Eat, Write, Retreat Culinary Challenge: Fig and Rosemary Scones.


In less than one month, I’ll be attending the Eat, Write, Retreat! Conference which just so happens to be in my home city of Philadelphia this year! I’m so excited to be taking part in this wonderful opportunity to meet other bloggers, eat delicious dishes, and of course, write all about it!

As an attendee, I’m also taking part in the Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge the conference is running! We are all assigned a secret ingredient, and tasked with creating an appetizer based on said ingredient. Being a baker, I of course went with something, well, you know….baked.

My ingredient was California Figs. I love figs! But I haven’t really incorporated them into my baking that much in the past, so this was my chance! I couldn’t have been happier to create something using a new ingredient that I also happen to adore!

gettin' figgy with it.

gettin’ figgy with it.

As much as I loved eating figs, I had no idea of their nutritional benefits prior to this challenge! Figs are a great source of fiber, for starters. They’re also rich in antioxidants (even richer than red wine!), and they’re an all-natural energy source, which makes them perfect as a pre-workout snack (looks like I’ll be eating some figs before my next marathon!).

So without further adieu…’s my creation! Hope you enjoy baking them as much as I did. 🙂


Fig and Rosemary Scones


What you’ll need:

2 cups flour (sifted)

4 teaspoons baking power

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup shortening

¾ cup half and half

½ cup Dried California Black Mission Figs (chopped)

1 tbsp rosemary (finely chopped)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the shortening until the mixture has a fine crumb texture.

may i cut in?

may i cut in?

Mix in the chopped figs and rosemary.  Stir in the half and half with a fork so it makes a soft dough. Knead the dough with clean hands about 10 times – do not overknead – it will become too stiff!



Break off roughly shaped pieces (just larger than a golf ball) and place  them on a greased cookie sheet. The shape doesn’t matter – the rougher the better – it gives them a more rustic look! Bake for 12 – 15 minutes (or until the edges being to turn golden brown).  Makes 22 – 24 scones.

rustically delicious.

rustically delicious.

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #7: Wittamer.


I walked out the door of Passion Chocolat (Stop 6#), turned right, walked a few steps, and BAM! There was Wittamer. They were so close, I was completely caught off guard, and a little bummed – this did not give me much of a walk to burn off any chocolates eaten thus far.( I’d come to find that I’d definitely make that up later on.) But I was content nonetheless, to enter my next destination on the list…

Stop #7: Wittamer.


Wittamer was pink. That was the first thing I noticed.

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

Now I like pink. Just ask anyone who knows me. This place was super pink. I’d even call it Super Pinky. I didn’t mind. For most of us, pink = sweet = desserts. And Wittamer sure had some good ones. In fact, this was the first shop that had actual desserts other than chocolates. There was a whole display case dedicated to pastries incorporating chocolate in some form.

it's a pastry party.

it’s a pastry party.

I teetered along the fence of getting a straight up piece of chocolate or going with a full on pastry. The tour was technically a chocolate shop tour so I should probably get some chocolates, but the pastries had chocolate in them and I’ve eat nothing but chocolates for dessert for like, 24 hours now….

I went with the pastry.

hello, happiness.

hello, happiness.

I selected the Nid Marron.  I had no idea what was in it. I’d never seen anything like it before. I could not wait to get back to the hotel and try it out. I carried it around to two more shops and about 20 tourist locations before finally going back and digging in.

make her open the box.

make her open the box.

I placed the box on my little balcony table and delicately opened it. I could not believe how beautiful it was up close. Not to mention, it’s heavenly smell.

c'est bon!

c’est bon!

I took a bite. I hadn’t planned on eating the entire thing, but after that first bite, there was no turning back.

as beautiful on the inside.

as beautiful on the inside.

I still didn’’t really know what I was eating. I tasted a little chocolate….something nutty….whipped cream….custard? It was flat out fabulous! I needed to know what made this pastry hands-down one of the best I’ve ever had. So I started googling. I looked up “Nid Marron Pastry” and found a recipe entirely in French and some photos, all from the same blog post,  also in French, which showed various versions from different shops in Paris (some of which I visited on the  Paris Patisserie Tour, but I did NOT see this bad boy anywhere – I would have remembered).  What I did learn from this French blog was that this dessert was apparently also known as a “Mont Blanc.” So…I googled that and there it was.  And there were even some recipes, in English!

Hallelujah! Mont Blanc, here I come!

