A main reason I started my blog was personal – I have an absolutely horrible memory. So bad that my friends will tell stories and I don’t realize I was there even when I’m mentioned in the story. A huge benefit of this though is that you can tell me the same joke multiple times and get the same reaction each time. With my blog, I can look back and relive those memories whether it was Peanut experiencing his first snow storm, a dove that made it’s nest on my balcony, or one of the multiple flights I’ve missed. Oops! So when it’s been awhile since my last post, I always feel like a recap is in order. So here goes- it’s been a couple months, I’ve written about some of this but not all of it. I’ll try to keep it sort of brief. 😁
I have a little suspicion. I think once you make one crazy decision you kinda get hooked and keep making them. Maybe it’s the rush you get from a new adventure or the drive to continue to learn more and experience as much as possible. Thus leads to a little secret I’ve been keeping from my blog, my decision to head back to France to.. Help open a Mexican restaurant ?! And volunteer at a Chateau in the Pyrennes. I will settle down and have kids at some point mom (promise!).
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and my stage at a little bitty awesome bakery called La Fabrique a Gateaux (it’s in Republique area in Paris and definitely worth stopping by), I returned to Texas just 3 days before my visa expired.
Back home in Dallas I jumped into things. I got my tonsils out, then worked at two different bakeries and a fromagerie all while keeping my part-time online marketing job. There was just one little bug in my ear, this little itch that wouldn’t go away. I think it was red, white, and bleu and talking in ze French accent or maybe it was a rumbling in my belly for French cheese. harharhar
That was me on macaron duty at Bisous Bisous Patisserie- the first French pastry shop in Dallas. Another awesome place you have to go to- they have cruffins!! It was also while working here that I met Rose Levy Beranbaum of the Baking Bible and was mentioned in her blog!
But back to my random story- There were these two French guys I met through an old marketing coworker while I was in Paris that were opening a Mexican restaurant (One of them really liked burritos-a lot). We’d been talking for almost a year working on getting things up and running but things were going slow. I was hoping to use it as a way to return to France but the longer it went on the more depressed I got. Three months turned into six which turned into ten with no set opening date in mind- but such is starting any sort of business.
On a lark I reached out to Karina at Chateau de Gudanes. She and her husband had purchased what one would call a mega fixer upper.. there might have been a large hole in the center from the ceiling caving in and water coming through for several years. I’d read a blog post about her opening a little cafe and it stuck with me for several months until I finally said screw it one night and drafted up an email to her saying I would help with anything, complete with a picture of me and a cow. Four days later, sitting in traffic in my hour long drive to my marketing job, I checked my email- a response from Karina saying they were keen to talk with me further.
Then the Mexican restaurant decided it would open. After much debate, I managed to work it out that I would help at the restaurant for a month in May then go to the Chateau in June and July to help with cooking meals for a restoration workshop.
Which leads me to where I am now-
I quit both of my jobs in Dallas effectively losing any safety net that I had and took a leap. A gigantic scary hairy beasty leap.
Maybe I’m just a bit rebellious. :-)
All that to say- I’m back! More posts more posts!! Soon I say!
You delicious little desserts you! Hope you were able to grab one today!
The hard thing about recipes sometimes is that you don’t know exactly how much it will make. With cookies it’s never a big deal and entirely depends on the size of your scoop. But for cheesecakes when the ingredients are a bit expensive, it’s a slightly different story.
I had an order for a cheesecake for my neighbor. My memory can be super bad so not remembering which recipe I liked for cheesecake I went with my oldie but trusty Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart. I’ve only been steered the wrong way once with it… soon to be twice though.
I should have known looking at the ingredients- seven 8 ounce packages of cream cheese?! … I should have halved it, but… I wanted to make sure I had enough especially since it was for an order.
The recipe yielded enough for a 9″ cheesecake and there was a TON left over, enough for me to make 24 individual sized cupcakes… the original yield: one 10″ cheesecake. hmm… My book is now covered with notes and things crossed out. But lucky for my coworkers, they got a valentine’s day surprise. :-D
Half I topped with sprinkles. The other had hearts made from a raspberry coulis. For the crust, I ended up making three kinds, a chocolate cookie crust for the 9″ cake, a traditional graham cracker crust for 1 dozen mini cheesecakes, and a vanilla cookie crust for the other dozen. My favorite (well I think it was, I didn’t get to try the chocolate) was the vanilla cookie crust. The cheesecake infuses it with flavor and its not crumbly but instead this great complement to the custard.
