Because of the crisp texture of the amaretti biscuit along with the strong association to coffee the word biscuits tend to be a better descriptor then the word cookie, as some call it. They are crisp on the outside and very lightly chewy in the center. It’s the rich almond flavor that stands out to me making them the perfect accompaniment to coffee in it’s many fantastically addictive forms. Amaretti biscuits are one of my lost loves. There was this cafe in Vancouver, BC that sold them 4 for $1, and where my love affair began with amaretti. It is such a rich warm comforting flavor that helps you just wash all other thoughts away as the crispy exterior slowly erodes into the soft chewy meringue center. The rich almond flavor then washed away with the bitter notes in a warm cappuccino it was perfection after a long car ride, or night out.
Not only are they delicious with coffee but they make great additions to any dessert. The texture of the crunchy exterior and rich almond flavor that gives them a versatility that makes their possibilites in the kitchen limitless. They can be used in many desserts from cakes, pies, trifles, cupcakes. Crumble up some of the cookies and create a textural delight of a layered dessert with some fresh berries and cream. A great addition to trifle or a pudding style of dessert to add extra texture and a wonderful look, or just crumble a few cookies over the layer of custard based pie and they will add amazing flavor and texture. Another thing to note my friends, are these are gluten free. If you are a biscotti with coffee type of person these are a fantastic replacement.
I want to start out by saying that for me, Valentine’s Day is an overrated holiday in which men and women – mostly men – spend too much money on disposable items. The items offer only temporary enjoyment which is more for the recipient’s onlookers like friends and colleagues than themselves. It is a visual form of gratification and self-promotion to all onlookers. The more money spent shows how much they are supposedly loved and adored by the giver, and the receiver then desires a secret feeling of contempt and jealousy from onlookers. Which to me is just a mean and spiteful and complete opposite of what the day is supposedly celebrating.
Personally, I do not really believe in such a silly day. I don’t believe love is shown in chocolates, and expensive flowers or dinners on one day in a year. I believe that love is shown in many ways that cost nothing throughout the entire year. A tissue and a shoulder to cry on when you are sad. A firm grip of your hand when you are scared. A silly joke to make you smile when you’ve had a bad day. To me those free actions show love every day of the year, and a surprise date night mean more then any one scheduled day in a year could. For mostly my own stubborn reasons and personal beliefs in what love is, I used to boycott Valentine’s Day a child and even still to this day as an adult. I used to threaten boyfriends if they attempted to give into such nonsense I wouldn’t talk to them. My husband gets glares as we pass the pink and red colored aisle in a store. He laughs and thinks I am stubbornly cute.
In the last few weeks I had a few cake orders which are keeping me busy. The raspberry ombre cake was more for me than for anyone else. I wanted to try an ombre cake so badly. The opportunity presented itself and I took it! The cake was my basic white cake with a vanilla swiss buttercream. Then it was filled with raspberry jam between 4 thin layers, this added a perfect amount of tartness to the cake which made it much more palatable and easier to eat. I will be doing another one in the coming weeks, this time with a tutorial to show you just how easy this style is to do, and makes any simple cake less simple with a minimal amount of effort and time.
The birthday cake for one of my best friends, a pastry student was the chocolate coffee macaron tower cake. Me and her boyfriend plotted this cake weeks in advance. It was a surprise she had no idea to expect it and when she finally got it on her birthday, she knew looking at who made it. It was a fantastic surprise.
I tried a new technique I found for smoothing buttercream I found on you tube, which worked so beautifully I jumped up in down a little when it was done. The cake base was from the Raspberry Chocolate Cake filled with chocolate almond mousse with a layer of cocoa nibs. Then covered in a Kahula Swiss Buttercream, with more cocoa nibs pressed around the outer edge for some nice contrast.
I took some time away which many have noticed to take a step back and a look at my life. We are in a state of transition and exploration, which is new to us. The thought of a home and family isn’t as scary as it once was, even wistful at times. We liked our life, small apartment in the trendy part of the cities. With the hipsters, the bars, bistros, and numerous coffee houses. It worked for us, simple and fun. We made enough to get by, go out drinking with friends, have date nights. We had no real responsibilities like a car payment, or house payment, or anything really. Our days off when we got them together would be annoying cute like reading our books together on the couch with the cat asleep between us, and often movie night cuddled on the couch with a cup of tea. We are happy, we get along great, we make each other laugh all the time. Insanely, annoyingly, and completely in love. Yet in the last few months, things haven’t seem enough.
