apple picking

There are a few quintessential things that remind me of fall.  Apples, hot apple cider with mulling spices, pumpkins and ANYTHING pumpkin flavored (count me in), sweaters, boots, deep colors, and colorful, crunchy leaves.  Not even September 21st yet and we’ve already nailed a few of those :)

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

Over the long Labor Day weekend, Will and I traveled to a pick-your-own apple orchard.  It was the first picking weekend for the farm and it was bustling!  They had rows and rows of different apple trees to choose from.  Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious were in season when we were there but they told us that Arkansas Blacks and a few other varieties would be ripe in the coming month.  That might call for a return trip ;)

No matter the season I eat at least one apple a day, sometimes two.  But there is something even more wonderful when apples are in season and we can get a bag of fresh ones at the farmer’s market, or in this case, the orchard!

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

When we got our basket the workers told us we could pick up to a peck of apples.  A peck?  I have heard of a peck but how were we supposed to know what that meant in terms of number or weight?  We looked around and consulted our friend Google to find out that a peck of apples is 11 pounds.  11 POUNDS OF APPLES!  Unless we were each eating 4 apples a day there is no way we would make it through 11 pounds of apples before they go bad.  I mean I can handle two a day, but holy cow.  We ended up filling our bag with about 5 pounds and had plenty to share.

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

After we picked and weighed our apples we ventured into the little general store on the property.  It was filled with anything apple related you can think of.  Trivets?  Got ‘em.  Tshirts? Got those too.  Want an apple sippy cup for your child?  Don’t worry, they have those too.  Everything apple ever.  Every few hours they would pull out the apple press and demonstrate how they pressed apples straight from the tree into fresh cider.  They sold quick breads and warm turnovers and had a caramel apple station.  One of the best treats they had though was the apple cider slushy.  So delicious.  It was perfect for when the sun came out on our not-quite-yet-fall day.  Mmmm.  I’d take another one of those right about now, please.

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.com

I’m ready to embrace fall – let all of the apple and pumpkin recipes and crafts begin!  Apple picking was a great start to our fall and a fun outdoor activity for these cooler days.  I will neither confirm nor deny that I spent part of our time there skipping through the orchard rows like a child and trying to find a spot on the stack of hay bales to climb.  Life should be fun, right?  Apple picking sure was :)

Pass the Cookies - The start of fall means it's time for some apple picking!  www.passthecookies.comShirt-J.Crew from last year (similar) | Jeans-Loft | Boots-Hunter | Scarf-Paris souvenir (similar, similar) | Bracelet-gift (similar) | Nail Polish-Essie

 

homemade almond butter and pecan peanut cinnamon butter

It finally feels like fall outside!

Almond butter and pecan cinnamon butter are easy, delicious and healthy spread.September decided to show itself today with cool temperatures, wonderful breezes and bright blue skies full of fluffy white clouds.  I know it is not officially fall yet, according to the calendar and the autumnal equinox, but I am so ready for it to cool down and feel like fall.  I have already broken into the pumpkin and the apple cider.  Can’t the weather conform to my mood?  I wish.

Almond butter and pecan cinnamon butter are easy, delicious and healthy spread.Almond butter and pecan peanut cinnamon butter are so delicious and are great healthy spreads for any season.  They are thick but spreadable, perfect for huge slices of multigrain toast with granola and honey, apple slices, celery, or just straight off of the spoon or out of the jar (no judgement).  They are easy to customize to your preferences and so addicting.  We have made a jar or two every weekend for the past few weeks now and, between the two of us, manage to go through a whole 8-oz jar in one week.  Looking at the pictures makes me want to grab a spoon right now.

Almond butter and pecan cinnamon butter are easy, delicious and healthy spread.

Toasting the nuts is key.  It lends to a deeper flavor and warm nuts always seems easier to break down into nut butter.  Maybe the heat aids in the process?  This is about the easiest recipe ever.  All you need are nuts, a bit of salt and honey, if you prefer, and the patience to make sure your food processor doesn’t vibrate right off the counter or overheat.  Yes, off the counter.  Those little appliances have minds of their own and just jump right off the counter if you aren’t watching them.  Watch out!

Almond butter and pecan cinnamon butter are easy, delicious and healthy spread.

Almond Pecan Butter
2/3 cup almonds, toasted
1/3 cup pecans, toasted
salt (optional)
honey (optional)

Pecan Peanut Cinnamon Butter
2/3 cup pecans, toasted
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
salt (optional)
honey (optional)

Each recipe makes about 8 ounces of nut butter (plus a bit more for tasting)

Place the nuts, hot from being toasted, in the bowl of a food processor. I have found that the heat from the toasted nuts helps the process. Pulse constantly on high for 5-8 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and fold the top and the bottom every now and then. It may take longer than 8 minutes if your food processor is not as strong. At first it will look like you need to add oil. I haven’t needed to add oil. Don’t give up! It will take longer than you think but just keep processing until the nuts become the texture of peanut butter. Once the mixture is the correct texture you can add honey and/or salt to taste. A bit of sea salt really brings out the flavors and honey is divine in the pecan peanut cinnamon butter. Transfer your nut butter to a container or jar.  Slather your nut butter on everything in sight and eat straight from very large spoons.  These nut butters keep best in the fridge.

Almond butter and pecan cinnamon butter are easy, delicious and healthy spread.

link love

Hey there, Friday.  Nice to see you again.  Does it feel like Wednesday to anyone?  Just me?  I think the long weekend/short week threw me off, but I’ll take it all the time!

link love 9-10-2015

 

[via]

Some link love for your weekend from some of my favorite nooks of the internet this week:

I’m stoked about fall.  Is it here yet?  Is it here yet?  Don’t worry, I have already broken out the pumpkin bread.  This fall lookbook of calligraphed items is wonderful.  All of the colors are spot on.  I especially love the “morning, pumpkin” mug.  So great.

This NY artist has created a map of Manhattan from different written directions people have given him.  It is a cool project and an interesting look at how to put directions together in this day of digital mapping.

I know this one is a bit late for the anniversary, but this interactive map of the New Orleans flooding during Katrina is pretty amazing in the scariest ways.  I’ve never been to the Big Easy, but I have heard great things and I really want to visit and experience all of the culture and food.

Since we were in London not too long ago, here is a great collection of photos from an Londoner who photographed the rainy city in puddles.

While we are across the pond, let’s take a look at the current Covent Garden art installation, shall we?  100,000 white balloons will fill the space, pulsing with light, until September 27th.  Where can I find this in the US?

Finally, some pictures of what now stands in the place of the Twin Towers and Flight 93, as we remember September 11, 2001.

Happy Friday and happy weekending, everyone!  I hope it is full of fall decorations, scents and activities even if the weather still says it is summer.

med school spouse survival kit

Now that almost everyone is back in school, school and dorm supplies are still everywhere.  Parents and students descended upon the stores, snagging folders, paper, lunch boxes, futons and pretty much anything you can fit in a cozy 12’x12′ cinder block home.  While everyone else has just gotten settled in and used to the school schedule again, med school has been back in session for more than a month.

Med students need some of the same school supplies as undergrads and high school students, with some extras (stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, you know), but as the spouse of a medical student, there are supplies I like to have to help with the school year too.  I am no expert, but with one year of experience in the field, these are the main tools in my Med School Spouse Survival Kit.

Pass the Cookies - A Med School Spouse Survival Kit should include a coffee maker, headphones, an eye mask and a calendar.  www.passthecookies.com

A coffee pot and lots and lots of coffee – These are some of the basic necessities for any medical student and/or spouse.  There are a lot of late night (or all-night) study sessions paired with early morning classes for the student or work for the spouse.  Caffeine is great for this combination. Even better is a coffee pot you can program to start at a certain time, so all you have to do is pull your groggy self out of bed and pour it in a travel mug on your way out the door.

