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dessert

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Deanna Fox is an amazing woman – she recently whipped up brunch for a few folks when Innae was in town.  LOOK AT THE TABLE! It is so beautiful!
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When I walked in to her beautiful farm kitchen, I peeped her hash-making skills.
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Squee – table of deliciousness! I seriously love the foliage.
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A stack of fluffy cheddar dill biscuits.
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Citrus salad. Oh, the effort that goes in to delicately peeling these.
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Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding, which in my circle of friends, seems to be pretty popular this year. Fall 2014’s new it-dessert?
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Soon it was time for us all to sit around and chat, chat, chat while we ate, ate, ate. When I was a kid I remember HATING how long the adults would take just sitting around the dinner table TALKING about stuff that wasn’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, or Disney movies. But now I get it – there’s SO much to talk about it. So much to catch up on, and just plain giggling and joking to have because we don’t see each other all that often.
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I’ll take one of everything, please! Just the night before I’d made a maple ice cream with burnt caramel swirl that went really well with the apple cider doughnut pudding. And a lovely gram masala muffin, too!
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And since we were just coming off of the final Tournament of Pizza , and Innae was a previous pizza judge, Deanna made breakfast pizza with puff pastry! Food friends, and tons of French press coffee. Love it!

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Two new doughnut shops in just a few months. Nibble, Inc. opened in Troy recently, and Cider Belly Doughnuts opened in Albany. If you’re one of those “I don’t cross the river” type folks, well, then good – there are new doughnut shops on both sides of the river. The hype machine is going strong for these two new shops, with love for both doughnut shops throughout the blogger community. The Fuj has much love for Nibble, Inc. I wish I shared his enthusiasm for these doughnuts, but they don’t light me up. While Fuj finds them to have a crisp exterior and light/fluffy interior, I’ve found them to be on the dense and tough side. Nibble’s doughnuts are unlike any other doughnut in the area, in that they use potato in the mix. I suspect that Nibble is the doughnut shop for folks who don’t like traditional doughnuts, as one of the owners says she wasn’t a fan of doughnuts before trying this type of potato-dough doughnut in Portland, ME.

Nibble doughnuts don’t hold up well to time, getting denser and denser as the day goes on. Conversely, if you like dense doughnuts, then they hold up very well. The density is what really gets me with the Nibble doughnuts, and isn’t really my thing – my ideal doughnuts are light, ethereal things. Albany John picked up this mixed dozen (missing one, hee hee – couldn’t help myself), and they were a real jaw workout come nightfall and the next morning. They were very nicely fried and non-greasy, though, and I think they’d make a fine doughnut-based bread pudding. I’m looking forward to seeing what non-doughnut offerings Nibble has coming up in the future – they definitely have promise.

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Cider Belly Doughnuts is on South Pearl Street in Albany and is sadly only really open to walk-in traffic during M-F hours, with some Saturday morning hours open for pre-orders. I tried this doughnut during meatball fest one weekend in Albany, and OMG, it was love at first bite. They kind of reminded me of Krispy Kreme in that they had a nice crunchy shell, and the icing had a good crisp exterior, and the interior was very light and poofy. I went in a bought several more doughnuts – they even have “Belly Flops” pre-bagged on the counter, which are discounted frankendoughnuts that don’t quite make the cut (ie, imperfect in shape, but still perfectly tasty). The doughnuts I bought stayed light and crispy into the evening. I really like these doughnuts, especially with the different glazes (maple is really well executed).

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Saratoga isn’t so far for me, and yet I have a problem with getting to many local businesses during the hours they are open. I was happy I’ve made it to Saratoga at least once for TC Paris!
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Eclair & a Paris Brest. Their pate a choux is fantastic – it stays crisp even when filled with delicious custard and creme. The chocolate on the eclair had a judicious amount of sweetness, and was perfect with their vanilla bean pastry cream filling.
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And the Paris Brest. Oh. A pate a choux circle piped with a candied hazelnut buttercream. I don’t know if one of these circles is a serving, but I ate the whole thing in one go. It was just. So. Good.  It’s like an oversized doughnut, in terms of size. It’s probably meant for at least two. But just eat it until you feel sated. So good.
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Lily bulb with asparagus and ginko ($13) at Ala Shanghai. The ginkos were mild and soft, went well with the asparagus, which still retained some crunchiness.
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Yum – it’s a great dish for summer!

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Happy Birthday, D! D entered the very end of her twenties, and I wanted to bake her a cake. She’s not doing gluten lately and loves chocolate, so I thought hey, gluten-free chocolate cake made with coconut flour! This is an ultra-decadent and delicious cake. This was an especially special birthday to me, as D also shared it with my belated kitty, who turned 10 (everyone fed her as many treats as she wanted).
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She went out for a wine tasting and nibbles before cake time. Albany John and I had plans earlier in the evening, so we met at our place for cakey good times. I used this nut-free recipe for the cake.

Chocolate Coconut Flour Cake Recipe

2 C coconut flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
0.5 t baking powder
2 sticks of butter (1 C) at room temp
1 3/4 C sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 3/4 C milk (or milk sub, I used buttermilk. Drop your baking soda to 1.5 t if you’re using regular milk)
1/4 C melted coconut oil
9 eggs

And here’s how I make every recipe so it’s only one dish that gets dirty:

Cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs (one at a time) and vanilla extract. Then add in the milk. Scoop in the coconut flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix the dry stuff on the top a bit to combine, then mix it all in with the wet ingredients on the bottom. Then add in the melted coconut oil. Stir until well combined. The coconut flour will absorb the liquid while you’re mixing and seem like it’s drying out.

