Saturday, December 19, 2009

Peppermint Chocolate Mousse Pie

The pairing of peppermint and chocolate really puts me in the holiday spirit. It is definitely one of my all time favorite flavor combinations, not to mention my favorite ice cream flavor (mint chocolate chip) and Girl Scout cookie (Thin Mints). So when David hired me to create a dessert for a holiday party he was attending, this pie was born.

Peppermint Chocolate Mousse Pie
Serves about 10

4 cups chocolate cookies
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted

1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate
1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

peppermint candy, crushed

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in food processor and blend until well combined. Press evenly into a 9" pie dish so the crust covers the bottom and sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
2. Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring until completely melted. Stir in the peppermint extract. Set aside in a larger bowl and allow to cool to body temperature.
3. Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until medium peaks form (when you pick up the cream on the whisk, it will hold onto the whisk for several seconds before falling back to the bowl).
**It is important not to over whip the cream because you will be folding it into the chocolate.
Both the extra folding action and the chocolate itself will stiffen the cream to the desired
final point for your mousse.
4. Once the chocolate has cooled, add 1/3 of whipped cream and gently fold together with a spatula. After this first batch of cream is completely folded into chocolate, add rest of cream and fold gently to combine.
5. Pipe or spread mousse into prepared crust, decorate with crushed peppermint candy and refrigerate until ready to eat!
Happy holidays to everyone!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

One of my oldest and dearest friends just got married this past weekend! She has been my closest friend for over 20 years and I had the privilege of being her Maid of Honor. Of course before the wedding weekend, we had to celebrate her engagement. For her bridal shower, I made a batch of strawberry coconut cupcakes. The pink frosting on top makes for cheerful and festive treats and just happens to match her wedding colors perfectly! This recipe is incredibly moist and wonderfully delicious.

Strawberry Coconut Cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup strawberry puree (I pureed whole strawberries in a blender)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

1. Cream the butter and sugar in mixer for several minutes until white and fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
3. Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing slowly.
4. Add half wet ingredients (strawberry/coconut).
5. Add rest of dry ingredients, then the rest of the wet ingredients.
6. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes or until done.

Vanilla Buttercream

9 egg yolks

1/2 cup corn syrup
5 1/2 oz sugar

1# Butter

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
red food color

1. Begin whisking yolks in mixer.
2. Meanwhile, bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil on the stove.
3. Once this is at a boil, slowly pour syrup into yolk mixture (lower speed but keep on). Switch to paddle attachment on mixer, increase speed and allow to fully cool (this will take about 10 minutes).
4. Add butter in pieces, and continue to mix until well blended and mixture becomes shiny in appearance (about 3-5 minutes).
5.Add vanilla extract and red food color.
6. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve at room temperature.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Anniversary" Apple Muffins

I love when the weather turns and it finally begins to feel like fall. My friends and I drove up to Julian, CA last weekend to celebrate the season by picking apples from the local orchard. Unfortunately, there was a drought this year which made for very slim pickings. Fortunately for us, the orchard provided barrels of pre-picked apples to supplement our bags of hand-picked ones. Thanks Calico Ranch!

I did find a beautiful apple blossom on our quest and have high hopes for next year's expedition. When I arrived home with my bag of apples and began to think of ideas on how to use them, I realized that my very first blog post was after I went apple picking in Julian last year. Happy almost birthday blog!

I decided to make some apple cinnamon muffins this year instead of the classic pie option. I used honey in my recipe, but you can substitute maple syrup for an extra kick. The large proportion of apples to flour in the recipe makes for extremely moist muffins. I pureed the apples in a food processor to be about the size of rice before incorporating them into the batter. If you don't have a food processor, you can simple grate them through a cheese grater or chop them finely. While still warm, I coated the tops of the muffins in cinnamon sugar. Yum yum!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
makes about 24

2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 eggs
6 apples, peeled and pureed/grated
2 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (optional, can substitute nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc.)

