Sally’s Baking Addiction: February, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Chocolate Truffles 🍫🍬 😋

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February, Valentine’s Day, the month to celebrate chocolate 🍫❤️!

Sally’s baking challenge this month was to make chocolate truffles. This was incredibly easy! Only two ingredients, good quality chocolate and heavy cream. 😋 She did give us the option to add a tablespoon of butter for a better consistency and vanilla for flavor, both of which I did add 😉, but you could do this with only the chocolate and cream.

The first step is to finely chop up the chocolate, using a serrated knife works really well. The finer you chop the chocolate the faster the hot cream will melt it.

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I chose semi sweet chocolate to make sure that the truffles would not be too sweet, but you could use dark or milk chocolate. Sally provides some additional instructions for different cocoa content.

I added the tablespoon of butter and, carefully, heated the heavy cream in the microwave. When the cream was warm (but not boiling!), it was poured over the mixture and let to sit for 5 min.

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I then stirred the mixture until it was smooth and shiny.

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The chocolate has to be completely cooled before you can scoop it out and roll it into balls. This was faster when I poured it into a 9 X 9 pan and placed it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

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After it was solid, I scored it into 36 squares, which made smaller truffles than what Sally’s recipe stated.

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I went with 6 toppings: chopped walnuts, unsweetened cocoa power, chocolate sprinkles,   colored sprinkles and gold and white sanding sugar.

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One bit of advice that Sally gave was to scoop the chocolate and allow it to dry out for 20 minutes before rolling them into balls. This helped make a sticky job a little easier.

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They were small, but so tasty 😋

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The inside was soft, and the toppings provided a nice crunchy element. They were fine at room temperature as well, of course, we still have snow on the ground around here😂 so “room temp” may be a tad low!

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This was one of Sally’s fastest recipes! Next time I think I might add a liqueur flavor instead of vanilla. They would be perfect for the holidays 🌟

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: January, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Bagels 😋

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Sally’s first challenge of 2019 finds us back into yeasted breads. Homemade bagels, yum 😋 Now, you probably have figured out that I do love to bake bread. However, I am not a huge consumer of bagels. Not sure why. It may have to do with the fact that they are too large and bready for my taste. But if I get to make them, well, then they can be any size I want! And, any flavor 😉

I kept it simple for this go around. I made her basic recipe, but if you want to change it up, Sally did provide a list of her other tasty varieties!

One item that is truly unique to bagel, or pretzel making for that matter, is barley malt syrup. This is what gives bagels their malt like flavor. You don’t have to use this of course, honey and/or brown sugar can be used instead. But, I decided to order it online, just to be authentic.

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I also opted to do this overnight, as I was kinda busy during this time. Actually, allowing the dough to rise slowly, overnight, allows for a delicious flavor development 😄. So, I mixed up the warm water and yeast.

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Once I saw it was activated, I added the barley syrup, bread flour and salt. And that’s it!

The mixer pulled the ingredients together, and then I kneaded it for another few minutes until the dough was firm.

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This went into an oiled bowl, covered and left overnight in the fridge, to slowly rise.

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The next morning, I allowed the dough to come to room temp, about 2 hours in my house that morning.

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Sally’s recipe called for the dough to be divided into 8 “equalish” pieces. But, you know I can’t just do that! 😂 I did weigh the dough so that the bagels would be similar.

I weighed the bowl with the dough, removed the dough, and weighed the empty bowl to find the total weight of the mixture. 838g of dough, divided by 8 came to, a little over, 104g per bagel.

I divided the dough into 8 pieces and checked them on the scale. A little extra dough here, a little less there…. And, each was ready to be shaped.

The first step was to roll it into a tight ball.

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Then flattened, and a 1-2 inch hole punched into the middle

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Seven more later….

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These were covered and allowed to rest while I prepared the water bath.

Yes, water bath! Bagels (and pretzels) need to be boiled prior to baking. This gives them the crusty exterior and helps them color properly.

The boiling water has more barley malt syrup, but you can use honey. Check out the color of the boiling solution with the syrup!

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Once the mixture had boiled, I added the bagles and cooked them 1 minute per side.

It took a little time, but this step is quite important. Once all were boiled, an egg wash was applied. I decided to add some course salt to the top. We had been given a special sea salt from our yoga trip to Mexico last year, so I used that.

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Now they were ready for the oven!

