Maple-Glazed Meatballs and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

March 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Posted in book review, other savory, savory things | 29 Comments
Tags: , , ,

maple-galzed meatballs

As a kid, getting breakfast for dinner was a rare and exciting treat.  As an adult, I can do this any darn time I please, but it still hasn’t lost it’s excitement factor.  Clearly I’m not alone in this, because there’s a new book called Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth.  This book has savory takes on pancakes and waffles, lots of egg dishes and even breakfast for dessert, but these Maple-Glazed Meatballs– like breakfast sausage doused in syrup– were what I wanted to try first.

These meatballs are flavorful and moist. Because of their sweetness, I wouldn’t pair these with pasta, but they make a great app or a perfect TV snack.

I want to send a copy of Breakfast for Dinner to one of you!  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 4:00 pm EST on Friday, March 8 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.

***Giveaway Winner Update: I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner. It selected comment 18, so congratulations to AnnaZed. I’ll be sending your book soon!***

Maple-Glazed Meatballs- makes about 24 meatballs
from Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth

Steph’s Note: The original recipe called for ground pork, but I used ground chicken instead.  If you do, too, you may find that you need to add extra tablespoon of so of breadcrumbs and give the mix about a 30 minute rest in the fridge before portioning into meatballs.

for the meatballs:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
 1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground pork (or ground chicken)
1 egg
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

-Line a baking sheet with foil.

-Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion.  Cook until translucent, 7 to 10 minutes.  Stir in apples, ginger and garlic.  Cook 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

-In a large bowl, combine pork, egg, breadcrumbs, milk, maple syrup, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.  Add the cooled onion mixture.  Mix with your hands until uniform. Roll by tablespoonfuls into 1-inch balls, or use a small ice cream scoop to portion.  Arrange on prepared sheet.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 400°F.

-For the glaze, whisk together maple syrup, tomato paste, apple juice and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

-Brush meatballs with half of glaze. Bake 10 minutes. Brush with remaining glaze. Bake 5 to 7 minutes longer or until cooked through (internal temperature of 160°F. Serve warm.

Please note that the publisher, Quirk Books, sent me a copy of this book.
Breakfast for Dinner

Homemade Marshmallow Crème and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

March 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Posted in book review, general pastry, other sweet, sweet things | 42 Comments

marshmallow crème

If you think that a marshmallow is one of those semi-stale, crackly, crusty things you get at the supermarket, then we need to have a talk.  Ideally, they should be squishy and soft, not tough and dense….and oh-so importantly, they should taste fresh.  You don’t have to buy them, you know…the marshmallow ideal can be your reality if you make them at home.  It is sticky business, to be sure, but it isn’t that hard.  And there’s a whole, sweet new book, Marshmallow Madness! by fellow blogger Shauna Server, to help you out.  It has a puffy cover and everything!  It starts with the classics…vanilla, chocolate…and moves on to some really inspired flavors like buttered rum and maple-bacon.  Who would have thought marshmallows could be so adult and sophisticated?  I’ve already made my caramel sauce for the sea salt caramel swirl ones.

I whipped up a batch of Shauna’s marshmallow crème this morning.  It’s marshmallow minus the gelatin, and just like with marshies, if you’ve only ever had store-bought Fluff, you’ll be wowed by the way homemade tastes.  Like real vanilla, for one thing.  Guess what I’m gonna put this sticky stuff all over tonight??  Minds out of the gutter people, this is a PG blog– I’m talking about chocolate ice cream!  And if I have any left next weekend, I’ll turn it into a giant Ho-Ho with the chocolate-marshmallow roulade recipe in the “Fluffy, Puffy Desserts” section at the back of the book.

The nice folks at Quirk Books sent me a copy of this book, and now I want to send a copy to one of you, too.  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 4:00 pm EST on Thursday (March 8) and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you!

***Giveaway Winner Update: I now have two copies to give away, one from me and one from Quirk Books, who has very kindly offered to donate another. I used random.org to generate random comment numbers to find the winners. It selected comments 7 and 10, so congratulations to Christy and Anne M. You should be getting your books soon!***

marshmallow crème

Homemade Marshmallow Crème- makes about 2 1/2 cups
from Marshmallow Madness! by Shauna Server

Steph’s Note: I used golden syrup instead of corn syrup here, and it worked just fine (although the crème isn’t as blindingly white as it would be otherwise…it has the faintest tinge of gold).

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

-Stir together the sugar, light corn syrup, water and salt in a small saucepan over high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240°F.

-Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks on medium speed.  The goal is to have the egg whites whipped and ready, waiting for your syrup to be drizzled in.  If they’re whipping faster than your syrup is coming to temperature, just stop the mixer (or turn to lowest speed) until the syrup is ready.

-When the syrup reaches 240°F, set the mixer to low and slowly drizzle a tiny bit of syrup, a couple tablespoons’ worth, into the egg whites to warm them.  (If you add too much syrup at once, the whites will scramble).  Slowly drizzle in the rest of they syrup and then increase the speed to medium-high.  Beat until the marshmallow crème is stiff and glossy, 7-9 minutes; towards the end of the beating, beat in the vanilla.

-Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Please note that the publisher, Quirk Books, sent me a copy of this book.

Marshmallow Madness!

Pear Crisp with Oat Streusel Topping and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

November 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Posted in book review, cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, sweet things | 21 Comments

pear crisp with oat streusel topping

I think we’re officially in the thick of it…the season of overindulgence, that is.  For me, it began with a bag of leftover Halloween candy.  Before it ends in a pair of Pajama Jeans, I need to keep moderation at least somewhere in mind.  Seems that a copy of a new book called Cooking Light Way to Bake fell into my hands at just the right time.  I could use a little lightening up for everyday baking at this time of year, and the thing I appreciate about Cooking Light’s recipes is that they focus on getting the most out of a restrained amount “real” ingredients rather than using weird substitutions.

This book has lots of how-to’s and runs the gamut of baked stuff– cookies, cakes pies, breads– and a few non-baked things, like pudding and pancakes, too.  I am absolutely drooling over the photo of Sweet Potato-Buttered Rum Flan, but I’m starting with a pear crisp, because it’s fall and a fruit crisp sounds good right about now.  Baked pears are a nice change from apples here, although I am sure you could switch the two if you wanted to.  I dotted the pears with dried cranberries.  The streusel topping is loose because there’s not a ton of butter and sugar to hold it together in clumps, but it is indeed crisp and very oaty.  I’m sure a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top would be the jam here, but in keeping with a lighter touch, I topped this with a spoon of honey-sweetend nonfat Greek yogurt.

So, before I give you the recipe…I promised you a giveaway.  The nice folks at Oxmoor House sent me a copy of this book, and they want to send one of you one, too.  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before noon on Wednesday (November 23) and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you!

***Giveaway Winner Update:  I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner.  It selected comment 20, so congratulations to Susy of Everyday Gourmet.  I’ll be contacting you soon!***

Pear Crisp with Oat Streusel Topping- makes 8 one-cup servings
adapted from Cooking Light Way to Bake by the editors of Cooking Light Magazine

for the fruit:
7 3/4 cups cubed Bartlett or Anjou pears
1 cup golden raisins or other dried fruit
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
cooking spray

for the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of salt
4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

-Preheat oven to 375°F.

-To prepare the fruit, combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

-To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, and dash of salt in a small bowl; stir to combine. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over pear mixture. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until browned on top.

Please note that the publisher, Oxmoor House, sent me a copy of this book.

cooking light book cover

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

November 1, 2009 at 1:49 am | Posted in book review, puddings & custards, sweet things | 13 Comments

banana pudding with vanilla wafer crumble

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a publicist about a new cookbook called DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel.  She showed me a couple of recipes…this book is chock full of classic New Orleans sweets (think beignets and pralines), with stories and gorgeous photos to boot.  I was drawn to a recipe for Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble…odd, since I’m not usually that into bananas, but I am a “selective appreciator,” and the husband loves nursery desserts.

This is definitely a high-class version of the dessert I remember as kid– all the traditional bits are there, but they’ve been optimized.  With five yolks, it is a rich and delicious pudding, and with a nice glug of booze, I made mine decidedly not-child-friendly.  Frankly, I wouldn’t use anything but Nilla Wafers in banana pudding, and the crumble is an easy way to jazz them up and keep them crispy.  Whether you live in New Orleans or in New York, I think you’ll like this recipe!

BTW, book author David Guas will be hosting a live chat every Sunday morning (starting today!), November 1- December 20, from 9:30-10:30 am.  Chatters can log on and ask Chef Guas dessert questions or get advice.  If you’re interested, go to his website and click on the Red Velvet Cake.

Banana Pudding- makes 6 servings
from DamGoodSweet by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel (Taunton Press, 2009)

For the pudding:
5 large egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons banana liqueur (or 1 teaspoon banana flavoring)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas

For the crumble:
1 cup vanilla wafers (about 15 cookies)
2 teaspoons sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

-To make the pudding:  Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk a little at a time into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining hot milk. Pour the mixture back into a clean medium saucepan (cleaning the saucepan prevents the pudding from scorching), add the banana liqueur, and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Cook while constantly whisking until the pudding is glossy and quite thick, 11/2 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the pudding to a clean bowl.

