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 have been struggling to eat healthier, exercise more and limit the amount of sweets I consume throughout the day. Most days I am really good at it, but some days not so much.... I have expressed to you in previous posts that I have no problem eating chocolate cake, cold out of the fridge for breakfast, but I haven't told you my ultimate weakness! I love anything salty and sweet, especially sea salt soft caramels. I can't get enough of them, and all my healthy eating willpower flies out the window whenever I am near them. I made a batch to photograph, posted it to Beanilla and then sent them over to my neighbors. My neighbors were very happy to be the recipients of the caramels, and I was utterly proud of myself and my willpower. Yay for me!!!
Fleur de Sel caramels are soft and creamy, sweet and salty and relatively simple to make, as long as you bring the mixture to an exact 241 degrees using a candy thermometer. A few degrees either way can result in caramel hard candies or a delicious bowl of caramel soup. Delicious, but not what we are striving for!
My child's school counselor called me a few weeks back, and my first instinct was, "Oh, no! What did she do?" The counselor laughed and reassured me that my daughter is a model student and they were actually calling for me. "Oh, no. What did I do?" Luckily, it was a friendly call to request my presence at the middle school career day. After a brief conversation of what would be required of me, I politely accepted the offer and went about my day.
It’s been a long but productive week, and it’s only Wednesday! By mid-week I am very ready for the weekend, and tired of cooking. Takeout would be a simple solution, but not always the healthiest choice. So, when I am tired, my simple recipe of choice is mango salsa. Bright, sweet and fruity mango is diced and combined with spicy jalapeño, juicy red tomatoes, red onions and chopped garlic. The addition of a Tahitian vanilla bean to my salsa adds a sweet and floral flavor and enhances the natural sweetness of the mango. Mango salsa with Tahitian vanilla bean is the perfect complement to grilled fish, sautéed chicken or savory flank steak fajitas.
The combination of fresh fruit, crisp vegetables and vanilla may seem like a strange concoction. I assure you that it is incredibly delicious!
There is no aroma quite as comforting or as intoxicating as freshly baked bread. The art of bread-making dates back to the ancient Egyptians; grains were cultivated, and a simple mortar and pestle were used to grind the grain into a very course flour. The first bread was unleavened, similar to a tortilla or a naan bread. The addition of yeast to these breads began when wild yeast was attracted to the ground grains and "contaminated" them, and then the warm climate and the addition of water activated the yeast and caused the dough to rise.
Although the ancient Egyptians had no working knowledge of how the yeast microorganisms caused the dough to rise, each time the dough would rise they would remove a small piece to add to the next batch of dough. In modern times this would be considered the mother. Many bakers have one or two mothers that they start their artisanal breads from, assuring consistency in flavor from one batch to another. I have worked with many artisanal bread bakers that keep a storage container that holds the original mother from when they began their career as bakers. They feed and care for it as if it was more precious than gold.
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.
One of my very first jobs was working as a barista for a small coffee company. I really enjoyed working with the coffee and the customers, and the aroma of the shop was delicious. The only drawback of working with coffee was the fact that I did not drink coffee. I had no idea what it tasted like, nor could I tell the customers the difference between a dark espresso roast and a Sumatra (I can’t imagine surviving the mornings without at least one cup nowadays!) I was able, however, to trade the leftover coffee at night for pastries at the bakery next door. One of the most decadent trades was their peanut butter dream bar.
I am not Irish, not even a little bit. I do, however, enjoy an Irish coffee along with dessert or occasionally with brunch. In this post, I'll share with you how to make your own Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. Never buy Bailey's again - this homemade Irish Cream Liqueur recipe is even better!
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.
Have you ever had something so simple, but deliciously decadent at a restaurant that you risked embarrassing your dining companions to take a photo of it? This happened to me while recently on vacation. The waiter arrived with my selection and it looked so delicious and beautiful, that I struggled with the dilemma of standing up, hauling out my professional camera and taking the shot. I am often faced with this dilemma, and many times I have passed up the opportunity to photograph an amazing dish as a courtesy to fellow diners. (However, there are times that I regret it later!)
