Happy spring!

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Better late than never, it’s high time I sent welcome-to-spring wishes to everyone. Even though we actually had a bit of SNOW! the other evening, we’re seeing green shoots coming out of the bare ground and some tree limbs showing their first hints of leaves. We’ll take it!

It seems life has a way of carrying us onward, often to the point of prompting us to ask “what I have been doing these past few weeks/months?!” While I don’t have a specific recipe or new project to share with you on the blog this time around, I thought it would be nice to show you what I’ve been up.

Oh - news flash! I’ve finally added a search box in the blog’s sidebar so you can type in key words, e.g. “croissant”, and find posts I’ve written on that particular topic. Cool!

Crunch top berry mascarpone profiteroles

Crunch top berry mascarpone profiteroles

Hazelnut  choux  rounds getting ready for Paris-Brest

Hazelnut choux rounds getting ready for Paris-Brest

Lemon mascarpone cake with orange honey buttercream

Lemon mascarpone cake with orange honey buttercream

Petite citrus cakes

Petite citrus cakes

Next up is my new favorite version of financier, those delightful teacakes that I love so dearly. This one is coffee hazelnut, dipped in dark chocolate ganache and topped with chopped toasted nuts. SO GOOD.

Coffee hazelnut  financiers

Coffee hazelnut financiers

I simply cannot ignore fresh fruit tarts - they always make me smile! These contain a baked ricotta custard/vanilla scented filling - deelish with fresh berries.

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Sea salt caramel and espresso nib shortbread

Sea salt caramel and espresso nib shortbread

Current shortbread flavors, all tubed up!

Current shortbread flavors, all tubed up!

Breton blueberry almond tarts

Breton blueberry almond tarts

Ham and cheese whole wheat spirals

Ham and cheese whole wheat spirals

Lemon ricotta cakes

Lemon ricotta cakes

Cream cheese Danish

Cream cheese Danish

Ham/cheese spirals and Danish combo

Ham/cheese spirals and Danish combo

Another thing that keeps me busy involves planning and preparing for my classes at Sur La Table in Grand Rapids. Things like figuring out the best way to set up the class for optimum hands-on experience, determining quantities of dough that might have to be prepped ahead for topics like croissants or artisan breads, orchestrating a smooth flow to the class with delicious baked goods as the end result. What’s not to like.

Below is a test I did for a no-knead rustic bread baked in a Dutch oven style enameled cast iron pot. The loaf on the right was done in a gorgeous Le Creuset 2.25 quart lidded saucepan (sorry the lid is missing from the picture!) and the one on the left on a sheet pan. Not only the rise but the crusty, golden, shiny surface of the one from the cast iron pan can’t be beat! NOTE: one pound of dough worked very nicely in this size pan, the taller sides giving just the right lift to the dough.

Rustic no knead loaves

Rustic no knead loaves

There’s lots to be learned. Check out the class calendar on Sur La Table’s website for all sorts of topics, both savory cooking and baking/pastry classes. There are a number of chef instructors, myself included, just waiting to share their knowledge with you.

Until next time - happy baking!

My first afternoon tea menu

I've finally done it!   My first afternoon tea menu has been created, implemented and served - yay!!

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I created this tasty tea assortment as the result of partnering with Kim Murphy, the activities director at Heron Manor, a local assisted living facility just down the street from my home.

Kim contacted me several weeks ago with the idea of putting on a royal tea for the residents in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday.  I was all ears.

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I was responsible for all the food planning, preparation and set up, and Kim kindly provided the tables, linens, assorted tea cups and saucers (many of which belong to a 97 year old resident there!), place settings, tiered servers and rose nosegays.

Everything but the fig spread and the strawberry jam was made by my own two hands.  I love that. 

orange currant and lemon scones

finger sandwiches

sweet treats

salted caramel, chocolate and lime ginger shortbread
It was a grand time.  There were a handful of men in the largely female audience of 25 attendees.  Some of the ladies donned lovely hats or tiaras in addition to dressing up for this queenly occasion.

Kim had chosen Earl Grey tea with vanilla and lavender, as well as a lemon herbal tea to serve alongside the goodies.

I spoke briefly about the practice of afternoon tea, and Kim presented some interesting facts about Queen Elizabeth along with showing a series of royal photos covering her life and reign.

A lovely afternoon with even more lovely people.


And so it has begun.





A couple of delicious restaurant desserts

I cannot believe it's been a full month since I've posted anything here!  Moving from the Northeast USA to the Midwest seems to be taking up a good deal of our time.  I've already missed the bulk of the Michigan strawberry season, thinking last week that I would make a tarte aux fraises that, alas, never materialized.

Although it did feel good to squeeze in a batch of ricotta buttermilk scones the other day and start to dream of a Michigan cherry ricotta tart for July 4th.

Recently we took a short 2-day trip to Traverse City and the Leelenau Peninsula with our British friends, Richard and Pauline.  We enjoyed picture perfect Michigan summer weather as we toured around the Sleeping Bear national lake shore and dipped our toes in Lake Michigan (Richard actually went in, head under!).

Richard and I running down the dunes at Sleeping Bear

Prior to the trip we had been given some dining recommendations by Patricia Christopher, a fine chocolatier in Grand Haven that we met a couple of months ago.  One of those was Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, very big on the farm-to-table approach.  We enjoyed the food although the service seemed a bit frenetic and the servers somewhat stiff and serious as they delivered their obviously choreographed lines.  Hey folks - lighten up!

I normally skip dessert but when it was time for that portion of the meal, I was intrigued by the choices, since typically I find many restaurant dessert menus to be unimaginative and not all that enticing.

I chose the strawberry-hummingbird option which turned out to be a delicious tart with a hummingbird tea infused custard baked in a lovely crust, topped with lemon ice cream and fresh strawberries and garnished with "hummingbird nectar glaze".  It was very nicely done!



Upon briefly researching hummingbird tea I discovered it's a blend of rooibos tea and hibiscus (apparently very attractive to hummingbirds).  You learn something new every day.

Once we returned to Grand Rapids from the north country Richard and Pauline were kind enough to treat us to dinner out in downtown GR before they took off for Chicago the following day.

I had been to Reserve Wine and Food once before for a wine tasting and thought it deserved another visit.  It's in a refurbished bank and is touted as a "hip and elegant locale" highlighting "farm to fork" cuisine.

After we had finished our delicious, well prepared and nicely presented meals, imagine my surprise to see a Basque cake on the dessert menu!  Whoa baby, now you're talking my lingo!!

Pauline and I both went for it, but since they only had one serving left, our server split it for us and added a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream "for your trouble".  Topped with a strawberry-rhubarb compote, it was deeeelicious.




Yessiree, it's good to be back in Michigan and see how far the culinary scene has come since we lived here 21 years ago.  And it's only the beginning!