Monday, February 28, 2011

Graham Crackers

One of my market ideas is to make homemade s'mores, using handmade graham crackers, marshmallows and to offer different add ins like peanut butter or various jams or nutella or high quality chocolate.

Step one is to work on the graham crackers. Last weekend, I made my first attempt using a recipe from King Arthur Flour ( It is simple enough and all the ingredients are staples in my house.

Making the dough was a snap and it was quickly together and into the fridge to set up. I tried to roll out the dough on my dough mat, but it was sliding all over the place. So I broke down and washed the counter top, which is such a pain. And I always worry that I don't get all the soap up so I spend three times longer than I really need to rinsing and I dread cleaning up the flour that seems to find its way into every nook and cranny in the kitchen. But it made the process of rolling out the dough so much easier.

I baked the graham crackers for 10 minutes, intending to swap the pans around in the oven before the recommended 15-20 minutes was up. But by this point, they were already starting to burn, so I took them out from the oven. As you can see from the pictures, the bottoms are a little dark. Perhaps I rolled the crackers a bit thinner than I was supposed to. That would account for the quicker baking time.

I still tried to make s'mores out of the. I didn't have any homemade marshmallows yet, so I just used the mini ones I had on hand. It was a good enough test. I was worried that the crackers were too burnt, but I really didn't notice the taste. And the thickness seemed to work out alright.

In the end, it was a good start. Rolling out cookie dough (And all the cleanup involved) is a bit time consuming and I can see how it would get to be crazy if I needed to make lots and lots of graham crackers. I have been toying with the idea of using sugar cookies or snickerdoodles as the outsides of the s'mores. Perhaps that would decrease the hands on time, but only a trial will tell. I made some homemade marshmallows this morning, and am hoping to make some cookies tomorrow to give it a shot.

Atlanta Underground Market Recap

This past weekend was the first Atlanta Underground Market. I love the concept: giving experiences and unexperienced food sellers an opportunity to meet with large crowd and sell their food. It is considered a private event so those of us without a professional kitchen can also be included. It is a great way to increase your food to a large number of people in a short amount of time. And a great time to test out something new and to learn about how to better prepare or package your dish.

Unfortunately, I was unable to be a vendor at this show. I wanted to so very badly, but the organizer already had someone selling cake pops and I completely understand wanting to have a wide variety of foods. By the time I came up with another dessert that I was proud of, she had already filled the sweets quota. She did have some interest in my pancake puffs, but my husband had already made plans for that afternoon thinking it would be a good surprise since I had been so disappointed that I could not be a vendor this time around. So we were busy until just after the market started.

Not wanting to not be a part of this unique event in some way, I volunteered to help out. And I really enjoyed it. There were a wide variety of foods available, some vegan/vegetarian, some sweet, some just unique. And the turnout was amazing. It was great to sit back and watch everything that was going on. Michaela, the organizer, did a great job putting all this together, especially in just about a month's time. She loves food and it shows in her enthusiasm. This type of project needs someone with near endless energy and excitement and she is the perfect person for this.

Evidentally there were some complaints about the lines. Yes, some of the lines were a little long at times, but what would you expect? These aren't all professional cooks with their systems down pat. You can't go to something with a lot of people and not expect to stand in line at times. Think of how long you stand in lines waiting for the concession stand at a baseball game, those take forever and this is what they do for a living! So in my opinion, I have no problem with the lines, its just life!

There are always bumps in the road that cannot be anticipated. How many people have ever thrown a party where everything went just absolutely perfect? No one. Its not possible, even if you have thrown a hundred parties. The turkey cooks too fast or the guests drink all the wine and none of the beer, some people show up late, some people are just picky eaters and won't be happy with anything. Now imagine throwing a party for 1000 people. I am sure even the most experienced wedding planner is surprised more often than you would think.

Being a volunteer at this event was very educational. I got to watch how the vendors interacted with the people, which types of foods seemed to generate the most interest, and how the vendors presented their goods. All of which is extremely valuable information. I think it was all for the best that I was unable to be a vendor at this market. I would have been very overwhelmed and not know what to expect. Now that I have seen how things work, I will be much better prepared for any sort of market.

Hopefully I will be given the opportunity to be a vendor at a future Atlanta Underground Market. I will continue to develop my cake truffles, work on other sweet ideas that I have floating around in my head, and try to get my pancake puffs to work out better for me. I am excited about the pancake puffs because they are very different than a lot of things out there and the range of sweet to savory is a great asset. The more time I spend coming up with ideas, the more versatile I will be and the more options I have when applying to this and other markets, like the Lilburn Farmers' Market this summer.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

Curried Carrot Soup

I had a bunch of carrots left over after making a carrot cake recently and I wanted to find something new to do with them. I normally shred them in salads or eat them raw as a snack. I have even cooked them on the stove top with some brown sugar and cinnamon.

But I was up for a new way to eat these veggies when I came across a recipe for curried carrot soup on the Eating Well website (You can find the entire recipe here:

Curry and a soup? Hmm, that could be interesting. And since I am all about trying different things, I was all for this recipe.

