Sunday, February 5, 2017

dark chocolate tartlets with pretzel crust and rose peppercorn sea salt



A few weeks ago, we invited our neighbors over for a casual last-minute BBQ, and as we were prepping the food I realized that we didn't have anything for dessert! I instantly thought about using the adorable baking and dessert salts that Expertly Chosen had sent me a couple of months ago! I thought a simple and quick dark chocolate tart would be the perfect thing to use them on, and since I love dark chocolate-covered pretzels (especially the ones at Trader Joe's!), I decided to make a simple pretzel crust to go with it.


With a quick online search, I found this pretzel crust recipe from Betty Crocker, which sounded perfect! So I ground up the pretzels in my food processor with sugar, and then poured in melted butter to bring it together. (Although in the future, I would probably add a little bit more butter to hold it together better).



Then I scooped the pretzel mixture into mini tart tins, and pressed it into the bottom and sides of the tins. (I used 4-inch tart tins, and was able to get 9 mini tart crusts out of the pretzel mixture). I baked them at 350F for about 10 minutes just to set them a bit, and then set them aside to cool.



For the chocolate ganache filling, I used this recipe from Sweetapolita (just the ganache part), except I had to double the recipe to be able to fill all 9 tarts. Then I sprinkled on my flavored salts.



For the BBQ, I had sprinkled on the "espresso salt", which went nicely with the dark chocolate. But the next day, I had two leftover tarts that I hadn't added the baking salt to yet, and I thought I would try another flavor. I ended up choosing the "rose peppercorn salt", mainly because I thought the dried rose petals were so pretty (and also how cute would these rose petal tarts be for Valentine's Day?)!



The rose peppercorn salt gave the tarts a delicately flowery yet peppery flavor, which also went quite well with the dark chocolate. And honestly, I think every one of the salts would have paired well!



With this specific set, the options include:

Vanilla Cardamom Salt
Espresso Salt
Rose Peppercorn Salt
Hibiscus Salt
Orange Ginger Salt
Vanilla Lavendar Salt






Thanks again for the baking and dessert salts, Expertly Chosen! I can't wait to try them all!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

minnie mouse cake


Sometime last fall, a friend of a friend asked me to make a strawberries and cream Minnie Mouse birthday cake for her daughter. She originally wanted a Minnie Mouse hat cake topper like the one I had made for my friend Helen, but since I had less than a week's notice I wouldn't have enough time for the fondant cap to dry. So we settled on just mouse ears and a fondant bow instead.

To make the fondant bow, I rolled out white fondant and used a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut out a few wide strips. Then I used pieces of thin cardboard, rolled into tubes, to help form the bow.


I also wanted to add polka dots to the cake, so I used the back of a large star tip to cut out little circles of fondant. And for the fondant ears, I rolled out black fondant and used a large round cookie cutter to cut out large circles, to which I inserted toothpicks into one end so that the circle ears could stand up in the cake.


For the cake, I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe (recipe in my book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!), baking 1.5 batches of batter in two 10-inch round cake pans. 


Once cooled, I sliced each cake in half horizontally, giving me four cake layers. Then I filled each cake layer with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries.


After all of the layers were assembled, I made fresh buttercream and tinted it soft pink, before covering the top and sides of the cake for a quick crumb coat.


After letting the crumb coat chill in the fridge, I added a final coat of frosting, and smoothed it out with an offset spatula. Then I used a medium round tip to pipe a white beaded border around the bottom of the cake.


I let the cake chill in the fridge overnight, and the next morning I was ready to decorate!


First I added my fondant polka dots, using a bit of buttercream on each one to hold it in place.


Then I added my fondant bow ...


... and finally i added my black fondant ears (a.k.a black circles on toothpicks).


I thought the cake turned out pretty cute! Simple, clean, and perfect for a Minnie Mouse party!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

lattice apple pie with braided crust


If you know me, you'll know that one of my favorite things to make is apple pie. I've made it for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I've made mini ones and Hello Kitty ones. And lately I've been inspired by the gorgeous pies by The Kitchen McCabe, especially the latticed ones, so I decided to try making a lattice pie myself!

I started by making my favorite all-butter pie crust (recipe in my book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!). One recipe makes a bottom and a top crust, so after rolling out my bottom crust and pressing it in my pie pan, I rolled out the top crust and then used a pastry wheel to cut out strips for my lattice.