An eye mask to wear at night – With medical school comes late nights of studying.  With late nights of studying comes a lack of sleep.  Our apartment is small, so when Will studies in one room, the light streams through our glass bedroom doors (who thought that was a good idea?).  In order to get a little more sleep myself, I keep this eye mask near the bed.  I LOVE it.  It has saved me from staying awake for many all-night study sessions.  I have the one pictured above, which is nice and puffy, but I also like these two Breakfast at Tiffany’s masks (1, 2) and this monogrammed one.

Headphones – Often times Will will listen to his med school lectures on double speed.  I have no idea how he understands anything the professor is saying, because it all sounds like a jumble to me.  Nevermind that there are also some functions of the human body I never care to hear about again.  Headphones make this situation oh so amiable.  Will can wear headphones and listen to his babbling professors, or I can wear headphones to block out the information I don’t want to hear – or both!  Headphones for the win!

A wall calendar – A wall calendar comes in handy for jotting down midterm and test dates, clinical weeks, social activities (med school related and not) and academic schedules.  Even when I’m not in Will’s classes to hear the schedule, I can still see when he has a big test coming up or a holiday from classes.  This one is similar to the one we keep on our fridge, but I think this chalkboard calendar decal is great too.

Pass the Cookies - A Med School Spouse Survival Kit should include cookbooks with quick, easy, budget-friendly recipes.  www.passthecookies.com

Since medical students don’t have much time or money, cookbooks for quick, easy and budget-friendly meals are always well-used.  Will does a great job of pitching in and helping me with the cooking, but on nights before a big test neither of us wants to spend much time getting dinner on the table.  These are some great cookbooks with healthy, easy and cheap recipes for our weekly menu.

The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook - Pardon my French.  I love this cookbook.  It is a great budget cookbook with dishes that are good enough to serve to guests.  Some of them take more ingredients or time, some are very quick.  Great for the med student and med student spouse on a budget.

Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? – Ina Garten always pulls through.  Growing up, my family had almost all of her cookbooks.  On the quest for easy meals that still taste great, this cookbook is a winner.  Her recipes are easy to whip up so you have time to get back to studying the endocrine system…or hearing about it from the other room.

Sheet Pan Suppers – We make a lot of one dish meals, including sheet pan suppers.  One dish meals are my favorite.  Less dirty dishes, quicker cooking times, often healthy dishes and great flavor medleys.  While we don’t have this cookbook yet, I have heard great things about it and since we basically made the meal pictured on the cover for dinner tonight, I have a feeling it would be super useful.  In the same realm, Martha Stewart’s One Pot cookbook looks great too.

Pass the Cookies - A Med School Spouse Survival Kit should include social activities and hobbies, some new, some old.  www.passthecookies.com

One of the most important parts of your Med School Spouse Survival Kit are your hobbies.  With your significant other engulfed in studies most nights, you will have time to explore new hobbies and delve deeper into your existing hobbies.  These will occupy your time while your doctor-to-be rattles off words you don’t understand and studies for yet another exam or clinical skills test.  Over the past year, these are some of the tools I have used to expand the hobbies in my kit.

Photography:  My trusty Canon camera is my favorite tool for photography at this point, but my iPhone is useful when I want a quick picture or when I am out and about and don’t want to lug around my big camera.  I have the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, but it looks like they have discontinued that model.  The T5i linked looks a comparable newer model.

Baking (for my newest hobby: this blog!): I have a lot of baking equipment and utensils.  My KitchenAid mixer is my favorite kitchen appliance and I don’t know what I would do without it.  Make fewer cookies?  That sounds terrible.  I also use a Silpat all the time for baking cookies, granola, or anything else in a sheet pan.  It is like reusable parchment paper that helps baked goods cook evenly.  The end products slide right off the Silpat.