Bake in two 8 or 9 inch buttered cake pans at 350F until a toothpick comes out clean. About 30+ minutes.

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Here’s what your batter looks like when it’s ready to be moved into the cake pans. Kind of looks like frosting, or maybe playdoh.

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You’ll have to pat the batter into the pan. Coconut flour batters are vastly different than their wheat flour brethren.

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Seriously. It doesn’t fall or anything. You just plop it in…
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And smooth it out.

This made a little more than two 9-inch cake pans for me (my pans were shallow, though) so I baked the remaining batter in a little pan. It was good out of the oven. Kind of like a cakey brownie texture.

So, after we bake it, we let them cool. You can cut them in half if you want and make a 4 layer cake, but I’m not that delicate and didn’t want to mess this up for the birthday girl.

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I made a whipped chocolate ganache frosting and frosted the cake the night before. You can see the holes in the cake where I put skewers to then wrap in plastic wrap. Or as Albany John called it “I thought you were creating a protective force field to keep me out of it,”.

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I wasn’t super jazzed with my frosting skills or how the ganache came out (it was more like buttercream).
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Then I slathered the frosted cake in more liquid chocolate ganache.

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More chocolate ganache fixes everything, right?

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Well, come cake time, we had a cozy little set up going (this is as close to decorating as I’ll ever get).
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Happy Birthday, to an awesome friend.

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Marshmallows! I’ve been making marshmallows lately using Butter’s basic marshmallow recipe.
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They’re great with a little cocoa, especially if you put in peppermint oil. Daniel B. loaned me his kitchenaid mixer before he hightailed it off to New Jersey. Instead of languishing in storage, it had been languishing on my shelf. So at least I know I don’t need a big ole Kitchenaid taking up space in my kitchen. But I figured that I should TRY to use the mixer while I have it. And what likes a big stand mixer more than marshmallows?

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Here’s what I started out with – sugar, gelatin, corn syrup, peppermint essential oil, and powdered sugar. I had Knox gelatine sitting in my pantry, but have since purchased Great Lakes Unflavored Beef Gelatin from Amazon. It’s cheaper per lb than the Knox packets, and unlike Knox, there is no SMELL. OMG, Knox smells like a freaking barn once you hydrate the powdered gelatin. So it’s better and cheaper than Knox. Sign me up. But if you’re not sure you’re going to do much with gelatin the Knox will be fine as an intro. The flavor thankfully doesn’t linger into the final product. But then again I made mine aggressively peppermint-y.

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Corn syrup, granulated sugar, water. Boil for a minute, then add it to your soaked gelatin in the kitchenaid mixer.

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Whirl around for about 10 minutes, add in peppermint oil (I used about 10 drops for a VERY aggressively pepperminty marshmallow), then whip for 2 more minutes.

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Parchment paper in a pan – plop in your marshmallow and even it out. You can put powdered sugar on top and press with more parchment paper for a more even look, but I wasn’t terribly concerned about that with my first batch.
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Let it sit for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Then sprinkle more powdered sugar on a piece of parchment paper (parchment paper is your friend, here).
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Gently pull off the parchment paper.
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Almost there…
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Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top. The sieve really helps reduce the amount of sugar you’d use than if you tried this by hand.
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Use your handy dandy bench scraper or sharp knife and start cutting away!
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Once you have some squares or shapes, roll them in more powdered sugar to keep them from sticking.

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Surprise your husbear with hot cocoa and fresh marshmallows in the morning when your project is complete!

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Spring is here, which means my winter of tarts will likely be coming to an end. Or maybe I’ll just start using seasonal stuff in my tarts.  I bought a few tart pans, and my favorite is this Fox Run 14″ x 5″ tart pan. The shape makes me happy.

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I’ve been using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a sweet tart shell that doesn’t really shrink. It’s pretty awesome, and the best part is it’s all made in the food processor in a cinch. The recipe makes a bit more than you’ll need for the tart shell. By the way, Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Lemon Tart is also an awesome recipe. The filling is SUPER lemony and also made entirely in a blender (which I <3 for clean up). I made that recipe with a full tart shell recipe in a larger circular tart pan, and oh man was that ever a hit.

This particular pictured filling was cheesecake with some random bits of fresh strawberries (that were going south quickly). Cheesecake fillings are super easy – cream cheese + sugar + stuff (this can be cream, sour cream, milk, egg… something to thin it out a bit)
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The recipe makes more than this rectangular tart pan needs, so I flipped over a mini muffin/cupcake tray and wrapped some pieces with remaining dough. Filled with some whipped cream and aww, yeah. Yum! They are very tan because I forgot about them while par baking the tart shell in the background. Filled with cream, they just tasted like crunchy pie crust. Cream fixes everything, right?

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I’ve been playing with ganache lately. Red macaron shells with raspberry-flavored chocolate ganache seemed like a good idea. I used finely ground almond flour for the first time in a while. I usually opt for almond meal, which is coarser, but generally about half the price of finely ground almond flour. I also bought some piping bags, and man, with those two little changes, I was surprised at how much easier I made the process on myself.

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We all know the deal – (almond flour + powdered sugar) + (whipped eggs whites + coarse sugar + food coloring) = batter.  As long as you cut the tip of the bag in a straight line, you don’t even need to use a tip, you’ll get nicely rounded, even macaron shells.

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I had some extra raspberry-flavored ganache, so I made small balls and rolled them in some powdered sugar and shredded coconut (unsweetened).

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