The cheesecake itself- Amazing. Creamy and just plain delicious. I loved the cupcake size since they are perfect for one person. I’m setting this one aside as my go-to for a plain cheesecake, just in a reduced amount.
To make the hearts put round drops of the coulis on the surface then run a toothpick through it, top to bottom. (See upper right in the above pictures for an example of the dots). I used a squeeze bottle, but you could use a pastry bag or Ziploc bag to make the dots.
A lot of people are afraid of making cheesecakes- I definitely raise my hand to this statement… but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. Over the holidays I made many a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving orders and nailed down the steps to what has helped me produce the perfect cheesecake. One cheesecake in particular I was so nervous about turning out that I woke up at 2am after allowing it to cool on the counter top for several hours before putting it in the fridge. The next morning was like Christmas- no Grand Canyons!! I promptly posted the achievement to Facebook while grinning like a crazy person.
My Cheesecake Tips and Tricks:
– When you put the cheesecake in the oven, put a dish filled with boiling water on the rack below it. This creates steam in the oven and helps prevent cracks. I used a glass pie dish that I placed in the oven while it was preheating then filled it with water I’d previously boiled in a teapot right after I put in the cheesecake. It’s a little easier than carrying a dish filled with hot water around the kitchen.
– Once done baking, let the cheesecake cool- either in the oven with the door cracked or on the counter on a cooling rack.
– After about 10-15 minutes, run a sharp paring knife around the edges. This releases them to keep the cheesecake from pulling and cracking when it retracts while it’s cooling.
– Let cool completely at room temperature before placing in the fridge. This might take 2 hours or more.
– I sometimes don’t cover the top of the springform pan with plastic wrap or foil once it’s in the fridge because I don’t want condensation forming and then dripping on the top of the cake. I’ll wait until I know it’s cool for sure- an hour or so and then wrap it up.
I’ve had absolutely no cracks since taking these steps (hopefully I didn’t jinx it). Cheesecakes can be finicky! But hopefully this takes some of the guesswork out of it- because man are they delicious!!
Happy Valentine’s Day :-)
New York Style Cheesecake
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
Notes: This recipe makes one 9″ cheesecake, or 24 individual sized cheesecakes made in a paper lined cupcake tin. Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before starting the recipe. This can take up to 1-2 hours with the packages sitting at room temperature. Follow above instructions when cooking the cheesecake.
For the cheesecake:
3.5 eight ounce packages of cream cheese (full fat), at room temperature
1 1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream (full fat), room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the vanilla cookie crust:
2 stick of butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
For the raspberry coulis:
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter a 9″ springform pan or line 24 cupcake tins.
Make the crust: Cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Then the flour and pinch of salt. Press in as thin a layer as possible in the bottom of the springform pan. The easiest way to do this is with wet fingers so the dough doesn’t stick to them. For the cupcakes, make a ball and then press it in to the bottom.
Bake crust 15-18 minutes at 350 or until golden. Let cool.
For the cheesecake, in the bowl of an electric mixer paddle the cream cheese until light and creamy with no visible lumps. If you have a torch (like what you would use for creme brulee you can torch the side of the mixing bowl just a bit while it’s beating to warm up the cream cheese and help smooth it faster). In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Gradually beat into the cream cheese.
Add the sour cream and vanilla, and then the eggs. Beat until just combined scraping down the bowl frequently.
Pour into the prepared springform pan or fill cupcake tins 3/4 full using a cookie scoop, pouring it from the bowl, or spooning it.
If you are making the raspberry coulis, place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring frequently until the raspberries start to break down, and the mixture thickens slightly. Puree and strain for a smooth texture. Make a marbled tip effect on the top, or dots to make hearts, or just a big dab will do. Then you’re ready to bake!
For the cupcake sized cheesecake, reduce the temperature of the oven to 325 degrees. If you can, place the tin on a jelly roll pan, put in the oven and pour boiling water into the pan so it comes up the edges of the cupcake tin. Bake until the sides are set, about 20 minutes rotating halfway through.
For the 9″ cheesecake, follow the above cheesecake tips. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake an additional 30 minutes or so, until the sides are set but the middle is slightly wobbly.
Let cool completely before refrigerating.
A couple months ago we had a wedding shower for my friend Amanda. The set up was ridiculously cute with everyone pitching in different dishes. There were cookies as favors, fun games, and a crazy cute chalkboard sign! OMG we had so much fun celebrating!
