Tag Archives: dessert

Make French Crepes with a Real French Guy

12 Apr

I’m back!!! I’m ending a several-month silence by making traditional French crepes with my favorite Frenchman. Check out the video and let me know what you think! Have you ever made homemade crepes? This is an easy recipe – give it a shot!

Traditional French Crepes

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup beer
4 cups half and half or whole milk at room temperature

Put the flour in a large bowl and make a large well (Geoff calls it a pit) in the center.

Whisk the eggs well and pour into the well, along with the melted butter and salt. Begin whisking in the center, very slowly and gently, to start incorporating flour from the sides of the well. Slowly add the milk in small amounts along with the beer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. The beer helps the crepes to be light and fluffy, but pick something with a mild flavor, like High Life (the champagne of beers – sort of French?) so that you can’t taste it. You’ll whisk for 10-15 minutes total, and the batter will be very thin. The batter can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Get a small nonstick pan very hot over high heat and spread a tiny amount of canola oil in the bottom with a paper towel to prevent sticking. You’ll only have to add oil every 5-10 crepes, not every time. Pour 1/4-1/3 cup of crepe batter into the bottom of the pan and swirl so that it reaches the sides and coats in a very thin layer. The edges of the crepes will be lacy. If your first crepe is too thick because your pan is smaller, just use a little less batter on the next pour.

Cook over a medium-high flame until the edges of the crepe look browned and feel crispy, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Run a spatuala underneath the crepe to make sure it doesn’t stick, and flip the crepe to cook on the other side. Afraid of flipping like we do in the video? No problem – you can also use the spatula to turn it like a pancake. Contine cooking until the crepe is set, 1-1/2 additional minutes. Remove from the pan and continue making crepes like a French boss.

This recipe makes a huge stack of crepes – great for a party, or for a crepe cake! If you don’t want to make them all at once, store the extra batter in the fridge for 1-2 days. Whisk it well before using.

DJ’s Summer Birthday Cake

11 Jun

DJCake1I am so competitive. Sometimes, it’s an admirable quality, pushing me to try a little harder or work a little longer . But a lot of times, it’s just plain dumb.

For instance, this past weekend I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his parents. We were on our way home from an early birthday celebration for DJ. He and I are having another small celebration to commemorate the actual day, so as we were riding along, I asked him what kind of a cake he would prefer. Because, you know, I make cakes. Professionally. And it’s his birthday, so of course I would be making him a cake. Makes sense, right? Are you with me?

OK.

Without enthusiasm or humor, he requested an ice cream cake.

AN ICE CREAM CAKE.

I won Cupcake Wars, for Christ’s sake. And he wants to squander that kind of talent on an ice cream cake? Ouch, man!

Now, I love ice cream as much as the next guy. Probably more, actually. I’ve often fantasized about opening an ice cream business. I even put together half of a business plan for an ice cream truck before I realized that here in the Chicago,  I’d have only four solid months of sunshine and sales and eight long months of frigid destitution. Not my best get-rich-quick scheme, but you get the idea. I love ice cream.

But I’m great at cake. And this is the first year that we’ll celebrate his birthday together. I want to make him a damn cake! A real cake! CAKE cake. With ice cream alongside, if he wants.

DJ proceeded to say that he prefers ice cream cakes to regular cakes because regular cakes are all the same to him. They’re usually not bad, but they never “wow” him. And that’s fair, except that I’ve seen him happily horse down several pieces of cake now, some made by me.

DJ is a humor writer. His indifference to cakes is akin to me thinking that that all fart jokes are the same, and not only the same, but mediocre, to boot. (Just kidding though, baby. Your fart jokes are classic.)

So my nutty, competitive mind kicks into the spin cycle, and all I can think is, “I’ll show you! I’ll make you the best g*ddamn cake you’ve ever tasted or will ever taste again! And then I will never make you a cake ever again for doubting me!

Birthdays are for birthday cakes, so DJ is getting a true birthday cake this year, with simple flavors that I think he’ll enjoy. It’s not overly sweet, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and almond extract. Fresh strawberries and whipped cream will glue it all together and keep it light and summery. It’s finished with a sprinkling of crushed almond tuile cookies for a bit of crunch. Maybe it won’t be the best cake he’s ever had, but even if it’s not, it will be a great memory of the first time we spent his birthday together.

