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When I travelled to New Zealand in August of 2006, I came across the amazing dessert Pavlova. It was everywhere I went. Curiously, it is New Zealand’s national dessert, and can be found at all manner of cultural events, in bakeries, and in many homes. And it’s no wonder why; it’s a very light, slightly sweet dessert that takes full advantage of seasonal fruits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year on my birthday, I make a Pavlova as my “birthday cake”. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much time. The flavours remind me of every amazing experience I had in New Zealand: the bungee jumps, the skydiving, the beaches, the glaciers, and especially, my first foray into kayaking.

To this day, my trip to New Zealand is consistently my favourite experience. It was a great country to visit, I met so many fascinating and fun people, and had the best time of my life. I miss it everyday, and find myself fantasising about the countryside constantly. So it’s no wonder that I try my best to remember all these good times through my sense of taste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basic recipe is a meringue base, with whipped cream and fruit on top. I’ve altered the whipped cream to make a White Chocolate Orange Chantilly Cream, using orange flavoured white chocolate. The best (and most affordable) orange flavoured white chocolate is only available around Christmas time. It is Terry’s White Chocolate Orange.

Pavlova

4 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sliced strawberries

2 kiwis

2 passion fruits

1 cup whipped cream

6 oz orange flavoured white chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites and beat until stiff. Whisk together the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Add the mixture to the egg whites a tablesppon at a time, while beating on medium speed, until all is combined. The meringue should be shiny, white, and stiff. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the oven to 200 F, and mound the meringue on the pan so it is between 6-8″ in diameter. Bake for one hour. Turn off the oven, and leave the meringue to cool overnight.

Whip the cream until soft peaks. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, and pour into the whipped cream while beating on medium speed. Add the whipped cream on top of the meringue, then arrange the fruit (either artistically, or haphazardly, as I have done).

Now on to the photography:

I had some considerable difficulty with lighting. It was a cloudy day (on my birthday!), so I couldn’t get the best shots. I don’t know what the little blue flowers are, but I enjoy the contrast they bring. Any thoughts or suggestions?! I welcome your feedback! =)

I woke up to a windy, cold, rainy, and otherwise nasty weekend. The only motivation for me to get out of bed was to bake something warm, full of fruit, and, for a change, with minimal sugar. Blueberry and peach galettes with a multi-grain pate brisee was perfect!

 

Multi-grain Pate Brisee

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oats
2 tsp sugar (only 2!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk

Combine all ingredients except the oats and milk in a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add milk, just until the mixture comes together. On a clean surface, spread out the oats. Quickly and gently knead the oats into the tart dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Blueberry filling
1 1/4 cup blueberries (I used frozen, because it’s winter here)
1 tbsp corn starch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

Peach filling
1 1/4 cup peaches, chopped (again, I used frozen fruit)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Split the tart dough in half, and roll each into a circle, roughly 1/4″ thick. Place fruit mixture into the center of the dough (you can mix the fruits, if you want!) and fold up the tart dough. It will not cover the fruit, but will have many folds.
Brush with an egg wash (one egg plus one yolk with a pinch of salt), dust with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 350 F until golden and crisp. Eat warm, or wrap in plastic wrap and save for later. The galettes will be good for 2-3 days only.

I’m pretty happy with these photos! I think they are my best food photography yet. Any thoughts or comments? Anything I should change? Is it obvious that I boosted the saturation and contrast a bit? Probably… but I think it looks tasty! Anything to make (frozen) peaches brighter and juicier can’t be bad, right? =)

Natural lighting ROCKS! Except for some of the shadows caused by the huge freakin’ pine tree in front of my window… it might become a problem when it fills out and blocks all the sunlight!

Salt Lake City is slowly making it’s climb out of the deadly grip of winter. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of winter; the poor air quality, the freezing cold, the harsh driving conditions, and the grey sky all conspire to make me feel depressed and down. Lately, the Salt Lake valley has made the gradual change to warmer weather, and slowly, ever so slowly, buds are forming on the bare trees, with promises of warm weather and a nice, pleasant summer. To celebrate this semi-frozen awakening in nature, I thought I’d make some semifreddo, which literally means “semi-frozen.” Totally appropriate!!

