Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Love and a Sweet Francisco Christmas Gift

I love Christmas.  I love the love that Christmas brings.  There is something to be said about spending time with family and friends, sharing food and gifts.  It's always so special.  My Grandma Anna always told us that the reason that her food was so good was because it was made with love. And Christmas was always filled with just that.  Delicious family recipes, laughter, and fun.  Whether it was my Grandma Delia's sausage rolls, my mom's Yorkshire Pudding, or my Grandma Anna's cinnamon rolls, every single bite was full of love.  And deliciousness. 

Maybe that's why I decided to make a lot of my own Christmas gifts this year.  Sweet Francisco has seen an explosion of business in the past few months and we are overwhelmed by the help and support that we have gotten, not only from wedding vendors and event planners, but from friends and family who have spent nights in the kitchen helping us bake 600 cookies, and coming over for surprise visits with wine and puppies when I am absolutely exhausted from the stress of having two full-time jobs.  Dave and I are thankful for each and every one of the amazing people in our lives, which is why we came up with the idea to create homemade hot chocolate gift boxes this year.

We filled some adorable little boxes with hand crafted (okay, I just wrote on them with Sharpies and baked them in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes) holiday chocolate mugs filled with homemade hot chocolate powder.  We also threw in a little mason jar full of homemade salted caramel and a handful of DELICIOUS Sarah Bernhardt cakes.  Seriously.  Have you had those cakes?  Daaaammmnnnn gurl.  They are gooooood (and gluten-free!).

They are heavenly little bites of almond meringue cookies, mounded with an espresso coffee cream, and dipped in chocolate.  Dave ate one with his coffee this morning and nearly died, they are so good.  Pretty sure they will be even better when paired with a piping hot cup of salted caramel hot chocolate.

We filled little cellophane bags with hot chocolate mix, stamped a few mini cloth bags with some adorable stamps, and stuffed the chocolate inside.

Look at how cute they are!  Especially when they are sitting next to our fun handcrafted mugs!  And that stamp!  Yes, it says "Happy Owlidays".  I love that owls are so in this year. 

Pair that with some salted caramel.  My mouth is watering.

Here is the whole box.  I kind of love it.  I wish I could give one to myself.

So fun!  I hope everyone we give them to enjoys them as much as we enjoyed making them.  There is something so satisfying about crafting something that you know will bring joy to someone else.  Maybe that is why I'm a baker.  There is just so much love in food.

Happy holidays everyone.  And thank you to all of you who have made this such an incredible year for Sweet Francisco.  We appreciate you more than we can say.

I'll put more recipes up soon, but here is a little something to warm up your Christmas morning.  Just add a few tablespoons to a mug of hot milk and enjoy.  :)

Sweet Francisco Hot Chocolate Mix

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • A large pinch of cinnamon

  • Sift all ingredients together and combine.  Store in an air tight container and drink with loved ones!

    Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

    Monday, November 26, 2012

    Tarty Party 2.0

    Well I started out hoping to write a post about a Bourbon Caramel Apple Skillet Cake that I made a while back but I can't find my pictures for the life of me!  For shame!  I will have to get back to that one when I get enough time to scour my computer for them.  For now, I will  just fill you in on the Second Annual Tarty Party that we hosted last weekend.

    The Tarty Party: a wonderful and delicious tradition that Dave and I started in 2011.  Soooooo much work, but soooooooo much fun.  We hosted about fifty people this year, made exactly 348 tarts, and ended up with nearly 100 bottles of wine.  I told you.  It's wonderful.

    One good thing about the tarty party, is that everyone always ends up with a favorite tart flavor.  The bad thing about the tarty party is that most people request to see their favorite tart flavor at the next tarty party.  Okay, okay.  I guess that really is NOT a bad thing, but it does make it incredibly difficult to narrow down the flavors when it comes time to start baking.  This year I went with a few old time favorites, and a few insanely delicious new flavors. 

    Here is what we had:

    Brown Butter and Caramel Banana Cream
    Creme Brulee (yes, you read that right...we had creme brulee tarts...divine)
    Lemon Meringue
    Goat Cheese and Apple (if you are a Hunger Games fan, you are probably familiar with this combo)
    Brown Butter Blueberry

    We set 348 tarts out at the beginning of the night.  We went to sleep (at 4am...whew, what a party!) with 0.  That's right.  They were ALL gone, and I got texts the next morning thanking me for sending people home with tarty goody bags for breakfast the next day.  Tarts.  They cure hangovers, right?

    You bet they do.  Everyone knows you gotta fight sugar with sugar.  And hot damn are they adorable. 

    Can't wait for Tarty Party 2013!  Get me to next November!

