Monday, November 29, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Rochers-Blogger Catch up !

It's five days after Thanksgiving and I'm still surrounded by the holiday glow and love from family and friends.  Come to think of it I'm always enveloped by that love-it's my awareness of it that becomes heightened by the holidays. Resolve-to remind myself daily of how fortunate and blessed I am and how thankful I am for family and friends and their love and support.

I had to celebrate the official Thanksgiving meal on Saturday, the 28th  this year.  Fortunately I have a family that understands my work schedule-I had to work on Thanksgiving-you know -the travel industry is pretty much round the clock and the boat had to get to Victoria, BC.  But it's not a date on the calendar that dictates when to give thanks, it's what is in our hearts every single day of the year. And I will say it again, I am thankful for the love of my sweetie, my sister and dear brother and brother in law and all the people who touch my life with love and support.  We had a lovely celebration at my sister's house.  The meal was delicious , as it always is.  Turkey being the centerpiece-what a surprise.  We had an incredible crab dip and beef empanadas made by my talented sister.  A huge selection of fresh baked breads brought by my brother, stuffing, sweet sweet sweet potato gratin (hey sis email me the recipe), tart cranberries, and the list goes on. Oh and by the way, the Larger than Life Pecan Praline cheesecake was a hit-this is what was left of it.  Thanks to Rebecca Rather , The Pastry Queen for such a scrumptious recipe.

Spiced pumpkin cheesecake on a gingersnap crust, topped with Pecan Praline

 I'm very grateful that we were all in a position to put this food on the table and share with each other and friends .  Did you see the NY Times photo display from around the world-it's kind of reassuring to see , that no matter who we are or where we are, we are all grateful and thankful , and celebrating in a similar way.

This month has been hectic for me, besides having to work the holiday I'm embarrassed that I haven't kept up with my blogging. I missed my Daring Bakers challenge , hosted by Simona of briciole . I also missed my MacTweets challenge this month.  I feel like such a bad blogger.  I will make the deadline for my Chocolate with Francois group-with this posting.  And I resolve to do much better next month.  I am proud of what I did do this month-participated in the Will Bake for Food Bake Sale-a rousing success. And I kicked off a new baking group (yes I can hear you-what she can't keep up with the groups she belongs to and she started a new one !) Baked Sunday Mornings , and I completed one of the four recipes for French Fridays with Dorie.  So I'm not a horrible blogging community member-but I will work on my planning skills for December and promise to do better!

Now that all my excuses are out of the way, I give you my entry for this month's Chocolate with Francois.  Joanne at Apple Crumbles is the hostess with the mostest this month and chose Francois's Chocolate Coconut Rochers . Thank goodness this was not a complicated recipe. The most challenging thing was finding the unsweetened coconut.  The photos in the book for this recipe look all warm and brown and toasty-I'm not sure what type of cocoa (or camera filter) was used to make them look like that, but mine did not have that lovely tawny glow.  They did have an excellent, addictive taste. They reminded me of a candy I grew up with in Pennsylvania-The Mallo Cup. After  you sucked out all the creamy marshmallow inside a Mallo Cup you had a  crunchy coconut chocolate shell.  When I bit into these and I was 12 years old again with my favorite candy bar.

Try the recipe (of course you have to buy the book-Chocolate Epiphany -to find the recipe),or head over to Joanne's blog to find it there.  And since it's getting close to the holidays- these would make a lovely little Christmas food gift for neighbors. Bon Appetit !

Friday, November 26, 2010

Will Bake For Food-Wahoo

The results are in directly from the Will Bake for Food website:

■ 1631 items sold by 54 bakers, including 108 cupcakes, 82 whoopie pies, 473 cookies, and 150 vanilla beans

■ 2 drink dudes who pulled 138 cups (55 coffee, 83 cider) in 90 minutes

■ 300 people through the door in under 2 hours

■ about 20 volunteers who made the event sing

1903lbs of food and $946 !!!!!!!!!

Northwest Harvest called me on Monday absolutely astonished. They hadn’t expected as much. They only sent one poor driver because the typical event usually collects a tenth as much food. A tenth. One or two of their boxes, he said. This poor guy (and a few of our guys—thanks Walt!) got nearly a TON of food onto his truck. And they didn’t even know about the cash donations, some of which we are donating to the church for giving us the space for free.

