Baking Crossroads.

I am at a point where I can’t decide what to bake. I have four things in mind, and each sound fantastic in their own way. Each are also very different – some more sweet, some more savory; some more dense, some more fluffy; some look pretty, some honestly, kinda don’t. Three of them I’ve made before; one I have not. One was a request, the others are just because. So…what should I do?? Maybe you can help.

Here are my four options:

#1: Irish Soda Bread.


This is one I’ve made before (actually twice before). It’s rather light, not overly sweet, kinda crumbly, and full of raisins. It’s also timely, with the pending arrival of St. Patrick’s Day. Did I mention how tasty it is?

#2: Beer Bread.

bread of beer.

bread of beer.

This one I’ve also made before, but apparently have never written about it. I was sure I had posted it when I made it last, although that was about 3 years ago, when I was just starting the blog, so I suppose it was overlooked. So that’s actually giving it an edge here. Also, my boyfriend is obsessed with fancy beer, so I have plenty of fun options to get creative with this time around!

#3: French Macarons.

the mac daddy.

the mac daddy.

I have definitely made these before AND posted about them. I also ate a bunch of them while on my Paris Patisserie Tour, back in the summer of 2012. I haven’t made them since then, and I’ve never made them in colors – only vanilla and chocolate in their natural state. I think because in Paris, they tasted so completely heavenly and looked so beautiful, I’ve been intimidated to make them ever since. I mean, come on – look at these:

the real thing.

the real thing.

Can I do that?? I’m not sure. But maybe it’s time to find out. PS – this one was the request. I do love baking something I know someone really wants…

#4: King Cake.

I have never made this, so i have no photo to provide. I have eaten it, and I have loved every bite. I have researched recipes, but they all seem pretty different, so I’m a little lost at where to start. The one that I’ve eaten and savored sort of reminded me of a cheese danish. But some recipes don’t even have any cheese products in them – so what am I to do?? I did come across one recipe that sounded like it would yield a very close result to the cake I call King. And I love a good experiment. So there’s that.

So, there you have it.  Four very deliciously different paths to head down, all leading to very equally appealing results. What’s a baker girl to do?? Help!

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini.


After a whirlwind first day of chocolate shop touring, I was able to nap, have a relaxing meal at a small bar/cafe called Au Soleil, which I highly recommend for both its drink selection and cozy and hip atmosphere. Not to mention its nifty wall art:


talk birdie to me.

After my leisurely dinner (which was a “wrap” – there were only about 5 items on the food menu, with no descriptions – however I was extremely lucky and the wrap turned out to be delicious) and a glass of framboise, I meandered back to my hotel, through the whimsically lit and lively musical streets of a Brussels’ Sunday evening. I slept extremely well, and woke up the next morning, refreshed and ready to take on the next lap of the tour, starting with:

Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini.


When you walk in to Pierre Marcolini, the very first thing you see is a giant disco ball. That was all it took – I knew I was going to love it here.

disco chocolate.

disco chocolate.

I began strolling around – this place was no joke. The chocolate was clearly high-end. The theme was modern, yet not stuffy – the staff mirrored that as well. I was asked if I needed help multiple times, in french of course. I scoped out the two counters and various wall displays, and realized this was going to be a tough decision.

the great wall.

the great wall.

As if it wasn’t hard enough already, I noticed in the back of the store what appeared to be a staircase…and sure enough, there was a second floor, beckoning me to come and get lost in a whole other chocolate dreamscape.

follow the black carpet stairs...

follow the black carpet stairs…

I followed the pointing hand, as if it had taken over my mind and my will, and went up the stairs to the second floor. I was not sorry.

up and away.

up and away.

I was lost in a dream, only I wasn’t dreaming. But if i were to dream up a chocolate shop, Pierre Marcolini would be it. Still in a haze, I wandered back down the stairs, with empty hands. I had no idea what to get. I wandered over near the counter, when a very handsome young man asked me if needed help. I was instantly brought back down to earth and said, “yes!” even though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted. I quickly turned, and grabbed a package of spiced chocolates that I had my eye on, not wanting him to move on to the next customer (and because they really did look amazing).



