Valentine’s Day Chocolate Cake!

heart cake | Breadin5 (2 of 5)

This cake was designed by my 9 year old son (who is now 18). He even instructed me on how I should put it together. His plan was to bake a sheet of cake and cut the layers with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Then stack them together with raspberry cream and pour a glossy chocolate ganache over the top. I know I’m biased, but I think he is brilliant.

Happy Valentines to my two sons, Henri and Charlie, and my husband Graham. My 3 muses.

Here is Henri’s vision, I must say it is as delicious as it is pretty. (more…)

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Sorbet 101 – a trick to getting a smooth sorbet from any juice!

sorbet (5 of 5)

One of the reasons I went to culinary school, after working in professional kitchens for a few years, was to have an understanding of why my recipes didn’t always work. Things would succeed if I followed the recipe to the letter, but if I played or strayed at all they would have as much chance of being a disaster as they did a winner. In culinary school I learned enough about food science to be able to play with recipes or create my own from scratch. I learned why eggs should be warm when you whip them and why you should use low protein flours for cakes and higher ones for breads. They taught me about Brix, Baume and other technical ways to measure sugar in sorbet solutions so they will freeze, but not become a solid brick of ice. After school, once I could afford it, I bought a Refractometer, which shows you the sugar content in a solution. This way I can mix up a batch of any kind of fruit sorbet, add some simple syrup and the sorbet will be a success. But, what if you are just making sorbet a couple times a year, do you really need such a geeky, expensive gadget? Not unless you are a kitchen equipment hoarder, like me.

So, then what? There is another way to have a greater chance at success than just praying for the best. You can use a method that involves floating an egg in your sorbet. Yep, I said FLOATING AN EGG, the whole thing, in the shell. It is also a very cool experiment to do with your kids. As the solution gets more saturated with sugar, the egg is buoyed to the surface. Once the egg is actually floating partially above the surface, the solution has enough sugar to prevent the sorbet from being too icy. Perhaps not as impressive as whipping out your refractometer, but pretty amazing in a Beakman’s World kind of way and it allows you to make sorbet from just about any juice. Obviously, this will not work with all fruits, banana puree tends to be too thick and the egg, no matter how sweet the solution, will float on the surface. But, for citrus and other thin juices, it is wonderful. (more…)

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Banana Pudding

banana pudding (2 of 5)

This quintessential southern dessert is found on the back of the box of Nilla wafers. You can certainly use Nilla brand wafers for this and there will be no judgment and it will taste just like you remember when you ate it as a kid. OR you can make your own vanilla wafer cookies and be so glad you did. They are super easy and fast to make and they don’t have any of that cardboard box flavor overtones. Wait, did that just come across as judgy? Either way you are going to love this recipe. I was inspired to make it after an old friend from high school (that’s a very old friend) made it for New Years Eve and posted pictures on Instagram. I found the Nilla wafer recipe in the BraveTart cookbook by Stella Parks.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you probably have seen my pastry tutorial “stories.” I’m slightly obsessed with working through a recipe in 15 second intervals, often with eclectic baking music. You’ll find this banana pudding recipe made from start to finish on my Instagram page archived in my “highlights.” There are many other recipes and techniques you may want to check out.


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Oh, Fudge!

Chocolate Fudge (1 of 7)

Addiction warning, I can not stop eating this! I’ve been giving away bags of it to anyone I meet, just to keep from eating the whole batch. I lost a bet to my boys on Superbowl Sunday and as a result I had to make the dessert of their choice. They chose fudge. It wasn’t my best parenting moment to teach my boys to bet, but I got swept up in the moment and really thought I was going to win. In this case we all won, because this fudge is crazy good. I like chocolate fudge with all kinds of stuff in it, especially nuts, but my boys are purists and just wanted unadulterated chocolate.

This recipe is made by boiling down evaporated milk until it reaches just the right temperature and poured over really great chocolate. No marshmallow fluff! I’ve done those recipes as well, but I like the texture of this better and the flavor is more intense and not as cloying. It requires a candy thermometer, but don’t let that scare you, it is really very simple and I’ll talk you through any possible sticking points. (more…)

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Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

bwca (2 of 5)

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

If you came to this post through Instagram, you will see that this cake is slightly different than the one in my video, but the process is the same.


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Outrageous Mocha Buttercream!

chocolate Peanut Butter Cake (1 of 3)

This post is updated to include a Peanut Butter version of the original Mocha buttercream. You’ll find the variation at the end of the post.
This may be the most delicious buttercream I’ve ever made. I wish I could take all of the credit for it, but it is from Carol Bloom’s The Essential Baker. As many of you know I have been baking through the book for the past month or so. On Memorial Day I went to a party and offered to bring dessert. As you can imagine I rarely go anywhere without bringing desserts and/or bread. It is what I love to do and people rarely complain. I decided to make something chocolaty and my husband begged me to make the carrot cake again. (more…)

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