On this day after Thanksgiving I am thankful for all my fellow bloggers and volunteers who made this such a rousing success.  And I am also thankful for The Fabulous Jennys for both having the heart and soul and caring spirit to  put this Bake Sale  together . Peace and Love  and Happy Holidays to my fellow bloggers for a job well done! Can't wait until next year.

Head over to the website to see the photos when you finish with these :

Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux-French Fridays with Dorie

I've joined another cooking group.  Since I belong to a few "baking groups" I decided to join a group that would help me develop my savory side .  Fortunately for me a group was formed cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's latest book "Around My French Table". The group is called French Fridays with Dorie.

 I love this book and couldn't wait to get started.  The recipe I chose to cook  this month was Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.  Simple roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots, garlic,shallots,white wine,rosemary,thyme, oregano and the secret ingredient -a large slice of bread placed under the chicken while it roasts.  Why didn't I know about this little trick before ? Oh my gosh-I will never roast chicken any other way again, nor will I ever use a different recipe. 

My sweetie couldn't stop raving about the taste of the chicken,the aroma and the bread-it was like chicken stuffing but better.  You also toss the chicken liver inside the chicken while it roasts and when it's done, spread that liver on the crisp caramel flavored bread that you removed from  under the chicken-can you hear the angels singing ? Yes I'm in love with Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.

If I were you I would run out and buy this cookbook. You will never go wrong with Dorie Greenspan.  I'm off to heat up the leftover chicken -the bread is all gone-boo hoo. Bon Appetit.

PS. Yes my little chicken is upside down- I like to roast it that way-all the lovely juices stay in the breast and it's incredibly moist when I slice into it !

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nutella Scones ala Baked

Since I love the Baked Explorations cookbook so much, I decided to start a baking group dedicated to baking each and every recipe from it.  This is the first one our group is doing.  Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings and you can see everyone else's posts and how they did with this recipe. 

I tried my hardest not to overwork the dough, but I did, and my scones were just a teeny tiny bit on the tough side.  Tough is good if you are walking down a dark alley and there's a 6ft 5 silhouette heading your way. It's not a good thing for scones !  But in spite of my mistake they were delicious, especially warm with Nutella  just drizzled on them-it's a decadent way to start the day. No one has to know-so your trainer at the gym says what did you have for breakfast-you answer oh just a scone and cup of coffee. You don't have to tell her or him that it was a chocolate scone filled with Nutella,drizzled with Nutella ,dotted with fresh roasted hazelnuts - a superb  bite of deliciousness .  Just add another mile or two to the treadmill-these are worth it. If you want to try them yourself head over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe and join our group.  Bon Appetit !

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cashew Bacon Brittle and a Fabulous Week

This has been a fabulous week ! First of all the Will Bake for Food Bake Sale, organized by Jenny from Rainy Day Gal and Jenny from Purple House Dirt is maxed out with 60 bloggers baking for food ! What a great group of people in the foodie world-I'm honored to be a part of it. And applause applause to THE JENNYS for coming up with this idea and doing all the organizing and hard work behind the scenes. If you live anywhere near Seattle you must attend ! Saturday , November 20 at University Congregational Church from 10am to 2pm or until we run out. See all the details here bring your non perishables or cash! Hope to see you there !

In the mean time if you want to try something I'm taking to the Bake Sale, try this recipe for Bacon Cashew Brittle. I used Karen DeMasco's Basic Cashew Brittle recipe and added the bacon..mmmm good.

Cashew Bacon Brittle
adapted from Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups sugar
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) salted roasted cashews
12oz bacon

Lay the strips of bacon side by side on a baking sheet lined with foil (helps with clean up). Bake at 400 degrees until crispy-takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on the quality and thickness of bacon. You want it crispy not burned. Once the bacon is done place it on a paper towel and press out any excess grease-let it cool until room temperature. Chop into tiny little pieces and mix in the with cashews.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray: set it aside.

Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Stir together so that all of the sugar is wet.