Needlepoint:  I know, this sounds like a boring hobby for retired people, but don’t look down on it just yet!  I learned how to needlepoint from my roommate in our sophomore year of college and have made two needlepoint belts for Will and a few key chains.  With my other hobbies, there isn’t too much time left for needlepointing but it is still a great relaxing one to do on car trips and during tv shows.

While this is a good start to any medical student spouse’s survival kit, it is also important to enjoy the intangibles.  Never take for granted any time you can spend together when your med student doesn’t have an upcoming test; social activities together or with your own friends should always be included; and taking a night, a day, or a weekend to relax, forget about the loans and tests, and treat yourselves is something that no med student or med student’s spouse should forget to do.  I’m still no expert, but as the spouse of an MS2, I’m much more prepared than I was at the start of Will’s first year of med school.  These are some of the items I (and we) have found that make our lives easier.  Maybe my next addition will be Medical Terms for Dummies, although I pretty much learn those along the way ;)

This post includes Amazon affiliate links.  None of the products are sponsored and all opinions are my own.

sally lunn bread with honey butter

I’m a little afraid of baking with yeast.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

I have had a lot of fails and only a few successes. It is temperamental, that yeast. Mixed with liquid that is too hot, it will die, too cold though and it wont proof correctly. So many times I have anticipated gorgeous golden loaves of bread or rolls, only to end up with dense, stout results. I go through the reasons for my bread struggles in my head. Maybe I kneaded the dough too much, maybe the yeast died, maybe there wasn’t enough yeast; it is difficult to know.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

I want to get better at yeast breads, but sometimes I’m reluctant to spend a whole day or two waiting for the dough to rise just to end up with a failed product. Sally Lunn bread was a great start. Little ol’ Sally made some dang good and bread.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

The bread resembles a brioche loaf, is easy and takes only an hour and a half to rise before it goes in the oven, not the days that most yeasted goods require. The sweet smell of yeast and butter fills the house (or apartment, in our case) and the loaf comes out of the oven with a beautiful golden sheen.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

It is best to wait for the bread to cool before slicing, but sometimes you can’t resist. Sweet honey butter is slathered on top of thick slices of warm, fresh bread, melting before you can get it to your mouth.  A golden crust holds the slightly sweet bread together as the butter soaks into the small nooks and crannies in the bread’s surface. Honey butter is the easiest way to make your guests think you are fancy, when you really just mixed together two ingredients you already had lying around. I won’t tell.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

This bread is my stepping-stone to baking with yeast. It is a baby step but certainly one that made me feel good. I’ll take the little victories on the way to the end goal, especially the easy and delicious ones. Yes, please.

Sally Lunn Bread
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 packet) active dry yeast
¾ cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, salted, plus more for finishing
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine ¾ cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and butter together until the liquid is warm, not hot (you don’t want to kill the yeast). The butter doesn’t have to be fully melted. Slowly pour the warm ingredients into the dry mixture and mix for about 2 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk and ½ cup flour and mix for another 2 minutes. Add the last ¾ cup flour and beat until the dough is smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for an hour or until doubled.

While the dough rises, butter and flour a loaf pan. Once the dough has doubled, pour it into the prepared pan. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray and cover the loaf pan. Let the dough rise for 30 more minutes. After about 25 minutes preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. If your bread starts to get dark on top before the inside is fully cooked, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue to bake.

Remove the bread from the oven and, while it is still hot, rub butter on the top of the bread (everyone likes a little more butter). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

Honey Butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tablespoon honey

Stir the honey into the butter until the honey is completely and evenly incorporated.  Serve with fresh slices of bread.

