blood orange rosemary pâte de fruit

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

I was set on these. I mean set.

And when I’m set on something, it is pretty difficult to pull me back. I guess the correct term for that would be “stubborn”.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Although I’ve been politely corrected and told, “Nah, you just know what you want. That’s not being stubborn.” Oh, do I really know what I want? Okay, that’s a whole other issue that I won’t even get into right now.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

I will admit it though. Yes, I am stubborn. You know, sometimes you just have to act and become completely and unreasonably obstinate about things or else life wouldn’t be quite as fun….or stressful.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

For instance, if you have the urge to bake a pineapple upside down cake on your day off, then go for it…No, baking a lemon pound cake it’s just not going to do it. Because you’re stubborn…and know what you want. That pineapple upside down cake is what you want.

And if you want to have your nails painted deep purple, the color called “heart throb” probably won’t do it. The color “I think in pink” may not work either. Because you’re stubborn…and you know what you want. Deep purple is what you want.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

And if you want to write a recipe for fruity treats that possess a harmonious balance of fruity tartness and sweetness and a texture that when you bite into them is initial resistance followed by a delicate bite, then writing a recipe for something that resembles gummy bears clearly won’t cut it. Although, I will revise that first attempt and bring it to you in recipe form soon because ummm…hello!!!! Gummy bears!! Kind of awesome, really.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

So I knew that writing a recipe for these little pastry jewels would be a true test, but I was out to conquer the “Pâte de Fruit Recipe-Writing Challenge” (…a serious challenge that I had formed in my mind and that nobody else around me was hopefully aware of..).

It took three attempts to get the desirable taste, texture, and consistency right on point. Stubborn much? Nah, I just know what I want. Right…

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Yield:  Approximately 100 small pieces, depending on the size you cut them. Store for one month at room temperature fully enrobed. Keep well-wrapped in fridge for about one week.

Equipement: scale, candied thermometer, food processor, baking dish or tupperware that’s approximately 8″ x 8″, whisk, strainer.

ingredients:

1 blood orange

4 oz blood orange juice

6 small sprigs of rosemary

4 oz water

11 oz sugar

5 oz certo liquid pectin

4 oz sugar for coating

method:

1. Spray 8″ x 8″ baking dish with vegetable oil. Line baking dish with a piece of parchment paper that extends about 2 inches beyond the rim of the baking dish. Set aside for later use. (Note: The dimensions of the baking dish do not have to be exactly 8″ x 8″, as long as it’s close enough. I mean, let’s keep it real…I used a tupperware that was about 9″ x 5″ and that worked wonderfully. The size of the baking dish will only affect the height of your pâte de fruit.  The more area the baking dish has, the shorter your pâte de fruit will be. The less area the baking dish has, the taller it will be).

2. Cook the blood orange in boiling water for about 30 seconds in a sauce pan, until the peel has softened a bit.

3. Cut the ends off and discard them. Cut the blood orange into segments.

4. Place blood orange segments into food processor and pulse until blood orange is finely chopped. Add blood orange juice to food processor and pulse until mixture is well pureed.

5. Pour blood orange puree and 3 sprigs of rosemary into a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off. Put a lid on the pan and infuse for about 30 minutes, until the blood orang puree tastes like a hint of rosemary.

6. Place water and remaining 3 sprigs of rosemary into a separate small sauce pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. Turn heat off. Cover pan with a lid and infuse for about 30 minutes, until water tastes like rosemary. Set aside for later use.

7. Strain blood orange puree into a bowl to remove the pulp, peel, rosemary, and fruit chunks. Pour liquid into the same sauce pan along with sugar.

8. Remove rosemary from water. Add water to sauce pan. Stir blood orange, sugar, and water to combine.

9. Cook over low heat until it forms a very thick syrup that coats the back of the spoon and the temperature is of 180 F.  Be sure to whisk constantly. Mixture should never come to a boil, but rather maintain a gentle and very low simmer. You may have to adjust the temperature as you cook it.

10. Once the mixture has reached 180 F and the mixture has become thick and syrupy, turn off the heat and add the Certo. Whisk until well combined.

11. Pour into prepared baking dish and allow it to sit at room temperature for up to 5 hours.

12. Unmold onto a work surface. Peel off and discard parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares or rectangles.

13. Spread remaining 4 ounce of sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll the pieces in the sugar to coat. Arrange on a platter and serve.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Enjoy!

