Saturday Surfing

Hi! I'm dropping in right before the Christmas holiday to wish everyone a belated happy Hanukkah, merry Christmas, and a very happy new year celebration. We actually just finished wrapping a turkey in bacon for our annual turkey potluck, which we with friends every year just before Christmas. (I'll spare you the bird picture.) Today I thought I'd share some great recent blog posts from my favorite bloggers. Enjoy surfing through these awesome links...

Perhaps now you also want to gather your friends that are home for the holidays to eat, drink and be merry. Spoon Fork Bacon shows you how to put together a quick and easy cheese board.

For simple hosting tips, check out Kim's Kitchen Sink. There have also been some delicious holiday inspired drink recipes circulating, like Dying For Chocolate's chocolate eggnog round-up. And Choosing Raw has a wonderful raw vegan chai spiced hot chocolate recipe.

And last but not least, a delicious sweet recipes. The first from Dessert First. I just made this cranberry curd tart recipe but used chocolate cream cookies for the tart shell and it is so good and perfect for the holidays. Lastly, Vanilla Sugar Blog posts fun, sometimes wacky recipes that are beginner friendly. Here's her recipe for Salty S'mores Bark.

I love sharing my favorite blogs with you and I have many more to share with you soon. 


cut-out ginger sugar cookies

Happy National Cookie Day!

This cut-out brown sugar cookie dough is lightly flavored with molasses and spices and though they require a bit of patience rolling out like most cut-out cookies, the final flavor of the cookie is of butter and brown sugar with a little bit of sweet and spicy....Also there are no eggs in this batter so you can eat as much dough as you want! (you know, if you're in to that.) These cookies are soft and chewy, not crunchy at all like your usual holiday ginger cut-out cookie. Instead of decorating each cookie with icing or chocolate, I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on each cookie before baking, then spread chocolate ganache or a cinnamon cream cheese filling in between two cookies for a delicious holiday cookie sandwich.

Cut-out Ginger Sugar Cookie
Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen 


2 3/4-3 cups flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt

1 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter (softened to room temp.)
2 tbsp cream cheese (softened to room temp.)
1/4 cup molasses

In a medium size bowl, mix together the flour, spices and salt.

In a mixer, fitted withe the paddle attachment cream the brown sugar, butter, and cream cheese on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the molasses and mix until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Form the dough into two round patties about 6" in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap. Pat the dough down again to tighten the plastic wrap around it. Place the dough in the fridge for at least one hour.

Take one dough round out of the fridge, roll out the dough to about 1/8" thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Slide the rolled dough in parchment paper onto a baking sheet and refrigerate again until firm. Repeat with the other dough round.

Make sure your oven rack is in the middle of the oven and turn the oven to 375F.

Take the first sheet out of the fridge and cut out shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to another parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other round. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes. They won't deepen in color very much. Cool the cookie sheets on racks.

Once the cookies are cool, either decorate with royal icing, chocolate, or sandwich with chocolate ganache or this cream cheese filling.

Cream cheese filling recipe

8 ounces cream cheese
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
heaping tablespoon cinnamon

Mix together with a hand mixer or a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.


Pumpkin cream cheese crumble loaf

No one's sick of pumpkin recipes yet, right? Because this is just so delicious and I'm really excited to share it. If you don't have canned pumpkin and cream cheese in your kitchen, just head on over to your neighborhood Trader Joe's and pick up the ingredients for this.

Though TJ's isn't a local grocer, I do buy my basic ingredients there like free-range eggs, unsalted butter, organic canned pumpkin. One finally opened up 1.5 blocks down the hill from me so life is good! It makes living on a baker's budget in San Francisco a little easier.

There are three simple components to pumpkin loaf, the batter, filling, and crumble. It makes two loaves so you don't have to decide if the loaf is for you, or for your friends, and you will want an entire loaf for yourself :) The amount of crumble in this recipe is not a mistake. It's a lot of crumble and it's perfect and delicious, so go with it...

First, make the crumble:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup oats (any kind from old-fashioned to quick oats will work)
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks  butter (then melt it)
1 tbsp vanilla

Ina  bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and brown sugar with a spoon until incorporated. Add the melted butter and vanilla and combine until the mixture comes together in small clusters.

Next, make the cream cheese filling:
8oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg

In a bowl, with any electric mixer or Kitchenaid, combine all ingredients until completely incorporated and set aside.

Finally, prepare two 9" loaf pans by spraying them with  non-stick baking spray. Turn the oven to 375F. Then make the batter: 
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup milk, soured with 1 tsp vinegar

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda and salt.

In your Kitchenaid fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time until combined Add the pumpkin and mix on medium speed for another three minutes.

With the mixer on slow, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour (add flour in thirds, and milk in half. Mix each addition until just combined. Don't over mix during this stage. 

Pour 1/4 of the mixture into one pan and another 1/4 in the other. Then scoop your cream cheese mixture on top of each, add the remaining pumpkin mixture to each loaf. Grab a butter knife and insert it all the way in to the batter and pull it in a swirl patter through the batter. Lastly, add the crumble over the top of both and quickly get it into the oven.

This batter could also be baked in to muffin tins or a bundt pan.


Coffee Drinks

With this most recent storm swirling around the San Francisco Bay Area, I had to resurrect a few more of my delicious recipes from last fall that always warm me up/cheer me up...

Everyone knows that I'm a huge sweets fan, but I'm also a huge coffee fan. So, I was so excited to able to participate in the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program with Godiva Coffee and it's seasonal flavored coffees. This created a wonderful excuse to have a few close friends over to share my two favorite fall drink. (Please excuse the pictures, it was later in the evening in my small Nob Hill apartment with terrible lighting...)

Ingredients and equipment for both fall coffee drinks
Coffee + liquor = silly faces

The first drink comes from my dear friends, the Leonard Family. They share this hot, caffeinated adult beverage with everyone up at our summer weekend get-away spot; a permanent campsite community in Northern California where we all waterski, wakeboard and enjoy each others' company during cocktail hour. Careful, these can knock you on your behind ;)

To make two servings of coffee drinks, combine:
1.5 oz brandy
1.5 oz Kahlua
1.5 oz Irish cream
8 oz Godiva Caramel Pecan Bark brewed coffee

Now that I'm getting older and caffeine seems to have more of a negative effect on me when consumed late-night with liquor, I often make it with 1/2 caf. or decaf. coffee and it's just as delicious.

This second drink gets me through the colder fall months just as well because pumpkin-anything is the best, but it is truly a seasonal ingredient.

To make two servings of pumpkin spice milkshakes, with a blender combine:
3/4 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup strong brewed Godiva Pumpkin Spice coffee, cooled
2 cups French vanilla ice cream

For a lightened up version, replace the pumpkin pie mix with canned pumpkin, use nonfat milk and replace the ice cream with light french vanilla ice cream or vanilla frozen yogurt.


Buche De Noel How To

I originally wrote this post a year ago but I wanted to revisit it before the holidays are upon us and finish writing the recipes and instructions to share with anyone that might want to tackle making a Buche de Noel for their very own.

Happy holidays everyone! I've been so busy with Pastry School for the past 15 weeks that I have not had time to complete a blog (though I have a few half-attempted blogs waiting to be finished and read by all). Tante Marie's midterm party was last weekend, which means I'm on a two-week break from school, but definitely not from baking. Yesterday I spent the whole day baking, as well as running around my neighborhood getting last minute Christmas gifts and taking two trips to the market to get more sugar and eggs. I made components of the Buche De Noel, which I'm serving tonight for Christmas Eve dinner and challah to have with brunch and as french toast on Christmas morning.

For weeks I have been talking about Chef/Instructor Cindy Muschet's Buche De Noel that she demo'ed for us in class the other week to get us excited about the holidays. (You should really buy her book!)

Moss only grows on one side of the tree

This is literally one of the best cakes I've ever had. The other being the Chocolate Mocha from The Prolific Oven in Palo Alto.

A Buche de Noel is something that any home-baker can tackle. It is manageable if you make it in pieces, spread out over many days. The meringue mushrooms can be made several days ahead of time, stored in an air-tight container or Ziploc freezer bag. The cake can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and left in the pan, wrapped air-tight with plastic wrap. The buttercream frosting can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days or 2 months in the freezer. The ganache frosting can be made the night before so that it cools and sets to the consistency of frosting.

