Entries from October 31st, 2008

Sugar High Friday: Spice Up Your Life! Part One

October 31st, 2008 · 17 Comments · Events

There’s a definite autumnal chill in the air here: the beloved San Francisco Indian summer has finally made its last farewell, I think, and brisk, crisp, fog-coat of fall is rolling in with gusto. Perfect timing, I do believe, for all manner of spicy treats to warm one up. It’s one of the things I love so much about fall: warm woolly scarves in all shades of winter-defying primary colors, rubber rainboots squeaking against rain-slick streets, something baking in the oven, filling the house with a comforting scents of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise.

I’m so very impressed (and overwhelmed) by all the entries I received for my very first Sugar High Friday. Jennifer of the Domestic Goddess graciously let me take on the duties for this month, and I hope I’ll do an adequate job at showcasing all the wonderful ways you have come up with to use spices! I am truly impressed by all the creativity and talent out there, and am glad to have gotten the chance to meet all these other sweet bloggers!

Onward to the first part of the round-up!


Sailaja of Sailu’s Kitchen made two dishes for SHF!  Semiya Payasam ~ Vermicelli Kheer


and Rava Laddu ~ Sweet Semolina Balls. I love the vibrant colors!



Shavedicesundays of Shaved Ice Sundays created this Jujube Rice Pudding with Cinnamon and Honey – so seasonal and so yummy!


Hannah of BitterSweet baked up these intriguing  Autumnal Wattleseed Muffins – I’m especially liking the square shape!

Zita of Simplicious made this absolutely beautiful Hummingbird Cake.


Andrew of Eating Leeds used one of my favorite flavor combinations in his Chocolate Chili Fudge Cake.


Y of lemonpi came up with these Baked Mandarin Custard with Mandarin and Hazelnut Soldiers – I love the name and the flavors!


Ning of Heart and Hearth used one of my favorite fruits to make these Strawberry Muffins.

Pumpkin Chai Tart

Shari of Whisk got a head start on Halloween with her Pumpkin Chai Tart.


Dita of Yummy! My Culina Sanctuarium shares her Favorite Boiled Fruit Cake.

Pear Galette small

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen makes one of my favorite fall desserts, Spiced Pear Galette

Quince Bun Resized

Laura of Food Diaries of a Concubine created some Quince and Cardamon Breakfast Buns, which I am now craving!

SHFginger cookies

Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness thoroughly embraces the spice with her Triple Ginger Cookies.



Heather of Diary of a Fanatic Foodie made a Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Cranberry Bourbon Sauce, a fab dish for the holiday table.

Churros for shf

Arfi of HomeMadeS created these divine-looking Churros con Chocolate.

Wine cake 2

Gretchen of Canela & Comino made a wonderful, heady-sounding Wine Cake.


Rachael of I Eat the World sent in these lovely Sweet Potato Pikelets with Spiced Sauteed Pears – now I’ve learned about pikelets!


Kristen of Something Sweet must be a shortbread lover like me, her Brown Sugar Shortbread sounds delicious!


Helen of Tartelette made these absolutely adorable Bittersweet Chocolate Cardamon Cupcakes.

The ring sliced and eaten

Sunshinemom of Tongue Ticklers shared the joys of the Swedish Tea Ring with us.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Dana of Dulcedo tempted all pumpkin lovers with her Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.


Sweatha of TastyCurryLeaf put a spin on an old favorite with her Orange Cardamon Monkey Bread.


Kelly of Sass and Veracity added some Southwestern spice to the mix with her Chocolate Chipotle Cakes with Tomatillo Sauce and Cream.


Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté submitted a truly elegant fall dessert – Pumpkin Pavé – Spiced Pumpkin Filling on Streusel.


Anne of A Foodie Froggy in Paris made a Tart Tatin with Pears and Aniseed Honey-poached Quinces – all that fruit sounds so delectable!


