hazelnut frangipane and nutella-dark chocolate ganache tart and another giveaway

Hazelnut Frangipane and Nutella Chocolate Ganache Tart

I can’t believe that it’s been over three months since I’ve baked anything with chocolate.  How could I have let that happen? To remedy this dire situation, I adapted my Fig, Almond Frangipane, and Orange Tart to make this nutty tart. I recently received a complimentary bag of hazelnut flour from Bob’s Red Mill to try out, so I took this opportunity to use it in both the crust and the frangipane.  Continue reading

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raspberry-basil italian cream soda

Italian soda is a refreshing drink, especially perfect on a warm, sunny day.  Despite it’s name, this drink was actually invented in San Francisco’s North Beach, not in Italy.  It gets its name from the flavored syrups that originated in Italy that are used to make it.  The drink is simply flavored syrup mixed with carbonated water served in a tall glass with ice.  Add a splash of cream and it becomes an Italian cream soda or cremosa.  Either way, an Italian soda is a nice alternative to store-bought soft drinks. Continue reading

candies and confections – part 2: moulded chocolates

The inspiration for these home-made chocolates came from the caramels I found at Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle.  I discovered Fran Bigelow’s shop when I lived there years ago.  Her Smoked Sea Salt Caramels, soft and chewy caramels covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt, have been a favorite of mine ever since. Continue reading

Semi-Homemade Scones

I enjoy cooking from scratch and I have chronicled many of my kitchen adventures making cultured butter, pasta, ricotta cheese, and ice cream.  However, there are times when the convenience and ease of “semi-homemade” cooking results in something just as good, or even better.  Cooking from scratch tends to take longer and I don’t always have the time or the energy, especially after my long commute.  Also, once in a while, I get lucky and discover the perfect pre-packaged mix that is both delicious and easy to make.  Such is the case with King Arthur Flour Company’s pre-packaged scone mixes.  They come in a huge variety of flavors and convenient to make.  The mixes are a bit pricey at $7 each, but King Arthur Flour often offers discounts.

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everything’s better with butter

Homemade butter

Homemade bread is good.  Homemade bread with homemade butter is even better!  Yes, you read it right. I made my own butter this morning!  As it turns out, butter is surprisingly easy and fun to make. Essentially, heavy cream is just whipped until it breaks and the fat separates from the liquid.  The fat is the butter and the liquid is buttermilk.  How easy is that?  I used a stand mixer, but a food processor works as well.  Shaking the fermented cream in a mason jar for about 20-30 minutes will supposedly work but I prefer to have my kitchen gadgets do the heavy work.

I followed this cultured butter recipe from the Seattle Times, which calls for culturing, or fermenting the cream, before churning.  I had no luck in finding a good quality, organic cream, so I settled for a pint of the Trader Joe’s brand.  The resulting butter is a pale yellow color and  creamy with a little bit of tang to it.  Better quality cream would have resulted in a deeper yellow color and a richer flavor.  Next time, I can experiment with adding different herbs and flavorings to make compound butter.

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