Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring is around the corner

Mardi Gras is over, Valentine's Day has passed, so now it is time to get ready for the next holiday coming around the corner.  The lenten season has begun and the traffic in the shop has definitely reflected it.  We have been a lot slower this week, which is not great, but it has allowed us to restock after the holidays and get ready for Easter which will be here before we know it.  This week is kind of bittersweet for me (no pun intended) because it is my last week at Bittersweet Confections.  I have learned so much and make many new friends while I have been here.  I have thoroughly enjoyed living and spending time with my parents and while I am sad to be leaving, I am also very excited about coming home to my Tallahassee family and friends and getting started with my own adventure. 

Back to Bittersweet.......spring allows for new decorations and lighter flavors making an appearance.  We have started making more fruit tarts and lemon tarts for the case and this week I also made some lemon bars to start serving.  The lemon bars have a shortbread crust with a tart yet sweet lemon curd which is baked and then dusted with powdered sugar before serving.  The bars at Bittersweet are really more like a lemon chess bar than an actual lemon curd.  There is a little flour in the mix which gives it a little different texture than a traditional curd.  Either way they are delicious and it is nice to have something sweet that is not quite so heavy. 

Spring also brings brighter colors in decorations.  We have started decorating our petite cakes and petit fours with little flowers instead of turkeys and gold swirls.  The contents have not changed, the petit cakes are still a moist chocolate cake, filled with chocolate mousse and coated with chocolate ganache, and the petit fours are still almond cake coated with an almond fondant.  They are just a little brighter now.  :) 

We have also started making spring sugar cookies in the shapes of spring and Easter.  Our sugar cookies are really light and delicious and are decorated with royal icing which is made from powdered sugar, meringue powder, and a little water.  This icing hardens once it dries which allows you to bag the cookies without any damage to the decorations.  This week we made little bunnies, carrots and some little chicks.  I have to say the cookie cutter for the chicks is a little strange because it looks like the feet are backwards, but once they are decorated they look a little more like a chick.  My co-worker and I say he looks like he is leaning waaaay forward like...."Hey, whatcha doin?" 

Next week I will be moving back to Tallahassee to start my next adventure.  If you have liked my Facebook page you now know that I will be starting my business by working and serving as Sweet Inspirations at Connie's Hams and Roasters in Market Square.  I am currently taking orders for Easter and will start serving breakfast April 1st.  I am so nervous and excited at the same time.  I know it is going to be a lot of work, but so worth it.  Be sure to stop by and see me and pick a little something up!

I have been so blessed with all of the support from everyone and all of these amazing opportunities that are coming my way.  Just as I remind you all each week it reminds me that.......Life is Sweet!!!

Until next time......Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What makes the bakery world go round?

A bakery wouldn't be a bakery and wouldn't be able to provide so many yummy treats without it's equipment.  There are many pieces of equipment that we use on a daily basis at the shop. 

Our ovens are convection ovens and we have two of them.  Convection ovens can be either gas or electric.  If the oven is gas you are required to have it under a hood with a fire suppression system.  The ones we use are electric so while the hood is not needed, it is a good idea to have them vent to the outside or it gets really hot inside the kitchen.  Ours at Bittersweet are unfortunately not vented to the outside and so when we are running both ovens it gets like a sauna in there.  When baking in a convection oven you usually set the temperature about 25 degrees lower than the recipe calls for since the convection ovens a little quicker than a conventional oven.  At Bittersweet we bake everything at 300 degrees so that anything we are making be it cookies, cake, muffins, brownies, etc. can be put in the oven together.  This makes things much easier since pretty much on a daily basis we are all working on different items for the shop.

We have two different mixers that we use at Bittersweet.......well, actually three mixers.  We have a regular KitchenAid mixer that we use for very small jobs like royal icing, peanut butter cup filling, etc.  The mixer I use the most often is the 20 quart Hobart mixer.  I use this mixer to make almost everything that can be made in a mixer for the shop:  bagels, brioche, cake batter, brownies, buttercream icing, muffin batter, waffle batter, and so on and so forth.  To give you an idea of the size batches that can be made in this mixer I can make at least 5x what I can make in the KitchenAid mixer, so, that means instead of making one cake at a time I can make up to 5-8 cakes at a time.  The last mixer is our big mama 60 quart Hobart mixer.  I use this bad boy whenever I need to make a huge batch of anything.  Ok, for a visual......when making brioche I can get one brioche ball in the KitchenAid mixer, 5 brioche balls out of the 20 qt mixer, and 18 balls of brioche out of the 60 qt mixer.  We used this one a lot during king cake season to make the brioche and the fillings, and also during Super Bowl week to make all of the red velvet cupcakes and brownies for the booth on Super Bowl Boulevard.  I don't know that I will need a 60 qt anytime soon for Sweet Inspirations, but I am definitely on the lookout for a good used 20qt. mixer.  So make sure and let me know if you see a good deal!  :)

Of course we have a fridge and freezer in the shop as well.  The cooler/ fridge that we use is a three door model that is located in the kitchen with us.  Sometimes, it seems like it is a little too small for the operation and the owner looked into a walk in cooler, but I think she has decided to stick with what we have for now.  I will definitely be looking into a walk in cooler for my shop and hopefully a either a walk in freezer or at least a 3 door reach in freezer.  In my opinion you want to make sure you have room for everything you need and with a fridge or a freezer you want there to be plenty of room for the cool air to circulate and keep everything at the proper temperatures.

There are many, many other pieces of equipment that we use in the shop and now that I am moving towards my own business I am realizing just how many things I am going to need to purchase.  It is a little scary but I have faith that slowly but surely everything will work out.  This is my dream and I know that I can do this!!!