Kay of Salubrious Tryst made these cleverly named Acronym Muffins – go find out what’s in them!


Bharti of Veggie Foodist contributed a lush and light Eggless Vanilla Apple Cake.

Cinnamon pecan biscotti 1

Caitlin of Engineer Baker sent in some really yummy Double Cinnamon Pecan Biscotti, all ready for dunking.

Apple crumble bar

Zhulaiha of epicurean escapism serves up the best of fall with her Apple Crumble Bars.


Freya of The Cocoa Lounge goes for an Asian twist with her Coconut and Lemongrass Truffles

Spiced Choc Orange Bread 03-250px

Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey? sent in a beautiful jewel-toned Spiced Chocolate & Orange Bread.


Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy is all set for the holidays with her Pumpkin Cheese Pie with Toffee and Caramel Swirl.


Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats also made two dishes: A lovely Gingerbread with Crystallized Ginger


and a tempting Spicy Pumpkin Custard. Beautiful job!


Elizabeth of Cake or Death? got a perfect shot of her lovely Chocolate-Chile Souffles with Cardamom Creme Anglaise.

SHF Glazed Prune Cake

Deeba of Passionate About Baking submitted a Glazed Prune Cake – I am as impressed by the cake as the props!



Janne from The BIte Size does her first SHF with an amazing Orange Carrot Cake with Chili Pepper, Thyme and a Citrus-Ginger Icing.


Hanne of Freshly Made tempts us all with her very photogenic Apple Cake with Spices.


Retno of Kedai Hamburg gave us her Banana-Choco-Walnut and Sultana bread – full of everything that’s delicious!

White choc pecan spice friands new

Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen in English made White Chocolate and Pecan Spice Friands – I have a weakness for financiers so I’ll have to try these!


Minh of Couture Cupcakes baked up some beautiful Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes with Five Spice – a very interesting combination!

The second part of the round-up will follow next week – I’m sorry I couldn’t fit you all in, but for everyone who’s not in the first part, rest assured you’ll be hearing from me this weekend!

Also, if any of the links or information in this post is wrong, let me know and I’ll correct it right away!

Finally, just another little tidbit about my book  – I don’t mean to bring it up in every post, but I wanted to let all your readers know that Field Guide to Cookies is being featured on Bust, and they are giving away 10 copies of my book! All you have to do it fill in the online entry form. I believe the contest ends November 5th so enter now!

Have a great weekend!


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Daring Bakers: The Joys of Homemade Pizza

October 28th, 2008 · 44 Comments · Pastry, Recipes

Hi dear readers and fellow Daring Bakers,
I did do the challenge but I'm running low on time to write a coherent post, so I'm hoping you all enjoy the pictures! The person who was most thrilled to hear about the challenge was my boyfriend, since he and I often make pizza at home, and now he knew we'd be doing it over the weekend!

Per our usual M.O., we like to split the dough into two and cover with different toppings. I really wanted to a sweet pizza, but the candy book plus SHF had totally zapped my creative energies for the weekend, so we fell back on what we had in the refrigerator. First, a roasted eggplant and pepper pizza, topped with mozzarella and oregano, and brushed with olive oil and garlic out the oven. My boyfriend and I have found we're huge fans of thin crust pizza, and light to no sauce, to better let the ingredients shine through. It's amazing how much a little olive oil and garlic can contribute!
Second pizza: some wonderful prosciutto, arugula, and a bit of fontina cheese. A pizza peel is next on my list of Kitchen Tools to Buy When I Actually Find More Space in My Kitchen (it's gotten to the point where I think I'll have to institute a one-in, one-out policy), but I've found that flipping over a baking sheet pan works almost as well. Also, a light sprinkling of cornmeal over the pan before placing the dough on also helps the crust crisp up, and makes removing the pizza easier.
So, a rare non-sweet entry on Dessert First! I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into what else I eat besides dessert! Thanks to the lovely Rosa for a great challenge! And, I am diligently working through all the SHF entries – I'm about halfway through the approximately 70 entries I got, so rest assured I'm getting to you! Everyone who sent in their entry will be included – so those of you who sent anxious e-mails about whether they made it in time, please don't worry! I hope you all look forward to the round-up on Friday (and likely part 2 on Monday!)
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour yo ur hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

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A Little Cake and A Little News

October 25th, 2008 · 37 Comments · Cookbooks, Field Guide to Cookies, Personal

10/26/08 – Photo added, and see the sidebar at right for info on SHF. Thanks!