This delicious, soft and slightly sweet Sally Lunn bread with easy honey butter is a great stepping stone to yeasted baked goods.

england part III: cambridge

While we were staying in London we took a day trip to Cambridge.  Only a short train ride outside of London, Cambridge was a quaint, beautiful university town with gorgeous buildings lining the street and the River Cam.  Below are some of our photos from the day, walking around town and punting on the river.  We loved Cambridge, it was a wonderful day trip from busy London.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

Cambridge University is made up of multiple colleges.  Historically, students stayed in the college that corresponded to their course of studies and lived, dined and took classes in that specific college.  Nowadays, students can choose their college (to a degree) and while they still live and dine there, they take courses across many colleges.  Some of the colleges charged money to tour or view their grounds (which I thought was absolutely absurd).  We found a few that were free for visitors and explored all of the ivy-covered corners.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

I matched the flowers that day :)

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

In the afternoon we went on a punt on the river, with our local punter and tour guide, Pip.  We barraded Pip with questions and he patiently answered and gave us more information than we remember.  He probably thought we were the craziest Americans he had ever met.  We rode along behind of all of the college buildings, sometimes referred to as “the Backs,” because you see the backsides of the colleges.  Pip explained which famous scholars lived in the different colleges.  He explained the history and beginnings of the Cambridge, Oxford rivalry as we passed Darwin’s house and the college where Stephen Hawking lived, among many others.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

As we understand it, and as we experienced, punting is when someone with a guides a boat up and down the waterways by pushing off the bottom of the river with a long stick.  While the punters make the job look easy, our group had a much more difficult time keeping the boat moving in the right direction than they did when given the chance.  On our attempts, we ended up going backwards, in a wall, against another boat, you know, safe.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.

We took the train from London to spend a day in beautiful Cambridge and loved every part of it.Cambridge, Cambridge, beautiful Cambridge.  Let’s do it again, maybe Oxford next time?

gluten free chocolate chip cookies

We’re branching out today.  These chewy, tender cookies are filled with chocolate puddles and are gluten free!  Stay with me here, you’ll like them whether you fill your diet with gluten or leave it out.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

A few of my good friends from college can’t have gluten.  As a baker, even in college, I always wanted to make sure they were not left out when our groups shared treats.  When we moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, I began experimenting with different recipes and methods of replacing regular flour with gluten free options.  Some of the trials were complete duds.  Sunken breads, cookies running across the pan, don’t-try-this-at-home kind of mess-ups.  It is certainly not a one-to-one ratio with any single type of gluten-free flour substitute, but I’m figuring it out and learning as I go.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

See that melty chocolate?  Mmmmm.  Makes me want to make another batch.

I feel like I have a few easy gluten free treats down pat, but I am definitely still working on others.  Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, no problem; gluten free quick bread, getting closer; yeasted gluten free goods, don’t hold your breath.  These cookies, however, are a definite success, loved by gluten-lovers and gluten-free alike.  Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorite desserts to make and eat.  They are my go-to, my classic, my well-known treat, and I’m excited to now be able to share some of the love with my gluten-free friends!

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are soft and thick with a deep flavor from the dark chocolate and brown sugar.  They have a nice crumb and slightly crispy edges, which creates a great contrast of textures.  I like to chop up dark chocolate bars instead of using chocolate chips for this recipe – the chopped chocolate melts better and forms deposits of sweetness throughout the cookie.  Each bite is a wonderful melty mouthful of chocolate and tender cookie base.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

I wanted to keep this recipe simple and easy enough that it wouldn’t be a task to make them.  Because making cookies should never turn into a task and everyone should have the option to have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

I have included options to use less refined sugar and no butter, if that is your thing.  Both options are delicious.  I had not used coconut sugar before this recipe and I found that it does not affect the taste or the structure of the cookie at all (I found it for a good price at Trader Joe’s).  The coconut oil makes the cookies a little more tender and lends a bit of a coconutty flavor.  It is definitely not overwhelming and Will, who does not like coconut, couldn’t taste it at all.  If you use coconut oil, you’ll want to make sure it is solid.  In the winter ours stays solid in the pantry, but in the summer it is liquid.  If you have that issue, stick it in the fridge or freezer for a bit, no biggie.