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

I have to think about this one for a second. Should I do this?

Yes, I think I should.

hazelnut cheesecake

Okay here it goes. I recently read an article somewhere which stated that food bloggers are multitalented…Not only do they possess knowledge about baking/cooking, but they are also adequate writers and photographers, at least that’s what is expected from them and those are the qualities they should possess in order to be successful in the field.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, to me writing is the trickiest of the three qualities, and I’m not talking about proper grammar usage or correct verb conjugation. I’m talking about trying to transmit my thoughts fully and properly with words. I have never been a person of many words, especially spoken words. An introvert like me, would rather express herself in other ways. But as I read over some of my posts, I have to admit that I have frequently and conveniently mistaken this blog for a diary, where I’m permitted to ramble on and on and then shyly hit the “publish” button. That doesn’t mean I’m a great writer. That just means that I happened to find the correct words in that specific time and place to express a certain feeling or thought. And thank God I did.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, today, as I think about these cheesecakes I made, a bundle of emotion is stirred up inside of me and I might have to “let it all come out” and come clean once again…through words.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

Here is the story. I made hazelnut cheesecakes today. I made one set for Periphery and one for me. Incase you didn’t know, Periphery is a progressive metal band that is doing really wonderful things in music.They just left for an Australian tour and I made them these treats before they left on their journey.

hazelnut cheesecake

About a year and half ago my other half, Mark, was offered the position of becoming one of Periphery’s full-time guitarists. He was offered the opportunity of a life time…of his life time. At the time, I was almost convinced that this opportunity, as rewarding as it may have been for him, did not match with what I had in mind for us. To keep things brief, after having been with Mark for many many years, I deeply believed that this sudden change of pace and life style in our lives would be a problem. I was stuck in the notion that the idea of the two (the band/touring and me) could not coexist. I was stubborn and pushed away. This would either make us or break us.

hazelnut cheesecake

Luckily we are still one, stronger than ever. It took some adjusting and getting used to, but after some compromise and care from both sides, we got over the unexpected bump on the road and swerved back to our path. After testing the waters and giving it a try, I realized that this situation is not that bad. I won’t bother listing the pros and cons. He is doing what he loves and that is very important.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

So today, I made two sets of cheesecakes: one for me and one for Periphery to take on their trip. Mine has chopped and toasted hazelnuts along with striped dark chocolate on the top. Theirs has the band’s logo on the surface of each individual piece. Mine is a larger and thicker piece (I know, I know), while theirs are smaller and thinner mini cheesecakes, to the point where they almost resemble cheesecake cookies…Cheesecake and cookies united as one?! Simply delicious.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

They are both different, but still alike, since the same batter, method, and care, were taken to elaborate both. After all, we can all coexist peacefully.

hazelnut cheesecakes

And even better? The guys enjoyed their treats quite a bit and as you probably figure, few things in the world gratify me more than to bring happiness to others through sweets. I hope you find them to be just as tasty.

hazelnut cheesecake

• Yield: Six mini cheesecakes and one 6″ x 2″ medium-sized cheesecakes. However, the yield varies depending on what size pan you prefer to use. I’m sure you can probably get two 8″ cheesecakes out of this. Freeze for 3-4 weeks well wrapped. Keep in fridge for about 2 days.

• Note: I used tart pans for the mini cheesecakes. I know you may be thinking, “Tart pans are meant to be used to bake tarts, not cheesecakes! Duuuh!” And you are so right. However, that’s what I had in hand and I made it work just fine. Since the material of the cake pans is so thin, the baking time decreases significantly because the heat reaches the batter sooner and with more force. If using a spring form pan, be sure to wrap the bottom and sides of cake pan with aluminum foil to prevent leakage. 

ingredients for hazelnut cookie crust:

4 oz butter

2 oz sugar

3.5 oz AP flour

1/4 tsp salt

2.5 oz hazelnuts

recipe for hazelnut cookie crust:

1. Place hazelnuts into a food processor and grind until hazelnuts are finely crushed. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar until butter is light and fluffy.