Thank you all for your contributions to this month's Sugar High Friday – I am truly overwhelmed by the number of entries and the creativity of your creations. I am currently organizing them all and I'll try to respond to all of you sometime this weekend so you know I received your entry. Don't forget for those of you who haven't submitted yet, there's still time! The last day for submissions is Monday, October 27th, and the round-up will be on October 31st – although judging by all the entries so far, I might have to break it into several parts. I'm overjoyed to see all this fabulous baking going on out there!

By the way, I also wanted to thank all my readers for continuing to support Dessert First. There are so many things I've been wanting to do on this site and haven't gotten to yet -  I guess it's time for a few more updates on what I've been doing instead, isn't it?

First, the official publication date for Field Guide to Cookies is rapidly approaching – Nov. 19th. However, I've gotten reports that the book has already started showing up in stores, and I got to confirm this last week at my local Borders! If you do see the book at bookstores, post a comment here and let me know! I also have some other events in the works in November for the official release, so stay tuned!


Second, the other big thing that's been keeping me away from this blog is that I've just signed on to do my second book! I'm working with the same publisher I did Field Guide to Cookies with, and I'm super excited – and super busy doing research! As before, the topic is going to be a secret for a while, but if you keep a watch out on the entries and recipes I'm going to do for the rest of the year, you might get a hint as to what it'll be about:)


In the midst of all this excitement, I realized I miss just baking. I miss waking up and having the whole day in front of me, to ponder all the possibilities and permutations, to go to the market and look at what's available and let my mind meander over various muses and motives. I miss being in the kitchen, stirring eggs and sugar and flour together, filling pans with batter, and popping them in the oven, and waiting for the kitchen to fill with the scent of something delicious.

I managed to scrounge a few free hours together yesterday, and I found the perfect recipe to scratch the baking itch: Dorie Greenspan's Swedish Visiting Cake from her Baking: From My Home to Yours book. It is a supremely simple, one-bowl recipe that yields a satisfyingly golden, fluffy cake in less than an hour. It can be baked in a skillet, which makes for a wonderfully homey, run-next-door-and-invite-your-neighbor-to-share presentation, as the name of the cake implies. And best of all, it doesn't require a mixer, which means you get to stand there and whisk all the ingredients together into a smooth, shiny golden batter. Sometimes it's really gratifying to go back to the roots of baking and remember how rewarding it is to put something together all by hand.

The cake is flavored with almond and vanilla, but I added in a bit of cardamon, which I thought was appropriate since the spice is popular in many Swedish recipes. It gives the fairly mild cake a little whiff of the exotic, and also lets it fit in nicely with my SHF Spices theme. I also really love how the almonds and sugar on top give it that lovely thin crackly crust, which gives way to the moist cake below. You can serve it warm or at room temperature but I really like it warm, with perhaps a little drizzle of honey over the top.

It's been so amazing to see where my love of baking has taken me, but in the end baking will always be my first love, and what makes me happiest. Whether you love to bake or love to eat baked goods, I hope you all get a little sweetness in your weekend! Come back next week for my Daring Bakers entry, and, of course, the SHF round-up!


Swedish Visiting Cake

adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-in ovenproof skillet or a 9-in cake pan.

Combine sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk together until combined.

Add the two extracts and whisk until combined.

