Wednesday, October 22

My Baker's Box: A Monthly Subscription Service

When I found this subscription for bakers, I emailed all my pastry friends with the news. I already have one for beauty products that I adore, but now there's another that encourages me to make desserts.

Created by three ladies with a passion for baking, each month My Bakers Box subscribers receives a parcel of unique baking supplies, recipes and instructions.

Originally I planned on creating a video blog about my experience. I unfortunately was hit with a bad seasonal cold and sound a bit congested. I did not want to hold up the creation of this video since Halloween is around the corner. I apologize if I sound congested ... well .... I was congested.




My first impression of October's Baker Box was fair. Not necessary for the beginner (the person who just discovered their kitchen), but you don't need a culinary degree to use the items. If you are the occasional baker you will be enthralled with the monthly theme. The constant baker you hit the 50% sales after each holiday and should have an inventorial of cupcake wrappers and the like.

I think the turnout was especially cute especially the cake pops. My favorites were the Gingerdead Men. You can use your cake and cookie recipes or go to MBB's blog for how-tos and recipes.

Wednesday, October 8

A Caramel Apple A Day

With the change of leaves and drop in temperature, it's time to celebrate autumn. This is not my favorite time of the year because winter will soon be here (I hate mid-Atlantic winters), the days are shorter, and finally, all I want to do is eat and nap.

This year will be different. I'm going celebrate the season and everything I make will be shared with family, friends, and co-workers.

This week I want to focus on Candy Apples. As a child my mother preferred the red toffee apples so that is all I have ate. I was not a fan. It was cloyingly sweet. Years later I tried caramel apples.

Big difference to say the least...






This year I wanted to make my own.

Many recipe suggested remove the preservative wax before dipping. Washing your fruit with warm water and white vinegar will suffice. After a few trials and errors I discovered Taste of Home's Carnival Caramel Apple Recipe worked the best.

I do have several suggestions:

The recipe said 10-12 servings. I had perhaps 10 maximum because I used Granny Smith apples. I like the tartness of the apple with the sweetness of the caramel. If you want a larger batch I would use a smaller apple. Try to veer away from mushier apples such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Rome.

As for the toppings, I wanted a variation. I used Spiced Cookie crumbs, ground pecans, and orange & black sprinkles.

Are Spiced Wafers a Philadelphia thing?





Prep your apples and toppings before you start cooking the caramel mixture. You don't want to rush when the thermometer approaches the ready stage.

Definitely use a candy thermometer and make sure it's calibrated!*







Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • Dash salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 sticks
  • 10 medium Granny Smith apples, produce stickers removed, washed and dried

  • Optional: toppings of your choice 


Directions
In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter; add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. 



Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 248° (firm-ball stage). Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla.



Insert sticks into apples. 
Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture; turn to coat. Dip bottom of apples into toppings of your. 
video

Now the directions say to "place on greased waxed paper until set," but I found the apples stuck to the paper. I suggest a silicone baking sheet.
As much as it pains me, I will find a good home for the extra toffee apples. Autumn is far from over. Perhaps I should give red toffee apples another chance.



Tuesday, September 9

Should You Trust A Skinny Chef?

Actually I know why people say that. It's difficult to be passionate about food and stay thin. Before I started culinary school I weighed 135 at 5'8" with a medium frame. Yes, I was obsessed with exercise and I heading to a point where I started to harm myself with dieting, but that all came to a screeching halt once I started learning and working in the food industry.

Eating what I made in school, trying the dishes from my classmates, tasting during my internship, and practicing at home quickly put the pounds on me. I've been out of school for a while, but I'm older and also have a stationary desk job at the moment.

I still love to experiment with recipes and eat the scraps, but something needs to change. So I bring my extras to my day-job co-workers (I think they simultaneously love and hate me) and watch what I eat.

My favorite food items really pack on the sugar and carbs once I took a look at the labels. Instead of eating on the run, my plan is to think about my food and move more. I refuse to believe a few extra pounds is the chef's curse. On the flip side, I don't believe I have to give up what I love.

Today I packed my gym bag, filled my belly with oatmeal, and pre-packed my lunch. There's a slutty Halloween costume waiting for me next month.

Monday, July 28

Putting Myself Out There

I participated in my first vendor tasting. The kitchen incubator I belong to invited clients like myself that has a small food business to show big-name area vendors our wares.

I thought this was a good opportunity to show what The Pastry Prophet can do. I emailed the director to sign up to present a fan favorite -- Gluten Free Cupcakes. I know cupcakes are becoming passe, but people who need to have gluten free food told me it's one of the best cakes they have ever tried.

Obviously there are people who cannot or choose not to indulge in wheat flours, nuts, sugar, or animal products. Why should they be penalized because of it? I say they should not. That's why I'm so proud that people who need gluten-free items are so delighted by my cakes.

I scheduled the day off from my day job and planned my pastry battle.

The night before I started to freak out. I sat in my car thinking perhaps I should cancel. What am I doing?

Don't worry. I got over it.

