Tag Archives: dessert

Cake Tasting at Pomme Palais

4 Jan

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a Holiday Cake tasting at Pomme Palais, a new French gourmet cafe from Chef Michel Richard.  Pomme Palais is in The Palace Hotel at 30 East 51st Street (between Madison and Park Avenues).

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The patisserie itself is brightly lit and spotlights the big, modern cases of various yummy treats.

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The have some packaged goodies ready to go along with the individual items in the case.  (We actually went back and grabbed some candy bars when we were in the area a few days later)

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I was only able to attend for a bit, but we were treated to some amazing pastries in the time I was there.

The patisserie was described as “whimsical” in the overview and that is a great way to explain it.

The Macaron Cake was an “almond vanilla sponge cake layered with chocolate mousse, coated with dark chocolate, and decorated with macarons for playful color and texture”

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It was a beautiful and playful cake and was quite delicious.

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Though it didn’t sing the way some of the others did.

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The Opera Cake was “layered cake of coffee, chocolate, and almond flavors.”DSCF2828

I was a big fan of this one. I am not a huge cake fan, so I liked that this was layers of different textures without much traditional cake cake.

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We also tried the Charlotte Cake “with fruit, apricot, raspberry, passion yogurt mousse and lady fingers.  This cake can have a mousse filling with any fruit the customer prefers.”  This was good but not on the top of my list.

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The Orange Creme Brulee Cheesecake was something special.  It was described as “a creative twist on the classic cheesecake and flan.”  True to description, this was a perfect balance of cheesecake’s creamy denseness (but not too dense) with a flan like top.  And the orange added a nice flavor essence.

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The Lemon Eggceptional Cake was a beauty.  It was described as “layers of sponge cake, lemon curd, French meringue, topped with white chocolate lemon eggceptionals.”

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This was very nice and a light and fluffy cake, though lemon isn’t my favorite.

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My second favorite cake of the day was the Tart au Pomme which was “puff pastry with thin slices of apple, pastry cream, topped with sugar.”

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The apples on this just popped with flavor. A perfect texture and the perfect balance of tartness and sweet.

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But my number one favorite of the tasting was the Chocolate Fleur d’Automne: “Chocolate flower on top of cake with almond meringue and chocolate mousse.”

 

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What can I say? I’m a chocolate girl!  This was an exceptional balance of textures and richness with sweetness and a hint of crisp from the hard thin chocolate on top.  I absolutely loved this cake and even though my tummy was quite full by this time, I ate every last bite of this one.

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Though, alas, I couldn’t finish the rest.  I felt awful wasting so much great dessert.

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I had to leave just before the cut into the most adorable of the treats: Michel’s Snowman: “White meringue Snowman wrapped up with a sugar scarf and marzipan-chocolate hat… he carries a rosemary stalk ‘tree’ and includes raspberry sauce.”

You prepare this by rimming the plate with whipped cream and filling the hollow base of the snowman with ice cream.  Sounds like my kind of dessert! I absolutely love hard meringue. I was bummed I didn’t get a chance to try this one, and when we went back a few days later to get some candy, they were all sold out. I’ll just have to go back!

But seriously… how adorable is this guy?

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Near the end of the tasting, a very jovial Chef Michel Richard came out to say hello.  He is quintessentially French, and while almost a little too friendly with the ladies, he was very happy to ham it up for the camera.  He was incredibly happy and seemed genuinely excited to be sharing his creations with us.

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We were sent home with a lovely box of candy.

 

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And each bite was better than the last.  I am very picky about my candies, and these were exceptional.

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I have been to many patisseries in NYC (and around the world), baking is my first love, and I am a dessert person to the extreme.  I wasn’t expecting to like this place as much as I did, and the desserts were really fantastic and original.  The only other place I’ve had desserts as noteworthy is at Dominique Ansel. (Though Chef Ansel will always have my heart)

I would never have known to stop by Pomme Palais had I not been invited to try these cakes, so this was one perk in which I was more than happy to participate.  I was very thankful for the opportunity and can’t wait to go back (and try that snowman)!

Cakes range from $20 (for the snowman) to $42 (for most of the full cakes).  Quite expensive, but worth it to impress at a party. And the individual pastries are probably reasonably priced for a nice snack near Rockefeller Center or before a Radio City performance. (They also have some non-dessert foods that looked quite good). And the candy bars we got a few days later… awesome.

