Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Starbucks Salted Caramel Signature Hot Chocolate

The Starbucks website describes this drink as...This delicious sweet and salty combination brings together our rich, indulgent Signature Hot Chocolate and the flavors of buttery caramel and smoked sea salt. It is topped with whipped cream, a swirl of caramel and a sprinkle of our sea salt topping - a combination of artisan sea salt and Turbinado sugar from Hawaii.

I describe it as...amazing.  You must enjoy the whipped cream drizzled with caramel and sea salt first.  The salt and sugar topping is crunchy and powerful.  I was really only looking forward to the topping and I thought the "body" of the drink would be just like their regular hot chocolate with some caramel syrup in it.  Boy was I wrong.  The drink itself is a new blend of cocoas with a more sophisticated, European flavor.  The chocolate has a deeper, darker flavor and it isn't overly sweet.  I don't know what kind of caramel they put in it but it is heavenly.  The caramel flavoring is intense, buttery, and oh so tasty.

I highly recommend this drink.  I am craving one right now!  I was getting to the point of boredom with Starbucks, but they have redeemed their name!  THANK YOU STARBUCKS!  I LOVE YOU!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iron Chef, Phase 2. Battle CHEESE

A co-worker and her husband wanted to throw an Iron Chef party and they thought of me as one of the chefs!  This event was very organized and a lot of fun.  

Here's how it went down...

There was a list of 5 ingredients (potato, prepared dough, cheese, bacon, and rice)  The day before the event we drew an ingredient (cheese!) and called the other two chefs.  We had all day Saturday to shop and plan.  We were to start cooking at 5:30.

My friend's kitchen is huge!  So it was no problem having 3 teams working away in there.  We had an hour and a half which was too much time for me but not enough for one of the other teams!

We had to plate one version of each of our 3 dishes.  Each guest had a score sheet.  Every dish was scored from 1-5 on taste, presentation, and originality.  The host then took all the score cards and entered them into an excel spreadsheet.  The winner was then announced...and then we ate more!

It was a great evening.  I hope you will enjoy the pictures!

The Winning Team

Horseradish Cheeseburger Panini on Asiago Cheese Bread with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

Ricotta Blueberry Waffles with Cream Cheese Topping

Team Two

Baked Havarti Cheese

Ronnie's Famous Hamburgers

Sausage Cheese Balls

My Team!

Baked Brie with Caramel and Pecans

Baked Mac & Cheese

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle
(I will post the recipe someday!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What have I been up to?

I had a ton of pictures on my camera to blog about.  So here are a bunch of the misc. photos I had.  I have this problem, a lot of times I will take pictures while I bake but I will forget to take a picture of the finished product.  So, yeah...

This is a birthday cake I made for my boss who resigned 2 weeks later.  I didn't think it was THAT bad!  He he.  I made a flag to put in the hole.  I just never took a picture with it on!  The sand pit is crushed graham crackers.

Photos of "in the works" but no final photo!
Exhibit A - Baklava
Exhibit B - Caramel for Salted Caramel and Milk Chocolate Tarts (or whatever they are called)

Exhibit C - my "cake" plate!  (again, pre-fired.  I don't have a picture of the final product)
Exhibit D - I don't even remember what these two photos were from.  But this is adding vanilla to cream.  It just looked really cool.  The following is a double yolk!  I get really excited.  (the cup had some cream in it.  That's why it looks strange.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Iron Chef - Phase 1

A few months ago my family did an Iron Chef competition for dinner.   
We had two teams, the boys team and the girls team.  We all voted for a few different "secret ingredients" and then we drew one from a hat.  We all had 1/2 hour to come up with our recipe.  The ingredient was CITRUS! Then we all jumped in the car and went to the store.  We had a $40 limit.  We were to do one main dish and one side dish.

The girls did orange chicken over rice with ambrosia salad as a side.
The boys did citrus and rosemary pork chops with a vegetable side.
We all voted on presentation and taste.
The girls won because our dish was unmistakably citrus.  Although the boys dish was tastier!  

(that's me on the right)

So Iron Chef #1 was a success!!!

Daring Bakers August - Better Late Than Never!

So yeah, I'm not really good at deadlines.  I had these done mid August, I just never posted.  These were my tropical storm Faye project.  Ok, I won't post the recipe because everyone else has.  I will just post my results.


Ok, so you are probably looking for a little more info than yummmm.  
I had never made pate choux before.  I had no problems making it.  It was actually fun!  I piped the dough and put both sheets in the oven and rotated half way through.  Well, one sheet had perfectly puffed eclairs and the other sheet had half puffed and half FLAT!  It was strange.  But, they did not go to waste.  I was able to "inflate" them with the cream.

I made the chocolate pastry cream just like the recipe had it.  I thought it sounded great, so no need to make any changes.  

I had no problems making the cream.  The recipe said to cut the eclairs open and pipe in the cream.  Where's the fun in that?  I stuck a tip on my pastry bag and shoved it in an end of the eclair and filled that baby up!  Way more fun!

Then came the glaze.  I was confused about the glaze.  Make a sauce, then add x, y, z, and dip in the eclairs.  Ummmm yeah, I made a simple ganache and drizzled it on the eclairs.  Simple, delish.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First Cheesecake

I know, i haven't "blogged" in quite some time!  Not for lack of subject matter, just lack of time.  I never stop baking.  Just ask my family, friends, and co-workers who curse me when I "force" them to eat my treats!

A few MONTHS ago I made my first cheesecake.  It was a co-worker's birthday and he said that cheesecake was his favorite...so...I made a Turtle Cheesecake!

It had a chocolate crust, topped witha layer of melted caramels and pecans and then chocolate cheesecake.  It didn't even crack!  I didn't think it was done because it just wouldn't set up in the oven.  I left it in for like 20 minutes extra!

After it was cooled I added the chocolate ganache and pecans.  It was quite tasty.  The caramel layer was so good because it became a little chewy.  It's a keeper!

The Recipe was found here!

Turtle Cheesecake

24-26 Oreo (or store brand) cookies, crushed
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter

30 vanilla caramels
1/4 - 1/3 c. whipping cream


2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese
2 (8 oz) pkgs neufchatel cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c. whipping cream
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted

1/3 - 1/2 c. whipping cream
8 oz chopped chocolate

chopped pecans
caramel sauce (ice cream topping)
whipped cream

Stir together crust ingredients. Press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool.

Heat caramels and whipping cream until caramels are melted and smooth. Pour into cooled crust, making sure you don’t spread it completely to the edge of the pan. Leave 1/4-inch band around the edge. Sprinkle liberally with pecans.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cheeses until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides often; don’t leave any lumps. Add the sugar and beat again. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition, scraping the sides and being certain to incorporate any lumps from the bottom of the bowl. Add the whipping cream and melted chocolate and beat until smooth and evenly colored. Pour on top of pecans.

Bake at 325 F for 50 min with a pan of water on the rack below in the oven. Cool completely.

In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream until it simmers. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until completely melted. Spread over cheesecake.

Garnish with chopped pecans, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. Refrigerate overnight or until serving.