Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!

So I am not even thinking about baking at this point which for me is a nice break but I am missing school and my students... they are so fun to teach and to inspire.
But anyway here I am at home thinking perhaps you might (not sure why...) wonder what a serial baker does when she doesn't have to bake! Well, I took some shots of what I did today and it doesn't have much to do with food but it was such a wonderful day here on the coast of California in the middle of winter... I thought I would share the amazing area in which I live....

These pictures were taken on my typical dog walk... sigh... I know... I am very lucky....

OH and to all of you who are braving REAL winter weather... I am NOT rubbing anything in...really! Just appreciating what I have... Happy New Year all!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking a bit of a break from baking...

Since I have this wonderful rest period after Christmas...I am taking advantage and going out to eat a few times this of my favorite foodie locations is the Ferry Building in San Francisco and I am going to meet a dear friend up there for dinner. Our plan is to restaurant hop through the Ferry Building, OH JOY!
But first I am meeting another dear friend that I have known since I was a wee foodie. Our favorite haunts are around North Beach so we will probably have for lunch a little chinese and then some Italian food but I must go light since I am then heading down to meet Beth for the restaurant crawl...I will take some pictures of the food and drinks I promise!
I am hoping all you readers out there have had an inspired Holiday season and will have a wonderful New Year! Here's hoping you bring in the New Year with fabulous food and even more fabulous friends and family!
Have a good one and remember we can always diet NEXT YEAR!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yule Logs for Christmas dinner

Although, I realize this is a bit late for your Christmas dinner... I am hoping it might inspire for next years dinner. It is early Christmas morning and we have already opened most of the presents...I wanted to give to you this gift of a lesson in making the yule log... while doing it I missed a couple of key shots but I think there is enough here to get you excited about making one, even if it is next year... 
First of all I use a chocolate souffle roll rather than a traditional sponge cake to give a lighter but still very rich twist to this wonderful end to another big holiday meal. Second, I don't care for buttercream so much with a dessert it is more of a birthday cake or wedding cake topping in my mind so I use a one to one ganache that I have allowed to set up until it is thick and speadable like skippy peanut butter. Then I fill it with coffee flavored whipped cream to just give it that little kick and as I call it the "YUM FACTOR". 
Here is the recipe for the roll...
Chocolate Souffle Roll

8 oz. semi sweet chocolate melted
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 Tbl. hot coffee
6 eggs separated
4 oz. sugar

Melt chocolate and butter with coffee in a bain marie.
Whip the yolks with half the sugar until ribbons form.
Fold half the yolks into the chocolate mixture and then the rest.
Whip the whites until foamy and then slowly add the rest of the sugar whipping until stiff peaks form. It is important that the whites are whipped stiff but not over whipped since they are the structure of this cake.
Spread gently into a half sheet pan lined with parchment and bake for 18 -20 minutes at 350˚.

Turn the cake out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder over it.
Whip 1 ½ cups of whipped cream flavored as you like (vanilla, coffee, hazelnut, raspberry, rum or whatever) and add 2 Tbl. of sugar whip until stiff. Spread out over the cake and roll it up. Freeze overnight and then ice with thickened ganache or chocolate buttercream.

 Then after it is baked it will be puffy and have a gently spring back quality but when it cools a bit if falls back since... it is a souffle... no flour at all!

Now you must turn it out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap that has been dusted with powdered sugar so it doesn't stick to the plastic when it is unrolled. Then spread the coffee cream over the cake. I will use one cup instead of 1 1/2 cups sometimes just to make it a bit fine.

Now begin rolling it up by first folding the end in a bit to give it a start then pull the plastic up and over the cake to help it roll up into the plastic. Then cover the roll up with the remaining wrap and freeze overnight to make it easier to handle while decorating.

Have your ganache ready...make it the day ahead as well and let it sit at room temperature for the perfect consistency the next day!

Ice the cake by piping the ganache on first and then spreading it over. Cut the ends off at an angle to use as the knots on the log.

Use a fork to give the rough bark look and then decorate with the meringue mushroom, marzipan holly leaves and berries and a bit of powdered sugar for snow!

