Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chocolate Makes The World 'Go Round

Chocolate truly makes the world smile.

Not convinced? Okay, have you ever seen anyone take a bite of chocolate and burst into tears?

I rest my case.

Wouldn't it be great if we could solve the world's problems by eating a chocolate covered strawberry?

You can bet Yolande was smiling when I baked her this double layer Scharffen Burger Chocolate Cake for her birthday this week.

Lots of smiling going on.

Lee Ann's birthday was also this week and I decided to experiment a bit. Knowing that she liked chocolate and bananas, I took the plunge. After cutting the bananas into 1 inch wedges, I dipped them in chocolate then rolled them in toasted coconut. The cake is Devil's Food with a Chocolate Ganache filling layered with freshly sliced bananas. I have to say that the taste combo was fabulous and I will definitely make this one again.

Now for the bad news.....I made Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls......just to see how they would come out.


I almost crawled into the oven to eat them while they were baking. Don't worry.....I will be doing a tutorial later. I know that PW already has one posted, but a tutorial is fun to do AND I know my sister Kathy wants to make them with me. That's right....fasten your seatbelts again, because the next time I make the Cinnamon Rolls, we're going to make them at Kathy's!
In the meantime, start sewing an elastic waistband into your pants now, because after eating a couple of these, you're going to need the extra room.

On that note, Good Luck Jen, Charlie and Marg who are participating in the Rock & Roll Marathon in San Diego tomorrow, May 31st, 2009. They are running to raise funds for Lymphoma research.

Run, Run, Run.

Run for the Buns!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Memorial Day Wedding

I didn't bake last week. Instead, I attended the wedding of a good friend on Cape Cod over the holiday weekend. (No, I did not make the cake)

As a former wedding and meeting planner I'll admit I'm a hard-sell, but I can honestly say that it was a truly beautiful and well-planned event with rapt attention paid to the tiniest detail....and believe me, I notice everything.

The Bride has been an adoring fan of Martha Stewart Weddings since the magazine's debut in 1994.......and it's influence was luminous. Simple but elegant touches everywhere you looked......right down to the bride's creamy bejeweled Manolo Blahniks.

Regal Simplicity.

(Sorry that a couple of these photos are so small, but since I swiped them off of the Bride's Facebook page, they didn't fare very well on the cyber-transfer ride to my Blog.)

I once owned a pair of Manolo Blahniks. I bought them on EBay and as I predicted, they were too narrow for my platterpuss foot. (Actually, the shoeboxes would have been more comfortable) But I wore them anyway. But only once. On a date, in a restaurant. The next day the only thing I could put on my feet were Band-Aids. But it was worth it, because for one night, I wore Manolos. Darn that Carrie Bradshaw!

I sold them a month later on EBay. I wiped away my tears, kissed them goodbye, wrapped them in tissue paper, placed them in their original dustbag, in their original box and received $40 more than what I paid for them the month prior. Cha-ching!!

Really....isn't it every girl's dream to have a fairy-tale wedding? I know it was my dream. Once upon a time (about 100 years ago) that was all I ever wanted. Seriously. That and a 1976 Volkswagon Triple White Convertible Bug. So what the hell happened? Okay, let's not go down that road right now because it's really a bumpy ride. This is supposed to be a baking blog, not a segment for the Oprah Show.

Anyway, the weekend started on Saturday midday with a beautiful luncheon for the Bride. There were only ten guests, but was made very special with personal touches. Finger sandwiches, puff pastry, mini shortcakes and cranberry tea........simply delightful.

Nothing says "Cape Cod" like a pair of white Adirondack chairs.

Later that day was the Rehearsal Dinner which was hosted by the Groom's parents. Since there were only a total of about 65 people attending the entire wedding, the invitation for the Rehearsal Dinner was graciously extended to all of the guests. The room was decorated in soft hues of green, mimicing the overall wedding theme.

Centerpieces were designed and arranged by the Groom's mother who is also my wonderful friend, Joanie. Isn't she talented???

