My Favorite Baking Books for 2013

December 20th, 2013

cookbooks

Hi readers,

It’s been a tough month. I have to admit it, this hasn’t been my best holiday season. Our first trip with baby Isabelle was a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. And while I’m not going to complain about two weeks in glamorous Hong Kong or sunny Singapore, coming home was like falling headfirst into a hurricane: house to clean and decorate for the holidays. Jetlagged baby who temporarily forgot how to put herself to sleep. Presents to wrap and cards to write. Overflowing inbox at work. Christmas travel looming just weeks away (why are Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together??). Oh yes, and did I mention my book manuscript was due the week before Christmas?

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The Holiday Gift Guide for the Dessert Lover

December 11th, 2013

makecaron box

Holiday greetings! I just got back from a trip to Hong Kong and Singapore, and will be leaving soon again to visit family in the midwest. Combined with a jet lagged baby, Christmas shopping, and other writing commitments, I’m afraid I haven’t been able to update this blog sooner. I’m so eager to do a recap post of my trip to Asia, but before that I wanted to get my yearly best-of lists up before it’s too late to do any more gift shopping! So without further ado, here’s a list of my favorite pastry-related things this year – any dessert lover would be happy to find one of these in their stocking, or perhaps you’ll find something to add to your wish list!

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A Tribute to the Queen of the Daring Bakers

November 15th, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Tart 2
The Chocolate Caramel Tart, from Daring Bakers August 2007

I've been busy for weeks with pre-trip madness, but on Tuesday I got a sudden, sad reminder of how fragile and precious life is. Lisa, the blogger behind La Mia Cucina and one of the founders of the Daring Bakers, unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind a community of baking bloggers that she helped create.

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Couture Cinnamon: Snickerdoodle Macarons

November 6th, 2013

snickerdoodle macarons

Thanks for your patience! The winner of the Bar&Bean giveaway is:

 

Picture 3

Reader 18, Grace! Congratulations and thanks all for entering!

From chocolate to spices: the holiday baking season is getting underway and I’m looking forward to filling my kitchen with the familiar scents of all things sweet. Recently, I was given two packs of cinnamon sticks from Cinnamon Hill, a company dedicated to selling the best quality cinnamon for cooks and bakers. Like most bakers, I have both jars of ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks in my pantry, but I wanted to see what difference some premium cinnamon made. Read more →

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How to Bake with Craft Chocolate (Plus Bar & Bean Giveaway!)

October 29th, 2013

intensely bittersweet chocolate souffle

Happy (day after) National Chocolate Day! I've been getting plenty of intriguing new chocolate to keep me occupied - perhaps it's a good thing I have a baby to prevent me from eating it all at once!

I was recently contacted by Bar & Bean, a new online shop for small-batch craft chocolate from around the world. Bar & Bean is dedicated to educating people about the qualities and nuances of craft chocolate, and they helpfully include tasting notes for the bars on their site, as well as detailed information about the chocolate makers.

I got the chance to meet Jasdeep, the creator of Bar & Bean, who is passionate about introducing people to the world of craft chocolate. He's brought an impressive roster of chocolate makers onto Bar & Bean, many of whom I haven't heard of or had the opportunity to try yet. Jas recognized that many people are either unaware of all the craft chocolate out there, or intimidated by the plethora of choices. By organizing his site with cocoa percentage and flavor profile searches, and adding tasting notes, he's hoping to demystify the process. Jas has also developed some detailed personal notes on how to taste chocolate, which he shares in his tasting classes in San Francisco; check the Bar & Bean website for details.

As a introduction to Bar & Bean, I received a baker's set consisting of five bars from Poco Dolce, Ritual, Escazu, and Dick Taylor. An early Halloween haul, indeed!

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In Time for Halloween: Pumpkin Spice Caramel Lollipops

October 22nd, 2013

pumpkin spice caramel lollipop

I’m not really a pumpkin spice latte fan. But I do like big mugs of hot, comforting drinks to sip slowly while watching autumnlight dwindle. And a long-handled stirrer to twirl pensively (I’m an inveterate fiddler). So it suddenly dawned on me last week: why not make an edible stirrer? One that might produce a pumpkin-pie-spiced coffee to my liking?

Autumn is for caramel: that cozy golden hue fits the season perfectly. I’ve been cooking a lot of sugar lately, so I’m surprised I didn’t think of spiced, Halloween-appropriate candy sooner.

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