This is half a roll to feed 6-8 people

This is the full roll to feed 12-16 people

Have fun and have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Patricia Rain the Vanilla Queen

MY Goodness, I have the sweetest friend in the world...and not only sweet but brilliant and a warrior for the world at large...ok not the entire world but for sure the tropical one... she began by selling vanilla from Mexico and with the connections she amassed in her travels she realized there was a need to support these people who work in the jungles to give us one of our most prized flavors. Now she has found a new passion... helping all those farmers in the tropical areas growing all of our favorite foods and flavors from those areas such as chocolate, spices, nuts, and many more. Her website is an exciting blend of culinary information and information about these foods and the farmers who produce them. Please check out her website at:
And support her by buying her fabulous vanilla products which in turn supports the farmers and of course our QUEEN!!!
Here is the link to the embarrassingly glowing article she wrote about me

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to make meringue mushrooms

This may make your holidays a bit more fun!!

Meringue mushrooms are great fun at holiday time. Not only are they a sweet treat but they garnish desserts and pastries with a sense of humor since, if done correctly, most people can not tell they are a candy and not the real thing!
Here is a pictorial lesson on how to make them, I did it for my class last night and now you get the pleasure of trying it on your own.
This will make approximately 60 mushrooms
1 cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
Whip the egg whites until a foam starts and then slowly sprinkle the sugar into the whites. Whip until firm peaks form.
Then fold into the meringue:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
This will strengthen the meringue.
Once the meringues is ready you will need:
1 pastry piping bag
1 large round piping tube
1 or 2 sheet pans with parchment lining
1 Tbl. cocoa powder
a small sifter

Begin piping out the caps onto the sheet pan.

Then take the cocoa powder, put it in the small strainer and holding the strainer bout 18" above the tray gently tap the edge to lightly sprinkle the cocoa over the tops making it look like the spots on a real mushroom.

Then begin to pipe the stems by holding the bags vertically to the pan piping out enough to build a base and then slowly bring the bag up to form a point.

Then sift the cocoa over as you did for the caps. Bake at 200 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. I then turn the oven off and let them sit over night so they are completely dried out. This way even if it is raining they won't get soft and wet.
To assemble them take a small paring knife and drill a hole in the bottom of the cap, stick the pointed end of the stem in the hole and TA-DA there is your mushroom. Now for a bit more realism you can take some melted coating chocolate and with a small palate knife and after making the hole in the bottom, spead a little chocolate over the bottom of the cap and then put the stem in. The chocolate will not only set and hold the stem in better, make it taste awsome, it will look more like a real button mushroom with the dark underside.
Have fun and don't each too much sugar this holiday..hahahahahahahahahahahah....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My class has been in the pie section for the last few weeks and I had no idea how fun this section would be. They get so excited by making a traditional pie such as a double crusted apple pie or the lemon custard tart... and last week we made the peach sourcream pie, cherry clafoutis and a lattice topped cherry pie...all adored!
This week we make key lime pie but I added a twist. We made a lime chiffon topping, piled high and topped with whipped cream and lime slices. Then, very seasonally, we made a pumpkin chiffon pie in a graham cracker crust...with a auditing student by my side, she tells me her husband suggested to her to pipe treble cleft notes on her desserts and I thought that was a brilliant idea so I piped the cream in the notes and it looks so cute! Thanks, Celine!
Here are the photos and I will post the recipe for the pumpkin chiffon pie since that would be the most useful this time of the year... please email me if you'd like the key lime...
Only blah blah blah shopping days till the giving day... so you had better start baking now!!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 T. or 3 sheets gelatin (bloom in 3x the water or soak sheets until soft)

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ginger

1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin

2 egg yolks

1 ¼ cup evaporated milk

  1. Place all of the above ingredients into the top of a bain marie or double boiler and cook about 10 minutes until it mounds on a spoon or holds a ribbon.
  2. Take off heat and add softened gelatin stirring until dissolved.
  3. Cool pumpkin mixture.

