Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stella Barra Hollywood

I only just discovered the new Stella Barra in Hollywood this week and I think it could be a game changer in that neighborhood.  I haven't tried the Pizzas yet but the bakery section is incredible.  Above is the Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookie.  It was pretty smokey but so moist and sweet.

This is the Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookie with Walnuts.  It's dense and chewy with the perfect crunch. 

And the winner...the Chocolate Chip Rice Krispies Treat cookie.  There was melted marshmallow everywhere!  That RKT flavor leaked through to the already amazing cookie base making it extra sweet.  Such a great combo idea I love it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Salt & Straw

This Summer I have been craving ice cream more than ever and have discovered so many new companies!  The most exciting one so far has been Salt & Straw, a Portland based artisan ice cream shop. I love the homemade look of the packaging and the changing seasonal flavor options, they are so unique.  Most importantly, the quality of this ice cream is SO amazing.  The flavor shown above is the Sea Salt w/ Caramel Ribbons. So good.

 Clockwise: Ricotta Honey Lemon w/ Walnut Lace Cookies,  Pear w/ Blue Cheese, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate,  Olive Oil.

This flavor was my favorite! Almond Brittle w/ Salted Ganache. It's the perfect combo of creamy and crunchy.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Homemade Raspberry Macaroons

For Passover I wanted to try something new so I found this macaroon recipe in my Martha Stewart Living magazine.  They are super easy to make, and only use a few ingredients.  

The fresh raspberries add an amazing color, and a tart flavor. 

I also made a plain batch which are delicious.  It's always good to have variety.

Of course a macaroon isn't finished until dipped in chocolate. 

They turned out really well! Very tasty and super cute.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sycamore Kitchen

I finally went to Sycamore Kitchen for the first time today and died a little.  I ordered a salad, but couldn't resist just trying a little taste of everything!  I was seriously overwhelmed with how amazing these bakery items all were.  

This Salted Caramel Pecan Babka Roll was insane.  Still a little warm, it was like a Cinnabon on crack. 

I ordered a specialty coffee, the Vanilla Cafetico, which was good but the size of a Dixie cup. 

This Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Cookie was pretty great - like a lighter, nuttier version of the Ooey Gooey cookie from Milk.

This Mini Chocolate Chip "Stump" Cake was a coffee milk chocolate fluffy cupcake with a marshmallow/meringue type frosting on top.  It was great, and just the right size.

Not a sweet, but out of control!  This Tart layered perfectly roasted tomatoes and cheese on top of caramelized onions on a flakey pastry dough.  I could eat this everyday. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pastry Class: Cakes

On my last day of Pastry Class we made two different cakes and learned some very basic decorating techniques.  I am so sad this series is over, and even more sad that I have to wait for Pro Pastry 2 to be on a Sunday again.  In the meantime, I'm really excited about trying new recipes from the CIA book we were given in class. 

This is a Hot Milk Cake adapted from the Miette book.  It's a pretty standard white cake, but using a cup of milk allows the very wet batter to create a spongy cake.

We baked two cakes, trimmed town the tops and layered them with Italian (egg white meringue) Buttercream.  I made two flavors: Strawberry for the center and Almond for the Icing. While I did love how this turned out, I think I prefer regular buttercream to Italian, this was a little over the top, even for me.

I used these heart shaped sprinkles to cover up and imperfections in my side frosting job.  That was not easy!  One trick I learned was to coat the cake in a very thin layer of frosting first and stick it in the fridge to harden.  This will allow the rest of the frosting you put on to spread around more evenly. 

We also made a Chocolate Decedent cake that was pretty amazing.  We practiced slicing the cake in half here, look how well  I did! 

I used a basic dark chocolate ganache as a frosting, which I layered on thick.

It turned out really well.  I could put this ganache on everything. 

For More Recipes and Information Check Out The Gourmandise School 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pastry Class: Cheesecakes

Week Seven of Pro Pastry I was all about Cheesecakes.  This was a little intimidating at first, but it was super fun and not too hard at all.  First we made our own graham crackers to use for the crusts of the cake.  Who knew this flavor comes from using molases?

Passion Fruit Cheesecake

You could use almost any flavor inside the cheesecake, you just have to be careful about how you incorporate it.  Using the passion fruit puree was very easy, just mixed in about 3 teaspoons and it really brightened up the cake. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

This flavor was a little trickier since it's so dense.  I had to fold it in to a portion of the batter first, and then swirl that into the remainder of the batter. It was good but made the texture of the cake a little tougher, more like a fudge. 

