Monday, December 15, 2014

Vanilla Macarons with Lemon Curd Filling

Macarons are just the cutest, sweetest little pastries. Everyone loves them! They are even my 2 year old son's favorite treat. :) They are perfect for gifting. Perfect for parties. And, of course... perfect for eating! The crisp exterior and chewy interior of the macaron paired with a delicious filling make for a really special treat. 

Don't be too intimidated by what you already know about making macarons. Yes, they are a bit technical and time consuming. But, they are very do-able and even if they don't end up looking perfect in the end they will still taste amazing! 



2/3 cup (3 oz.) ground almonds
1 1/2 cups (5.25 oz.) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
5 T. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture twice through a sieve. Set aside.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar (sprinkling one tablespoon at a time into the whites) as you beat the egg whites. As you start to get a stiff meringue add the vanilla and food coloring if you wish. Continue beating. When the meringue has reached stiff peaks and is glossy it is done!

Add half of the sifted flour mixture. Stir it with a spatula, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl. When fully incorporated add the rest of the flour and repeat the process of scooping up from the bottom. When the flour is incorporated press and spread the batter against the bowl's sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom, turn it upside down and press into the bowl (pressing all the air out). Rotate the bowl and continue about 15 times. This technique is called Macaronnage and it is really important in order to achieve the "pied" or the little foot that you see on the bottom of each macaron. 

Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large, round tip. On parchment lined baking sheets, pipe the batter into small rounds (I trace circles onto parchment paper ahead of time as a guide). Gently rap the baking sheet against the counter to smooth the surfaces of the macarons and get out any air bubbles. Dry the batter at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes. 

Stack the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet (using two trays prevents over baking the bottoms). Bake in a 375ºF oven for 15-18 minutes, until slightly crisp and before browning occurs. Remove tray from oven and place on a cooling rack. When the macarons are fully cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. 

Fill with any type of filling you wish: lemon curd, ganache, buttercream frosting, etc. Store macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Silent Night Cake

As most of you know I have been (slowly, but surely) working on my Baking and Pastry Associates degree. I only have a few more classes until I finish the entire program and I will officially be a Certified Pastry Chef. I am so excited! This semester I took the Advanced Bread Production class and the Beginning Cake Decorating class and I finished this semester 8 months pregnant with only 3 weeks until my due date... cutting it pretty close, I know! 

For my final project I made a yellow butter cake with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream filling. After crumb coating the cake I covered it with white fondant that I brushed with pearl dust to add a little shimmer. Then I used royal icing to pipe the pearl border at the bottom. I mixed a little vodka with black food coloring to paint the music staves (the black, horizontal lines that the notes go on) and I used black royal icing to pipe the treble clef, the bar lines and the music notes. I actually piped out the song "Silent Night" since it was a really simple, easy song to pipe.  

For the poinsettia... I made each leaf out of gum paste that I food colored with red and green.  I rolled each leaf, inserted wire into them, pressed them with a leaf to make a more natural look and let them dry on a curvy surface. When they were completely dry I used floral tape to wire the bouquet together. 

I am planning to serve the cake at my Christmas music recital this week. I am so proud of all my music students so I thought a special cake would be a fun way to celebrate their accomplishments. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dark Chocolate Dipped Peanut Cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped peanuts, divided
10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, mix butter and peanut butter on medium speed. Add 3/4 cup flour and the next 5 ingredients (up until vanilla) and mix just until combined. Add remaining flour and mix. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped peanuts.

Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten each scoop with a fork in a criss cross pattern.

Bake 7-9 minutes until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes on the pan and then transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling cookies.

Place dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments (stirring well between each) until fully melted. This will probably take 2 minutes or so.

Once cookies are fully cooled, dip in the chocolate and place on either parchment or wax paper lined pans. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Pecan Granola

One of my pregnancy cravings has been greek yogurt with granola and fresh berries. Not a bad craving, huh? Well, I have been on a granola making kick for months now and have come up with loads of delicious granola recipes. This one is a front runner. for. sure. I love it! 

And... now that fresh berries are out of season and a bit too pricey for my taste, this granola is just perfect on it's own! No fruit needed. :) Even my picky toddler will eat this stuff by the bowl full with milk. 


1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup honey
3 T. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In large bowl mix nuts, oats, salt, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice.

In small microwaveable bowl mix honey and coconut oil. Heat in microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir to combine.