The debate was a short one for figuring out what I would make. With the bride being from Vermont I knew I had to do something with maple syrup. And it just so happened that I’d seen a cake recipe on Pastry Affair just a couple days before that looked perfect! It turned out beautifully with good flavor from the maple syrup and nuts in the batter. The icing was an Italian Meringue maple syrup frosting that was light and spread on smooth. It was then garnished with toasted pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup around the edges.
The super cute couple saying hello to the bride’s mom. :-D
This recipe is from Pastry Affair, a fantastic blog by a fellow pastry lover. This is the first recipe of hers I’ve tried and I’ll certainly be going back for more! The original recipe has been doubled to make enough batter for two 8 inch layers. For the nuts in the recipe, I used half pecans and half almonds sense that’s what I had on hand. You are making a flour from the nuts so you can absolutely substitute almond or pecan meal to speed up the process.
1.5 cups (212g) whole almonds and pecans
12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
12 tablespoons (120g) maple syrup
2 large eggs
2.5 cups (312g) all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two 8 inch cake tins with Baker’s Spray (spray with flour) or liberally butter and flour. Set aside.
If using whole nuts, spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Once cool, process in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup, beat to combine and then the eggs being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a medium sized bowl combine the processed nuts (or almond/pecan meal), flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. Whisk and add to the liquid ingredients beating until just incorporated. Add the milk and beat on low until smooth.
Divide the batter between the pans and bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
*The cakes can be made in advance and frozen until you’re ready to ice them.
Maple Syrup Italian Meringue
6 large egg whites
12 tablespoons (152g)granulated sugar
1/2 cup (180g) brown sugar, not packed
8 tablespoons (80g) maple syrup
1.5-2 cups (340g to 454g) butter (very soft room temperature)
Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment.
In a small saucepan combine the sugars and cover with enough water to where the sugars have a sandy texture. Heat on medium to high heat to 238 degrees. Meanwhile beat the egg whites to soft peak.
Once the sugar/water is at 238 degrees, take it off the heat and pour it into the beaten egg whites with the mixer on low. Try to avoid the whisk and the sides of the bowl pouring it directly into the egg whites.
Beat on high until the bowl is no longer hot but just a little warm (body temp). Add the butter is small pieces constantly beating the mixture on medium to high speed. The mixture will start to resemble a buttercream with the last couple of additions. Keep adding butter until it reaches this point.
If it breaks, remove the bowl from the mixture and heat over the stove top for 2 seconds, take off and beat either manually with a whisk or on the mixer. This melts some of the butter and brings it back together. Once it’s the right consistency, whisk in the maple syrup and ice!
*If this sounds a little complicated, do a simple buttercream. Beat two room temperature sticks of butter, add enough powdered sugar until the mixture looks super thick. Thin it out maple syrup adding it a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is a spreadable consistency.
Ho Ho Ho! One of my favorite things about Christmas is the.. cookies! This weekend we made 2 batches of cookies, 1 batch of brownies, and 3 kinds of candy! Check out the Ugly Christmas Sweater Gingerbread men I decorated last night. I love this Gingerbread Cookie Recipe! It’s chewy, takes only 15 minutes to make, and has a wonderful amount of spice. And here’s a great idea from the pastry shop I used to work at in Paris: decorate stars as snowflakes!
The Buche de Noel is a traditional French cake served around Christmas. Sponge cake rolled up and decorated like a log, it’s delicious and a lot of fun to make as a family. My favorite part… the meringue mushrooms. This recipe has an espresso mascarpone cream on the inside… yum!
Fudge is a classic around the holidays. How about trying this Salted Nutella Fudge… what??! For those of you who have a nutella problem- you know the one where the jar of nutella happens to disappear approximately a day after you bought it- well this one is for you!
And then there’s these cookies: Chocolate Crinkles. We’ve been making them in our family for YEARS. The worst (or maybe the best part) is that the dough has to chill for at least an hour before rolling it in balls and then in powdered sugar. The wait makes for a perfect time to just you know ensure that it’s being chilled properly. It can’t be too soft and the only way to tell uh hum is by tasting it!
This is a fun neat trick. Pick up some Jolly Ranchers at the store to make Stained Glass Christmas Tree Cookies. Place crushed up pieces inside cut outs in cookie dough. These will melt to form stained glass when baked!
I do love Gingerbread- so much that it’s on here twice. Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. They’re so tasty and look beautiful.
A few more that can’t be missed:
– Candy Bar Cookies (Chocolate, Caramel, Pecans, Shortbread!)
Merry Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! and Happy Baking!