Highly recommend a stop!

 

Note: While I was privileged enough to do this tasting for free, all opinions expressed are my own.

Thanksgiving 2012

8 Jan

Thanksgiving in my family is a pretty epic event.  There are about 40 people every year, and we bring pretty much the same dishes ever year. I love the traditions and I love the food.  We’re one of those few families that actually get along and it’s the day I look forward to most every year.  

And even though we walk to the train station (through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade) and take a train, I still can’t resist baking up a storm.  I last blogged about our Thanksgiving in 2009, but I realized that there are a few recipes that I consider classic to my repertoire that I haven’t yet blogged about.  Also, 2012 was the year of the Brownie Battle.

Thanksgiving is also a time of experiment for me. While I bring a lot of the same things, in the weeks prior I try to refine them and make them better, and I try to bring something new each year.

My peanut butter cups are pretty much set in stone at this point, but I did have an accidental experiment when a drop of water splashed into my chocolate cups. They always warn you that water is melted chocolate’s worst enemy. But here I had some side-by-side proof.  Check out the consistency of the one cup that got a single drop of water (center of the shot) versus the rest.

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And Thanksgiving also happens to be a time when I am very thankful for my KitchenAid (Thanks again, Mikey! Best gift ever!) One of my favorite moments is when the chocolate hits the batter and makes perty swirls.

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I have been making a family brownie recipe for years (from my Grandmother’s recipe folio) that was noted as being from my (totally awesome and inspiring) great Aunt Dinah (who is currently in her late 90s, but you would never believe it).  I actually made the one’s from Grandma’s recipe when I was on the Wendy Williams show, and you can find that recipe on the Wendy site.

I always assumed that the recipes were the same, but my cousin (Dinah’s granddaughter) noticed some differences between our recipes.  So… what else to do besides an epic Brownie Battle?

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I put a sprinkle on Grandma’s recipe to differentiate, but turns out the color and texture were different enough to be able to tell.

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Aunt Dinah’s was a bit fluffier and fudgier. And while I love Grandma’s recipe, Aunt Dinah’s recipe won hands down (recipe at the end of this post).

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I also made my Drunk N’ Nutty Pie, but I have refined it a bit and replaced the chestnuts with pecans (for texture, added after the slow cook but before the crumb topping).

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I could eat this filling with a spoon! Slow cooked apples and cranberries in red wine. SOOO good. And such a beautiful scarlet color.

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I also changed out the crumb topping for a new blend and cooked it a bit longer (until the top browned, about an hour) at a lower temperature (350 degrees) to get it a little crisper. The new topping is simple to remember:  1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 stick unsalted butter cut into 4 or five chunks, and 1 cup pecan halves. Pulse a few times in the processor to make a coarse meal.  I definitely liked this new topping even more!

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And then there are the meringue kisses.  I absolutely love these and they are a family favorite. My grandmother used to make them, and I took them over for Thanksgiving to make sure they would always be around.  They sit in the oven overnight (which made for some fun times the next morning when I preheated the oven and forgot they were there… but luckily only lost one tray and not all!) This recipe also at the end of this post and I also posted about how NOT to make them and did a tutorial on making meringue in a vlog. The vlog is instructions how to make a meringue torte, but the same principles apply to the cookies, just with different ingredients and ratios.

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So we schlepped peanut butter cups, Drunk N Nutty pie, meringue kisses, two sets of brownies, apple cider salted caramels, and Mike’s famous butternut squash souffle up to White Plains.

My dad’s cousins host every year, and they always set a beautiful table and we all get name markers.  The rule of Thanksgiving is that if you bring a date (which must be approved by Dinah, by the way), you get to sit with them during year 1, but after that, they’re on their own.  

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And my cousin Eric and Aunt Linda are our expert turkey carvers each year.

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Mike was kind enough to go in early and grab a turkey leg for me. (Awww)

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And the dessert table always just looks like something to dive into, mouth first.

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Here is the final Drunk N’ Nutty pie:

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And brownies.

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And meringues with other brownies.

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And the peanut butter cups.

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 With my cousin adding a sign to remind the family that these were famous peanut butter cups.

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And the final apple cider salted caramels (with a spice cake behind that my aunt made). (IT”S JUST ALL SO GOOD!)

