Mushy Smooshy Heart Day

Yes, I’m talking about St. Valentine’s Day.  Some people look forward to this “holiday” as soon as New Year’s is over, some people loathe this day (for varying reasons) and some people (like me) are completely indifferent on the day.  It really has no bearing on the way, (or more specifically when), I show my love for those that are close to me.  The only impact it does have on me is that it’s an excuse to make some treats – not that I really need an excuse!  This year, I made something new and a bit different than just my regular lovey-dovey heart shaped shortbreads, something that is sort of trending lately – Cake Pops.  They were both fun to make and a big hit!  The nice thing about the cake pop maker I bought is that it came with a pretty good recipe book, with simple recipes from scratch.  To use the maker itself, is as easy as pie, as simple as ABC, like taking candy from a kid……well, you get the idea!  It’s like a waffle maker – you can only mess it up if you put too much batter in each of the divots, which if you follow the directions of 1 tbsp of batter, you’re good to go!

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Seeing as Valentine’s Day typically goes for reds, pinks, hearts, x’s & o’s, smoochy lips and chocolate, I thought it best to stick with tradition.  We don’t have a microwave (and honestly, I don’t even miss it!), so melting the chocolate in the oven is the best option for me – plus, I find melting chocolate slow in the oven just works better.  Dipping the cake pops into the chocolate does require a bit of patience, as you have to wait until the excess chocolate has dripped off so you don’t waste any or get it all over the place.  The secret to getting the stick to stay in the cake ball is to dip the end of the stick into the chocolate first, then jab it in (gently of course).

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If you plan on using sprinkles or small candies to decorate, keep in mind to roll the cake pop in the decorative whatever-you’re-using once the chocolate or glaze stops dripping and they are tacky, or you’ll get ‘bald spots’ on them!  And if you are drizzling chocolate on them, make sure the chocolate or glaze is dry, otherwise the drizzle just slides right off! Just remember that however you choose to decorate them, they will be amazing because it’s YOUR creativity that’s making them!

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Now of course, I had to make shortbread, but I wanted to do something really cool with them.  Something I hadn’t tried before, something that tested my “skills”.  So, these happened!  My simple shortbread cookies became pretty!  Ha

February 2016 054Although these took a little bit of time to create, it was relatively simple “artwork”.  It just took some diligence and a steady hand.  The trick to blending the icing without it running is to use flood consistency Royal Icing, which you can find on various different websites!  You will need a #1 icing tip to create the designs, as well as a scribe tool.  I wouldn’t try using a toothpick instead of the scribe tool, as the wood will soak in the icing and it will run, which won’t work too well for your little hearts.

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It’s also important to remember to let your charming little indulgences set overnight so they don’t stick together when you package them up for a beautiful little gift d’amour!

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Both cake pops and yummy shortbread cookies are great for all occasions – parties, luncheons, birthdays, family get togethers, even business meetings!  Contact me to place your custom order!

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Treats For The Holidays

Another year has come and gone and I hope that everyone had a wonderful and relaxing Christmas and New Years.  I know, I know, the word relaxation within Christmas holidays for most people doesn’t exist and I can admit that I did my fair share of late nights and running around.  However, I can contribute most of those late nights to creating some heavenly treats as gifts to some of my friends and my family.  I threw in my ear buds with some great tunes and away I went making a floury and chocolaty mess in the kitchen.  Thankfully, I have an incredible space in the home where I live with a nice, big island and a double oven.  This definitely helps!  As I mentioned in a previously, I had a list made up a while ago of what I wanted to bake, I just had to cut in down a bit from the dozen or so that was on that list!  I finally settled on shortbread, chocolate truffles, spiced mocha fudge, peanut clusters and caramel pretzel bark, all of which, I’m proud to say got exceptional reviews

Christmas Cheer 2

Out of all these little morsels of ooey-gooey tastiness, I still, after more than 20 years, enjoy making my shortbread the most.  It’s your basic, simple ingredients – sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and flour, and when they are mixed and baked just right, the first bite is like a party in your mouth!

                           Shapes cut        Cut & baked

I had a customer that placed an order for 2 dozen French Macarons – 12 chocolate and 12 salted caramel, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to create these delectable little French almond meringue cookies once again.  Basically, these are what kept me up until the wee hours of the morning (which was entirely my own choice).   Whipping the egg whites just enough to create that slight peak, then gently folding in the cocoa without over mixing (otherwise you end up with flat and cracked Macaron shells), letting your perfectly round little discs harden just a bit at room temperature before popping them in the oven and keeping a close eye on them so they don’t overbake, which would make them hard and crunchy instead of light and chewy.  Messing up on any of these steps is what causes many bakers copious amounts of frustration and a lot of four-letter words!  I’ve had the good fortune of not having run into these issues (and hopefully won’t in the future) and having my French Macarons turn out – with a really great review from my friend that ordered them!

Egg whitesMixing Choc GanacheChocolate shells unbaked

 

 

 

 

I find that the trick to baking the meringues really well is rotating the baking sheet halfway through (I actually do this with all my cookies too).  Maybe it’s just me or maybe it really does help, but now that I’m in the habit of doing it, I have to do it all the time!  Not all Macarons are going to come out looking the same, some rise a bit more, some spread out a bit less, just remember that if they are still round-ish and not cracked, they’ll most likely have the same texture.  In fact, even when using the same recipe, they’ll likely be a tiny bit different each time you make them.