1. Mix first four ingredients by hand.
2. Add apples, mix to combine.
3. Add rest of ingredients and mix. Pour into lined cupcake tins, filling about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
4. Dip each muffin into cinnamon sugar to coat the top.
5. Cool and enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vegan Banana Bread with Maple Glaze

I'm so sorry I disappeared for so long everyone, but I'm back now!!! Thanks for all the positive feedback, I won't leave you all high and dry for so long ever again :)

This post is a shout out to my sister's roomate, Maire Camille!, who makes the best vegan banana bread in the world! I forgot to get her recipe last time I visited, but have adapted a version of my own here that's pretty yummy too. Basically what happened was I had a bunch of bananas on the cusp of going bad and didn't feel like heading to the grocery store on my day off. I had no eggs or butter in the house, so I made do without. I must say this is a great way to use up those old bananas and everyone should have these ingredients laying around the pantry. The bread is great on it's own, but I happened to have some powdered sugar, soy milk and maple extract on hand so I made a quick glaze for the top. Yum yum!

Vegan Banana Bread
3 old bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (you may also substitute a combo of allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves)

1. Mash the bananas with the sugar and oil in a bowl.
2. Add rest of ingredients and stir to combine.
3. Pour into spray coated mold (bundt pan, loaf pan, muffin tins) and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
4. Unmold loaf and glaze while warm.

Maple Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon soy milk (regular milk works too)
1 tablespoon maple extract

I accidentally deleted all the pictures of took of my bread!!! Oops!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paulette Macarons

I spent the weekend up in LA visiting Lindsay and exploring a few bakeries. Lindsay recommended her favorite macaron shop, Paulette Patisserie in Beverly Hills. I went by myself today while she was at work and picked out a few interesting flavors for us to try. The storefront is very simple and the presentation of the product is beautiful. The counter top is a rainbow of macarons and the prices here are excellent. The individual macarons are $1.60 each, which is by far the lowest price I've seen macarons going for in America. The flavors range from caribbean chocolate to New Orleans praline to more exotic flavors like jasmine tea and violet cassis. All the macarons can be ordered online to be shipped overnight or picked up at the store.
I purchased four of the flavors and each macaron I tried was incredibly fresh and bursting with flavor. I chose the caramel, coconut, jasmine tea, and violet cassis.
Yum Yum Yum!!! Brings me back to Paris and my very first experience with the delicate and complex cookie that is the french macaron.
The violet cassis was my favorite. The filling consisted of a violet ganache and a black currant jam. Next time I'm in LA I will most definitely visit Paulette again and I hope the raspberry rose macaron is on special that day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Quick and Easy Pizza Dough

This recipe is so simple and fast, it takes under 10 minutes to prepare the pizza dough. If you own a food processor, the process is even easier (however the dough may be mixed and kneaded by hand or in a standing mixer).

Once I had mixed the ingredients, I allowed half of the dough to rise at room temperature for use later that evening. I placed the other half of the dough in the fridge to use the next evening. The cold temperature of the fridge causes the dough to rise very slowly, which prevents the dough from spoiling and allows you flexibility. This dough will even keep for 2 days in the fridge.

Pizza Dough

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour*, plus more if necessary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

*If you have cake flour on hand, substitute it for half of the all-purpose flour. This will make for a more delicate crust on your pizza.

Combine the yeast, water, and olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Slowly stream the yeast mixture into the flour and mix until the dough forms a ball. If the dough feels sticky at this point, add more flour until dough is soft but not sticky.

At this point, transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for a few seconds to form a round, smooth ball. I cut the dough in half at this point and place one half in the fridge, for later use.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a slightly damp towel. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Shape dough as desired (I like thin crust) and top with your favorite ingredients. Place pizza in oven for about 20 minutes, or until crust is browning and cheese has melted. I like to crack an egg on top during the last 5 minutes of baking for a little extra flavor. Have fun!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Atomic Fireball

This dessert is for those with an adventurous palette. It is for those who make a habit of ordering the most obscure, odd, and unique item on the menu because they understand that these are the dishes that capture a chef's true passion, talent, and creativity. These are the dishes you never forget.