3. Mix AP flour, ground hazelnuts, and salt together.

4. Slowly add all dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together.

5. Drop spoonfuls of dough two inches apart onto a sheet tray that is covered with parchment paper. You will most likely need two baking sheets to bake off all the cookies. Bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes, until cookies become golden brown. Allow cookies to cool off.

ingredients for cheesecake:

hazelnut cookies

8 oz cream cheese

4 oz sugar

6 oz Nutella

1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oz mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1 yolk

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped

2 oz of dark chocolate

recipe for cheesecake:

1. Grind hazelnut cookies in a food processor until cookies are finely ground. The natural oils in the hazelnut will come out when this happens, so adding melted butter is not necessary to keep the crumbs together. 

2. Grease six 3″ x 1″ tart pans and one 6″ x 2″ round cake pan
 with vegetable spray. Cut out circles that have the same circumference as the base of the pans and place each circular piece of parchment paper on the base of each pan.

3. Press grounded hazelnut cookies into prepared pans. Bake at 350 F for about 10-12, until crust becomes golden brown. Allow crust to cool off completely.

4.  Preheat oven to 275 F. Cream cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for a couple of minutes until cream cheese is light, fluffly, and smooth. There should be no solid chunks of cream cheese at this point. Add Nutella and vanilla.

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5. Add mascarpone cheese and continue to mix just until mixture is creamy and well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl and be sure that all ingredients are well integrated.

6.  Add yolks and eggs one at a time on low speed until batter is very smooth.

7. Strain batter into a large bowl. Ladle batter into prepared mini tart pans, until batter reaches almost to the top of each pan. Ladle remaining batter into 6″ x 2″ cake pan.

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8. Place mini tart pans onto a baking sheet tray. Place sheet tray into preheated oven and pour water into sheet tray, until water reaches about halfway the sides of each pan. Place 6″ x 2″ cake pan onto a separate baking pan with sides. Pour water into baking pan so that water reaches about halfway the sides of cake pan. Bake mini cheesecakes for about 20-30 minutes and larger cake for about 1 hr 20 min, until cakes jiggle in the center when tapped.

9. Cool cheesecakes completely at room temperature. Place cakes in freezer for about 1-2 hours. 

10. Turn frozen cheesecakes upside down over a flat surface that is covered with parchment paper. Torch the sides and bottom of each cake and tap firmly until cheesecakes are released. Turn cheesecakes over.

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11. Time decorate your cakes…sprinkle a handful of toasted/chopped hazelnuts over the surface of each cheese cake. Place dark chocolate in a small bowl and melt over a bain-marie. Place melted dark chocolate into a pre-made paper cone. Cut the paper cone’s tip and and move swiftly and quickly back and forth over the cake to create thin lines of chocolate on its surface. If you don’t have a paper cone and don’t feel comfortable making one, you could try dipping the tip of a fork or a spoon in the melted chocolate and moving it back and forth over the cake so that chocolate drizzles over it.

hazelnut cheesecake

You can then play around some more with the chocolate…It’s fun to do so and you may have trouble containing yourself.

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You can also draw the logo of a progressive metal band with the chocolate, that’s just one idea for instance…

hazelnut cheesecake

Now comes the best part. Move the cheesecake onto a serving dish or platter with an offset spatula. Cut yourself a small piece or various pieces and enjoyyyyy! Be ware though, this dessert is super decadent and rich. A small piece goes a long way.

hazelnut cheesecake

fried baklava with honey cinnamon cream

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Two words for you: Fried Baklava. I’ll let the pictures say the rest.

But really, this recipe is simple to execute and super gratifying to taste. It’s magnificently light and crispy on the outside while being decadently rich on the inside. The blend of honey, cinnamon, dates, and nut flavors will keep you coming back for more. More good news? Once the baklava are assembled, you are bound to enjoy them in a matter of seconds, as this baklava is…fried.

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On another note, today is February 3, 2013. For me it’s just another regular Sunday, but for  a multitude of other people, today is the Super Bowl, an event that in my opinion holds just as much power as a holiday.

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Over the years, I have never watched the Super Bowl. I know nothing about the sport of football. Like really….. nothing. Oh wait, I guess I do know that people tend to enjoy chips and salsa, chili, various types of dips, an assortment of precut veggies, and of course….lots and lots of booze. And then there’s the other stuff. This year for example, Beyoncé will perform during half time. And those commercials…aren’t they good? See? I know a thing or two.

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I have zero emotional connection to this sport, so instead of watching the Ravens and the 49ers fight over the Super Bowl trophy, I am keeping myself busy by reviewing this recipe I wrote a few days ago and bringing it to you. I hope you enjoy this as much as you may or may not enjoy the Super Bowl!

Yield: About 24 pieces. Serve immediately.

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Ingredients for Baklava Filling:

3/4 C dates, roughly chopped

1/2 C walnuts

1/4 C pecans

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp honey

small pinch of salt

Recipe for Baklava Filling:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is finely grounded and comes together to form a paste. Set aside for later use.

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Ingredients for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1 C heavy cream

1/4 C honey

2 tsp cinnamon

Recipe for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1. Combine heavy cream, honey, and cinnamon in bowl. Whisk until cream thickens and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate and set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Fried Baklava:

phyllo dough

baklava filling

egg wash

vegetable oil for deep frying

honey cinnamon cream

honey

walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Recipe for Fried Baklava:

1. Stack three sheets of phyllo dough over a cutting board. Make 2″ marks along the bottom edge of stack. Cut vertically along each mark to create 2″ strips.

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2. Scoop 1/2 tsp of baklava filling. Form the filling into a ball with your hands and form the ball into a cylinder.

3. Place the cylinder at the bottom of each strip of phyllo dough.

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4. Lightly apply eggwash along the strip of phyllo dough with a pastry brush.

5. Roll phyllo dough over the filling and keep rolling until the dough has gone around the filling four times. Cut across the phyllo dough to separate the roll. Place roll on a dish with seam side down. Repeat steps 1-5 until all of the filling has been used.

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6. Heat up vegetable oil in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat and fry until golden brown. This happens fairly quickly, about 8-10 seconds.

7. Place fried baklava over a napkin to soak up excess oil.

8. Meanwhile, place honey cinnamon cream in a piping bag that has a #3 plain tip. Pipe spirals of cream on a serving plate. Place baklava over cream. Finish with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of finely chopped toasted walnuts.

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honey date bread

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“I need to write a sweet-lab thing…”. Those are the exact words I just shared with Mark as I was clicking away and making my way to the sweet-lab wordpress site. Well, that certain “thing” is actually called a post. Although it has been such a long time since the last time I wrote one that I think I had momentarily forgotten its correct term.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Yes, it’s been a while since the last post.

But let’s be real for a minute. This whole process called “blogging” can be a pain in the ass sometimes. You know it as well as I do. I love it, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I don’t think that I would enjoy life near as much without it and it has been my joy for many months. I miss it when I’m not baking or writing for it, but man oh man.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Sometimes, just thinking of all the different steps involved in sharing a post makes me want to pull my warm silky blanket over my head and pretend I haven’t even heard of http://www.sweet-lab.com. And if my apartment doesn’t have an adequate amount of natural lighting, am I really supposed to go out in this 20 degree weather to capture better quality pictures?!! Yes. The answer is always yes.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

But thankfully that motivation eventually returns. Eventually I start getting antsy when I haven’t created any new recipes for the site. I get the sudden urge to get myself together. I need to get myself in the kitchen and create something tasty, because when I’m in there doing that, I swear that that’s what I was born to do and it is all worth it.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So here it is. This recipe for this honey date bread was the little bit of inspiration I needed to get off my butt on a free day and into the kitchen, take some pictures, and type this up in order to share this with you.

Because you know, it’s what I love to do.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Ingredients:

15 oz unbleached bread flour

2 tsp salt

9 oz warm water

1 T active dry yeast (equivalent to 1 small package of 5/16 oz or 8.75 g)

3 oz honey

1/2 C dates, pitted and roughly chopped

1/4 C fine oat bran

1 egg and additional salt for finish

Recipe:

Note: This recipe is done in stand mixer but it can also be done by hand. The mixing time will just be longer.

1. Combine bread flour and salt in mixer with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until flour and salt are well combined, about 15-20 seconds.

2. Mix warm water and honey in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water and honey mixture and allow yeast to dissolve.

3. Drizzle water/honey/yeast mixture into mixing bowl while mixing on low speed. Change to hook attachment and increase to low-medium speed on the mixer. Continue mixing until dough becomes smooth and elastic in appearance, about 10-20 minutes. Test the dough by cutting a small piece of dough and stretching it out gently. If it tears, continue mixing. If the dough becomes translucent before it tears, the gluten in the dough has developed correctly and the dough can stop mixing. This test is known as the windowpane test.

4. Turn mixing speed to low and gradually and gently add the dates, followed by the oat bran. Continue mixing on low until all solid ingridients are fully incorporated into dough.