.I decided that I’d also get a few macarons, so I followed my new crush over to the other counter, where he packaged up three macarons I selected to eat later. As I paid for my goods, he began chatting with me in english, noticing first that I was left-handed (just like him, and what seemed to be the majority of people in Brussels, oddly) and asking me where I was from, etc. As he handed me my receipt and bag of earthly delights, he winked. I kid you not – I know what I saw. Practically skipping with glee out the door, I turned back one last time to get a look at the chocolate shop that would become my favorite of the tour, and my favorite Belgian dreamboat. Sigh.

As for the chocolate – it was excellent, as expected. It made it hard to eat plain old American chocolate ever again. Of course I still eat it, but with each bite, I feel a pang of longing for that fine Belgian….chocolate. I was going to say chocolate.

Next up, rather appropriately: Stop #6: Passion Chocolat – love is in the air…

The Paris Patisserie Tour, Stop #5: Pierre Hermé.

As I sipped my Angelina’s famous hot chocolate, I meandered through the streets of Paris toward my next destination, enjoying the sights, sounds, and most importantly – the taste – of the city. I eventually found my way to 39 Avenue de l’Opéra, which was not only a few blocks from the famed Opera House of Paris, but also home to:

Stop #5: Pierre Hermé.

reflections of…me in my sneakers.

I had promised myself I wouldn’t pick favorites, but that was before I stepped foot into Pierre Hermé Paris. The shop itself was stylish, clean, and classy – If i hadn’t known any better, I would have guessed it was a  high-end jewelry store – on the very high end of high-end. The employees were dressed in suits and ties; yet were warm and friendly, and welcomed all patrons equally. The macarons were just like you’d imagine – a gorgeous rainbow of colors, displayed impeccably under the counter, with each unique flavor sounding more decadent than the last. I was, of course going to sample them, however, I noticed the word “glace” on the front of the shop – my weakness for ice cream combined with the fact that I hadn’t had any for days made my decision easy. The salesman approached me, and I pointed to the sign behind him, and said only one word: “sorbet.” He smiled, quickly spun around and reappeared with a sorbet menu. I had never heard of combinations such as these – plus they were all sorbet sandwiches, with the “bread” of the sandwich being a large macaron. Oh, yes, you will be mine.  Sadly, I don’t recall exactly what flavor I ordered. But I did also order two macarons, and I do remember what flavor those were – rose (pink) and creme de menthe (green). After taking my order, the salesman disappeared momentarily; then returned, with the most exquisite presentation of purchased desserts I’d ever imagined.

they say you eat first with your eyes – and this made my eyes water.

After soaking in the presentation for a few moments, I paid for my desserts, and exited the shop (it was getting a bit crowded). I couldn’t wait to eat my sorbet sandwich, so I popped open the box the second I walked out the door. What I found inside, was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.

the lost ark.

It was at this point, I had a perfect moment: I walked along the Avenue l’Opera, eating my Pierre Hermé sorbet sandwich, heading directly toward the Opera House.

sing once again with me.

It was a very good day.

To be continued in the next post: Stop #6: Cafe Pouchkine – the final frontier.

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.

Recipe Sunday: Macarons.

I was thinking that I really don’t put enough recipes on the blog. So, in order to remind myself to post more recipes, I’m starting “Recipe Sunday.” Every Sunday, I’ll post a recipe for something I’ve baked, with accompanying photos. OR if you’d like to get the recipe for something I’ve previously baked, OR want to see if I might have a recipe you’re looking for OR want to challenge me to bake it (and I totally will) email, facebook or tweet me (hee hee), or leave a comment with your sweet treat of choice, and I’ll feature that in a future Recipe Sunday!

