Recipe: Raspberry Crumb Bars

Myself and two other bakers are signed up to do desserts for my friend's wedding next month. With our baker powers combined we will serve up one hell of a dessert bar. One baker is making the groom's cake/bride's cake (yeah Amy!), the other baker is making a gluten-free dessert and I'm making a grip of cookies and bars. The groom wanted anything peanut butter chocolate (my people) and the bride wanted a fruity number. These delectable Raspberry Crumb Bars may be just the ticket for the bride's dessert.

This recipe slightly cuts a corner by using store-bought raspberry jam, but I'm cool with that. Especially when I need to make 40 of these puppies! Be sure to leave enough time before making these because the dough needs to sit for 30-60 mins. Boo, I know, but it's for good reason.

Now go kick off the weekend with a razzie crumb bar in your face!

Raspberry Crumb Bars
Yield: 10-12 bars
Recipe from Flour by Joanne Cheng

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/342 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
3 tbsp confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (510 grams) raspberry jam (with seeds). Bonne Maman jam is my personal favorite.
1/4 cup (35 grams) confectioners' sugar (optional)

Directions
1.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners' sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the bowl and paddle. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again.
2.  In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix for about 15 seconds, or until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. Scrape down the bowl again and make sure all of the flour mixture is thoroughly incorporated.
3.  Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Remove one-fourth of the dough to a separate sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the remaining three-fourths of the dough entirely in the plastic wrap, pressing down to form a disk about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough disk for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has firmed up but is still somewhat pliable. Pat the reserved one-fourth of the dough into a small disk, wrap in the plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until hard.
4.  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5.  Lightly flour the 8-inch dough disk and two large sheets of parchment paper. Place the dough between the sheets of parchment, and roll it out into a rectangle about 13 by 9 inches and 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick. Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment. Trim the edges so the rectangle has fairly neat sides. Transfer the bottom sheet of parchment with the dough to a baking sheet. Trim the parchment paper so that it fits the baking sheet.
6.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the shortbread is light brown. Remove the shortbread from the oven (leaving the oven set at 350 degrees F), let cool for 10-15 minutes, and then spoon the raspberry jam on top of the still-warm shortbread. Spread it in an even layer with the spoon or with a rubber spatula, covering the surface. The heat of the shortbread should soften the jam enough to make it spreadable.
7.  Remove the smaller dough disk from the freezer and, using the large holes on a box grater, grate it into large flakes and evenly sprinkle over the jam. (I found it easier to grate the dough flakes right over the jam because otherwise they softened and clumped together, making them impossible to "sprinkle.")
8.  Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Let cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
9.  When cooled, sift the confectioners' sugar evenly over the top. Trim the edges again, then cut into bars.

Good to know:
•The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
•Pre-baking, the smaller dough portion can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. The larger dough disk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the larger dough disk is frozen, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, then let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before using

Hey Guess What?

It's been crickets at Dessert Fiend, and here's why...I'M GOING TO PASTRY SCHOOL! Over the past month, I've been fully consumed in this venture. Excited? Heck yes. Nervous? Double heck yes.

Ever since I left my job at Williams-Sonoma, I've been not only thoroughly enjoying the free time, and then some, but I've also been trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I became stuck trying to answer that question, until a month ago, when I had a Dr. House epiphany.

You know when you have those overwhelming euphoric "clouds are parting" moments if life? Well, I don't really have those moments, except when it comes to food. It's magical. This kind of moment and epiphany happened when I was at one of my happy places: Tartine Bakery. As I waited in line, I had this profound itch to know what was happening on the other side of this bakery of the gods, behind the scenes if you will. It didn't look like a cake walk in the kitchen <no pun intended>, but I wanted to be involved in the action, badly, and wondered if and how and when I could make this happen. Wheels: turning.

The next thing I knew, I was Googling pastry schools that following week. I realized that going to school to learn all I can about one of my favorite subjects felt like the exact step I should be taking. After extensive research, I found a school that sounded just right: San Francisco Cooking School. That name doesn't fool around- it means what it says and says what it means. Days later, I had a fantastic phone conversation with the founder of the school and the more I heard about the program, the more I wanted to be a part of it. The following week, I went to their open house with my application in hand. I was sold. The space is seriously gorgeous (hello dream kitchen!) and their signature color happens to be orange (like my hair!) Meant to be I tell ya. I excitedly walked out of the open house with a bounce in my step. A few weeks later, I got the good news that I had been accepted into the fall program at SFCS. I was grinning like an idiot and actually teared up a bit out of excitement and relief.

So that's my little story friends. Dessert Fiend is going to pastry school! I know it's going to be A LOT of hard work and long hours, but if the outcome means I get to bake desserts that make people happy, then game on. MANY more posts to come as I embark on this journey <picture me on a row boat paddling my way down a chocolate milk river, a la Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory>.

Recipe: A Very British Dessert, Scones with Clotted Cream

I think I know why tea time is so popular in England. Two words: clotted cream. I had never experienced clotted C before my recent trip to London. It always sounded strange and unappealing to me, but alas, strange and unappealing it is not! When I first sampled it at Fortnum and Mason's high tea, it was love at first bite. Every following bite HAD to have my new favorite British condiment in it. Sure jam and lemon curd, you guys can come along too, but don't forget to bring your tastier friend, clotted cream, with you.

You might be asking yourself, what the devil is clotted cream? The way I'd describe it is, if butter and whipped cream got together and had a bambino, it would be this. The texture is similar to butter, but it's creamier and tastes nutty. Clotted Cream > Butter? In this case, yes.

I made a batch of clotted cream with some scones (which, lets be honest, are simply a vessel for the CC), when I returned from my travels. The cream was simple enough to make, it just took a couple few 20 hours to make! Yeeesh, I know. It takes forever and a day, but the process requires nothing more than an oven and time.

I encourage you to give it a shot because it's a rarity to find this anywhere in the states. Plus, you'll no doubt feel a bit fancy if you have it on a scone with a cup of tea. Tea cheers <pinkies up>!

One of my best mates on the left, champers in the middle, me on the right.

