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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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.

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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.

sticky buns

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

sweet lemon almond smoothie • sooth your throat

sweet-lab

This is probably not what you had in mind. It’s not what I had in mind either.

We are amid holiday spirit and Christmas cheer, so why in the hell is this recipe not one that showcases cookies, ginger spice bread, or other holiday favorites? Well, I also wasn’t expecting to resort to a smoothie today and I much rather create a recipe for say a pumpkin roulade, a chocolate peppermint cake, or an eggnog whatever. Never mind. Scratch the last example. I don’t particularly enjoy eggnog.

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Anyways, those are the sort of recipes that are to be expected in mid-December, right? I mean every food blogger out there is presenting favorite holiday recipes and what do I have to offer? A smoothie! But it is what it is and I am completely okay with that. One should never underestimate the power of a smoothie, especially when it can help sooth your sore throat. To be fair, I have also had the opportunity to make crunchy nutty choco toffee, cookies, peppermint truffles, and other holiday treats. Plus, the holidays are no way near over and there is still time to make traditional or new holiday sweets. So I am not complaining at all (even if my tone suggests otherwise).

sweet lemon almond smoothie

I have been feeling a little under the weather during these past few days and this smoothie has done magical things to heal the pain and scratchiness in my throat. If I had to compare my voice to that of any known figure you would know, it would have to be to the exorcist girl. Let it be known that I do not have the ability to spin my head 360 degrees around my own torso and I do not possess the talent of vomiting green junk when I am feeling irritated or furious. That would be insanely insane though. But my voice…oh yes, the sound of my voice in these past few days could be used in the next exorcism movie,…because we all know there will be plenty more of those coming out in the near future.

Going back to what’s important. This smoothie contains ingredients that will help alleviate a soar throat. Lemon contains high levels of vitamin C and natural antibacterial/antiviral agents. Almonds and honey are natural pain killers that will relieve the inflammation. Apple is one of those fruits that will help ease lung and throat irritation all year round and add smoothness and fullness to the smoothie. The boost of vitamins and combination of healing ingredients do not compromise good flavor. Not at all! This smoothie is delicious with a dominating sweet honey and almond flavor and a spark of refreshing fresh lemon juice. That sore throat will stand no chance of winning once it meets this sweet lemon almond smoothie!

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* Yields about 1 1/4 C. *

Ingredients:

6 fl oz almond milk

1/4 C raw almonds

1/4 C Gala apples–peeled, cored, chopped

1.5 fl oz lemon juice (=3 T of lemon juice)

2 T honey

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Combine almond milk, raw almonds, apple, lemon juice, and honey into a blender. Blend until fruit and almonds are completely pureed. Serve immediately.

crunchy nutty choco toffee

sweet-lab

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.”

sweet-lab

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.

sweet-lab

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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sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

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.

sweet-lab

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!”

sweet-lab

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.

sweet-lab

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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apple cinnamon ice cream • it’s your life

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So what if it’s December and you feel like making ice cream? I say you do it.

And so what if the act of making a frozen treat when it’s really chilly outside doesn’t make sense to others?

Does it make sense to you? Great, then that’s what matters.

As I have been told lately by various close friends, do whatever you want to do. I’ve been instructed to be more selfish as horrible as that may sound and to stop constantly thinking of what others may think. Of course, this advice does come with a bit of structure and guidelines: do whatever you please, as long as you’re respectful and you don’t harm others along the way.

But that’s exactly where the situation can become quite tricky. For example, would it cause harm to those who are close to me if I were to stop everything and go on a long journey to God knows where? Would they understand my current “lack of direction” and disinterest to do what’s considered “appropriate” for my career and life? I don’t know. Their confusion and possible state of disapproval may seek stop me. But it shouldn’t in the end.

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sweet-lab

“You only have one life and one chance,” were words that were directed to me just last night by someone close to me. I’m aware that it would be foolish to live the only chance we get at life to the standards of others, even if those people love you and want the best for you. The pressure of doing what’s “correct” in the eyes of others may be there, but only one can make the stress and tension disappear on his/her own.