Add the flour and cardamon and fold in with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Add the butter and fold in with the spatula until the butter is fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Sprinkle the sliced almonds and some extra sugar on top.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and the top is dry to the touch.

Let cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen it before serving.

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Goodbye, Mother's Cookies

October 20th, 2008 · 54 Comments · Cookies, Recipes, Tools


Mother's Circus Animal Cookies

Many of you have already heard that the venerable Mother's Cookies has closed down. I found out about this last week just as I was leaving for a trip; therefore I spent much of the weekend mourning the end of this beloved institution and wondering if all the circus animal cookies would be gone from the stores by the time I returned. Judging from the many articles written urging cookie fans to stock up on their favorites, not an unfounded fear.

As the first photo shows, I was fortunately able to get my hands on a bag after my return, and I've been slowly enjoying them this week. I know – perhaps I should have kept it hermetically sealed away and let its value appreciate; surely like Twinkies, they would have an inordinately robust shelf life?

Well, I'm keeping my eyes open for any remaining bags, but I guess the rampant nostalgia that overcame me upon hearing of Mother's demise made it impossible to resist enjoying these cookies one more time. Besides, I needed to open the bag so I could take some pictures of the little frosted animals in all their pink and white glory – so at that point not eating a few would have been unfathomable.

It was tricky for me to write this post: after all, as a baker I'm supposed to be making all my goodies from scratch, and in the health-obsessed, organic-sustainable-local ground zero that is the Bay Area, it's more than a little unfashionable to be mooning over the heavily processed packaged items at the your local store. What would people think to see me walking around with Chip Ahoys or Entenmann's in my grocery basket, when I should be pulling batches of cookies out of my ever-ready oven?

While my mother kept the family on a fairly healthy diet as we were growing up, it's not to say she never allowed us the occasional indulgence of junk food, and I had my fair share of Ho-Hos and Twinkies and yes, Mother's cookies. However, kids grow up, tastes change, and once I discovered the benefits of eating healthy and cooking from scratch, it was quite easy to leave all that junk food behind on the grocery shelves. While I know that baking cakes and tarts and other sweets isn't exactly extolling the healthiest lifestyle, I firmly believe that eating any dessert that's made fresh with ingredients you know and understand, is always superior, and healthier, to eating something from a package with thirty plus ingredients, only two of which actually sound like food, even if the label says "fat free" or "low calorie" or "tastes just like real chocolate". Also, please note the name of my blog is Dessert First, not Only Dessert All The Time:)

So why, if my blog is dedicated to the best of all that is sweet, and to the joys of baking at home, would I be so distraught over the end of a commercial cookie manufacturer? Chalk it up to the power of nostalgia. Going to the grocery store with my mother when I was young, the cookie aisle was always my favorite (Does it surprise no one here that I've always had a sweet tooth?) When we went down the aisle lined with cookies, crackers, and cakes, I would always scan eagerly over the offerings, wondering if this time my mother would relent and buy us a treat. Of all the different brands, Mother's cookies always stood out, with their striped purple and red packaging and the icon showing a happy mom in the corner. The products also seemed seemed so much more distinctive and interesting than the rest: the striped shortbread, the chocolate chip angels, and, of course, the circus animal cookies.


My take on circus animal cookies

From all the mournful posts I've seen, circus animal cookies hold a special place in the memories of many. They are like animal crackers all gussied up, with a coat of shockingly sweet frosting in snowy white or neon pink, and a confetti sprinkling of rainbow sugar balls. All of these elements were important to the singular experience of eating one of these cookies: your tongue ran over the nubbiness of the sprinkles, as your teeth bit through the soft waxiness of the frosting, and crunched through the center. The sweetness of the frosting pretty much filled your mouth, so the cookie inside really provided little more than a texture contrast. I was always convinced that there was a difference between the pink and white ones, and always made sure to eat them alternating between the two colors.