Cindy's recipe is made with a vanilla chiffon cake (spread out in a half-sheet cookie pan with oiled parchment paper on the bottom), a plain french butter cream frosting with Nutella added, a ganache outer frosting. And lastly, the meringue mushrooms and sugared rosemary sprigs and sugared cranberries (made my brushing with whisked egg white then sprinkling with sugar.)

Have you checked out all of my pictures from Tante Marie's on Flickr?

Recipes for Buche de Noel
from Chef Cindy Muschet

1. Meringue Mushrooms
You'll need 1/2" plain piping tip & ziplock bag or pastry bag and an instant read thermometer.
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch of cream of tartar
Any type of melted chocolate to act as glue

Preheat oven to 225F. Line a cookie pan with parchment paper. Place the whites, sugar and cream of tartar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Place over simmering water and whisk constantly si it doesn't scramble. Heat it to 160F on an instant read thermometer. Immediately transfer to the mixer and whip on high speed until firm peaks form.

Pipe rounds and "stalks" with the 1/2" tip. Bake for 1 hour, turn off the oven and let rest in the oven overnight to finish drying. In the morning, attach the stalks to the caps by making a small hole in the bottom of the cap with the tip of a paring knife. Spread a thin later of melted chocolate on the bottom of the cap. Insert the stalk into the cap and set aside until the chocolate hardens. Keep in airtight container until needed.

2. Ganache
12 ounces semi or bitter-sweet chocolate (64% cacao maximum), finely chopped
1 1/4 Cup (10 ounces) heavy whipping cream

Melt all ingredients in the top of a double boiler, then let cool to frosting consistency

3. Vanilla chiffon cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 large egg whites, separated + 2 additional whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an edged cookie sheet with parchment, and lightly spray the parchment but not the sides of the pan.

Sift together 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to blend.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yolks, oil, water and vanilla. Whisk to blend.

In the clean bowl of a standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, whip the whites (6 in total) to soft peaks. As the mixer runs, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a slow and steady stream and continue whipping untile the whites hold firm peaks.

Fold the meringue into the reserved batter. Pour the batter onto the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center springs back when lightly touched. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

4. Nutella Frosting
For the Nutella frosting you can either make a simple frosting like this one on the blog My Baking Addiction or use a recipe for a french buttercream and add Nutella to taste (start by adding about 3 tablespoons) 

Buche de Noel Assembly

1. Dust the top of the cooled chiffon cake with powdered sugar. Cover with a sheet of parchment and flip over. Remove the bottom sheet of parchment.

2. With the cake positioned so that the long side is parallel to you, spread the buttercream over it, leaving 1" unfrosted along the opposite long edge.

3. Roll the cake, ending on the unfrosted band. Place the roll on a serving platter with the seam side down.  Protect the platter by slipping pieces of wax paper around the log to catch the drips and smudges. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

4. Trim the edges as they are usually dry.  Cut a 2" piece diagonally from each end to place on the log as cut branches. Use some frosting to glue it in place.  Cover the log with the chocolate frosting, including the optional cut branch piece.  Making tree bark striations in the soft mixture with a fork

5. Add optional decorations:
Dust snow with a powdered sugar through a sieve
Chopped pistachios on one side of log= moss
Mushrooms in groups of three
"Iced" rosemary sprigs, cranberries or pine branches. Ice the items by brushing an egg white wash on them and dusting with regular sugar



We're having an Indian summer in San Francisco. It's well in to October and I just catered my fifth event! It was in the warm sun at Alamo Square park. Luckily the French macarons were eaten up before the buttercream filling completely melted out.

I imagine this past summer was my last with real weekends off. So I wakeboarded and caught up with friends and family and catered just enough events with my baked goods to keep me very happy.

These French macarons for the Konevich/Hunter engagement party, not to be confused with coconut macaroons, didn't come easy though.

Three nights before the event I started making batches of these little cookies. I've successfully made them before (though always a little thicker than desired.) But last week it was complete and utter fail after fail. I'd really like to blame it on the humidity from the first real rain of the year. But who really knows!? Leading up to making these, I read blog entry after blog entry from professionals about the best techniques and myths. (Go to David Lebowitz blog and check out his list of helpful blogs, recipes etc.) I read over and over BraveTarts recipe, tips and myths. And she convinced me to use her recipe, but, the macarons had no feet. Though they were otherwise perfect in texture, thickness and shininess. Maybe I over-mixed? I'd like to try her recipe again and macaranoage my batter less, but this time I had no time to experiment.