Scones with Clotted Cream
Recipe from cooking.nytimes.com & cupcakeproject.com
Yield: 10-12 scones, 3/4 cup clotted cream

Ingredients
For the Scones:
3 cups self-rising flour (3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt can be substituted)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter at cool room temperature, more for pan, optional
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 cup dried currants, optional
1 egg yolk

For the Clotted Cream:
1 pint of unpasteurized heavy whipping cream (pasteurized heavy whipping cream is the best I could find, but don't use ultra-pasteurized whipping cream)

Directions
For the Scones:
1.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the sugar. (Or give all the dry ingredients a quick whirl in a food processor.) Cut butter into bits and work it into the dry ingredients with fingertips or a pastry blender, or by pulsing the processor, until mixture is finely crumbly. If using a food processor, transfer mixture to a bowl.
2.  Gradually add 1 cup milk and the currants, if using, and mix with a fork. Knead lightly by hand to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 20 minutes.
3.  Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with butter or line it with parchment paper. Roll dough to a 3/4-inch thickness. Use a fluted 2- or 3-inch cutter to punch out scones. Scraps can be kneaded lightly for additional scones. Beat the egg yolk with remaining milk and brush on the scones. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until risen and golden brown.

For the Clotted Cream:
1.  Pour the cream into a heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot. The cream should come up the side of the pot somewhere between one and three inches.
2.  Cover the pot and put it in the oven on 180 F.
3.  Leave the covered pot in the oven for at least 8 hours. My 2 cups took 12 hours (until my oven automatically turned off). You’ll know it’s done because there will be a thick yellowish skin above the cream. That skin is the clotted cream.
4.  Let the pot cool at room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator for another 8 hours.
5.  Remove the clotted cream from the top of the pot. The cream that is underneath it can still be used for baking.

Fun Facts:
• British scones are typically less sweet and buttery than American scones. This is because they slather their scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd. :-)
• The reason clotted cream hasn't exploded across the globe with popularity is that it has an extremely short shelf life. That's why you can't find it at most grocery stores.
• Fortnum and Mason makes my favorite lemon curd to date. It's life-changing. Snag a jar here.

Recipe: Millionaire's Shortbread (a.k.a. Fancy Twix® Bars)

I'd like the job of naming dessert, because if it were up to me, this dessert would be named "Fancy Twix® Bars." That way, every yammo would easily know what they were getting into; but with a name like "Millionaire's Shortbread," this could be shortbread topped with Benjamins for all we know! Dessert naming aside, this bar is a spot hitter: buttery shortbread layered with chewy caramel and rich chocolate, a triple hitter if you will. Bonus: it's easy to make too!

I chose this specific recipe because it won a contest (who doesn't like winners?), and I've gotta admit, this dessert tastes like victory. Go get 'em.

Millionaire's Shortbread
Recipe from onceuponachef.com
Yield: roughly 40 bars, but it all depends on how you cut these suckers

Ingredients
For the Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon ice water
1 large egg yolk

For the Caramel Layer
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup (such as Lyle's Golden Syrup) or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous pinch salt

For the Chocolate Layer
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces, best quality (my favorite here)
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions
For the Crust
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, pushing the foil neatly into the corners and up the sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that the foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from the pan). Spray the foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease with butter.
2.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt; process until well combined and no lumps of brown sugar remain. Add the butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms. Add the ice water and egg yolk and blend until moist clumps form. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press with your fingers into an even layer (dust your fingers with flour if the dough is too sticky). Pierce the dough all over with a fork and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the Caramel Layer
Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and boil gently, whisking constantly, until the caramel is thick and the temperature registers 225 degrees F, about 6 minutes. Pour the caramel over the warm crust; cool for about 15 minutes, or until caramel is set.

For the Chocolate Layer
Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is about 75% melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate, until smooth (if necessary, place the chocolate back in the microwave for a few more; just be sure not to overheat or the mixture will curdle). Spread the chocolate over the caramel layer. Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate is set, at least 1 hour. Using the foil overhang, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into small squares and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Lost this round of Twix Jenga

Review: London's Sticky Toffee Pudding

I've been on a fantastic London holiday for the past 7 days, but sadly I'm heading back to the states today. I'm confident this is why the clouds grew dark and started crying this morning. Luckily for this girl, it's the only rain London has seen all week. 

I traveled with one of my best mates and my mum and dad. After hearing my parents were going to Londontown and renting a two-bedroom flat, we pretty much invited ourselves. We made solid use of our time and walked/tubed all over this city like it was nobody's business. Parks, pubs, shows, sights, shopping, museums, meandering, getting lost on the daily, ghastly amounts of food and half-pints of ale are some of the things we partook in (yes I said half-pints or "kid size" as my mate liked to say. We had to pace ourselves!)

Anytime I visit a new town, I'm determined to to sample their best dessert, or die trying. A local told me that London's best desserts are trifles and sticky toffee pudding. Trifles don't excite me much, but sticky toffee pudding sure does. Game on. 

After some research, we decided to try out the STP at a few places that reviewers claimed had the best in town. 

First up, The Winsor Castle in Notting Hill. The dinner, ambiance and service was amazing, but I'd be a liar if I said the same for their Sticky Toffee Pudding. One word: raisins. Just thinking about those little turds surprising me in my first bite makes me gag. #getoutofmyliferaisins

Overall Rating: 1 Big Ben (because the toffee sauce was good)

Second up, Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden. Committed to our challenge, we took a special trip to this place after catching a play, just for dessert. We were greeted by an icy hostess who apparently hated smiling, but loved frowning. After excitedly telling her that we journeyed there solely for their Sticky Toffee Pudding, she pretentiously told us we couldn't be seated unless we ordered at least two courses. It was 11:00pm on a school night...seriously? Can a course be wine? Yes seriously and no wine isn't a course (I know many people who would disagree with the latter statement, i.e. Olivia Pope). After receiving the R-card from the ice queen, we promptly left. Well, at least I can tell people now that I met the real life Elsa from Frozen. #celebsighting

Overall Rating: -5 Big Bens

Last up, Sophie's Steakhouse in Covent Garden. After our sour experience at Rules Restaurant, we refused to let our night end like that. My dad, "dessert MVP of the night," came through and was able to find this spot that happened to be nearby and on our STP list. We were refreshingly greeted with a smile and seated right away. Shortly after, two delightful looking Sticky Toffee Puddings were placed before us. We broke into pairs, grabbed our spoons, and in less than 5 minutes our plates were clean. Yum. Tastic. The cake was warm, spongy and had lovely soft favors of brown sugar and butter. It was also happily sitting in a warm bath of toffee sauce and cream sauce. I'd like to sit in a warm bath of toffee sauce and cream sauce too. #justsayin This fabulous restaurant did Sticky Toffee Pudding justice and I give them a strong tilt of my fancy British hat <that I wish I owned>. 