Unfortunately, the weather is terribly unpredictable, and I couldn’t get any proper light in my living room, so these are the best photos I could manage. I will make this dessert again, and will have better photos next time. Until then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made the semifreddos in a 3-inch ring mold, layering different flavours to give the dessert a different effect, and to make them look a bit fancier. Because I wanted them to have some stability, it seemed easiest to put the creamy mixture on top of something, so I made some pate sucree, and cut the dough into 3-inch round discs. As a result, there are quite a few recipes, steps, and processes for this dessert, but they are all listed below!

Pate Sucree

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

Place all ingredients (except egg) in a food processor. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Add egg and process just until the dough comes together. Be careful not to process more. Gather the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll into a thin disk, about 1/4″ thick, then cut about six 3-inch circles. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and baking in a pre-heated oven (350 F) for approximately 10 minutes. Do not let the dough turn golden, or it will be too hard. Let cool completely, then place inside 3-inch round ring molds.

Chocolate Hazelnut semifreddo

1/4 tsp gelatin

3 tbsp water

3/4 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup Nutella or chocolate hazelnut spread (or ganache, if you have it).

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tbsp water. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir together honey, sugar, salt, and remaining water in saucepan, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil without stirring until 238 F. Meanwhile, beat the yolks until they are thick and pale, about the entire time it takes for the sugar mixture to reach 238 F. Reduce the speed to medium, and SLOWLY pour in the hot sugar mixture. Add the gelatin to the hot pan so it warms, then beat it into the yolk mixture. Fold in the whipped cream, and split the mixture in half. Melt about 1 tbsp of the chocolate hazelnut spread until it is pourable (but not hot), and gently fold into one of the egg/cream mixtures until combined thoroughly. Let chill.

With remaining chocolate hazelnut spread, cover three of the pate sucree discs with a thick layer, using more if necessary. Add the chocolate semifreddo mixture on top, about halfway up the ring mold. Top with the plain semifreddo mixture, and smooth until flat. Add a small dollop of chocolate hazelnut spread, or some sifted cocoa powder for a garnish. Freeze for at least two hours.

Blueberry lemon semifreddo

Use the same semifreddo directions as above. Instead of separating the egg/cream mixture in half, leave the mixture together, and gently fold in the lemon curd (recipe below), but don’t combine completely. Leave some streaks of lemon.

For the blueberry layer, process 1/2 cups blueberries with 1 tbsp sugar. Soften 1 tsp gelatin with 1 tbsp water. When the gelatin is thick, gently warm the gelatin in the microwave, then add to the blueberry mixture. Fill each pate sucree-lined ring mold halfway with lemon curd semifreddo mixture, then add the blueberry layer, then top with the remaining semifreddo mixture, and top with whole blueberries as a garnish. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.

Lemon Curd

6 tbsp butter

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2/3 cup lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer, then add the lemon juice and eggs. mix as well as you can. Put in a saucepan and cook until the temperature reaches 170 F. Remove from heat and add the lemon zest. Chill the entire pan in an ice bath, and then strain (though this wasn’t necessary when I made it). Refrigerate for at least a day, with plastic wrap resting ON TOP of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming.

A little while ago I made some chocolate cookies. I had some left over dough that I had to do something with! So I baked that dough up, crushed up the cookies, and made some verrines out of them.


A verrine is the actual name of a glass container, but has become the name of a diverse selection of multi-layered desserts of various textures and flavours in a glass. In this instance, I used some chocolate ganache, strawberry compote, chocolate mouse, and chocolate cookie crumbs to put together a delightfully rich dessert! The whole thing was very easy to construct, especially when you have a bunch of “spare parts” from other baking projects.

The cookie recipe can be found here.

The ganache recipe is here (just omit the kahlua and espresso powder/coffee grinds).

The chocolate mousse is very easy to make. Just take a cup or so of cream, and whip it to soft peaks. Melt about 1/4 cup chopped chocolate in a microwave, and slowly pour into the whipped cream, as it whips to stiff peaks.

The strawberry compote is VERY easy. Takeabout 1 1/2 cups whole fresh (or frozen) strawberries. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the berries, adding 2-3 tbsp of sugar (optional). When the fruit softens, mash it as you would mashed potatoes. Let the mixture cool.

Combine all of the ingredients in whatever order you please! I did some cookie crumbles, some ganache, some chocolate mousse, some strawberry compote, and then repeated the process.

Tulie Bakery is the new kid in town. I couldn’t find a website, but the address is 863 East, 700 South in good ol’ SLC. This is one of the finest bakeries I’ve been to in this city, so I hope they weather the economic situation and emerge victorious. They are deserving for the quality of their product. I’ve been a handful of times, but here are some of the highlights:

$3.00, 12 oz

$3.00, 12 oz

Some of their items are a bit pricey, but for the quality and the size, it is well worth it. Tulie Bakery uses local and natural cream and eggs, the best chocolates, and pure vanilla. They also try to use as much organic produce as possible (though in the winter, I’m sure this gets difficult). The selection varies from day to day, and the frangipane croissant is probably the hardest thing to find, but when it is available, it is like gold… SO GOOD!

The setup of the bakery is unique, but probably challenging for traditional American customers. The sitting area only has two long tables, which means customers have to sit elbow-to-elbow, which can be uncomfortable for some, since most people don’t like sitting next to someone they don’t know. The setup is definitely European in nature, so I think this adds to the bakery’s overall charm.

So far, my experiences with Tulie Bakery have been very positive, and I plan on frequenting it as much as possible! You should do the same!

I’m easily annoyed when things aren’t spelled properly. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea how to spell macarons/macaroons. When I see the word “macaroons” I immediately think of the somewhat dense and overly sweet coconut cookies that are often half-dipped in chocolate. That’s not what this post is about…

After reading a number of blogs that talk about les macarons, and learning about Laduree while reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (my new favourite book!), I just had to try out a recipe for macarons…

Every blog/website/etc I looked at espoused a variety of techniques, tricks, and claimed the macaron to be the most difficult of all things to bake!

I felt challenged. Seriously. My bakery masculinity was put into question. Turns out, macarons are no serious threat. Check ’em out:

YUM! This has to be my favouritest photo ever. I just really like it!

The macarons (from left to right) are:

Rasbperry, with ganache and raspberry filling, and

Chocolate, with ganache and caramel filling.

 The recipe I used was:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup ground almonds

3 tbsp cocoa powder (or 3 additional tbsp of ground almonds, if you’re not making the chocolate macarons)

2 egg whites

5 tbsp granulated sugar

Blend the cocoa, powdered sugar, and ground almonds together so they are very fine. Beat the eggs whites to medium stiff consistency, then slowly add the granulated sugar, while beating, until stiff consistency. VERY CAREFULLY fold in the cocoa mixture, being careful not to overfold. Scoop the entire mixture into a piping bag with a #12 tip. Spray two baking sheets with water, then line with parchment paper. Carefully trace 1.5″ diameter circles all over the paper, and pipe the mixture until it fills each circle. Bake at 375 F for 15-18 minutes, then let them cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

Sandwich the cookies with jam, caramel, or ganache, and let them sit for a day (covered), if at all possible. The flavours really mature after a day, and the texture is much better if they sit and rest!

Trust me, they were very, very good. And for the lucky few who got to taste them, well they keep telling me they want more! I’m hoping to create some new flavours in the future; cardamom vanilla, basil lemon, orange, pistachio, green tea, etc…. help me out by giving me some flavour ideas!

Here’s a completely random post of real, healthy food. I know, this is a bakery blog (specifically, my bakery), but… this food was phenomenal, so, it deserves some mention. This fine lunch we had at the Asheville Bier Garden. Heaps of beers on tap (and bottled), and some seriously good food!

Here’s a Chicken and Apple Sausage sandwich. Tasty. The sweet potato fries were interesting. They were generously sprinkled with cinnamon, and sugar. This didn’t quite work for me, because when I want fries, I want SALT! Not sugar…. but, whatever. It was an experience.

And here is the best Caesar Salad I’ve ever had. Why? Because it was coated in a lemon/oil mixture, and then GRILLED. Seriously. YUM. All things taste better when licked by flames. It’s true. Look it up. There was the perfect amount of creamy Caesar dressing, some grated parmesan, and, the best part: roasted cashews. MY GOD! What a great, creamy, lemony, grilled combo. I loved it. And surprisingly, it’s something easy to make at home. I’m sure you can all figure it out. Or just experiment and see what you get! But it will never be as good as this:

 

The buttery foccacia bread was coated in crushed pecans and herbs, then baked. Really good.

Patsy’s Bakery and Deli has apparently been around for YEARS. Long time. Seriously. Supposedly, both Patsy and her sister have been rockin’ the joint for a long time. So long that a friend of mine (who is SOOOOO OLD she’s thirty), apparently went to high school with Patsy’s sister. Or so the rumour goes.

After an “intense” workout (ha!) in the Church Hill, TN community gym, it was time for some sweets at Patsy’s. Bought me some doughnut holes, and a slice of good ol’ Southern Red Velvet Cake.

