Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The one where I bid "A pui tardi"

This morning was the first which I've walked back from being out. It was a strange night where I drank less & enjoyed less than usual. As I walked back surrounded by the early morning darkness & chill I lamented the city I was leaving. Walking pas Santa Croce one last time, through Piazza Signoria & too suddenly I was watching the Duomo disappear from my sight. I felt a part of my soul was left behind & I found myself tearful for the beauty & culture I was swiftly leaving. I yearned to clutch onto it, savor it, for just a moment more.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The one with Klimt's Google Doodle

Today would have been Gustav Klimt's 150th Birthday. Google Doodles put together a lovely little creation for him via my favorite of his paintings: The Kiss.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The one with Chocolate by the Blad Man

I was taken to an infamous chocolate shop / restaurant last night, just south of Union Square Park: the one & only, Max Brenner. Here chocolate is not something simply to eat, but to encompass you. Their website justly states is below by saying "Chocolate is not just about the taste".  Entering the store the smell of warm chocolate teases & excited you, everything is dark & the color scheme screams tints of chocolate, caramel & cream. There are stacks of chocolate bars, pipes along the ceiling (Willy Wonka Style) carrying chocolate, & waiters gracefully delivering art-work in the medium of chocolate to every table. NO, you do not simply eat chocolate here, you experience it!
"Chocolate by the Bald Man" As they say :) 
We started out with respective chocolate drinks, a Truffle Granita, served in an Alice in Wonderland "Drink ME" Mug

And...a Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate in a HUG MUG (!!!) 

We  then ordered the "S'mores Concoction" & had no idea what delightful confections we were in for! A gridded tray was brought out to us complete with a petri dish of caramelized bananas, a beaker of caramel, 1 assembled S'more, & a jar bursting with whipped cream & promising of chocolate. What we found was the jar was filled with chocolate pudding, layered with marshmallow fluff, with hidden pieces of graham crackers & then topped with light & creamy whipped cream. Decadent doesn't do this desert justice!  It was honestly too much for us to finish together (we made the mistake of going out to dinner 1st) but we were happily looking forward to the Chocolate Food Coma which should follow!

I've only just found out that Max Brenner also does Chocolate Cocktails & Brunch....it's a dangerous combination, but I can't wait to report back on exactly how fabulous it is! 

Until next time, I'll be dreaming in Chocolate!

Very fun little pencil case / bill box. It reads "Money for Life, Chocolate for the Soul"

Friday, June 29, 2012

The one with Orange Blossom Cupcakes

Today, I decided to make cupcakes for a charming man who has been commanding quite a bit of time in my life. Cake is one of my favorite things in this world; being so, cupcakes likewise bring me great joy.  My favorite vanilla cake batter recipe calls for 4 egg-whites whipped into hard peaks, as of late, I have become a bit of an expert with getting those beautifully shiny peaks as shown below. 

The batter comes out light & very fluffy because it's a mixture of 3 main components: the egg meringue, a sugar-butter mixture, & a dry mixture. I filled cupcake tins (I always loved the look of silver tins around cupcakes. Weird?) 2/3 full & popped into the oven for 30 minutes: slow baking also leads to fluffiness :)
I also decided to add some Orange Blossom Water to the batter to add a hint of delicate flavor to the cakes. When they came out of the oven I couldn't help myself, I had to try one!!

It is imperative to proper cupcake-making that the cupcakes are fully cooled before frosting.
I decided to go with a simple chocolate frosting in order to compliment the Orange Blossom. Here's the link for the Frosting Recipe. Since blueberries are in season, they made the perfect little garnish.
Cupcake to go?!?
I had originally made all the cupcakes the same -- which is my usual style, but while playing with the last of the frosting, I stated putting these little "kisses" as I called them (resemble Hersey Kisses) around the edges of one cupcake. I continued & soon enough had a cupcake full of Kisses for my man. Might be silly, but it made me smile!
So tempting, can't wait to get into these!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The one with double-chocolate-fudge cookies

These are some of my favorite cookies to make... they're tasty & look fun! Essentially, what we're working with is a chocolate cookie dough, with chocolate chips, rolled into balls, covered in confectionery sugar, & baked into crackley perfection! 
They come out of the oven hot,
 falling apart, dangerously fudgey & chewey.
 Within my circle, we've come to call them Chocolate Crackle Cookies, but I originally got the recipe from Nestle's baking website, where they're called "Firecracker Fudge Cookies". Once you make these cookies once, you'll want to again, they're so simple & delicious!

First, you're going to melt 1c chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli semi-sweet, but of course Nestle wants you to use Nestle....) I use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate so  you don't risk burning or otherwise negatively impacting the chocolate. Stir that together until homogenous & set aside to cool.....go back to it every few minutes just to keep it smooth & consistent. Sift together 1 1/2 c flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, & 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  In a separate bowl cream together 6 tbs butter & 1c sugar. Once light & fluffy, mix in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, followed by 2 eggs (1 at a time).  1st mix the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture, then slowly add the flour mixture. Finally, mix in an additional 1c chocolate chips: let the dough cool for at least 1 hour before rolling into 1-inch balls. Once all the dough is rolled out, use about 1/2c confectionery sugar to completely cover each piece of dough. Place well spaced on a cookie tray (I usually line with parchment paper) & bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool.... or not....& ENJOY!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The one with Love Letters

  What is it about the written word & Love which are so intertwined. Why are we so compelled by the desires of our heart to compile & express feelings which are honestly unexplainable? I must tell you that I cannot reasonably explain what so inspires the great men & women of ages past & present, but then I guess Love doesn't bend to reason.
For as long as any man has Loved a woman, Love letters have been the secret & extraordinary joy which couples share. Innumerable novels, movies & pieces of art have been focused strictly around these anomalies of human existence.  They captivate our mind, fill our soul with hope, & promise of a happier tomorrow. They are pure & beautiful: best of all, regardless of our publishing the words of great men, they are meant for the eyes of just one person.
What better way to show your Love  than by attentively expressing your appreciation for the person whom you can't get out of your head & heart.
With all my heart, I hope I never see a day where there isn't a place for Love letters in the world.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The one with Moose.....the chocolate kind

 So this is actually about Mousse, the desert, I am just irrevocably amused by homonyms! :)

 This evening, my wonderful boyfriend has offered to cook dinner for me: what a treat! To take some of the stress of decision making off his plate, I offered to make dessert. Since I didn't know what he was making, I decided to go with the indulgent but light classic, chocolate mousse. Amazingly, with how I pride myself as a self-made baker, I have yet to  make Mousse. I did a bit of research via FoodNetwork (my kitchen-inspiring obsession) & based my recipe off of a Bobby Flay recipe. Generally his recipes tend to be too over-thought for me, I fancy myself more akin to Alton Brown's simplicity, but I found this recipe effective & without his normal flare.
I started by melting 1/2 a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips in a mock-double-boiler using two porcelain bowls & some hot water. Once that was smooth I set it aside to cool to room temperature (continuing to stir every few minutes to keep consistent).  In a separate bowl, I began hand whisking (I'm old fashioned & possibly a glutton for punishment given the soreness of my one shoulder now! lol) 3 egg-whites. After about 3 minutes I got this beautiful foamy consistency, but after much more whisking & a few teaspoons of sugar, I got the gorgeous shiny peaks of properly consistent egg whites ready to bring airy life into any meringue,  macaroon, or in this case: mousse. 
 With the eggs & chocolate ready, I placed the entire contents of a small container of heavy cream into a bowl set over another bowl of ice (we'll call this the inverse double-boiler).  It only took about 3-5 minutes of whisking to get soft light peaks from the cream. Mousse you see, is primarily about the balancing of parts. In this recipe, it was three parts (trinities of course representing perfection).
I first folded the melted chocolate into the egg whites, & then folded the cream into that. I got a beautifully consistent & lusciously light chocolate mousse. I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of once it had set & was served. I did pair it with some marinated fruit. I sliced fresh strawberries into a bowl, added fresh blackberries, 1/3 c amaretto, & 1/2 a fresh orange squeezed over. I allowed this to sit & come together overnight. After dinner, which was astoundingly delicious, I spooned several generous ounces of Mousse into a small bowl, & topped it with the berries (I did not use the juice as I thought it would be too thin & compromise the mousse).  As I said, I have no pictures of this, & that's simply because it went too fast for me to get any - while I want to work to perfect this recipe, I can say it was certainly a hit!  

Life is more & more about the simple things, I'm glad to say, Mousse is one of them! :)