Overall Rating: 5 Big Bens

Thank you for a smashing time, London. I know this won't my last visit to you and it certainly won't be my last Sticky Toffee Pudding. Cheers. 

Fun fact: "Pudding" in the UK means "cake." Also, "rocket" means "arugula," so a "rocket scientist" in the U.S. would probably translate to a "gardener" in the UK.

The dishes are done man...the dishes are done.

Recipe: The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

Hi, my name is Courtney and I'm a chocoholic. Sometimes my chocolate hankerings are satisfied with a handful of chocolate chips, but other times I need to go bigger. Like cake bigger. Enter "The Best Chocolate Cake Ever." I made this cake for Mother's Day and it fulfills every cell of the chocoholic in me. In fact, I think it may be the best chocolate cake I've ever made.

The cake portion is moist, fluffy and perfectly chocolatey, while the frosting (an old favorite of mine) is luxurious and decadent, but not over the top rich. Separately they would go swimmingly with another flavor frosting or cake, but together, these two are intoxicating...just thinking about it makes me angry because I don't have a friendly slice of it left to eat.

In conclusion, my friends, if you have a chocolate lover in your midst, make them this cake.

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever
Cake recipe from addapinch.com
Yield: Roughly 12 servings

Ingredients – Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Ingredients – Frosting
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder

Directions
For the cake:
1.  Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
2.  Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
3.  Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
4.  Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
For the frosting:
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Pro Tips/Facts:
• Always always bake a few mins below the lower suggested baking time. Every oven is different!
• If your frosting is too thin and you've added the max amount of confectioners’ sugar, pop it in the fridge for 15 mins or so to harden up.
• Both the cake and frosting have a bit of espresso powder in it which helps enhance the chocolate flavor. For non coffee fans, the espresso flavor isn't noticeable though. S'all good.

Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Ice cream is becoming one of my favorite desserts to make. It's pretty low effort because there's zero baking involved and the ice cream machine does half of the work. If you're working off of a solid recipe, you can't lose.

I had an occasion to make festive ice cream this week- it was Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo on the same day. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to celebrate those two, so I hosted a little soirée. I made some tacos (didn't see that coming huh), jalapeño margies and lastly, Mexican Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

I debated between three different chocolate ice cream recipes, all from my trustee Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. There was "Ben's Chocolate Ice Cream," the rich one, "Jerry's Chocolate Ice Cream," the complex one and "Light Chocolate Ice Cream," the subtle one. I went with my boy Jerry's recipe because it seemed liked a happy medium, not overly rich or weak in the chocolate department. In order to make it a proper Mexican chocolate, I added cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste. They key is to go heavier on these spices because after the ice cream freezes, those flavors become less intense. The spice proportions I gave you below are rough. For the cinnamon, I added a teaspoon at a time, blended, and tasted until there was a significant hit of cinnamon. For the cayenne pepper, I went shake by shake until it was noticeably spicy, but not bothersome spicy. I wanted that flavor to be more subtle. 

After freezing this puppy for hours and giving it a long awaited taster, I was officially into this ice cream. I loved the rich chocolate with the cinnamon, the crunch of the choco chips and the spicy friend that hit you lightly in the back of the throat <lobbing joke your way>. This ice cream needs to come out more often, not just for Mexican holidays celebrated mostly by frat boys. 

Mexican Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Recipe based off of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

Ingredients
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A few to five shakes of cayenne pepper
3/4 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1.  Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Gradually whisk in the cocoa and heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. (The chocolate may "seize" or clump together. Don't worry, the milk will dissolve it.) Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, and heat until completely blended. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2.  Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and vanilla and whisk to blend.
3.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and blend. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 1 to 3 hours, depending on your refrigerator. I went with I hour and change.
4.  Whisk the cinnamon and cayenne pepper into the mixture, transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. Mine took about 25-30 mins. Add chocolate chips when you are a few minutes away from being done

Recipe: Chez Panisse Lemon Meringue Pie

Ahh the Lemon Meringue Pie. I was first introduced to this pie when I was a little bugaboo. On occasion, my parents would swing by Marie Callender's to pick up a pie for dessert, and 9/10 times, it was Lemon Meringue. It didn't take long for it to became one of my favorite pies- it in fact just took one slice and I was hooked. I love the different textures it has- the smooth tangy lemon custard paired with the melt in your mouth sweet meringue, which is exactly like eating a cloud. Exactly.

This week, I wasn't flying solo in the kitchen- I was able to bake with my favorite baking partner in crime: mi madre. We chose this recipe simply because it's by Chez Panisse, one of the best restaurants in the bay area, 'nuff said. Solid recipe, but it does have a million steps in three part increments, so I recommend reading each step a few times because laaawwwrrd it was confusing. We double-downed and made two of these pie friends, and with our powers combined, they were both a success. #humblebrag

Lemon Meringue Pie
Recipe by Chez Panisse
Yield: 1, 9 inch pie

Ingredients
For the Crust
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, cut in several pieces
3 1/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in several pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water (a bit more or less may be needed)

For the Lemon Custard
2 lemons (Meyer or regular, we used regular)
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut in 3 pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 3 pieces

For the Meringue
3 egg whites, at warm room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
For the Crust
1.  In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar.
2.  Using a processor, a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the salted butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add unsalted butter and shortening and cut them in until the lumps are the size of peas.
3.  If you have been using a processor, transfer the mixture back to the large bowl. Sprinkle on the ice water a little at a time and toss with a fork until the mixture comes together in lumps and holds together when pressed. If necessary, add more ice water, sparingly. Avoid kneading the dough.
4.  Gather the dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours. Pro Tip: We didn't do this! We were antsy-pantsy. The dough is more pliable if you chill it though.
5.  Roll into a 12-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick, and fit gently into the pan. Trim the edge a half-inch beyond the rim, fold under and crimp or pinch to make a decorative edge. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze the shell for 20 to 30 minutes. Pro Tip: We also didn't freeze it! Shrug. #livingontheedge
6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper, weight with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes, or until set and dry looking.
7.  Remove the weights and foil, turn the heat down to 350 and continue baking until shell is golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool slightly, but leave the oven on.

