The new Grand Rapids Farmers market officially opened here in Michigan this past weekend! I love the farmers market; the sights, the smells and the people that gather to purchase fresh picked fruits and vegetables and baked goods. I love that small business owners, local farmers and the occasional home cook are given the opportunity to support themselves and grow their businesses. I even love the crowds.... But what I love most of all is the inspiration I gather from wandering the different vendors. It's magical.
Bread pudding and soufflés are two of the pastries that I have never made...can you believe that?! To be completely honest, I hadn’t even tried either one until a recent trip to New Orleans. I have a difficult time ordering desserts such as bread pudding when I am dining out because; a) I bake for a living, and b) If I am going to order dessert, it has to be unique and absolutely decadent. I have never really thought of bread soaked in a custard as either decadent or unique. Boy was I wrong! The bread pudding I had was creamy, sweet and absolutely decadent. I knew I had to put that on my checklist of desserts to recreate when I got back home. The recipe I chose is an adaptation of the recipe that is used at Bon Ton in New Orleans. I substituted the whiskey sauce for a creamy and delicious vanilla crème anglaise and omitted the raisins (I just don’t like raisins in pastries!). I also added chopped white chocolate (I like Callebaut chocolate), and I have to admit that it was absolutely divine!
My house is full of the aroma of baked goods; raspberry crumb bars, gooey caramel pecan bars and, my personal favorite, cinnamon pecan coffee cake. There is something very special and incredibly delicious about a really good coffee cake. The perfect way to start, or end, any day! This coffee cake is moist and rich, with sweet ribbons of cinnamon, and pecans enhancing the double-fold Madagascar vanilla extract that is used in this recipe.
The sun is out, the birds are chirping and the temperature is slowly climbing above freezing. I look out my office window and see the neighbor kids playing basketball in short sleeves, couples walking their dogs and others slowly emerging from winter hibernation. Spring seems to have finally found us! In celebration of green grass, fresh flowers and bountiful farmers markets to come, I have decided to celebrate with a bright and tangy tart -- a Meyer lemon and orange tart to be precise. Meyer lemons are a specialty lemon that is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They are typically sweeter and less acidic than traditional lemons making them a perfect choice for desserts and pastries.
I think it is essential that we send our children out into the world with a working knowledge of basic cooking skills! Essential skills such as how to boil pasta, create a stellar grilled cheese, bake chicken to the correct temperature, cream butter and sugar together to create a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie and, without a doubt, how to easily assemble a delicious chocolate mousse recipe. A great chocolate mousse recipe is the perfect tool to impress a date, woo a potential spouse, or soothe a broken heart.
Cooking with children is not only fun and builds fundamental skills such a fractions, whole numbers, science and reading, but it also creates wonderful memories. Chocolate mousse is a fantastic intermediate recipe to create with your pre-teen or teenager. Simply divide up the components of the recipe into the chocolate mixture, egg whites and whipped cream. Give the child (or children) the individual component and bring all the items together in the end to create the recipe.
Spring is almost here. I could not be more excited!
As a child, spring brought mud puddles, thunderstorms and tulips. Tulips are a garden staple here in Michigan. You know that spring is here to stay when tulips begin to pop through the cold winter soil. The tulips haven't shown up yet, and there is still a thin layer of snow in our front yard, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate spring's impending arrival with a classic spring dessert.
Profiteroles, or cream puffs as they are called here in the states, are a classic French dessert. You will most likely find them filled with a sweet whipped cream and garnished with a dusting of powdered sugar or hard caramel. My favorite is the latter version. I vividly remember going to the patisserie in Paris, and blissfully enjoying this light and filling pastry. I love the chewy texture of the Pâte à Choux (cream puff dough) the soft cream filling and the crunchy texture of the hard caramel glaze.
Pâte à Choux was one of the first desserts that I made and photographed after acquiring my first DSLR camera. It was also the first time that I realized that becoming a pastry chef may be well suited to me. Pâte à Choux may look daunting, but if you follow the steps to creating it, it is a very simple dough with extraordinary results. The dough is very elastic and sticky, but once you pipe out those little rounds and place them in the oven a little bit of magic happens. When the dough hits the hot air, the profiterole (cream puff) dough begins to rise to form a "puff", enabling you to fill them with a sweet and delicious filling of your choice. Be sure to bake them until they sound hollow when baking sheet is lightly tapped on, or they will deflate and you will ultimately have flat cream puffs (a lesson I learned once or twice).
Almonds and vanilla are a match made in heaven. Tahitian vanilla beans, fresh roasted almonds and sweet cream provide a decadent base for the second part of a scrumptious recipe I guarantee you will drool over. You may wonder what I am talking about... creamy, rich and decadent almond vanilla whipped cream. So deceptively simple to prepare, but impossible to resist.
Roses are red, violets are blue, Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I’m ready--are you? Dinner reservations, store bought candy and jewelry are certainly appreciated and show us that you care, but nothing is sweeter than homemade cupcakes!
Do you remember the vanilla candied lemon post, and how beautiful those bright yellow lemons looked in the jar? Did you look at those vanilla candied lemons and think, "I should make those!"? Maybe you made them, and now they stare at you every time you open the fridge door. You wonder, "What in the world am I going to do with these?" I have just the solution: lucious mini-lemon cheesecakes with vanilla candied lemon slices.