Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Pastry School Update

(Pinup Illustration by the great Gil Elvgren)

I did it!!! I finished the Pastry and Baking Program at Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy!! It was such a great experience and I would definitely recommend the program to anyone.  I loved it so much that I have enrolled in their specialty program for Healthy Baking, which will teach me the ins and outs of baking gluten free, vegan, raw and farm-to-table among other healthy baking techniques.

If you are local (San Gabriel Valley/Los Angeles area of California) and are interested in ordering for a special occasion or just because email me!!  No fondant...strictly homemade goodness like moms and grannies make.  Check out my Flickr page for a "taste" of my work, but we can work together to create something to suit your tastes!

I look forward to working with you...Thank you for your support!

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Monday, September 15, 2014

Salty Sweet Perfection

I'm sure you have heard it before, but adding a little salt to chocolate takes the flavor to a whole new level. Not only are these fudgey morsels adorned with perfect little flecks of sea salt, the pretzel crust on these brownies was a real "ah-ha!" moment for me. As soon as I tasted the salty, crunchy crust against the sweet and chewy texture of the brownie my mind started racing while thinking "why haven't I been using pretzel crust all these years!?!"

Even if you never make these brownies, which would be a HUGE mistake, I would definitely hang onto this pretzel crust recipe. It can be used to compliment so many different desserts like as a pie crust or do what I did and use it for a cupcake crust...delish!

Happy Baking!!
Dani xoxo

Pretzel Crust (Adapted from Bakers Royale and Better Homes & Gardens)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter

Directions: Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl stir together crushed pretzels, flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Once combined stir in the melted butter. Pour the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan and pat it down.  Bake for about 10 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Brownie (Adapted from Bakers Royale and Better Homes & Gardens)

7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions: Place a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water (bain-marie).  In the bowl combine chocolate, butter, and water; stir constantly until chocolate is melted.  Or, to save having to do a bunch of dishes later, place the chocolate, butter, and water in a medium bowl and microwave in 20 sec increments stirring after each time until the chocolate is fully melted.  Be careful you don't overheat the chocolate!  Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to chocolate mixture; beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon. Now beat on low speed until combined. Spread batter over the pretzel crust.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Topping: Drizzle with melted chocolate and caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel. Cut into bars.  They are rich so I would suggest small bars.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Where Do I Begin????

Wow...I's been forrrrrevvvverrrrrr!! Why the long absence you may ask, well, I have been busy....baking a baby!!

My husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy in June and we are over the moon in love.
You can't tell from the picture, but it is seriously crazy what changes happen to the body while pregnant. About 6 weeks in I broke out in full body hives that looked like huge red welts. It was nuts, but I couldn't complain too much since it only lasted a few days, thank goodness, and I had zero morning sickness.

Then, towards the end of my pregnancy I was retaining so much water the tops of my feet were like memory foam pillows. If you touched them with your finger it would leave an indent that would take a few seconds to disappear, but after all was said and done I would do it all over again to experience the miracle of life. Sorry...totally cheesy, but I's a magical experience.
So fast forward to 3months later and I am just getting back into the groove of things. I am almost finished with pastry school; my school was nice enough to give me an extension, and I am learning to deal with extreme sleep deprivation.

As a new mommy I am trying to find balance in my life. I am back to work so I am trying to figure out how to find time to bake while also spending time with the loves of my life.

This recipe is actually perfect for busy moms who want to bake something special, but 1.) don't have time to go to the store to get specialty ingredients; and, 2.) just don't have time in general.

It's an adaptation of the strawberries and cream bars I previously made from the awesome blog Cookies and Cups. I love it because it only takes a handful of ingredients that are really staple ingredients in a lot of homes, you can change things to suit your tastes or use what you have on hand and it doesn't take that long to make. 

Plus, it looks impressive and like it took all day, but I managed to whip it up while my baby was taking a little cat nap. 

Spiced Toasted Walnut Tart

Bake Time: 25-30min
Bake Temp: 350 degrees

1 box of Spice Cake Mix (use what you have!)
1/3 cup butter softened
2 eggs, divided
8oz package of cream cheese softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (or another flavor you like)
1/2 to 3/4 cup walnuts roughly chopped (any kind of nut will do) OPTIONAL (or some berries, or candy...use your imagination)

Essentials: 10 inch tart pan or 13 x 9 baking dish
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your tart pan or baking dish (I used Pam spray) and set it aside. Blend the cake mix, butter, and one egg together in a bowl until combined. Take the mixture, which will look like cookie dough, reserve 1 cup for the topping and pour the rest into your prepared pan or dish. Press it into the bottom and up the sides a bit. Bake it off in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. 

While the crust is baking make the filling by blending the cream cheese, sugar, remaining egg and vanilla in a blender until combined and smooth and set aside.

Once the crust comes out of the oven pour your cream cheese mixture over the crust, sprinkle with the reserved crust crumble and walnuts.  Throw it back in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until it's golden brown and the center is set (my oven took about 27 minutes). 

Once cooled you can pop it in the fridge to chill until it's time to eat. It is a great make-ahead treat and a perfect dessert to take for a dinner party, holiday get together or potluck.  This recipe in particular would be greatly complimented by a cinnamon flavored whipped cream and some fresh berries to give a real depth of flavor and to keep it from being one note. 

Any uneaten portion should be tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge for a midnight snack!

It feels good to be back...I hope you try this recipe and let me know what you think or what changes you have made. 

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo