Black and White Madeleines

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These were fun, easy, and delicious…or so I’ve heard.  My husband and I gave us sweets for Lent again this year so we have two in the freezer waiting for us. :). The only issue I would have with this recipe, is that you can only make 12 at time…unless you have multiple Madeleine pans.   It would be hard to manage all the chilling if you were making multiple batches, but if you only needed a dozen of something, these were terrific.  Everyone loved them and were really excited about the chocolate center.  I didn’t have any milk chocolate I could melt, so I used the dark I had on hand.  I don’t know if it made a difference, but everyone said how they loved that they weren’t overly sweet….that they were the perfect combination.  I thought they looked plain, so I added the powdered sugar…made it look more festive. 🙂

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I have a fun story to share!  I am out on my morning hike and I get a text from my mom.  It has a picture and she says, “you made the Register this morning.  This could be at your house!”  Now where I live the Register is the Orange County Register…our newspaper.  I look at the picture she sent and I am like, WHAT?!!  You see it was very confusing because we had JUST made beignets and my last name is Ramos.  I just couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean what are the chances haha!…I thought someone was using my blog info.   I sent the picture around to family and my tasters and everyone had the same initial reaction.  It was worth quite a few laughs.  We decided we will be making a trip down to San Juan Capistrano to give this place a try. 🙂

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Nun’s Beignets

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If I am being honest, I wasn’t too excited about baking this recipe.  I mean if I was in New Orleans I would try their famous beignets but for the most part, I don’t eat or make fried food.  I will have the occasional French fries, but a funnel cake, onion rings, or these beignets…doesn’t happen.  But then after some thinking, I came back around and reminded myself why I got in this group in the first place…to learn, to step out of my comfort zone, to experience new things…got myself back on track and here you go. 🙂

The recipe is surprisingly easy…I only came across one problem with not having a deep-fat thermometer.  I do have my candy thermometer from other recipes we have made so I figured maybe that would work…and it did!!

I didn’t want to use so much oil in a big dutch oven…and picturing oil splattering as I tried to contain it all, I used my 5 quart saucepan with my candy thermometer attached to the side…just like I was making caramel. ;). I was able to make 5 beignets at a time with no problem.  I was surprised at how much oil that took even in such a small pan…almost my whole bottle!

I have to say, it was pretty fun watching the ping pong sized dough puff up and get their trademark “fissure” that we were looking for to know they were done.  I had no problem with them cooking properly or with the oil getting too hot or splattering.  All in all a very easy project and one I am glad to say I accomplished!!

I tried one of the beignets after it was rolled in the cinnamon sugar and although they didn’t seem too greasy at all, it just isn’t my type of dessert.  My family and tasters on the other hand all LOVED them…like LOVED them.  They even ate them later heated up…which I actually preferred strangely.  My tasters were saying things like:

“This is a three thumbs up recipe”

“When can I put in a request for a dozen?”

“I say this is “strongly” a keeper”

“The beignets were so delicious…so fluffy and airy!!”

I am once again reminded that we all have our ways that we do things, experience things, and like to take on new tasks…and we are usually really good at accomplishing those things because they probably “fit” into some sort of comfort zone we have for ourselves.  I have to make a conscious effort sometimes to get out of my routine, get out of my way…shake things up a bit for life is full of new and exciting experiences the we might miss if we didn’t veer off of our own path once in a while.  My daughter always says she notices I become someone else when we travel..that I take it all in because it is all new and different and I don’t want to look back and feel I have missed out…I need to bring some of that out in my daily life haha!

Cheers to beignets…who knew?!  haha 🙂

Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake

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Intriguing name right??  We are told in the recipe that “A Sunday in Paris” is the name of a pastry shop on an old cobblestone street off the Boulevard Saint-Germain…oh makes sense now…and can’t you just picture it? 🙂  Apparently the store and it’s pastries are quite modern and chic.  This cake comes in a special long, very slender loaf…packed in a snug box and topped with whole peanuts and squares of caramel candy.   The real surprise is an ingredient rarely found in French pastry: creamy peanut butter…they prefer Nutella.  This recipe Dorie created, is an adaption of this cake.

Dorie suggests we make these in small rectangular molds or in a loaf pan.  Since I was hosting Book Club, I figured I would make mini cupcakes so I can get them out to all my regular tasters and still have some left for my book club to try out. (BTW, my main dessert was the BWJ White Chocolate Patty Cake we made a few years ago…I have made that several times and it is always a hit!)

These mini-cakes were destined for greatness…I mean chocolate and peanut butter, how can you go wrong??  They are a fairly simple, straight forward dessert.  Mix up the batter, bake, and then top with ganache, chocolate shavings, and chopped peanuts.  They look amazing and very gourmet!!  Perfect for a gathering!  The only problem was…they were just ok.  They look great and you want them to be great but they fell short for most all of us who tried them.  They were more on the dry side…like a muffin or scone.  It isn’t that they were bad, but just not the rich, moist bite of cake you were expecting.  It was a little disappointing but you know, oh well…always fun to try these new recipes and I am always grateful for the experience.

