Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Crema de Fruta

Crema de Fruta

Here's another one of my favorite Filipino desserts. It's called crema de fruta (which translates to "fruit cream") and it's what I'm making for our family gathering this Christmas. I'm not sure why this dessert is so synonymous with the holidays, but why ask why? All that matters is it's sooooo good! There are so many variations of this dessert but the one I'm familiar with is a sponge cake layered with stirred custard and fruit cocktail and topped with unflavored gelatin.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Sea of Salted Caramels

A sea of salted caramels

This is my first attempt at making salted caramels. I guess the whole idea of standing by the stove and stirring a pot of hot sugar just didn't appeal to me. I'd much rather bake cookies or dip chocolate truffles. But my encounter with a french macaroon made me reconsider.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Egg-Free Christmas Sugar Cookies

Christmas Tree Cookie

I've been making desserts all my life, I even went to pastry school, but I can't even bake a "normal" cake or cookie for my son. This is the irony of my life. When my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I thought I would never be able to make him all my favorite desserts and pastries. Key ingredients like flour, butter, milk and eggs were off-limits. I couldn't even look at tv commercials where the kids were helping their moms bake sugar cookies. It was heartbreaking because I wanted that moment with my son too.

Fortunately, my son outgrew his wheat and dairy allergies last year. I didn't get the chance to find a good egg-free cookie recipe in time for Christmas, but this year, I was able to modify one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes for him. These cookies are light, crispy and buttery. They taste perfect without any icing at all, but since I recently found a glace icing recipe from Our Best Bites, I wanted to try it out. In my gingerbread cookie post, I mentioned that I used food color markers and marshmallow fondant to decorate the cookies instead of royal icing. Now, I have this great icing to use for decorating as well! I added more powdered sugar so I could pipe it onto the cookies. When the icing was dry enough, I mixed a little bit of clear alcohol (lemon extract or vodka) with some food color gel and gold luster dust to paint it.

Christmas Tree Cookie

Egg-Free Christmas Sugar Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies, 3 inches in diameter
Allergy Note: contains dairy and wheat

1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sift the flour, cornstarch and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and vanilla extract; mix together to make a smooth dough. Divide in half, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate if needed. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inches thick. Cut into shapes and transfer onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Bake for 15 minutes or until the golden brown.

Glacé Icing
recipe from Our Best Bites
Allergy Note: contains dairy ingredients

1lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 C)
6 Tbs. whole milk
6 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 tsp. extract (vanilla, almond, lemon, peppermint etc.)
food coloring (for best results, use gel or paste)

With a whisk, combine powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Then stir in corn syrup and extract. Add food coloring into the icing or paint it on afterwards like I did. You can adjust the consistency of the icing for piping by adding more powdered sugar.

Our Best Bites has a wonderful step-by-step tutorial on how to decorate cookies with glace icing so check it out.

Please check these Art of Dessert links for additional decorating tips and icing recipes:
Egg-Free Gingerbread Man (with dairy-free alternative)
Egg-Free Sugar Cookies with Egg-free Royal Icing
Egg-Free Gingerbread House(with dairy-free alternative)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chocolate Orange Truffles

Chocolate Orange Truffle

Would you believe that the secret ingredient in these wonderful chocolate orange truffles is Tang? Yes, that day-glo orange powdered drink that most of you probably drank as kids. I got the crazy idea to use Tang to flavor these truffles from Retro Bakery in Las Vegas. This past summer, they created the creamsicle cupcake, a vanilla cupcake with Tang buttercream. After reading this, I was so intrigued that I went ahead and bought some Tang, just to make the buttercream and taste it for myself. Wow! They were right. It tasted EXACTLY like an orange creamsicle.

Of course, being the chocoholic that I am, I wondered how this buttercream would taste with a little bit of chocolate. The flavor reminded me of those chocolate oranges that you had to whack and unwrap. I don't know why they're so popular around Christmastime. But when it was time for me to start thinking about truffle flavors for my goodie boxes this year, those chocolate oranges came to my mind and so here's my take on it. You don't have to bash these luscious truffles in order to eat them. Just sink your teeth into them and enjoy.

Chocolate Orange Truffles

Chocolate Orange Truffles

makes about 60 truffles
Allergy Note: contains dairy
truffle filling:
16 oz. milk chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. corn syrup or honey
2 Tbsp. Tang orange drink mix
1 tsp. vanilla extract

coating chocolate:
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable shortening
For the truffle filling, place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine heavy cream, butter, corn syrup, Tang in a saucepan and cook over low heat until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the bowl of chocolate chips. Wait for a few minutes for the chocolate to soften. Add vanilla extract. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, slowly stir the mixture until it becomes smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the mixture is slightly firm.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Measure out teaspoonfuls of the truffle filling and drop them onto the cookie sheet. Freeze them for 15 to 20 and then roll them into balls. Freeze them again for 10 to 15 minutes more or until firm.
For the coating chocolate, combine the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening in a bowl and melt over hot (not boiling) water. Stir until smooth. Place the cookie sheet of naked truffles on your left, the bowl of coating chocolate in front of you, and a new cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper on your right. Drop the truffles into the chocolate coating one at a time, quickly coat them and remove with a fork. Gently shake off any extra chocolate and place the truffle onto the cookie sheet on your right. You can also try enrobing the truffles by hand.
You can store the truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Have your cake and eat it too: the making of a fake wedding cake

Mike and Janice's Wedding Cake

In these tough economic times, more and more couples are trying to find creative ways to have the wedding of their dreams without spending a fortune. But when in comes to the wedding cake, there really isn't a lot of options out there. You can have a cupcake tower or serve individual desserts instead, but if you have your heart set on a wedding cake, even a small plainly-decorated cake can cost a few hundred dollars. So what can a budget-conscious couple do? Consider using a fake wedding cake.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Egg-Free Gingerbread Man (with dairy-free alternatives)

Gingerbread Man Ornament

"Run, run, as fast as you can.
You can't catch me,
I'm the gingerbread man!"

