another practical is upon me

I’m wrapping up the first segment of my second trimester next Sunday — Cookies and Petit Fours. I’m shocked to find that I will soon have four Baking and Pastry classes under my belt; it seems like such a short time ago when I was so overwhelmed and crazy from the pace of the classes. Now it seems (mostly) like old hat.

Below are a few of the items we made during this segment.


Clockwise from top left: Raspberry Wreaths, Chocolate Biscotti, Checkerboard Cookies, Almond Spritz, Arachides, and Harlequins.

The Raspberry Wreaths have a layer of short dough on the bottom, with butter spritz dough and a raspberry jam filling on top. Chocolate Biscotti have chocolate chips in the cocoa-flavored dough. The Checkerboard Cookies are made with vanilla and chocolate shortbread. The Almond Spritz contain almond flour and are garnished with a sprinkle of almond flour and slivered almonds. The Arachides are filled with a mixture of Pralinosa (a hazelnut-flavored paste) and peanut butter and are dipped in ganache and sprinkled with toasted peanuts to finish. The Harlequins are made from short dough and are filled with orange jam.


Above are another Petit Fours — Japonaise Mochas. They are tiny Japonaise wafers sandwiched with a layer of a mocha-flavored Swiss Buttercream and are finished with a little more buttercream on top, a drizzle of chocolate and a mocha coffeebean. These were P.’s favorites!


And last are the Petit Fours Glacé. Two layers of frangipane, spread with thin layers of orange jam and topped with a thin layer of marzipan. The whole thing is glazed with a layer of poured fondant and decorated with a chocolate filigree. The sugar in these makes my heart race!

on-the-fence brownies

Another in my quest for homemade brownie perfection (or “just like it came from a box” which is C.’s criteria for the perfect brownie). The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion features three different basic brownies — fudgy, cake, and this one — on-the-fence, for those who like something in between. I think they’re wonderful — nice rise like a cake brownie, but moist and fudgy too. And I love the extra boost of chocolatey goodness from the chocolate chips.

brownie truffle mousse cake

For L.’s birthday cake, he chose this cake from Nestlé’s Very Best Baking site. Nestlé rates this recipe as “challenging,” but I would say it’s more laborious and time-consuming than challenging. (Although it becomes challenging if, like me, you don’t read the instructions carefully — I left out the flour on my first attempt — don’t ask how!)

The cake starts with a brownie base, which is then topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, followed by a layer of chocolate mousse. The sides of the cake are made with chocolate rolled wafer cookies (I used Pepperidge Farms Chocolate Creme Petite Pirouettes). Finally, the top is drizzled with some of the reserved ganache and garnished with cut strawberries.

As gorgeous as this cake was, it tasted even better! The brownie bottom was more cake-like (but dense) than fudgy, and was somewhat light on chocolate flavor. This was actually a good thing since the other layers were so rich. The crunch/chewiness of the wafer rolls added an interesting texture to the smoothness of creamy layers, and the flavor of the strawberries played nicely with the chocolate. Nestlé says the cake serves 12, but I think one could get away with smaller pieces than what is suggested. I cut the cake into fairly slim pieces — 16 slices total — which was just about right, given how rich and chocolatey the cake is. This cake is definitely one I’d make again to impress any chocolate lover. My birthday boy certainly loved it!

raspberry cream cheese brownies

I used to really dislike any sort of fruit flavoring combined with chocolate. You know those fruit cream filled chocolates in the Russell Stover’s boxes? Like that. But I’ve come around on the raspberry-chocolate combo in recent years, partly because of my affection for the chocolate raspberry nut bars from Nestle’s Very Best Baking. And I’ve always loved cream cheese brownies. So I was hopeful that a marriage between raspberry, cream cheese and brownies would be a winner. And it was! I made a huge pan of about 4 – 5 dozen brownies (cut small — they are rich, as you would expect) and P. took a platter of them to church. [Insert giant hoovering sound here] they were gone in a flash. 🙂

rocky road bars

My third offering for the Chocolate Auction. I got this recipe from Nicole Weston’s excellent blog Baking Bites. She credits Everyday Food magazine with the original recipe. Beneath the layer of mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and walnuts is a thin layer of very moist and dense brownie. I debated about cutting the bars up because I thought it would’ve been nicer to see the bottom layer (which is not visible in the pan), but couldn’t figure out how to package it cut up.