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The bagles were baked at 425F for 20 minutes, until dark brown

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After they cooled, we dug in! I know that most people associate bagels with cream cheese, and that is delicious. But I like mine with goat cheese and honey 🍯

 

A great start to this year of baking challenges 🤩 And this was not hard! It really is simple to make bagels at home, and they freeze well if you have extra😊💕

Give it a try, and let me know what you think! Or better yet, join me in the next challenge😁👩🏻‍🍳

Sally’s Baking Addiction: October, 2018 Challenge: Pumpkin Spice Toffee🍬🎃

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I know, I know, EVERYTHING is pumpkin spice right now. And, people often fall into the “hate” or “love” group when it comes to pumpkin spice. I happen to love it❤️ If you do too, then this is a great, easy recipe.

Sally’s Baking Addiction Challenge this month does involve candy making. Many people are a little intimidated by this process, but as usual, Sally has some great tips to make it simple.

The essential tools will be a candy thermometer, a heavy bottom sauce pan and a wooden spoon. Sally also recommends a silicon mat to pour the candy mixture onto. I am sure that this would be helpful, but I just used parchment paper coated with non-stick cooking spray.

There are only 5 ingredients  needed to make the toffee: butter, warm water, light corn syrup, salt and sugar. All these go into the heavy bottom and pan and stirred with the wooden spoon. This does take some patience as you wait for the color to develop.

Initially, the mixture is pale and thin

 

While the sugar mixture is boiling, you will need to periodically brush down the hardened sugar crystals that collect on the sides of the pan with cool water and a pastry brush. Sally has a video showing what this looks like.

In the video below you can see the color and consistency changing as it nears the recommended 290F degrees.

This is removed from the heat and the pecans are stirred in, and you need to immediately pour the hot mix onto the prepared pan.

IMG_7388 It will be thick and requires about 5 minutes to set before adding the melted white chocolate.

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This is topped with the rest of the chopped pecans and sugar/pumpkin spice mix

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And that is it!!😊 give it some time in the fridge to set and then break into pieces. 😋

 

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This is the easiest toffee I have ever made, and the flavors can be changed to whatever YOU like💕 Give this one a try👻🎃🍬

Meeting my Blog Buddies in Montreal!🇨🇦Part Un!

 

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It has been almost one month since I went to Montreal to meet up with some of my BBBs (best blog buddies). Why has it taken me so long to blog about the trip? Is it because I had a rotten time? NO!! Is it because we didn’t do anything fun? NO!!! Is it because I took so many pictures of all the places we visited that I could not figure out how to start this post? BINGO😊

I was only there for three days, so how could I have a billion photos? I think this phenomenon has something to do with getting bloggers together. As individuals we tend to take more pics than the average human, but combine us! I can’t begin to imagine how many storage sticks Darren had to buy for his 10 day trip🤣 Not only was this my first time meeting Darren, Dominique, Linda and Bill, it was my first trip to Montreal. Another reason for my snap happy camera finger.

I decided that the best way to approach this retelling of the first annual BBB meeting, would be chronologically, and in two posts. Is my boring science background coming through loud and clear? 😂

I flew in on Tuesday, about 3 hours late (thank you Air Canada). Darren and Dominique waited to have dinner with me! I felt so bad for starving them all day. We had a lovely dinner, not that the food was scrumptious, it wasn’t. But, meeting these two wonderful souls was a blast! I could tell this was going to be a fun trip😊!  It was getting late, so we called it a night and wound are way through the maze of construction that is downtown Montreal. Seriously, every street was in some state of reconfiguration! 😳

Dominique chose the perfect hotel for our stay, the Hotel Terrasse Royale (not my photo!). As she put it, it is clean, comfortable, affordable and central to everything. She was right on all counts!

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I would definitely stay here again and recommend it to everyone.

There was one more surprise when I checked in.

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As if being the best host in all of North America was not enough for her, she and Darren put together a gift basket for me❤️ This would be very important in a couple days!

The next morning, I was still on West Coast time, so I was up kinda early. I needed coffee so I ate at the hotel restaurant. Of course, being a food blogger too, I wanted to capture my gorgeous and tasty breakfast!

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This oatmeal with fresh fruit was so good, I had it the second morning as well.😋 I did my morning yoga and met Darren at the pastry shop across the street, for more coffee! ☕️☕️Montreal is so much like Paris! I couldn’t resist taking some photos of the breads and pastries.

I didn’t sample any, but did have a fantastic cappuccino (or two 😉)

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Wednesday was to be our Botanical Garden day🌳 so off we went to Le Jardin Botanique de Montreal.

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I did not take this picture, I swiped it from the internet. I like it for a couple reasons. Firstly, the garden was presenting their Chinese Lantern Exhibit, and some of that is depicted here. Secondly, see that tower in the background? I was in love with this structure! I believe Dominique told us that it was part of a venue built for the Montreal Olympic village.