Pour the honey coconut oil mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated.

Spread the granola in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Stir the granola around and spread in single layer again. Bake another 7 or 8 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once fully cooled break the granola into clusters using your hands and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Over the summer I spent some time out west visiting family... and at my family gatherings everything revolves around food. :) Almost every night after a full day of delicious meals we would whip up some kind of sweet treat to accompany our game or movie. Sounds pretty great, right?

This chocolate turtle cookie recipe (from Mel's Kitchen Cafe) was one of the many delicious recipes we tried together and there wasn't a single adult or child who didn't just LOVE these cookies! We were all dying over them.

Each cookie is a perfect, little, delectable, chocolatey, pecan and gooey caramel goodness! 


1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 T. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg whites
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
20 soft caramels
3 T. heavy cream

In small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In medium sized bowl beat the soft butter and sugar until light (about 1 minute). Add the yolk, milk and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping sides occasionally. Add the flour/cocoa mixture and mix just until combined. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

In small bowl whip egg whites until frothy and foamy. Place chopped pecans in a separate bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in egg whites, then in pecans (gently press pecans to help them stick if needed) and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Use the back of a teaspoon to press a teaspoon sized hole into the cookies.

Bake at 350º F for 10-12 minutes.

As cookies are baking, place all caramels and cream into microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments (stirring between each increment) until completely melted and smooth.

As soon as cookies are out of oven use the back of the teaspoon to re-press the hole into the baked cookies. Spoon 1 teaspoon of caramel into each "well" of the cookies. Allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan to finish cooling cookies on cooling rack. When cookies are mostly cooled and caramel is set the cookies are ready to be devoured! If there are any leftovers, store them in an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Rich chocolate muffins filled with chocolate chips and sprinkled with a brown sugar cinnamon streusel just before baking... delicious. There is really nothing more to say about these muffins except that you will love them!



2 cups or 9 1/2 oz. all purpose flour
3/4 cup or 3 1/4 oz. cocoa powder
1 T. or 1/4 oz. baking powder
1/2 tsp. or 1/8 oz. baking soda
1/2 tsp. or 1/8 oz. salt

1 1/4 cup or 9 1/2 oz. sugar
8 T. (1 stick) or 4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup or 8 oz. buttermilk
2 tsp. or 1/3 oz. vanilla

1 cup or 6 1/2 oz. chocolate chips

Streusel topping:

1 T. brown sugar
1 T. white sugar
1 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease your muffin tin or fill with liners.

Combine all dry ingredients (first 5 ingredients on list) in a bowl and set aside.

In large bowl combine sugar with all wet ingredients (the next 5 ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Each cup should be full. Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar streusel on the tops of all the batter in the cups.

Bake for 18- 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Remove from oven and immediately place muffins on cooling rack to cool.

Yield: 12 standard muffins

*Adapted from Chocolate Muffins #7 recipe by Alton Brown.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

French Silk Pie

Every year on my brother, David's, birthday I would make and give him a pie. He LOVED pies. His face always lit up when I brought in a fresh apple or triple berry pie. What a typical guy, huh? ;)

Since his passing almost 4 years ago I have carried on this tradition. Every year on his birthday I make a pie to honor and remember him. This year for his 29th birthday I made a french silk pie.

This recipe is a Whitney family favorite. I grew up eating this pie and it still hits the spot for me today. It's light and airy (almost like a mousse) filling is rich and chocolatey and oh, so smooth! Served in a flaky, buttery pie shell with a heap of whipped cream on top is the only way to have it! Although, I could really just eat the french silk filling plain... spoonful after spoonful.


French Silk Filling:

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 heaping T. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter until smooth. Very gradually add the sugar (about 1 T. at a time) and beat each addition until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add 1 egg and beat 4-5 minutes. Add 2nd egg and beat another 4-5 minutes. Now the mixture should be completely smooth and not grainy. Add cocoa powder and beat until completely combined. Add vanilla and combine.

Spread the silk into a cooled pie shell. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Cover with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, chopped nuts, etc.

Pie crust:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup water, cold

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add shortening and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter until shortening is pea-sized. Add the ice water and stir. Mix and knead into a ball. Knead as little as possible.

Place on a lightly floured counter and press ball down gently. Sprinkle top with flour and roll out with rolling pin. Fold into quarters to transfer to pie pan. Unfold and gently press dough into pie pan. Trim edges and shape as you wish. Poke holes in shell with fork to allow steam to escape during baking.