Thanks to the miracles of science and commercial food production, it is practically impossible to replicate the sugary taste of circus animal cookies at home. I'm sure that's why I was sad to hear about the end of these cookies; when I eat one, I am immediately transported back to my childhood, and the occasions when I got to have a cookie. A rare occasion indeed, for circus animal cookies in particular, as my mother disliked anything with artificial colorings, for which these cookie qualified in spades. It was only with concerted begging could we get her to buy us a bag of these, and once the Christmas circus animals came out in red and green, there was nothing for it but we had to persuade her to let us try those as well, to see if they tasted any different.

It was probably for the best that I didn't get to gorge on these cookies, and for that I thank my mom. It also kept these cookies in the realm of special treat, so even after I grew older and went shopping on my own, I would always look on these cookies fondly. I like to think these cookies played a role in developing my interest in baking: after all, they were so prettily decorated, so my liking them must have indicated that I wanted to make things as equally eye-catching and tasty.

As I noted, I haven't been able to replicate these cookies at home taste-wise, but in looks at least it was not too difficult. I used the rolled sugar cookie recipe from my Field Guide to Cookies book, and covered them in a simple royal icing. While they don't taste like the store version, I think they taste pretty good on their own, and as a bonus I got to pick up some pretty cute circus animal cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma.


So, with this post I bid adieu to Mother's cookies, to English tea and iced oatmeal and striped shortbread and circus animal cookies. Thanks for making my childhood a little sweeter, and for being a stepping stone on my path to making my own baked goods. You'll always have a special place on my kitchen shelf.

Also, don't forget about Sugar High Friday – the deadline is next Monday and I'm looking forward to seeing all your entries!


Vanilla Sugar Animal Cookies with Royal Icing

About 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Royal icing (recipe follows) and colored sugars if decorating

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. In stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for several minutes until light and fluffy.
3. With mixer on low speed, gradually add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add the flour mixture gradually. Mix until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and uniform.
4. Divide dough into 2 pieces and flatten into 1/2 inch thick discs.
5. Wrap dough and refrigerate for 2 hours. At this point the dough can be double wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks.
6. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325°F. Grease several cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
7. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and dust with more flour. Gently roll the dough 1/8 inch thick.
8. Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place on sheets about 1 inch apart.
9. Bake for 14–16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks with a metal spatula to cool completely.
10. Once cookies are cooled, decorate them with icing and colored sugars.

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
Food coloring in desired colors

1. Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine all the ingredients and whisk for several minutes on high speed until the mixture is thick and shiny opaque white. It should have the consistency of glue. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar by teaspoonfuls as needed. If it is too thick, add water by teaspoonfuls as needed.
2. Divide icing into bowls for coloring. Keep the bowls covered or the icing will dry and harden. Add food color to icing to achieve desired hues.

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I'm the Host for Sugar High Friday! Time to Spice Up Your Life

October 7th, 2008 · 41 Comments · Events


I'm very excited this month, and not just because it's finally, fully autumn and there's all the wonderful cold-weather baking I'm going to do, plus the holidays lurking in the turning of fall leaves (is it me, or do Christmas displays in the stores go up sooner and sooner every year?)

I'm thrilled to finally be hosting Sugar High Friday, the grande dame of online events for sweet-minded bloggers. When I e-mailed Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess and founder of this event, I expressed surprise that I'd been running a dessert blog for two and half years and had yet to play host, and she concurred.

For my inaugural turn as Sugar High Friday host, I'm choosing Spices as the theme. I think it's fabulously appropriate, as fall is the perfect time for filling your kitchen with the alluring and cozy aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and all those other spices that put one in the holiday frame of mind.

It's also a chance, if you like, to experiment with some spices that you may not be as familiar with and perhaps may not associate with baking: star anise, rosemary, wattleseed, to name a few?