I went back to my amazing Tante Marie's teacher, Cindy's Muschet's recipe, which she said is the only reliable recipe she has ever come across in her entire life. I made three batches: the first, perhaps I over-mixed the whipped egg whites with the almond mixture. They were the correct height and shinyness but had air between the top of the cookie and the bottom. (Always my problem with her recipe.) The second, perhaps under-mixed; I got my usual too-thick cookies. The third batch I felt great about. Then I popped them in the oven and they exploded. each little cookie blew it's insides out....

I did get enough cookies with feet to cater and the guests went wild over them. However, I will continue on this journey to macaronage, defined as the art of making macarons, as many have before me and many will after me...


About Attending Pastry School

Life in San Francisco is always wonderfully fast-moving, but the past nine months have been a whirlwind. I completed Tante Marie's fall 2011 pastry course, interned at Tartine, and catered a few private events. I'm now finally able to sit and write about how and why I decided to attend Tante Marie's. For a few years after college I researched culinary programs in the Bay Area: The CIA, Le Cordon Bleu, SFBI, International Culinary Center, CCSF (city college program), and Tante Marie's. At that time, The Art Institute did not yet have a program. It now does and Chef Cindy Muschet, my teacher and possibly the most knowledgeable and nurturing teacher in the world, teaches there.

I chose Tante Marie's for the same reasons most do. It is a part-time course designed for people serious about baking but who still work a 9-5 job. I put a lot of thought into how I could make this dream a reality while not falling into a financial hole. Tante Marie's allowed for that without substitution for quality. School still not a small sum of money and for full disclosure, I was able to pay for this school with savings.

What I love about Tante Marie's:
  • So many things! But an important one is they take only 15 students every six months and there is one teacher, a teacher's assistant and a number of special guest appearances. It is an intimate environment, but enough space to focus on your own work. Tip: Get used to the cozy atmosphere, most professional pastry chefs end up with even less room then your working space in class. It helps you remain organized, precise and focused while creating desserts.
Questions you should be able to say "yes" to if you think Tante Marie's is for you:
  • Have you been a home baker for many years? If you have absolutely no foundation to start from, you'll struggle to excel in this course.
  • Do you have the will to practice and learn on your own? In class you have the opportunity to make many things twice, but other recipes, not at all during class and the only way to get better is to practice
  • Can you do a 12 hour day? You should say yes, if you want to be a pastry chef at all ;
  • Will your employer be understanding of your schedule? They may have questions for you, like why you're going to pastry school and if you will leave your current job for it. They'll also might ask if you will bring in treats. At Tante Marie's, we did not bring very many items home from class.
I hope you said yes to all of the above and that now you've been accepted to Tante Marie's!...

Items you may need for class in addition to the chef uniforms and book:
  • Timer that clips on to your clothes (once you're in a professional bakery, you don't get one)
  • Permanent marker (to keep in the pen pocket of your chef uniform)
  • Giant binder to keep all recipes
  • Close-toed shoes you can stand comfortable in for eight hours (Never did I think I would LOVE clogs so much)
Items you must have at home practice:
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Scale (I hope you already have one)
...Don't worry, you'll find plenty of other things you "need" too.

I can't wait to hear from you about your opinions, stories and thoughts about attending Tante Marie's or any other pastry program.

nerd'ing out with my wedding cake

one of my final cakes with sugar flowers

Mary & me, graduation day
My face=literally bloated from no sleep due to baking for three days in preparation


An Update

I just wanted to write a quick post for anyone that may stumble across my blog. I am about five weeks away from graduating Tante Marie's professional Pastry Course and busy as ever with so many things to look forward to including; creating a croquembouche, an American wedding cake, working with chocolate with The Alice Medrich and my final project (still to be determined by me.)

I look forward to start writing and participating in the blogging sphere sometime in March 2012. Here's a peak at what I've been up to...

Vol Au Vants


Cake with fondant & sugar flowers