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Puff pastry can be intimidating but the hardest part really is waiting. When making the classic version there is a lot of time that the pastry needs to relax. So if you are itching for a buttery, flaky piece of heaven go with the quick puff. Your craving can be satisfied in just a couple of hours.

So please… you are no longer allowed to be afraid of this beautiful pastry. Make up a batch or two throw it in your freezer. At that point the options are ENDLESS. I have listed some recipes below that are just a small sample of the multitude of variations. Sweet, savory. Appetizer, main, dessert. It is so incredibly versatile.

PUFF PASTRY

class notes…
Puff pastry is made up of four basic ingredients; flour, butter, water and salt. The magic happens during the process of combining these ingredients and then when it is baked. The dough (detrempe) is folded around the butter is such a way that it creates thousands of alternating layers of butter and dough. When the puff is put into a very hot oven the butter heats up and boils causing steam which pushes the flour layers up creating the flaky layers.

Quick puff pastry is a great alternative that, as the name suggests, is a process that is a lot faster than the classic version of puff. The layers are not as uniform and it may not rise as much as the classic but the result is still an incredibly flaky, buttery and delicious pastry. It is also a bit more tender than the classic version because the butter is worked into the flour more directly.

Classic Puff Pastry
Source: On Cooking : Techniques from Expert Chefs by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause (Prentice Hall)

Ingredients:

  • 13 ounces (390 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp (7 ml) salt
  • 3 ounces (90 g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 7 fluid ounces (210 ml) water, cold
  • 10 ounces (300 g) unsalted butter, softened

Preparation:

To form the detrempe, (dough) sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter (3 ounces) into small pieces and then cut the pieces into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add all the water at once. Using a rubber spatula or your fingers, gradually draw the flour into the water. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Do not knead. The detrempe should be sticky and shaggy-looking.

Note: The detrempe can be made in a food processor. To do so, combine the flour, salt and pieces of cold butter in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Process until a coarse meal is formed. With the processor running, slowly add the water. Turn the machine off as soon as the dough comes together to form a ball. Process with the remainder of the recipe.

Turn the detrempe out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by hand, rounding it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill overnight.

To roll in the butter, first prepare the softened butter by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the softened butter into a rectangle, approximately 5 inches by 8 inches (12.5 centimeters by 20 centimeters). It is important that the detrempe and butter be of almost equal consistency. If necessary, allow the detrempe to sit at room temperature to soften or chill the butter briefly to harden.

On a lightly floured board, roll the detrempe into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 15 inches (30 centimeters by 37.5 centimeters). Lift and rotate the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.

Use a dry pastry brush to brush away any flour from the dough’s surface. Loose flour can cause gray streaks and can prevent the puff pastry from rising properly when baked.

Peel one piece of plastic wrap from the butter. Position the butter in the center of the rectangle and remove the remaining plastic. Fold the four edges of the detrempe over the butter enclosing it completely. Stretch the dough if necessary; it is important that none of the butter be exposed.

With the folded side facing up, press the dough several times with a rolling pin. Use a rocking motion to create ridges in the dough. Place the rolling pin in each ridge and slowly roll back and forth to widen the ridge. Repeat until all the ridges are doubled in size. Using the ridges as a starting point, roll the dough out into a smooth, even rectangle approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 50 centimeters). Be careful to keep the corners of the dough as right angles.

Use a dry pastry brush to remove any loose flour from the dough’s surface. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. If one end is damaged or in worse condition, fold it in first; otherwise, start at the bottom. This completes the first turn.

Rotate the block of dough 90 degrees so that the folded edge is on your left and the dough faces you like a book. Roll out the dough again, repeating the ridging technique. Once again, the dough should be in a smooth, even rectangle of approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 60 centimeters).

Fold the dough in thirds again, completing the second turn. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling and folding technique until the dough has had a total of five turns. Do not perform more than two turns without a resting and chilling period. Cover the dough completely and chill overnight before shaping and baking.


Quick Puff

adapted from epicurious.com
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 1/2 sticks (3 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 cup cold water

1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

2. Add chilled, diced butter and pulse three to five times, until the butter pieces are about the size of lima beans. Add water to the mixture and pulse again about three times. Invert the crumbly mass onto a lightly floured work surface.