5. Remove mixing bowl from machine and cover with plastic. Allow dough to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. Press a finger into dough. If dough springs back, it needs to rest longer. If it doesn’t spring back, it has rested and fermented long enough.

6. Return dough to a floured surface and knead to expel gas. Cover dough with kitchen towel and rest briefly for 10-15 minutes.

7. Knead and shape dough into a boule by pushing it back and forth in a circular motion over a floured surface until it reaches the shape of a smooth round ball.

8. Cover the with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a day. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before baking.

9. Remove dough from bowl and place it over a baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper, being careful to keep the shape of the boule and tightening it if necessary by moving it in a circular motion over a floured surface before placing it on baking sheet. Score the surface of the dough with four lines to create the shape of a diamond. This will help the dough expand and create precise paths for carbon dioxide to escape when the pressure becomes too great inside the dough during oven spring. It also improves the overall aesthetic of the bread.

10. Egg wash the surface of dough with a pastry brush and sprinkle it with with kosher salt.

11. Place a cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill with one cup of water when ready to bake. Place bread on the top rack and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes. Keep pouring water into the cast iron pan throughout baking time to create more steam inside the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can use an old baking sheet she as well. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F and continue baking until done, about 45-50 minutes. Bread should make a hollow sound when it’s done and should have an internal temperature of 180 F – 210 F.

Cut yourself a slice, spread butter and drizzle honey over it…or simply enjoy it by itself!

sticky buns

sticky buns

So what do you do when you receive a notification saying that you have won a copy of Martha Stewart’s new recipe book? Oh, a signed copy nonetheless of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast.

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sticky buns

You may be a gullible dreamer just like I am and believe the good news momentarily without asking any questions…because when luck is on your side, sometimes it’s better to avoid asking questions. Well yes, I have won a recipe book signed by the one and only Martha Stewart, thank you very much. Of course I have. Why wouldn’t I?

No questions asked…at least for the first couple seconds.

sticky buns

Then my brain, which is practically stubborn by nature, starts to ponder the obvious questions that would run through the mind of anyone who has never ever won anything in her life. Well, that sounds negative and hopeless, doesn’t it? Let me clarify…I have won several crucial things in my life that I will never take for granted: the opportunity to be blessed with a great family, a sweet and caring soulmate, a dual citizenship, a few splendid friends, etc, etc. But that’s not what I meant.

sticky buns

What I meant is that I have never won a vacation to some island in the Caribbean. I have never won the lottery. I have never won a free movie ticket. I have never won a free cupcake. And I certainly have never won a signed book. Oh wait. Once I did win a seat exchange from second class to first class on a British Airways flight.

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sticky buns

So after doubting my luck and ability to actually win something and after asking “why me?,” several times, I responded to the email. Martha Stewart’s Social Media Content Director, informed me that Martha had chosen her winner of the day for sharing her recipes online and that the winner would receive a free signed book. But the story didn’t end there. He then added that he was coordinating with other book winners and would possibly do an entry on Martha’s blog on great completed projects/recipes by book winners. He suggested that I keep him informed, that I take pictures of the preparation, and most importantly…that I have fun. And that’s exactly what I did!

sticky buns

It was difficult to choose a recipe from the book and I must have bookmarked over a dozen recipes with sticky notes, but as soon as I glanced over pages 126-127, it was decided. It was basically love at first sight and these sticky buns had me at hello. I simply had to recreate these magnificent, sticky, doughy, tender, and sweet creations. After having tasted them, I can fully say that I am so thankful I did!

sticky buns

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…but I’m pretty certain you will. I mean look at those beauties…how could you not?

sticky buns

*Yield: 12*

Backstory: Eating a freshly baked sticky bun is a hands-on experience, whether you prefer to bite into it whole or peel apart the gooey spiral and eat one piece at a time. The sugary treat, now standard fare in coffee shops and malls nationwide, comes to us via the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are famous for their sweet yeasted breads and other pastries. Today, you can visit Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County to sample authentic Amish sticky buns—or use this recipe, chock-full of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, to bake your own.

sticky buns

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast (each 1 scant tablespoon)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk (about 110 F)

6 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted buter, cut into small pieces and softened, plus more for pan

3 1/3 cups pecans (about 14 ounces)

2 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Recipe:

1. Sprinkle yeast over the milk; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat flour, granulated sugar, and salt to combine. Mix in yeast mixture and eggs until combined.

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2. Increase speed to high and add the butter, several pieces at a time; continue mixing the dough until it is smooth and shiny, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a parchment-lined 13-by-18-inch baking pan; use your hands to spread dough to fit the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight.

sticky buns

sticky buns

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a standar 12-cup muffin tin. Chop 2 cups pecans; break the remaining 1 1/3 cups pecans in half lengthwise. Pour 3 tablespoons corn syrup into each prepared cup; top with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons halved pecans.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

4. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Roll out dough lengthwise to form a 15-by-20 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a spatula, spread sour cream evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Dust sour cream with cinnamon and sprinkle with 2/3 cup brown sugar. Top evenly with chopped pecans and roll the dough up lengthwise to form a log, about 3 inches in diameter. Trim ends so log is 18 inches.

sticky buns

sticky buns

5. Using a sharp knife, slice log into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place one in each prepared cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough is 1/2 inch above cups, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to oven, placing a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until dark golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately turn out buns onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Replace any pecans that may have fallen off. Let cool on a wire rack before serving; best enjoyed the same day.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

Recipe and recipe backstory is courtesy of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasure Dishes, From Coast to Coast.

sticky bunssticky buns

almond & chocolate mini cake rolls

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I have a quick story to tell. It’s quite simple.

By the way….Merry Christmas!! Just so you know though, this post has nothing to do with Christmas and I’m sorry if you were looking forward to a Christmas-related recipe or story.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

But here it goes. I made almond and chocolate pastries the other day because I’ve been currently obsessed with almonds for some reason: toasted almonds, almond extract, almond butter, almond cake, almond smoothie, almond everything….And chocolate…well, I’ve been infatuated with chocolate ever since I can remember. Nothing new there.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So just imagine the moment I combined my very two healthy obsessions, almond + chocolate. Colorful fireworks went off all over the place. My palette was joyous with triumph. And when my palette is happy, I am happy.

Well, then I happened to take these almond and chocolate pastries to a little get-together and share them with people, hoping that others would find these creations to be as tasty as I did. And they did! They seemed to enjoy them quite a bit and nothing in the world makes me happier than witnessing others enjoy sweets I poured my heart and soul into, especially when those people are friends and family.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“What are you going to name these sweet almond delights? They deserve an exotic name that goes with their strong character,” a nice lady whom I met that night asked me. “Oh, and before I forget…here, can you write the name of your blog down for me?” she asked as she handed me a black pen she had retrieved from her purse. I don’t think I had much of a choice.

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So I shyly wrote down the name of this blog and prayed that she found nothing of the content to be too out there. Now that more people are finding out about sweet-lab, I worry that my narratives may be too much at times. You know, because sometimes I swear that I mistake this blog for a diary and just ramble on and on about stuff…Kind of like I’m doing now…

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So anyways, I wrote the name of the this blog down for her on a piece of paper, but I still have not thought of a unique name for these pastries. Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls….maybe? That’s all I’ve got so far. I also like the name Sweet Almond Delights, but I think I have already used the name “delight” for a dessert name, so I think I’ll stick with Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls. I know, the name does not sound exotic at all, but I think that their powerful flavor will make up for their weak name.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

These pastries are made up of a thin and spongy almond cake. Ganache is then spread over the cake and rolled to create cylindrical pastries. Smooth and velvety almond Italian butter cream covers each pastry. Toasted almonds surround each pastry, adding more almondy flavor as well as crunchy texture. I truly believe you may also be seeing fireworks if you get around to tasting these sweet almond delights…I mean, almond & chocolate mini cake rolls.

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sweet-lab

Yield: 18 mini cake rolls.

Store baked 1 day at room temperature. Wrap tightly and freeze for a couple of weeks-1 month in freezer.

Note: The thin layer of cake is called a joconde. The recipe for this thin cake was given to me by L’Academie de Cuisine. Give credit where credit is due! The quantities of the ingredients are very precise for this recipe and were given to me in grams precisely because of that.

