Coco Cooks has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds.

If not, please visit and update your bookmarks and RSS feed.




Stumble Upon Toolbar


Bostini Creme Pie

This is my first Daring Bakers challenge. After a rather stress filled and hectic weekend, with all the ingredients in house, I said "if not now then never". Certain Someone was gone for awhile, and I got to play.Reading other Daring Bakers posts on the forums I knew where I would encounter the difficulty. I've done custards before, so really wasn't concerned about that aspect.The texture of this custard is not thick and is difficult to set, like a traditional custard. I love the specs of vanilla bean.However the chiffon I knew would be hit or miss. Rather than bake the chiffon in ramekins, I decided to cook it in a longer sheet style cake pan. I cooked it for precisely 25 minutes and it really looked fine. However when I put it on the rack to cool and flipped it out the pan , the center not being cooked thoroughly fell out through the rack. I could tell the main part of the cake was salvageable . Considering I was using cut out square sections, I cut away the good portion. Eggs are expensive in Chicago, and this recipe called for a lot! I had bulked up at Costco. I couldn't bare the 'waste' and starting all over again. The good parts I salvaged, were what chiffon should be in texture.So I just needed to cook it longer to accommodate the cake pan. I will definitely use chiffon cake again in my recipes. Getting over my embarrassment, I reminded my self that blog communities like Daring Bakers are for learning, making mistakes, and successes. We all learn and feed of each other. I'm proud to be a Daring Baker. Check out the recipe and see the few modifications I was allowed to make. And if you have a moment check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll to see how these other great members meet their challenge.
Surprisingly Certain Someone noticed the custards in the fridge. This type of dessert appeals to him with all the chocolate and custard. I told him Sunday dinner was almost like being home in Germany. His mother makes great puddings and such.He got so into to it he even staged this picture and took it for me as I desperately need help with this aspect of blogging.I promise my plating and photos will improve. Thank you honey. We ate our deserts prior to watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. I almost missed it because the rich cream custard had a sleepy effect on the both of us. Good to have on hand as night cap. We even revisited the leftover custard a few nights later with just the chocolate sauce and quickly went out like lamps soon after.

Daring Bakers October Challenge #12

Host : Mary Alpinberry

Bostini Creme Pie (from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)

Serving Size 8 generous Servings

Allowed modifications for Daring Bakers:

1. You can substitute with a flavor that you think complements the other components as long as you keep the chiffon cake "light colored". So nothing "dark" like chocolate or coffee/espresso.

2. Since the serving size is quite large, please feel free to half the recipe.

3. The chocolate glaze recipe makes a lot so make as much or as little glaze as you would like. Scaling this is straightforward since it's 1 part chocolate to 1 part butter.

4. You can play with the "size" of the dessert. You can make the custard and the cakes in smaller ramekins so that you'll have a bunch of miniature desserts instead of 8 regular sized ones.

5. High altitude modifications are allowed as long as you stay "true" to the recipe. Conversion for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan etc. is allowed too.

Any modifications I made are highlighted in blue.



3/4 cup whole milk

2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch

1 whole egg, beaten

9 egg yolks, beaten

3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 vanilla bean (EDITED: vanilla extract is okay)

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup superfine sugar

1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil (I used vegetable)

1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest (I used orange icing fruit, a purred orange mix to add to icings and cake batters)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocalate Chips)

8 ounces unsalted butter


To prepare the custard: Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.

To prepare the chiffon cakes: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat. Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter. Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.

To prepare the glaze: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm. To assemble: Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Spoonful Of Christmas Event/ Coco's Brew

There are so many blogging events out there that I really want to participate in. But time and money are always a question. There has been a project I've been toying with in my mind that fit in perfectly with this Event . Fruit Brandies. Zlamuska created this event to get us thinking about our holiday giving.Now's the time to start the prepping and planning. My project takes 3 months and I should have started it earlier. However it would be a great gift in a decorative bottle or even in the 'moonshine' containers like a Mason Jar. Certain Someones mother makes great brandy concoction out of berries and other fruits from her garden. She told me its very simple and just takes vodka, fruit sugar,and a jar.Oh, and time! My intention was to do a apricot brandy, but I couldn't find any. So I settled one a plum brandy, and another interesting fruit I came across called Cactus Pear. Imagine tropical a Cactus pear martini in the dead cold Chicago winter! And the inside color is gorgeous. A bright fuchsia. I used this link from Canadian Crafter as a guide. She emphasises any fruit would do. The comments have great tips on filtering the brew with a Brita filter when done. Also , the vodka doesn't have to be the best. I used the cheaper Smirnoff rather than a Belvedere, Kettle One , or Grey Goose. They were some really cheap ones , but I was afraid to go there!

