better late than never, a visit to sweet melissa’s

Many know that I have a daughter who wants to go to Yale and open a bakery. And while G and I ponder how those two things will work together, we continue to enjoy her experiments in baking.

The cookbook that started this welcome obsession was Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book. So a few months ago (maybe about 10 months to be exact), I took the little baker on her birthday to the source of all things Melissa – the Brooklyn patisserie itself.

We arrived an hour late due to traffic, but Melissa was gracious enough to wait for us at her charming shop to show us around the kitchen. She even signed K’s book and wrote her a note, including her cell phone number if K ever had any recipe emergencies.

After Melissa left to tend to business at her other store, the little baker and I got down to business ourselves and ordered a light lunch, knowing we’d need room for desserts.

After lunch, we ordered a brownie sundae, which came topped with a candle and crammed with enough brownies and chocolate to serve a football team. The brownie induced a kind of wild-eyed chocolate panic, which you can see as K had her first taste and grabbed her spoon to make sure she had her fair share.

And THEN, these little treats arrived, unsolicited. Just Melissa’s way of showing her love. Sugar never fails.

After we rolled out of the dining room, we ventured into the bakery storefront to bring home some goodies. It was a tough choice.

But ultimately, we chose the Bee Stings, a recipe that K had been contemplating from the baking book. We were not disappointed.

We figured three would be more than enough for the six of us to split.

We were so wrong.

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was mother’s day really a month ago?

Well, I have quite a pile, so to speak, of photos waiting to be set free onto this blog. I’m not sure how superhero mothers work and regularly blog, but I’ve realized I am not one of them. However, because of an unexpected lull in editing, here I am.

Mother’s Day was particularly sweet this year. I’m not sure why it stood out. Maybe it was the extra effort by my kids. It could have been the tasty Hollandaise sauce. Perhaps it’s that as I get older, I realize that those quiet afternoons enjoying my three gals and little guy are fleeting.

Take a look at my homemade treasures.

On Mother’s Day Eve, hubby made me one of my favorites, grilled lamb chops marinated in soy sauce, Dijon mustard and rosemary.

The actual morning brought the annual breakfast in bed with Eggs Benedict flanked by leftover spring asparagus. Does it get any better than that?

Yes it does. The breakfast came with an art show and jewelry.

Little man made me a pin, which I wore to church. (Nothing like prison-orange to spruce up an outfit.)

O made me this very sweet heart design, which actually shows that she planned far enough ahead for the glue to dry.

K constructed a box from Popsicle sticks, further proving my hunch that she’s heading for some kind of architectural or engineering vocation.

She had also been working on an edible something since the day before. It was a surprise. And to add to the suspense, she picked the hardest recipe out of her favorite baking book. And hubby had to be her pastry assistant. There were some tense moments. But we finally ended up with these, and all was well…and delicious. (If you dare to try this recipe for Bee Stings from Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book, click here. And good luck!)

And M picked a few flowers and petals from our yard to create a beautifully delicate heart.  Which exactly exemplified my feelings about the day because my heart was bursting with pride in our little clan.

To conclude the day, we dragged ourselves and our swollen stomachs to Homegoods (LOVE this store) and picked up a couple more passengers for our car. Seriously, we had to strap these suckers in to their seats, hoping they would make it safely home. And the best part was that these huge planters were a total of less than $80!

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

by foodieplus4’s mom-in-law

[click here to print]

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 5 egg yolks
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dash of white pepper
  • dash of Tabasco
  1. Boil butter in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Put egg yolks, lemon and spices into blender.
  3. Pour hot butter into the active blender in a slow and steady stream.

coconut cream pie

There aren’t many desserts that can surpass a coconut cream pie. On one of our many (four, but who’s counting) snow days, my baker daughter asked if she could make something.  Working in the loft on the computer, I said sure and continued my business.  K had a friend over, and they were busily discussing and giggling about who had put what into the recipe. I was braced for disaster, especially when one of them almost mistook salt for sugar. Oh well, I thought. At least I have some chocolate chips in the pantry if things get ugly.