Whether you are gluten free not, these cookies are worth making.  Snag a few – you won’t be able to resist.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature (or coconut oil, soft but not melted)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cup coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 ½ cups almond flour or almond meal
2 cup dark chocolate, chopped

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter (or coconut oil, if using) and sugars until creamy and smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the electric mixer and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into 1-½ inch balls. Place chilled cookie dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet a few inches apart and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges become golden. You may need to press them down a bit if they are still puffy after 8 minutes.

london part II: the boroughs

Are you ready for more of London?! During our time in London we made our way to many boroughs. It was amazing to see how different each area is. The pastel and white colored row houses in Notting Hill provide a much different atmosphere than the graffiti art covered streets of Brick Lane and East London. Buckingham Palace, with its golden accents and immaculate flower garden is nothing like the theatre district.

One morning we made it to the Churchill War Rooms before they opened, made it through the museum and over to Buckingham palace to see the changing of the guards at 11am. We didn’t get a great spot for the changing of the guards, but Churchill War Rooms was one of our favorite things so it wasn’t a big deal. We saw the guards marching and trading places and chatted with a local British man near us who attends the ceremony about 3 times a week and has done so for years and years. He explained where all of the guards were coming from and going, what they did during the trade-off behind the palace gate and the significance of the ceremony. No need for a tour guide when you have local experts :)  P.S. If you are going to London, definitely go to Churchill War Rooms – it was a favorite among many in our group.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

Jumping across the park, we also spent some time walking around Notting Hill and Portobello Market. The houses were so pretty, bumped up next to each other with greens and window boxes. Some of the streets were filled with white and black houses, while others embraced multicolored pastels, a different color on each home. Notting Hill was much more calm than the main areas of central London and it was nice to be out of the hustle-bustle for a while where we could still enjoy the views and culture of the city.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

When I studied abroad in college, I met one of my roommates in London, where she was studying. She was a wonderful tour guide and knew the city so well I never had to look at a map. In addition to the main attractions, she took me to places she knew I would like. One of those places was Daunt Books. I probably would not have discovered the bookstore on my own, but I loved the quaint bookstore and the cute surrounding area. We went back when we were there this summer and it is just as great as I remembered. Green walls and wooden railings, books from floor to ceiling for three floors, wonderful books and beautiful book jackets. Marylebone has wonderful shops, great restaurants and, like Notting Hill, is a quieter part of London. Even after two trips it is one of the areas I would visit again and again.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

And now for an area I will always recommend to everyone, one of my favorite parts of London – Borough Market. Markets are my favorite parts of many cities but this one is the best I have ever visited. The well-known food market is filled with mountains of vibrant produce, rows and rows of delicious treats and hot food stands with enough variety to please anyone. Even meats, cheeses, eggs, mustards and flowers fill the many stalls of the covered market. There are options for everyone and it is worth going just to see the extent and variety of the market. Eek, I want to go back!

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.As we were leaving the market, my mom pointed out a chalkboard sign with the heading “Before I die….” We jumped right in and joined the many locals and visitors who had signed their goals and ambitions in multicolored chalk ahead of us. In a city rich with diversity, the chalkboard and the many sentiments it held seemed like a fitting way to end the visit to a market that mirrored so much of that variety.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

salted caramel dark chocolate hazelnut praline paris-brest

Get ready.  You are about to experience an overload of pictures and an immense desire for chocolate and pastry cream.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Meet the Paris-Brest.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