Add the vanilla and butter and gently whisk until the butter is completely melted and incorporated. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
 
-To make the crumble:  While the pudding sets, heat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the wafers in a resealable plastic bag and seal (make sure there is no air in the bag prior to sealing). Using a rolling pin or a flat-bottomed saucepan or pot, crush the vanilla wafers until they’re coarsely ground. Transfer them to a small bowl and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a spoon to evenly stir in the melted butter, transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (The crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature or frozen for up to 2 months; re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 6 to 7 minutes if necessary.)

-To serve:  Slice the bananas in half crosswise and then slice in half lengthwise so you have 4 quarters. Slice the banana quarters crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces and divide between 6 custard cups or martini glasses (sprinkle with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like—this helps prevent browning). Whisk the pudding until it is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds, and then divide it between the custard cups. Top with the vanilla wafer mixture and serve. (If not served immediately, the pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, with plastic wrap intact. Sprinkle the crumbs on just before serving.)

Speakeasy Cake

April 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Posted in book review, cakes & tortes, sweet things | 14 Comments

speakeasy

Here’s the third recipe I made from Melissa Murphy’s cookbook The Sweet Melissa Baking Book (well actually the fourth–the ice cream in the photos is her brown sugar vanilla ice cream, and it is divine).  It’s a dense, moist chocolate cake that she calls the “Speakeasy” because of a whopping 2/3 cup of brandy in the batter!

It’s a cousin of Dorie’s Almost-Fudge Gâteau, but not quite as dark and fudgy.  If you prefer semi-sweet chocolate to bittersweet (and like a little booze with your chocolate), then you will like this one.

speakeasy

Speakeasy- makes one 8-inch cake
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008

For the cake:
6 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup brandy
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

For the chocolate glaze:
6 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Before you start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with an 8-inch round of parchment paper.

To make the cake:
- In a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate with the butter and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the brandy until smooth. Set aside to cool.

-Separate the eggs. Place the yolks in a large mixing bowl, and the whites in an electric mixer bowl.

- Add half of the sugar to the bowl with the yolks and whisk until thick. Add the chocolate mixture to the yolks and whisk to combine. Sift the flour, cinnamon, and salt over the chocolate batter and stir to combine.

-In the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, make a meringue by whipping the egg whites until foamy. In a slow steady stream, add the remaining sugar. Whip until the whites hold stiff but not dry peaks.

-Briskly stir one-third of the meringue into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Gently fold the remaining two-thirds of the meringue into the batter until no streaks remain.

- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spin the pan to level the batter. Bake for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (Do not do the skewer test until the cake has been baking for at least 70 minutes or you will deflate the batter!) Remove to a wire rack to cool before glazing. (Steph’s note: I made a half-recipe in a 6-inch cake pan and it took only 40 minutes to bake.)

To make the glaze:
– When the cake is cool enough to glaze, coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.

-In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream until scalding, or until the cream is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil.

-Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup.

To complete the cake:
-Place the cake upside down on a rack set over the prepared cookie sheet.

-Pour the glaze over the cake, letting the glaze spread itself. You may have to push it over the sides a bit, and use a small metal spatula or butter knife to smooth the sides. Try not to touch the top though, so it will be glossy and unmarred. Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Once the glaze is set, transfer the cake to a serving plate.

*The cake keeps in a cake saver at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Mom’s Banana Apple Bread

April 20, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Posted in book review, breakfast things, cakes & tortes, events, muffins & quick breads, simple cakes, sweet things | 38 Comments

banana apple bread

Well, not my mom’s.  I’m guessing Melissa Murphy’s mom’s, since it’s in her new cookbook The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  You know, I really don’t like bananas in their raw form (not even in smoothies), but once they are baked into something sweet, it’s a whole ‘nother story.  R does like to have bananas in his cereal, but sometimes he buys more than he can eat.  When that happens, I wrap them up and stash them in the freezer…after I’ve accumulated a few, it’s time for banana bread, cake or muffins!

What makes this particular banana bread extra-special are the bits of caramelized apple throughout.  Most banana bread has a pretty good shelf life and can even get better after a day of so.  This one is no exception, as the sweet apples just meld more into the spiced bread.