For the Lemon Custard
1.  Grate the zest from the lemons into a small bowl. Strain in the lemon juice, then press through as much lemon pulp as possible.
2.  In a heavy saucepan, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until just mixed. Stir in the lemon juice and pulp, then the six tablespoons of butter.
3.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low to medium heat, until the mixture comes together and thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat, allow to stand five minutes, then whisk briefly to smooth. 
4.  Spread the prepared filling in the shell and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove pie. 

For the Meringue
1.  Bump oven temperature up to 375
2.  Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tarter and continue beating until rounded peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
3.  Spread the meringue over the filling, making sure it meets the edges of the crust to make a seal. Swirl in a design with a knife or spatula. 
4.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.
5.  Allow to cool completely, from one to two hours, but do not refrigerate until it's come to room temperature.

Pro Tips:
• How does one store the pie? Make a tent over the pie by using toothpicks and plastic wrap before popping it in the fridge. BOOM.
• If you're short on time or feeling like a lazy sack, buy and use Pillsbury® Refrigerated Pie Crust. It tastes pretty much like the homemade version.

Recipe: Lemon Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Last week, I baked 6 desserts. My social calendar happened to blow up on the same week. A few burfdays to celebrate, a dinner soirée, a bbq and lastly, a Game of <f**king> Thrones premiere party. Each event needed a baked item (or three) by yours truly, and I was happy to oblige. Here's the breakdown of my week o' baking. 

Monday: Dessert menu planning, ingredient gathering
Tuesday: Bake Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
Wednesday: More dessert planning and ingredient gathering
Thursday: Bake Lemon Bars
Friday: Bake Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Saturday: Bake Lemon Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
Sunday: Bake Ginger Molasses Cookies and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

'Twas a lot of baking, which meant there was a lot of "quality controlling" on my end. #nomnomnom Time to hit the gym and channel McConaughey, he seems to have that workout thing down. Sidenote: Does that guy even own a shirt?

The dessert highlight for me was the Lemon Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. It was like a really good handshake- positively satisfying. It was rich, creamy and had the perfect amount of lemon. The gingersnap crust was a compatible compadre too. 

Sigh. If only I loved making cheesecake as much as I loved eating it. It's, unfortunately, a royal pain in the ass to make. It's so high maintenance with it's water bath, two rounds of baking and lastly, the obnoxiously long cooling process that starts outside the fridge and continues inside the fridge. I admit though, I could make my life easier by making a few changes. I could buy a bigger water bath pan (mine is barely a few inches bigger than my cheesecake pan) and I could also not start baking at 8pm. Starting at that hour means I'm up past midnight waiting for that f**ker to cool enough to put it in the fridge. Luckily for my sweet cheesecake, it's always been worth the hassle in the end.

Lemon Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
Recipe from Epicurious.com
Yield: 16 servings, but it all depends on your slice size!

Ingredients
For the crust:
2 cups ground ginger snap cookies
6 tablespoons butter, melted (you could probably get away with 4–5 T)

For the filling:
5, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream
2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions
For the crust:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir cookie crumbs and butter in medium bowl until evenly moistened. Press mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter removable-bottom cheesecake pan with 3-inch-high sides. Bake crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
2.  Stack 3 large sheets of foil on work surface. Place same cake pan in center. Gather foil snugly around pan bottom and up sides to waterproof. See my Pro Tips below for another way to waterproof your pan.

For the filling:
1.  Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, then salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream, grated lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour filling into pan.
2.  Place wrapped cake pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.
3.  Bake cake until filling is slightly puffed and moves only slightly when pan is shaken gently, about 1 hour 25 minutes. See Pro Tips below on how to tell doneness. Remove cake pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool cake in pan on rack 2 hours. Chill uncovered until cold; cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
4.  Cut around pan sides; carefully loosen pan bottom from sides and push up pan bottom to release cake. Place cake (still on pan bottom) on platter. 

Pro Tips:
• Grind the gingersnaps in the processor or place them in a heavy-duty plastic bag and finely crush them with a rolling pin.
• I personally like using crockpot liners to keep the cheesecake pan waterproof vs wrapping in aluminum foil.
• Don't forget to do the "Jiggle Test" I've mentioned before in order to tell doneness of the cheesecake. "Jiggle it, just a little bit!"

Recipe: Classic Lemon Bars

I'm going to a themed dinner party tonight, but when I say themed, I don't mean costume-themed like "Luau" or "Toga" (although I do love me a costume party), I mean food category-themed. We've had several of these dinners already where the theme has been "fig," "pumpkin," "cranberry" and "nuts." Each dinner I've been hugely impressed with everyone's dish. These friends of mine know how to cook! Tonight's theme, as you may have already guessed, is "lemon!" The only rules are that the host has to choose the theme (mine was "nuts," mostly for the jokes) and each person has to sign up for a dish. Since I like taking the easy road sometimes <often>, I snagged the dessert dish spot this time. I can't help it guys. I have a dessert blog for Pete's sake!

I believe this theme was meant to be because my awesome neighbors emailed me about having an abundance of lemons to give away. BOOM. After telling them that this was perfect timing, for I was about to go lemon shopping, the lovely wife told me I must promise her, that as long as they have lemons on their tree, I will never buy another one again. I mean. I kinda have the best neighbors, guys. Don't be jeals.

For my lemon dessert, I knew I wanted to give Lemon Bars another go. I've made them once before and they turned out piss poor. The bloody filling never set! Boo Radley. My girl Amy passed along her go-to recipe which is by the fabulous Barefoot Contessa.

Classic Lemon Bars
Yield: 20 squares or 40 triangles
Recipe from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients
For the crust: (Pro Tip: thick crust fans should double this, I'll def go double next time)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3.  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.
4.  For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.
5.  Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Pro tips:
• If your eggs aren't at room temperature, place them in luke warm water for 15 mins
• If your butter isn't at room temperature, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds, flip it 180º, microwave for another 8 seconds. Every microwave is different so this may be trial and error. I've over melted MANY a stick.