After K and friend bundled up and dashed into the snow with the others, I made my way downstairs.  I knew it was a good sign when I saw the Sweet Melissa’s book open and dusted with flour.  There aren’t any baking books that make me salivate like this one.  And when I peeked in the oven, I was praying those girls hadn’t goofed.  Coconut cream pie. In my oven. With homemade crust. And I didn’t have to lift a finger.  Does a snow day get any better than this?  Oh, yes it does. Because the timer beeped while all four foodies and friends were outside.  So I did the right thing and took out the pie.  And I looked at it and smelled it.  I took some photos.  I smelled it again and cut a slice for some more photos.  And I had a bite in complete silence without anyone else eating off my plate or begging me for more.  How did it taste, you wonder?  The smile says it all.

If you are looking for the recipe, you’ll have to buy the book or see if your library has it.  I couldn’t find it previously published on the Web and don’t have the energy to type it out.  The book has more than paid for itself in eating pleasure.  Although now that I think of it, a friend gave it to me.  But you get the idea.  And if you have any doubts, you can revisit these recipes by clicking here.

fallen chocolate souffle cake

We had some friends over last week, including a family from North Carolina that we hadn’t seen in 10 years. So my baker daughter wanted to make them something special, even though she didn’t remember them because she was about 6 months old when they moved.  She either has the gift of hospitality, or she wanted an excuse to make this:

cake slice

Just as its name implies, this chocolate cake is extremely light and airy with a delicately crisp crust.  The chocolate flavor was tasty and not too sweet, but in the colder months I tend to like my chocolate a bit richer.  When I make this cake again, it will probably be during the summer.  Its light texture would be perfect with some berries (as shown on the Sweet Melissa’s cover) in the summer heat.

cake

cake2

We had a wonderful time and laughed tons, as old friends should.  Some of our girls put on a fashion show, and the boys has their own flashlight adventures outside in the dark.  Between the three couples, we had 11 children.  And if you’re wondering how in the world this cake fed that many people, it didn’t.  We made double chocolate brownies with ice cream for the kids.  There were no complaints other than, “Why can’t I have another?!”

DSC_0030

I asked them all to smile, but obviously everyone had their own interpretation of what that meant.

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

from Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book

[click here for printable recipe]

  • 10 1/2 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar divided into 2 equal parts
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling
Before you start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray or butter. Line the bottom with a parchment paper round.
  1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring until smooth.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks with half of the sugar until doubled in volume. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Transfer the chocolate batter to a large bowl. (Wash the mixer bowl and whip attachment very well, and dry thoroughly.)
  3. In the clean bowl of the electric mixer, fitted with the clean 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.
  4. Briskly fold 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 it is just incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Spin the pan to level the batter. Bake for 65 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean [ours was done at 55 minutes]. The cake will fall as it cools.
  6. When the cake is cool, release the springform ring and remove it. To release the bottom, invert the cake onto a flat plate and remove the bottom and the parchment round. Turn right side up onto a serving plate and dust with confectioner’s sugar. [I did not do this and instead slid the cake, with the parchment, onto a plate.  I felt the delicate crust would crack if inverted.]
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream or warm hot fudge sauce and garnish with fresh berries, if you’d like to make the dessert a little fancy. The cake keeps tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 week. (Leave the cake in the pan for storing; it is delicate.)

more with hazelnuts

After whetting my appetite with the Nutella s’mores, I continued to crave hazelnuts. Bags of nuts (usually pecan, hazelnuts, and walnuts) are always in my freezer. We use them mostly in baking, but occasionally it’s nice to have some tossed in with a salad. When I saw these Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds in Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book, I knew that my favorite filberts would fit just fine in this recipe. My little baker and her friend (see the whirl of activity below) obliged by mixing the batter, although I did the baking because K had soccer and who can wait that long for gooey chocolate cookies!
cookie1