3. Using a rolling pin and bench scraper, shape the mass into a long rectangle. Use the bench scraper and carefully flip one third of the rectangle toward the center. Then, flip the other end to the center, like folding a business letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees.

4. Reshape and roll the dough into a rectangle. Repeat the folding and rotating process three more times for a total of four turns. If the dough becomes soft or sticky during this process, immediately refrigerate until firm.

5. After four turns, wrap the dough in plastic wrap. With your finger, make four indentations in the dough — one for each time the dough has been turned. This is a reference point for how many times the dough has been turned. Refrigerate the dough at least 45 minutes or until firm.

6. After the dough has been refrigerated for 45 minutes, unwrap it and discard the plastic. Keep your work surface and rolling pin well floured. Press down on each of the four sides of dough to seal its shape.

7. Start with the rolling pin at the center. Roll away from you. Return to the center and roll toward you. Repeat the folding and rotating process of the dough two more times for a total a total of six times.

8. After the sixth turn, wrap the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate to make sure it is well-chilled before baking. Quick Puff Pastry keeps refrigerated up to three days or frozen for several months.

Tomato Tart

adapted from yumsugar.com

– 1 12 inch square puff pastry
– 3 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– Fleur de sel and black pepper to taste
– 1 tsp dried or fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, parsley,…)
– 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
– fresh mozzarella, 1/2 cup roughly, sliced
– a handful of toasted pine nuts
– a few olives to decorates

Directions

* Pre-heat oven to 425*
* Place the sliced tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Let marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour.
* Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
* Place the puff pastry sheet on a baking sheet. With a fork, poke some small hole in the puff pastry. Cover with the Dijon mustard.

* Remove tomatoes from the marinade. Leave as little oil as you can. Arrange them on the puff pastry, leaving at least a 1cm edge (1/2 inch). Don’t overload the pie with tomatoes (leave some space), otherwise your pie will be all soggy.
* Add the mozzarella chunks on top and sprinkle some pine nuts all over. Add a few olives on top.

* Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.
Chicken Pot Pie

adapted from epicurious.com

1 sheet puff pastry. Cut puff pastry about 2 inches larger than your baking dish.

fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, basil, etc.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup diced celery

1 carrot

1/3 cup finely chopped shallots

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves

1 cup whipping cream

1 10-ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11×7-inch glass baking dish. Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 13×9-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet and chill.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add diced celery, carrots, garlic and shallots; sauté 5 minutes. Add broth and fresh herbs; bring to boil. Add chicken. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove chicken. Increase heat to medium; boil mixture until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add cream and return to boil. Add potato cubes; cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Remove bay leaves. Cut chicken into bite-size chunks and add to pan. Mix in peas. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with pastry; press overhang to sides of dish. Brush top of pastry with one tablespoon heavy cream. Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.

Palmiers

2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 sheets puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon and kosher salt. Pour 1 cup of the sugar, cinnamon and salt mixture on a flat surface such as wooden board or marble. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar and pour 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture on top, spreading it evenly on the puff pastry. This is not about sprinkling, it’s about an even covering of sugar. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s 13 by 13-inches square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold 1 half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place the second sheet of pastry on the sugared board, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar mixture, and continue as above. (There will be quite a bit of sugar left over on the board.) Slice and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

* The possibilities with palmiers are infinite. You can add citrus zests, vanilla, lavender, chocolate, candied citrus pieces, nuts, cocoa nibs etc. Or think of all the savory possibilities…. cheddar, parmesean, garlic, herbs…. so many delicious possibilities.

