Mixed Berry Pavlova

Before the year is over, I wanted to make sure I finished up with my Christmas desserts.

On Christmas Eve, my mom also requested that I make a mixed berry pavlova, or as we called it: the meringue thing with berries. We had first had it at Abbe’s house a week before Christmas and my mom said it would be a hit at our Christmas Eve. I was nervous, because my track records with meringues has not been stellar but I did it anyway.

I started by drawing a 9″ circle on parchment paper and then flipping it over.

I then mixed the egg whites with the salt and beat until firm peaks formed.

This happened pretty quickly. I was nervous so I watched it carefully but it only took a little over 2 minutes to form these stiff peaks. Once the egg whites got to this stage, I sifted the cornstarch over them and added the vinegar & vanilla.

Once the ingredients were all combined, I poured the mixture onto the parchment paper and then spread it out to create a cake-like round.

I put the meringue in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour and a half. In the meantime, I cut up the fruits and simultaneously worried about the meringue.

When the meringue came out, it was as close to perfect as I could imagine. It had baked & hardened around the outside.

Of course, I immediately had the problem of transferring the meringue from the parchment to a plate. I was running a little behind so I decided to deal with that when I got to my mom’s. The car ride proved to be a bit difficult though and some cracks developed in the meringue. After my mom and I had pushed and pulled to get it seamlessly off the parchment paper, the meringue had multiple deep cracks and I had sweet meringue insides all over my hands. At this point, we decided to screw it and let it break apart since it would be completely covered with whipped cream and fruit – no one would be able to tell it had cracked.

I was a little disappointed but it ended up looking alright.

It was definitely a big hit and complimented the rich Chocolate Ganache Tart very well.

The pavlova was light and crunchy on the outside with a sweet and moist inside. I will definitely be making this again!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Sweetly,

Simona 

Chocolate Ganache Tart

Well, Christmas has already come & gone and we are quickly approaching 2017!

I am pretty sure that I say this every year, but I can’t believe the holidays are already over. I did a lot of baking over the holidays. I made dessert for Christmas Eve dinner at my mom & Gino’s and for Christmas Day with Lisa, Sam, Keaton, Simon and the gang.

For Christmas Eve, my mom requested I make this Chocolate Tart with Pomegranates & Hazelnuts and one other dessert which I will write about later. I also made this Chocolate Tart on Christmas Day.

The Chocolate Tart required that I make a pie dough.

I thought it would mean making the dough, refrigerating it for at least an hour and rolling the dough out but it didn’t. Once the dough was combined in the food processor, I just had to pour it into the pie pan and press it into the sides to create what would be the crust.

I put this in the fridge for 25 minutes. In the meantime, I started to make the chocolate ganache filling by simmering heavy cream, sugar and salt.

Once heated, I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate and butter.

I put the melted chocolate aside and prepared the pie crust for baking by piercing it with a fork. I then baked it for 25 minutes until golden. Once it had cooled, I poured the ganache filling into the pie crust.

I placed the tart into the fridge for about 25 minutes for the chocolate to set a little bit. Once it had, I sprinkled the toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds on top.

It was then placed into the fridge again, this time for 2 hours, for it to set completely.

This tart was delicious. It was so rich in flavor that you really just needed a sliver. The crunch of the hazelnuts added texture while the pomegranate seeds added some refreshment to the deep chocolate flavor.

Sweetly,

Simona

Christmas Crack

Since the Salted Caramel Pecan Bars were so popular at Friendsgiving, I did some searching for a Christmas inspired version.

And I found it – Christmas Crack!

Just like the first ones, these were super easy to make. The prep included lining a cookie sheet with tin foil and spraying it with cooking spray (I’ve been using Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray). I then lined the tin foil with Saltines.

I put those aside and began to work on the caramel.

Once it was done, I carefully poured it over the Saltines as evenly as possible.

This is where I missed a step. I was supposed to bake them like this for 5 minutes. I totally spaced out on that and moved on to the following step which was to sprinkle chocolate chips all over the top.

I put this into the oven and let it bake for the suggested 5 minutes. When I took it out, the chocolates were warm, but not melty enough to spread out.

So I put it back into the oven for another 5 minutes. This time, I was able to spread the chocolate a little more easily over the caramel.

Now it was time to cover the melted chocolate with a bunch of Christmas inspired decorations and candies. I had wanted to use red & green M&Ms but could only find peanut M&Ms, which added a bit of awkwardness to the Crack, but was a tasty alternative.

I put the cookie sheet into the fridge for 25 minutes to set. Once the chocolate had cooled and the candies were  set in place, I removed it from the fridge and cut them into pieces. This was a little tricky to do because the peanut M&Ms kept rolling off.

Regardless of that, these were DELICIOUS. It’s no surprise that they’re called Christmas “Crack”. They were hard to stop eating and were easy to make making these perfect holiday treats!

Sweetly,

Simona

Christmas Cookies Pt. 1

Every year around Christmas, my family has made & decorated sugar cookies.

This year, I decided to do two round of cookies. One with Ahline, and the other with my family (that will be this weekend).  Ahline and I made Valentine’s Day cookies last year and we made a BIG mess.

So, in anticipation of both cookie days, I did some research. My mom and I have always followed Martha Stewart’s Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe. It is basic and so simple. We’ve also always used her Royal Icing Recipe but this year, I altered it a bit.

The night before Ahline came over to decorate, I made the cookie dough. I mixed flour, salt and baking powder in one bowl and the butter and sugar into another.

Once the butter & sugar were fluffy, I added the egg and vanilla until combined followed by gradually adding the flower mixture.

I then split the dough in half and made them into two disks. I wrapped both tightly in saran wrap and put them into the fridge over night.

The next day, I took the disks of dough out about ten minutes before I planned to roll them out. Once they were a bit softer, I dusted my surface with flour and began to roll it out. Once the dough was thin enough, I cut multiple differently shaped cookies out with my mom’s cookie cutters 🙂

I baked them at 325 for about 12 minutes until the edges were slightly golden.

While the cookies cooled, I made the frosting. I followed The Kitchn’s tips on border and flood icing to avoid the mass mess that has always occurred during Christmas cookie time at my house.

For each color of icing I wanted, I used 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and 2.5 tablespoons of milk. For the border icing, however, I only used 1 tablespoon of milk. In retrospect, it needed at least 2, because it was way too thick once it was bottled. I used a funnel to get the icing into each bottle and there was surprisingly little to no mess.

Once this was all done, the decorating could begin!

Even Jade joined… or rather, she begged!

We may not be the most artistic, or the most patient (in terms of waiting for layers of icing to dry) but we were so impressed with ourselves. The squeeze bottles used for icing were amazing. Look at how there was barely any mess!

As always, these were so delicious and fun to make! Can’t wait for round two this weekend!

Sweetly,

Simona