2 egg whites

¼ cup sugar

  1. On an electric mixer whip the egg whites until foam begins to form and then slowly pour in the sugar.
  2. Whip until stiff peaks form being careful not to over whip to dry peaks.
  3. Fold whites into the cooled pumpkin mixture and pour into prepared and pre-baked pie crust.
  4. Let set up in refrigerator for at least an hour and then ice with sweetened whipped cream.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chef Mial Parker

Chef Mial wasn't a good friend to me but a colleague. He lived his life fast and large. He paid the price for it but left a legacy of students who loved him, colleagues who admired him and chefs who envied him. He was a great chef and a passionate teacher. He gave it all to his students hoping they would find the satisfaction that he did in this industry. I am positive many did and will carry on his life's work with the same fun and enthusiasm that Chef Mial gave to the world.
I will miss his wry wit and sexist jokes... the crazy way he made a point when he either loved or hated something... like the time he was giving the nutritional final for his class... he loathed the idea of healthy to make this point after the students finished cooking what was required in the curriculum he had them all prepare a banquet for the entire school consisting of fried baloney, cheese whiz and potato chip sandwiches on squishy white bread with tater tots on the side and for dessert... fried twinkies! I laughed until I cried and I ate that food that I personally detest, since after all the point was made and he cooked for us all... He made me laugh, he made me mad, I loved the guy and I will miss him... sorry you had to leave so soon Mial...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peach Sourcream pie as a thanks for reading!

Well thank you all for pitching in and getting this baby rolling! I am so new to this and if feels funny writing to cyberspace when I am used to writing emails and such... so thanks!
As far as food and baking goes...I really love this section... a great variety of pies and tarts.
Here is a photo of a sourcream peach pie where being winter and all, we used canned peaches and it turned out so yummy! Not too sweet but the peachy flavor came shining through.
For those of you students who sprung for the Professional Baker by Wayne Gisslen the recipe is in there and if either you are too lazy to pull out the book or don't own it I will publish it here:

Peach sourcream pie
For one 9" pie
8 oz. sour cream
4 oz. sugar
1/2 oz. cornstarch
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound fresh or canned peaches

Mix the sugar and cornstarch together first.
Add the sourcream and mix, then add the eggs, vanilla and nutmeg.
Gently fold in the peaches and pour into and unbaked prepared crust.
Top with:
6 oz. streusel (recipe below)
(good to have in your freezer for topping on all types of baked goods)
4oz. butter
2 oz. white sugar
2 oz. brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz. All purpose flour
Mix all ingredients together until a crumbly mixture if formed.

Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for about 30 - 35 minutes or until firm and set.
Store in refrigerator but serve at room temp for best flavor.
Eat it up!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

readers please!

As I learn my way through this blogging world, I have to wonder... does anyone even read this stuff??? I know about posting on my facebook page and I do but the comments are few and far between... how long does it take before folks actually WANT to read your blog? And how do I get my blog out to folks to see if they are even interested? I constantly get requests for recipes and ideas for desserts and sweet goods and this, I think, is a great way to put all my recipes and ideas out to the world...but is anyone listening?
So I ask you, dear reader, to please let me know you are there by just saying a word...that's all one little word.... like, "hello", for instance....or "yum"....something...that is all I ask of you. Then I will know I am not wasting my time rambling on about yummy sweet things without anyone caring at all....
Thanks and sweet regards

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Almond Roca cookie recipe

I adapted this recipe from one I tasted at a party at my sister in laws. I loved the crunchy cracker, the brown sugar/butter caramel with toasted almonds and chocolate but I wanted more caramely (is that a word?) flavor so I made them with graham crackers and that seemed to do the trick! Enjoy!

Also, I quadrupled the recipe for gift making but below is the formula for making one half sheet pan which is a large cookie sheet...

Chocolate Almond Roca Cookie

You will love the simplicity and result of these very addictive sweets.