The rules for this Sugar High Friday are simple: make something using one or as many spices as you like.
If you need some inspiration for spices to use, there are some great lists here and here. It should still a sweet dish and not a savory dish, of course! Here are some spice-inspired recipes from Dessert First to get you going:

Apple Spice Cakes

Maple Star Anise Mousse

Spiced Chocolate Mousses

Roasted Cinnamon Ice Cream



I've also taken this opportunity to make Claudia Fleming's Sugar-and-Spice Doughnuts from The Last Course. I seldom make doughnuts, fearing their effect on my waistline, but these fluffy, yeasty little pillows of happiness are worth it. The dough is a breeze to make and the finished golden fritters boast a distinctly exotic tone with the inclusion of orange flower water and mace. Rolled in sugar, cinnamon, and cardamon, they are delightful way to start the day – or end a meal.

So this month, I hope to see you all adding a little spice to your lives! How can you participate and show me your spice?

1. Make your dish and post about it on your blog before Monday, October 27th.

2. Send me an e-mail with SHF in the subject line. Include in your e-mail:

The name of your dish

The link to your post

The link to your blog

A photo of your creation (250 px by 250 px)

Your name, of course, so I can properly credit your creation in the round-up!

3. Come back on Friday, October 31st (otherwise known as Halloween) for a sweet-and-spicy roundup!

Happy Baking, and I look forward to seeing all your entries!

Sugar and Spice Doughnuts

adapted from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course

makes about a dozen doughnuts


1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 tablespoon orange flower water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable oil for frying

Sugar and Spice Topping

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon

Warm milk in a saucepan or in microwave until just warm, not hot (you will kill the yeast). Combine milk in a small bowl with the 1/2 tablespoon sugar and the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture has expanded and bubbled.

Combine flour, remaining sugar, mace, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Mix the egg, orange flower water, and 3 tablespoons of water together in another small bowl.

With the mixture running on low speed, slowly add in the yeast mixture, egg mixture, and melted butter, mixing just until it starts to come together.

Switch to the dough hook and mix the dough together for another 10-15 minutes, until the dough has formed a ball around the hook and making slapping noises around the bowl.

Scrape dough together, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Roll the dough out to about a 3/16" thickness on a lightly floured surface or silicone baking mat. Chill for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into rings and holes with a donut cutter, or if don't have one, just cut into 1-inch squares. Place on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased parchment paper, cover with another piece of lightly greased parchment paper, and let proof in a warm area for about 30 minutes, until the doughnuts have risen.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sugar and spice topping in a bowl.

When you are ready to fry the doughnuts, fill a medium heavy-duty saucepan about half full with the oil and heat on medium-high heat to 375 degrees.

Carefully drop in a few doughnuts at a time, taking care not to overcrowd them – they won't be able to cook properly and you'll have more difficulty pulling them out at the right time.

Fry for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side until they are evenly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain.

When they have cooled enough to touch but are not totally cool, toss them in the sugar and spice topping to coat. Serve immediately.

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Ready for Another Chocolate Adventure?

October 3rd, 2008 · 23 Comments · Chocolate, Events, Recipes, Tarts


Thank you to all of you for your well-wishes – they definitely buoyed my spirits over a weekend of sneezing, sniffling, and coughing – let's just say you probably didn't want me anywhere near where your food was being prepared! However, I'm happy to say I am 100% recovered, all tissues and cough drops have been returned to their proper places, and I'm itching to be back in the kitchen!

I have a backlog of posts I'm eager to get up, and the first one is a recap of a very fun event I went to a few weeks ago. Remember the Chocolate Adventure contest from last year? It's back for a second round: entrants are invited to create an original recipe using Scharffen Berger chocolate and one or more of 16 adventure ingredients, from more obvious items like cocoa nibs and matcha tea to true challenges like mustard seeds, jicama, and coriander. This year, the adventure theme is being extended even further: there are three categories: Sweet, Savory, and Beverage. Each category will have a grand prize winner who will get $5,000, signed copies of Essence of Chocolate, Pure Dessert, and Demolition Desserts (I'll add that I can vouch for the excellence of all three books and their necessity on your bookshelf!), plus the honor of having their recipe published on TuttiFoodie and the Scharffen Berger newsletter.