Tips for Super Success

  • Keep everything cold. Keeping the dough chilled as you work is important to the success of any puff pastry — otherwise, the butter melts and will no longer form distinct layers. Freeze both the flour and the butter before beginning. Also, keep your warm hands off the dough as much as possible. If the dough gets warm, chill it for at least 15 minutes before continuing.
  • Keep the dough neat for a uniform puff. Use a large rolling pin and roll evenly from open end to open end. Square off the sides with a rolling pin or pastry scraper as you work.
  • Bake the dough on a slightly dampened baking sheet. This holds down the underside of the dough as the rest puffs up. Bake in a very hot oven (about 450°F) for the initial puff and turn the heat down to finish.
  • Use a very sharp hot knife or pastry/pizza wheel to cut puff pastry, and be sure to cut straight down and not at an angle. Using a dull implement will fuse the layers together and thwart rising.
  • After you cut puff pastry, the side that was up when you cut should be down on the baking pan.
  • Save any scraps for other uses such as cookies, appetizer crisps, or decorations, but do not re-roll them together. Any re-rolled dough will not rise properly.
  • Never use a folded edge of puff pastry. All edges should be cut or it will not rise.
  • Brush off any bench flour with a soft, dry pastry brush before filling or cutting.
  • If you want to reduce the rise of puff pastry, prick it all over with a fork to allow steam to escape.
  • Puff pastry may be baked first and then filled or filled and then baked.
  • All fillings should be at room temperature to avoid premature melting of the puff pastry buttery layers.

Here are the notes from my class as promised. I will post the recipes soon but first you must understand the science behind the process.

With a basic understanding of the ingredients involed in pie and tart making then you can better access the problem if something does happen to go wrong and you can also work to develop your favorite dough by tweaking a few minor things.

I hope you enjoy these notes and learn something new!
PIE DOUGH
3         :       2        :       1
SOLID    SOLID    LIQUID
Flour     Butter    Water
Butter is tricked into thinking it is a solid – this ensures a flaky crust.

TART DOUGH
Liquid is replaced with sugar/eggs. Fat is incorporated (creamed) rather than being left in large solid pieces. This creates a crispy more cookie-like texture.

Creating the PERFECT PIE CRUST: tender, flaky and beautifully brown

FLAKINESS: fat remains solid, flat, large and cold
TENDERNESS: use low protein flour (or add a small percentage of cornstarch to     all-purpose flour, fat keeps flour proteins separate
BROWNING: high protein content and sugar with low acidity browns faster

To achieve the PERFECT CRUST you must KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS!
FLOUR: affects gluten formation, moisture absorption, and tenderness. Higher protein flour creates gluten more readily – dough becomes tough and chewy. If protein content is too low the crust will be too tender and impossible to roll out.
FAT: 1 1/3 cup flour to ½ cup (8 tbl.) butter Fat creates flaky layers, it also creates tenderness as it blocks moisture from being absorbed by the flour. A high fat crust is less likely to become soggy.
LIQUID: Connects the proteins in flour to create necessary gluten formation that holds the dough together. Liquids can also be a source of fat (cream) or acid (buttermilk). Vinegar is often added because of its ability to weaken gluten formation just enough so that the dough becomes much easier to roll out. It also adds and interesting depth of flavor.
SALT: Without salt your crust will taste flat.
BAKING POWDER: 1/8 tsp per cup of flour. Helps to counteract dough’s tendency to shrink. It also lifts, aerates and tenderizes. Adds a mellow flavor if you use a non-SAS powder such as Rumford. Tenderizing happens while baking so there is no fear of increasing the fragility when rolling and working with the dough.

MIXING: Practice Makes PERFECT!
•    Keep ingredients cold
•    Work quickly
•    Keep fat solid and in large flat chunks
•    Cut your butter into equal 1 inch pieces then freeze for 15-30 minutes
•    Sift dry ingredients (can be done with a whisk) produces and more tender and lighter final crust.
•    If using a food processor or stand mixer dough must still be finished by hand to that you can see and feel how the finished product will be.
•    Bring the finished dough together into 1 or 2 (depending on type of pie) 5-6 inch discs. This makes rolling out a lot easier.

RESTING
: Letting the dough chill out.
The finished dough needs some time in the fridge to chill. This allows the gluten   to relax, the flour absorbs all the moisture and the butter gets nice and cold – ensuring a flaky crust. Dough that rests overnight shrinks less and holds a better shape while baking. At the minimum the dough should rest for 1 hour.

ROLLING:
Remove dough from fridge and allow to sit 10-15 minutes or until malleable.
Pound the dough with the rolling pin to flatten it out a bit. Work quickly and with a steady pressure. Lightly flour your work surface. You may apply a light flour coat to the actual dough and to the rolling pin as well. Roll from the center out until the entire thickness is about 1/8 inch. Occasionally you want to lift the dough to ensure that it is not sticking to the rolling surface. If the dough becomes to soft while working it pop it back into the fridge or freezer until firm.