Now on to the recipe….

For the inaugural Recipe Sunday recipe, I chose something I just made this past week, which I’ve gotten a few requests for the recipe of, and ultimately prompted me to start this whole Recipe Sunday thing to being with:


that’s french for “macaron.”

Now, I did not create this recipe myself. It was given to me by one of my teachers at school. I have no idea where he got it from, or if he created it, but it’s different from other macaron recipes I’ve used, and it’s also better. That would explain why he’s the teacher.

What you’ll need:

1 oz  Egg Whites

4 oz  Confectioner’s Sugar

4 oz Almond Flour

1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract


1 oz  Egg Whites

2 oz Sugar

1 oz Water

What you’ll do:

In a bowl, mix together the first 4 ingredients (egg whites, confectioner’s sugar, almond flour, and vanilla). The result will be a thick-ish almond flavored pasty blob.

Put the second amount of egg whites in a mixing bowl with a whip attachment, and whip them to soft peaks. At the same time, heat the sugar and water in a pot on the stove to 230 F. Once it reaches that temperature, remove from heat and pour over whipping egg whites, and continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed. Fold this egg white mixture into the almond flavored pasty blob.

At this point, if you’d like to add color, do so.

Line a sheet tray with parchment paper, and with a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (anywhere from an #802 to #804 should work), pipe quarter-sized rounds. Once they’re all piped, dip your finger in water and push the “peak” down on each one, so they don’t bake with a point on top (and wind up looking a tad obscene).

Bake at 300 F for 8 – 10 minutes.

Once they’re cool, you can fill them with whatever you like. We used chocolate ganache, which is a very easy recipe:

What you’ll need:

4 oz  Dark Chocolate

4 oz  Heavy Cream

1 tsp  Butter

What you’ll do:

Bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour it over the chocolate (cut small). Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Grab a whisk, and put it in the dead center of the mixture. Slowly start rotating it, to make an emulsion. While you are doing this, add the butter (also cut small), and continue rotating the whisk, until a homogenous and shiny chocolate mixture is achieved. Let it cool for a few minutes, then put it in a pastry bag with an #802 tip, and pipe on half of the macaron. I piped all the “halves” and then placed their corresponding top on, but you can do this however you see fit. Either way, the result should look similar to this:

bringing sexy back.

And there you have it. Thanks for tuning in to the first episode of Recipe Sunday. If you make the recipe, be sure to let me know and send pics (unless they look better than mine). kidding!

return of the mac.

I’m not gonna lie – for a long time, I have feared the macaron. Not eating it – I love the things with all my sugary little heart – the light airy meringue-based “cookie” outside, and luscious rich creamy filling…and the colors! How can you not love a dessert that’s pastel! But making it…making macarons was something I’d never thought I’d be able to do. Especially without anyone ever teaching me directly.

But I’ve been getting braver in my old age, and having a classical pastry class in which we make meringue pretty much every single week, I started thinking, hmmm…maybe these lovely french gems are not so out of reach. So, I decided to embark on a marcaron-making journey. So, I bought a book.

mad macs: beyond thunderdome.

I highly recommend this book for its macaron facts, flavor suggestion combinations, and photos. However, I did not use the recipe. I decided to use the recipe in my text book from school instead (which had no macaron photos, but a very straightforward and easy-to-follow formula). Plus I’ve baked a ton of things from this book, so I knew it was reliable.

just the facts, ma'am.

My kitchen was a complete mess. My mixer was dirty. My food processor was dirty. At least 4 bowls were dirty. My shirt was dirty. But, sometimes you have to get down and dirty to win the fight.

Risin' up to the challenge of our rival.

I had done it. I had successfully created macarons. Now, since this was my first time, they of course can only get better. I piped them too big for starters – and I think I’d cut the sugar a bit next time around. But, overall, this was a baking victory. The underdog had defeated her #1 rival. Bring on the Russian.

just call me Rocky.