Come at me bro ... and try a cupcake!


I won’t bore you with details, but I learned so much in such a short period. Presentation is important. I need to work on stepping back and viewing it from the potential customer’s point of view. Not just how the product looks, but the staging of the product as well.

Also (and this is something I have worked on this issue for a long time) I realize I need to get a thicker skin. I say thicker because I think I can take criticism now much better than in the past. What I find really irritating to me are people who go out of their way to be condescending.  

What are you getting out of acting like a jerk to me? I've dealt (and defeated) the biggest and best bitches out there from Catholic school to the catty broads in the work force. All I have to say is “Fuck you from the bottom of my heart.” No one has time for your low self-esteem.

That said, I am very appreciative of the help I received. I felt like a little lost lamb and the Executive Director worked her magic to make all the participants appear their very best. I watched her in awe. I aspire to be the business woman that she is. I know it won't happen overnight, but it's a goal.

Moving on ….

My next goal is that I need to focus on packaging and presentation. I have labels sporting my logo, but here’s another question: How easy is it for my customer to transport it? Will my products stay intact if dropped? Do I want people to eat them on the go? Will they display them for retail? And so on.

I plan on partaking in the next vendor testing. I really need to get my name and product out there. So far word of mouth is working fine, but if I want to make business my life it needs to be my main focus.

My facility plans on doing this quarterly. Although I think I was pretty green, I will be ready for battle the next time.


Tuesday, July 1

Eat Local: Craft Beer-Inspired Ice Cream - Victory Brewing Company

I had the opportunity to try Victory Brewing Company's new line of ice creams. Yes, I said ice cream!

(left to right) Hopped-Up Devil, Triple Monkey, and Storm Drop


Victory offered ice cream for some time at their brewpubs. This is the first time the ice cream will be available for the public to purchase retail. If you are in the Philadelphia area, this is worth the road trip to their Downingtown location!

Available now are three flavors based on their craft beers called: Hopped-Up Devil, Triple Monkey, and Storm Drop. For my readers who abstain from beer and the like, you should know that they are all nonalcoholic. Made with wort, which is the flavorful liquid that is the base of the beer,  each ice cream is distinctly unique.

As I tasted each ice cream, summertime frozen dessert ideas started dancing in my head. More than just sundaes or milkshakes. I wanted to accompany these ice creams with something fun. So every free moment - driving, exercising, or working - I wondered what pastry would go best with each ice cream.

Without further adieu:

Storm Drop Ice Cream Cupcakes
Storm Drop Ice Cream Cupcakes
Storm Drop Ice Cream Cupcakes
I originally planned on making an entire cake. Then I thought a cupcakes allows one to eat chilly yummies without the guilt of overindulging. I mean who would eat an entire ice cream cake?

::raises hand in shame::

As a lover of all things chocolate, Storm Drop combines deep chocolate drops against a creamy chocolate stout base. Because of that I used Storm King Imperial Stout in the cake base as well. So you will need a bottle of the stout. Actually you will only need a cup, but waste not, want not.

The original recipe is from Epicurious.com, but I cut the ingredient amount in half.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
1 cup Storm King Imperial Stout at room temperature
2 sticks softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Icing
2 sticks of softened unsalted butter
3 cups of powdered sugar - sifted
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoona vanilla
1 tablespoon of Storm King Imperial Stout
1/4 cup of milk

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Bring the stout and butter to simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. 
  4. Spoon batter into cups not quite half full. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
Now you have to work fast if you are making this dessert on a warm day.

With an ice cream scooper place a heaping scoop of Storm Drop Ice Cream on each cupcake. You may need 3 pints for 24 cupcakes - or maybe I just have a heavy hand.

Pop the ice cream topped cakes in the freezer for an hour to firm them up.

Chocolate Icing
  1. Beat the butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine the powder sugar and cocoa power. Slowly add to the butter mixture. Add the stout. Once incorporated add the milk by tablespoon until creamy.
  2. Place the icing into a piping back with the tip of your choice. Starting at the base, frost the entire exposed cake and ice cream.
  3. Optional: Decorate with white chocolate flakes and cocoa nibs.
Makes 24 cupcakes. Share if you are feeling generous.



Triple Monkey Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Triple Monkey Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Triple Monkey Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Triple Monkey Ice Cream uses Victory’s Golden Monkey beer wort. Each spoonful combines fruity banana and a crunchy delicious pecan swirl. I thought enclosing Triple Monkey with tender peanut butter cookies would give a nice twist to ice cream sandwiches.

Peanut Butter Cookies
2 and 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt

2 sticks of softened unsalted butter
3/4 cups of white sugar
3/4 cups of brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of creamy peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  1. Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk.
  2. Mix the butter and sugars until fluffy, add eggs, and finally the peanut butter. Add in the dry ingredients.
  3. Scoop a tablespoon of batter onto a cookies sheet covered with parchment paper. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Cool.