                            White shells baked        Chocolate shells baked

The filling for the Macarons is definitely the easiest part of these little 2-bite slices of heaven.  You can use either ganache, butter cream, meringue or jam, which so far, I’ve found that the ganache and butter cream pair the best.  Once you place a dollup in the centre of the cookie and gently press the top half on top of it, you have your masterpiece!

                            Salted Caramel         Chocolate French Macarons

Now that a new year is upon us, so is a new year of creations and adventures in the kitchen for me.  I am excited and happy to announce that I will be expanding my business and will now be offering Dessert Dutchess packages which will cater to weddings, private parties and corporate events.  Please contact me for more details.

I want to thank everyone for following my blog and I welcome your comments as well as suggestions for any baked goodies that you may want to learn more about – which recipe is the best, which to stay away from and why.

OMG Shortbread

Who doesn’t love shortbread?  When it’s baked just the perfect amount of time so the bottom is light golden, it crumbles just a little when you break off a tiny piece and that piece melts in your mouth with a buttery smoothness……..Mmmmmm, YUM! It’s like a party in your mouth! 

As I mentioned before, I do have my own super dee-lish recipe for shortbread, but a wonderful lady, Auntie Bernie, posted this recipe on her Facebook profile, so of course I just had to try it.  Looking at the it, it seemed like a pretty straight forward shortbread recipe, just with the exception of some yummy peanut butter added to it. I threw it all in the bowl, mixed it up, rolled & wrapped it to be refrigerated and waited (this was the hard part LOL).  Once it was chilled, I cut some nice, big, fat slices, because really…..who’s craving is going to be fully satisfied by a thin, puny little piece?  It did crumble a bit when I cut them (as the recipe said it would), but it was easy to shape them back together, plus it created a bit of cookie dough chunks for me to taste test.

PB Choc Chip Shortbread mixPB Choc Chip Shortbread logPB Choc Chip Shortbread log cut 2

 

 

 

 

In to the oven they went……..tick tock, tick tock…….the 12 minute baking time seemed like an eternity!  Especially since the irresistible smell of fresh cookies was not just filling the kitchen, but drifting throughout the whole house!  Finally, they were done and when I opened the oven door, heads turned.  An even stronger yummy cookie aroma filled everyone’s noses and I was pretty sure they’d suffer through a bit of a burnt tongue just to get a bite as soon as possible!

PB Choc Chip Shortbread baked

PB Choc Chip Shortbread stacked 3Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies from The View from Great Island website – and yes “OMG” were the words that escaped from the lips of a couple people.  There was also “Are you kidding me?”, “These are ridiculous” & a muffled approval that I couldn’t fully understand because she had just sunk her teeth in to this heavenly indulgence!  Now, I’m not going to admit that these are better than mine, they’re just……a different recipe with a few different ingredients and I can guarantee that they will be made again

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 chocolate chips

Cream butter & peanut butter with a hand mixer, beat in vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture until the dough is no longer crumbly.  Stir in the chips and turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper. Gently form the dough into a log. Roll it up in the paper, smoothing it out as you go. Twist the ends securely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Take the log out, unwrap it and slice into 1/3 inch slices with a sharp knife.  If it crumbles a bit, just smooth it back together.  Bake on parchment paper for 12-14 minutes at 350F.  Let them cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack.  ENJOY!!

Baking From the Heart

I know that for some people, something as simple as baking a cake seems like climbing Mount Everest, but for me, I could spend a whole day in the kitchen, baking everything from cookies to cakes to chocolate anything!  And there’s nothing that makes me happier than to watch someone take that first bite, see their eyes light up and the expression on their face when their taste buds explode with pleasure!

 

Now anyone who knows me, knows I’m not exactly a big Christmas person (I’m not a Grinch, but I’m certainly not a Who-ville citizen either!).  However, I absolutely LOVE doing copious amounts of baking at Christmas, it’s my escape from the craziness.  Yes, I know that Christmas is still 2 months away, but really, that’s only 8 more weekends, and unless you love baking as much as I do, you’re probably not going to want to, or be able to, give up one of those weekends to spend it in the kitchen!  From experience, doing a lot of Christmas baking does require a bit of planning ahead of time, and for me, it usually ends up being more than just a single weekend event!  I’ve already started planning my list of goodies that I’ll be baking for gifts to my family and friends.  There will be of course, my 2 traditional treats, which are both my own recipes and ones that I’ve been making since high school – my secret recipe shortbread and my chocolate truffles (my brother, who loves these, has another name for them, however, it’s not exactly blog-friendly! Haha).  Like with any recipe, it takes some tinkering to get them just perfect and with about 20 years of practice, I’ve been told they’re pretty close!

Cut & baked

My secret recipe shortbread

White chocolate and white sprinkled dark chocolate truffles

White chocolate and white sprinkled dark chocolate truffles

One of my recent and most challenging creations was Chocolate Ganache French Macarons, which I decided to make for a birthday gift.  Now these delectable treats either work out or they don’t, there’s no in between.  I ended up looking through a bunch of different websites – Allrecipes, Martha Stewart, Food Network and Popsugar, (to name a few), to find a recipe that caught my eye – and believe me, there are LOTS of different recipes out there!  I finally settled on one that didn’t have about 25 different ingredients and that wasn’t overly time consuming (meaning less than 3 hours from start to finish)  The recipe I chose to use was from Chowhound and they turned out great!  As I mentioned before, the look on my friend’s face when she bit into it, was all worth it!

Chocolate Ganache French Macarons

Chocolate Ganache French Macarons