All the official rules are here: you are allowed up to 10 entries, so get your chef's hats on and your tastebuds primed. The contest started on October 1 and runs until January 4th, 2009, so you have plenty of time to come up with the most innovative, adventurous chocolate recipe ever!

To kick off the excitement and get us thinking about unusual flavor combinations with chocolate, sponsors Schaffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie, along with food diva extraordinaire Marcia of Tablehopper, threw a little party at Orson, Elizabeth Falkner's newest restaurant.

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Falkner, and I thought the choice of her as a kind of patron saint for a contest celebrating culinary creativity was inspired genius. Falkner is a chef who works fearlessly with sweet and savory ingredients, who plays with flavor and texture in the most whimsical, avant-garde of ways, yet never forgets that food should be foremost delicious and satisfying. Her first restaurant, Citizen Cake, showed she was so much more than just a pastry chef working with sugar and butter, and Orson is just the next extension in her culinary explorations.


The restaurant looks like a cross between a modern art museum and a sleek, ultracool lounge. The center is wide open and dominated by a dramatic hanging sculpture over a bar, perfect for after-work libations.


Here's a better perspective of the space. We are about to have John Scharffenberger lead us through a blind chocolate tasting – if you look closely, you can spot the little eye masks at each person's seat. Scharffen Berger has just released a special edition 10th Anniversary bar called Finisterra, made of a blend of beans from Venezuela, Trinidad, and Madagascar. What Scharffenberger did was have us taste each of the three component chocolates individually, to see how they differed in taste, mouthfeel, and finish, and then taste the finished bar, explaining how they combined the three and how they worked with each to create an entirely new flavor, but with identifiable notes from its parts. It was really eye-opening – pardon the bad pun – how not being able to see definitely forced you to concentrate and focus on the flavors of the chocolate in a different way. Plus, there is something just a little naughty about having someone feed you chocolate while you're blindfolded…

I realize I took no photos of Elizabeth Falkner! Well, here's one if you don't know what she looks like. She was busy running back and forth from the kitchen, bringing out an amazing array of courses, all using chocolate and some of the adventure ingredients in some surprising arrangement. All I can say is,  thank your lucky stars that Falkner is not competing in this contest! She is, however, one of the judges, so know that this is one chef who is very well versed in exotic experimentation!

We started off with a rum-based cocktail laced with kaffir lime and chocolate shavings, moved on to potato rounds topped with cocoa nibs and romanesco, and then chicarrones (fried pork skins) dipped in a bittersweet chocolate sauce. By the way, the chicarrones are a staple on her bar menu, but served with barbecue sauce. Give me a bucket of those chicarrones and some chocolate sauce to dip it in, and I will happily die from a heart attack.

For the main courses, we started with a salad of mango, avocado, and cherry tomatoes with chocolate shavings and a violet vinaigrette, and then were served roast pork in a chocolate mole sauce spiced with chili and ginger. Sorry I have no photos of all these – it's not that I pigged out and ate them all before snapping shots, it's just the quality didn't come out very well!


Here are two shots that did come out decently – this one is a quenelle of Parmesan pudding along with some red peppers, and cocoa nibs mixed with unflavored Pop Rocks – yes, pop rocks are one of the adventure ingredients.  Creamy and rich without being overpowering, and the pop rocks added an interesting sensation contrast to the pudding.


This was the one "real" dessert – imagine that we've had about 8 dishes, all using chocolate in some way, and only one was a sweet item! This was, of course, one of my favorites – chocolate and black olive ice cream sandwiched between thin cookies made of chocolate, cocoa nibs, and espresso. I'm not a fan of olives, but this was really something special – the bitter saltiness of the olives played wonderfully off the chocolate, making it sweeter and more complex at once. It's one of those dishes that makes you happy you've opened your mind to possibilities heretofore unconsidered.