BAKING:
Preventing Soggy Bottoms
Single-layer Crust
•    Pre-bake then brush on a layer of egg whites, preserves or clarified butter
Double-layer Crust
•    Bake on oven floor or pizza stone for 1 hour at 375* or 30 minutes at 425*
•    Pre-heat oven for at least 20 minutes
•    Use a dark, glass or ceramic pie pan
•    Make sure to cut slits in the top crust so the soggy inducing steam has a place to escape
•    Bake in a pre-heated hot oven at first to aid with creating a flaky crust
•    Place a foil or parchment lined pan under the pie pan to catch inevitable drips
•    Cover top crust or border with foil if it is browning too fast
•    Always apply a wash to the top crust before baking. This creates a beautiful golden color and also and nice crisp top. (I use an egg wash that is 1 egg/ 1 yolk then sprinkle the entire top with granulated sugar.
•    For fruit pies, let pie rest on a wire rack until just warm. This way the starch has had a chance to completely gel.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS: Things to remember when creating prize-winning pies
•    Use good quality ingredients, especially high quality butter, as there is a hefty amount in these recipes.
•    Keep your ingredients cold
•    Remember color=flavor
•    Brush off excess flour after rolling as it could have a bitter taste when baked
•    For fruit pies the juices should be bubbling thickly to ensure that the final product will be adequately set
•    If you spray your baking dish lightly with pan spray you should be able to un-mold the entire pie after it has completely cooled

I am!! I am counting the days.
Pregnancy is truly an amazing experience. The body knows exactly what to do and how to care for the precious baby inside a woman’s belly. The process is so perfectly designed that near the end a pregnant woman is so sick of being pregnant that they actually look forward to labor, which in and of itself is not the most pleasant experience, to say the least. I am at the end.


I think the best way to describe exactly what it is that I am feeling is by imagining a roller coaster. My hormones are taking me for a wild ride that is causing such inflections in emotions that my husband finds himself continually confused as to what it is that I am actually feeling or wanting.
One minute I am complaining about all my aches, pains and about that fact that I feel like a cow and how quickly people are to point out that I am truly quite large. (Yes I can still fit in a car and yes I am sure there is only one baby and no I can’t and have not tried stacking items on my belly).


I come home crying from the doctor’s office because there isn’t as much progress as I was hoping and yet when I really stop and think about the fact that in three (plus or minus) weeks there will be a newborn living in our home I panic. I have had over 9 months, 37 weeks or 260 days to have this fact feel like a reality and the faster it approaches the more nervous and frightened I get.
One moment I would give anything to have this baby outside of me and the very next I am so completely freaked out about having two children that I just hope that baby number two decides to stay in his dark, warm and cozy womb for a couple more months until I figure out logistically how to raise two children.


When both children are screaming who do I deal with first? While nursing baby number 2 (a.k.a. Roman) and number 1 (a.k.a. Baron) is being disobedient how do I discipline while continuing to feed Roman so he won’t start panicking? How do I get both children out of the car gracefully and while avoiding having Baron run into the street? Do two kids fit in one grocery cart or will I be the crazy lady trying to push two carts through the store?
That is the roller coaster of my emotions. I hope you enjoyed the ride.


While one is dealing with such emotional chaos I have found that Chocolate Cream Pie really helps ease the mind. Flaky and buttery pie crust + dark and intense chocolate pudding + unsweetened whipped cream piled high = a heavenly combination that enables the mind to become settled while the taste buds are entertained and awakened.
Now normally I do not recommend the habit of emotional eating but in such extreme circumstances such as the end of pregnancy all rules are thrown out the window and the pregnant woman is allowed whatever her heart (belly) desires.

Recipe for my favorite flaky and tender pie crust

Bake shell completely and with pie weights (if available). 350* about 20-25 minutes

Chocolate Pudding Filling

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

3 cups whole milk

5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened) chopped fine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon excellent quality coffee beans

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, cocoa powder and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Add coffee beans to liquid to steep. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Whisk in chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover surface of filling plastic wrap and cool completely, about 2 hours.