Ingredients for Joconde:

93 g almond flour

43 g sugar

23 g AP flour

3 eggs

63 g egg whites

50 g sugar

Recipe/Procedure for Joconde:

1. Beat almond flour, sugar, AP flour, and eggs on low speed with a paddle attachment for first 15-30 seconds and changing to high speed for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make a soft to medium peak French meringue: 

  • Whip egg whites at high speed for approximately 30 seconds. Bring down speed to medium after 30 seconds. At this point, meringue should begin to look thicker and the yellow color of the egg whites should disappear.
  • Begin adding 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites while they continue to whip. Start to add sugar more continuously and in larger quantities when meringue gets shinier and it becomes stiffer.
  • Turn mixer off and test stableness of meringue by whipping it by hand. Meringue should stand on a straight peak when it’s ready.

3. Fold French meringue into batter in two parts.

4. Spread batter onto a 10″ x 15″ sheet tray that has been covered with a sil pat. Bake at 400 F – 425 F for about 10 min. until cake bounces back in center when it’s touched.

5. Remove joconde from sheet tray and allow it to cool completely before attempting to remove it from sil pat. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Ganache:

4 oz chopped semi sweet chocolate

4 oz cream

Recipe/Procedure for Ganache:

1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.
3. Stir mixture gently from the center until everything is well combined.
4. Set chocolate-heavy cream mixture aside and allow it to cool completely at room temperature.

Ingredients for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: (Note: There will be plenty of buttercream left over if making a 1x recipe, but I just like to work with a large batch when making Italian Meringue Buttercream because a small amount of egg whites won’t whip well in my mixer. If you rather not end up with as much left over buttercream, you may adjust the times of the recipe (1/4x, 1/2x, 1x, etc.) so that it fits your needs best).

16 oz sugar

About 4 oz water

2 T honey

6 oz strained egg whites

18 oz butter, cubed

2 oz almond butter

1/4 tsp almond extract

Recipe/Procedure for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: 

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Mix water and sugar with fingers to make sugar is lump-free.

2. Heat water and sugar to 238 F (soft ball stage). Add honey when sugar and water mixture looses yellow color and it becomes clear.

3. Test the temperature of the sugar by numbing finger in ice-cold water, dipping finger in sugar mixture, and re-dipping finger back into cold water. Form the cooled sugar into ball with your hands. Drop ball onto a flat surface. Sugar is ready when it makes a sound when it reaches the surface and when it doesn’t sink in while resting.

4. Begin to whisk egg whites at high speed when sugar has reached or is close to reaching 238 F. Decrease speed to medium after about five seconds, just after egg whites have been broken up.

5. Begin to slowly add the hot sugar to egg whites while they continue to whip and meringue is soft and yellow color is gone. Be sure to pour sugar from the side of the mixing bowl and whip for about 20-25 minutes until the bottom of the mixing bowl has cooled off and feels lukewarm to the touch.

6. Add pieces of butter continuously to mixture when egg whites are fluffy and stiff peaks are close being formed. Do not wait for butter to become dissolved into the mixture before adding more of it. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.

7. Add almond butter and almond extract to buttercream. Mix well until ingredients are fully incorporated into buttercream.

Time to finally put it all together!!!

Ingredients for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1/2 C sliced almonds

joconde cake

ganache

almond italian meringue buttercream

Recipe/Procedure for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1. Toast almonds at 325 F so that they become toasted all through the center.

2. Place almonds into a food processor and press button a few times until almonds become finely chopped, but not to the point where they are too ground. Place almonds into a plate and set aside for later use.

3. On a flat working surface, trim off all four edges of joconde cake with a serrated knife.

4. Spread ganache over joconde with an offset spatula so that ganache covers every edge and corner of the cake.

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5. Make 1.5″ marks on the top and bottom of cake and cut vertical strips, connecting the top and bottom marks to end up with nine strips of cake.

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6. Carefully start rolling each strip halfway and cut the strip when it has been rolled half way up. Place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Carefully start rolling the other half of the strip and place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Continue to rolling  until all strips have been rolled. You should end up with 18 rolled pastries.

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7. Recondition buttercream if necessary by re-whipping it so that it is smooth and fluffy. Apply almond buttercream to each rolled pastry with a small offset spatula. Turn the pastry around with your hand as putting buttercream on the sides of each pastry. This is kind of a messy process. Be ready to wash/wipe your hands after applying buttercream to each pastry.

8. Sprinkle chopped toasted almonds around the sides of each pastry.

9. Place almond buttercream into a piping bag that has a #15 star tip and pipe a swirl or another decorative design onto the surface of each pastry.

Enjoy!

