I’ve started writing down general tips and tricks while I’ve been baking. I’ll be sharing a couple here every once and awhile! I was also thinking about interviewing some baking friends about their best tips- let me know if you would be interested!
Here’s the first tip- It might sound a little silly and a little obvious, but I needed a reminder of it.
Don’t forget that you have two hands. Now this is more of a speed factor tip than anything. But I can’t tell you how many times I would lean on the counter top, hanging out, maybe whistling a tune while I transferred one cupcake at a time from muffin tin to drying rack. I might have done this exact same thing at my stage (minus the casual leaning/tune whistling) and was very quickly reminded that two hands, meant half the time/half the work. Dépêchez-vous!
Bonus Tip: To help muffins/cupcakes cool, angle them sideways in the muffin tin when they come out of the oven. This would probably help with condensation developing- no soggy bottoms here! or ever!
What’s this you ask? Potato in a pizza? I did once have potato slices on a pizza! You remember that time Jen? In Paris while we were studying abroad in college. The Egyptian Pizza Boys? wahaha I think it was a rainy night and we were eyeing Domino’s as we were walking back from class but had to refuse and go with Egyptian Pizza Boy’s pizza. We were hanging out while the pizza was cooking in the itty bitty restaurant talking about French. And I remember it because at the time I didn’t know any French except Bonjour and Au Revoir. But somehow the phrase “je ne comprends pas” slipped off my tongue maybe from a movie I’d watched. I had no idea what it meant but loved the rhythm the words made. The streets were completely vacant except me and Jen and two Egyptian’s that made pizza. The streets were wet with fresh rain. There was a eerie glow from the street lamps. It could have been the start of a very weird movie. Maybe one where we ended up in Egypt. But instead we left with a pizza that happened to have sliced potatoes and a fried egg on top (I think I did the ordering). 10 years later and I still remember it- maybe it was the circumstance or eating it huddled around the pizza box in a tiny hotel room but I remember it being damn good.
Over Mother’s Day weekend, it was Italian week at Central Market. A few Italian wines had made it into our kitchen (including a Chianti I had fallen in love with) and Lidia’s Italian was on PBS making a potato pizza. The next day it was on the menu for lunch. This pizza, unlike the one I’d had, did not have sliced potatoes on top but actually inside the dough for the crust. Much like a loaf of potato bread. Completely homemade pizza can take hours when you think about how long it has to rise. But this can be made start to finish in about 2 hours including 35 minutes of baking.
Now here’s something interesting and really important to note (especially for non-potato lovers) – you actually can’t taste the potatoes in the crust. Instead the crust is light and chewy (slightly spongy) but crisp on the bottom, different from your regular pizza crust. I think it’s because the potatoes help retain the moisture.
I couldn’t get a picture of this before two slices suddenly vanished. It smelled SO good!
I strongly recommend doubling the dough recipe and sticking half in the freezer for another night. It’s absolutely that good! The toppings are simple- fresh mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes, with oregano and Parmesan, and olive oil drizzled on top. I added caramelized onions and once it was cooked, a good amount of fresh basil. Have fun with it! Absolutely break it up and do a couple of small pizzas or add on other toppings. To bake it, we happened to have a pizza pan (way cool!). A baking sheet works too!
Adapted from Lidia’s Italian.
1 pound russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to roll out the dough
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces fresh mozzerella
cherry tomatoes (halved). about 6
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup grated oregano
1/4 cup caramelized onions (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Start a pot of water to boil, with enough water to cover potatoes by a couple inches. If you’re using large russet potatoes, cut them into smaller pieces (3-4 inches in size). This will help speed up the cooking. Boil potatoes about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, allow to cool, and then peel. Press them through a ricer. If you don’t have one- try grating the potatoes or mashing them like crazy with a potato masher or fork.
In a bowl, mix together the mashed potatoes, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the egg to form a smooth dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Oil a 15×10 baking sheet with olive oil. Roll out the dough to be the size of the baking sheet, using flour to keep it from sticking. Transfer the dough to the sheet.