    Wednesday, November 7, 2012

    Tarts, Macarons, and Gina Marie Studios

    This post has nothing to do with baking.  Okay, I baked the tarts and macarons used in the pictures, so I guess it does have something to do with baking.  Just not much.  And I'm sure most of you don't really care what my engagement pictures look like, but I'm still reeling with excitement after seeing them, so I'm going to do this anyway.

    You see, I have this friend.  Her name is Gina Marie.  I met her through my fiancee, who has been friends with her since high school.  (I meet a lot of good girlfriends this way, interestingly).  She has a photography business called Gina Marie Studios that rocks my socks.  She photographed another one of my girlfriend's (who I also met through my fiancee...he's got awesome friends, what can I say?) wedding.  That rocked my socks too.  So it was no surprise that when Dave and I got engaged, we immediately thought of her to do our wedding.  She so graciously obliged and we met with her on Saturday to take some engagement pictures.  Dave and I weren't sure that we needed these, but she expained that they were always a good idea because they make you a little more comfortable being photographed whilst giggling, smiling, and kissing on your wedding day.  She was oh so right. Dave and I have never spent so much time gazing into each other's eyes lovingly as we did that day.

    Anyway, she got us the finished photos today and we straight up adore them.  She was kind enough to oblige us in taking some of us with our baked goods and in front of our car.  Dude.  We love them.   

    Do me a solid and promise to check her out if you are in need of a wedding photographer.  Or any other photographer for that matter.  Also, she's got a cool blog called So, Let's Hang Out, filled with food, DIY, and doodles.  I'd check that out if I were you, too.  You know, for your own good.  You may even see her on here sometime soon.  We've been talking about collaborating on an awesome gluten-free recipe.

    Here's why we love her:



    (All photos courtesy of Gina Marie Studios at

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Chocolate Souffle Cake with Bourbon Caramel and Softly Whipped Cream

    Bourbon.  Caramel.  Chocolate.  Whipped Cream.  Can you think of a reason that these four things should not go together?  No?  Me either.  That's why I decided I needed to make it for my bourbon obsessed fiancee for his birthday this year as soon as I saw it cross my Google Reader.  It didn't disappoint.  And let's face it - this is the time of year that you want to cozy up on the couch with a warm souffle and (if you are Dave) a nice glass of bourbon.

    To preface this story, let me tell you that we take our adorable little puggle pup, Buster Posey,

    to the park every Thursday to play with his friends while we drink wine and eat cheese.  We call this weekly gathering, "Yappy Hour."  Luckily for all of us, Dave's birthday happened to fall on a Friday this year, so I figured we could kick the celebration off with the chocolate souffle cake for yappy hour the day before. 

    The recipe I used called for a 10" spring form pan, but I only had a 9".  No matter!  That just meant that I had enough batter left over to fill a mini spring form for a little pre-pre-birthday cake for the two of us!

    Though it wasn't ideal, I decided it would be far easier for me to make the cake a day in advance so I didn't have to rush home after work to get it done before Yappy Hour commenced.  As I expected, the cake fell a little too much throughout the day to be perfectly pretty, but it still tasted amazing.  Plus, we got to try that cute little baby cake for dessert the night before and work out the kinks in the presentation (namely, a droopy center) before we served it to everyone else.  We also noticed that it was slightly one note, even with the caramel.  It needed something to cut through the rich chocolaty flavor, so I decided to whip some cream to soft peaks and fill the little dent left in the cake before topping it with the bourbon caramel and nuts.  The end result was to die for. 

    The whipped cream complimented the chocolate and bourbon flavors beautifully and made it look super luscious.  Yum.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  There wasn't much left after the party, but my fellow dog lovers were quick to offer to take it home and finish it off. 
    Hot damn, that looks good.

    Three final words of advice before you dash out to make this beauty:

    1.  I substituted walnuts for pecans, just because I had them in my freezer already.  I loved how the walnuts cradled the caramel, but I think the pecans would have added a nicer flavor. 
    2. Make sure to read the recipe in its entirety before starting to bake.  There are quite a few steps that could confuse if you haven't made a souffle before!
    3. When I make this again in the future, I am going to put some high quality vanilla ice cream in the droopy center of the cake while it is still warm, and then cover it with the caramel.  Ice cream in souffles is by far one of my favorite things, so I can't imagine why it wouldn't be amazing here.