Bake at 400ºF for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling with french silk.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Cake

In my culinary program at school I am finally taking the cake decorating class that I have been SO anxious and excited to take! I have never been very confident with decorating and this class has been the most amazing help. Granted, this is just my first project... so don't judge me too harshly! ;) I still have a lot to learn in this class and even more to look forward to in the advanced cake decorating class. 

For this first project we were required to use swiss meringue buttercream to frost our 2- 6" layers. Then we were asked to decorate it however we wanted as long as we demonstrated the techniques we have learned so far. 

So, here you see that I kept my swiss meringue buttercream white and I made yellow decorator's frosting (since it is a lemon cake) to do the string work, the pearl border on the top and the yellow rose. I also used decorator's frosting for the green leaves. 

SORRY! No recipe this time... I just wanted to show off some pictures!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are so delicious they are like dessert. Seriously. It almost felt sinful to eat these fresh out of the oven at 8 o'clock in the morning. But, hey! Who doesn't like to start their day with a delicious muffin or two... or three or four? :)

There is something about the slightly tart raspberry that goes so well with the sweetness of chocolate. That's why these muffins were such a hit in my household. I originally got the idea from a recipe in A Taste of Wyoming by: Pamela Sinclair. But, it called for "baking mix"... which I thought was not only cheating... but, as a pastry chef I don't have that kinda thing lying around my kitchen anyway. 

So, my recipe is completely from scratch and still very easy to whip out in no time at all. You will love it! 


2 cups all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Add shortening and cut into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter (a fork could work too) until the shortening is pea sized.

Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix just until combined (do NOT try to stir out all the lumps. Lumps are good in muffin batter. Gluten development is bad.)

Gently stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries.

Scoop into greased or lined muffin tin- about 2/3 full.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan about 5 minutes then remove and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

Yield: 12 standard muffins

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zuppa Toscana- Spicy Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

I've seen so many "Olive Garden copycat" recipes for Zuppa Toscana floating around that I finally decided to give it a try. And, I must say, after altering the recipe quite a bit I thought this was a fabulous soup! 

It really hit the spot for me tonight.... sausage, potato slices and kale in a creamy broth with just the right amount of kick! Plus, I served it with my homemade Vienna white bread that I am trying to perfect. The whole meal was just so delicious! Very simple to make and I whipped the whole thing out in 30 minutes. What more could you ask for, right?

Anyway, here is my version of the recipe:


1/2 lb. sausage
5 medium russet potatoes, washed and sliced thinly
3 cups kale, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, cut thinly
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
3-4 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 

Cook sausage in a pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In a large pot combine potatoes, onion, garlic, chicken broth and water over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are slightly tender. 

Add the cooked sausage and red pepper flakes and simmer on low for another 8-10 minutes. 

Add the chopped kale and heavy cream and continue to heat on low until the soup is completely heated through.

Serve immediately. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"BLT" Soup with Homemade Croutons, Crispy Bacon and Arugula Pesto

BLT- bacon, lettuce, tomato. How can this be a soup, you might be wondering? First you take this delicious homemade tomato soup. Then you add a dollop of the arugula pesto (the lettuce in this "sandwich"), sprinkle on your homemade croutons and garnish it all with some crispy bits of bacon. And there you have a BLT... soup style.

It is seriously delicious. The creamy and acidic tomato soup is balanced with the mildly sweet and smooth arugula pesto and the smoky, salty bacon bits. And, the crunchy croutons add that delicious texture to complete the whole dish! It really is a winner!



2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
2 T. minced garlic
2- 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
cooked bacon for garnish, chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter on medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until translucent and fragrant.

Stir in the tomatoes and chicken broth. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend to puree the soup.


1 T. butter, melted
2 T. olive oil
3 slices artisan bread (sourdough, french country, etc.), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Toss the bread chunks in the melted butter and olive oil until bread is coated. Spread chunks onto a baking sheet and bake at 375ºF for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Arugula Pesto:

1 cup arugula
1/2 cup spinach
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 T. pine nuts

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

*Note: Be careful not to over salt the soup, croutons and pesto. The cooked bacon bits add enough salt to the already naturally salty tomato soup that it is really refreshing if the croutons and pesto are more mild. Just be aware and be sparing with the salt!