So essentially Its just covering your washed fruit ( no peeling or pitting necessary)with sugar. The recipe I referred to said 3 cups sugar for a one Gallon jar. I just winged it to saturate the fruit and probably used about 1 1/2 cups of sugar for the half gallon Mason Jars I used. I made one entirely plum( about 8 plums fit in). The other was the Cactus Pear( this one I cut the ends off to release the color ). The fruit didn't reach the top so I added 2 more plums for contrast in flavors.Then I covered with vodka and shook it up to dissolve the sugar. Your supposed to turn it over each day for the next three months. Plums are so appropriate for Christmas. I cant wait to make my summer fruit concoctions. I can even see toying with pepper/ vodka infusions. The choice is yours. Imagine your holiday party serving cocktails made from own brew.

*I will follow up around Christmas on the Brews progress.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


In The Bag Event: Cooking The Month Of October

One of the main reasons I started this food blog was to participate in a lot of food blog events and challenges. The participation from people all over the world really inspires me. While checking out another blog this morning, I noticed a event hosted by Julia from A Slice Of Cherry Pie in the UK. In the Bag is a monthly event that calls for creative uses of specially selected ingredients. I happened to have all the components on hand. And just a day to go before the deadline!This months event challenged us to use Pumpkin, Mushrooms, and Leeks. I immediately thought of a few ideas. One was a pizza with feta, a chicken roll up stuffed with the ingredients perhaps in a stuffing mixture, or this on which I finally settled on. Based on the Tarte Poireux I used to eat in Paris as a student and Quiche Lorraine's.

Courtney's Oyster Mushroom,Pumpkin, Leek, and Feta Tarte.

Pate Brisee for your tart shell.
9 tbs unsalted butter at room temp
1 large egg
3 tbs water at room temp
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp of salt
butter to grease tart pan

Combine butter and egg in your processor. Add flour gradually to form dough. The mixture should resemble coarse balls.Gently form into a ball and wrap in plastic for 1 hour or overnight.

Butter spring form tart pan.

Roll out pastry dough between lightly floured sheets of wax paper to fit pan plus extra.Turn out, shape , and guide into the pan. Don't worry if it breaks or needs to be patched. Lightly punch bottom with a fork. Chill pastry dough in pan covered with wax paper for 30 min. Blind bake crust with ceramic weights if you have them for 15 min. Be sure to wrap your tart shell in foil to prevent leaks and spills.

1 cup fresh pureed or canned pumpkin. * I made fresh, drain any excess water through a sieve. Canned may add more color as its more concentrated.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

oyster mushrooms

1 leek

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp minced ginger




1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup crumbled fresh feta( I used a water packed French feta)

sage leaves

Slice and thoroughly clean leeks, I soak them in water several times to drain the dirt and sand. shred the oyster mushrooms length wise with your fingers. Saute both with a little butter to wilt. You may add salt and pepper. Mix eggs , cream, salt,pepper,nutmeg, Parmesan,ginger, and pumpkin puree.

Take baked shell and line with leek and mushroom mixture. Add crumbled feta. Be sure your pan is tightly wrapped in foil and place in a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Pour pumpkin mixture to cover. You may have left over liquid depending on your size of shell, etc. Top with sage leaves. Bake for approx 30-40 min.