Roasted Cinnamon Stick Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
5 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbs ground cinnamon

Roast the cinnamon sticks in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Smash and break up the sticks.

Bring the milk, cream, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon sticks, and ground cinnamon to a boil. Turn off heat, cover pot with foil and allow mix to infuse for 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Bring mixture to a boil. Meanwhile mix 2/4 cup sugar with eggs and yolks with whisk. Temper the eggs by slowing streaming boiling liquid into eggs while constantly whisking. Return entire mixture to pot and switch to a spatula. Lower heat to medium low and continue to stir mix until it just begins to thicken (about 3 minutes).

Transfer mix to container and place in fridge until cold. Churn in ice cream machine.

Mexican Chocolate Sauce

1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup water
8oz dark chocolate
2 tsp cayenne powder*
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Bring cream and water to a boil and pour over chocolate and spices. Stir until melted and combined. Add more cayenne if you prefer more heat. Keep under refrigeration until ready to use. When ready to use, reheat mixture and pour on top of cinnamon ice cream.

*Make sure your cayenne powder is pure and does not contain any other spices such as garlic powder or salt

**This dessert would not be complete unless it sat on top of my mom's delicious brownies!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream and Candied Kumquats

The kumquats my sister bought the other day were a little too bitter to eat on their own, so she asked me if I could do something with them. I decided to candy them to bring out their natural sweetness and use them as decoration on cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
from Epicurious
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and the water until the cocoa powder is dissolved and let the mixture cool to room temperature. In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking soda, and a pinch of salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and the sugar and beat in the whole egg and the egg yolk, beating until the mixture is combined well. Beat in the cocoa mixture alternately with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition, divide the batter among 12 paper-lined 1/2-cup muffin tins, and bake the cupcakes, in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Turn the cupcakes out onto a rack and let them cool completely.

Candied Kumquats

1 pint kumquats
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring the water and sugar to a boil and allow to reduce for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the kumquats into slices about 1/4" thick. Add the kumquats to the boiling syrup and allow to boil for about 15-20 minutes until the syrup thickens and the fruit darkens in color.

At this point, drain the kumquats and set aside. Return the drained liquid to the pot and continue to boil for another 5 minutes to further reduce the syrup. Add this back to the candied fruit to preserve it. They will keep for several weeks if covered and under refrigeration.

Orange Buttercream

4oz egg whites
9oz sugar
9oz butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp orange extract

Place the whites and sugar in bowl of mixer set over a pot of boiling water. Whisk this mixture for a few minutes until the sugar is well dissolved and the mixture begins to foam (165 degrees). Remove bowl from pot and place back on standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk for about 5 minutes until a stiff meringue forms. At this point, add the butter in pieces and allow to fully incorporate. This process will take a few minutes so be patient. The consistency of the buttercream will change completely after a few minutes and you will notice a difference. At this point add the orange extract and use to decorate your cupcakes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lavendar Lemon Bars

Lavender and lemon pair so nicely so why not combine them in classic lemon squares?

The flavor of the lavender in this recipe is very subtle and really enhances the dessert. I have adapted the recipe by adding lemon zest and eliminating the coconut oil (substituting it with a little water and extra butter). It is a very simple and basic recipe and very refreshing.

Lavender Lemon Bars
Adapted from All Recipes

2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
3/4 cup butter, soft
2 cups flour
pinch salt
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup flour
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8x12 inch baking dish.
  2. Make lavender sugar by blending the sugar and 2 teaspoons lavender buds in a blender; blend until the lavender is powdered.
  3. Blend together with an electric mixer 1/4 cup of the lavender sugar, butter, 2 cups flour, zest of 1 lemon, water and salt in a bowl until a dough forms; press into the bottom of the prepared dish.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the top begins to turn golden brown; about 15 minutes.
  5. While the dough bakes, mix together the remaining lavender sugar, 1/4 cup flour, eggs, lemon juice, lemon extract, zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon lavender buds; pour over the baked crust and return to the oven to bake until the center is set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Thanks for the beautiful plates Kate!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Caroline and I treated ourselves to Champagne Happy Hour last night at Bite in Hillcrest, San Diego. The happy hour at Bite is so reasonably priced and offers an interesting selection of champagne cocktails as well as small plates ranging from $2-$4. There are cozy and inviting couches and arm chairs in front of a fireplace, which is where we made ourselves comfortable.

