Entries from October 30th, 2009

A Little Candy Corn for Your Halloween Bowl

October 30th, 2009 · 9 Comments · Candy, Field Guide to Candy, Recipes


Hi all! In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d share this candy corn recipe from my cookbook. I also got to speak with the Saucy Sisters from Nashville about this Halloween staple; here’s the podcast if you want to take a listen!

These little triangular-shaped candies, colored in bands of yellow, orange, and white, mimic a ripe kernel of corn; it’s easy to see where candy corn get their name. Candy corn is associated with Halloween in North America and makes its appearance in large quantities as the holiday approaches. Candy corn also appears in other color combinations, including Indian corn, which is brown, orange, and white; reindeer corn, which is red, green, and white; cupid corn, which is red, pink, and white; and bunny corn, which comes in pastel colors. I never realized before I started researching candy corn how many variations existed! I guess it’s so that candy corn addicts can get their fix year round!

Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger of the now defunct Wunderlee Candy Company. It used to be made by hand out of sugar syrup, fondant, and marshmallows. The process was so labor-intensive that the candy was made only from March through November. The manufacturing of commercial candy corn was taken over in 1900 by the Goelitz Candy Company, today known as the Jelly Belly Candy Company. With the creation of machines to automate the process, candy corn no longer needs to be made one kernel at a time.

One thing learned when making the dough is not to overcook it or the dough will become hard and crumbly when it cools and it will be hard to form. Don’t turn the heat up too high when you are cooking the sugar mixture. Let the dough cool enough so you can form the ropes, but also don’t let it completely cool and harden. When you are forming the ropes of dough into one piece, lightly running a rolling pin over the top will help press them together. After you cut the candy into pieces, you can reshape them by hand to achieve a rounder shape.

Happy Halloween, and hope you find some delicious candy in your trick or treat bags!


Candy Corn

adapted from Field Guide to Candy


2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup dry powdered milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Few drops food coloring


1. Combine confectioners’ sugar, powdered milk, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat,stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

4. Add the dry milk mixture to the saucepan, and mix until fully combined. Let mixture rest for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.

5. Divide dough into 3 equal parts and place each portion in a bowl. Add coloring to each part as desired and stir to distribute evenly; if you want to keep it white, don’t add any coloring.

6. Knead each portion of dough in each bowl until the coloring is evenly distributed and the dough is smooth and stiff.

7. Roll each portion into a rope about ½-inch in diameter.

8. Place the three ropes of dough next to each other to form a long rectangle. Use a rolling pin to gently roll over the ropes and press them together.

9. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into triangles and place on a baking sheet. Let set for about an hour before serving. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

Yield: About 80 pieces

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Pomegranates, Fall, and Cookbooks

October 26th, 2009 · 11 Comments · Cakes, Cookbooks, Fruit, Recipes


Thanks to all of you who made it out to my book party last weekend! We had a brisk fall afternoon, a lovely crowd, and chocolates for all! I was flattered that so many guests commented on the Vanilla Bean Chocolates I made, when there’s so much good chocolate to be found in the city!

Also, for those of you who wrote in asking about seed chocolate, I’ve amended an explanation to the previous post to make it more complete. I realize I kind of breezed right by a definition of the term. The method of tempering using seed chocolate is also explained in detail in my new candy book.

Not only do I love fall for the slow shift in weather (it’s like the sky has put on its own soft grey sweater, and the air smells of change, all leaves and smoke and spices), but because of all the new cookbook releases. After falling in love with about half of the selection at Omnivore Books, what a nice surprise to come home and find a review copy of Dede Wilson’s Unforgettable Desserts waiting for me!

Going through the cookbook-writing process myself has made me ever more cognizant of the intricacies of book production, and it always gives me a frisson of sensory pleasure to open a beautifully designed book. Unforgettable Desserts is a pleasure to hold in your hands and leaf through. The fuchsia-and-cocoa color scheme, the clean, thoughtful layout of the recipes, the crisp photography, all make this cookbook a joy to devour.