I would serve it in mini form as a appetizer, or as a main course with a seasonal salad with a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. I can also see it with bacon or ham Incorporated, but I didn't have any.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


While Certain Someone is Away...Seasonal Bounty Angel Hair Pasta

Certain Someone asked me in a email while waiting for takeoff, why don't I make him a pasta dish like this. I had told him I was roasting veggies and tossing them with angel hair pasta. I replied that if I said we were having veggies and pasta for dinner,he'd ask me to cook him a sausage!As I mentioned in a earlier post when he's gone, I tend to lean towards less meat.And without having to worry about his likes and dislikes, I was free to cook. Hyde Park Produce had some excellent Oyster mushrooms that were begging me to take them home. I chose some assorted zucchini, squash, oil/salt cured black olives, carrots, onion, and big sprigs of fresh basil.

Courtney's Seasonal Bounty

Angel Hair Pasta
zucchini sliced very thin
yellow squash
several cloves of garlic
oyster mushrooms
cured black olives( use according to taste as flavor is strong)
capers ( according to taste)
fresh basil for a chiffonade
truffle oil to drizzle
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Thinly slice veggies with a mandolin. Toss veggies and garlic cloves with salt, pepper, olive oil, oregano, and balsamic vinegar.Roast in a cast iron pan at 375 degrees for approx half hour or until tender and juices have mostly evaporated.
Boil water for pasta and prepare. Cut pits out of the olives,and add both olives and capers to mixture of veggies.Toss pasta with veggie mixture.Roll basil leaves and slice for a chiffonade to top the pasta. Add grated Parmesan , and drizzle with truffle oil.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wilton 2 Final Project

Tonight I finished my final cake for Wilton 2. I chose a peach icing for my basket weave rather than the traditional white butter cream. The cake is a chocolate /orange flavor.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Flower Power Cookies

Certain Someone leaves for Germany tomorrow. He has to take care of some business and its his mothers Birthday. His mother is the classic homemaker and into her needlepoint and entertaining. While out shopping a few weeks back I purchased a demi tasse cups and saucers set in assorted pastel colors. I decided to send her a homemade gift to go with and put my cake decorating classes to good use. Cookies are a fun medium as they are firm , and you can do so many great things with shapes. I have been making royal icing flowers all month for class and had extras to add to her cookies. These cookies are totally edible and almost pure sugar with all the icing. Yet they taste pretty good. I used a basic sugar cookie dough I have wrote about before . I also did half with cocoa powder for some variation. I plan to wrap each individually in a cello bag and pack in a tin I picked up at the Container Store. I added crystal flowers onto the tin for a decorative touch. I hope it survives Certain Someones flight to London, then Dusseldorf. Her birthday isn't until next week so I pray they keep in the airtight tin. Wish I could be there. Shes a incredible cook and baker so I hope she will be kind in her critique.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Busy Body (Interesting Obits, Rissoto Balls, and Bread.)

I'm one of those nosey, morbid people that always reads the obituary section of any paper. So while browsing through the NY times on line today,I noticed two obits with a American Culinary angle. Two people passed this week that either reflected or influenced the way most Americans ate for a period. I wouldn't say they are household names,but very significant. Both were near in age and attitude towards food. Peg Bracken wrote a book I never heard of, but seemed to be a sentiment of many woman called I Hate To Cook. Seems Peg was a modern woman and go getter in the advertising world who hated the expectation of domesticity. Ironically she wrote a tongue in cheek cook book for those who were like her. Kind of like the Sandra Lee (Semi Homemade) or Rachel Ray (30 Minute Meals)of her day. Love them or hate them,they make a impact. She's the total antithesis of today's trends. The other departed was man named Vincent De Domenico, the creator of Rice-A-Roni. Most Americans have had this leading processed convenient food at one time or another. It was interesting to read about his influence and activities in Napa as well. Peg and Vincent were quite in sync.

Well I love to cook, but don't always have the time as I work a full time job and two part time.As well as take a class.I'm not adverse to leftover and convenience. Reading many blogs , I have discovered many things I want to try.Above are some my adventures this week. I give full credit to Deborah at Taste and Tell for inspiring me to make a risotto( but I added butternut squash puree purchased from Williams and Sonoma) and Rosa at rosas-yummy-yums for making a pumpkin challah( of which I didn't take a photo, topped with Pepita's, and devoured). They both turned out excellent and I served it alongside my improvised Coq Au Vin for dinner last night. Certain Someone and I gobbled it up.I then took the leftover risotto , rolled it in some leftover panko /pecan breading, and made fried rice balls.So good!See convenience, inspiration, and creativity.