I was feeling a bit under the weather this weekend but I managed to pull myself out of bed for a couple of hours to help "the boys" decorate the Christmas tree. We had baked some gingerbread ornaments earlier in the week so all we had to do was hang them on the tree.

I'm always on the lookout for allergen-friendly recipes, so when I found an egg-free gingerbread cookie recipe in The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef, I couldn't wait to try it. I converted the recipe from ounces to cups and, as usual, tweaked a few ingredients.

Decorating the tree

When it was time to decorate the cookies, normally I would use royal icing. But since it has egg whites, I had to find another way to decorate them. I decided to use Wilton Food Writer Edible Color Markers and marshmallow fondant. I put the fondant eyes and mouth as soon as they came out of the oven so they would soften a little and stick to the cookies. If you want, you can also use confetti sprinkles or just simply use a toothpick to draw on the eyes, mouth and buttons.

Gingerbread Ornaments
If you're planning to make them into ornaments like I did, poke a hole in the cookie prior to baking. I used a medium-sized piping tip but you can also use a drinking straw or bamboo skewers - just make sure the hole is big enough to put ribbon or string through it.

IMG_8767
Egg-Free Gingerbread House (with dairy-free alternative)

To make a gingerbread house, it's best to roll the dough directly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll them to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a paring knife to cut out the templates for your house then refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes so it will not spread too much while baking.

photo(18)

Another decorating option is to use mini chocolate chips for the eyes (for an allergy-free option, I used Enjoy Life), sliced dried apricots for the mouth and dried cranberries for the buttons.

Egg-Free Gingerbread Man Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies, 3.5 inches x 3.5 inches in size
Allergy Note: contains dairy* and wheat (see notes for dairy-free alternatives)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter *
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk *
4 Tbsp. corn syrup or honey


* for dairy-free alternatives: you can use Spectrum shortening in place of the butter; for the milk, you can substitutes like rice milk or soy milk, whichever suits your dietary needs.

In a saucepan, cook the butter, sugar, milk and corn syrup at low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat then pour into a mixing bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Sift together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Flatten the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours. Since the dough tends to get too soft at room temperature, take out only a portion at a time. Keep the rest of the dough in the refrigerator. Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out shapes and transfer them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Please check these Art of Dessert links for additional decorating tips and icing recipes.
Egg-Free Christmas Sugar Cookies
Egg-free Sugar Cookies with Egg-free Royal Icing
Egg-Free Gingerbread House (with dairy-free alternative)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Favorite Dessert-Inspired Fragrances

Aside from my passion for making desserts, I've got a terrible obsession with sweet gourmand fragrances. Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of body sprays, lotions and perfumes that smell like creme brulee, chocolate truffles, vanilla ice cream and even cotton candy. If it smells like dessert, I'll wear it. It puts me in a good mood and I think it makes everyone else around me less grumpy. One side effect though: it makes me (and probably the people around me) crave for sweets. But with all the cookies and candies around during the holidays, especially at my house, I'll have no trouble satisfying my sweet tooth.


Here are a few of my favorite fragrances. The best part about these sweetly scented indulgences: zero calories and zero guilt. I can't say the same about the cookies and candies though.




















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Serendipity 3 Serendipitous Perfume is a warm chocolate perfume with notes of Tahitian vanilla and blood orange. This was my very first gourmand fragrance and it's still one of my favorites after all these years. I love wearing this during the holidays because the scent reminds me of a cozy cup of hot chocolate with loads of marshmallows on top. Mmmmmmm....






















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com 
 Pink Sugar by Aquolina has become my everyday fragrance for the past couple of years. It smells like cotton candy. Need I say more? This has strong staying power so a little spritz will go a long way. The notes are bergamot, sicilian orange, raspberry, fig leaves, lily of the valley, licorice, strawberry, red fruit, cotton candy, vanilla, caramel, musk, wood and powder.



















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com 
 Chocolovers by Aquolina starts off smelling like a chocolate orange truffle but then it morphs into this sensually mysterious fragrance that reminds me of Nutella. Ferrero Rocher anyone? The notes include bergamot, orange, lemon, lily of the valley, coriander, hazelnut, vanilla, malt and musk. Very sexy and yummy too.


















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com 
 Vanille Extreme by Comptoir Sud Pacifique has a warm and spicy vanilla scent that's not syrupy sweet like some vanilla perfumes I've come across. I actually like layering this with other fragrances. The notes are tahitian vanilla and spices - that's it. Simple yet amazing. Some might think it smells like cake batter. I just think is smells deeeeelicious.




















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com 
 Jaqua's Pink Buttercream Frosting Body Mist (no longer available) is probably the most authentic bakery scent I have. It smells like sugar cookies, Krispie Kreme donuts and birthday cake all rolled into one. How can you not be happy after smelling this? It's alcohol-free so it doesn't have the same staying power as an eau de parfum, but I don't mind reapplying this sweet aromatherapy.





















Photo courtesy of Amazon.com 
 Demeter Fragrance Library has a massive selection of fun and wacky scents but Condensed Milk is my favorite. It REALLY does smell like sweetened condensed milk. Trust me, I should know. It's kind of a comforting scent so I like dabbing a little on my wrists before I go to bed. Sweet dreams...

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