We began our tour inside, with the tropical flowers and plants. You can imagine how many pictures Darren, The Arty Plantsman, took😆 He was a botanist/blogger/photographer on a mission!

As he is far more talented at plant photography, I will only share a couple of shoots and blooms that caught my eye. See Darren’s post for the real good pics!🌸

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I love these giant, prehistoric looking leaves🌿

 

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I couldn’t resist taking a pic of Dom, taking a pic of the pathway. Can we just appreciate how she is dressed right now! She always looks fabulous🤩

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This waterfall was located at the end of the pathway. I took a couple long exposure shots from the front….

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and the back.

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The ceiling of the inner building had these beautiful botanical drawings.

IMG_5172I could totally envision Darren’s artwork hanging up here one day 💕!

Eventually, we made our way outside!

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I loved the reflection in this shallow pool

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the one dark berry caught my eye

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This picture just says “fall” to me and made me think of Lisa! She could do so much with this💚

There were a few critters out too! I did my best to channel my inner Roda, who along with Lisa, we missed on this trip😞

And speaking of Roda, I can’t see a sunflower, without picturing her! Anyone else remember that post of her carrying 300 pounds of sunflower heads?🌻

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There were some structures in the garden as well.

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This little potting shed caught my attention

 

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Dominique took this picture of me, as Darren took a picture of her. I haven’t seen it yet! Dom does pretty well behind the camera too. Not just a a model my friends! 

Of course, while I am taking these pictures, Darren is capturing images of flowers the size of a pea and Dom is on her second wardrobe change! I can’t wait to see how those shots turned out😊!

We continued meandering our way through the Chinese lantern display.

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I am determined to get this Silver Chinese Grass in one of my yards, maybe both of them!

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Another view of my favorite structure in Montreal!

 

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A beautiful bench for a cup of coffee ☕️

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One of the rare moments when Darren isn’t smiling! He is deep in thought, looking for his next shot 💕

We posed in the corn for one last picture! We had a great time, but needed nutrients, well, caffeine! Darren and I opted for, yet another, cup of coffee and Dom would have passed out if she didn’t have that Diet Coke in the car 😂 it was hot and flat but she downed it like a pro!

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What a doof I am! Look at these two European gems and I am the dopey American with the white shoes on! I have got to read Dom’s blog more often🤣🤣😂

Off we went to an Indian Restaurant, my first! I have no idea what I ate that night as Darren ordered for me (thank God!). It was delicious!! Seriously, I will have to try that again, whatever it was 😋. I slept well that night, after all that walking and laughing😂 Little did we know that our trip to Mount Tremblant the next day would require even more effort 🏔.

I will save that story for the next post, but let me just warn you…..Dominique almost didn’t make it off the mountain. 😱!

You may be asking “where was Linda and Bill”? They won’t be in Montreal for another day, but they should have started driving by now😉💕

Sally’s Baking Addiction: August, 2018 Challenge: Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake 🍪 🍰

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Oh My! It is August 31st and the last day for me to get this challenge completed 😬. Nothing like waiting to the last minute😉

I got incredibly lucky this month, because Sally chose an easy challenge for our August installment. If you have ever baked a cookie, and made frosting, then this is a fun and simple project! In fact, the hardest part of this challenge was choosing which of Sally’s flavor combinations to make. 😊

My hubby’s birthday is also in August, so I chose flavors that I knew he would like. I made Sally’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, as written in the link above. The only difference was that I included white chocolate chips, along with the semi sweet ones, and made mine a 9 inch, 3 layer cake.

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I also made her Chocolate Peanut Butter frosting, yum 😋

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After that, which was very little work, all I had to do was assembled and decorate!

I kept the decorations simple, as this was for my husband (who does not like sprinkles😳)

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This flavor combo was a hit with the whole family, and it was a fun alternative to the standard ice cream cake he usually requests for his birthday.

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Next month’s challenge involves choux pastry! So I will have to be on top of my game in  September! 👩🏻‍🍳

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: July, 2018 Challenge: Hand Pies 🍏🍒🥧

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Technically, the challenge was for apple hand pies. But, I was really impressed by the gorgeous cherries in the store that day, so I decided to make both varieties 😊

I mentioned before, in the cherry pie challenge from last year, that I am not much of a pie baker. It’s not really so much that I am intimidated by making pie crust, I am just more of a crumble fan. But that cherry pie last year was so good, thanks to Sally’s recipe and, this is the point of a challenge is it not? To try new things🥧!

I started out by making a double batch of her homemade pie crust. This is a really simple recipe that includes both shortening and butter. I have also made her all butter crust in the past, and that is delicious too. I opted for this version due to the hot weather we are having in Seattle. The all butter recipe would have been more temperamental than I would have liked that day!

