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

October 29th, 2013 · 57 Comments · Chocolate, Chocolate, Cookbooks, Giveaways, Recipes, Reviews, Sweet Spots

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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{Cookbook Review}: Alice Medrich’s Sinfully Easy Desserts

July 9th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Cookbooks, Fruit, Recipes, Reviews

balsamic cherries 2

When a great deal of your personal and professional life revolves around baking, you forget how much of the vernacular you’ve absorbed over time. When I taught a few enthusiast classes at Tante Marie’s, it was a reminder of how easy it is to take all I’d learned in pastry school and over the years for granted. That you need to have butter at room temperature before attempting to cream it. That you use the beater attachment for creaming and the whisk attachment for whipping (doesn’t sound quite as obvious when spelled out that way, does it?)

Although I try to gear most of the material on my site towards home bakers with at least some baking experience, it’s always good to have a reminder to look at the craft through a neophyte’s eyes, and refresh my perspective. Sometimes I get asked how I come up with the recipes for my site. Well, of course, when I started, I made recipes straight out of cookbooks I admired. It wasn’t until I became more confident in my baking skills that I became brave and curious enough to experiment. To me, if a recipe is tricky or difficult, it doesn’t necessarily turn me off. It means it’s a challenge to see if I have the skill to execute it. But I realized for many people who aren’t perhaps as baking-obsessed as me, that baking can seem like a stressful, dry venture where if you don’t have your ingredients in exactly the right amounts or the oven at the right temperature, you’ll end up with a flat cake, tough crust, burned custard – or worse. Being creative? Who knows if you add that extra ingredient to a cake, that it won’t deflate? or explode?

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{Cookbook Review} I’m Back! With Apricot Lemon Hazelnut Bars

June 15th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Cookbooks, Cookies, Recipes, Reviews

Apricot Hazelnut Lemon Bars on dessertfirstgirl.com

Hello all! I’m back from a 12 day Mediterranean cruise – Rome to Venice, with a bunch of Greek isles in between. I finally got to tick quite a few places off my travel wish list; I’m eager to share a recap with you in the next few weeks!

But first, thanks for your patience during my absence and thanks to all who entered the contest for Alice Medrich’s newest cookbook. The winner of a copy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy is:

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Going on Vacation + No Pictures Won’t Stop A Giveaway!

May 28th, 2011 · 85 Comments · Cookbooks, Giveaways

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for visiting!

Growing pains that come from moving and expanding your blog…unavoidable, and a neverending challenge. I currently am having some issues with getting images to appear correctly on this site, which sorts of renders a food blog a little pointless, no? While I’m sure (hopeful?) the answer is just a couple code lines away, I am also leaving on a two week vacation today…to the Mediterranean and far, far, away from the Internet. So I’m afraid no new photos will arrive until U return.

So sorry, dear readers! I meant to leave you with a few interesting posts to tide you over, but it looks like I’ve been stymied by technological roadblocks.

As consolation, click over to the online version of Edible East Bay, where my review of Alice Medrich’s new cookie book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy
has been published. I’ve met Alice a few times and she is a truly meticulous and inspired baker. Her cookbooks remain among my favorites n my bookshelf.

I’m also giving a copy of this book away to one lucky reader – just leave a comment describing your favorite texture of cookie. Do you like your chocolate chip cookies thick and chewy? Your brownies cakey? Your macarons just this side of chewy? Give me some adjectives!

I’ll let this run until I return on June 12, at which point hopefully all will have been restored to rightness here and I can post the winner, as well as some tidbits from my interview with Alice, and a recipe from her book.

Thanks for your patience, all! Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Now, I have a plane to catch!

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