One word: perfection. Use this basic recipe for any sort of chocolate chip cookie you desire – the consistency, sweetness, and texture will all sing in your mouth. Future variations may include the original toasted almonds, walnuts, pecans, or milk and dark chocolate chunks. I think the key is freezing and slicing the dough logs so the cookies are all a similar size and thickness in order to cook evenly. Also, undercooking just slightly gives these treats a delightfully chewiness.

cookie

cookie2

After working up an appetite with a home-style fashion show, the little foodies eyed the cookies with an intensity that is palpable in this photo. It must be genetic because only the ones related to me are concentrating on which cookie has the highest chocolate-to-dough ratio.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Hazelnuts

adapted from Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book

NOTE: Start this recipe early because the dough has to chill. Also, toast the nuts before you make the cookie dough. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly gold and you can smell them. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (see note)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch chunks
  1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat for another minute.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until no flour is visible after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the hazelnuts and chocolate. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (If you’re really impatient or hungry, spread out the dough on a tray or cookie sheet, lay a sheet of plastic wrap flush against the surface of the dough, and freeze so it chills up fast.)
  6. When the dough is chilled, turn it out onto a clean work surface, and divide it in half. Roll each half into a log about 12 inches long. Refrigerate the logs for at least 30 minutes before slicing. (At this point, you can wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month.)
  7. Cut the logs into 1-inch slices, and place them about 1 1/2 inches apart on each cookie sheet. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes, or until the centers no longer have a glossy look of raw dough. They should be chewy, so do not overbake.
  8. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 weeks. Do not uncover before defrosting.

cheesecake for sale

Not really. But when I tasted these two cheesecakes that my baker girl made, I knew she could make money off these.
Chocolate espresso cheesecake with blackberry glaze

Chocolate espresso cheesecake with blackberry glaze

Lemon blueberry cheesecake with cornmeal crumble crust

Lemon blueberry cheesecake with cornmeal crumble crust

I don’t really like cheesecake, so when K picked out these two recipes to make during the week of our Gourmet Night, I was skeptical. Cheesecake has always struck me as a dry, pasty lump of sugared cream cheese sitting atop some crushed crackers. Yuck.
Now, I’m a convert.
[Note: I found the lemon cheesecake already online, but I didn’t have the time or desire to type out three pages of ingredients and directions for the chocolate one. Sorry. You’ll just have to buy the book. It’s worth it.]

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Cornmeal Crumble Crust


For the crust:

  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • Pinch of salt

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 pounds (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the blueberry topping:
  • 1 dry pint fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Before You Start
Position the rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Turn a 9-inch springform pan upside down and cover the bottom and sides with aluminum foil. The foil should come up at least halfway on all sides, so that the water from the water bath will not leak through. Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment cut to fit exactly. Using nonstick vegetable cooking spray, spray the inside papered bottom and sides of the pan.
To Make The Crust
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add the flour, cornmeal, and salt; mix until combined.
  2. Press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. (I use a cup with a flat base to help me press the crumbs evenly up the sides.) Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Lower the oven to 325ºF.
To Make The Cheesecake
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle. Add the eggs, and mix to combine. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice.
  2. Pour the batter into the prepared crust, and spin gently to level the batter.
  3. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold it. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the center is just set. Remove the pan from the water bath. Using a sharp knife, loosen the edges of the cheesecake from the pan. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Remove the bottom foil liner and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours to overnight.
To Make The Blueberry Topping
  1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine half of the blueberries, the sugar, water, and lemon juice, and cook until thick, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat, and stir in the remaining blueberries. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
To Complete The Cheesecake
  1. Once the cheesecake is chilled, release the springform ring from around it. To remove the bottom, slide two offset spatulas under the cake and transfer it to a serving plate.
  2. Spoon the topping over the cheesecake and serve.
The topped cheesecake will keep in a cake saver in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you want to, you can make the cheesecake and the blueberry sauce ahead. Store them tightly wrapped separately for up to 3 days. Top the cheesecake before serving.