After adding my fresh apple filling (recipe also in my book!), I used the strips to form my lattice shape. Two things I learned from this: a) this takes a lot of patience, and b) the strips need to be chilled first! But I was so eager to make my lattice that I was impatient (back to point a) and didn't want to wait for the dough to chill! Lesson learned, because my lattice came out very wobbly looking and not so neat.


But, I continued on anyway. With the last bit of the strips, I braided them as evenly as I could, and placed the braid around the edge of my pie, making sure to press down firmly to seal it to the crust below.


Then I brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled on some sanding sugar, and baked it until golden brown (350F for 45-50 minutes).


Even though my lattice came out so wonky, I still thought it looked rather pretty. I learned my lesson though (must chill dough first!) and can't wait to try it out again!

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

chess cake with handmade chocolate chess pieces


My friends Helen and Irene have a friend named Kristina, who asked me to make a birthday cake for her little boy several months ago. He really loves pineapple, and he loves to play chess. So we decided on a vanilla cake filled with pineapple and freshly whipped cream, topped with chocolate chess pieces!


I made the chocolate chess pieces in advance, and used this chess mold to shape my pieces with. First I melted my dark chocolate in a double boiler, and filled the cavities of the mold. After letting it harden in the fridge, I was able to easily pop the pieces out.



Then I once again filled the cavities of the mold, and while the chocolate was still warm I pressed in the corresponding other half of each piece. Then I let it harden in the fridge again, popped them out, and used a paring knife to trim any excess chocolate from the pieces.



And then I repeated the process with white chocolate.

For the cake, I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe (you can find it in m book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!) Since I was making a 10-inch cake, I make 1.5 batches of batter, and baked it in two 10-inch round cake pans. After the cake had baked and cooled, I sliced each cake in half horizontally, giving me four cake layers.


Next, I filled each layer with freshly whipped cream and chopped pineapple chunks that had been well drained.



Once all of the layers were assembled, I covered the top and sides of the cake with whipped buttercream, smoothed it out with an offset spatula, let it chill in the fridge, and then repeated the process with a second coat of frosting.


With the last coat of frosting, I smoothed it out as best as I could, before piping alternating beads of white and brown frosting along the bottom border of the cake.


Finally, it was time to top the cake with my handmade chocolate chess pieces! I alternated with the dark chocolate and white chocolate pieces, and used a little bit of buttercream on the bottom of each piece to hold them in place.



I loved the final look of the cake! The chocolate chess pieces created quite a dramatic effect!



The final touch was adding a little fondant plaque with a birthday message for the birthday boy! For this I rolled out white fondant, and then used a plaque cookie cutter from Cookie Cutter Kingdom to cut out my shape, before using an edible food marker to write the birthday message.



Happy Birthday Noah! Hope you loved your cake!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

dairy free chocolate cupcakes with whipped dark chocolate ganache frosting


Last fall we took a road trip to LA to visit with friends, and we stayed with one of my best friends, Reggie. Her daughter Rachel is allergic to dairy but loves baked goods, so I decided to make some dairy free cupcakes for her. I had recently come upon this recipe from Pastry Affair for vegan chocolate cupcakes, and while I was intrigued at how a cupcake with no eggs could rise to be soft and fluffy, I thought it would the perfect cupcake to try out for Rachel!


I ended up making two different chocolate cupcake recipes - the vegan one above, and my usual chocolate cupcake recipe with canola oil instead of butter, and coconut milk instead of regular milk. But I topped both cupcakes with the same vegan chocolate ganache frosting, which uses coconut milk instead of heavy cream.

 

To decorate the cupcakes, I filled a pastry bag with the whipped ganache frosting, and one by one I placed each cupcake on a revolving cake stand and used a a large petal tip #104 to pipe swirling rosettes on the top. (I've used this same ruffle technique to decorate cakes as well and I always love the way they turn out!)




After tasting them, most of us preferred the regular dairy free cupcake (with oil and coconut milk instead of dairy) when compared with the vegan cupcake (no oil or milk at all). The vegan cupcake was just missing a bit of richness that the other cupcake had. But for vegans I think this would be a great alternative, as the cupcake was still fluffy and moist, and full of chocolate flavor!


And now I'll leave you with some pictures from our fun weekend away. :)