    Chocolate Souffle Cake with Bourbon Caramel and Softly Whipped Cream
    Recipe adapted from Bake or Break

    For the cake:
  • 2-3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 16 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • For the sauce:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup pecan halves (I used walnuts)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

  • For the whipped cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar

  • Directions
    Preheat oven to 350°. Brush a 10-inch spring form pan (or one 9" and one mini!) with melted butter and coat the bottom and sides with superfine sugar. Tap out excess.
    Place chocolate chips and butter in a heat proof bowl over boiling water, stirring occasionally until smooth and melted.  Make sure that water from the steam does not get in the chocolate.  Set aside when done.
    Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg yolks and salt until smooth. Gradually add 1/2 cup superfine sugar and beat until thick and pale yellow (4-6 minutes). Whisk in bourbon and vanilla. Gradually whisk egg mixture into melted chocolate and butter.
    Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a stainless steel bowl. Using an electric mixer on low speed, whisk until foamy. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.
    Stir about 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate to lighten the mixture. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into chocolate mixture in two batches. Fold just until blended or the eggs will deflate and your cake will be too dense.
    Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cake rises and is puffy and firm. The cake should be moist but not liquid in the center. A cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs.
    Allow it to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. The top will fall some as it cools. Remove the sides of the pan.
    To make the topping:
    Place cream in a pot over medium heat until it starts to scald.  In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and starts to change color. Increase heat to high. Boil mixture 4-5 minutes, or until it turns an amber color. Do not stir.  Be careful not to burn the mixture - don't let it get too dark.
    Remove pan from heat and stir in nuts, warm cream, and salt. Place pan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes, or until caramel thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Set aside and keep warm if not using immediately (or rewarm in the microwave if necessary).
    Whip remaining 1 cup of cream and 2 tsp of sugar until soft peaks form.
    Spoon desired amount of whipped cream over cake. Top with lukewarm caramel (make sure it's not too warm or it will melt the cream).  Use a very sharp knife to cut cake into heavenly slices.  Devour immediately with friends.

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Raspberry Pie Pops and a Hot Summer Day

    Okay, okay.  I know it isn't summer.  But when you live in San Francisco, you realize that summer is but a dream that comes sporadically throughout the year.  Sure, you get beautiful sunny days often.  Days where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge across a bay littered with sail boats and an immensely awkward and strangely beautiful prison island.  But these days are rarely ever warm enough to go out without a sweatshirt.  Days like that are a novelty in this city.  Almost unheard of, even.  So when you get one in November, you pretend it's summer, grab brunch and cocktails with friends, and eat raspberry pie pops.  True story.

    If you have never had a raspberry pie pop, you need to.  Straight up.  Make one of these babies today.  Or tomorrow.  But soon.  Trust me, you won't regret it.

    The cream cheese pastry dough that I use for this recipe is delicious and just as flaky as a dough that uses cold butter.  Plus, it eliminates the fuss of cutting butter into the flour mixture and takes half the time!  I love it.  The recipe below will make a huge batch, but will divide easily if you want to cut it in half.  If not, just put whatever you don't need in the freezer for the next time you make pie.  Or make the approximately 40 pie pops that will come out of it.  Why not?  Everyone loves them, you know. Just look at could you not?

    Raspberry Pie Pops (best enjoyed with a glass of white wine on a warm summer - or just warm- day)

    What You Will Need:
    1 recipe Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
    Raspberry Jam
    Egg Wash (1 egg lightly beaten)
    Lollipop Sticks
    Sanding Sugar

    Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

    1 pound 3 oz all purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 pound butter
    1 pound cream cheese

    Cream together flour, salt, and butter until they almost come together.  Stop machine, add cream cheese all at once and mix until smooth and marbled.  Turn dough out onto the counter and wrap with plastic wrap.  Let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before using.

    Make the Pops!

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Roll out dough on a well floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a 2" heart shaped cookie cutter (or any other shape of your choice - go ahead, get crazy!) to cut desired amount of hearts.  Place about 3/4 to 1 tsp of raspberry jam in the center of the heart.  Dip your finger in water and run it along the edge of the heart.  Place a lollipop stick in the center of the dough, with the top just reaching the crevice at the top of the heart and press lightly into the dough.  Top with another dough heart and press with a fork to seal.  Put the finished pops into the freezer and leave until frozen.  Take out when ready to bake and brush with egg wash.  Prick each heart with a fork in the center, sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired, and bake for fifteen minutes or until lightly golden.

    Let rest until cooled. 

    Wrap with cellophane and put in a box with other sweets for a pretty gift:
    Set on a platter for guests to take as they wish:

    Or share none and stuff your face with all of them.  It's okay, nobody will ever know you made them.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012

    Spooky Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes

    Happy San Francisco Giants!! 

    I have to admit, I'm not a big Halloween person.  I am, however, a HUGE San Francisco Giants person.  So huge that I celebrated their recent World Series win wearing an orange rally rag on my head whilst drinking champagne on the streets.

    Exhibit A:

    Whew!  What a night. 

    So it's no surprise that today, on Halloween, I dressed up in Giants gear (also orange and black...see...I'm still festive for the holiday!) and head out to the Civic Center to celebrate their win, yet again.  With champagne (much MUCH less champagne today than on Sunday...thank goodness).  I was in Istanbul when they won the World Series in 2010 and wasn't able to party in SF, so I wasn't going to miss my chance to see the city decked out in orange and black in honor of our bearded heroes this year.  It didn't disappoint.

