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? ūüôā ¬†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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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Pfefferneusse

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Pfefferneusse…which is German for “peppernut”…are a traditional spice cookie found at Christmas time. They can have an optional chocolate glaze or be sprinkled with powdered sugar. ¬† These cookies are loaded with spices, chopped nuts, citrus zest, and freshly ground pepper.

I am not exaggerating with the spices:

  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • nutmeg
  • cardamon
  • pepper
  • dry mustard

I don’t think I have ever made cookies with dry mustard in them. The recipe tells us that it has the effect of making all the other spices sparkle. ¬†ūüôā

I made half a batch of these cookies, which was plenty to share. ¬†I think I came out with 2o. ¬†They were easy to make and had me looking for new ingredients which is always fun…and what this is all about. ¬†I opted to make the cookies with both toppings to see which we would prefer. ¬†One was the simple dusting with powdered sugar and the other with the chocolate glaze. ¬†This however is no ordinary glaze. ¬†You start with bittersweet chocolate and then add to it the butter, but you continue adding…espresso ( I used instant coffee flakes) and then the option is to top the dipped cookies with freshly ground peppercorn. ¬†If you look closely at the picture you can actually see it. I can’t recall ever adding pepper to a glaze on a cookie.

I couldn’t wait to try them out and also see what everyone else thought. Everyone loved the spice cookie…preferred the dusting with powdered sugar BUT everyone had something to say about the chocolate one. ¬†It was SO interesting and different…very complex flavor with many levels to the experience. ¬†It was weird and good at the same time. ¬†You could really taste the chocolate and coffee flavors and then the pepper would hit you with a zing…literally! ¬†So strange, but at the same time intriguing. ¬†Most everyone thought they weren’t sure they liked it but ended up eating the whole cookie and changing their mind about it. ¬†THIS is what I love about this baking group…trying out new things!! ¬†It just never gets old! ūüôā

Caramel Tart

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I decided to add this recipe to my Thanksgiving dinner so I didn’t make last week’s blog role ¬†Thank goodness for the extra rewind Tuesday this month. ūüôā

I did have some trouble with this recipe…

  • Although this sweet tart dough is easy enough to work with, I am still having trouble with cooking it in my oven. ¬†I lowered the temp to 375 this time AND tented and it still over baked in my opinion. ¬†I couldn’t release the tart from the pan.
  • I skimmed the froth off of the caramel before pouring it in and after, since others had issues with it changing the look of the final product. ¬†After my tart cooled I went to cover it with plastic wrap, and right away it fell to the middle and appeared to pull up the center. ¬†I was like‚ĶOH NO‚Ķ. Interestingly though, it was pulling up the froth layer that did in fact bake on top. So I continued to pull up the rest which revealed this nice caramel filling. ¬†The only problem was, I couldn’t get it ALL pulled up‚Ķespecially right along the edge of the crust. ¬†I was already making the chocolate sauce to go with this so I thought what would be the harm of adding mini chocolate chips along the edge of the crust‚Ķit would add some flavor, add some interest and texture, and solve my problem haha!
  • My tart took longer to cook than the 24 minutes suggested‚Ķmore like 34.

None of these issues were really bad or impactful to the final product but trouble nonetheless…especially the day before Thanksgiving as I was very busy with preparing the meal.

The reviews on the tart were sort of varied. ¬†Everyone loved the addition of the mini chocolate chips and said they would have preferred them over the whole top. ¬†They also said the flavor of the tart seemed to grow on them the more they ate‚Ķat first bite, not so sure they liked it. ¬†To me, the caramel tasted a little like butterscotch. ¬†All in all, everyone enjoyed trying it but in the end I think it was unfair of me to put it up against the classic Thanksgiving desserts‚Ķthose being pumpkin and apple pie in our house. ¬† ūüôā