I’m not exaggerating with the last sentence: Wilson has assembled a collection of desserts ranging from homey to sophisticated, with descriptions that often made me wish I could just reach into the book and pull out the cake or tart in question to eat immediately. Most of her recipes are inventive takes on classic desserts, which give them both the reassuring feel of the familiar and the thrill of culinary inspiration. For example, butterscotch-pecan brownies with whiskey-soaked raisins elevate the brownies to a delightfully adult level, while a red and purple plum tart with marzipan crumble sounds like a cute play on the classic combination of plums and almonds. Wilson has got a knack for naming her creations – who wouldn’t want to try making Thousand Leaves with Blackberry Pastry Cream or Melon Ribbon Tartlets or even The Giant Cream Puff?


In deciding which recipe to try out first, I was drawn to the Pomegranate-Chocolate Mousse Cake, mainly because pomegranates seem to be everywhere these days. Aside from their fantastically tart flavor, pomegranates are such a vividly beautiful fruit. It’s almost as if they were made to be art, with their blood-red arils suspended in white pith like paintdrops flung across snowy canvas.

You know what else is a snowy canvas? The nice white walls of my new kitchen. If you haven’t cut open a pomegranate before, here’s my advice: don’t do it near anything you don’t want stained. Extracting the arils of a pomegranate is ridiculously messy, almost satisfyingly primal affair, and if you don’t want to leave permanent evidence of it, I’d stay away from white walls. I found it safest to do it in the sink over a bowl of water (hurray for new deep sinks!). I suggested my bf do the same when he wanted to eat up the remaining pomegranates from my baking, but he decided he didn’t need to. I caught him scrubbing down the walls later:)

This buttercream layer cake does use pomegranate arils for decoration, but most of the pomegranate flavor comes from pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses (which smells like heaven, by the way). One thing I noted about Wilson’s book is that she is very precise about her ingredients – she gives the name of the pomegranate juice and molasses she uses, the exact brand of chocolate, flour, butter, etc. she prefers – in greater detail than most cookbooks. It’s useful for those who may not have ready access to unusual ingredients and would appreciate specific brands, or for those who just want to know what brands the author uses. I often get asked, “What brand of chocolate do you prefer?” or “Where did you find ingredient such-and-such?” so this seems like a smart move on Wilson’s part.

Part of the reason I was drawn to this cake is that Wilson describes being drawn to the combination of pomegranate and chocolate over her old favorite of raspberry and chocolate. Since I’m an ardent raspberry and chocolate fan, I was curious how this alternate pairing tasted.


The recipe also allowed me to test out several of Wilson’s basic components:the cake is composed of her basic chocolate cake layered with a milk chocolate pomegranate mousse. The cake is spread with a pomegranate buttercream and topped with a dark chocolate pomegranate ganache. Whew!

Everything came together pretty much seamlessly: the recipes are well written and flow smoothly. The pomegranate flavor comes through in the simple syrup brushed on the cake and the ganache, which are both made with pomegranate molasses. This ruby-hued stuff is like pure pomegranate concentrate and really adds a nice jolt of tart, fruity flavor. The chocolate cake is dark and moist as advertised, but I thought the pomegranate simple syrup really elevated it and helped meld the two main flavors together. The recipe called for making the Italian meringue buttercream with pomegranate juice, which would give it flavor and color. I found the intense red of the juice turned into a duller brownish-red, especially after it’s been heated to make the meringue, so I added a few drops of pink food coloring to get the delicate hue I was envisioning. I’m not really a milk chocolate fan, and I thought the flavor of the pomegranate juice got lost in the mousse, but it does combine well with cake to create that perfect creamy cake-plus-filling bite, and the toppings contribute more than enough pomegranate-ness.

The result is an intense little number with zingy pomegranate playing off of the dark chocolate notes. It really is similar to a raspberry-chocolate combo, a happy discovery for me since I can now make this when raspberries aren’t in season and vice versa.

I’m proud to give Unforgettable Desserts a place on my bookshelf, and I’m sure I’ll be making many more recipes from there this fall!

P.S. I did a interview for the C&H newsletter (Domino on the East Coast). I’m thrilled to share the newsletter with Emily Luchetti, one of my favorite pastry chefs. Both of us share our favorite holiday sweet recipes, so click on through!