The dinner was a New England Clambake, complete with corn-on-the-cob, roasted potatoes, rolls, salad, softshell clams and lobster with drawn butter.


Dessert was "Make-Your-Own-Sundaes". Am I in heaven, or what???

The Bride and Groom even color-coordinated their Bridal Party gifts!

The floral arrangements at the church were lovely...

...and huge.

The Bride and Groom had Cape Cod Trolley take all of the wedding guests from the church to the reception. They also provided transportation back at the end of the reception.

The reception was held in a Boathouse by-the-sea......

The Cheese, Fruit and Crudite Table was gorgeous....

...and delicious.

The main course was offered in a buffet style yet was elegantly displayed. White jacketed chefs carved and served for each guest. This is the Salmon wrapped in Puff Pastry. Isn't it beautiful? There was also Beef Tenderloin that melted in your mouth and tender, petite Lamb Chops.

Have you had enough yet?? No? Okay, why don't you try the roasted peppers, large, juicy slices of tomato and fresh basil, mozzerella cheese, roasted potatoes, green beans, red onion and capers. By the way, everything mentioned above...........................fabulous.

The wedding favor was a decadent chocolate truffle inside a ring-sized box, tied up with navy blue satin ribbon and a monogrammed seal. Simply elegant.

After hours of dining and dancing the night away, the Bride & Groom left the Boathouse amid a shower of well-wishers!

It was a beautiful wedding....but it still didn't end there. The festivities continued throughout the farewell breakfast the following morning. Then, after all the wedding guests had departed, the Bride and Groom boarded a ferry to spend a few quiet days in Nantucket.

Meanwhile, back at the Groom's family's house, the weekend was finally coming to an I before I packed up, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to take a few final shots before the drive home.

Joanie and her husband Pete, have a beautiful summer home on the Cape. It is tucked in between two fresh water ponds, but the house is also only a stone's throw from a private beach on the ocean. It is a fabulous house in a truly magnificent setting. Seeing that their son's wedding officially opened the 2009 summer season, it was fitting that one of the ponds had two new inhabitants.

Wait...make that three new inhabitants.............

Wait. Five new inhabitants.

These are called Mute Swans and let me tell you....these things are big. Their black webbed feet are as big as a dinner plate and on land, they stand almost 4 feet tall.

Okay, they're beautiful. Even through all of that dirty, smelly pond scum and mud, I suppose I can still see their beauty. The ducklings are pretty cute, but ugly. Hey! Maybe that's where they got the story about The Ugly Duckling. (wink, wink) See how their bodies are really white but their necks are gray and dirty? This is because they do "headstands" on the bottom of the pond to find food. Gross.

Beautiful or not, Swans can be quite mean. Nasty even. "Mute" Swans hiss when they are angry.......or when they think you are getting a little too close to their babies.

I thought I was safe. I stood quietly, only my camera clicking away shots. Then, without warning the momma hissed, slowly turned and gave me the 'ol "stink-eye".Then she huffed and puffed, flapped her wings violently and.....

.....chased me into the woods!

What a way to end such a glorious Memorial Day Weekend....
....good thing I wasn't wearing my Manolos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sh-h-h! I have the Secret Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Recipe...

I love to browse through recipes on the internet.

Sometimes, I find these rogue sites claiming they have the secret recipes of well-known restaurants. Secret recipes? You're kidding.

It was on one of these websites that I came across one particular recipe that caught my eye. Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread. C'mon, don't play coy with know the one I'm talking about. It's the bread that you see in the display case while you're in line waiting to order your coffee. I don't know about you, but it calls to me. I can almost smell the chocolate through the glass. The bread is dark, dense and moist-looking......but until right now, I have never waivered. One reason is that it's about $3.00 a slice, and the other is that I also discovered that it packs about 425 calories a serving. But you didn't hear that from me. Just for today, let's pretend it's low calorie, okay?? Makes the guilt AND the bread a little easier to swallow.

