These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they’re perfect in the summer or a great holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps.Read More
This is a mashup of a classic Mexican cake and the Vietnamese ice coffee I am so addicted to. The connection is the sweetened condensed milk that is the foundation for both. Tres Leches (three milks) is a cake soaked with cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Vietnamese ice coffee is made with the strongest coffee on earth mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over ice.
I made a coffee caramel milk syrup to soak the cake with and then topped it with a coffee whipped cream. Tres Leches by nature can be a bit sweet, but the coffee cream toned down the sugar and added a slight bitterness, which I found to be perfection. My family ate half the coffee caramel Tres Leches cake while I was at pottery class and then polished it off for breakfast the next morning, which just happened to me Cinco de Mayo.
Cakes? It is a slight mystery why these are called Russian tea cakes and not cookies, but no matter the name, they are delicious. How can you go wrong with toasted pecans, brown butter and sugar? The texture is like a shortbread cookie that is taken to new heights by the richness of the nuts. They are typically served at the holidays, maybe because they look like little snow balls, and at special occasions, like weddings, as the name suggests. This holiday my aunt Kristin, who is my pastry muse, requested them. It is ridiculous that my house isn’t stocked with them all year round. The recipe is so simple and the results so incredible. Thanks to Kristin my cookie jar is now full. They make a great gift because they pack up well and actually improve with a bit of time, which can’t be said for many cookies. Read More
This is one of my favorite ingredients and essential in the pastry kitchen. Vanilla beans come from the fruit of an orchid and are not cheap, second only to saffron in costly spices. So, you want to pick a good one and use the whole thing, pod, and seeds. The beans should be soft, oily, and have an intense vanilla aroma. Avoid a bean that has no luster, is dry and brittle.
Here is an overview of a few different types of vanilla beans:
Mexican beans are the original and most highly prized beans. They have a mellow, smooth, quality and a spicy, woody fragrance.
Madagascar Bourbon beans are long and slender, with a very rich taste and smell, have thick, oily skin, contain an abundance of tiny seeds, and have a strong vanilla aroma. They are also considered high-quality beans and reflect this in the cost. This is where most of the world’s vanilla comes from. The name refers to the region they are grown and is not at all related to the booze.
Tahitian beans are usually shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content than Bourbon beans. The skin is thinner, they contain fewer seeds, and the aroma is fruity and floral. They are often described as smelling like licorice, cherry, prunes, or wine.
You will have to get your hands on them all and decide for yourself which is your favorite. There are others, but they are hard to come by, if this changes I will update the post.
You want to store your vanilla beans in an airtight container, in a cool, dark spot. If you buy them in bulk and won’t be using them all at once you can throw them in the freezer to prevent them from drying out.Read More