Next up, way out on the other side of town – Stop #8, Zaabar: the Ikea of chocolate shops.

Baking Baklava: the only thing to fear is fear itself.

I’m pretty sure the first time I’d ever heard of Baklava was from the Disney movie Aladdin. At least, that’s the first time I remember being conscious of what it actually was. I’d certainly never eaten it before that point, and honestly, didn’t even eat it until quite some time after. And when I did finally eat it for the first time in all it’s delicious nutty syrup-y glory, I never in a million years thought, “One day I’m gonna make this myself!”

My how times change.

Even after two years of pastry school, I still hadn’t made it though, so when I was presented with the challenge of making it, I admit, I was nervous. I’m supposed to be good at this – what if it’s a giant fail? I couldn’t bear to face that potential outcome, so, I decided to make it and only reveal the finished product if it turned out decent.

I started with the nut mixture – almonds, walnuts and pistachios. So far, so good.

I then began the layering process – Phyllo dough sheets, nuts, more sheets, more nuts…

…until no nuts remained.

what lies beneath…

Next, I had to cut it. I was nervous about this part – one false move could end the whole thing.

a cut above.

Next up, baking. While it baked, I made the syrup. I also sampled the syrup – repeatedly. After I was finally 100% sure that it was, in fact, unbelievably delicious, I removed the baked baklava from the oven, poured the syrup carefully over top, and garnished it with finely chopped pistachios.


Success! I waited until it cooled down, and ate a piece just make sure it passed the smell, sight AND taste test. This morning, again to be 100% sure, I had to have another piece. Now, it’s up to the people to decide its fate tomorrow, when I unleash my baklava out into the world (and by world, I mean my co-workers). 🙂

The Paris Patisserie Tour, Stop #6: Cafe Pouchkine.

So this was it – the last leg of the tour. And from the looks of the map, my last stop was very close to my previous one, Pierre Hermé. So I walked, and looked at the map; and walked some more, and looked at the map; and walked some more, and turned the map in all sorts of directions. I could not for the life of me, find this place. I walked back and forth up the same street. It started raining (but I really didn’t mind, after all I was in Paris). I started wondering if the map was wrong. Clearly I was on the right street at this point. I happened to look over and even saw a street number. So i counted in my mind where the cafe should be, and found nothing but a giant department store. I walked past the store and reached the end, and knew I’d gone too far. I didn’t come all this way and get this far on the tour to be thwarted. So I headed back and gave it one more try. I walked back, counting numbers again, and reached the corner where the cafe “should” be. I happened to glance down the street, and lo and behold, there it was – hidden on the side street, with not-so-eye-catching signage. Regardless, I had found it, and I practically ran through the rain to finally get to my last stop on the tour:

Stop #6: Cafe Pouchkine.

you can’t hide from me.

I made my way inside – they did have an adorable little sidewalk cafe seating area, however it was raining steadily at this point, so I decided to go in, and at least dry off while I ordered. Turned out, they also had a counter with seating inside, however it was somewhat cramped. There seemed to be a couple of empty seats though, so I thought I’d try to snag one. I ordered a Tutti Frutti, which at first I thought was a fruit tart, with frozen pieces of fruit piled on top.

Bop bopa-a-lu a whop bam boo.

I ordered, and as I was paying, I asked if I could sit at the counter. At first, the madame behind the counter seemed agreeable to this suggestion; until she offered me a drink, and I declined. I could see her face change – it was as if I was breaking a cardinal rule of counter-sitting by eating and not drinking. Reluctantly she pointed me over to the counter, and eventually delivered my Tutti Frutti. I will say that it was delicious – however it wasn’t a fruit tart. It was more like a slice of cake, with a gelatinous blob of melon-y fruit filled with strawberry syrup on top, piled high with frozen fruit globes.

inside edition.

I ate the entire thing, without drinking, and left. It was tasty and refreshing, and really was the perfect ending to my tour, even if the cafe itself wasn’t  the most personable. I’d definitely go back for the desserts – and just hope that Miss Congeniality was off that day. Or maybe, next time I’ll just order a drink.

So, this concludes my Walking Patisserie Shop Tour of Paris. It was worth every step and calorie. My only regret was not getting to all 11 original shops on the list. That just gives me a really good reason to go back (as if I needed a reason). 🙂

Bon Appétit!

The Paris Patisserie Tour, Stop #3: La Boulangerie Jean-Noël Julien.