So when I saw this recipe, I had to try it......and just to shake things up a bit, I decided to bake it at my sister's house. That's right. Fasten your seatbelts, we're going to Kathy's.
My sister has a great kitchen and I know she will roll her eyes when I say that I am envious. Compared to my kitchen, she has tons of storage space in miles of beautiful cabinetry, stainless appliances, hardwood floors and shiny black granite countertops. (Sorry, she wouldn't let me photograph the kitchen because there were dishes in the sink) It also has an abundance of natural light which is ideal for my food photography.Kathy also has a lot of pretty bowls. In fact, one of the bowls was a gift from her to me......about 14 years ago. She "baby-sits' it, or should I say she "bowl-sits" because I don't have any extra storage space to keep it in my kitchen.
Okay, I'm ready to bake! The ingredients are assembled so let the madness begin.

See Kathy's countertops? So shiny.

Sift together the cocoa, sugar, flour and salt and set aside.

(Oh good, Cam's home from school........he can join in the madness...)

In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, water and vanilla and mix together.

In a third bowl, combine softened butter with the sugar and mix with an electric mixer (hand mixer is fine) until soft and creamy.

Then add the eggs, one at a time....................

...and beat it up like crazy!

Alternate the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients into the butter,sugar and egg mixture and beat until fully combined.

See? This is my bowl.

It lives with my sister.

I visit when I can.

Next, use a spatula to scrape every last stinkin' drop of chocolate batter out of that bowl and divide it evenly between two loaf pans. While I was making this, I was thinking how fun it would be to add some additional ingredients to the batter..........peanuts, peanut butter, bananas, marshmallow, raisins, etc. Sky's the limit!!! Hmmmmm, next time.

After I pour the batter, I always give the pans a couple of good hard slams on the countertop to release my tension any air bubbles in the batter.

Next, mix up the Cocoa Sugar Topping and sprinkle generously on top of each loaf before popping them into the oven to bake.

On the girl Emily just lounged around watching us bake.
All day.

Wait! What the heck is that??? A little stealth Helicopter? Maybe it's flying around trying to steal my super-secret-it's-all-over-the-internet recipe for Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread!

No, whew!.......It's just my nephew Cam, trying to decapitate me with his little Brookstone helicopter.

It's the size of a sparrow...........and is just as fast! It's hard for me to get a clear shot with my camera.

Uh-oh...Emily's up. Her ears are back and she clearly looks annoyed....

It looks like a giant bug and .............oh good grief Gerty, it's headed for my hair!!

Hey....if you want to spend any time at my sister's house, you have to be prepared to lose an eye or two....................(screams!).......

Cue the "Jaws" music......and.....

Got it!

And the moral to this story is........Boxers do not like helicopters. Especially the little noisy ones.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast..........

Ding!.....The bread's done!


Yep...., it's what I thought. Rich, dark and moist.

I had lots of helpers today.

You could smell the cinnamon and chocolate baking all over the neighborhood...and as usual when I bake.....birds sang, dogs barked, children cried and angels wept.


Yeah, it's that good.
Try it and's the secret recipe.


(this recipe will make two loaves)

3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups Dutch-process Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tsp Salt
1 Cup of Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup 1/4 cup water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Cocoa-Sugar Topping

1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Dutch-process Cocoa Powder
Pinch Ground Ginger
Pinch Ground Cloves
1/4 cup decorating or sparkle (coarse) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9 x 5x 3 loaf pans. You can also line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper (optional)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with medium speed. When the mixture is creamed together, add the eggs one at a time. Beat until blended. In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water and vanilla.

With the mixer on medium speed, alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the creamed butter,sugar and egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not overbeat! Mix until just blended. Divide mixture evenly between the two loaf pans. Shake pans gently (I told you I just slam them) to even out the batter and break any air bubbles.

Cocoa Spice Sugar Topping

Mix cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, sparkle sugar, ginger and cloves. Generously sprinkle over both loaf pans and place into the oven. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean.......about 45- 50 minutes. Let cool completely before running a knife around the edges to release them from the pans.

Sh-h-h-h-h-h! Remember it's a secret.

.....And the password is YUM.