if you are going to give something to that special someone, make it something sweet, for the love of pete. Besides, you can enjoy it in the present.

 Just like love.

a little heart goes a long way.

PS.: If I don’t at least get some sweets for Valentine’s Day, it’s over. ;)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 31, 2011 in cookies, holidays, special occasion

 

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