Like most pie crust recipes, you start by cutting in the cold fat until it is the size of peas. My “peas” are always huge! More like lima beans. Then cold water is drizzled in until the mix starts to clump.

When the mix is ready (not too dry or wet) it is formed into a disk, wrapped with plastic and chilled. I like to do this the night before.

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The next day I went climbing outside, then came home and made the fillings. First the apple: Pretty much a classic apple pie filling. A couple apples, sugar, butter and spices all cooked down and cooled.

Then the cherry filling. Sally has many to choose from and I went with her simple cherry pastry pie filling. The only change I made was to use half bing and half rainier cherries. I like the balance of sweet and tart that these two varieties contribute to the pie.

Cherries were combined with sugar and lemon. This cooked down and was thickened with a cornstarch and water mixture.

Once the fillings were completely cooled, it was time to roll out the chilled pie dough. I used a 3.5 inch cutter and some smaller shapes to make some decorative cut outs.

I had to be careful to chill in between each step to keep the dough cold. This took some time! Finally, it was time to fill the hand pies.🍏

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The tops went on, and pressed to seal to the bottom pastry. The top was brushed with egg wash and the vents were cut. Finally the decorative cut outs applied, and sprinkled with coarse sugar.

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Then the cherry hand pies were assembled.🍒

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I tried to make the decorations different to distinguish the apple from the cherry.

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All the hand pies went into a 375F oven for about 30 minutes. While they were baking I prepared Sally’s Homemade Salted Carmel Sauce for the apple pies, and a simple Vanilla glaze for the cherry ones.

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By the way, that caramel sauce is amazing on ice cream 🍨!

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The verdict: Both the apple and cherry hand pies were quite tasty!😋 My husband and I were partial to the cherry one, just a bit more! In fact, I may have to make a full cherry pie when we get back from traveling later this month 🍒😊🥧

Give this a try! the recipe is easy to scale up or down, and many of the components are freezable and easy to make ahead. Enjoy!!

Sally’s Baking Addiction: June, 2018 Challenge: Brownie Baked Alaska 🍨

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For the month of June, Sally challenged us to make a retro baked Alaska. The twist: no cake base! Sally admits that she does not like cake combined with ice cream. My son is the same way. I also never eat cake mixed directly with ice cream, I don’t like the soggy cake texture 😳

So I knew my family would love the brownie, cake and merengue combo. This is such an easy dessert to make, and the entire thing can be assembled, frozen and then torched right before you serve it to your guests. I decided that Father’s Day would be a great time for us to try this out.

There is a little prep work that needs to be done the night before. The ice cream needs to be shaped and frozen. I purchased my ice cream, but I do like to make it from scratch, perhaps next time! This 9 inch, 2.5 quart mixing bowl will hold 3 quarts of ice cream. I chose mint chocolate chip since it is one of my hubby’s favorite flavors. The ice cream is softened and placed into a mixer with a paddle attachment, and beaten until creamy. The softened ice cream is placed into the mixing bowl, which has been lined with plastic wrap. This will make unmolding much easier! Wrap it tight and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours. I put mine in overnight.

The next day I made one of Sally’s brownie recipes. She has many to choose from, you will find the one you like😊. I went with the Chewy, Fudgy Homemade brownies😋 So glad I did! Super easy and so tasty!

First melt butter and chocolate together and let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs and vanilla.

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Add the flour, cocoa and salt

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Fold in the dry ingredients and a cup of chocolate chips

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Bake in a 9 inch pan, which fits the circumference of the bowl.

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Let this cool completely, then add it to the bowl of frozen ice cream. Invert the brownie, rewrap and keep frozen while you prepare the merengue.

 

Set the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over simmering water. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved, then place in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

 

Generously spoon the merengue onto the unmolded ice cream and brownie bombe.

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This can be frozen until you are ready to serve, or you can get out your handy torch and go for it! No torch? No problem, just use the broiler function in your oven. But don’t walk away!!

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The left overs stayed in the freezer for several days and still tasted great! We enjoyed this so much, and it was so easy, that I decided to serve this at the second Yoga Retreat that I catered this past weekend.

I went with the individual cupcakes for the Yogis 🧘🏻‍♀️. The only difference was that the brownie batter was placed into a lined muffin tin, and there was no pre-freezing involved.

The cooled brownie cups were unwrapped, a scoop of ice cream was added, then the merengue as previously described. I assemble 8 and placed them in the freezer for after dinner.

The yogis had fun torching their own desserts 😃 .

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1529732028525This was a fun, easy summer dessert 🍨. Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction!🙏