Pomegranate Chocolate Mousse Cake

This recipe uses Wilson’s chocolate cake and italian meringue buttercream recipes. Because reproducing them all would make this post very lengthy and I don’t want to give away too much of her material, please use your favorite chocolate layer cake recipe that makes (2) 9″ round layers and italian meringue buttercream that makes about 2-3 cups of buttercream.

Milk Chocolate Pomegranate Mousse

9 ounces dark milk chocolate, such as Valrhona Jivara 40%, finely chopped

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 1/2 cups heavy cream


Simple Syrup

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses, such as Al Wadi


Pomegranate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli 45%, Callebaut 52%, Valrhona Equitoriale 55%, or Bissinger’s 60%, finely chopped

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses


For the mousse: Combine milk chocolate and juice in a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Melt chocolate, stirring until combined and smooth. Remove and let cool.

Whip cream to soft peaks.

Fold in the chocolate. Cover the mousse with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to spread or overnight.

For the syrup: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil. Remove when all the sugar has been dissolved.

Let cool and whisk in molasses to combine.

To assemble the cake: Level chocolate cake layers and slice each layer horizontally into two layers. Place one side bottom side down on a cake round and brush with the sugar syrup.

Spread a layer of mousse on top. Place another layer of cake on top and repeat process two more times.

Place last layer of cake on top and brush with sugar syrup. Refrigerate cake until mousse is firm, about 1 hour.

Make buttercream during this time. When you are ready to frost the cake, apply a thin layer of buttercream all over tops and sides the cake as a crumb coat. Refrigerate for an hour to let set.

Apply final coat of buttercream, spreading evenly all over top and sides of cake. Chill cake while you make the ganache.

For the ganache: Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.

Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Pour cream over chocolate. Cover bowl and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir cream and chocolate until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Whisk in pomegranate molasses. Let cool slightly but do not let set.

Pour ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip irregularly down the sides. Refrigerate until ganache has firmed, about 1 hour.




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{Product Review} Of Chocolate and Tempering

October 13th, 2009 · 26 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews, Tools

Edited 10/25/09: In response to e-mails asking about the seeding method, I’ve expanded my post to include a more in-depth explanation of tempering chocolate. See below for the bolded questions “What is tempering chocolate?” and “What is the seeding method?”


Wow! First, thank you all for the wonderful well wishes and support to my last post! It is still a bit unreal to me that I now have two books to my name, and all of your encouragement is *very* much appreciated! I wish I could send you all copies of the book – although I guess that wouldn’t be too good for book sales! I’m eager to share some of my favorite candy recipes on Dessert First though, so even if you can’t get a copy of the book you can still try your hand at candy-making! For all my foreign readers who are asking if Field Guide to Candy is available outside of the US, your best best is if you have an Amazon for your  country. Otherwise, do write my publisher, Quirk Books, and let them know you’ll love to buy if it were available where you live!

Second, I read through every comment and I am tickled pink by all of your favorite candies! Incidentally, I was interviewed for a small feature in Rachael Ray magazine a couple months ago where I was asked to deduce what your favorite type of movie revealed about your personality, and what candy would go best with each movie genre. Sorry, I forgot to mention the article earlier, but it is fascinating to think about what your favorite candies say about you! Lots of chocolate and peanut butter fans, lots of toffee aficionados, lot of nutty candy lovers. I’m glad because I do cover all those candies in my book!

As for some of the “is that candy?” questions, yes, marshmallows are candy, and yes, chocolate dipped fruit is candy. Trying to corral the definition of candy was actually one of the most difficult bits of the book, as candy has various definitions around the world. It doesn’t help that many quasi-synonyms like sweets, confectionery, and bonbons exist, with sometime overlapping, sometimes contradictory definitions depending on the part of the world you’re in. In the end, my broadest definition of candy is something that is sweet, typically not baked, and is small and bite-sized. Of course there are many more technical and historical ways to define candy, but I’ll leave that outside of this post!

It wasn’t surprising to me that chocolate dominated across the comments. I have to admit the chocolate candy section of the book was one of my favorite parts to work on. Not only did I get to buy and sample tons of truffles and bonbons in the name of research, I also got to practice working with chocolate, a most singular and revered art in the world of pastry.