BEST. DOUGHNUT. HOLES. EVER. Seriously. Look at all that sugary-goodness dripping off. The golden sheen from the frying. Oh man. And best of all?! Totally dirt cheap. Seriously, I think it was like $2 for a dozen. YUM!

This is the red velvet cake from Patsy’s. Umm… I know the photo is bad, but really, I did all I could to make this look good. It was covered in a thick layer of plastic wrap, which messed up the frosting something fierce. A lot of frosting ended up on the plastic, and that’s a good thing! It was not good frosting. I don’t even know what it was. It wasn’t cream cheese, it wasn’t butter roux, it wasn’t buttercream… it wasn’t even Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. It was this sloppy, sugary, oily…. thing. And the cake? Well… it was red. So, they got that part right. I think they may have forgotten the cocoa. At least the cake was moist, but that’s what happens when you encase something in a sarcophagus of plastic wrap.

If, for whatever arbitrary reason, you find yourself in Church Hill, TN, you should hit up Patsy’s Bakery, but only for their doughnut holes. Maybe some of the other stuff in the case… maybe….

Contact Patsy’s Bakery and Deli at 423-357-8119.

My final post on Knoxville-based bakeries and cupcake shops is because of The Cupcakery.

The Cupcakery is great in many ways. First, the cupcakes are slightly larger than normal. That’s pretty awesome. For real. =)

Also, the flavours are JAM-PACKED! Not necessarily packed with jam, I’m just saying they are very flavourful. For instance, get a gander at these beauties:

Your eyes are now feasting on the mocha cupcake, and the peanut butter cupcake. Clearly, my photograph only gives you the great look of these cupcakes, not the flavour. Both cupcakes were made with a dense, rich, moist, and beautiful chocolate cake. The mocha was topped with (duh), coffee flavoured buttercream that was silky, bright, and had a very fresh and clean coffee taste. And the coffee bean added just a bit of crunch (I could have gone for more coffee beans, but one will do!). The peanut butter buttercream was rich and decadent, slightly gooey in that perfect peanut buttery way, and again, the chocolate chunk on top added for a bit of texture change.

Man… these are some phenomenal cupcakes. Go get some. NOW! Well, ok, get to Knoxville first, if you’re not already there….

Continuing in the vein of Knoxville, TN-based bakeries, I proudly present Magpies:

I visited Magpies when I was in Knoxville of the holiday break. It was an easy-to-find location, and apparently is a new location for the bakery that has been around for a number of years. I actually expected to see more than cupcakes on display. I’d heard of Magpies before, but thought it was more of a traditional bakery. When I arrived expecting some great pastry action for breakfast, I’ll admit that I was mildly disappointed. Cupcakes are great, but not exactly what I want for breakfast (I know some people’s opinions differ on the matter, but… my blog).

After chatting with the owner about the bakery, the new location, and her love of Salt Lake City (WHOO!), she hooked me up with some free carrot cupcakes! YES! Sometimes I really love a good carrot cake. And magpies is goooooooooood! =) See for yourself:

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

I would like to point out the nearly flawless cream cheese frosting, which completely covers the cupcake. I’m a big fan of that. And the walnut pieces just hanging in the balance really finishes off the whole effect. And the cupcake was dense, the cream cheese frosting lightly tangy…. yum!

I bought a sampler package; an assortment of mini-cupcakes. The total cost was around $10, which isn’t too bad, but isn’t too great, either. What can I say? I’m cheap…

From top left to right, going down:

Vanilla – pretty classic, and pretty good.

Mango – not for me. Too weird and fake tasting. But, I don’t really like mango anyways.

Chocolate – tasty. Rich. Good times! But, nothing spectacularly out of this world, either.

Strawberry – very sweet. Definitely not “real”. Again, not for me, even though I like strawberries.

Mocha – the same chocolate cake as before, but with EXCELLENT coffee flavoured buttercream. Unfortunately, the “coffee bean” on top was not a coffee bean at all, more of a chocolate nib. A bit disappointing, really!

Red velvet – beautiful, but mine are better!

So, Magpies is pretty great, I’m not gonna lie. Some flavours weren’t for me, and that’s just the simple fact of that. Some people wouldn’t dig the mocha, or the red velvet (though I don’t know why).

Still, have a look at their website, and if you’re ever in Knoxville, get up there! Maybe you’ll even get a few freebies like me!