Crunchy Banana / Chocolate Nib Garnish
1 cup dried banana chips
1/4 cup cocoa nibs

  1. In a food processor or just in a plastic bag, crush dried banana chips and chocolate nibs.
  2. Place in bowl and place to the side.
Assembly
  1. Take a scoop of Triple Monkey ice cream and place it on a peanut butter cookie. Put another on top and roll in the banana and nib mixture.
  2. Wrap up the sandwiches in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour.

Eat up!

Makes 6 sandwiches.




Hopped-Up Devil Butterscotch Brownies
Hopped-Up Devil Butterscotch Brownies

Hopped-Up Devil Butterscotch Brownies

Although not as elaborate at the previous desserts, I like this one because it gives a hit of everything: white chocolate morsels and nuts from the brownies; Hopped-Up Devils' dark chocolate, coffee, spices, and a bit more beer!

1/4 cup shortening or butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of HopDevil India Pale Ale

  1. Heat oven 350°F. Heat shortening (or butter) over low heat until melted; remove from heat. Mix in brown sugar, egg and vanilla, and ale. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in greased pan (8x8x2 inches).
  2. Bake for 25 minutes
  3. Remove from pan while warm and cut into squares.
  4. Place a scoop of Hopped Up Devil Ice Cream on one bar and top it off with another.

Makes 5 sandwiches

That's it and dig in!

Of course, eating it out the pint is fun too. Let me know what's your favorite flavor and how you prefer to serve it.

Where I found it:
Victory Brewing Company
Brewpub Retail Store
420 Acorn Lane
Downingtown, PA


Thursday, June 26

So I Had Some Leftover Heavy Cream...

... and I couldn't just leave it to waste. Therefore I decided it time to sharpen up my candy making skills and make some caramel. First things let me point out that I seem to only want to make chocolate during the warmer months.

In school we have a temperature-controlled room to turn out and garnish candies. Although my condo has central air, cooking cream, sugar, butter, and flavoring until firm ball stage and higher really defeats the standard residential cooling system.

With the time, ingredients, and skill to make some pecan-loaded caramels, my personal comfort be damned!

Equipment:
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Heavy saucepan (pot)
Heat resistant spoon
Buttered (or cooking sprayed) baking dish
Candy thermometer - yes, this necessary. Do not assume that your thermometer is perfectly calibrated. Test it periodically. Boil a pot of water. Insert thermometer and notice where it measures. It should stop at 212° F. If not, note how many degrees more or less. So if the thermometer stops at 209° F, you are 3 degrees short. 

Ingredients:

Sugar:                      2 cups
Light Corn Syrup:   1/3 cup
Dark Corn Syrup:    1/3 cup
Heavy Cream:         1-1/3 cups
Unsalted Butter:      4 oz. (1 stick)
Vanilla Extract:       2 teaspoons

1. Butter or spray a pan. I prefer a 3 quart Pyrex dish.
2. Combine the sugar, corn syrups, and cream in a heavy saucepan.
3. Over medium heat, stir until the sugar completely dissolves.

Heavy cream, sugar, and syrups
4. Add thermometer and raise heat to medium high.
Insert the candy thermometer
Let that baby boil. Don't rush it.
5. Cook the syrup to the firm-ball stage (244°F - 248°F).
6. Add the butter, stir until incorporated.
7. Remove pan from heat and flavor with vanilla extract.
8. Carefully into a prepared pan.

It's HOT!!! Sugar burns are bad. 
 I just happened to have pecans and I just tossed them on.

Allow the caramel to set before cutting (about 2 hours at room temperature). Remove from the baking dish and place on a cutting board. After cutting up the cooled caramels into small squares. I melted some chocolate and chopped pecans. It was dipping time.





Here you have some caramels dipped in dark and others in white chocolates.

Lastly I wanted some old fashioned chocolate turtles. So I made some patties and dipped them in milk chocolate.







Tuesday, May 27

Life Is A Constant Transition

Although not as exciting as 2013, this year has kept me on my toes. I'm still trying to market and find a niche for The Pastry Prophet. Also my "day job" isn't as stable as I would like. I'm flip flopping on what I should do - find another 9-5 office job or "get off the pot" and open an actual brick and mortar establishment?

While searching for my path, I wish I could be the protagonist that could rely on a mentor.

With the exception of my parents and sister, I never really had a non-family role model to ask for advice on my goals. All my decisions have been luck, trial and error. If I managed to survive with little pain or scarring then all is right with the world.

I've always envied those with mentors or people who were groomed to take a particular role. I think I would have gone further in my life if someone pointed me in the right direction. One thing that urged me to continue this blog throughout the ups and downs is the fact that maybe someone can learn from my missteps.

Oh well. On the bright side I can always that my achievements are mine.

I expected business to really pick up after Food Rush, but alas, things are better but you won't see me with a show anytime soon. My three blog readers can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Now can I show others my skills, but I can see what others can do.

Enough of this shameless self promotion.

I have taken a long break from writing. I truly missed this blog even if no one reads it. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I do receive feedback from a random viewer.

So after a long thought I want to keep this blog food/pastry focused, educational, and alcohol-fueled snark.