This time, however, I forewarned my companions, and chalked it up to research for work. I can always blame it on my relentless pursuit of photographic and culinary perfection! I am so thrilled that I did because bananas foster french toast was one of the most decadent and beautiful breakfast entrees I had had in a very long time. The soft egg-based french toast was grilled to perfection -- not too crunchy and definitely not soggy. Cascading over the top of the bread were toasted walnuts, fresh bananas, a brown-sugar caramel sauce and a scoop of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream in the middle. "Yum" does not even begin to describe this sweet breakfast masterpiece.
The beignet is a classic New Orleans breakfast treat. It is a staple in the New Orleans food culture, dating back to the early 1900’s. Café Du Monde is the most famous and well recognized purveyor of beignets, but many bakeries in and around the French quarter have their own recipes for these light and filling breakfast treats.
The easiest and simplest way to describe a beignet is a cross between a rich and dense egg-based French pastry (such as a profiterole) and a classic American yeast donut. The beignet dough is fried to a light golden brown and covered in powdered sugar. They are served in sets of three and brought to your table piping hot. A simple pairing of a classic café au lait with your beignet, and you will feel as though you are transported to French Quarter café.
Granola can be a pretty boring breakfast option. It often is dry and practically void of flavor. In addition to that, most store-bought versions are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives (you thought you were being healthy, didn’t you!?). However, Homemade granola is easy to create in your own kitchen. In addition to ease of preparation, it is easily portioned and can keep for up to a month in a tightly closed container. The addition of dried exotic fruits, sweet coconut and maybe the occasional dark chocolate chip adds flavor and texture to a basic, tasteless granola. Adding Tahitian vanilla beans amps up the flavor even more; the sweet, fruity and floral notes of the beans mix with the dried fruits and coconut to create an exciting granola you will jump out of bed for. Plus, it looks beautiful in the bowl!Continue reading
Did you ever have a time in your life where you ate so much of one particular food item that you can’t stand the smell, taste or look of that item any longer? For me, it is the peanut butter cookie. I know you are thinking, “How could you not like peanut butter cookies?” I have one very good reason...my father! My father is a wonderful man that I truly enjoy spending time with, but when he becomes fixated on a certain food item, it tends to make an appearance many, many times! A good example is peanut butter cookies. He decided that homemade peanut butter cookies would be a thoughtful and delicious addition to our school lunches… and they were… for the first week. After a month of peanut butter cookies making a daily appearance, we began to tire of them. At two months, we kindly asked him to please refrain from putting them in the lunches (I’m pretty sure it wasn't so eloquently asked, but I think he finally got the point). We were wrong. The peanut butter cookies continued to make an appearance, but this time they were topped with a Hershey kiss. This did not improve upon them! Thankfully, he finally grew tired of them himself, and one glorious day, they were no longer gracing the top of our lunches, halleluja! This was over 25 years ago and, until recently, I would not make any peanut butter cookies, often blaming food allergies for their lack of appearance in our home.Continue reading
Chocolate cake makes me weak in the knees. It's not just, "That dessert looks good. I think I will throw all inclinations of eating healthy today out the window," but, "I want to sit down and eat a giant slice cold from the fridge at six in the morning with a big glass of cold milk."
Luckily, I was able to do just that this morning! I recently posted a recipe for drunken cherries on the Beanilla blog. As I sat down to plan out my posts for the week, I remembered a previous post for drunken cherries. I grabbed them out of the fridge and pried off the lid. The most amazing aroma greeted me; hints of almond, beautiful vanilla beans from Beanilla, and cherries. I knew that those cherries were crying out to be paired with rich chocolate cake. So, I made one, and guess what? It was amazing! My son begged for a piece, my husband (who doesn't eat dessert) ate an entire slice and me, well... I had two! I know you're thinking, "You're a pastry chef. You probably eat sweets all the time". But that is simply not the case......Continue reading