Cook the mixture over high heat without stirring until it turns a dark amber color, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda, followed by the salt; the caramel will rise and bubble. Using a wooden or metal spoon, fold in the cashews.

Pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon, spread it into a layer about 1/2 inch thick. You have to work quickly during this step so you don't end up with a giant mountain of brittle. The best hints I have ever come across for this step are:
1. Heat the baking sheet in a 150 degree oven before you pour the brittle mix.
2. After you have poured it quickly cover it with plastic wrap or a silicone mat and take your rolling pin and roll out the brittle to the thickness you would like. This is a perfect way to get it even thickness and eliminate all those little hair like strands of brittle that form when you are trying to flatten it with spoon or other utensil.

Let it cool completely. Break the brittle into bite-size pieces, using a mallet or the back of a heavy knife.The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Warning-this is very very addictive-don't say I didn't warn you ! Look for the little baggies of this at the Bake Sale.

Oh yes, something else that made this a fabulous weekend I got my last post " Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Oregon Coast " published at , very cool . OK wish me luck this Thursday and Friday, I'll be baking my heart out for the bake sale-hope you can stop by !

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies and The Oregon Coast


Time really does fly. It doesn't matter that we gained an hour by "falling back" there still doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to do everything on my "to do" list. My solution-toss the list. I tossed all lists,watches and alarm clocks for the past week. J and I went to the Oregon Coast and stayed in Neskowin. It's about 12 miles north of Lincoln City and about 8,000 people removed. A small quiet community on the beach with nothing but a post office, a little grocery/video store, a laundry and a sweet little cafe called Hawk's Creek. When we go away we generally do one of two things, one-jumping in feet first and surrounding ourselves with the culture and life of the city or two finding a quiet little place with minimal people/activity and recharging our souls. This trip was the latter.

We ate when we wanted to, slept as long as we liked and walked the beach endlessly. The weather was typical Oregon Coast, raining like crazy one minute and sunshine blue skies the next. Our little Hailey loved the beach-she ran and ran until we thought she couldn't chase her ball any longer-her tongue and face covered in sand and yet all she wanted to do was chase the ball some more. We think she was storing up runs on the beach for the long winter ahead.

The ride down the coast was beautiful. The hillsides were glowing a beautiful shade of gold through McMinnville-the wine country south of Portland. The blueberry bushes looked like little iridescent red burning bushes and the apples were as red and sweet as I can remember.

We also made a "nut" stop on this trip. We stumbled on Schmidt Farms in McMinnville and I felt like a little squirrel loading up on nuts for the winter. But I couldn't resist. Fresh picked hazelnuts-$15 for 10 pounds and the same for walnuts. They crack the shells for you and you get the mindless lovely job of sorting the nuts from the shells. For $1.50 a pound I totally enjoyed the mindless shelling-daydreaming of beaches in the South of France.

Hazelnut Trees

We also made our usual stop at the Otis Cafe where they have the molasses bread that we have become addicted to ! It's dark and sweet and wonderful warm slathered with sweet butter. Seek out the Otis Cafe on your next trip to the Oregon Coast-you won't be sorry-try and get there for their breakfast-especially the Cinnamon Roll French Toast-need I say more ?

No Photoshop here-the storm coming in created this eerie pink glow on the water

It was J's birthday this past weekend so we headed out for a little b-day dinner. It was during the peak of one of the rain storms that we headed out to Pacific City and our favorite brew pub-Pelican Pub and Brewery. If you love artisan brewed ales you have stop here. And always have the cheeseburger-the best on the coast. J had it with grilled onions, jalapeno cheese and grilled mushrooms on fresh baked ciabatta-cooked to juicy dripping perfection. I had the mahi mahi fish chips with a side of their crisp crunchy salty fries-heaven. Well worth the soaking we received running from car to restaurant. Then back to the condo to settle in for some storm watching and beach walking. Our time ended too quickly-we took the long way home hoping to prolong it but all vacation time comes to an end .