Also one of the most notorious: although I love baking with chocolate, and I loved making ganaches for truffles and drizzling melted chocolate over nuts, the prospect of tempering chocolate still gets my little panic button blinking. So I guess I both loved and feared the chocolate chapter. Feared, since I knew I would be spending lot of time stirring melted chocolate and staring intently at drying streaks on pieces of parchment paper, looking for that perfect glossy shine, the reassuring thrilling ‘snap’ that signals success.

What is tempering chocolate? Put simply, it is the process of melting chocolate and manipulating it to the right temperature to encourage proper crystallization of the cocoa butter in the chocolate. Here’s an example: say you melt a bar of chocolate and let it sit there to cool and harden naturally. What you’ll see is a dull, lumpy mass that might have light streaks in it. It might still feel soft to the touch and if you try to break it in pieces it will be crumbly and rough-looking. This is because as the chocolate cooled, the cocoa butter re-crystallized in a random and uncontrolled manner, with crystals of various sizes forming everywhere.

Contrast this with the shell of a truffle or a chocolate bar: the chocolate is hard with a glossy shine, and if you break it, it will snap cleanly (think of that lovely little crunch as you bite through the truffle shell). Tempered chocolate also holds up better and does not melt as quickly in hot weather. With all these appealing characteristics, it’s easy to see why getting chocolate into the tempered state is so desirable.

There are several ways to temper chocolate, but they all revolve around melting chocolate down (at this point there is no crystal formation), cooling the chocolate down to the correct temperature so that the desired orderly recrystallization of cocoa butter begins to occur, and then reheating it to a final working temperature (so the chocolate is at a workable consistency). The desired temperatures vary for dark, milk, and white chocolate, and often makers of professional chocolate will print little temperature graphs on their bags showing what are the ideal ranges for working with their product. For dark chocolate, typically you want to melt the chocolate to no higher than 115 degrees F, let it cool to about 82 degrees F, and then reheat to about 88 to 90 degrees F. Reheating the chocolate higher than 90 degrees will cause it to go out of temper, and you’ll have to start all over again.

The traditional way of tempering chocolate is by hand: one of the classic methods is to pour the melted chocolate on a marble slab, which helps cool it quickly, and work it with a scraper until it has reached the right temperature. Although it sounds messy, experienced professionals can temper chocolate very quickly this way. Another, perhaps more tidy method keeps all the chocolate in the bowl and uses a piece of seed chocolate to help lower the temperature and encourage proper crystallization; see it described further below. Of course, with the advent of large-scale candy making operations, it was inevitable that machines would be invented to streamline this often finicky procedure. The first time I saw a commerical chocolate tempering machine at a factory I was agog with amazement and delight: it was possible to mechanize this process!



So what’s this? Ok, I admit it. In the name of research for this book, I went and bought a home chocolate tempering machine. I was filled with fear that the night before the photoshoot I would have utter chocolate tempering failure. Would this guy be a reliable backup? A beautiful sleek blue machine that promises tempered chocolate, perfect and predictable? Well, I knew I would never have a better excuse to get one of these lovelies.

There are not many home chocolate tempering machines out there; Chocovision is one of the most well-known brands available. They are not cheap, either: I imagine they would be the best investment for a serious home confectioner who enjoys making candy regularly or perhaps someone just starting a business. The small capacity of these machines, though, (about 1 1/2 pounds for smaller home models) means if your business takes off you’ll likely need to move up to commercial-size machinery. The machine works on the seeding method for tempering chocolate. What is the seeding method?

The seeding method involves placing a block of unmelted, tempered chocolate into a pool of melted chocolate. Th e idea is that as the tempered chocolate melts, the orderly cocoa butter crystals will encourage the cocoa butter in the rest of the melted chocolate to reform in the same, desired formation (did you know chemistry was so important in chocolate? I would have studied it harder in school!) The advantage to the seeding method is that it can greatly speed up the tempering process since introducing already-tempered chocolate to the pool can induce the correct cocoa butter crystallization faster than trying to encourage the melted chocolate to come into temper all on its own. The unmelted chocolate will also of course help drop the temperature of the pool of melted chocolate more quickly. Once the temperature has dropped to the right point, you can remove any unmelted seed chocolate and then heat the chocolate back up to the 90 degree range, at which point all the chocolate should be in temper.