I’m not gonna lie: La Boulangerie Jean-Noël Julien was not on my original list. Stop #3 was originally intended to be at Philippe Gosselin. After wandering around in circles searching for Rue St. Honore for what had to be at least 45 minutes, I finally found it, but I was of course, blocks away from Philippe Gosselin. So I headed down the Rue, and along the way, happened to pass La Boulangerie Jean-Noël Julien. I was intrigued, and thought about going in, but as it was not on my list and had I not been lost for so long, I decided to just keep going.

Well, I did finally reach Philippe Gosselin….and it was closed. Now, I couldn’t tell if it was closed for the night or forever, but it looked pretty abandoned. I hung my head in defeat. All that wandering around in circles for nothing! I turned to leave, and then suddenly, I remembered the bakery I passed and almost stopped in just a couple blocks earlier! All was not lost! I put on a happy face, and headed back towards my new

Stop #3: La Boulangerie Jean-Noël Julien.

I liked this place. They had bread – a lot of it. The first two shops had no bread. And I love bread. I’d marry bread, if that were legal. Anyway, I couldn’t decide what to get – and they did not speak english here, which was ok – I knew the names of all the pastries/breads from school, and really, that was all the info I needed. The breads were all really big though – and I was only going to be there for another 24 hours, so purchasing an entire loaf just seemed like a waste. Then I saw it, there, glistening under the glass, whispering to me in french – “Jeanine! Achetez-moi!”. Thankfully, my name is the same in french and english, so I knew it was talking to me. I approached the counter. “Un palmier,” I spoke softly, in practically perfect french (but pointed to it, just in case).

big, buttery, and beautiful.

It was big. Light, but big. There were no seats in this shop, so I had to take it to go, but they wrapped in the perfect pastry paper. I almost saved the wrapper, I liked it so much.

Parisian pastry paper.

Anyway, I carried the giant palmier all the way back to the cafe next to my hotel, and wound up eating it for dessert after my dinner, which, because I had eaten so many pastries was rather scant. Yet, so very french.


olives and wine: it’s what’s for dinner.

The palmier was delicious, by the way. I ate the entire thing, and it was flakey, and sweet, and ended my first day of the tour on a high. So it’s true what they say – when one pastry shop closes, another one opens. And you should always be sure to go in.

To be continued in the next post: Stop #4: Angelina. Hot chocolate is not just for kids anymore.


We’ll always have Paris.

I am going to go back to Paris. My last visit was almost 10 years ago, and it was I believe for only about 4 days. It was a lovely time though, and I loved France as much as I always knew I would. This time, however, I’m not planning on going for a visit. I’m planning on going for more of an extended stay. Have I booked this trip yet? No. Have I planned out any of the hows, whens, whats or whys? Heck no. I have done no planning other than watch Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” and purchase a book I just happened to stumble across the next day called “Living Abroad in France,” which clearly was a sign from the universe so I had to buy it.

As you can see, this was a hasty decision. Although I may have made the decision to go in haste, I have not actually gone. I have no firm date for when this parisian relocation will take place. Nor have I figured out how long it would be for. 6 months? 1 year? As long as I shall live? I haven’t the faintest idea. The only thing I know for sure is that I will go; oh, yes, I will go.

we've all got dreams.


So that’s my plan: to wander around Paris, eating (and making) pastries, wearing a beret, looking at art, and experiencing life. (Ok, I admit it – it’s mostly for the pastries.) 😉

"Paris-Brest" we made in pastry school. I've got a head start!

No time for love, Dr. Jones.

Or for blogging. The hecticness of the holidays has begun. Throw in pastry school finals, and some minor family drama, and sadly, my favorite pastime has been sent to the back-burner (I love a good oven pun). But not for long! With graduation a little over a week away, I’m going to have so much free time I’m not going to know where to begin. It’s been so long, I forget how to have free time. But one thing I know for sure, this newly found freedom will definitely include a lot of baking and blogging. So hang tight, young grasshoppers. For every oven door that closes, another one opens. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of plated desserts from my class (that’s almost over!).

Chocolate Marquise (with edible Tuile spoon).

have your dessert and eat the spoon.


Chocolate Lava Cake (with mini meringue ice cream sandwich).

you'll lava it.


Gingerbread Cake (with poached pear).

what a lovely pear.


and finally: Apple Strudel (with cinnamon ice cream).