All of us lucky enough to be at Orson certainly came away with a new appreciation for the versatility of chocolate as an ingredient. I've seen plenty of amazing creativity out there in the blogosphere as well, so I'm sure all of you who enter will be dreaming up some astonishing dishes!

I'm being a little less creative for this post, but after eating at Elizabeth Falkner's restaurant I couldn't help making one of her recipes from Demolition Desserts. This one, called A Chocolate Tart Named Desire, is a sweet, sassy ode to the South – essentially a warm chocolate cake batter baked in a buttery tart shell lined with a layer of rich caramel. Decorate with some pecan praline and some mint-and-bourbon-laced cream, and you have yourself a beautiful, balmy evening on the front porch – or a cozy evening inside, if fall's already settled in firmly where you are.

The dessert is multi-part, like most of Falkner's desserts, but it's worth the work – the chocolate tart is nicely rich and smooth, and I like how the tart crust "corrals" the cake batter so it doesn't run everywhere. The caramel sauce and pecan praline just up the decadence factor – there's something about pecans and brown sugar and butter that makes it really hard to stop eating them. Finally, a little bit of mint, just to cut through all the richness and add a sprightly top note.

It's good to be back, everyone – best of luck if you're entering the Chocolate Adventure contest, and also come back next week – I'm the next Sugar High Friday host and I'm just about ready to announce the theme!


Other Recipes to Try


Rosebud Creme Brulee

Warm Chocolate Caramel Tart

adapted from Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts

makes about (8)  3 1/2 in tarts


1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons (2 ounces) sugar

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened,cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream

Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

3 large eggs, separated

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

To make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix a few times with the paddle attachment just to combine.

Add in the butter and mix on low speed until it just starts to come together – there should still be visible pieces of butter and it should not be a smooth, homogeneous mass.

Add in the egg yolk and cream and mix until the dough just forms into one mass.

Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. form into a flat slab, and wrap well. Chill for at least one hour to let the dough firm up.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and place eight 3 1/2 tart rings on it.

Take out the dough, cut in half, and return rest to the refrigerator for another time. Roll out the dough to about 3/16" thick. Using the tart rings as a guide, cut out rounds of dough and press into the tart rings, forming it to the bottom and sides. Trim the dough off the top so it is even with the tart rings.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway. If the dough starts to puff up, push it back down with a dough tamper.

Remove from oven and let cool while you make the caramel sauce and filling.

To make the caramel sauce: Combine the water, cream of tartar, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until it reaches 350 degrees and has turned dark amber. Be careful not to let it burn.

While the sugar is cooking, you can heat the cream up in the microwave or on the stove until it is warm but not boiling -it will prevent it from causing the hot caramel to seize up when you add it.

Add the butter to the caramel and stir to combine.

Pour in the cream, being careful as it will bubble out. Some of the caramel may seize up, but just place back over the heat and stir until it's melted again.

When it is all combined and smooth, remove from, stir in the salt and vanilla, and let cool before using.

To make the filling: Combine the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a clean mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the salt until soft peaks form. Set aside. 

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg yolk and remaining sugar together until combined and thick. Slowly pour in few spoonfuls of the warm chocolate mixture and whisk to combine until smooth. Pour in a few more spoonfuls and repeat. You want to do it slowly because if you pour it all in at once the chocolate could seize up.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture gently with a spatula. Sift the flour into the bowl and fold into the chocolate mixture as well.

You can use the filling right away or refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

To finish the tarts: Spoon 1 tablespoon of the caramel sauce into the bottom of the tart shells. Spoon the filling on top of the caramel sauce, covering it completely and filling the tart shell all the way to the rim.

Bake the tarts for 10 minutes. The filling should puff up and still look slightly shiny. Serve immediately.

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