The Chocovision machine works with the seeding method pretty efficiently: you put in some chocolate, it will melt it to a certain temperature (108 degrees for dark), at which point it will beep at you to add in the seed chocolate. It will melt the seed chocolate and mix it into the main chocolate pool until it reaches another preset temperature, at which point it will beep again and you remove any remaining seed chocolate. Then it agitates the chocolate until it reaches the magic temperature of about 90 degrees, at which point, ta-da! your chocolate should be tempered.

What’s my verdict? Unfortunately, if you are expecting a magical chocolate tempering machine where you can just dump in chocolate, press a button, and instantly get tempered chocolate, I don’t think they exist. Tempering chocolate requires a understanding of chocolate, how it behaves at different temperatures, and why you want to manipulate it to different temperatures. What this machine is very good at doing is getting your chocolate to a specified temperature and maintaining it or increasing/dropping it as you desire. So instead of lots of stirring and constant temperature checking, you can just put the chocolate in the bowl and let it do the melting and agitating for you. I like this part because 1) I always make a mess when I work with chocolate, and somehow chocolate will get everywhere. This machine keeps it all tidy in the bowl. 2) Once I get the chocolate to the temperature I want, the machine will keep it at that temperature, so I don’t have to worry as much about the chocolate cooling too quickly. Note the manufacturer doesn’t recommend having the chocolate sitting in the bowl forever; if you’re not going to use the tempered chocolate within a couple hours, they suggest taking it out.


One of the best things about the chocolate tempering machine is watching the liquid chocolate swirling around in the bowl. Mmm, it’s like I’m in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Those are really the two best features about having this machine. Notice it wasn’t “instant tempered chocolate.” The thing is, the machine can take the chocolate up and down to the programmed temperatures, but there’s no way it can actually tell if the chocolate is tempered. It just knows that the chocolate is at 89 degrees or the temperature you programmed in. You still need to check to see if it is in fact tempered.

Typically most chocolates can be tempered within the programmed temperature ranges. I may have just been unlucky and needed to do some tinkering. I use Callebaut chocolate, and I find it can be a little thicker than other chocolates and I needed to drop the temperature lower to get the right kind of crystals forming. This isn’t to say the machine does not work or it is a bad purchase. But just like any technique in pastry or any machine, it works best if you understand what is going on. If I hadn’t practiced tempering chocolate by hand so much, I wouldn’t have known what to look for in tempered chocolate  – the consistency, the feel. I might have just thought the machine didn’t work right. Once I had done a few test runs, I was able to figure out the best temperatures for my Callebaut chocolate and the machine worked great. I would say this guy is a wonderful luxury to have, but it’s still very worth it to know how to temper by hand. You’ll understand your chocolate better that way. And you’ll never be caught not knowing how to temper chocolate! From my hours and hours of tempering chocolate, I discovered a few guidelines that worked for me:

- Use at least a pound of chocolate. It’s easier to control the temperature of a larger mass of chocolate than a smaller one.

- Use good quality chocolate. I know some people have said they can use Baker’s Chocolate and temper using the microwave with great results. I guess I’m not that much of a chocolate tempering expert yet. Quality chocolate behaves better and more consistently, and will of course taste better. Some of the finer companies like Callebaut and Valrhona make different kinds of chocolate and indicate which ones are better for enrobing and which for baking.

- I find the seed method works best for me, since it cuts down on the time needed to cool the chocolate down and encourages the growth of the desired chocolate crystals. Use a single chunk of seed chocolate so it’s easier to fish out when your chocolate has cooled down.

- An accurate thermometer is your best friend in tempering chocolate, since being off by a few degrees can mean the difference between tempered chocolate and not-tempered chocolate. There is such a thing as a chocolate tempering thermometer, which works well because it is measures in single degree increments.

- It’s very difficult to temper chocolate on a warm or humid day. If you have air conditioning in your kitchen, use it! Or try tempering on a cooler day.

- Be prepared beforehand with the items you want to dip before tempering. Chocolate has the amazing ability to migrate everywhere – I will work as clean as possible and still find chocolate on my nose and arms. Have a towel handy!