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sweet-lab

It should be simple to do whatever we feel like having the urge of doing. It should feel easy, natural, and free to do so…but it doesn’t, at least not for me. If you’re like me, you may think twice, three times, and plenty of times more of how you should be living life. Because inside your head you always wonder if your next move will be “proper” or “suitable” in the eyes of those who are close to you. And if you’re like me, you may hear their voices in your mind commenting on your unexpected next move…”what are you thinking? Really, you’re not going to work there anymore? Why? Where are you going and why? I think it would be better if…”

It shouldn’t be that way.

No more.

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sweet-lab

So somehow, you just have to find the courage inside of you to make your voice stronger than theirs. And somehow, amid all the distracting noise, you have to make it your mission to listen deeply to what your voice is telling you. Because again, in the words of Bon Jovi, “It’s my life. And it’s now or never.” Oh Jon Bon Jovi…you wise, wise, man.

I do think it’s very important to acknowledge the opinions of those who care about you, but it’s just as important to learn how to tone down their voices in your mind to be able to hear your own to make your own decisions. Live your life respectfully and to the fullest (however that may be). I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

And of course, enjoy this apple cinnamon ice cream with pecans and caramel only and only if you would like to and find that it is “appropriate” for you. I know that it was for me.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

**Yields about 2-2.5 C. Store base in fridge for 3-4 days and 2-3 days in freezer as ice cream.**

Ingredients:

8 oz milk

8 oz cream

2 cinnamon sticks

4 oz yolks

2 oz dark brown sugar

2 oz granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 oz sparkling apple cider (or 4 Tablespoons) and additional 1 C for cooking apples

2 T dark brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1 C apples (about 1 apple)–peeled, cored, and fine diced

3.5 oz caramel sauce (or 1/3 Cup), click here to view recipe for caramel sauce.

1/2 C pecans

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Add milk and cream to a pot and bring to a gentle simmer.

2. Drop cinnamon sticks into pot to steep them while milk and cream heats up. Turn off heat when milk and cream come to a simmer. Take pot off heat and cover it. Allow to steep for about 30 minutes. (Note: Steeping time varies in the desired intensity of the flavor).

3. Drain the half and half and re-measure the liquid before continuing with recipe. If the weight has decreased, add milk to bring up to the same quantity you started with (orginal amount=16 oz of dairy). Return pot to the stove and bring milk/cream mixture and cinnamon sticks to a simmer once more.

4. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a bowl. When milk and cream have come to a simmer, temper the eggs with the milk and cream while whisking simultaneously. Allow mixture to rest for a few seconds so that the sugar can dissolve with the heat.

5. Pour mixture back into pan and stir in a figure 8 pattern so that every spot of the pot is touched as you cook it. Be sure to cook on low and gentle heat so that eggs don’t become scrambled. Cook and continue stirring until milk/cream naps the back of a spoon. That occurs when the sauce in your saucepan is thick enough to stick to your spatula; and therefore indicates that your mixture is ready.

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6. Pass cream through a sieve to remove the chalazae of the eggs and cinnamon sticks. Pour crème anglaise into a large bowl that is sitting over ice and add 2 oz apple cider and stir. Refrigerate until further use.

7. Prep apples. Peel, core, and finely dice apples.

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8. Combine diced apples, ground cinnamon, and the 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar in a pan and cook on low-medium heat until apples start to break down, about 7 minutes. Pour sparkling apple cider to deglaze pan and continue cooking until apples become soft and tender. This process can take a while and as soon as the sparkling apple cider evaporates, pour more into pan and just continue pouring and cooking apples until apples break down and are tender. It took me about 30-40 minutes of deglazing and cooking apples to soften them up completely. You may need more than 1 cup of sparkling cider. It’s important to cook apples so that the water that is contained in the fruit is expelled. If water remains in the apples, the fruit will become icy when frozen. Drain cooked apples to remove excess liquid.