Each cookie sheet will make about 2 dozen depending on the size of square
27 minutes ( 15 mins prep time, 12 mins cook time )

To make four times this recipe you will need:

one box of plain graham crackers

6 cups of slivered almonds (sliced will do if you can not find slivered)

2 pounds butter (salted or unsalted both work well)

2 pounds light brown sugar

For each half sheet (12" x 17") pan measure out:

16 graham crackers

1 ½ cups almonds

2 cubes butter (8 ounces)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Make the cookies

  1. Layer an 11 x 17 cookie sheet, with sides, with the graham crackers cut to fit snuggly.
  2. Sprinkle with the almonds and set aside.
  3. Put the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate the butter
  4. Pour the sugar mix in a thin stream over the almond/cracker base
  5. Place in a 350° F oven for 8 minutes or until bubbly all over.
  6. Remove from oven and while still very hot sprinkle with the chocolate chips.
  7. Run the tines of a fork through the chips to spread over the entire pan.
  8. Set on counter to cools and cut into squares or break into random pieces.
  9. Package in cellophane bags to stay crisp and look good for gifting.

Some notes:

I always toast nuts before using in any baked product this gives a more nutty flavor to your sweets.

Use a semisweet chocolate of good quality. The better the chocolate you use the better the cookies taste! However, with that being said, you must use a chocolate chip so the chocolate doesn’t bloom on your cookies (bloom is the grayish white streaks you sometimes see on chocolate, unsightly but not dangerous only cocoa butter and sugar that has risen to the surface). I prefer Guittard Real Chocolate chips. They come in the baking section of most large grocery stores now and I think are the best quality for this cookie.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This is a wonderfully soft and tender gingerbread cake. It is rather simple, brown sugar and no molasses but has crystalized ginger which I love. I have another recipe that has black pepper and Guiness Stout in it and it is fabulous! That one is at work and have to type it as well so let me know and I will get to work!

Here are the pumpkin breads with chocolate chips added... the students came up with that little creative flair. I am not such a big fan of chocolate and pumpkin but HEY whatever floats your boat! I am not one to squelch creativity! I do have a nice pumpkin bread recipe if you are interested. I like the one at the top with the decorations... so veerrry Frennnnchhh
This is one of the many quick bread/cakes that I graded this morning. It called a Basque cake and is traditional in the Basque region of France. However, we make a version from Chef Bo Fridberg's book "Professional Pastry Chef" that is a little bit different than the traditional. Mostly in the making and panning of the cake but this one is absolutely dreamy! Whenever the students take it home, friends, family, neighbors all want to pay them to make it for them. It has a layer of pastry cream (custard) in the center with a rich buttery cake all around. The cream is baked into the cake so it stays well at room temperature. I know, I know, you want the recipe! Well, you can find it in Chef Bo's book or you can wait for me to type it up and post it... your choice. It may take awhile for me to find the time to type it since I have committed myself to making a go of this blog thingy... but I will get around to it eventually... I promise.

Recipe for Pumpkin souffle roulade

Pumpkin Soufflé Roulade

Prepare a ½ sheet pan measuring 12”x 18” with parchment paper on the bottom… no need to grease the pan.
Preheat your oven to 375°

In a large mixing bowl, measure out :

1 cup pumpkin puree
8 egg yolks
1 Tbl. dark rum
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ginger

Mix together until smooth.

Then have ready:
8 egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Whip the egg whites with the salt until a foam begins.
Add the sugar very slowly so it absorbs into the whites.
Whip the whites until a stiff but still soft peak forms.
Fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture and carefully lay out the batter
into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. It will rise a bit and then fall when it cools. Don’t be alarmed. This is a soufflé and it will fall. The goal here is to create enough structure in the egg whites that it doesn’t fall completely but leaves a nice ½” thick cake to roll up with whipped cream.

The cream filling:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 T. dark rum

Whip the cream with the sugar and rum until stiff peaks form.
Lay the soufflé out on plastic wrap with powdered sugar sifted on it so it doesn’t stick.
Spread the cream over in an even layer.
On the long side of the cake nearest to you, begin to roll the cake up using the plastic wrap. Start by folding the end up in a tiny roll so it makes it easier to roll the cake up. Wrap it in the plastic, refrigerate for several hours and serve with powdered sugar sifted
over top.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pumpkin souffle roulade

This is one of my fav desserts for the holidays since it is light and not too rich. A perfect end to a heavy filling meal. It is a souffle meaning there is no flour in the cake and the cream is scented with rum... "scented" don't cha love that distracting term??? It has REAL rum in the cream I did not wave the bottle over the mixing bowl for the scent to be imparted! :) I post the recipe if I know people actually read this thing...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chocolate party!

