Thanksgiving is this week! Are you ready? I know that I most certainly am not…… The holidays are a very busy time for me as a professional pastry chef; the holiday parties, charity events and the endless amounts of pies leave very little time to prepare for my own celebrations. This lack of time makes it necessary for me to create easy and elegant dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Sweet Potato Brûlée is simple, unique and easy to prepare ahead of time. The best part is your guests will think you slaved for hours, and only you will know the truth!
Saffron is a beautiful spice that is plucked from the center of a crocus flower. Each strand is hand harvested from the flower, and it is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron has a sweet earthy flavor, and imparts a yellow-orange color into any dish it is composed with. It is most commonly used in risottos, Indian dishes and Persian cuisines.
Today I received an email from one of my favorite retailers. It stated that they will not be decking the halls until November 27th. They stated that the Thanksgiving holiday is a time for their employees and customers to give thanks for all they are blessed with, and that decking the halls takes away from the holiday. I have to agree. As a child I have wonderful memories of gathering around the thanksgiving table with family. Each family member was blessed with the task of bringing one dish to pass. Our family was so big that we had to set up dinner in my grandparents' basement on the biggest table they owned -- the ping pong table. There was nothing extraordinary about the table until Thanksgiving Day. It was beautifully transformed with white linens, fine china, flowers and candles. A buffet table of saw horses and boards was constructed close to the table and expertly transformed into an elegant buffet with table linens and silver platters. As we gathered around the table, I remember thinking that it seemed as though no time had passed since the last Thanksgiving. I silently gave thanks for having such a great extended family and family traditions.
Banket is a Dutch treat -- a puff pastry-like dough filled with an almond paste mixture, then baked to a golden brown. It is a delicious morning treat (or anytime) -- a perfect match with a hot cup of good coffee. I was introduced to Banket as a young child. You see, both my mother's side of the family and my father's side are 100% Dutch. When it comes to pastries, the Dutch love almond paste. Not a single family of Dutch heritage is without some recipe that contains this beloved paste.
The craft beer movement has been gaining popularity over the last decade. My husband has been an avid home brewer for the past 15 years. It began for us in Seattle, continued on to Iowa, three years in beautiful So. California and, most recently, back home to Michigan. Each region has many independent craft brewing companies; Stone in So. Cali., Pyramid in Seattle, Cedar Brewing in Cedar Rapids and, of course, Founders in Grand Rapids are some of the small craft brewing companies that have gained popularity over the past few years.
These brownies are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, with an intense dark chocolate flavor. Fudgy and dense, then coated in rich chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with peanut butter cups. Who could resist? Chocolate peanut butter ganache brownies are the perfect three bite sweet -- so rich and delicious, that one is all you need. These brownies are sure to impress even the pickiest of brownie connoisseur.
It’s that time of year once again; the pumpkins are popping up in every grocer and on neighbors' porches. Giant ones, orange ones, white ones, warty ones, multi-colored ones and, of course, the very versatile pie pumpkin ones. The pie pumpkin can be cleaned, roasted and pureed, then made into delicious pumpkin desserts. Alas, I don’t have the time to roast my own beautiful pumpkin puree, so I use the next best thing -- canned.
Imagine yourself driving down a curving mountain highway. The scenery is breathtaking, and the road treacherous. As you approach the base of the mountainous highway you look to your right and spy acres and acres of citrus groves. If you are lucky, it is early spring and the trees are blossoming. There is no more heavenly smell than citrus blossoms. You roll down your window, and breathe in the sweet and citrusy aroma of the blossoms. A farm stand approaches in the horizon, which prompts you to stop and procure a bag full of farm grown lemons and oranges.
I had the honor of co-hosting the rehearsal dinner for my brother and his beautiful wife-to-be this past weekend. While I enjoy the savory part of dinner, ultimately my passion lies with pastry. So, of course, I had to include a few desserts in the dinner. My brother and his fiancée love chocolate, particularly chocolate and peanut butter. I created a chocolate peanut butter cup cupcake in their honor; rich, delicious and not too sweet when you use bittersweet chocolate cocoa.
The leaves begin to fall, the weather starts to turn, and there is a crispness in the air. Fall has begun to show its colors, and my mind turns to baking. This time of year I bake with rich savory spices; spices that fill the house with their aroma. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are a few that come to mind.