Having been to the champagne happy hour once before, I recommended my favorite of the selections and my sister and I both ordered Bite's Classic Champage Cocktail. This cocktail is infused with cardamom, bitters and a sugar cube to finish. It is such an incredible combination of flavors that I usually stick with this choice, although there are several other wonderful options. I have also tried Bite's rose syrup infused champagne cocktail as well as their elderflower syrup infused one, both are good and very different. They offer passionfruit and raspberry bellinis as well.

My sister and I decided to try one of their desserts and shared the warm cream cheese bread pudding which was topped with a buttermilk blueberry sorbet. I usually don't enjoy bread pudding, but this one has definitely changed my opinion of them altogether. The sorbet was really interesting and fresh and the pudding itself was satisfying and creamy. There was a crust of caramelized sugar on the bottom of the bread pudding which added the perfect crunch and texture to the dish. Yummy!

Bite's Champagne Happy Hour is every single day from 5-7pm and worth a try if you are in the Hillcrest area! Caroline and I are lucky we only live a few blocks away and we will definitely be back soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mellow Yellow Cupcakes

I'm just mad about saffron...
In remembrance of our trip to Las Vegas and our spectacular viewing of the amazing Love Cirque du Soleil show, and in celebration of her birthday, I made Rachel Orange Chiffon Cupcakes with Saffron Buttercream.

I spoke about my love of using saffron in desserts and how special and rare this spice is in my Saffron Apple Tart post. I just adore honoring this delicate spice by allowing it to truly shine on it's own in a recipe. My Saffron Buttercream is rich and creamy and affords the saffron threads a place to shine. The soft flavor of the saffron compliments the light orange chiffon cake but would also pair beautifully with a pistachio or pear cake.

While this buttercream might seem a little daunting, I promise it is really very simple and almost impossible to mess up. The egg yolks add such richness and flavor to the buttercream and are fully cooked in the process so there is no risk. The recipe can be easily adapted by omitting the saffron and adding vanilla (or any other extract). Give it a try, it is a thousand times better than a plain butter and powdered sugar buttercream and just as easy.

Saffron Buttercream

9 egg yolks

1/2 cup corn syrup
5 1/2 oz sugar
1/4 tsp saffron threads (finely chopped)

1# Butter

1. Begin whisking yolks in mixer.
2. Meanwhile, bring corn syrup, sugar, and saffron to a boil on the stove.
3. Once this is at a boil, slowly pour syrup into yolk mixture (lower speed but keep on). Switch to paddle attachment on mixer, increase speed and allow to fully cool (this will take about 10 minutes).
4. Add butter in pieces, and continue to mix until well blended and mixture becomes shiny in appearance (about 3-5 minutes).
5. Refrigerate until ready to use. Before using, beat with paddle attachment until shiny and soft.

The Orange Chiffon Cupcakes are made from the same batter I used to make the cake in my Acai Mousse Tart.

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes

1 # cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1# sugar
1# 5oz egg yolks
8 fl oz vegetable oil
8 fl oz orange juice
1 Tbs vanilla
1# 5oz egg whites
1 orange, zest

1. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix with 1/3 of sugar.
2. Combine yolks, oil, juice, zest, vanilla in mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into larger bowl and set aside.
3. Whip the whites on medium speed until soft peaks form (you will see white foam). Increase speed and gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue to whip to create a medium peak meringue.
4. Gently fold 1/3 of meringue into yolk mixture to fully combine. Fold in rest of meringue.
5. Divide into lined cupcake molds and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Allow to cool, and frost with buttercream. I decorated the top with chocolate shavings and kumquat slices.