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9. Toast pecans at 325 F until they toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans. Set aside for later use.

10. Remove crème anglaise from refrigerator and pour into ice cream machine bowl. Make ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Be sure to have ice cream fold-ins (caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and cooked apples) at hand to be ready to fold into ice cream after spinning/churning cycle is complete. Freeze ice cream until you’re ready to enjoy it.

pear upside down cake • room for improvement

sweet-lab

Is Thanksgiving over yet?

I tend to live in my own little world and sometimes become oblivious to things happening around me. But yeah, the cut pieces of aluminum foil covering numerous trays of leftovers in the fridge and the crumbs of pie crust scattered on the kitchen counter are enough to remind me that this day of complete and utter gluttony has passed, as is the occasional tendency to burst out of my jeans.

sweet-lab

Last Thanksgiving I made a pear upside down cake. I got the recipe from some well-known gourmet food magazine that I don’t remember the name of. Okay, that last part is not true. Of course I remember the name of the magazine. I only read it like every day of my life. The cake was okay…but okay is simply not good enough.

sweet-lab

“Okay” means that there is room for improvement. You know…like when you got that B+ on a spelling test in third grade. Didn’t that just make you want to strive for an A+ ? Or maybe you were such a perfect speller that this is a weak argument because it simply does not apply to you. Well, hopefully you get my point anyways.

sweet-lab

Improvement through repetition is a good thing and so I decided to try things a little different and come up with a recipe for a pear upside down cake of my own. I changed the recipe of the actual cake. This one also uses a clear caramel along with streusel that is layered in the batter to make it all even a little better…because you know, there is always room for improvement.

**Yields one 8″ cake. Store baked at room temperature for 1 day well-wrapped. Store fully baked and frozen for 30 days.**

Ingredients for Streusel:

3 oz brown sugar

1/2 C walnuts, chopped

1 T cinnamon

1/4 C pears, finely diced

Recipe/Procedure for Streusel:

1. Peel, half, and core pears. Place halved pear flat on a work surface and cut across three times horizontally, leaving 1/4″ distance from each slit. Make vertical cuts across the surface of the pear, leaving 1/4″ distance from each vertical cut. Begin cutting perpendicular to the slices made in the previous step to end up with small dices of pear.

2. Mix brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon together by hand until all ingredients are well combined.

3. Toss pears into mixture and combine well. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Pear Upside Down Cake:

5 oz cake flour

3 oz AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

6 oz granulated sugar

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz butter

4 oz eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz milk

4 oz buttermilk

2 medium bosc pears

Recipe/Procedure for Pear Upside Down Cake:

1. Combine cake flour, AP flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and sift them into a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until mixture is cohesive, light, and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl once eggs have been incorporated. Add vanilla and continue mixing.

4. Switch speed on mixer to low. Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients into butter/sugar/egg mixture until batter takes the dry ingredients.

5. Combine milk and buttermilk together and add until it begins to incorporate. Repeat additions of dry and wet until all ingredients are fully incorporated into batter, being sure to end with an addition of dry ingredients. Set aside for later use.

6. Butter an 8″ diameter round cake pan and line bottom with parchment-paper round.

7. Peel, halve, and core pears. Cut pears lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Set aside for later use while making clear caramel.

Ingredients for Clear Caramel:

4 oz granulated sugar

2 oz water

Recipe/Procedure for Clear Caramel:

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Remove lumps in sugar with fingers.

2. Bring water and sugar to caramel stage (sugar must reach a uniform golden brown (dark amber color). Remove from pan.

Assemble and Bake:

1. Pour clear caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl pan to coat round of parchment.

2. Layer slices of pear over caramel, overlapping them all around.

3. Place one-third of the batter on the bottom of pan. Sprinkle streusel mix over batter. Repeat layering of streusel and batter until both are used.

4. Bake at 350 F for about 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick that has been inserted in the center comes out clean.