I am so excited to tell you about this dessert.  The Paris-Brest is a famous french pastry named after the cycling race, the Paris-Brest-Paris.  One of the oldest cycling races still riden,  the Paris-Brest-Paris is a 1200 km ride from Paris to Brest, on the coast of France, back to Paris.  Not only is it crazy long, but cyclists have only 90 hours to complete the long distance race, meaning many of them sleep for only 2-3 hours at a time while they are on the course.  The Paris-Brest pastry was created by a French pastry chef in honor of the race.  It’s circular shape represents the shape of a bicycle tire and, with all of the biking, racers have a good excuse to eat the extra calories ;)

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Typically, this ring of choux pastry is filled with praline pastry cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  We’re taking it a step (or three) further and making caramel pastry cream, adding dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut praline.  Decadent and delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The race occurs only every four years and while the pastry is absolutely divine, I am most excited about this dessert because we are close with someone who completed the race just last week!  We followed along on our computers here in the US as he and his biking friend clocked their cards at each checkpoint.  Sunday through early Thursday, we refreshed the browser, checked to see how they were doing, kept up with their paces.  It was exciting and scary at the same time.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Now that they successfully completed the race (crazy!), I excitedly share this pastry with you!  The Paris-Brest looks difficult, and I will admit there are a lot of parts, but don’t be afraid!  It can easily be spread apart over a few days or made in just one, whatever you have the time for.  I made the hazelnut praline a few days before I made everything else, and made the pastry cream the night before I made the choux.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Mmmm, and then there is the ganache.  So easy, so delicious.  That is the rule for most of the steps in this dessert.  They may take some time, but most steps have few ingredients and are fairly easy.  If those cyclists can bike 1200 km in 90 hours, you can make this pastry!  I believe in you! :)  Praline, pastry cream, choux, ganache.  Top it off with some powdered sugar and there you have it.  Easy peasey!

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.I got a bit carried away with the extra choux pastry :)

Most Paris-Brest recipes pipe the choux into one circle.  I strayed from that just slightly and piped two rows of puffs that were close enough to touch each other.  The golden boules provided extra texture and created perfect places to cut it into portions when we served it.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

And a sprinkle (or seven) of powdered sugar for good measure.  It kind of resembles snow-capped mountains to me.  Delicious snow-capped mountains.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

This is one of the best desserts I have ever made.  Once you get the parts down, you can impress a crowd with this Paris-Brest pastry.  So, allons-y et bonne chance!

Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Paris-Brest

Salted Caramel Pastry Cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream, to lighten the pastry cream (optional)

Hazelnut Praline
1 cup hazelnuts
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Choux Pastry
3/4 cup butter (unsalted), cut into small pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs (5 if you are in a humid environment)

Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces chocolate (I used dark chocolate), coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons butter

For assembly
powdered sugar, for dusting

To make:
Salted Caramel Pastry Cream

Combine the sugar with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup water in a large, heavy saucepan. Stir together over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar turns a medium amber.

Remove from the heat and immediately pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously – just watch it until it calms down. Stir the cream into the sugar until the mixture is fully mixed and uniform. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla and salt. While whisking on medium speed, slowly pour the hot sugar-cream mixture down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg mixture. Mix until smooth. Pouring the hot mixture down the bowl gives it a chance to cool off before it hits the eggs and pour it slowly helps to ensure the eggs don’t cook in the hot liquid.

Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise and the whisk leaves streams behind it in the mixture (you will understand that when you do it).

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours. If you are in a hurry, spread out the pastry cream on a large baking pan (so there is more surface area to capture the cold air), cover with plastic wrap as before, and refrigerate until cool or flash freeze for a few minutes. Be careful not to actually freeze the cream if you are attempting to cool it down quickly though.

Pastry cream can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.  It will become more stiff in the fridge, just whip it when you are ready to use it.

To lighten the pastry cream, whip 1 cup of whipping cream in an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks and is the consistency of whipped cream.  Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and chill.

Hazelnut Praline
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (about 3 cups of water). To the boiling water, add 2 teaspoons of baking soda and the hazelnuts. The water will turn black. Do not be alarmed. (It’s actually kind of cool :) ) While the nuts boil, fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drain the water and pour the hazelnuts into the ice water. With your fingers, slip the skin off each hazelnut.