I worked for many many years retail. It is a business where everyone goes out and drinks after work, new friends were found, age doesn’t matter, it’s so much fun at times it doesn’t even seem like work. Think of Scrubs, the TV show, a work day for me was as fun and spontaneous and even as sarcastic as the show. Yet the down side is pretty big. The hours you work fluctuate daily, and weekly. Making plans more then a week out is unheard of. You have no sense of weekends or holidays. With the trend of “midnight opens” on black friday, and “open late” on christmas eve growing in the states. It often ment family was always put second, even if that family was just a amazing husband and a fluffy grey cat. I would always put work first, nominating to work the late shift on holidays since everyone I worked with had kids, parents, family that they wanted to spend the day with. Mine was 2000 miles away, so I felt it was right, making that sacrifice. Well it used to.
Let me start this post by saying how sorry we are for how long it’s been since our last post. We have not been ignoring you guys! We have just been so-damn-BUSY. Between work, this event I am about to tell you all about, my bi-weekly D&D group, and the release of Borderlands 2 we have had zero time. Today however, is about me sharing with you this amazing experience we had, a simply amazing and delicious pear tart and how I think I am totally sick of chocolate. This is a little long, so bear with me if you can :)
About eight weeks ago I got a random tweet about joining this event called The Food Experiments National Tour. It was coming to the Twin Cities with a theme of pies and tarts (It has been touring major cities in the US with different themes for each). Initially I blew it off as just more random spam. When I finally did some research, I was floored – it was a real and legitimate contest and I figured “Why the hell not?” It took me about 3 days to finally enter and it was not because of my awesome procrastination skills this time. No, what took so long was the realization that we needed to put down what dish we were going to enter with upon registering.
Having to decide then and there what to make threw my brain into indecisive meltdown; sweet, savory, spicy, mild, complex, simple… argh! Too many options was making my brain whine and shut down. That final line in the entry form was left blank for a real long time. If I could not even fill out the form I was sure I would be doomed from the get go. No, I had to get past this – but nothing was coming! I laid my head on the desk at one point about to bust into tears when my mind wandered back to a few summers ago, when I made up the raspberry and frangipane bars that never made it to the contest they were intended for. That was it! Inspiration! I lifted my head up off the desk and typed out “A chocolate frangipane and pear tart.” I’d had this idea stuck in my mind for a while so now was the time to let the beast out.
One of my fabulous friends sets up a cupcake day with me every few months. This time she said she wanted something with a toffee flavor or almonds, and I was happy to indulge her! Chocolate toffee cupcakes like this have been on my mind for a while now because of my trips to Angel Food bakery in Minneapolis. They do a Butterfinger cupcake that is just awesome and I knew I wanted to do something similar.
I’m happy to say that it only took two attempts to achieve perfection. First attempt was a different recipe that just tasted like raw flour and chocolate. I would not give those to anyone to eat, they were just not good. Second try was this very simple chocolate cake I had made before but it was dry. We ended up adding in some sour cream for moisture and we got great success! Not only is this a fantastic chocolate cupcake recipe, it’s also very quick and simple to make. Now, being the Swiss meringue buttercream queen that I am, I knew adding caramel to the basic buttercream would make this cupcake just heaven.
Oh yeah, was I right. Give half of the completed cupcakes to your friends and keep the other half to yourself for maximum happiness.
This post for my spiced apple bundt cake is a week over due, but life is life and it gets in the way of fun times. Better late then never, right? I am very excited to share this experience with you. Back in May I received a message from Dan McGleno (Klecko) CEO of Saint Agnes Baking Co. in St. Paul, MN and host for the past 10 years of the St. Agnes baking demos at the Minnesota State Fair. I at first thought it was a joke, and was instantly going to make some off-handed comment. Then when the realization hit me that he was serious and genuine, I laughed out loud sitting at the computer and instantly emailed Frank giggling the whole time like a 8 year old girl walking into an American Girl store. I accepted and the date was set for Aug 25th at 11am.
Klecko Making An Introduction
This year’s theme was “Church Basement” – Bars, Bundts and Hot Dish. The church basement theme threw me off (since I’m not a native mid-westerner). I actually messaged Klecko back joking that I have never been in a church much less the basement of one and had no idea what a hot dish is. I had never even known any kind of bars before last year when the invention of the frangipane raspberry bars evolved. I had a little knowledge of what bars are but had never heard of a hot dish in my life.So, the decision of doing a bundt was easy for me. I was quite familiar with bundts because my grandmother used to make them and I had even made a few as a kid. So, bundt it was!
One of the best things my husband ever bought me was a full set of Cuisinart stainless steel cookware. Prior to this, I had been using crappy Teflon-coated pans like the majority of people in America. We hated using non-stick pans because Teflon is toxic and we don’t need to be eating that in everything we cook. Our big problem we encountered though, was that we did not know how to cook with stainless steel pans!
One weekend while I was working, he was having problems with his eggs sticking to the pan, which was oddly a problem I never really had. He did some pretty extensive research and found out exactly what causes food to stick to stainless steel pans. We love science, and knowing the physics behind the sticking is just plain cool. These two videos explain exactly WHY your food sticks, and how to test that your stainless steel pan is hot enough to fry with.