When both pudding and pie crust are completely cool fill pie shell with pudding. Cover pudding with a generous layer of unsweetened whipped cream. Top pie with dark chocolate shavings, mini marshmallows, chocolate cookie crumbs, m&m’s, fresh berries or anything else you desire.

Note: I really am open and looking for suggestions as to how to live out daily life while having two children. If anyone has some brilliant tips and hints please share. I would be so grateful!

While on vacation I was tagged for a Meme by the very lovely Aran from Cannelle et Vanille. Now that I am back getting settled into my non-vacation life I thought it was time for me to sit down and figure out what exactly is a Meme.
This particular meme asks me to divulge 5 facts about me. So let me think… five facts interesting or not beyond the fact that I like food and generally lean towards the sweeter side – because let’s face it, you don’t have to be a regular reader to realize that. But what don’t you know?

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The best part of me

1. I have been the entertainment at many family functions performing my stupid human trick, which involves me sticking my entire fist into my mouth. Don’t ask me why this is so entertaining but for some reason my cousin cannot get enough of it. Last time I attempted this spectacle my jaw locked for a moment. I have since stopped my performance.

2. Now this one is really hard for me to admit but I feel as my loyal audience you deserve a right to know. Please do not think any less of me. I have a love affair with Peanut Buster Parfaits from Dairy Queen. I can not get enough of the delicious interplay between the salty crunch of the Spanish peanuts, the cold, silky-sweet “ice milk” and the layers of dark, warm fudge all devoured with that elongated petit red spoon. This intense love of PBPs comes most strongly during pregnancy.

3. My original career path was to be a high school art teacher. I have an art degree in studio arts and have only my student teaching to complete before I receive my certification. I spent a good chunk of my studies in Italy – which is where I believe I truly fell in love with food (and also where I got engaged).

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4. I secretly have a desire to be a farmer. Well, I think more accurately is that I like the idea of being self-sufficient and completely sustainable. So what am I doing to accomplish this secret desire? Good question. First of all I am about to be the proud owner of three Bantam chickens. (More on this soon – I am getting the chickens tomorrow and my sweet brother and sister-in-law are building me a coop for my birthday) Come on, what is better than fresh eggs with yolks the color of Navel oranges? Secondly I am working on plans for my vegetable garden to be planted this spring. I will be starting out small as baby number two is coming in May. Finally, I have been successfully keeping a coffee plant alive for two months (and counting). Now would be a good time to start calling me Farmer Ashley.

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5. In high school I was voted most likely to win a Grammy. I’m sorry to disappoint my alma mater but I don’t think that’s going to happen. ☺

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Thanks to Aran for thinking of me.

I have been devouring fellow baker’s blogs, websites, cookbooks, and magazines searching for the perfect chocolate dessert to serve at tomorrow’s Valentine’s Dinner.

What a task this is! Dessert is the final impression. The last taste that these romantic diners will have in their mouths before they go home to do who knows what. 🙂 It has to be rich, intense, memorable, beautiful, clean and worthy of being the conclusion to an amazing meal. Now do you understand why I am having such a hard time committing?

What a wonderful mess I am in. I love scheming over what to create and trying to visualize its final outcome. I am basking in this dilemma to be perfectly honest. I am reveling in the fact that I have a blank canvas that is eager to be filled with whatever I deem worthy.

One never knows where inspiration will strike. You must always keep your eyes open and mind alert – both of which are quite challenging when one is in her last trimester of her second pregnancy.

It’s getting late. Valentines Day is fast approaching and dessert still must be determined.

I will keep you posted.

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One year of sweets.

One year of writing.

One year of meeting amazing fellow bloggers, bakers and cooks.

I have learned so much from all of you and have had so much fun sharing recipes and my baking successes and flops.

What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a makeover?  I hope you enjoy the clean, simple and new look to Artisan Sweets.
To many more happy blogging years.  I look forward to the future.

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Nearly everyday for 20 years my mother walked in the doors of Gary’s (fifteen minutes early of course) and sold beautiful clothing and accessories to the men and women of Bellingham. She would happily dress those who were not quite as fashionably savvy as she was and she took so much joy seeing how her clients faces would change as they slipped into something that made them feel beautiful. My mother would purposefully see an item and have a specific person in mind. She made many lifelong friendships in her position and already is greatly missed as last month she closed that chapter of her life and is excitedly awaiting to see what life has planned for her now.