Granola Cake

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My family says that “Granola Cake” is a misleading name…that they pictured something more like a trail mix cake; in other words more healthy than dessert haha!  They said it should be something more like “Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars”.  Some of my tasters who don’t love granola were surprised by this cake…and ended up loving it.   They really do taste more like a really good chewy oatmeal cookie.  It was LOVED by all.

There is a lot of wiggle room in this recipe to customize it to what your group might like.  I used a vanilla almond granola from my local produce store.  I was able to buy it in the quantity that I needed which was great.  There are so many more flavors of granola to try and I sure they would each be great and change up the flavor of the cake.  I used mini chocolate chips and white chocolate shavings and also boosted the spices by doubling the cinnamon and nutmeg amounts.  It turned out perfect.  We loved the chewy inside and the crunchy outside.  The granola gave the bars an interesting texture that we really enjoyed.

I also loved that it was easy to make with ingredients that you can have on hand.  I am planning on making this again.  It is a keeper!

Honey-Yogurt Mousse

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This one is hard to talk about…such mixed reviews.  The recipe itself is fairly easy, just some mixing and chilling.  I went ahead and made the cocoa crumbs that were suggested as a suitable topping for the mousse. Those also went together easily.

I made up a double recipe so I would have 8 individual cups for my tasters..and got these results:

  • 2 really liked it…”We both really liked it with the cocoa crumbs…tasted tart and sweet and a little salty all at once.”
  • 2 wanted to like it…”It had our palate curious, however it left us unfulfilled and not wanting another bite or to finish it”
  • 2 didn’t like it…”wasn’t our favorite…tasted bitter to us”
  • 2 didn’t get eaten…and I didn’t try it…not my type of dessert…although I did try the cocoa crumbs and those were good!

ALL of my tasters were glad for the opportunity as usual.  It is a fun little game we play twice or more a month with the baking and tasting.  We have had some great recipes and some great surprises but I would have to say this one wasn’t a winner in my book.

I do find it so interesting how different taste can be…the same recipe and 3 very different reactions from 6 people in 3 families…and the reaction was consistent in each family.

As always…thankful for the baking experience but onto the next one! 🙂

Christmas Spice Cookies

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I wasn’t sure I would get these done, but I was able to squeeze them in!   This recipe starts with a “Do Almost Anything Vanilla Dough” as the base and then you add in the Christmas spice…being cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice.

I have to start by saying everyone loved these!

I think they were intriguing to my tasters.  They appear to be sugar cookies but they are so different which catches you off guard.  These cookies are light, crisp, and bursting with spice.  I was afraid I would miss the icing since they seem like sugar cookies to me but surprisingly you don’t! There is enough flavor for them to hold their own.  (notice I found another use for my Swedish Sugar from our Tarte Tropezienne :))

The only downside I came across was dealing with the dough.  It is sticky.  You chill it either an hour in the freezer or 3 in the fridge before cutting.  That takes some timing but still doable.  The problem I came across, and would be curious if others of you had the same problem, was that as I was cutting out my shapes, the dough was quickly coming to room temp…like really quickly.  The first batch I did I couldn’t complete the cutting of my first rolled out dough.  I got smarter though afterward and worked very quickly on each batch.

I also cooked these for half the time recommended…more like 10 minutes.  All in all, I would have to say these were a sweet surprise and a nice addition to my cookie platters sent into work.

Chocolate Truffles

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This week we made chocolate truffles…ganache bonbons made of a basic mixture of chocolate and cream.  We are told they are often rolled in cocoa powder to resemble the soil that clings to the freshly dug fungi.  I did try that…honest…but after seeing what they looked like, went a more festive approach. :).

(BTW…the mini chocolate chip one was the unanimous favorite!)

I have to tell you, although the recipe was easy, as I was rolling these truffles in my hands trying to battle quickly before they melted any worse, I was thinking to myself…I will never make these again.  I mean they were messy!…and that was after chilling them for 5 hours instead of only the 3 suggested.

On the flip side of this conversation in my head was me after sharing them…well, I guess it wasn’t that hard.  I could always chill them 24+ hours before rolling and see if that helps.

Obviously something changed my mind…

The recipe makes 36 truffles…truthfully I think you could make them even a bit smaller and get more.  I made these the night before my bible study luncheon figuring the recipe makes enough for my trusty tasters AND a luncheon.  Always a bit risky taking a new recipe somewhere before you have tried them out but I figured how could I go wrong with chocolate right?!

People RAVED about these truffles…those at the luncheon and my tasters.  They couldn’t get enough of them which is strange since they are so, so rich.  They loved them…told me they were quite possibly the best thing they had ever eaten…really??  Wow, I was starting to think maybe I will have to make these again.  After my husband had a second one, he said…are you really not going to make these again?

It looks like I am being forced to go back on my decision…I mean, how can I deprive these people of something they loved so much.  I see me rolling chocolate again in the near future…they are being requested for Christmas 🙂

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