Entries from April 28th, 2011

And the Winner of the W-S Gift Card is…

April 28th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Events, Giveaways

wsgiftcard

The winner of the $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma, chosen entirely at random, is

newdessertfirstwinner

reader 106, Mary S! Congratulations!

I was especially touched at her comment, which read, “I’ve been a reader for a long time and I’ve read about your baking (and baking related) adventures. It’s an inspiration and I’m very happy to see your blog blossom! Keep sharing delicious things with us.” I’ve been blogging for a while now, and though I like to say that having this creative outlet is its own reward, it’s always so gratifying to know someone else is enjoying your work. Thank you to all of you for your wonderful comments and your support of my new site. I really hope to keep things delicious here for a long while.

Don’t forget I still have my Pebble Beach apron + tote bag giveaway going on, if you’d like to enter. I’ll be at Pebble Beach this Friday and Saturday and am looking forward to reporting back. There are also more giveaways coming up (very soon!!), recipes, and reviews, so please keep checking back!

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Cupboard Inspiration: Hazelnut Macarons with Homemade Nutella (plus bonus giveaway!)

April 26th, 2011 · 79 Comments · Chocolate, Cookies, Giveaways, Recipes

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for visiting!

Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella

While I was giving my blog a makeover, I was also doing a spring cleaning of our kitchen. We’ve been in our new home for almost a year and a half now – not really a new home anymore, is it? Certainly not judging by how overflowing all the cabinets and closets appear; one glance and you’d think we’d been hoarding here for years.

No matter how assiduously one tries to keep order in the pantry, there are always a few rogue items that manage to find their way astray – forgotten spices, half-used bags of specialty flours, bottles of food coloring in all the least-wanted hues. I try to go through the back of my cupboards every couple of months just to root out orphaned items, and perhaps find some inspiration – or at least impetus to not let ingredients go to waste.

So it was this time I opened a cabinet door and found three jars of Nutella staring me in the face. I have no idea how we ended up with three jars of this hazelnut spread: Costco delirium, perhaps. But I knew we really didn’t need that much Nutella around. What to make? A thought came to mind, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while – macarons made with hazelnuts instead of almonds. (Aside: if you’re just looking for the giveaway, it’s at the bottom of the post!)

 

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Welcome to the New Dessert First!

April 21st, 2011 · 177 Comments · Giveaways, Personal

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for visiting!

newdessertfirst

To all my dear readers,

I’m so very excited to unveil what I’ve been working on for the last couple of months – my revamped and redesigned home for Dessert First! This update has been a long time coming: I knew I’d outgrown my old setup a while back, but I didn’t have the time, technical know-how, or temerity to make my dreams materialize. After much encouragement from friends and fellow food bloggers, though, I made it a New Year’s resolution, and here we are!

Many of the changes are designed to better organize the content I’ve created in the last few years of blogging and make it easier for you to find your way around. I’ve finally gotten with the times and have a navigation bar at the top! The recipe index has been updated and my recipes properly categorized. I’ve also created separate sections for San Francisco Bay Area-related items (so those of you coming to SF can find recommendations for sweet spots) and for reviews of cookbooks and baking-related items. This is both a response to my obsessive desire to organize (I always thought I’d have made a great librarian) and reader requests.

There’s still some work left to be done – the conversions page, another reader request, isn’t finished yet. I’m also in the process of implementing a recipe print function so that you easily print any of my recipes. And there’s still other things on my wish list. But since the site has basically gone live (and quite a few of you have made your way here already), I’d like to officially open my doors and welcome you in. Pardon any of the still-settling dust! A huge thank you to the talented folks at Foliovision for helping make this new site a reality. They’ve been fantastic in making the move from Typepad to WordPress a seamless one.

I’m really, really thrilled to have this new sandbox to play in and I hope you’ll all continue to join me here as I bake and eat my way through everything sweet. I apologize that my posting has dropped off while I was making this transition – I know there’s been a dearth of recipes. I started out this site as a way to document my experiments in the kitchen. Along the way, I stumbled into food as a career of sorts: I wrote two cookbooks, did freelance food photography and writing, went to professional food events, and met all manner of amazing and talented people in the food industry. My hope is that this new Dessert First will reflect this expanded universe that baking opened up for me.

That said, I’m always happy to hear from you about what you’d like to see. Please update your links to my site while you’re at it, if you have the chance (although I’ll leave my old site up and it will automatically redirect).

To celebrate the new Dessert First, I’d also like announce a giveaway for all of you: I have a $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma lighting up my desk and I’d love to send it to one of you. This gift card was given to me courtesy of Williams-Sonoma, who is one of my site affiliates. I’ve always been a fan of Williams-Sonoma and I’m proud to have them on my site. I received a second gift card from them that I used to get a little something for myself; I’ll reveal the purchase in a future post!

wsgiftcard

Meanwhile, for your chance to win a $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma,

1. Follow my page on Facebook  (Click the cute little “f” icon in the sidebar to the right of this post, and click “Like” to follow my page).

