Tuesday, February 21, 2012


When I was in Paris, I ate macarons. Alot of them. Cheerfully with wild abandon because that is what you do when you are in Paris!  Prior to going Paris, I had tried macarons at Europane Cafe + Bakery in Pasadena ( a block from where I work, it is one of my favorite lunch destinations and they are dedicated to fixing a sweet tooth).

Now I enjoy baking and macarons have been on my list to try, but they fall under the "scary" category. I've got a few books dedicated to the macaron as well but all I have done is tag flavor profiles that I love or would like to try at some point. (I learned that the recipes in I Love Macarons from Japan are crap, so if anything, it's a lovely coffee table book).  Les Petits Macarons is a lovely book on the subject matter too. Of course, the book that I am lusting after for is Pierre Herme's book on the subject, Macarons.

So like any smart girl who fears a recipe, I signed up for the Intro to Macarons class at The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories in Santa Monica, taught by Clemence Gossett (one of the school's owners). All 15 of us students were a bit wound up, Clemence could smell the fear on us and she instantly put all of us at ease.  With her laid back nature and encouraging teaching style, she was able to assuage our fears and voila - we made vanilla macarons with buttercream ( we flavored them with raspberry, citrus and vanilla) and/or chocolate ganache. Practice will make perfect...one day.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Turning 10.

Do you remember when you turned 10? There is something about a child entering the "double digit" years that is momentous.  A very special almost-10-year-old I know celebrated her soon-to-be birthday this past weekend. She and her mom planned a sweet bake shop theme.  The plan was for the birthday girl and her friends to decorate cupcakes, cookies and make other treats - chocolate covered marshmallows, strawberries, pretzel sticks and more. It was a blast to watch and sneak in a few decorated treats myself.

Of course, the kicker for me was that she asked me to bake a dozen of her favorite cupcakes - red velvet, for the occasion. In the meantime, I started to panic a little bit, I desperately wanted these cupcakes to be *perfect*. When someone asks you to make something for an event to be remembered, I tend to feel the added bit of pressure, so I scoured the Internet for the *perfect* recipe. 

I heart Tasty Kitchen. Bookmark. It. Now. It's one of my go-to-websites for recipes and suggestions. Test, tried and true, I have yet to make something from that site I didn't like and/or love. There I found several potential recipes, but honed in on one particular title that was rather confident - Red Velvet Cake To Die For. The reviews were glowing and I trusted my instincts on this one.  

They turned out fantastic and this perfectionist baker was quite pleased with the results. Moist, delicious, light and very very red. Mission accomplished. The original recipe is for a two layer cake, but I opted to lower the baking time (approximately 20-24 minutes, depending on your oven) and I was able to turn out 16 cupcakes.  I also think the trick here is a light hand and to mix everything by hand - so for those with control issues, this recipe is right up your alley!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I dream of....

...Paris. Constantly since returning from my trip last fall.  Everywhere I go there are little reminders of Paris that jump out at me. That city is in my blood now. One day I will go back to that magical place and explore more of its crevices (Lord knows there are plenty) but for now I rely on a lush bistro in Beverly Hills to take its place.

On a perfectly clear Sunday afternoon, I met my friend in the cleanest city within Los Angeles County for brunch at Bouchon. For two weeks, LA foodies have a opportunity to visit numerous restaurants for several fixed price menus - it's called dineLA week (it happens several times a year). 

The soup of the day was butternut squash soup with a hint of cream and cranberries. Delicate and smooth, the soup danced in your mouth like pale orange velvet. 

The croque madame - deja-vu, being back in Paris, enjoying the very same sandwich on St. Germain. French fries, crisp and perfectly salted.

And for dessert, a pot de creme with orange gelee and vanilla sugar-coated shortbread.  If culture dictated that licking inside the little pot would be acceptable, I gladly would've done so. Smooth, light and layers of citrus and vanilla perfumed your palette with every spoonful.  Looking forward to returning there soon for dinner, until then, au revoir.