Here is one of my recipes from my candy book, basic Dipped Chocolates, which features a ganache dipped into tempered chocolate. If you roll the ganache into balls before dipping, you get truffles. But cutting the chilled ganache into squares and then dipping in tempered chocolate will yield the elegant little tiles so popular in chocolate shops these days. The flavor of the ganache is of course only limited by your imagination – I made a vanilla bean ganache using a sample of vanilla bean paste I received from Singing Dog Vanilla. It is an intensely aromatic paste – I used the amount in my recipe and the vanilla was very clear and sweet.


I also took the opportunity to explore the many ways to decorate dipped chocolates. You can drizzle more chocolate over the tops with a fork or piping bag, as I did above.


You can also dust the tops with luster dust  – I find the gold on dark chocolate quite enticing.



You can also use chocolate transfer sheets – sheets of plastic coated with designs in cocoa butter. Pressed onto just-dipped chocolates, they leave their mark – literally – on your chocolates. I got my transfer sheets at Fancy Flours, which has a nice selection of designs.

Oh, and of course what you’ve all been waiting for – the winners of the copies of Field Guide to Candy! Eva : ” i recently found your blog, and it’s been a real joy to read. congratulations on your second book. by the way, my favorite candy is dutch liquorice.^^”

and Julie: “My favorite candy to make is truffles. My favorite candy to eat would be candy cane marshmallows.”

Congratulations to you two! I will e-mailing you for your mailing addresses. Everyone else, I hope you enjoy the chocolate recipe and hopefully I will see you this Saturday at Omnivore Books!

Vanilla Bean Chocolates

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, for coating layer

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, tempered

1. Line an 8” square baking pan with plastic wrap, letting the wrap overhang the edges of the pan on all sides.

2. Combine cream and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat on the stove. Remove from heat, cover saucepan, and let steep for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the chocolate into a medium bowl.

4. Strain cream into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil again over medium-high heat.

5. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon or whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and combined with the cream.

6. Add in the butter and stir to combine just until the mixture is smooth, thick, and uniform. Do not overmix or the ganache will start separating.

7. Pour the ganache into the prepared baking pan, in a smooth even layer. Let the ganache set at room temperature until firm, about 2 to 4 hours. You can also cover and store in the refrigerator overnight after it has set.

8. When you are ready to make the chocolates, line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper.

9. Using the plastic wrap as handles, remove the slab of ganache and flip over onto a clean baking sheet or other work surface. Pull off the plastic wrap.

10. Using a small offset spatula, spread the melted 4 ounces of chocolate in a thin layer over the surface of the ganache slab. Let the chocolate set, about 20 minutes.

11. Flip the ganache slab over. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the slab into 1”x1” squares. If the slab starts getting soft, place in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

12. When you are ready to dip the chocolates, line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper.

13. Dip the ganache squares in the tempered chocolate, coating completely. Place them on the baking sheets to let set.

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Field Guide to Candy is Out! Win a Copy of Your Own!

October 5th, 2009 · 176 Comments · Field Guide to Candy, My Books


Two years ago, one of my long-cherished goals suddenly blossomed into reality: I was offered the chance to write a cookbook. A great deal of testing, retesting, writing, and rewriting later Field Guide to Cookies emerged.

One year ago, just as the reality that I was now published was sinking in and the sight of my book in bookstores was becoming less surreal, fate came tripping round again: I was asked if I’d like to do a companion piece to my book, on candy.

Today, I’m happy to announce that my second book, Field Guide to Candy, is officially out in bookstores and available online!


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Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall: Peach Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Hazelnut Sugar Cookies

October 1st, 2009 · 27 Comments · Cookies, Ice Cream, Recipes



I am so glad that I was able to make it to BlogHer Food! The prospect of meeting friends I’d made through the food blogosphere, virtually in my backyard, was too compelling to ignore. Combine that with some extraordinarily educational and inspiring talks on everything from photography techniques to the politics of food blogging, and I definitely emerged feeling re-energized and motivated to continue my blogging adventure.

I’ve also said time and again that the people I’ve met while food blogging are some of the kindest, sweetest, and FUN people I know. It’s hard to love food and be a sourpuss, I imagine! I had the singular joy of having a fellow blogger tell me that my blog was the first one she read (*blush* I feel honored – and old). Conversely, as I shyly tried to untie my tongue in front of the big-name bloggers, they were all wonderfully gracious and down-to-earth. I feel quite lucky to have be a part of this community!