Happy birthday Miss Rachel!!! (I realize this posting is a little late, but now you can have the recipe as a special bonus gift, surprise!)


For those of you who love tropical fruit, bright colors and Cuban beats, this bakery is for you. Azucar in Ocean Beach, San Diego is friendly and lively, offering a refreshing take on traditional French pastries. A Cuban style patisserie, Azucar offers a variety of options from breakfast pastries (scones, danishes, muffins) to cupcakes (coconut, red velvet, pumpkin) to intricate individual desserts.

This was my second visit, and I will definitely be back for more. My friends and I tried two of their desserts, the Varadero and the Key Lime Tart.

The Varadero (pictured below) is a white chocolate mouse filled with fresh bananas and a white chocolate coconut cake center. Very flavorful and refreshing on a hot day.
The Key Lime Tart has a graham cracker crust and an intense lime custard filling. It packs a punch so the creme fraiche on top adds a nice balance to the tartness of the lime.
During a prior visit, I tasted the Diablo (dark chocolate mousse with chocolate cake) and the Divina (white chocolate cake, passionfruit curd, and vanilla meringue and my favorite!!!). We also had a guava cream cheese danish, which was very unique.

The service here is very friendly and the atmosphere inviting. Azucar has only been open for a few months, so go lend your support by purchasing a special treat!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jin Patisserie Los Angeles

I didn't even bother taking pictures of the chocolates Kate and I tried at Jin Patisserie. We went there hoping to try their famous macarons, but were disappointed by how stale and unappealing they appeared in the pastry case.

When you visit the website for Jin Patisserie you are presented with beautiful photos of pastries, chocolates, and macarons. When you step into the patisserie, however, you will most likely be disappointed by the lackluster presentation of product. Not only were the pastries themselves dissapointing, the staff was unfriendly and borderline rude.

Kate and I were shoved aside by one assistant and asked to move by another. Not one greeted us with a hello or as much as a smile.

Considering we had driven 2 hours from San Diego, we decided to give the chocolates a shot since they at least sounded exciting. The woman who begrudgingly helped us offered no suggestions or greeting, so we were left to our own devices. Kate chose an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate, and I chose a Jasmine chocolate (I love florals!). We both were excited to try a mango basil chocolate.

We took our chocolates and left the shop in a hurry. The adorable Abbot Kinney Blvd where the shop is located in Venice was much more appealing. The street is lined with unique and varied shops, as well as bars and cafes.

We happened upon a small wine shop and with a mutual affinity towards wine walked in without hesitation. The shop is called El Vino and is located at 1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA.

As you walk in, you are immediately greeted warmly by the young owner, who built the wine racks and shelves by hand (and lets you know he lost 20 lbs doing so). The display of wines and wine paraphernalia is lovely, as is the warm lighting and soft music playing in the background. Kate and I were enjoying looking at all the unique labels of the diverse wine selection when we noticed a $12 champagne tasting sign. Just what we needed after a long drive!

The French man who poured our champagne (reminded me of a pirate) was incredibly knowledgeable and shared personal stories with us about the makers of the wines we were tasting. Our first sparkling wine was actually a pear/apple cider from France. The pears and apples were grown organically and harvested from 300 year old trees (which we were presented pictures of). Kate purchased a bottle of the apple cider by the same label.

Our second was a Cava from Spain, and our third a champagne from Reims. We paired each with one chocolate from the patisserie. What a perfect marriage and happy coincidence!

As for the chocolates, the earl grey one was unmemorable and strange (hazelnut and tea?). The jasmine was perfect with the champage, and the mango basil was incredible.

I would not recommend the Jin Patisserie to anyone, but I would definitely suggest a stop at El Vino wine shop. Considering I don't live in Los Angeles anymore, I regret that I won't be able to frequent the shop. I did however put down my sister Lindsay's name on their emailing list. Surprise Lindsay! I think you will thank me. :)