Top with slices of fresh mozzerella (leave a couple centimeters in between because the cheese will spread as it cooks). Add a couple halved cherry tomatoes and the caramelized onions (if using). Sprinkle with as much oregano and parmesan as you want and add any additional toppings. Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake about 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and cooked through. Top with fresh shredded basil, cut into squares and by-golly you’ve got a pizza!
I was hired to make close to 300 desserts for a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Everything was mini from tarts to cupcakes with cute little swirls on top to macarons. The light was so perfect on my mom’s drafting table that a mini photo shoot commenced! Hope you enjoy!
\\ espresso, chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry cupcakes \\ chocolate & salted caramel tarts \\ lemon & almond tarts \\ chocolate, lemon, lime, and raspberry macarons \\
Did I tell you I went to Brussels, and I was going to post about it about a month ago, even though I went in January? (this is me chuckling) tehehe oh life
I went to Brussels about five months ago, er, at the beginning of January… haha My life had gotten a bit hectic with apartment issues and it worked that I had a couple days in between apartments, so I decided to go on a trip. I had five days to figure it out, and being the absolute worst at making up my mind, I took three days to decide, changed my mind after booking an entire trip to Lille, asked multiple people for advice, and then finally decided on Brussels, just two days before I was set to leave.
Since it ended up being so last minute, I jumped on the train by myself and set out to drink lots of beer, eat frites, and do a bit of exploring. I arrived not knowing what language was spoken or if euros were used. :-D But I did know where I was staying! In the taxi to the apartment I was staying at I asked the driver in French which languages were spoken in Brussels- French and Dutch. Pas de problem..c’est facile! And, the Christmas decorations and market were still up! It was fate! I did want to have another Vin Chaud..
My trip started with the best thunderstorm I’d experienced in months. I’d gotten to Brussels around 6pm and decided to wander around for a bit before heading to bed. It popped up all of a sudden. There was thunder, hail, wind, and lots and lots of rain. It was amazing! I love a good thunderstorm! Before running for cover under a store awning, I’d happened upon a traveling circus and a store that only sold bonsai trees.
Right before I headed to bed I planned out the next three days I had there: tomorrow, a 4 hour highly rated beer tour. The next day, a day trip to Bruges and Ghent, and then just a bit of wandering and some work before I headed back to Paris.
The next morning I set out for the center of town to the meeting place for the tour. And wow was blown away at the Grand Place. On each side of the square was a different style of architecture. The buildings looming above you. And oh so beautiful in their design.
Seconds later I met the Brad Pitt look-a-like tour guide for the soon to be solo beer tour. Yes, I was well on my way to drink lots of beer in lots of different bars for the next couple of hours… No complaints here!
I think we tried 7 kinds (it got a bit fuzzy toward the end), starting with the lightest and most bitter. Our first stop, an old marionette theater/bar visited by the king and queen of Belgium several years ago called Toone. We walked down a road and then a small corridor past an overgrown garden to the entrance to a bar not so many people would know about.
There was a resident cat and marionettes hung along the walls. A neat place to stop off the Grand Place for a drink.
The first beer on the list- Taras Boulba, a pale ale brewed locally in Brussels…. and what I would learn was my least favorite. Too bitter for me!
Next up, a private residence which I was told along the way on my let’s note this again, SOLO, beer tour, that guests always found it creepy when walking to it…. but then cool once they were there…
He was right- it was very cool and set up for chocolate, cheese, and beer tours with a long table.
We had two beers there and one that will be my go-to summer beer.
Gueuze Girardin – one I don’t remember too well, because I was in love with the other beer. Maybe I should have been taking notes…? It was again, too bitter for my taste, and very carbonated. Love the big bubbles in the bottle.
Hello there! This is Stefan, my guide for the day- extremely knowledgeable about beer, and also working on a script for a tv show!
I forgot to mention that the private residence was the home of the owner of the touring group who happened to join us for a glass while asking me questions and winking at his counterpart.. It ended up being a very one-sided conversation as I tried to change the subject.