So I don’t think I’ve revealed this before, but I’m a very shy photographer. Probably because I’m still figuring this photography thing out, but I get really self-conscious with my big dSLR slung around me like an inept third eye. I don’t why I felt the same way at BlogHer, where nearly everyone wore their camera as an unofficial badge; if there’s one thing I would tell the sponsors of the conference, it would be to make darn sure you’re showing some photogenic food because you can be certain it will be photographed within an inch of its life by about 300 food lovers!

The upshot of this confession is that of course I have very few shots of the conference (I did catch an unspectacular shot or two). For some wonderful photos and a thorough recap of the weekend, I suggest you head on over to photographer (and food lover) extraordinaire use real butter.

We also seem to enjoyed the last burst of summer at BlogHer Food; by Monday morning I swear I could see summer swirling away, empty tree branches clutching and waving forlornly in suddenly-brisk air.

We were promised a longer Indian summer, and in anticipation of that I had churned a batch of ice cream with some last ripe peaches. I guess eating ice cream on a chilly evening is not the most autumnal of activities, but now it tastes like a just-formed, perfectly-encapsulated memory of summer.


The yellow peaches were so ripe they were perfuming the entire house; to capture the idea of their heady voluptuousness I made a creme anglaise, folding the peaches into a welcoming cushion of eggs, sugar, and cream. On a whim I substituted some of the sugar with brown sugar, to give it a tingle of fall (how appropriate that choice turned out to be!)

Ice cream made with a custard base always has that creamy depth of color, like an oil painting, compared to the crisp, crystalline hues of sorbets and sherbets. I loved how comforting the ice cream looked. The brown sugar gives this ice cream a warm, caramelized edge that makes me think of peach cobbler – a dash of ginger in the mix might have been a nice thing as well.

To nudge this ice cream even further along to fall (hey, it’s fall and time to accessorize with scarves and hats, right?) I whipped up some hazelnut sugar cookies. Some ground up toasted hazelnuts added to my trusty rolled sugar cookie recipe made the perfect topping for a bowl of ice cream.


I’m sitting at home with a bowl of peachy brown sugar goodness, reminiscing over the memories I made last weekend, and watching a burnished orange sunset through my window, snuggled on the couch. Sounds like a perfect way to welcome fall, doesn’t it?






Peach Brown Sugar Ice Cream

makes about 2 quarts (this may be too much for a smaller ice cream maker; you might have to do it in two batches)

4 ripe peaches (about 2 lbs)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 cups milk

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Peel and slice the peaches into small pieces.

Place in a medium saucepan and combine with the sugar and lemon juice. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Combine the milk and 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a medium saucepan and heat on medium over stove until bubbles form around the edges.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and remaining sugar together in a medium bowl. Place the cream in a separate large bowl.

Pour the hot milk into the eggs in a steady stream, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.

Pour the mixture back in the saucepan and place back on stove. Cook on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and coats back of a spoon. Do not overcook (it will look curdled and you will have to start over).

Strain mixture into the cream and stir to combine. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Chill in an ice bath until it reaches room temperature. Stir in the peaches and chill mixture in refrigerator overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions.


Hazelnut Sugar Cookies

Makes 36 2 ½ inch diameter cookies

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

n style=”font-size: 13px;”>½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup ground toasted hazelnuts

extra all purpose flour for rolling out the dough

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy.

Scrape the bowl sides and bottom well. While mixer is on low speed, gradually add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix to combine and scrape bowl sides as needed.

Add the dry ingredients gradually while mixer is on low speed until incorporated. Add ground hazelnuts and mix until a uniform dough is formed.

Divide dough into 2 pieces and flatten into ½ inch thick discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up dough. At this point the dough can be double wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks. To defrost dough, place in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease several cookie sheet pans or line with parchment paper.

On a floured board, place on piece of the dough and dust with flour. Gently roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place on sheet pan, leaving 1 inch apart between cookies.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Transfer to wire racks with a spatula to cool completely.

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