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sweet-lab

crunchy nutty choco toffee

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sweet-lab

I love FaceTime. Thank you Steve Jobs for making your Apple/Mac products so…just so damn good.

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sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see my 6-month-old niece who lives in Austin chew her sock and smile at my feeble attempt to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle is the best sound in this world by the way.

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sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see Mark when he’s away on tour with his band Periphery. “So where in Europe are you today again? Oh, Prague, of course. How beautiful. I wish I was there too.”

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sweet-lab

And because of FaceTime I get to see my wonderful mother who lives in Spain. I always tell her that I love her and that I can’t wait to see her. And then she’ll say, “I know. I can’t wait to hold you, but isn’t it great that we can at least see each other so often through FaceTime?” Yes, it is mom.

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sweet-lab

Yesterday I was in the middle of making this recipe when mom called me on FaceTime. I pretended I had everything under control, but I still had to get my mise en place in order so that everything was ready to be added to the toffee when it reached the correct temperature.

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However, I knew I didn’t have the situation completely under control: the sugar was already cooking and the butter still had to be cubed, the pecans still needed to be chopped, the baking soda and vanilla had to be measured out, the candy thermometer had to be placed on the side of the pot, a few recipe adjustments had to be marked down on my recipe book before they evaporated from my memory, etc. But when mom calls, everything can wait.

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sweet-lab

“What are you doing? You seem busy…” she stated (in Spanish, of course) as she heard the clanking of pans and sheet trays and saw how I turned my back on her a few times to check what was going on in the stove. I told her that I was in the middle of making toffee. “I can call back later or we can just talk tomorrow…”

“No! It’s okay. I can multitask!”

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sweet-lab

I told her a few things about my day. She told me a few things about hers. And through it all, I managed to show her how to finish the recipe. “Oh shit! Hold on mom! The sugar has reached 305 F and I have to add a few things to it before I pour it….”

“Really, we can talk at another time if you want to. You seem like you have a lot going on…Mmmmmmm…that looks delicious,” she stated as I poured the toffee over the chocolate and graham crackers.

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sweet-lab

And just like that, I got to feel extremely close to my mom. I always, always do, no matter how physically apart we are. But that moment was pretty special and magical. I never thought I would be able to share a such a spontaneous moment that involved doing something I love with all my heart (cooking/baking) with a person I love with all my heart while being thousands of miles away. I guess I’m just extremely thankful for it. That’s it.

Oh yeah, and I’m also very thankful for these delicious crunchy nutty choco toffee treats!

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sweet-lab

Ingredients:

12 graham crackers (or 24 if they’re cut down the perforated line–as long as the dimensions of the rectangle you build is about 7.5″ x 9″).

3/4 C dark chocolate chips

8 oz sugar

2 oz water

2 oz honey

6.5 oz butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 C pecans

sea salt

*Yield: Anywhere from 12-24 pieces, depending on how you cut/break up the toffee. Cover toffee in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.*

Note: There will be additional toffee left over after pouring it over chocolate/graham crackers. I simply poured the extra toffee over another silpat or a greased baking sheet to have extra toffee at hand. If you don’t want to have extra toffee, cut the recipe for the actual toffee in half. Keep the same amount of graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicon baking mat (ie: silpat).

2. Place graham crackers on parchment paper or on silpat in rows and of 4 x 3 to end up with the dimensions of 9″ x 7.5″

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over graham crackers and bake for about 10 minutes, until chocolate softens and becomes spreadable.

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4. Remove cookie sheet from oven and gently spread the melted chocolate chips over graham crackers with an offset spatula, trying your best to not knock the graham crackers out of place. The melted chocolate should cover entire surface of graham crackers. Refrigerate so that chocolate cools down and firms up.

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5. Meanwhile, toast pecans at 325 F until they toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans and set them aside for later use.

6. Cook sugar and water over medium heat and add honey when sugar and water mixture looses its murky appearance and it becomes clear, after about a minute or so.

7. Add butter and continue cooking until it reaches a temperature of 300 F–305 F (hard crack stage).

8. Remove from heat and add vanilla, baking soda, and toasted pecans. Stir and pour mixture over the prepared chocolate and graham crackers. Spread toffee gently over chocolate/graham crackers so that it reaches every edge and corner of the rectangle. Allow toffee to completely cool before cutting/breaking it up in pieces. Sprinkle sea salt over toffee. Enjoy!

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