This weekend, he gets his ice cream cake.  You better believe that it will be the best damn ice cream cake to ever come out of a freezer!

DJCake4

Summer Birthday Cake

Almond Chiffon · Whipped Cream · Strawberries · Almond Cookie Crunch

For the cake:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of two 6 inch round pans. Do not spray the pans.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, and continue whipping until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt, discarding any large pieces of almond flour that won’t make it through the sifter.

In small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, until the mixture is well combined and there are no pockets of whipped egg whites left. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the cookie crunch:
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl using a fork or a pastry blender, mix all of the ingredients together until the butter is in pea-sized chunks and the mixture is very crumbly. Spread into an even layer on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookie looks lacy and the edges are very brown. Cool completely. Crumble into small pieces.

For the stabilized whipped cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces + additional whole strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan, stir together the gelatin and water until the gelatin is evenly moistened. Let it sit until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to melt the mixture and dissolve the gelatin. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. Remove ¼ of the whipped cream and set aside. Fold the cut strawberries into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the cake, cut each layer horizontally into two. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the strawberry whipped cream. Run your spatula gently around the sides of the cake to clean up any whipped cream that crept out from inside the cake, and to very lightly coat the sides. the last cake with the plain whipped cream. Sprinkle the top generously with the almond cookie crunch and garnish with additional whole strawberries and a light sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

 

 

 

 

Coconut Macaroons

18 Dec

Coconut, particularly of the sweetened and flaked variety, is an all-or-nothing flavor. Either you love it, or you loathe it. Me? I fall hard into the “love it” camp. Next time you open up a fresh bag of shredded coconut, take a walloping teaspoon’s worth (see what I did there?) and place it between your gums and lower lip, Skoal style. Let it hang out there until you’ve sucked all of the sugar and taste out of it. Just a pinch gives you long lasting flavor, without the repulsive spitting or chance of mouth cancer!

Several years back, I worked at a bakery that made tiny coconut macaroons at the holidays. Still warm out of the oven, they were like crack to me, somehow chewy and dissolving at the same time. If that bakery had a dollar for every mini coconut mac that ended up in my mouth…they’d have a lot more dollars. And that is what is known in the industry as “shrinkage.” See how I’ve left the name of this bakery out of this post? That’s because I probably owe them some cash.

Coconut Macacoons with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

Coconut Macacoons with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

Once in a while, when I have a spare egg white kicking it in the fridge, I make up a batch of coconut macaroons. They’re deceptively simple little confections, requiring only a few ingredients, all of which are pantry staples, minus the coconut. You don’t even need to bust out your stand mixer for these. And hey – if you make them for a party like I did, and most of your guests end up in the “loathe it” camp, you get to snack on the the macs for days. Win!

Coconut Macaroons

3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bag (14 oz.) sweetened shredded coconut
1 oz. dark chocolate, melted

Preheat your oven to 325° F. Line 3  baking sheets with parchment paper.

Vigorously whisk together the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until foamy and well combined, and the sugar is nearly dissolved. Fold in the coconut, making sure that it is evenly moistened.

Drop rounded tablespoons about 1 inch apart  onto  the parchment-lined sheets. A small cookie or ice cream scoop works great for this, and makes perfectly rounded mounds.. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop the batter in mounds.. Bake the macaroons 1 or 2 pans a time for 15 to 20 minutes, or until macaroons are slightly golden. If you bake more than 1 pan at a time, rotate them halfway through for more even baking. For a toastier coconut flavor and a more golden appearance overall (like mine), add an additional 1-2 minutes to the bake time. Cool the macaroons completely and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.

Makes about 3-½ dozen mini macroons.

2012 – The Year of the Cupcake

30 Dec

In the future, when I look back at 2012, I’ll remember it as my personal year of the cupcake. Because Milette and I dominated Cupcake Wars, Cupcake Wars in turn dominated several months of my life, and many of the conversations I had after our win. It was truly an awesome experience and I am unbelievably grateful to all of the people who cheered us on. You make a girl feel really loved!