Courtney's Coq au Vin

Chicken Breasts

country bacon

sweet onions( I used a variety called Candy Onions)

Herbs de Provence

Bay leaf

1/2 bottle of red wine or more depending on amount of chicken( I used a cheap Merlot hanging around)



garlic cloves

*I didn't have mushroom, but they are a traditional component

Chicken Stock

Cut up bacon and brown in a heavy duty casserole. Drain most fat and add chopped onion, and spices, and herbs. Add chicken and brown the skin on all sides. The bottom of the pan should start to caramelize. De glaze with red wine. Add chicken stock and cover to simmer, stirring occasionally. This dish takes approx 45- 1 hour depending on cuts and amounts of the chicken. Cook till tender. I like to do this in a slow cooker as well. The chicken will fall of the bone.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


A Mano

Certain Someone decided to change things up a bit and take me to a new restaurant. A Manomeans by hand and is the new brainchild of my friends and family at Bin 36. I have worked over the years at both Bin 36 and Bin Wine Cafe part time in their wine shop and as a hostess. Chicago being a big city , but small town, keeps you always connected by six degrees of separation. Currently I work with the former head chef at one of those establishments in the catering world. So he had mentioned this new venture, and I was happy when Certain Someone booked a table.Brian Duncan, a partner , and one of the countries leading wine experts, greeted us so warmly. He sat down , offered us a glass of a Pinot Nero( which is actually white and made without the skins), and we talked. He is the consummate host and professional. Everything I know about wine was gleaned from him,a taskmaster, but fair and gracious. After we caught up our antipasti and salumi arrives. We ordered 6 items for $ 22. I chose the vegetable , while Certain Someone chose the salumi. Brian commented on our excellent selections of Eggplant Caponata (with pine nuts,raisins, and peppers), Roasted peppers( with Capra honey Goat cheese, and dandelion leaves), marinated wild mushrooms,Mole Salumi( spiced up with chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho chilies) which was our favorite, and Prosciutto di Parma.The salumi was shaved so thin they melted in your mouth. Remember all this is hand made on the establishment. Certain Someone and I then picked and played with the following courses. I chose a Primi Piatti of grilled quail with poached pear , baby dandelion leaves, and a Passito wine vinaigrette. That followed with a half portion of Pappardelle with braised boar and raisins. Certain Someone chose a full portion of Gnocchetti and a Secondi Piatti of Country Cottage Famrs Chicken Breast with Honey Roasted Cipollini Onions and Fregola. Outstanding!The wines were perfect I feel so unknowledgable about the Italian Wines. I chose a Lagrein ,a medium bodied wine. Certain Someone chose a Peroni to start ( a German needs his beer), and followed with the Bin 36 Cabernet Sauvingnon. Brian blended several selections for the the restaurants. I decided to have a cocktail after the meal and picked a Rosso Sicilano which is made with Sicilian Blood Orange Juice and Averna. It was a bitter Campari like taste that grew on you. We shared dessert of Brachetto Zabaglione with seasonal Fruit.
What I liked best about this dinner was that we didn't feel stuffed and guilty as you can after a evening of dining out. Portion control was perfect and they lure you into each course wanting more. It was nice to see so many old friends and we do vow to return. A Mano has only been open for a week , but Chicago has a new culinary hit.

Stumble Upon Toolbar



Last week I noticed this great place on the border of Indiana, called Village Farm Stand, selling raw olives. Above the display was a sheet directing you how to cure them. I was interested but passed as I had to focus on other things.Then the other day I noticed a article in the New York Times on line edition about the art and legacy of curing olives. Well I knew I just had to go back to that store and try it out for my self. It seems olive season is nearing and end, and I didn't want to waste this chance.The recipe in the the NY Times differs from the one I'm trying out, but both are worth a try.One needs more time than the other. I love olives, and they are rich in lore. It seems I'm the only one that loves them in my world but I think my loved ones have been tainted by bad cheap. I was astounded to read the methods used to commercially cure them. So tonight after class I rolled up my selves and decided to give it a go.