2. Leave a comment on this post.

That’s it! I’ll let this contest run through next Wednesday, April 27 and announce the winner on April 28th. Thanks and good luck, and let me know what you think of the new site!

love,

Anita

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{Chocolate Review} Sweet Treats for Easter

April 20th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews, San Francisco, Sweet Spots, Sweet Spots

recchiutiforcenoirbox

Warning: There is going to be a lot of chocolate on this page for the next few posts. After all, it’s nearly Easter, the holidays that generates more candy sales than any other holiday save Halloween. Have you got your jellybeans and peeps ready for your Easter baskets?

Let me suggest a few other Easter treats you might not want to miss. Michael Recchiuti, one of my very favorite chocolatiers (and a great guy, to boot), has created some limited edition sweets for the holiday. I got a chance to sample a couple of them:

recchiutiforcenoireggs

These are the kind of Easter eggs I’m looking for now (sorry, candy-colored plastic eggs from the drugstore!) Recchiuti’s Force Noir Eggs, a shell of delicately painted dark chocolate enclosing his famous vanilla-laced chocolate ganache. You know how Reese’s comes out with their peanut butter eggs at Easter? I actually prefer them to the traditional peanut butter cups because I think the shape provides a better peanut butter to chocolate ratio. It’s the same concept here with the Force Noir Eggs – the plump curve of the chocolate shells is just the right amount of backdrop for the ganache filling to unfold in your mouth.

 
recchiutihoppeep

Another signature Recchiuti flavor, burnt caramel, gets the Easter treatment in the Peep & Hop Box – burnt caramel chocolates with spring-y Easter images printed on top. Although deep dark caramel is everywhere these days, Recchiuti was one of the first to really popularize the flavor. I got a box of eight of these chocolates and had to fight to hold on to even one to taste test! As delicious as ever.

These and other Easter treats can be found at Recchiuti’s website. Here’s hoping the Easter bunny brings you something sweet on Sunday!

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{Chocolate Review} Oliver Kita Fine Confections

April 19th, 2011 · 4 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews

studio collection 16pc 1 large

When a chocolatier lists L’Ecole Lenotre, L’Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona, and Academy du Chocolat Barry-Callebaut on his résumé, you pay attention. Oliver Kita is thoroughly versed in the art of classic French chocolate, as illustrated by the eye-catching bon bons above. A few weeks ago I received a box of his sumptuously crafted Studio Collection for review.

A mixture of the very traditional (palets abound) and of-the-moment combinations (matcha, espresso, lavender, and blood orange make appearances). The craftsmanship is gorgeous, the presentation casual sophistication (luster dust and cocoa butter transfers mixed with slightly rough-hewn forms.

Some of my favorite flavors:

Marzipan Grand Marnier (top row, second from left): very smooth and elegant marzipan with a true, robust almond flavor.

Palet d’Argent (second row, first from left): my favorite pure chocolate of the selection. Very nice and smooth, with a long, dark finish.

Cognac Creme Brulee (third row, last from left): wonderful layering of flavors, from the first tang of cognac to the swirl of caramel and vanilla notes. I usually don’t like too many competing flavors in a chocolate but this was a very successful combination for me.

Trois Pretres (fourth row, second from left): The name means three priests, and you get three incredibly fragrant caramelized almonds enrobed in creamy dark chocolate – a hard combination to beat.

Palet d’Oliver (second row, third from left): His signature chocolate boasts an intense black currant filling. I have a deep fondness for anything black currant so this was an easy winner for me.

Head on over to his site to see some of his other collections, including some adorable chocolate Easter bunnies. If you’re looking for jewel-box-chocolates, Oliver Kita won’t disappoint.

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A Busy Weekend Including Bake Sale for Japan

April 5th, 2011 · 21 Comments · Cakes, Recipes, San Francisco, SF Events

Coconut Cupcakes with Yuzu Buttercream

I had an over-the-top, amazingly full weekend, the kind that starts on Thursday afternoon and doesn’t end until you’re catching your breath on a wickedly warm Sunday evening. Too much to share, and some bits I’m saving for a future post, but I did want to talk about a big part of my Saturday: the Bake Sale for Japan.

A series of bake sales around the Bay Area organized to raise money for Japan, this event brought together amateur and professional bakers in a happy mashup of cookies, pies, jams, and all other forms of baked goods. I stopped by one of the San Francisco bake sales, located at Bi-Rite, with my contributions (more on them below) and snapped a few pictures of the bounty on display:

 

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