Another shot just before the storm, I love the intense colors on the water

My heart longs for the pounding surf and I feel a need for some comfort food. Nothing fancy just something basic sweet and simple..chocolate chip cookies. I'm stealing the recipe from Molly over at Orangette. Go and visit for the recipe for these little babies and you will understand why she calls them her favorite chocolate chip cookie now ! I added my freshly roasted hazelnuts to the mix. Add a glass of cold milk and life is still good , even if it's not on the beach !

Thank you Molly for finding and publishing this recipe-these are excellent chocolate chip cookies.  Just barely soft in the center and crisp and crunchy along the edges.  I added 1 1/2 cups of my just bought hazelnuts to the recipe I found at Molly's blog Orangette.  Don't forget the ice cold glass of milk-perfection !

PS. Check out the new blog I started .  Come and join me baking all the wonderful sweets from Baked Explorations. Buy the book and join the fun.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie-Whoopie, Life is Good

It was Saturday afternoon and I was in the middle of scaling the ingredients for this recipe. I had just set out the butter,sifted the dry ingredients and was cleaning up my baking area when I realized I hadn't checked my phone messages recently. I try not to even look at the phone on my weekend ! When I heard my sister's voice explaining that her husband was in the hospital my heart started racing and I couldn't dial her number fast enough. First of all I'm very grateful that I live so close to my sister and brother. I can't even imagine living out of state or not being able to be with them during a time of crisis. I quickly wrapped everything up from my mise en place and J and I sped off to the hospital in Tacoma. It was so heart wrenching to see the worry and fear in both of their faces. All we could do was wait and pray. So my sister,J and I settled into the waiting room, talking about what's important in life-family and spending time with those you love. We had just pulled out laptops to settle in for what we thought was going to be a 4 hour wait when the Doctor came around the corner with a huge smile on his face-always a good sign ! Good news, no heart surgery, no heart attack-the pain he felt was caused by something else. We couldn't believe it, a wave of gratefulness swept over all of us-we hugged and sped off to my brother in law's room to celebrate. He's home now,safe and warm and tucked in for the day with my sister spoiling him rotten I'm sure-and happy to do so. I am grateful for the wonderful outcome. The sun is shining today- I believe especially bright on Jorge, my brother in law. And we are all celebrating the joy and beauty of life and the moments we have on this planet.

I'm pulling all my ingredients out of the refrigerator and setting up my mise en place again. This time Whoopie takes on a new meaning-Whoopie Life is Good and all is well in our family ! Thank you to the Universe for watching over my family and those I love. And Jorge, this Whoppie Pie is for you!

Pumpkin Whoopie with Brandy Maple Buttercream
adapted fromWhoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley & Amy Treadwell
 Yield: 24 Whoopies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 (1 stick) cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, )
1 egg-room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together your dry ingredients including spices and salt-you can use a bowl or just sift it over a piece of parchment-easier to pour into your mixing bowl.

Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and in the mixer bowl beat together the brown sugar and butter on low speed until just combined.  Add the pumpkin, then the egg-continue beating on low speed until it is all combined.  Add the vanilla and beat it until combined.

Still on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture of dry ingredients until just incorporated-don't over beat-no one likes tough Whoopies ! Make sure you scrape down the side of the bowl at least once.

I used a 2 tablespoon ice cream scoop to form my Whoopies-scoops are great for keeping your Whoopies consistent sizes-remember you don't want a tiny top and a huge bottom -just like real life !

Drop your Whoopies onto the parchment lined pans,spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake one sheet at time for about 15 minutes, or until the Whoopies start to crack and are firm to the touch.  Let them cool on the pans for at least 5 minutes before you transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Brandy Maple Buttercream

1 stick of unsalted butter-room temperature
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/3 cup brandy

In a mixer bowl beat the butter on low speed until creamy.  With the mixer on low add 2 1/2 cups of the confectioner's sugar-1/2 cup at a time until incorporated.  Add the cream, maple syrup and brandy-beat on low for 1-2 minutes until the liquids are incorporated into the buttercream then turn the mixer to medium and add the remaining confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time until your buttercream reaches a your desired spreading consistency.  Scrape down your bowl periodically.

I use a pastry bag with a #804 tip to pipe the buttercream onto one half of the whoopie pie then I gently place the other half on top squeezing ever so slightly.  Voila-ready for the first bite !

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