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She is such a talent with an eye for beauty that is unlike anything I have seen. Through the midst of rubble and what others would consider “junk” she sees class, beauty and an opportunity. Her life is filled with beautiful objects that were once nothing but a dusty or slightly damaged oversight. Through these things she is reborn and alive. Seeing her creator in the everyday beauty, it is her form of worship and her joy in life to share and inspire those around her to do the same.

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As a tribute to my mother I created this Handbag cake for her final day at Garys’. The interior was a dense and moist dark chocolate cake brushed with apricot marmalade and layered in between chocolate buttercream.

Congratulations Mom!

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… to enjoy chocolate! (like I need another excuse.)

Chocolate Lifesaver – from Cancer to Dementia 

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Chocolate and I have known each other for quite awhile now. In the beginning our relationship was shallow, as I did not take the time to get to know this incredible ingredient in the way in which it deserves to be known.
I have always loved chocolate. To me it wasn’t dessert if it didn’t contain some variation of the “food of the gods”. Sorbets, brulees, cakes and custards did nothing for me unless their main ingredient was chocolate.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I really took notice of the true beauty that is chocolate. I remember going to my first chocolate tasting. The room smelled of heaven and I was eager to introduce my tongue to the complexities and subtleties that abound in chocolate. 40%, 50% 60%, 70%, 80% and 90%, I tried them all with the excitement of a child. I let each bite melt on my tongue and linger there so that I would not miss a single nuance. If there was a hint of citrus, I wanted to taste it. If there was a whisper of coffee I wanted to feel that on my tongue.

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The Chocolatier was to me an artist. Transforming this organic, raw product into something that was so clean, complex, harmonious and heavenly. The way he blended the chocolate with other flavors of similarity and great difference showed his vast knowledge of such a multifaceted ingredient. I was in awe of the creator and in love with the ingredient.
As with most things I love, I dissect them. What makes it work and how can I do that? Thus my journey with chocolate began.
Our relationship, chocolate and I, is complex because we are both complex. Chocolate and I are moody. Some days we just don’t like each other and don’t want to work together. But then there are those days, and there are quite a few of them, when we can spend hours together, harmoniously creating artistic and delicious confections that are sure to delight the mouths of any. On those days the hours melt away as fast as the chocolate and we work together as if we have been intimate friends for many years. But then there are the days when I feel as if we’ve never met.

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To really know chocolate is a journey. It, just like any good relationship, takes time, nurturing, learning, listening, dedication, respect, love and passion. Chocolate and I are in it for the long haul and I hope all of you have the chance to taste the offspring of our complex relationship. The opportunity for such a taste will present itself very soon. Please continue to stay tuned and let the anticipation fill your senses as fine chocolate.

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Photo courtesy of Gabriel Boone Photography 

This post could not have come at a better time. My dear friend Thea sent me an email this morning asking for an “uber-amazing” carrot cake recipe. Well Thea have I got a recipe for you (and everyone else interested in a killer recipe).

In my previous post with the cake that had a giant pink bow… the interior was a super moist carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting that is to die for. Knowing I had to make this carrot cake wedding cake I asked my mother-in-law if she had a favorite carrot cake recipe. Sure enough she did. It is so simple and delicious!!!

Without further ado I present to you…

Cindy’s Friend’s Carrot Cake Recipe For Thea (with a few minor changes)

1 1/2 cup grated carrots

1 cup crushed pineapple

1 cup toasted and roughly chopped pecans

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

4 eggs

3/4 cup oil

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Combine eggs, oil and vanilla. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Add dry to wet. Stir until just combined then fold in carrots, pineapple and nuts.

Bake 350* approx. 30 min. Until cake a toothpick comes out clean.

Ashley’s Uber-amazing Cream Cheese Frosting

10 oz (room-temp) Cream Cheese
5 oz Mascarpone
2 tbl. Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
½ tsp Cinnamon

Mix until combined and super fluffy.

I hope you all enjoy!! Seriously… it’s amazing.

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artisansweets [at] gmail [dot] com

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