So you’re American? yes.. Living in Paris? uh hum And I heard you’re a pastry chef? yes That’s fantastic! (wink) oh wait- not a wink by me, by him And you’re traveling alone? uh hum So you must be pretty independent? haha I guess so!
And then we ate cheese. A soft cheese, with pepper and radishes on top. And talked about more important things like beer.
Like my favorite beer on the tour, Gouden Carolus Tripel– before we got to the darker beers that is. Light, fruity, refreshing but as my research tells me- elegant and complex. ;-) I’m definitely going to be scouting this one out this summer!
I also learned that each beer has a glass specifically made for it to enhance it’s flavor. And that the foam plays an important role– with the smell, taste, and feel of the beer! *See I did learn something! :-P
A bag of chocolate on the way out and a taste of barley. I didn’t eat the two together. And we saw the girl version of Manneken Pis doing her thing.
And on to Deliruim Cafe where I was too distracted by putting celery salt on cheese to remember how the beer was.
Saison – a complex farmhouse ale that was quite delicious with the cheese.
Another bar, another beer- this one made by monks. I must say, if I were a monk, I would be a trappist monk.
Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Brewed at Westmalle abbey, which was founded in 1794. The recipe of the beer was constructed in 1934 and is a strong pale ale. There are only 10 monasteries that brew beer (6 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in the US). For beer to be called a “Trappist Beer” it must be brewed in a Trappist monastery and not for profit. So you can feel mighty good about drinking a lot of this beer!
Onwards, past a dog doing it’s business (I’ve never quite got the meaning of all the peeing statues…?), and to another bar for two more beers, one with a very saintly name..
Tripel Karmeliet – fruity, yeasty, and like wine, it matures in the glass.
And on to that saint-like beer, the darkest of them all… St. Bernardus Abt 12, and with the most alcohol content of them all at 10.5%. What a doozy! I did tell you I liked dark beers. And it was pretty glorious.
There was another Trappist beer after that and some saucisson and some cheese because he knew the bartender, and a stop in a smoke room with Baroque paintings on the walls. A taxi, and a very bad headache. I was in bed by 8…
And the trip to Bruges and Ghent I planned on taking the next day… with a 8am start, it will be on my next trip to Belgium.
I did do other things in Brussels besides drink beer. :-D
There was a cool carousel.
Frites & Waffles.
An ice sculpture exhibit.
A light show in the Grand Place. I really liked that place. :-)
And of course.. the famous Manneken Pis. Sadly he was not wearing a costume the day I visited.
Tips for Brussels:
– Do the beer tour! Lots of fun, lots of beer!
– Absolutely get some chocolate. I liked Neuhaus the best and believe me I tried a lot of chocolate.
– Visit Bruges (I heard it’s amazing).
– To Eat: Frites & Waffles! There are two “battling” french fry places right off the Grand Place.
– How long to stay? You really don’t need more than two days in Brussels, unless you’re doing day trips.
– Where to stay? I 100% recommend staying with Elf and Garret.
– Get lost? There are super handy green posts all over the city pointing to the nearest attraction, making it easy to wander around without pulling out a map.
I’m still recuperating from having my tonsils out which has given me quite a lot of time to scrounge through the internet while I’m not watching the entire series of Castle. I’ve found some super cute Easter things that I wanted to share with you!
When we were little, we would have huge Easter egg dying parties. My mom would hard boil dozens of eggs then we would all sit around the kitchen table taking turns dipping them in a huge array of colors. Now this method for hard-boiling eggs without the water looks pretty ingenious:
Ideas for dying eggs: Check out 40 Different Techniques on Martha Stewart including these beauties that I might be doing even when it’s not Easter.
haha how cute!!!
A different technique to peel an egg at Panna that’s super similar to peeling an avocado. I really do like my hard boiled eggs whole though, so I might go with the method at the end of the Alton Brown video above. Panna has some other great cooking videos as well!
Beautiful Hot Cross Buns from Poires au Chocolat– Each year she makes small tweaks on the previous years recipe. These look fantastic and there is a video for how to shape and roll the dough.
And a peek at the Easter table my mom put together this morning:
Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques !