Love and Confections: 2011

December 13, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

I love cookies! Who doesn't love cookies? When I heard about the opportunity to join a cookie swap, I was thrilled - especially since it was world-wide.

Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen organized The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011. Over 620 Food Bloggers signed up, and over 22,000 cookies were baked and mailed - the post offices must have smelled delicious!

I bought little holly boxes to pack my cookies in, but didn't want them moving around in the USPS box and breaking. The search continued and I luckily found the cutest snowman boxes that fit perfectly in the shipping box. They were too adorable!

The hardest part of this was deciding on what cookie to bake. It needed to be able to survive mailing - my matches were in Texax, Pennsylvania and Alaska! The cookies needed to arrive fresh and in one piece. A cookie with frosting was out of the question, so I searched through some family recipes and found the perfect one.

Booboop used to make cookies all the time, especially around the holidays. I loved the Split Seconds she used to make for our tea parties. She also made a variety at Christmas, including her Family recipe for Biscotti.

Now, this Biscotti is similar, but not the same to the usual long, hard, crunchy logs you see in coffee shops and cookie cases. It is moist, has a more tender crumb, and doesn't get baked twice.
Shock! I know!
But it turns out delicious, just the same. I tweaked the shape of them - hers were traditionally "S" shaped, and I also added some of my own variations instead of Booboop's usual walnut and anise flavors.

If you would like to participate in next year's cookie swap, you can sign up here to receive notifications.

Biscotti Bites
Original Family Recipe

Biscotti Bites Ingredients:
- 4 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Shortening or Margarine
- 2 Eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup Milk

Biscotti Bites Directions:
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Sift together the Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder and Salt into your mixing bowl
- Cut in shortening with pastry blender, or use paddle for stand mixer, until small pea-size pieces are formed and mixture is somewhat crumbly in texture
- Add any mix-in ingredients
- Add in Eggs
- Add Milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms. Make sure everything is mixed thoroughly
- Use a teaspoon, or teaspoon-size cookie scoop, and place 20 cookies per silpat-lined sheetpan, leaving about an inch between them.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned,

Each recipe makes roughly 60-70 cookies.


Espresso Chocolate Chip Biscotti Bites
- Add 1 tablespoon Espresso Powder into sifted dry ingredients
- Add 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips after Shortening is incorporated

Cinnamon Sugar Pecan Biscotti Bites
- Add 1 teaspoon Cinnamon into sifted dry ingredients
- Add 1 cup chopped Pecans after Shortening is incorporated
- Sprinkle tops of cookies with Cinnamon-Sugar mixture before baking

I want to thank Megan at Stetted for her Muddy Snowdrops and Jess at Pretty Physicist for her Snickerdoodles. They were delicious!

Until next time,
Love & Confections!

October 19, 2011

Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cupcakes


I decided to make these delicious Chocolate Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cupcakes. I love angel food cake. It's so light and airy and pillowy. The crunchy sugar crusted top gives way to a tender cake center. It is perfect by itself - eating a piece of cake straight from your hand is one of the ways we enjoyed it as children - or add fresh whipped cream and berries - Heavenly! Must be why it is called Angel Food Cake.

This recipe adds some chocolate flavor the the already great angel food cake. Some people don't like making angel food cake because it only uses egg whites, and you have a ton of yolks leftover. Don't worry. You'll get a recipe for those leftover yolks later. I like to use fresh egg whites for my angel food cake. The store-bought egg white only cartons are do-able in a pinch, but fresh egg whites are preferable.

This Chocolate Angel Food Cupcake recipe was easy to make and even easier to make them disappear. I hope you enjoy them. I doubled the recipe, but you can easily scale it down to the original measurements.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cake
adapted from The Galley Gourmet

Angel Food Cake Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Cake Flour
- 1/2 cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
- 1 teaspoon Espresso Powder
- 1 & 1/2 cups granulated Sugar, divided
- 12 large Egg Whites, at room temperature
- pinch of Salt
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- Confectioners Sugar for dusting
- Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for garnish

Angel Food Cake Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F, spray the tops of 2 cupcake tins and trays with 16 liners (evenly spaced out because you will have empty spots).
2. Separate Egg Whites and Yolks. Be careful to not get any yolk in the whites, or the whites will not whip properly. The best way is to crack the egg over a separate small bowl and then transfer the white to your mixing bowl and the yolk to another bowl. It creates more dirty dishes, but prevents any yolks from getting into your whites.
3. Sift the Cake Flour, Cocoa Powder, Espresso Powder and 1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons Sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the whip attachment, whip the Egg Whites, Salt, Cream of Tartar and Vanilla on high, until soft peaks form. While the mixer is still on high, gradually add in the remaining Sugar, a little at a time, and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form (2-3 minutes).
5. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites in three additions, making sure not to deflate the egg whites too much.
6. Fill each cupcake liner high with batter - two ice cream scoops full.
7. Dust each cupcake with Confectioners Sugar and sprinkle the tops with a few mini Chocolate Chips.
8. Bake for 20-30 minutes - depending on your oven - until the tops are puffed and dry.
9. Keep the cupcakes in the tin for an hour to cool and ensure they keep their shape. After one hour, gently remove the cupcakes and enjoy! They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days - although I don't think they will last that long, they are too delicious!

Until next time,

October 11, 2011

Split Seconds for a Tea Party

1 comment:

Everyone has childhood memories about special treats or snacks that make us long to be children again. I remember my grandparents picking my sister, KB, and me up from school and our ice cream afternoon snack. My grandmother, nicknamed Booboop, would buy those little, individual ice cream cups and we would put chocolate syrup and sprinkles on top - most likely where my love of sprinkles started.

Sometimes we had a special treat and she would make tea and cookies. My grandmother loved teapots and cups and saucers. She collected many different styles and displayed them in the dining room and kitchen. The three of us loved our tea parties. Booboop let KB and I each choose our teacup for the party. She made it even more special with little touches like putting milk in a special creamer, using pretty scalloped sugar spoons, and buying and arranging sugar cubes on a plate. KB and I were fascinated by sugar cubes - I still am fascinated by them - so perfect and square.

We also had cookies with our tea. Sometimes she would give us cookies from a special tin she ordered, but the best kind were homemade cookies. My grandmother loved to cook and bake. Her love for food, and making people happy with food, was one of the greatest traditions she has given us.

After my grandmother passed away, I was lucky enough to inherit a few teapots. Those afternoon tea parties were a great treat, and the memories of chatting about our day at school are bittersweet. Days like today, when the smell of cookies fill my apartment, make me wish I was 14 again - to have one more tea party with her, and tell her about my day.

Split Seconds
adapted from Ann Pillsbury (yes, that Pillsbury)
- I doubled the recipe, but you could easily halve it if necessary

Split Seconds Ingredients:
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 6 tablespoons Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened
- 1 Egg
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Blueberry Jam, or any other flavor you prefer

Split Seconds Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Sift Flour, Sugar and Salt into a mixing bowl
3. Add Butter, Egg and Vanilla. Stir/combine with a spoon - even though the dough will be hard. You can also combine it with your stand mixer, but do not overmix.
4. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and place the dough on the flour. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts (if you are using the doubled recipe stated above).
5. Shape each part into a roll about 6-8 inches long and place on an ungreased cookie sheet or silicone covered baking sheet. Be sure to place rolls at least 3 inches apart and away from the edges of the baking sheet
6. With your fingers, make a small dent, about 1/4 inch deep, down the center of each dough roll. Fell dents with your Jam or jelly.
7. Bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove from the oven and cut rolls in small pieces while they are still warm.
8. Move pieces to a cooling rack to completely cool before eating.

Until next time,

September 16, 2011

For Grace - September 16, 2011

I have been dreading this post for a while. I was even thinking of not doing anything, but she would tell me, "T.T. Go get it done." I apologize in advance if this post is "all over the place," that's the way my head is right now.

Every year, I hope September 16th will pass me by, that the calendar will forget that day, that I won't remember. But every year it comes, and I wish I could say it has gotten easier, but for me, it hasn't. My heart still hurts.

I was seventeen when my grandmother, Grace, passed away.

She was in and out of the hospital for various reasons. The hospital was about 10 minutes from our house, so we were there often. I remember doing homework in the waiting rooms, having snacks or sometimes dinner from the cafeteria, and I remember her wearing the cutest socks with angels embroidered on them, because her feet were always cold. Every time I look at those socks I think of her. She never got her driver's license and was so proud of me when I got mine. I wish I could have had the chance to drive her around in my first car.

I even took my Junior Prom pictures in the hospital lobby - just so she could see me all dressed up before I went to the dance. She was all smiles and so happy that night, even though she was hooked up to so many machines. She told me I looked beautiful and whispered, "Thank you," to my best friend who was my date. I will never forget that moment.

A single tear rolled down her cheek right before she went to Heaven.

I couldn't stand the silence. It wasn't really silent, because everyone was crying, but there was a deafening silence I had to get away from. I now know it was stupid, but I had to leave the hospital, so I drove to our church. I was numb and needed to go somewhere, anywhere, besides staying at the hospital. My youth group was preparing for their weekly meeting when I showed up. Everyone knew instantly, my best friend hugged me, and then it finally hit me. She was gone. I stayed with them for a few hours while my family took care of things at the hospital, and finally figured where I had run off to. My dad picked me up and we went home - I was in no condition to drive.

This is what I saw when I got home. I don't know who took it - it might have been my mom - but this is a picture of the sunset on the day my grandmother died. We stood in the driveway just staring at it. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time.

I can't tell you the number of tissues I have gone through while attempting to put everything I'm feeling into words. I know she is in a better place, but I wish she was still here, because I'm selfish. I have been selfish every day for the past ten years because I wanted her here. I wanted her here for my high school and college graduations. I wanted her here when I chose to become a pastry chef - I think she would have been proud of my decision. I wanted her here when I got married. She never got to meet my husband - coincidentally, his birthday is the same day as hers - and I think she would have really liked him. There are so many things she has missed, but I know she is still here in spirit and in our hearts.

I don't know if the hurt will ever go away. It isn't always this bad. More-so around her birthday, holidays and every September 16th. Supposedly time heals all wounds. Will it heal a hurting heart?

While helping my mom make some funeral arrangements, I came upon this poem. It has helped, a little, to comfort me throughout the years.

He Only Takes the Best
God saw she was getting tired
and a cure was not to be
So he put His arms around her
and whispered, "Come with Me"
With teared filled eyes we watched her
suffer and fade away
Although we love her deeply
we could not make her stay.
A Golden heart stopped beating
Hard working hands put to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best.
~author unknown
She was my hero. She was my inspiration to become a chef. I wanted to cook and bake like her. She shared her love through food. Over the next few blog posts, I will be doing recipes either from, or inspired by, my grandmother. She knows we love her and miss her so much, and one day we'll see each other again.

Until next time,

August 3, 2011

Watermelon Mango Margarita

1 comment:
Today is National Watermelon Day and what better way to celebrate than with a few watermelon cocktails. These drinks are a great way to cool down in this hot, Summer month. You can easily play with the ingredients to fit your taste.

July 29, 2011

Simple Syrup

1 comment:

A staple in every kitchen should be Simple Syrup, also known as liquid sugar simple syrup or bar syrup. It is made by stirring granulated sugar and water in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves. The liquid is then cooled and can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The ratio of sugar to water is 1:1, and sometimes up to 2:1 - I personally use the 1:1 ratio when I make it.

Simple syrup can be used to sweeten drinks - like sweet tea, juices, and alcoholic beverages -, moisten cakes, candying fruits, and many more culinary applications. Simple syrup can also be flavored with ingredients such as vanilla beans, mint, basil, coffee, etc. The flavor possibilities are endless.

Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup Ingredients:
- 16 ounces Sugar
- 16 ounces Water

Simple Syrup Directions:
1. Combine Sugar and Water in sauce pan. Stir and place over medium heat.
2. Stir occasionally while the sugar dissolves in the water.
3. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat and let it come to room temperature before using
4. If not using immediately, place in airtight container in the refrigerator. Shake before use.

Until next time,

July 28, 2011

Watermelon Scented Water

Watermelon and water combine for a refreshing and delicious way to get your daily water requirement!

Watermelon Scented Water from

June 29, 2011

Chocolate Cupcake Bread Pudding

No comments:

I have not posted in a while, because I have been recovering from my second surgery. The problem with getting surgery on your dominant hand is that it takes a little longer to heal, hence the lack of posts from a lack of baking.

Next week I start a new job at a small French bakery & cafe. I am hoping I will be able to post more with my new and different hours, but we'll see. The production amount will be less than my last baking job at the university cafeteria (1,500-3,000 people per day, which caused me to have the two surgeries in the first place). I think the experience I am going to gain with the new job will be invaluable. It is a new adventure and I am ready.

Sometimes you only want a few cupcakes and the recipe or box mix yields more than you need. This is a great way to use up those extra, unfrosted cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcake Bread Pudding
Love & Confections original recipe

Chocolate Cupcake Bread Pudding Ingredients:
- 8 Chocolate Cupcakes, unfrosted and quartered
- 2 large Eggs
- 1/4 cup granulated Sugar
- 1 cup Milk
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 ounces shaved Chocolate or 2 ounces Mini Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Cupcake Bread Pudding Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray
2. Quarter Chocolate Cupcakes and place baking dish
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a bowl with electric beaters, combine the Eggs and granulated Sugar. Whip until the eggs thicken and have lightened in color - a lemon-y yellow.
4. Add Milk and Vanilla Extract to Egg mixture and combine carefully.
5. Sprinkle Chocolate pieces over the quartered cupcakes.
6. Pour wet mixture over the cut cupcakes, pressing down to ensure they are all covered with the liquid.
7. Let the cupcakes and liquid sit for 15 minutes, so the cupcakes absorb the mixture.
8. Open the oven, pull out the center rack and place the baking dish inside a larger oven-safe baking dish with sides. Fill the larger baking dish with enough water to go half-way up the sides of the smaller bread pudding dish (you are creating a bain-marie or water bath)
9. Carefully slide the oven rack back in the oven, and bake the bread pudding for 45-60 minutes (depending on your oven) or until you press slightly on the mixture and no liquid bubbles up.
10. When the cupcake bread pudding is done, CAREFULLY remove the larger baking dish and set it on the stove or counter and let it cool BEFORE removing the bread pudding baking dish.

* I used a 5 x 7 baking dish for the bread pudding.
* You can serve this warm or room temperature. To re-warm, place in a warm oven for 15 minutes. I recommend serving this with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream. Serves 4. This recipe can easily be doubled to serve more.

Until next time,

May 22, 2011

Spanish Almond Custard Torte


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to a Tapeña® Wine and Tapas Party hosted by Katie from Katie's Cucina. We had all sorts of goodies, including Tapeña® wine. The two wines we tasted were the Garnacha and the Tempranillo. Hopefully I will be able to try the other two Tapeña® wines, Verdejo and Rosé, which were unavailable at our local Total Wine & Beer store.

The tapas that Katie provided were delicious! She had Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Empanadas, Shrimp and Parsley Toasts, Mixed Grilled Vegetables, Barbeque Pork Pinchos and White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cups.

Being a pastry chef, I automatically volunteered to bring dessert. I had so many ideas and the internet is full of recipes, but I wanted something special and different, not just your average flan. I happened upon this Spanish Almond Custard Torte and decided it would be perfect.

I love baked custards more than almost anything. Baked pastry cream is divine! This is a basic pastry cream recipe with almond paste added. Almond paste has such a great, intense flavor - I love using it baked goods.

Spanish Almond Custard Torte
from Lisa & Tony Sierra,

Spanish Almond Custard Torte Ingredients:
- Vegetable Shortening to coat pan
- 2 sheets Puff Pastry (1 package 17 ounce frozen puff pastry)
- 2 cups Milk
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 3 Egg, separated
- 2/3 cup granulated Sugar
- 1/4 cup Corn Starch
- 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 8 ounces Almond Paste

Spanish Almond Custard Torte Directions:
1. Remove Puff Pastry sheets from freezer and allow to thaw 10-15 minutes.
2. Using a paper towel, coat an 8-inch cake pan or springform pan with Vegetable Shortening
3. Line the cake pan with puff pastry, trimming edges to fit pan and pressing pastry where the bottom of the pan meets the sides.
4. Prick the bottom with a fork
5. Preheat oven to 350F
6. Pour all but 1/4 cup Milk into a medium-size, heavy bottom sauce pan and add the Cinnamon Stick. Bring milk just to the boiling point, then remove from heat and set aside to cool down.
7. In a large mixing bowl, beat the Egg Yolks and Sugar until the mixture turns light yellow and has a smooth texture. Add the Flour and Corn Starch to the egg mixture and beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium-high speed. Add the reserved 1/4 cup milk and continue to mix until smooth and creamy
8. Remove cinnamon stick from warm milk. While stirring constantly, pour about 1/3 of the warm milk into the egg mixture. Once the milk is mixed in well, continue to stir while pouring in the rest of the milk.
9. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the Almond Paste and mix well
10. Transfer the mixture into the sauce pan and heat on medium, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil for just 30 seconds. Note: be careful while heating that lumps don't form. If lumps do begin to form in the custard, try using a hand mixer on low to break up the lumps.
11. Remove from the stove and pour into the puff pastry crust.
12. To form the top crust, lay the other puff pastry sheet out on a clean cutting board and cut the sheet into strips and lay across the top.
13. Beat the Egg Whites in a small bowl. Brush beaten egg whites over the top of the crust.
14. Bake in middle rack of oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Refrigerate if the torte will not be eaten within an hour. Note: if using a springform pan, remove the sides and serve. Otherwise, cut and serve the torte from the cake pan

Until next time,

May 18, 2011

Fudge Brownies - the best food for a road trip!


Yay roadtrips! I am even more excited because I will be trekking north to visit my parents. It isn't that much of a road trip - only 8-10 hours - but still, what would that be without some great road food.

My sister and I will hopefully leave early enough so we will be home before dark. Even though my husband and I have our own apartment and my sister has hers, wherever our parents are, is where we call Home. I am also extremely excited to meet the newest addition to our family - an adopted 6 month old little boy Yorkie - Hercules!

My mom used to always have amazing food for us when we took family trips. We would have a cooler packed with drinks and a bag of homemade goodies. Most of the time they were her brownies. She didn't usually make from scratch brownies - but with that one box mix that is our family's go-to, who would?

I decided to try my hand at some homemade brownies. Lucky for me, brownies freeze well, because I made these about a week ago, a few days before my hand surgery. My hand is doing okay. I can't do a lot of things, like grip anything, but I'll get that back.

Baking is on the list of things I will have to work up to, but I am excited to get back to it. Mom even said that while I'm there, we can do some baking - basically I'll direct and she'll do all the work, but it will be baking nonetheless.

These brownies were relatively easy to make - just a few more steps than the normal tear open a box and measure out some liquid. They're thick and rich, chewy and cakey, and extremely chocolate-y all at once. You'll probably want a giant cold glass of milk alongside these dark beauties.

Fudge Brownies
from King Arthur Flour

Brownie Ingredients:
- 2 sticks unsalted Butter
- 15 3/4 ounces granulated Sugar
- 4 large Eggs
- 3 3/4 ounces Dutch-Process Cocoa
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Espresso Powder
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 6 1/4 ounces All-Purpose Flour
- 12 ounces Chocolate Chips

Brownie Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.
2. In a saucepan set over low heat, melt the Butter, then add the Sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat briefly, just until it's hot (about 110F to 120F) but not bubbling. It will become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
3. While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 Eggs into a bowl - or your stand mixing bowl, and beat them with the Cocoa Powder, Salt, Baking Powder, Espresso Powder and Vanilla Extract until smooth.
4. Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
5. Add the Flour and Chocolate Chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: if you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips
6. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased pan
7. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Until next time,

May 8, 2011

Lemon Brown Sugar Meringue Tart for Mother's Day

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Door to door, my Mom lives 615 miles away. I get to visit her a few times a year, and she also gets to come her a few times a year, but it is difficult living that far away. I want to be near her and want her around for certain things. Like this past week while I have been sick - no matter how many times I make it, my chicken soup never tastes as good as hers. I think her secret ingredient is Mom's Love.

Mother's Day is always a difficult holiday when loved ones are not there. My Mom lives in another state. My paternal Grandmother lives a few hours away in another city. My maternal Grandmother is in Heaven. It's even more difficult when there are specific things you miss and can will never be able to have again. I miss my Grandmother's roasted chicken. There was just something about the way she cooked it. We would gather around the table, my Grandfather and I would grab the dark meat while everyone else had white meat, and we would enjoy a great family meal and each others company.

My Mom's favorite dessert is Lemon Meringue Pie. She requests it whenever it's her birthday or for any occasion that needs a special dessert. My Grandmother made the best Lemon Meringue Pie. There was none like it. Lemon Meringue Pie and Eggplant Parmesan are what my Mom misses most from my Grandmother's cooking. I think Grandma had some of that Mother's Love secret ingredient too!