I was so happy with this, that I’m entering it into Sydneysider Not Quite Nigella’s Banana Bread Bakeoff event.  If you have a favorite banana bread recipe, go check out her bakeoff, too.

banana apple bread

Mom’s Banana Apple Bread- makes one 1 1/2-quart loaf pan
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008

For the apples:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the banana bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups very ripe mashed bananas (2 to 3)

Before you start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 1 1/2-quart loaf pan.

To make the apples:
Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and sauté until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To make the banana bread:
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.

-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

-In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and vanilla.

-Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition. Stir in the mashed bananas until combined. Then stir in the reserved apples.

-Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool further.

*Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost (still wrapped) at room temperature.

Snickerdoodles

April 16, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in book review, cookies & bars, sweet things | 17 Comments

snickerdoodles

I think that snickerdoodles are totally underrated.  Sure everyone loves them, but if asked to name a favorite cookie, I bet very few people think of them first.  They don’t have chips, or nuts or raisins, but their beauty is in their old-fashioned simplicity…and in their adorable crinkly tops.

When I first thumbed though The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy (see here for my review), her recipe for snickerdoodles was the first that I wanted to try.  This is such an easy cookie to make, and you don’t even have to have any fancy ingredients.  The effort to reward ratio here is really in the baker’s favor.  The recipe makes a lot– three dozen cookies if you use her one ounce size guideline.  That’s too many for us to eat at once, but cookie dough freezes beautifully. So in a few days, I can thaw out a bit more dough and bake a few more of these sweet, cinnamony and slightly chewy cookies. Lovely!

snickerdoodles

The smell of cinnamon and butter baking in the oven is so good– I should manufacture a snickerdoodle-scented room spray. 

Snickerdoodles-  makes 3 dozen cookies
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008

For the dough:
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the cinnamon sugar:
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup sugar

-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and mix until combined.

-In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be soft and too sticky to roll. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

-Position a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

-For the cinnamon sugar: Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

-Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop, or a tablespoon, shape the dough into balls and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.

-Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten them slightly with your fingertips so that they stay put. Bake for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly golden in color. These cookies are supposed to be chewy, so do not overbake. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

*Snickerdoodles keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. For longer storage, freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not uncover before defrosting.

Sweet Melissa

Book Review: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

April 16, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Posted in book review | 7 Comments

Sweet Melissa

I had a little treat waiting for me in my mail pile the other day: a copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy.  I’ve never met Melissa herself, but do have a very personal relationship with her shop.  Before moving to Sydney last year, I lived in Brooklyn Heights.  When I first arrived on the Brooklyn scene in 1996, there wasn’t really anywhere to get a great slice of cake or a beautiful tart (and I was too busy sitting in a cubicle to be making things myself).  Then one day a couple years later, as I was running errands in neighboring Cobble Hill, I noticed a little storefront with wedding cakes in the window…it was Sweet Melissa Pâtisserie.  Finally–just what the neighborhood needed!  It was cute and small, but had places to sit down and have tea and sweets from real cups and plates, and best of all: a display case full of gorgeous treats!  Melissa even had her French Culinary Institute diploma framed on the wall.  Fast forward a few more years, and I myself was a graduate of FCI’s pastry program.  I trailed for a job opening at Sweet Melissa just a couple of weeks after graduation.  Well, I didn’t get the job (I had no professional kitchen experience at that point), but I kept up my monthly tradition of going for dessert at Sweet Melissa’s (after dinner at the sushi place next door) right up until I moved to Sydney. 

Now, back to the book, which, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t wait to crack into.  From time to time (otherwise knowns as always) I still find myself homesick for Brooklyn, so looking through this book was almost comforting for me.  Melissa says that her goal is “…to make everyone’s favorite desserts better than they’ve had them before.”  Even if your not familiar with her shop, you’ll still be familiar with many of the desserts in her book.  There aren’t many photos, but if you’re like me, you’ll recognize many of her recipes as things you grew up with and still crave.  And she has plenty of things in the book that are uniquely hers as well.  These are things that you will want to make, and even though she takes no shortcuts, her directions are so clearly written that you’d be hard pressed to mess them up! 

Melissa’s six chapters cover the gamut of sweets, from ‘Dessert for Breakfast’ to ‘Sunday Supper’s Grand Finale,’ with cookies, layer cakes and fruit desserts along the way.  And the final chapter, ‘Favorite Gifts: Truffles, Brittles, and Candies,’ is really special.  Who wouldn’t think you were amazing if you made them honey cream caramels??  Melissa also includes ‘pro tips’ that will make home bakers more confident in the kitchen and offers us quick snippets of why these recipes are special to her.

I’ve already made a few things from the book, and all with great results!  You’ll get to see those as separate posts as I’m able to write them up…so stay tuned.

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