Stay tuned – they’ll be much more to come when I have no class….

petits plaisirs.


I used to be able to speak French. I was not completely fluent, however I had a few dreams entirely in french and could have functioned with minimal confusion had I gone to France during that time. I did not go to France then, I went years later, when I remembered little, but I still loved it. And contrary to popular opinion, not a single person was rude, nasty, or unhelpful. In fact,  it was quite the opposite – strangers helped me when I was lost in Charles de Gaulle (the most confusing airport on the planet) and when I accidentally left my scarf in a restaurant, a quite handsome Garçon literally ran out of the place and chased me down the street, shouting “Mademoiselle! your scarf!” I love the french.

viva la france!

Anyway, I’ve decided to relearn French. There are a few contributing factors to this decision, one being that I think everyone should know at least 2 languages, another being that I’ve always j’adored everything French, even as a jeune fille. However, as I learn more and more about pastry-making, things seem to be getting more and more French. And je me sens triste when I don’t know what these words mean, nor can I figure out how to pronounce them. So, I’ve decided to remedy that, with a little French refresher course, a book on conversational French, and ultimately, a trip back to the country itself sometime in the next year (woo hoo!). 

One of these hard-to-prounounce-and-even-harder-to-make french desserts that just crossed my path in my class is a Croquembouche.  The name literally translates to ‘crunch in the mouth’, and had I still retained any French, I would have figured that out on my own. However, I would never have been able to figure out how to make the thing on my own. Personally, I’m not even sure one person can make it. We made our Croquembouche as a team in class, dipping cream puffs filled with creme mousseline into caramel, and stacking them up into a cone-shaped tower, the caramel forming the glue. This, my friends, is no easy feat. Stacking them evenly, leaning them in just so the cone shape is achieved, not getting scarred for life by burning hot caramel…these are things that come with practice. However, I was proud of my team’s first ever Croquembouche. And we had fun making it. 🙂 

c'est magnifique!

Vivre la vie, mes amies! And try some Croquembouche. Not only was it magnifique, but it was also tres delicieux (and I should know as I ate tres much of it)!


queens of pastry.


I was thinking last night about pastries and women.

I was thinking about the field of “pastry arts” and how it really is still a male-dominanted field. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of super amazing famous female pastry chefs– Jenifer Fournier and Mindy Segal, to name two of my personal pastry idols. But whenever I come across a “Top Ten Pastry Chef’s” or pastry awards type thing, the winners are always mostly men. This years “pastry oscars,” formally known as Dessert Professional Magazine’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs of 2011 had but one woman, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez , on its list. And as I glance at the coffee table in front of me, there just so happens to be the July issue of Food & Wine Magazine with the headline “Best New Chefs” and an accompanying photo of said chefs, among which, again, is one woman. 

the pastry top ten of 2011.

This is certainly not the faults of these competitions – I don’t sit at home and think the world is against woman or trying to keep us down or anything like that. It’s just a fact – there are significantly less woman then men among the ranks of the elite in the pastry world.  Even with this notion glaring obviously everywhere we turn, there are two things that make me question how it can be so:

1. My pastry class has a ratio of 10:1, women to men. There are 20 women in the class and 2 men. Neither are better than the other.  The instructors, on the other hand, have the opposite ratio. So the plot thickens.

2. When you think of baking, you naturally think of women. It’s not being sexist – it’s just a fact. If you close your eyes, and imagine someone baking a cake, it’s probably someone that looks like your mom, in the kitchen, whipping up something from your grandmother’s catalog of “secret recipes.” Everyone seems to use their grandmother’s secret recipes – not their grandfather’s.

So I just don’t get it. I suppose it could be that the pastry field has just in recent years opened up to include more women. But then, what about all the grandmothers? Sure, I know all about women’s history, and the women’s lib movement. But is that really the reason there are so few woman in the field today? There are plenty of fields where this is just not the case. And, based on what I see in my class, there is no shortage of talented women entering the field.

What sent these particular wheels spinning in my mind was my teacher’s recommendation to watch the documentary, “Kings of Pastry.” I am going to watch it – it looks like something I’d totally dig. But why is it all Kings? Where are the Queens of Pastry? Come on pastry queens, let’s show these guys what we can do. 🙂

just call me the queen of tarts.

FYI: I did not make these tarts in the photo all by myself – it was a team effort and I’m honored to work with such an incredibly talented team.  🙂