This recipe is courtesy of Village Farm Stand:

California Olives

For each pound of cured pitted olives:

* few dashes of white wine vinegar

*1 tablespoon cracked fennel seeds

*1 tablespoon of salt

*1 tablespoon of chopped garlic

*1 tablespoon oregano

*1/8 tablespoon red pepper

* olive oil, enough to cover


1. Gently crack the olives with a rolling pin or heavy object, being very careful not to crack the pit.(I tried the rolling pin , but only seemed to smash them, so I slashed them with a knife).

2. Place the olives in a bowl and cover them with water. Weigh down the olives with a plate or some sort of weight to keep them under water, and prevent them from drying out.

3. Change the water twice a day for at least eight days, or until the olives are no longer bitter to the taste. Do not fail; to change the water! This method of curing uses natural, bacterial fermentation and can get icky if you don't change the water often.Once the olives are no longer bitter, you can remove the pits , making them easier to eat later.

4. In a crock or other heavy , non metallic container,sprinkle vinegar over olives and mix well.

5. Drain Thoroughly. Add the spices and mix again.

6. Place olives in sterile jars and cover with olive oil. Ensure that the olives are fully covered, and that there are no air bubbles. Tap the bottom of the container to help release bubbles.

7. Allow to stand at least one week fro flavor to develop. After desired flavor is achieved , the olives can be kept at room temperature, but it is best to refrigerate them for the longest freshest flavor. If refrigerated , allow to return to room temperature for full flavor. The leftover olive oil, can be used in salads or to saute meats.

Here is a link to the NY Times article. In addition here is a recipe that's a part of the article called Nono's Olives. This recipe differs greatly from the previous. Notice the lack of salt used in curing. I'm sticking to the simplest one for now and will post my results after the process. Tonight I have just 'cracked' them and will begin the eight day process. I also plan to add garlic and chili flakes to my olives.If I like the result , then next fall I'll buy a case and make my years worth of olives knowing that I cured them and they are pure and fresh.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


What's For Dinner Honey?

Today was on of those days. But all worked well. Certain Someone has been away on business and I've been all alone feeling isolated because of the car issue. Its hard to adapt to public transport when you drive everywhere for work. Then we had a false alarm with the security system . Having just landed and getting the call, he picked me up and we met the police officer in front of the house. Better safe than sorry, but that's the third time that has happened in two years. Nevertheless the car is back in my hands and as I drove home , I pondered what to make my baby for dinner. I had a whole bunch of pecans left from my pie experiments, and a pecan crusted chicken breast came to mind. Served alongside some pasta with cream, Parmesan, and sun dried tomatoes. I quickly googled pecan crusted chicken and settled on Emerils recipe for chicken fingers. I chose to use breasts and substituted Panko for regular bread crumbs.I was surprised at how flavorful and tasty this was. A great alternative to fried chicken. Reminded me of my college friends oven baked cornflake chicken, except way more sophisticated and grown up. It was so tasty I forgot to serve the honey mustard sauce on the side. Didn't need it at all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Consolation Prize

So today I received a unexpected consolation prize.I ran a search to see if any information had been published about the winners of the Bucktown Apple Pie contest. I managed to find a article in a e- food magazine called Hungry Magazine-All Things Tasty ,from a judge in the preliminary rounds. There was a link to a photo slide show of the 'prettier pies ' in the contest.Lo and behold , who's little old pie was among them?Yes, my Spicy Apple Caramel Drizzle. Not bad as I didn't even place. So yes that's a huge consolation, visual recognition. Wait until next year!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Trials and Tribulations Leading Up to the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest

After a peaceful full nights sleep following last nights La Traviata at Lyric Opera, I awoke yesterday to get started on my pies for tomorrows contest. I planned to make 3 types of crusts after all my friends and families critiques. Rather than my sour cream crust I wanted to use,1737,147173-245200,00.html , I wanted a flakier crust.So I was turning my ignition in my car, and sputter ,splat. The cars check engine light started to flash and car started going dead.So much for the store and contest! And not to mention worry about repair costs. Certain Someone assured me to continue and ask my aunt for a ride the next day to enter (he has golf and will turn up later on ). We got the insurance company to tow the car, and ,he took me to the store with the assurance everything will work out this week. So I got to the tasks of making my crusts. I decided to do a Pate Brisee , which I've done before, based on Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. Only with some modifications based on other research. This contest is intense and I already heard a piece on it on National Public Radio. Some people have been preparing all year. And I, only 1 week.
So I decided to use apple cider vinegar , rather than ice water. As I tripled the recipe for 3 double pie crusts( 2 for the contest, 1 for me) I used shortening with the butter( all very cold). I even put the flour in the freezer. I don't have Kitchen Aide , and I had to work quickly with the hands. I figured it worked with the ancestors, so it will work with me. I added cardamom to the crust and ground almond paste. Here's the gist of Martha's recipe with my changes in blue which doesn't make it Pate Brisse any longer!

Pate Brisee ( Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
2 1/2 CUPS all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks( 1 cup) unsalted buter cut into cubes(1 Stick butter, 8 tsps shortneing)
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed (ice cold apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 stick of Odense Almond Paste grated

Combine flour,salt(and cardamom). Add butter(and almond paste) and blend until the mixture resemble coarse crumbs. Add ice apple cider vinegar until dough holds together without being sticky or wet. Turn dough out on a work surface and divide in half. Shape into disks and place in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to overnight. Dough may be frozen up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before using.
* for the flakiest crusts make sure ingredients( even the flour) are cold before you begin.

Because I used my hands and feared over kneading , my dough was fragile . I rolled out my discs in between wax paper, and peeled the layers of crust off the paper and into the pan/ onto the pie. Any holes I patched quickly and baked the pie at 350 degrees. My oven I discovered is tricky,and last week I over baked my pies, resulting in dryness.During the last 15 min I brushed my egg wash over the pie.

I'm calling my pie Spicy, Nutty, Caramel Apple Drizzle. I'm using a combo of apples such as Cortland,Golden Delicious, and Braeborn. Here's the bulk of my filling.

assorted apples
apple cider
instant tapioca for thickening( I ground mine in the coffee grinder)
touch of Black strap molasses
lemon to prevent discoloration
vanilla extract
butter for patting on top before sealing the crust.
egg wash of 1 egg and heavy cream to brush on dough.
caramel for topping after baked
chopped pecans and peanuts( I use salted for contrast)

And here's my result( I baked 3). Wish me luck.Its my first contest. Gale Gand of Tru and Nancy Mathieson of the
American Pie Council will be some of the distinguished judges.

Post Script Sunday October 14, 2007

Auntie Mame arrived early to drive me to the pie drop off. We got there early and the organizers were kind enough to let me check in. What a great group they are. This event is building up momentum over the years and proceeds of the sale of pie benefit the Friends of Holstein Park(in Bucktown). I explained about my car troubles and how I couldn't stay to help . They totally understood and said they would call if I won. Before I went to bed last night I fretted about all the professionals and pros involved as judges and entrants. I feared they would laugh at my entry, etc. Certain Someone said I was a pie freak and told me to got to bed. So I'm at home now while he plays golf. If he's up to it we will try to go back. Other than that I'll wait to see if I get anything prize wise. Nevertheless I'm glad I entered and had the experience. May this be the first of many contests and exploring.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Foodie Blog Roll

When I get into something, I really get into it. Starting a food blog and joining Daring Bakers has led me to some outstanding blogs . I've noticed a lot of the these blogs have a a small logo and scroll down menu of other food blogs. So naturally I clicked on the logo and found out all about the Foodie Blog Roll. Its a endless addictive chain! Now I'm exposed to even more great blogs from all over the world.And its free. So check out the sidebar and explore the culinary blog sphere. You may meet new friends or find old ones in the process. Its a small world and were all hungry.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Not Much In The Fridge

When Certain Someone is away on business,I use the time to eat lighter and reacquaint myself with veggies. He , being German, is a meat , potato , and Asian noodle type of guy. And when he decides to take it easy on the red meat , he goes to his new found love, Harold's Fried Chicken. I've gained 15 pounds since we have been together. He once commented that he's eaten more veggies since he's been with me. His parents have a wonderful garden in Germany ( a green allotment which is typical in Germany) with a abundance of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. He'll eat some when hes there, but its still all about the meat and potato.