This recipe took me a while to finish, mostly because I am fairly slow when chopping veggies. I have a good knife and know the proper techniques, its just that I am still very calculated in my movements. They have not reached the point of second nature to me yet. So I just take my time, making sure to do it right. The speed will come later. Its not like I am competing in a Top Chef-esque challenge. There is no one standing over me telling me I have 2 minutes left to get through the whole pile of vegetables.

I simmered the oil and curry powder, added my chopped carrots, onion and celery and cooked until starting to soften. Then added the chicken broth and let it simmer while I played with the dogs in the backyard. Blending the soup is a cinch with my immersion blender. I love that thing, it makes life so much easier. No transferring to and from a blender or worrying about the hot liquid spewing from the blender at any point. And it is vastly easier to clean than a blender.

The end soup is good. Its not tomato soup, which seems to be my gold standard for smooth vegetable soups, but I will enjoy it and be glad that I was able to use all my carrots. Any excess should freeze well, too. I am sure I will make it again in the future, but perhaps not quite as often as I make some other soups.

Some good news, some bad news...

I'll start off with the bad news: they have announced all four of the Kraft Philadelphia cooking creme winners and I was not among them. I worked really hard, but it just wasn't what they were looking for.

They are starting a second season of the Real Women of Philadelphia soon. As far as I know so far, it will start off the same as last year: looking for 16 finalists over 16 weeks in four different categories. This portion of the contest is aimed at finding the four representatives for each of the categories and comes with a $25000 prize. It requires a lot of work once you win, but it seems very rewarding. The four hosts from last spring have worked very hard and have done a great job for the last several months.

And can I get to the good news now?

I am a finalist in the Share Our Strength's Great American Baking contest here in Atlanta. I am beyond excited!!! I will get to make lots of my yummy apples n spice cake truffles to be sampled by lots of people. The contest involves categories for professionals, culinary students, amateurs and youth.

The reception and final judging will be held this Wednesday night at the Cordon Bleu in Tucker. Tickets for the general wine and dessert tasting starting at 7:30PM are $25 each and go to Share Our Strength. There is also a VIP reception starting at 6:30PM and tickets are $35 each. You can find more information and purchase tickets at

I am excited that so many people will get a chance to try my truffles. Hopefully they will all enjoy them! Now I just need to wait until Wednesday night to get the results. The website says that they will mail out the comment cards from the judges after the reception. It will be interesting to see just what the judges have to say about my truffles. Maybe they will have some points on how to make them even better.

Wish me luck!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More cake truffle pics!!!

I was blessed with orders totaling 4 dozen this past weekend. In addition to flavors I recently talked about, there were two more:

- Carrot Cake: a carrot and pecan spice cake with vanilla buttercream that is dipped in white chocolate and garnished with chopped pecans

- Amaretto Supreme: a silky almond cake is mixed with Amaretto buttercream and enrobed in milk chocolate and topped with a whole roasted almond.

I have to admit, I think the amaretto supreme is starting to take over my number one favorite spot from the mocha choco-latte. Though the battle is neck and neck at the moment. I will just have to try a few more of each to determine which will win out!

Lemon Ricotta Pancake Puffs

These are a Danish concept also known as ebelskivers. They are small pancake puffs that can be filled however you would like. Or even use the pan with corn bread or cake batter or even brownie batter. I have a small inexpensive pan, which is a cast iron pan that has 7 indentations in it (see the picture above).

So after having it for over a year, I decided that I should take the pan out of the package and give it a try. I started out using a buttermilk pancake recipe and added a lemon ricotta filling. For the filling, I took part skim ricotta and added some lemon zest, a little lemon juice and some sugar to sweeten it up. I didn't use any specific proportions, I just kept adding one thing or the other until I got to a flavor I was happy with.

I oiled the pan and placed it over medium-low heat. I added just batter the first time around to get a feel for how it would cook. I added waaaay too much batter, it took forever to cook on the one side and didn't seem to cook all the way through when I flipped them over.

That lesson was learned: do not fill the chambers completely.

Next batch I added less and put some of my filling in the center and topped it off with a little more batter. This went a bit smoother, but I still seem to be overloading the wells. I can't believe just how little batter each one of these needs. The cooking process still took a while, and with my impatience, I turned the heat up over medium.

Which, of course, led to the next batch being too dark. The bottoms almost burned before getting cooked through.

Lesson learned: be patient and leave the temperature lower!

By the time I started the last batch, I started to get the hang of it a bit better. I can't believe that one buttermilk pancake recipe resulted in almost 50 puffs! They tasted fairly good warm, but was a bit soggy when eaten at room temperature the next day.

So my final opinion is still mixed. There seems to be some potential for some interesting combinations, but it took over an hour to cook the entire batch. Is it worth all the time needed to make these? I haven't decided yet. They need to be baby sat nearly constantly to prevent burning. So it isn't like pancakes where you can walk away briefly. Maybe I will come up with some flavor combination I am dying to try and will give this pan another shot. Only time will tell...

Atlanta Underground Market

Check out a new event coming to Atlanta. I wasn't able to get in on the vendors this time around, but hopefully I will be able to in the future. This idea sounds so exciting and I can't wait to check it out!!!!