In the midst of the cloud of smoke covering my town and seemingly my life... I set out to give a chocolate party for two generous women who paid lots of money to a great cause and won my donated party.
There were 10 women of all ages. One of which has a 94 year old mother who swears she has lived as long as she has because of two things. A screwdriver a day and as much chocolate as she can get a hold of daily. I like this woman and strive live as long as she.
The party was fun and the women attentive as I told the story of chocolate. After which we went into the dining room to dip and decorate the truffles I provided. Three flavors, double dark, orange flower and milk chocolate with peanut butter. This is where grown women turn into kids playing with mud pies! After dipping all the truffles, with chocolate still in their bowls, they began sticking their fingers in to it to eat the remains. Then someone said they needed some dipping material... "HEY, how about the veggies?" So the veggies meant to be dipped in this delicious cheesy dip came to the chocolate table and the results were amazing! The most popular veggie dipped in chocolate was the sweet yellow and red bell peppers, then the cucumber, the celery and last which was pointed out to ruin perfectly good chocolate was the broccoli. This was a first for me! I have had lots of fun things happen at these parties and almost without exception fingers go into the bowls no matter who the clients but the veggies?? a new chapter is born to my chocolate parties... one with great chocolate and fresh veggies... hmmmm

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Try and try again

I am trying to get this posted on my web site but it seems that we are having technical difficulties but we will keep on trucking as a famous singer once said...
Tonight we made nougat, marshmallows, graham crackers and ultimately S'mores... all homemade... ok well, class made but you know what I mean!
We made three different recipes for marshmallows and held a marshmallow throwdown... the recipe without the egg whites and without the honey won the test. Then came the fun part.
I took some imported milk chocolate placed it on the fresh out of the oven graham cracker, put a fresh gooey marshmallow on top and then put the whole thing in the oven for a few minutes. When the chocolate was sufficiantly soft then I pulled it out and torched the marshmallow for that dark crispy caramelized layer on top! YUM and YUM again... what fun and what a treat!
I am sugared out though and it is 11 pm and I still have to drive over the hill to my waiting bed... But I don't regret a single calorie :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ok so I have not kept up with this at all... I want to share all the years of knowledge that I have but I haven't been inspired to sit and write...until now... I saw Julie and Julia last night and it wasn't Julie's blog that inspired me but Julia Child's excitement about food and teaching people about food gave me the jump start I needed to get this thing rolling... I will make a promise to myself to write here about what I am teaching and what my students get out of my classes each day I teach them.. which is four days a week at this point... I hope that someone reads and learns something from this and am hoping to link it to my personal web page

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Baking full circle

I am always saying that life is just a series of circles... you know, you meet people and connect and then life continues and then years later they are for some unknown reason brought back into your life...or you connect with someone is has a close relationship with that person... circles. 
Well, for me this time it is my passion for baking that has come full circle. I began in a "natural foods" bakery. Using all whole wheat flour and honey for sweetener. After 8 years of this I longed for white sugar and white flour so I went on that journey. Now here it is almost 40 years later and I am heading back in the natural foods direction. 
Of course things have changed tremendously. Instead of just whole wheat flour I will be using spelt, oat and rye flours and instead of honey, agave syrup is my chosen sweetener. Many people are now on special diets and must eliminate dairy, salt, sugar and gluten from their diet so I feel the need to teach those poor folks how to bake delicious goodies using alternative ingredients. The good news is there is massive amounts of research and information on this subject now, unlike when I was trying to convert white flour and white sugar formulas to whole wheat and honey. So at this beautiful new facility on the Westside of Santa Cruz at the brand spanking new New Leaf market I will be teaching natural foods baking classes. This has become so foreign to me of late that I am really excited to research, learn and share with you all. Please check out the schedule at the New Leaf web site or watch the local papers for a printed one and come see me!