    Yes, San Francisco is amazing.  And yes, the Giants rock my socks.  But I digress.

    I sat down tonight to write a blog about cupcakes.  Spooky Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes.  Yum.  So here goes.

    I made these babies for the recent Cure JM Holla!ween fundraiser that we did with Blu Bungalow and they were a big hit.  How could they not be?  They are just so adorable.  I mean...spooky.  A delicious cinnamon cupcake topped with a bruleed swiss meringue swirl.  In the words of Ina Garten: "Now what could be better than that?"

    Here they are looking especially Halloweeny:
    Without further ado...I give you...
    Spooky Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes
    Adapted from Martha Stewart
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 1/4 cups milk
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

    With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

    Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
    Swiss Meringue Frosting
    4 large egg whites, at room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 pinch cream of tartar
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Fill medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
    Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing between your fingers.
    Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
    Pipe onto cupcakes using star tip.  Brulee edges with creme brulee torch.
    Happy Halloween!!

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Mielle's Mason Jar Creme Brulee

    Do you know what's better than creme brulee? 

    Creme brulee in a mason jar.  That's cool.  I recently made fifty of these cuties for a Halloween photoshoot we did with Very Merry Events, Tinywater Photography, and Blu Bungalow.  The best part of the shoot was that after we were done, the sweets (and the super stylish dessert bar) were then donated for a Holla!ween fundraiser to benefit the Cure JM Foundation.  A wedding photographer who is part of the Blu Bungalow co-op has a daughter named Mielle with the incredibly rare disease.  It was very touching to talk to them about what the disease did, and what could be done to mitigate it's awful symptoms.  It was even more touching to know that they were going to bring home a few of our desserts to their little girl to enjoy.  We hope they helped sweeten up her day a bit!

    There will be nicer pictures to come, but here is a sneak peak of how they looked!

    And here they are stacked with the rest of the beautiful spread:

    So in honor of Mielle, I give you "Mielle's Mason Jar Creme Brulee":
    Adapted from Art and Soul of Baking


    3 cups (24 ounces) heavy whipping cream
    1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus extra for carmelizing
    1 tbs nice bourbon vanilla (other vanilla is fine here, but good quality bourbon vanilla is best)
    9 large egg yolks


      Preheat the oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center.

      Put 14 mini mason jars in a roasting pan or other deep pan with sides, making sure they don't touch.

      Make and flavor the custard: Place the cream, vanilla, and ½ cup of the sugar in the medium saucepan. Whisk well to break up the clumps of sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring several times to dissolve the sugar, just until the mixture begins to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat.

      Temper the eggs: Slowly pour the milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.

      Strain and bake the custard: Pour the mixture through the strainer into the pitcher. Divide the warm custard among the custard mason jars. Pull out the oven rack and place the pan on the rack. Remove one of the mason jars, pour enough hot tap water (not boiling) into that area to come halfway up the sides of the mason jars, and replace the cup. Cut a piece of foil large enough to fit just inside the edges of the roasting pan, then lay the foil across the top of the mason jars, making sure it doesn't touch the custard. You may need to smooth and flatten the foil on the counter if any wrinkles touch the custard. Gently push the rack back into the oven, shut the oven door, and bake the custards for 25-45 minutes, until edges of the custards are almost set—there should still be a small liquid area in the very center of the custard, about the size of a dime (test by gently tapping the side of the pan). If you see the "jello jiggle", it's time to take them out.

      Remove the foil and then the pan from the oven, being careful not to tilt the pan and splash water on top of the custards. Set the pan on a heatproof surface. Use the tongs (or your hand protected by a kitchen towel) to immediately remove the mason jars from the water bath and place them on a rack to cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. (Can be made up to two days ahead.)

      Caramelize the custards: Sprinkle the surface of each cold custard with about 1 teaspoon of the remaining sugar. Shake the jar gently to distribute the sugar evenly-make sure it covers the custard all the way to the edge (any exposed custard will blacken immediately under the torch's flame). Set the sugared custards on a flameproof surface, such as a metal baking sheet. Caramelize one custard at a time: Light the torch and, with the tip of the flame just touching the surface, move the flame over the sugar in a gentle circular motion until most of the sugar is melted and looks like tiny water droplets. Continue to heat, using the same circular motion, until the sugar turns a deep golden brown. The molten caramel will bubble and smoke—this is normal. The molten caramel will solidify into a crisp surface as it cools. Repeat with one more teaspon of sugar for a nice, crispy, thick shell. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before serving.

      Enjoy!  And don't forget to check out Cure JM!