Lemon Bar crime scene

Recipe: Not Your Ordinary Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

There was this decadent ridiculously good cookie I used get near work when I really wanted to treat myself. It was a Peanut Butter Blossom Cookie, but with a twist. Instead of having a Hershey Kiss in the middle of the cookie, it had a dark chocolate peanut butter cup there. Talk about a game changer. My coworker at the time, Katie, shared the same sentiment for them; we even went as far as naming the cookie "The Baby Jesus Cookie" or just "Baby Jesus" for short. This is because whenever we ate one of these puppies, it was like having a holy experience. The clouds parted and everything. We were known to say such things as "hey, I've got a hankering for a Baby Jesus, want me to getcha one?" or "the guy gave me an extra Baby Jesus on the house!" to each other at work. #typicalworkchitchat 

The key to these cookies is to buy, specifically, the Trader Joe's <crack> Peanut Butter Cups. I whole-heartedly believe that these are the BEST store-bought peanut butter cups on the planet. They easily take the gold, in my humble. Costco PB Cups take the silver and Reese's PB Cups take the bronze, in case you were wondering who else placed.

This recipe tastes exactly like those Baby Jesus Cookies I loved. You will not be sorry if you make these. I never am.

Not Your Ordinary Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Recipe adapted from howsweeteats.com 
Yield: approximately 48 cookies

Ingredients
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar (and about 1/2 cup more later for rolling)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
Trader Joe's Milk or Dark Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey Kisses (you need 48 total), unwrapped

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Cream butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Add sugars and cream for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Stir in vanilla.
3.  Add flour, baking soda and salt, just mixing until combined, then add in milk.
4.  Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
5.  Roll cookies into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Lay on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
6.  Bake at 375 for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and push candy of choice down into the middle of each cookie. Return to oven and bake for 2 1/2 more minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

Pro Tip: the kisses do just fine baking for those last 2.5 mins, but the pb cups melt too much. Wait to put the pb cups in until the cookies are done baking and come out of the oven. Push them in and leave them be. They will get melty but will definitely need some time to cool/harden. 

Squiiiiiish!

Review: Metro Lafayette's Butterscotch Pot de Crème

I'm from a little town in the east bizz-ay called Lafayette. It's past Oaktown, through the tunnel, a little further, keep going and you're there. On occasion my mom and I get together in those neck of the woods to lunch, catch up and discuss important things like who got voted off the island on the latest episode of Survivor. #ladieswholunch

Several months ago, my parents dined at a one of Lafayette's newer restaurants called Metro Lafayette: "it's one of Lafayette's most popular joints, it's so hip!" they told me. Ever since they ate there, they wouldn't stop talking about the dessert they had: Butterscotch Pot de Crème. "UGH it's SO good Court, you've GOT to try it, UGH." is what I was hearing on the daily (bi-weekly). I knew it was only a matter of time before we lunched there and had this tasty sounding dessert. 

Yesterday, my mom and I made it happen. Lunch was yum but I was highly anticipating this dessert to see what all my parents' hubbub was about. The pot de crème friend came out in a cute coffee mug sitting on top of a sliced menu. I stared down at it grinning, which I often times do to dessert, and noticed the pot was dolloped with crème Chantilly, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with course sea salt. She was a beaut. With my spoon at the ready I wasted no time and dove in. First bite...solid gold. Creamy, rich butterscotch with a hint of burnt flavor and then the sea salt hits you square in the face. BAM. I could have almost done without the salt or maybe would have scaled it back by a hair. My mom stopped about 3 bites in (she claimed she was full?!), but I heroically stepped up to the plate and polished off that bad boy no problem. That's how I do.

Overall, a lovely lovely dessert and my parents did not steer me wrong. If you find yourself on the east side of the bay, go get hip and dine at Metro to see what this Butterscotch Pot de Crème is all about for yourself.

Overall Rating: 4.9 dollops of crème Chantilly

Recipe: Salted Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Wonder what a chocolate bomb tastes like? It tastes like these cupcakes. They are rich, moist, fiercely chocolatey and should only be consumed by the very biggest chocolate fans. Consider yourself warned. 

Get the biggest glass you own and fill it with milk because you're going to need it!

Salted Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe from gimmesomeoven.com
Yield: 24 cupcakes (mine made 18)

Ingredients – Cupcakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (or any unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coffee, lukewarm (you can use decaf coffee if desired!)
chocolate ganache frosting
coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Ingredients – Frosting
18 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Directions – Cupcakes
1.  In the bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla.
2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt until combined. Then in an additional separate bowl, stir together buttermilk and coffee. Add dry ingredients to creamed butter mixture alternately with buttermilk and coffee, beating well after each addition.
3.  Fill paper-lined baking cups two-thirds full. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
4.  Top with chocolate ganache frosting, then sprinkle with sea salt.

Directions – Frosting
1.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl.
2.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just reaches a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the chocolate. Stir slowly until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Let it cool until it reaches room temperature, about 1-2 hours. It will continue to thicken the longer it sets.
3.  Spoon or pipe the ganache onto the cupcakes. If the ganache is too thin for piping, you can transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat it on medium-high for 3-5 minutes until it reaches a better consistency for piping. Pro Tip: this part was tricky for me. I ended up having to re-melt the ganache slightly in the microwave (10 seconds at a time) and then beat until it was just the right consistency to work in my froster. Play around with temperature and beating until you're happy with the thickness.

Recipe: Decadent Hot Chocolate with Fluffy Marshmallows

Hey east coast, I heard it's been one hell of a winter. I'd like to make you a batch of hot chocolate with marshmallows to help warm you up. It tastes like a yum factory in your mouth so I think you'll like it. 

Hang in there and if you're still chilly after a mugful, come out west for a visit! We've got plenty of drought and global warming to keep you dry and toasty.