So with Certain Someone being gone,and me not responsible for cooking his dinner, I can freely experiment and eat what I like.Don't get me wrong, I'm not a vegetarian. But I lean toward less meat as I get older. I love leeks. Incidentally so does he. I had leeks and some Roma tomatoes. I decided to roast them drizzled in olive oil , salt, and fresh ground pepper. I roasted them at 450 degrees for about 40 min . I then took my small hand held food processor , added about 2 cups of water , and a cube of chicken bouillon ( no I don't have frozen fresh stock waiting for me in my freezer), and pureed the mixture. What I got was a flavorful, satisfying, yet not heavy , autumn soup. I just wasn't feeling the classic cream based leek and potato combo. So that's dinner for me tonight. I can sleep without obsessing on what I just ingested. OK, well maybe a guilt twinge as I make and sample my homework of Royal Icing for class later on.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Carrot Frites

Last week at a event I worked, the chef had yummy fried carrot strips garnishing his monk fish.And then the other day I saw veggie chips in Whole Foods with strips of carrots. So at the produce market today I saw some big fat carrots and decided to give it a try. I took out my mandolin that just sits in the corner gathering dust, and sliced the carrots paper thin. I then fried away and then sprinkled with Kosher salt. What I got was a nice sweet veggie chip, reminiscent of a sweet potato ,that wasn't covered in batter like a lot of fried veggies. But like when I make homemade potato chips, some turn out really crispy and some don't. I learned a while back to soak my potatoes in cold water to release the starch and get them to fry up crispy. Maybe I'll try this next time. But a nice healthy junk food snack.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Contest Trial Runs

My pal Gabi forwarded me a link to a Apple Pie contest to be held next week. I grabbed one of the last spots to enter. My first culinary contest! There will be some heavy hitting judges. So this morning I decided to put my 'concepts ' into reality. I researched and researched via books and the Internet . Seems not much is original( as I googled my original ideas to see if they have done) but a a lots of variations on a theme. I never realized so many pie crusts combos existed, but with experimentation I've found a good base crust, that I added to to compliment each of my concepts. I wont post my ingredients yet, as the the contest is next week. I made mini pies to test on my friend Vicky, Auntie Mame,and Certain Someone. I slightly over cooked the first one ( but lesson learned on how to adjust temps, etc.) to accommodate my various components. The pies will be judged on taste, appearance, fillings, etc. I can not add any other fruits so I'm limited to spices, juices, etc. I couldn't wait to post as I figured out how to start photographing better. I still need some work in that area, but I will get there some day.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Birthday Cake Challenge

My Aunt is having a surprise birthday party tomorrow. Her Boyfriend put me in charge of the cake and bar tending. As usual,I'm overly ambitious. I was inspired by a Libra Cake in Colette Peters book on Birthday Cakes.A cake featuring the scales of justice is perfectly fitting, as shes a Libra and attorney. I chose a variation of the blues and teals from my inspiration. I'm just a beginner and had to take the idea and turn it into a full sheet cake feeding around 75 people. And I had no airbrush equipment, so I was totally reliant on piping, dragges,colors, and shimmer gels. I searched high and low for affordable sheet cake pans. I lucked out a hotel"going out of business sale". They ended up costing $2 a pop. I baked the 2 pineapple flavored butter cakes on Sunday to be frozen. That took all day. Tonight I prepped my board and piped butter cream on the first layer to 'damn" the pineapple filling.

Then I added the top layers,and crumb coated the entire sheet cake.Now the tricky part....
I'm a total novice with fondant . And to cover a entire full sheet cake was daunting. Needless to say I had some tears, and decided to roll it out in halves. I figured my piping and ornate design would cover most of the flaws..
I etched my design with a toothpick and went to town piping and overlaying the designs. The silver dragges made the design much brighter. I fear the cake is a little over the top for my staid aunt. The cake looks better in person than in my picture. I plan to use those tall thin candles from the new Martha Stewart collection at Macy's. I hope the friends and family enjoy it. Its not perfect, but I learned so much in the process.

Stumble Upon Toolbar