Line a rimmed baking tray with Silpat or spray very well with non-stick spray. Place the skinned hazelnuts on the pan in a single layer.

In a medium nonstick saucepan, combine the sugar and the lemon juice. Once the sugar dissolves, continue to cook the mixture over medium heat until it is amber, without stirring! You can swirl the pan a few times halfway through but DO NOT STIR. As tempting as it is to continue to stir the mixture, don’t! Despite your good intentions, you might end up with a rock hard clump of sugar. This is almost the same process as when you made the caramel base of the pastry cream above. While the sugar cooks you can brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

Pour the melted mixture directly onto the nuts and allow to cool. Once cool, break the praline into pieces for decoration.  You can make the hazelnut praline ahead of time and store the praline pieces in an airtight container for a few days.

Choux Pastry
While the pastry cream cools, make the choux pastry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a small nonstick saucepan, bring the butter and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the boiling mixture all at once and immediately stir it quickly until a thick paste forms and the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to allow more water to evaporate. If you are in a humid environment, you may need to stir even longer to ensure that there is even less moisture in your final product since there is already so much in the air.

Transfer the choux paste into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Do not mix on high – you don’t want extra air to leaven the pastries, the steam will already do that. The finished mixture should be a soft paste but still stiff enough to hold its shape when you pipe it.

Place the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip and pipe 1-1 1/2 inch balls touching each other in about a 10-inch circle. I had enough pastry to pipe an inner circle as well. Bake the dough for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven teperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 30-40 more minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

Remove the pastry from the oven and let it cool just until you can easily handle it. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut one of the puffs in half across the middle. If the center of the puff feels soft, return the pan to the oven for a few more minutes. Otherwise, set aside to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Add the butter and whisk the mixture until it is smooth and all of the butter and chocolate has melted. Make sure you incorporate any chocolate on the bottom and sides of the bowl (it is easier to do this with a rubber spatula).

To Assemble

With a serrated knife, cut horizontally through the center of the pastry puffs.  Place the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a large tip.  Lift the tops of the choux pastry and pipe the pastry cream between the layers.  Drizzle the chocolate ganache on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cooled hazelnut praline.

This dessert is best eaten soon after it is assembled so the pastry cream does not make the pastry soggy.

Hazelnut praline slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.  Salted caramel pastry cream and choux pastry slightly adapted from Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Let Them Eat Cake.

 

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

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link love 8-21-2015

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Whew.  It’s Friday.  Does it feel like it to you?  I feel like it has been a very long week, but at the same time it still feels like it is about Wednesday in my mind.  I guess that is better than it feeling like Friday on Wednesday!

And here are this weeks links!  I like ‘em :)

Fall is coming, fall is coming!!! Are you excited yet?  Because I am!  Michaels and Target already have their fall decorations out and the pumpkin flavors are already coming out (okay, chill out Starbucks, it’s a little too soon).  I love fall so much more than summer.  Cooler weather, crunching leaves, PUMPKIN.  Let the countdown begin.

I thought that I had used all aspects of Google possible until this week.  How did I not know about Google Cultural Institute?  It is really cool!  I love looking at the different groupings of art collections.

Speaking of art, this Edinburgh architect made a paper model every day for a year.  Some of them are so intricate and amazing!  I can’t imagine how much time that took him total but I can definitely understand how he is faster and better now that he has completed a year of projects.

I’m so so so excited about this book.  I think it is an awesome concept and I want to see all of the recipes!  This author, chef and literary lover wrote recipes based on great literary works, from childhood favorites to adult classics and popular books in between.

This article about smartphone attachment is hilarious and absolutely on point.  I love it.  But it also scares me.  I can totally relate to #3, it is a frantic situation.

Happy Friday and happy weekending!

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