Decadent Hot Chocolate
Recipe from smittenkitchen.com
Yield: Just under 1 3/4 cups mix, enough for 9 cups

Ingredients
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (8 grams) cornstarch
3 ounces (85 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder, any kind you like
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from a tiny segment of fresh vanilla bean
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
To make:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until powdery. Don't have a food processor? Chop or grate chocolate until it's as fine as you can get it, and stir into the remaining ingredients. 
Note: Mixture keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To use:
1.  Heat one cup of milk (coconut, almond or others would work here too) in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy.
2.  Add 3 tablespoons hot cocoa mix. Whisk over heat for another minute or two, until it begins to simmer and mix is completely dissolved. Pro Tip: some like their hot cocoa extra chocolatey (this girl) and some like it more subtle. Taste-test this concoction before mugging it and add more mix or milk to desired taste.
3.  Pour into mug, top with marshmallows (or a dollop of whipped cream), curl up on your couch and binge watch the latest season of House of Cards.

Other flavors to try: Mexican Hot Chocolate (chile powder, cayenne and cinnamon), Mint Hot Chocolate (mint extract instead of vanilla), Mocha Hot Chocolate (couple tablespoons of espresso powder).

Fluffy Marshmallows
Recipe from smittenkitchen.com
Yield: Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

Ingredients
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract)

Directions
1.  Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.
2.  In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.
3.  In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
4.  With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. 
5.  In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
6.  Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.
Note: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Makes for a darn cute gifty huh?

Recipe: Homemade Oreos

Did you know that Oreos have been around for over 100 years? Talk about an oldie but a goodie. These cookies were a childhood favorite of mine, but I’ve gotta admit, I mostly preferred the cookie part to the filling. I found the filing weirdly waxy and artificial tasting, so I often times would scrap it out and just eat the cookie. Was that anti-American of me to do? <shrugs> At times, I even went as far as making a “milkshake" out of my cookies and a glass of milk. Gross or brilliant? Don't answer that.

For my hub's birthday, after asking what he wanted for dessert, he said “a cookie with a creamy filling.” The first cookie that popped into my head was, of course, an Oreo. My beloved cookbook, Flour, had a solid looking Oreo recipe and I was excited to see how a homemade version compared to the real deal. 

The recipe was simple enough, but the only bother was that the dough needed to sit for a few hours here and a few hours there before baking. #dessertdelayer Luckily, these puppies were worth the wait. The cookie part tasted exactly like the real deal, but was overall much softer. As for the filling, I didn’t have any desire to scrap it out, so I call that a success. It was super sweet, nicely creamy and natural tasting. One thing to note is that these are JUMBO-sized Oreos, "king-sized" if you will. That was the immediate reaction everyone had to them, so try to prepare yourself and your consumers accordingly.

Oreo lovers should give these a go, no doubt. And don't forget to complete your Oreo experience with a large rimmed glass of milk to dip these bad boys into! 

Homemade Oreos
Yield: 16–18 sandwich cookies
Recipe from Flour by Joanne Cheng

Ingredients – Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients – Vanilla Cream Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions – Cookies
1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
2.  
In another medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until well mixed. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The dough will start to seem too floury, and you will find it easiest to switch to mixing it with your hands until it comes together. It will have the consistency of Play-Doh. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour to firm up.
3.  
Transfer the dough to a 15-inch square sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough log about 10 inches long and 21/2 inches in diameter. Place the log at the edge of the sheet of parchment paper, and roll the parchment around the log. With the log fully encased in parchment, roll it into a smoother log, keeping it at 21/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm. The log may settle and sink a bit in the fridge, so reroll it every 15 minutes or so to maintain a nice round log, if you like. If not, your cookies will be more oblong than round, which is not a bad thing taste-wise, though they won’t look like the famous packaged cookie. (At this point, the dough log can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the dough is frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
4.  
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or butter it.
5.  Cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
6.  
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 16 or 17 minutes, poking them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch, remove them from the oven. You can’t judge by color because they start out black.
7.  
Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack to warm or room temperature. They don’t have to cool completely before you fill them, but you can’t fill them while they are hot. While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting.

Directions – Filling
1.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until completely smooth and soft. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and again beat until smooth. It will look like white spackle and feel about the same—like putty. You can also mix this frosting by hand. Make sure the butter is very soft, and use your hands to mix and knead the confectioners’ sugar into the butter. You should have about 1 cup. (The filling can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.)
2.  
Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, bottom side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges. Repeat until all of the cookies are filled.

Guest Post! Review: Petit Pot's Pot de Créme

Three dollars and ninety-nine cents for 3.5 ounces of what's more or less pudding, albeit in a glass jar, probably sounds a little snobby. That's like, what, just over a dollar an ounce? It belongs in the same category as everything else between $3.50 and $3.99 that should really go for, say, two bucks. 

But the words "chocolate pot de créme with dark Belgian chocolate" coupled with "handmade in the Bay Area" were enough to make me go "well ok just this once" before tossing it in my cart. And just this twice, really, because the lemon curd pot de créme was a) sitting right there too, and b) the only one left of its kind, which always provokes in me some ancestral urge to provide! Scarcity! Get the last one! 

They're both made by Petit Pot, a small business based in Oakland.

Fast forward three weeks and let's see, I've had the chocolate one three times, the lemon one twice, and the caramel one and vanilla one each once. I've also given a couple out as miniature gifts, so anyway, do the math and that's…$43.89 spent on pot de fucking cremés OH MY GOD. 

You know what though, whatever, these are damn good. Each is topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and while that top layer is neither flavorful nor dull, it's a nice introduction to the rest of the…pot? Can we just agree this is fancy pudding? 

My favorite, the chocolate, is slightly bitter with 70% cocoa bean content. Here are the rest of the ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, egg yolk, sea salt and buttermilk. Nice, huh? Real foods that don't require Wiki to decipher what they are. Dark Belgian chocolate is the protagonist here, rich, layered and complex. The real judge: my 5-year-old son loved this one. 

My second favorite, the lemon curd flavor, is tart! Like this!! It leaves you with pursed lips, and when it's lemon anything – cookies, bars or icebox pie – my preference is go big or go home. Also, being a copywriter, I'm a sucker for specific descriptors, and the "made with Californian lemons" bit wooed me (but they're Californian!). The child critic didn't care for this one, "delightfully tart" to me likely read "fucking sour" to him. 

So there we have it, first and second place. Then there's the equivalent of an awkward pause before we get to third and fourth, and actually, they both kind of just tie for last. The caramel pot de créme is salted caramel (of course…), and like most things salted caramel, I found it just a little too salty. The vanilla one, which I thought would be an easy second place for me, was oddly eggy. I don't know how else to describe it. It was good, and even had the little black Madagascar vanilla bean flecks that make anything vanilla-flavored better. But for some reason, the taste of eggs presided, sort of like an eggy French toast. 