I know it doesn't come close to her Lemon Meringue Pie, but I wanted to make something special for my Mom on Mother's Day - even though I won't get to see her for a couple of weeks - it's the thought that counts. I can't put Mother's Love in it, but I hope Daughter's Love will do.

Next mission - to attempt Grandma's Eggplant Parmesan. Maybe I'll come close enough to Grandma's recipe and be able to make Mom smile.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you and can't wait to see you soon <3
p.s. Mom, this tart was pretty good! :-)

Is there any special dish your Mom makes that you absolutely love? Share it in the comments!

Lemon Brown Sugar Meringue Tart
Lemon Curd -
Brown Sugar Meringue - Me

Tart Crust:
- I used a pre-made pie shell, but you can use whatever recipe you like best.

Tart Crust Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. haw Pie Crust by following directions on package
3. Unroll and gently place over tart pan with removable base
4. Gently push the dough into place, without stretching the dough. (It will shrink during baking if you stretch it)
5. Trim any excess dough and dock pie dough with a fork along the bottom
6. Place a piece of parchment paper on the tart - big enough to fit over the whole tart and sides - and then fill with either pie weights or dry beans (re-usable and used only for baking weights).
7. Bake tart for 20-25 minutes
8. Remove parchment paper with beans and save beans for later use

Lemon Curd Ingredients: (I doubled it to have extra)
- 3 large Eggs
- 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh Lemon Juice - do not use the bottled juice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon finely shredded Lemon Zest - zest lemons before squeezing for juice

Lemon Curd Directions:
1. Turn oven down to 350F
2. In stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisk together Eggs, Sugar and Lemon Juice until blended.
3. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). Approximately 160F if you have a thermometer. This will take about 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.
5. Cut the Butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted.
6. Add the Lemon Zest, stir, and let cool. The Lemon Curd will continue to thicken as it cools
7. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and it can be refrigerated for up to a week.
8. Place Lemon Curd in pie crust and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Do not let it brown - just cook until set, but still wobbly in the center.

Brown Sugar Meringue Ingredients:
- 6 Egg Whites, room temperature
- 2 cups Brown Sugar
- pinch of Salt

Brown Sugar Meringue Directions:
- For those of you familiar with types of meringue, this is a Swiss Meringue recipe, but unlike regular Swiss Meringue, the Brown Sugar automatically dissolves in the Egg Whites, so you just need to warm it like a regular Swiss Meringue - not having to worry if the sugar is dissolved or not.
1. In a bowl of your stand mixer, add the Egg Whites, Brown Sugar and a pinch of Salt
2. Whisk together while it is placed over a pot of simmering water - same pot used to make the Lemon Curd - while being careful the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl!
3. Continue to whisk until the egg and brown sugar mixture are warm. You can use your fingers to tell the temperature, while making sure you don't cook the egg whites too much. It should be warmer than room temperature.
4. Place bowl on stand mixer, attach whip and whip it on high.
5. Place a piece of foil completely around the bowl and your mixer. The warmer the egg whites are, the better they whip. The foil keeps them warm.
6. Remove the foil after the whites are whipped perfectly.
7. Spoon or pipe meringue onto Lemon Curd Tart carefully, making sure to cover the entire surface of the curd. Using a palette knife or spatula, create whatever design you prefer for the top of the meringue tart
8. You can either use a torch - like I did - or place it in the oven for a few minutes, to brown the meringue

Until next time,

April 29, 2011

Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (FHC)


A while ago, I bought a few boxes of plain instant oatmeal. When I say, "a few" I mean 4 boxes at bogo. They were on sale, and I thought I would go through them rather quickly. I was wrong. I can only eat oatmeal so much. Don't get me wrong, I do like it, but even if I add brown sugar or cinnamon, I can't eat it every morning - especially since I don't eat breakfast on a regular basis. I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I choose sleeping in until 5:45am, then leave for work 15 minutes later, over waking up early to eat breakfast - most days. So I have a lot of instant oatmeal packets on my hands.

What else could I do with instant oatmeal? Light bulb... Instant oatmeal cookies! There had to be a recipe for instant oatmeal cookies, and so the search began. The internet is wonderful, isn't it? I found a few recipes and narrowed it down to this one. Instead of raisins, I added chocolate chips. Chocolate makes everything better.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies made with Instant Oatmeal
adapted from recipe

- 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 6 packs of Instant Oatmeal
- 1/2 cup Butter
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 tablespoon Milk
- 1 cup Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray, or use silicone non-stick baking mat.
3. Combine the Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Instant Oatmeal in a bowl. The oatmeal can be any flavor you want, or mixture of flavors. I used plain because I added chocolate chips.
4. Melt the Butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
5. Pour the melted butter into a bowl and crack the Egg into it. Whisk the butter and egg together.
6. Add the Granulated Sugar, Brown Sugar, Vanilla Extract and Milk into the melted butter. Mix together.
7. Add the Chocolate Chips to the mixture.
8. Gradually add the Flour-Oatmeal mixture to the sugar mixture. Add more oats or flour to the cookie dough if necessary to thicken it up.
9. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. I used an ice cream scoop, so they were all the same size - my scoop is a bit large, so that is why they are giant cookies.
10. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on the pan before removing to a cooling rack.

Until next time,

April 25, 2011

Zucchini Bread (FHC)

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After a couple weeks of perusing one of the local farmer's market, I decided to buy some zucchini. The Hubby loves all types of vegetables, especially zucchini and we don't normally use it. Although, I do make a good veggie casserole with chicken, carrots, zucchini, pasta and cheese. But back to baking...

What better way to use zucchini than making zucchini bread? I have to admit that I don't particularly like zucchini, and was leery of making zucchini bread, since I have never had it. My mom has made zucchini bread more times than I can count, so I figured I'd give it a try, hoping it didn't taste too much like to the vegetable I didn't care for.

I was pleasantly surprised. No, even better; I was amazed. It was delicious! The bread tasted spectacular. I honestly do not know why I haven't tried it until now. It has a hint of zucchini, but the sweetness and the texture of the bread balance it. Want to know the best part? It's good for you - well, for the most part, minus the sugar, etc. You're eating a vegetable!

This bread has the perfect texture, the right amount of sweetness, and is absolutely lovely with all the little green specks throughout. You need to grate and drain the zucchini. Too much water will affect the recipe. I used cheese cloth to squeeze the excess liquid from the vegetables, and I found this method worked best. Happy baking!

Zucchini Bread
a Love & Confections family recipe
yield: 2 loaf pans

Zucchini Bread Ingredients:
- 4 Eggs
- 1 cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 cups Sugar
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 2 cups Zucchini, grated & drained - about 3 medium zucchinis
- 1 cup Nuts (optional)
- 1 cup Raisins (optional)

Zucchini Bread Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Grease and flour loaf pans
3. Beat Eggs well
4. Add Oil and Sugar to Eggs and beat well
5. Add Flour, Salt, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract, and Baking Powder. Mix to combine.
6. Add Zucchini, Nuts (optional) and Raisins (optional). Mix to combine.
7 Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when testing.

Until next time,


April 14, 2011

Food Blog Forum Orlando 2011

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"Sometimes the biggest disaster of your life is actually a moment of even bigger Grace." - The Daily Love

Of all the things I learned this past weekend, at the Food Blog Forum Orlando, the thing I will always remember is Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen and her spirit of generosity. She said that is one of the most important things we can ever do, and she lived it. Because of her spirit of generosity, I was able to attend an amazing event, when I didn't think I was able to.

In order to explain the quote above, one of my new favorites, you need to understand that my use of the word disaster is not just a hurricane or an earthquake or terrorism - and please don't judge me that I think little of natural disasters, am egocentric, etc., which is not the case. I am talking about my own personal disaster - one that not many people will think is that bad, but we each have our own personal disasters, so again, do not judge. My personal disaster was, and still is, my surgery. I have one Carpal Tunnel surgery done and one still left to do. It has been a burden physically, financially, and emotionally, and one that almost didn't let me go to the Food Blog Forum.

I am still new in the food blog scene. I met some extraordinary people that share my same passion for food and photography. We had different panels throughout the day and the information was priceless. Lindsay Landis of Love & Olive Oil and Purr Design shared information on Blog Design, Optimization and Usability. Dawn Viola of Wicked Good Dinner gave a presentation called, "Just Ask: How to Write for the Big Boys" and helped to organize this entire amazing event. Julie of The Little Kitchen is the other person responsible for making the Food Blog Forum happen.

Two of my favorite presentations during the day were from Helene Dujardin of Tartelette. She presented on, "Find Your Composition and Styling Voice" and "Find Your Light," two invaluable sessions for any food photographer. I am so glad she shared her expertise with the group and am extremely honored to have met her. She is an inspiration, and as my husband and I lovingly joke, my "food blog idol." I aspire to become as good at photography as Helene, who is impressively self-taught. Watching her styling and listening to her about composition and lighting and cameras gave me a new optimism in food photography, and taught me to take a step back and really think about the food and the light. She doesn't have the, "I'll fix it in Photoshop," mentality, which I think is great. Do the shot and do not rely on fixing it up later.

The last presentation of the day was from Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, "Beyond the Banner: Building a Blog Business." Alliteration, lol, but in all seriousness, it was very informative and opened my eyes to how a blog can really be a business. I am also honored to have met Jaden. Her spirit of generosity was visible to everyone in the room. We have food blogs to share - share our recipes, share our experiences, share our photos, and share ourselves. Out of my disaster I was Graced with this great opportunity, and I won't let it go to waste.

Thank you to all the organizers, presenters and my new food blog friends: Katie's Cucina, Cakeb0t, Food + Words, Cook the Story, and Inn the Kitchen just to name a few. ;)

*I didn't take too many pictures, and the ones I did were not that great. Too busy listening to presenters and meeting new people.

Until next time,

April 11, 2011

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake (FHC)


To say "it has been too long" is an understatement. Work had gotten the best of me, so much so that I had to have surgery to prevent further injury to my hands.

Like any procedure, there are worries and concerns before surgery, but the worst part came after the fact. My scar healed in the normal amount of time and the doctors said my hand looked good, but I had no strength. It wasn't until I visited a physical therapist, 2 weeks after the surgery, that I was told my strength would not return for a minimum of 6-12 weeks. 3 months?! was all I heard. 3 months until I can function normally. 3 months until I can bake without pain.

I use my hands every day. As a baker, my hands are the best tools I have, and to not have use of them has thrown me for a loop. I am a month into my recovery, doing physical therapy exercises, and icing my hand daily, but I have a long way to go.

Today was the first day, in over a month, that I baked. What an accomplishment! It felt good - even though it hurt - it felt good. To be cliche, that whole saying, "you never know what you have until it's gone," is true. I do still have a long way to go, and I still need to have the surgery on the other hand. I am taking things slow, because I know my health is the most important thing, but I have missed baking.

I am going to work at it, like all things in life, and just take it one day at a time. I can see the improvements. I went from needing help for everything - getting dressed, food, etc., to being able to bake for the first time in a month.

I wanted to bake something delicious and comforting; something that would make me feel good and warm and home. A coffee cake sounded just right for the part, and I could cross off another Food Holiday Challenge. You are supposed to wait until the cake is cool to taste it, but I couldn't wait to have a bite. It was heavenly - I'm not sure if it was just the cake, or that it was my first post-op creation. Either way, it was good. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov. '93 via

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake Ingredients:
Swirl Mix:
- 1 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
- 1 cup chopped Pecans
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon

- 1 & 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 & 1/2 cups Sugar
- 3 large Eggs
- 1 cup Vanilla Yogurt
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Grease a 10-inch tube pan, dust with flour, and tap out the rest.
3. Mix the swirl ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Sift Flour, Baking Powder and Baking Soda in a bowl and set aside

5. Using an electric mixer, beat Butter and Sugar in a large bowl, until fluffy
6. Add Eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition.
7. Mix in the Yogurt and Vanilla.
8. Add Flour mixture and stir until blended.
9. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan.
10. Sprinkle 2/3 of the Swirl Mixture over the batter and swirl gently into it, using a small knife.
11. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan.
12. Sprinkle the remaining Swirl Mixture on top

13. Bake cake 50-60 minutes, or until tester inserted near center comes out clean.
14. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then cut around pan sides to loosen cake.
15. Turn out cake onto rack and cool completely

This cake can be prepared 1 day ahead and wrapped and stored at room temperature.

Until next time,