For the Ricotta Cheesecakes we made our own Ricotta cheese which was also really easy.  It's just milk, cream and lemon juice! 

I really liked how these turned out, they are much lighter than the cream cheese version.  These mini cups also are the perfect portion.

I added some left over chocolate ganache, I couldn't resist...

For Recipes Check Out: The Gourmandise School

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pastry Class: Pâte à Choux

Week Five of Pastry Class was focused on Pâte à Choux pastries.  These were a little tricky, I definitely think this is one of those desserts you have to master over time to get just right.  Above are my Cream Puffs, some stuffed with vanilla pastry cream and some with caramel pastry cream.  The cream itself is so delicious you could just stop there and forget the pastry.  Stuffing them was not fun, I could have use two more arms, but again, practice makes perfect.  We dipped the top in a delicious chocolate ganache made with the 65% dark chocolate and whipping cream, so easy!

We used caramelized sugar to seal up the hole on the bottoms where we filled the puffs, but we were also shown how to stack the puffs to make a Croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake. 

The inside of a Caramel Cream Puff. 

Some students also made savory puffs with cheddar and dill.

 We also made Eclairs, which is exactly the same as a Cream Puff, just a different shape.  These were tricky to pipe because you need to leave enough room for the filling.

They were pretty cute and just the right size for a little treat. 

For Recipes Check Out: The Gourmandise School

The Hart and The Hunter

This week I had dinner at The Hart and The Hunter in the somewhat new Palihotel on Melrose.  I was always curious about this place, and yes it IS related to Palihouse.  However, I liked this food better than the Palihouse Brasserie (maybe just because it was new to me).  I regret not photographing the biscuits because they were the best part of the meal! I'll have to go back... I hear they have a great breakfast.  This was the Lemon Ice Box Cake.  It reminded me of my Lemon Bar Cake, but this was much more tart and a little frozen, hence the Ice Box. 

This Coconut Cake was pretty simple but good, it felt very homemade.  It was also cold which threw me off a little, but I liked it.  How cute are the plates?! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pastry Class: Custards

Week four of my Pastry Class was all about learning how to make egg based desserts (I've never used so many egg yolks in my life). It might have been my favorite, and also most successful class yet.  This was the Butterscotch Pot du Creme topped with a little Sea Salt. I love using muscovado sugar to create a butterscotch flavor, it was seriously so good.

Chocolate Put du Creme.  This is always one of my favorite desserts to order at a restaurant, so I was really excited to make one of my own.  We used the dark 65% chocolate (which I also just purchased a ginormous box of), and it came out perfectly.  Dense yet fluffy with a bold bittersweet flavor. 

And for the winner: Creme Brûlée! I've probably eaten ten thousand creme brûlées in my life and never attempted to make it because I was always intimidated by the water bath and using a blow torch.  Turns out it's all super easy.  This was so delicious I ate the whole thing as soon as it was ready. It was silky smooth with such a rich amazing vanilla flavor. Of course the crispy crunchy sugar on top was incredible.  

Look at all the vanilla! Now that I know how to properly spit a bean I can't imagine I'll ever use extract again.  This was SO good, I can't wait to try making it at home. 

For Recipes Check Out: The Gourmandise School

Monday, January 21, 2013

Gourmandise School Pastry Class

This month I started the first level of the Pro Pastry Program at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica and I LOVE it! I have already learned so much not only about baking and chemistry, but also about the history of the food industry.  My teacher is amazing and so far everything we've made has really turned out great.  This photo was from the first class where we talked about chocolate. We tasted several different percentages of chocolate, pure cocoa nibs and even cocoa butter (the white block in the middle) which was revolting.  I think my teacher might love chocolate as much as I do...

 Cheddar & Chive Biscuits, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, Carrot Cake with Pistachios, Blueberry Muffins

 Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Homemade Toffee

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dark Chocolate Brownies (severely undercooked and OUT OF CONTROL amazing)

"Lemon Bars" shaped as a cake, with Vanilla Meringue

I never like lemon desserts, ever, but something about this really stood out to me!  Maybe because we used very sweet Meyer lemons, but this was seriously an amazing dessert.  

The crust was salty and fluffy and filling was dense and sweet.  I was super excited to use a torch on the meringue!