All in all, I'm into these desserts. And I like that they're locally made. Oh, and that 3.5-ounce thing? Turns out it's the perfect size, as each is rich and just a little is just enough.  

I'm hoping Petit Pots thrives. I've seen their stuff in a few different upscale markets in the East Bay as well as Mollie Stone's in San Francisco. I'd love for them to try a few new flavors that stray from the traditional – Chai or anise, perhaps? Black tea? Mango rum? 

Raising a toast to these little glass jars, 
katie louise 

Painting Dessert

I've been itching to get back into painting for quite some time, and last week, I finally broke the seal. My hubs and I took a painting class, but it wasn't your run of the mill painting class, it was a BYOB painting class. Booze and painting separately are pretty great, but combining those two is just plain brilliant. If you haven't heard of this sort of concept, let me fill you in. This company called "Beyond the Canvas" offers classes several times each month in which they provide you with painting supplies and more importantly, in depth step-by-step instruction on how to paint a particular subject, all whilst you sip on a tasty adult bevy.  

The particular class we chose was titled "BYOB Paint & Ice Cream Workshop." It couldn't have sounded more up my alley. Going into the evening, I only knew that we were going to paint dessert and drink some wine, but didn't know anything further than that. As we walked in, I looked up and immediately recognized Wayne Thiebaud's "Four Ice Cream Cones" painting projected onto the wall, a personal favorite of mine. This was the subject we were going to recreate, we were told. I was stoked because Wayne Thiebaud is one of my all-time favorite artists. Take a gander to the very top of my blog. Those paintings are all Wayne. #wayneismyhomeboy 

I first learned about Wayne early on in college. I was drawn to his work instantly. Firstly, he's crazy talented, secondly his use of color is fantastic (even his shadows are gorgeous, is that a weird thing to say?) and thirdly, one of his favorite subjects to paint is dessert. Mad painting skills AND he loves to paint dessert? Man after my heart! So the fact that we got to attempt to recreate one of his dessert paintings was pretty damn cool.

We were given roughly 2.5 hrs to tackle this painting, which was SO not enough time! It felt like a Top Chef quickfire challenge. About halfway through the class, when we were deep into Wayne's painting, we were served ice cream! I usually welcome ice cream interruptions, but now I had to multi-task the wine drinking, painting AND ice cream eating. The ultimate mission. My husband kept having to remind me to take a bite of my ice cream or to keep sipping my wine. I have never ever needed reminders for these two things in my life. I couldn't help it though, I was in the WT zone! So the next thing we knew, it was 10pm and we were the last ones there. It was time to go, even though I could have used at least another hour to work on my "masterpiece." 

Overall, I had a most excellent evening. Even my hubs, who hadn't painted since he was a tween, did a stellar job and enjoyed himself. He drank most of our bottle of wine, how could he not? I tip my hat to my man Wayne, I hope we did him justice.

2015 Dessert Resolution & Reviewing The Mill’s Toast

If I were to make a 2015 dessert resolution, I can firstly tell ya that it wouldn’t be to make a crapload of tarts, which was essentially my dessert resolution from last year. If you’re wondering, I only made 3 tarts...here's to trying again. This year I've decided to give this DR another go, but this time I'm going much broader with it: to review more desserts. I’d like to see what the world has to offer my belly. 

As y’all know, this blog developed from my deep love for dessert. It’s not just the fact that I enjoy baking, which I truly do, but it’s mostly because I just simply love eating dessert. Always. At anytime. If you woke me up at 3am with a cheesecake inches from my face, I'd be delighted. So, I’d like to try exploring what’s out there, but also continue baking and chatting about dessert nonsense, obvi. 

To start my reviews off, this morning I jaunted to one of my neighborhood coffee shops, The Mill, for a cup of Joe and to try a slice of their $3.50 hipster toast. The Mill makes their own bread (props) but this is the first time I sampled their toast- I had to see what this toast fuss was about. Toast has become very much a thing in SF and places like this sell it like hot cakes (read about the history of toast here). The Mill has a legit toast menu and I wanted to try the piece that comes slathered with homemade Nutella, but sadly some selfish yammos ate all of it and they were sold out. Humph. I went with my second choice which was, essentially cinnamon/sugar toast...$3.50 cinnamon/sugar toast. So, I sat down with my hipster coffee and hipster toast, snapped a hipster photo of my situation (which I planned to filter the shit out of later) and took a bite of my 1 inch thick slab o' toast. Thoughts? I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't tasty because it really was. Crunchy, warm, buttery and of course cinnamon-sugary. I appreciated that they didn’t skimp on the butter and the cinnamon/sugar layer. This toast also brought me back to my youth because I used to make cinnamon/sugar toast all the time as a dessertsnack. So, overall, The Mill did a solid job with this toast, I admit, but is it really worth the $3.50? Hells no. Will I come back to try their homemade Nutella on toast? Hells yes. Let's be honest, I've spent more on a beer before so I won't judge toast connoisseurs. 

As far as this toast phenomenon goes, if you feel inclined to dabble in a piece, give me a shout and I’ll gladly meet you at The Mill for a round o’ toast.

Overall Rating: 4/5 tartlets

Victorious Pumpkin Cheesecake

It's been quite a December for me. A bit coo coo ca choo if you will. I decided to part ways with the lovely Williams-Sonoma, a company I had been working at for over 8 years! Major WOAH, right? During my last week there, I felt like a chicken with it's head cut off. While I was wrapping up my work to dos and fully utilizing my corporate discount (why of course I need a Snowflake Cakelet Pan and a couple Spoonulas), the company had another baking contest for all the Pottery Barn brand teams. This was my last shot at partaking in a work baking contest, so I couldn't not enter, ego shot from the last failed contest or not! I discussed dessert ideas with a coworker and she brought up the idea of making a pumpkin cheesecake, mostly because it's a favorite of hers (smart girl). I'm a big fan of this dessert as well and I've had experience making it a few times so this plan was fully a go! I knew I had to use my "crack cheesecake crust" (the name I lovingly gave to Momufuku's Milk Bar's Graham Cracker Crust because it's rightfully addicting), and I wanted to try out a new pumpkin cheesecake recipe I've been eyeing. It's a dicey move to make something new for a contest, i know, but I felt like I needed to go balls out for this last one.

