Sweet Chic: How To Dress Up Your Everyday Desserts

A new book recently came across my baking radar entitled Sweet Chic: Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasionby Rachel Shifter Thebault. Now I didn’t recognize the author’s name, but if you are from New York you might know her as the owner of Tribeca Treats. Oklahoma is a long way from The Big Apple, but I wish we were closer because the desserts at her shop look divine. But since we are many states and hours away, I am so glad I got my hands on this cookbook.

Ms. Thebault has put together a fantastic cookbook that is perfect for everyone from the novice baker to someone with more experience. When I first started my foray into baking and cookie decorating, I had to scour the web for information. I didn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Fortunately for novice bakers, the beginning of the book walks you through baking basics including how to correctly frost a cake without all those annoying crumbs. For the more advanced kitchen guru’s, she includes tips on ganache and candy making.

The book is divided into three sections starting with cookies first and then progressing through cake baking and then finally advances to confections, which take a bit more experience to do. She creatively uses fashion as a metaphor throughout the book and shows you how to take your basic white t shirt (cookies), navy blazer (cake), and your favorite purse (confections) and accessorize them to make your basic recipes into a something unique and versatile every time you serve them. Fashion emergencies throughout the book help you trouble shoot when things don’t go quite as planned. There are also tips on polishing your look that help to elevate the already scrumptious desserts to a higher level.

My favorite part of the book though, besides the numerous unique recipes, is “The Best Dressed List” printed on a darker color paper so it is easy to find. This table shows how to accessorize all the cake flavors and sandwich cookies with all the frosting flavors. It makes figuring out which cake will taste best with which icing a snap. The recipes include basics such as chocolate chip cookies, devil’s food cake, and cream cheese icing but also several that I had not seen before including graham crackers, pecan spice cupcakes, salt and pepper chocolate, and ginger truffles to name a few.

Just like you can take your basic little black dress and accessorize it for the office or a dinner party, Sweet Chic is a manual to inspire you to take that plain devil’s food cake and accessorize it into a sweet and salty cake for company or rocky road cupcakes for the kids.

A copy of this book was provided for review.

Sweets For Your Sweetie: Homemade Truffles

Image Flickr via user justmalia

While living in California, one of my friends would hold an annual truffle party every year in early December. She would invite several friends over, provide the chocolate truffle base, and have us bring various toppings such as almonds or cocoa. We all had a wonderful time making and rolling truffles over a glass of wine and much chatter. As the chocolate holiday is rapidly approaching, what better way to say I love you than homemade  truffles? They are fairly straight forward and super delish!

Homemade Truffles

1/2 lb. milk chocolate, melted
1/2 lb. dark chocolate, melted
1/2 C. heavy cream, scalded (60 seconds in the microwave)
1/4 C. liqueur or 3 teaspoons any pure extract flavoring
Dark, light, or colored chocolate for coating (I use the chocolate candy melts you can get at craft stores)

Melt chocolate in double boiler or follow directions for microwave melting on package. Be careful not to let water drip into chocolate or it ruins it. Combine milk chocolate, dark chocolate, scalded cream, and liqueur or extract. Beat until well mixed. Refrigerate until solid. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Chocolate should be fairly solid. Shape into balls. Dip into dark or light chocolate coating. Set onto waxed paper. Sprinkle with favorite topping. Let set until coating hardens. Store in sealed container.

Some tips:
* I usually mix these up and refrigerate overnight.
* Pouring your truffle base into a round container makes it easier to make balls later.
* Depending on the extract or liqueur you use, the chocolate may end up being a bit soft. In this case, you roll it into balls and then pop it in the fridge again for a few minutes to help it solidify. Then you can dip it in the coating chocolate. If it gets too cold, the dipping chocolate will crack after it dries.
* You will get messy and it helps to wash your hands after awhile or the truffles start to stick to you.
* Kids can help with the rolling part. Older kids with the dipping part.
* I use a cookie dough scoop to help shape the truffles. They come in various sizes but I wouldn’t go any bigger than a tablespoon otherwise you will need a gallon of milk to drink per truffle.
* I use a fork and toothpicks to dip. I drop a truffle in the dipping chocolate, swirl around until covered, and then slide the fork underneath. I then tap the fork on the side of the bowl to help remove excess chocolate and use a toothpick to slide it off the fork. You can also buy fancy chocolate dipping tools.
* You can purchase cute candy boxes and candy liners or mini cupcake liners to make your truffles look fancy.

I haven’t tried all of these flavors, but have found them various places. Our favorites are kahlua, peanut butter, peppermint, and cherry. Experiment with the flavor combinations. Add more or less of the liqueur or extract. Be creative and use your imagination, after all chocolate goes with almost everything!

Flavor Suggestions:

Peanut butter (1/4 C.)
Kahlua- can substitute 1 teaspoon instant coffee
Creme de menthe- can substitute 3 tsp. pure mint extract
Amaretto- can substitute 3 tsp. almond extract
Cherry Almond
Grand Marnier
Irish Cream
Rum and vanilla

Chopped peanuts
Slivered almonds
Chopped cherries
Crushed peppermint
Coffee bean
White chocolate drizzle
Confectioner’s sugar

Fighting Cancer One Cupcake at a Time

Image: Frosting for the Cause

I am in full party-planning mode. This will be the baby’s first birthday and, as fate would have it, he was born exactly 6 years and 6 days after his sister, so we are having a joint party. Yes, their birthdays are not until April, but it takes planning to pull off a fantastic party, and who am I kidding, I love to plan parties!

While scouring the web for a chocolate cherry cupcake recipe I came across a wonderful blog, Frosting for the Cause. Every day throughout 2011 they have guest bloggers lined up to post tutorial recipes on what else, fabulous sweets! What makes this blog different is that each blogger shares a story of how cancer has touched the life of a woman they care about. In addition, they will be donating baked goods to a hospice and donating $25 towards research in curing cancers specific to women.

While I am not skilled enough to join their baking brigade, this seems like a unique way to help fund cancer research and get some fantastic recipes at the same time. Every recipe I looked at screamed “Make ME!” The recipe for the fantabulicious looking cherry cupcakes is here. Now if I only had Martha Stewart’s kitchen and Hermione’s time turner.

Used with permission from Sweetapolita.com