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The day after Thanksgiving every year, we have a leftovers party at my dad’s house in New Jersey. We invite our friends and ask everyone to just bring some leftovers for everyone to share. It’s a great gathering and I look forward to this every year (almost as much as Thanksgiving itself).  And every year I make a cider recipe that is an absolute crowd pleaser.

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And my favorite breakfast the day after: leftover sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top!

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Gosh I just love Thanksgiving!!!

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RECIPES
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Aunt Dinah’s Winning Brownie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1 stick margarine (softened)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (it used to be 2 cups, but at some point in history it was changed)
  • 4 ounces unsweetened or bitter Baker’s chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Melt 4 ounces unsweetened or bitter Baker’s chocolate.
  2. Mix together 1 stick butter, 1 stick of margarine, 1 3/4 cups sugar.
  3. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beat well after each egg.
  4. Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
  5. Add 1 cup four, 1/4 cup at a time.
  6. Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Add 3/4 cup (or 1 cup) of walnuts.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees. (The recipe says for 18-20 minutes, but it took me 25-30 each time, so just bake it until a toothpick comes out clean)

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THE Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients:

  • Good quality chocolate (I like Ghiradelli and frequently make milk, semi-sweet, and white chocolate versions to please everyone’s pallettes) 
  • Creamy Peanut butter – 1/2 cup
  • Salted butter- 1 stick melted
  • Confectioners Sugar- 1 & 1/3 cups
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs – 1 cup

Directions:

  1. Prepare either mini candy cup molds (these are my favorite and I use them for all sorts of things) or cupcake liners (full size, cut down in about half)
  2. Melt chocolate and pour half into prepared molds (you can use your finger to spiral it up the sides of the cups so it makes a mini dish)
  3. Put these in the fridge until hardened
  4. Combine the peanut butter, butter, confectioners sugar, and graham cracker crumbs in a mixer until blended
  5. Put peanut butter mixture into the chocolate cups (Only put in enough peanut butter mixture so they are below the top level. You can smooth out the top of the chocolate with a bench scraper or knife)
  6. Top cups with the other half of the melted chocolate and put into refrigerator until set
  7. Pop out and try not to each all of them in one sitting (but I will totally understand if you do)

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Meringue Kisses

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of cream of tarter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 350
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy
  3. Add pinch of cream of tarter and salt and beat until stiff
  4. Add sugar 1 tsp at a time
  5. Fold in chocolate chips
  6. Slowly add vanilla
  7. Put cookies on silpat
  8. Turn off oven and leave off over night

Apple Cider Salted Caramels from SmittenKitchen

3 Jan

One of my favorite food blogs is SmittenKitchen. Her recipes are great and she does a great job of describing how to make certain things. Also, I find her recipes pretty crowd pleasing so I usually go to her site first when it comes to baking.  She released a book recently and when asked to pick out her favorite recipe, she managed to point to her Apple Cider Salted Caramels.

I read the post during Hurricane Sandy (while we somehow got insanely lucky and kept our power) and knew immediately I had to try this recipe. I love salted caramels and I love apple cider. This sounded like everything wonderful about fall.

So the day after the storm, I put on my boots and went a few blocks away to the grocery store in search of cider. By some odd fortune, there was one, single carton of cider left… laying down on an empty shelf.

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The recipe is actually incredibly easy. I know that a lot of people are intimidated by caramels and making candy, but it really just comes down to a bit of patience and a good thermometer.

I put mine into a silicon baking dish and they came out perfectly.

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I sprinkled some flake salt on top of mine as well.

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And I used my bench scraper to cut them into perfect squares.

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And managed to get through the cutting only eating one… 

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But these little nuggets of heaven didn’t last long as I rolled them in parchment paper.  I think I ate almost half during the next hour.  They were freakin’ amazing. 

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And they got accolades from my office. Perfect little candies.

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I made them a second time and I think that the cider I used impacted the final texture.  It just refused to reduce to the same syrupy consistency of the first time, even after I cooked it for twice as long.  I went with it, and they still tasted GREAT, but they were a bit stickier and harder to handle.  I had to keep them in the fridge just to make sure they could be peeled from the wrappers.  But still… delicious.

The recipe specifically says to use unpasteurized cider, but I couldn’t find that, so both times I used pasteurized cider that was in the refrigerated section.  I’ll have to try a few more times (damn!) The first time around I used Red Jacket cider, so if you find that, I’d scoop it up for this recipe.

This recipe is going straight into the KEEPER section.