As I've mentioned, cheesecake takes for evs to cook- I'm talking hours upon hours upon hours. You've got your baking time, cooling time and more cooling time that adds up to about 11 hours. It's insane, but strangely always worth it in the end. So, I tackled this recipe the night before the contest, but made the mistake of starting rather late. Not wise. That meant I had to set several alarms to wake my ass up to tend to the cheesecake. Alarm #1: turn oven off after cheesecake had baked for almost 2 hours. Alarm #2: take cheesecake out of oven after it had sat in oven for 1 hour, put on cooling rack. Alarm #3: put cheesecake in fridge to cool for 8+ hours.

Like I said, it's strangely worth all the hassle in the end, and this time was luckily no different, when it really mattered. Friends, I placed in the contest! And by "placed," I mean I got 3rd place. Yes, it's not the gold or silver, but it's bronze friends and it's a beautiful metal to me. This win was the perfect ending to my career at Williams-Sonoma. 

As I walked out the door of my beloved workplace for the last time, I tucked the empty cheesecake pan under my arm, still wearing a satisfied victory grin. Special shoutout to Mr. Williams and my fabulous work peeps- hugs all around!

Victorious Pumpkin Cheesecake
Yield: Roughly 12 servings, but it depends on how generous you are with your slices.
Crust Recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar
Filling Recipe from Foodnetwork.com

Ingredients – Crust
Yield
: Makes about 340 g (2 Cups)
Note: if you want a thicker crust, double this recipe! I did.
190 g (1 1/2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder
25 g (2 tbs) sugar
3 g (3/4 tsp) kosher salt
55 g (4 tbs) butter, melted, or as needed
55 g (1/4 cup) heavy cream

Ingredients – Filling
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1, 15 -ounce can pure pumpkin
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups sweetened whipped cream
1/3 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Directions – Crust
1.  
Preheat over to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Brush a 10-inch springform pan with some melted butter.
3.  Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
4.  Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1 to 1½ table- spoons) butter and mix it in.
5.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly (Pro Tip: OR do what I did and just spread a thick layer on the bottom). Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
6.  Cool on a rack, then wrap the outside of the springform pan with foil or slow cooker liners (these are fool-proof!) and place in a roasting pan or a larger pan.

Directions – Filling
1.  
Boil a kettle of water to have ready for your water bath.
2.  Toast your pecans at 375 until you can barely start to smell them (5ish mins), set aside to cool.

3.  In a larger bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt and the spices and beat until just combined. Pour into the cooled crust.
4.  Gently place a roasting pan (or any pan that is larger than your springform pan) in the oven (don't pull the rack out) and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan.
5.  Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the roasting pan and cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

6.  Bring the cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Unlock and remove the springform ring. To finish, place a dollop of the whipped cream on each slice and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.

My Thanksgiving Dessert Menu

Thanksgiving snuck up on me like a ninja this year. There I was, enjoying Halloween and the next thing I knew, Thanksgiving was all up in my grill!

As I've mentioned before, my mom and I go to town on dessert making every Thanksgiving. We're focused, we're fierce and we know how to get desserts did. Before the holiday, we have a sit-down to discuss our dessert menu. It's fun to mull over which favorites to bring back and what new recipes we'd like to try out. This year, our dessert chat went well and we were happy with our final line-up. So, without further ado, here is this years Thanksgiving Dessert Menu:

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
This dessert is a must as it's a huge hit in my family. These bars are so approachable, just sitting there with their decadent dark chocolate chips and chewy peanut butter looking at you. They never make it to the actual dessert course because of their delicious factor, so we fondly refer to them as "appetizers."

Image courtesy of parentpretty.com

Pumpkin Roll Cake
It ain't a Thanksgiving without seasonal gourds, ammi right? This dessert has been one of our off and on regulars. It's creamy, nutty and of course, delightfully pumpkiny. It's a bit of a process to make so we tackle this the night before Thanksgiving. Note: Once completed, it looks like a weird orange log, but I assure you, it's darn tasty.

Image courtesy of bigflavorstinykitchen.com

Grandma Ople's Apple PIe
My mom discovered this recipe a few Thanksgivings ago and it's quickly become our go-to apple pie recipe. Sadly, Grandma O isn't a member of my family, but man do I wish she was because homegirl really nailed this recipe. It's actually more of a caramel apple pie as it's topped with a friendly layer of caramel that turns a classic apple pie into a bombtastic apple pie.

Ginger Molasses Cookies
Seasonal, easy, but most importantly, tastilicious. It's wise to have a few easy grab desserts to snack on while Aunt Bun is talking your ear off.

Chocolate Cake with Easy Fudge Frosting
For the chocolate fans in my family. Pair any simple chocolate cake with this AMAZING fudge frosting and you can't lose. We make sure to choose quality chocolate for both parts; it's the most important ingredient in chocolate desserts, in my humble opinion.

Image courtesy of The Cook's Alelier

Lemon Tart
This dessert is a new-comer that we're trying out for the first time. We thought another fruity number would be a good addition to the group. Also, I'm WELL overdue to make a tart after I idiotically proclaimed that this was going to be the "year of the tart!" Yeah, I haven't made a single tart since uttering that <hangs head in shame>.

Image courtesy of thekitchensinkrecipes.com

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Another Thanksgiving dessert must! Homemade ice cream is a tradition my uncle used to manage, but now my cousin and husband have taken on the task. This year we're going with Vanilla Bean for one of the flavs, simply because it's compatible with most of the above desserts.

Before you bake this week, here are a couple tips:
• If you're making more than a few desserts, plan ahead! Select your recipes and make your store run several days before (although, we're guilty of sending my dad on <multiple> store runs Thanksgiving morning).
• For your pie crust, use the refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Dough (found in the refrigerated section in grocery stores, near the yogurts usually). Rumor has it is that some pastry chefs claim that it tastes just as good as homemade dough. So make your life easy by using this!

• Some people are sticklers about not going rogue and only making traditional desserts for the holidays, but I think as long as you have a few seasonal items, it's OK to segue away from these (without drawing too much attention).

Good luck and god speed with your holiday baking friends!