Tomorrow night I’m ringing in the new year with some great friends. Really great friends. The kind of friends who come to your Cupcake Wars viewing party in a bar on a stormy night, and when the satellite television at the bar craps out, don’t hesitate to invite the whole lot of the party (half of whom they’ve never met) over to their place to catch the second half of the show. Great friends, indeed!

Since we’re busting into 2013 in the same place where we watched Cupcake Wars thanks to their generosity, what could be more appropriate than the champagne cupcakes from the competition?  Mexicans and Spaniards eat grapes for good luck in the new year, so the cupcakes are filled with a homemade grape and champagne compote. To gussy them to New Year’s Eve standards, I topped each one with a rosette of the winning champagne frosting, added a few sugar-crusted grapes and hit them with just a bit of gold pearl dust. If there is such a thing as a shabby-chic cupcake, this is it!

These are perfect celebration cupcakes. Make them for New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day, or bookmark this and come back to it for all of your 2013 celebrations – let’s hope that there are many!

Champagne Cupcakes

3 cups sifted cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup champagne or sparkling wine
1/4 cup whole milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with baking cups.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; stir in salt and set aside. In another bowl, combine wine and milk. Mixture may curdle, but that that is okay.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each. Alternately add the flour mixture and the wine mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Fill baking cups 2/3 full. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan; remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling.

Champagne Buttercream

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 – 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
Pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup champagne or sparkling wine
3-4 drops champagne flavoring (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy, about 1 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of kosher salt, and beat on low speed until nearly incorporated. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in half of the evaporated milk. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Repeat, alternating confectioners’ sugar with sparkling wine and remaining evaporated milk. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add champagne flavoring and beat until well combined.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Easy Holiday Cupcake Ideas

19 Dec

Last Saturday was National Cupcake Day, and I spent a few minutes at NBC showing some fun and easy cupcake decorating tricks. There are a few holiday ideas, including a two-tiered Christmas tree cupcake topped with a sparkling star cookie and some gorgeous poinsettia cupcakes that you’ll never believe were made with store-bought red gumdrops. Happy baking and happy holidays!

National Cupcake Day on NBC

Summer Salads

26 Jun

I’m not a big salad eater. Never have been. But there’s something about digging into a big, colorful bowl of vegetables when the temperature outside is soaring…it makes me feel virtuous.

That feeling usually lasts until I am digging into a big, chilly bowl of ice cream approximately 2 hours later. Hey, nutrition is all about balance and moderation, right?

Salads and ice cream: two foods meant for summer days.

Here’s a simple spinach salad that we ate a couple of weeks ago. Easy-peasy.

Baby spinach leaves + grilled chicken breast + chopped cucumber + chopped strawberries + green onions + candied walnuts + spicy apple cider vinaigrette.

More about the ice cream in the coming months!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Baby Reveal Cake – Who Will You Bee?

11 Jun

If you haven’t heard of a Baby Reveal Party by now, I can confidently say that you are:

A. Not a cake decorator. 

or 

B. Not pregnant.  Or you just don’t know it yet.

 There’s this whole trend happening where expecting mommys and daddys host a party for family and friends to announce if they are awaiting a baby boy or girl. These parties almost always include a “reveal cake,” made by dying white cake batter either pink or blue. The cake is iced in a gender-neutral color, masking the secret within until it is cut open. And you know what’s crazy, and kind of awesome? Most parents who are throwing gender reveal parties aren’t privy to the sex of their babe before cutting that cake, either!

 Gender Reveal Party

I made this cake for sweet couple last weekend based on a handwritten note, sealed in an envelope, from their OB-GYN. It’s strangely awesome to have this knowledge of someone else’s kids before they do, even if it’s just for a few hours. 

“Who will you bee?” Get it?

 There are 2 bees on the cake because this particular couple is expecting twins, which potentially adds another layer of dimension (or color?) to a gender reveal cake.  Before they sliced into the reveal cake, they played a guessing game – mustaches or lipstick? What combination will the babies be? Because in addition to reveal cakes, gender reveal parties usually also include illegal gambling. Hey, with these kind of odds, who wouldn’t take a shot? What’s your guess?    

So with bated breath…    

 The cake is sliced…    

And the proud parents discover…

Twin Gender Reveal Cake

One of each! A boy and a girl! A mustache and a lipstick!

Congratulations Leah and Andy!

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