Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

It has been a really long time and I’ll tell you why…

After the holidays, the inauguration happened and all of my energy has been put towards the resistance. Though before January 20th, baking made me relax and forget my troubles, since then it has felt like more of a weight while I juggled making protest signs, gathering the troops and writing to and calling Congress. I’m exhausted.

Last weekend as I talked to some friends about the state of our world, my baking came up and they suggested I try again because maybe it would take my mind of things like it had before. So, last night I searched my pantry for ingredients and made something simple. Though it didn’t take my mind off what I really wanted to be doing (scouring Facebook for news and writing to Senator Harris & Feinstein), the final result did make me happy – so that’s a start!

I started by melting chocolate & coconut oil.

I poured half of the melted chocolate into the muffin tins – just enough to cover the bottom entirely.

I let this freeze for 15 minutes and melted the peanut butter mixture of peanut butter, coconut oil & honey.

I poured the peanut butter mixture over the hardened chocolate then let those two layers freeze for another 5 minutes. 

This is when I realized that my first layer of chocolate was NOT tasty. I had pulled whatever chocolate I could find from my pantry and it was semi-sweet… or unsweetened all together – yuck! So, before pouring my third layer, I added granulated sugar to my melted chocolate. I then poured the sweetened chocolate over the peanut butter and placed the cups in the freezer for an hour.

When the hour was up, the cups were very well hardened. So much so that I had to use my molars to actually bite into them. The cups that had thinner bottom layers (aka thinner unsweetened chocolate layers) were the best because there was less of a bitter taste. That being said, I thought that they looked pretty amazing and were overall tasty!

Sweetly,

Simona

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 

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

A friendly neighbor gave away a huge box of Meyer lemons!

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So I got busy coming up with what to make with them and my first thought was marmalade! I followed Simply Recipe’s recipe because it was the most straight forward.

I started by cutting up the lemons, removing (but keeping) the seeds and any membrane and pith.

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I cut the lemon wedges into tiny pieces and put them into a big pot with water. I put the pith and seeds into a cheese cloth and tied it closed. The contents of the bag were to create pectin, instead of adding store bought pectin. I hung the bag over the edge of the pot so that the contents of the bag were in the water/lemon mixture.

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I then boiled the water mixture for about 30 minutes until the lemons were soft.

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When it was done, I removed the pectin bag and squeezed it to obtain about 2 tablespoons of pectin.

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I poured this pectin along with the frightening amount of sugar into the cooked lemons. I did a lot of reading and the reason some people’s marmalades don’t work out is because they shy out on the sugar and that doesn’t allow the marmalade to set.

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I turned on the heat and waited for the mixture to boil. In the meantime, I prepped the jars by placing them in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees F. This was to sterilize them but also to ensure they didn’t crack when the hot marmalade was poured in. I also poured boiling water over the lids and let them sit.

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I had the candy thermometer attached to the pot of boiling lemon mixture. The goal was to get to 218-220 degrees F.

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This had to be watched to make sure it got to the right temperature but the recipe also gave alternative ways to check when it was ready. The best method, they said, was to have put a plate in the freezer beforehand and drip a bit of the mixture onto it. If, when pushed with your finger, the mixture rippled, then it was ready. I did this over and over again and it never seemed to be ready (even though the temperature read 218. I finally realized that it wasn’t an instant. I would drip the mixture on the cold plate, move it with my finger and then, if I waited, it would set and ripple! Once I figured this out, I turned the heat off and quickly started to jar it.

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It said jar and cap quickly so I worked fast.

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The recipe said that it could take one night to one week for the marmalade to set and to not be disappointed if it didn’t set over night. I was also worried that I had done something wrong with the heating process since I hadn’t figured out that it was ready right away.

Needless to say, the next morning the marmalade had completely set! It was like real, store-bought marmalade! Amazing! I tried it on toast and it was so good. It was tart and not overly sweet at all. I loved the pieces of cooked lemon in it too!

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I will definitely be making more marmalade in the future!

Sweetly,

Simona

Fruit Leather Fail

How does someone mess up a three ingredient recipe?

I honestly don’t know, but it happened.

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I put the raspberries and honey into the blender (my NEW and working blender) and pulsed.

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I then poured the blended raspberries onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and evenly spread it out evenly. I tried to not make it too thin or thick.

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I zested lemon and sprinkled it over the raspberry.

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The recipe said to then bake at 175 degrees F for 4 hours. My very old oven doesn’t even have 175 on the dial so this was difficult to do. I also didn’t really have four hours to wait but I tried.

Something went wrong and I ended up with blackened, crispy, and quite frankly, burnt fruit leather. It tasted horrible.

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WHAT?!

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YIKES.

That clearly didn’t work, so here’s a picture of me and Jade instead. Will have to try fruit leather again another time.

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Sweetly,

Simona

Sur La Table Macarons Class

Wow, I have been M.I.A for almost a month!

Yikes!

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to bake or blog. First, we went on a surf trip to SoCal for Ahline’s birthday, then the next weekend we spent in Santa Cruz (for more surfing, of course) and then I got sick! Let’s not forget to mention that in that chaos, my website went down and being someone who doesn’t know much about html, etc, I just let it sit until I had time to call customer support.  I’m feeling better now and the website is back so let’s get back on track!

Yesterday, I took Juliana to a Sur La Table Cooking Class for her birthday!

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I was really excited because it was a macarons making class and I have been dying to make them, but too scared to try it out alone!

As always, Sur La Table prepped many of the ingredients beforehand so we started by making the meringue for the lime macarons which included whipping up the egg whites and adding sugar until stiff foam peaks formed. While that was happening, we sifted the almond flour+confectioner’s sugar mixture four times through a Tamis sieve. There is a specific reason why this type of sieve had to be used… but I can’t remember it. Juliana was a sifting pro 😉

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Once it was sifted four times, we added it in thirds to the meringue and gently folded it in. This is called the macaronnage step! For this first batch we added a little bit of green food coloring to match the lime flavor and then transferred the batter into a pastry bag to begin piping the macarons onto the silpat.

Our teacher gave us a good tip about piping: she said that, though tempting, when you’re putting anything into a pastry bag, you should not squeeze it to get it to the bottom. Instead, you should use a narrow spatula and scrape it against the side of bag. Eventually, the weight of the filling will push it down.

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This step wasn’t as simple as just piping it out. You have to hold the bag straight up, it can’t lean. You also have to keep the tip just about half an inch up from the silpat and you can’t move it upward even though it’s so tempting.

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Once we were done piping, we had to drop the pan with the wet macarons three times. Yes, that’s right. We had to hold the pan 6 inches above the bench and let it fall three times. This takes the air bubbles out!

They then had to be set aside to dry out. With time permitting, this should be for 30-45 minutes but it was less time during this class.

While we were making the meringues, our teacher had made the lime curd and had put it in the fridge to set. Once the lime macarons were placed in the oven, we started the macaronnage again for the orange creamsicle macarons.

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When the lime macarons were done, we removed them from the silpat and created an assembly line of them.

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We piped the lime curd into pastry bags and then put a dollop of curd onto one half of each macaron pair.

We then rolled the sides of the filled macarons in toasted coconut flakes, and voila!

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We did the same process for the orange creamsicle macarons, only their filling was an orange buttercream (which I did not get a picture of)!

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Our teacher said that macarons are actually better the second and third day after they’ve been in the fridge. This is because the filling has time to seep through the meringues!

This was yet another great class from Sur La Table and though the macarons still seem daunting, I’m excited to try them out at home!

Sweetly,

Simona