I know this hasn't been the most exciting post, but I hope you have enjoyed the little bit of an inside look to the bakery. 

Keep it Sweet and live life to it's fullest!  Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!!!

Oh, here is a little sneak peak at my logo for Sweet Inspirations.  Hope you like it!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is here and love is in the air!  I have always loved Valentine's day.  Even though we should show our loved ones how much we care every day it is nice to have a day each year to really take the time to say I care and I love you.  It doesn't have to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or can be a friend or other family member.  Valentine's Day has got to be one of the busiest times of the year in the confections industry and while it is fantastic to be busy, it is even more important to tell those you love them, that you care, that you appreciate them.

I am so blessed to have so many people in my life who have been supportive of me and my journey and I would love to thank each and every one of them here, but I am so afraid that I will miss someone so at the risk of hurting someones feeling unintentionally I will say you know who you it my family, friends, co-workers, teachers, or just anyone who has had an encouraging word.  Just by reading this blog you are showing your support so Thank you and I appreciate all of you!  I wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day!!

Now, on to the goodies!  For Valentine's day at Bittersweet Confections we have prepared many delicious and delectable goodies for your loved one.

Of course we have made lots of our decadent truffles and even made a few special "visiting" flavors like strawberry balsamic, and passion fruit for the holiday.  These truffles are made with 58% Swiss chocolate and natural fruit purees and flavorings.

Cheesecakes have made an appearance once again because how romantic is cheesecake!  I have to say our recipe is so delicious and creamy with a traditional graham cracker crust, some light whipped topping and a luscious berry on top.

We have some special flavors of cupcakes for the holiday as well.  We have a chocolate cupcake topped with a strawberry buttercream, a vanilla cupcake with a passion fruit buttercream icing, and a romantic chocolate raspberry cupcake.  Earlier this week we made fondant hearts for the tops of the cupcakes as decoration. 

Who doesn't love a super cute decorated sugar cookie!  We have some luscious lips and some super cute hearts for everyone.  The sugar cookies are rolled, cute and baked and then decorated with royal icing.  The outlines are piped out and then the icing is thinned and little and the outlines are filled in so the cookies come out super smooth and beautiful.

Of course there are other goodies decorated for Valentine's Day like our chocoalte gananche petite cakes, strawberries and petit fours too!

I can't wait to be back in Tallahassee for next Valentine's day to bring some of these amazing flavors to all of you back home.  I will be announcing some amazing news in the next week so be sure and check back soon! 

I leave with a wish for each of you to have a life full of love and laughter and a Happy Valentine's Day from me to you.  Life is Sweet!  Remember to always Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!!!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Breakfast......the most importat meal of the day!

Most of us tend to skip breakfast in the rush to get the kids ready for school, ourselves ready for work, and out the door.  Well, maybe after reading this post you might be just a little more tempted to take a few minutes to have a little something.  Maybe stop by and grab a little something on your way into the office.  (This is a little hint at amazing things to come for Sweet Inspirations.......more details to come soon.) 

We make several breakfast items for Bittersweet Confections and all of them are super delicious!  A lot of the prep is done beforehand by myself and then Grace comes in early each morning to get things ready for purchase.  We are a great team if I do say so myself.  :)

Bagels are a big part of our breakfast offerings and I make large batches at least twice a week.  The dough is made using bread flour, salt, malt, instant yeast and water.  Once the dough has reached the right consistency I then roll each bagel by hand "with tender loving care".  lol  I have to move quickly rolling the bagels because you don't want the dough to start rising on you.  Once all of the bagels are rolled we place them in the freezer to stop the rising process.  Each afternoon the number of bagels are pulled for the next day and placed into the cooler to thaw and start rising overnight.  The next morning the bagels are boiled in a mixture of honey and water topped with toppings and baked in the oven until they have a nice chewy crust on the outside and tender in the middle.  Delicious with a little cream cheese or our honey cream cheese.

Right now we offer one type of muffin and that would be blueberry......shocking I know.  We make a sour cream based muffin batter and store it in the cooler.  Each day fresh blueberries are added and after the batter is scooped into the muffin tin it is topped with a streusal mixture and baked until fluffy and tender. 

We offer two types of scones for breakfast, orange cranberry and chocolate chip, and trust me it is hard to choose between the two.  What is a scone you ask????  Well, a scone is sort of like a sweet biscuit.......only better!  To make our scones the dry ingredients are placed into the mixer and then butter is cut up and incorporated into the dry until there are coarse crumbles of butter mixed throughout.  The optional ingredients (orange zest and cranberries, or chocolate chips) are then added and incorporated.  Buttermilk is then drizzled into the mixture just until everything comes together.  You have to be careful not to overmix the dough or you will end up with a tough scone........and no one wants a tough scone.  :)  The scones are frozen and then baked fresh every morning.

Cinnamon rolls have to be one of the biggest sellers we have and it is no surprise because they are oh so good.  Eat your heart out Cinnabon!  We start with a made from scratch brioche dough and that is rolled out and covered with a cinnamon/ brown sugar/ butter spread.  The dough is then rolled up into a spiral and cut into the individual rolls, set in a pan to rise and then baked to prefection.  We top each warm roll with a cream cheese icing that is to die for.  People order these all day long with a cup of coffee and can get upset when they have waited too long and we have sold out.  We just tempt them with some other delight we have for the day.

These are just a few of the offerings we have for breakfast.  We also make croissants, chocolate croissants, turnovers, and shoe soles (elephant ears to some).  You can count on Sweet Inspirations to have these and much more for your breakfast pleasure so I look forward to seeing you all bake in Tally soon!  (Just in case you are wondering......yes, that is another hint!)

Until next post remember.......Life is Sweet so get out there and enjoy it!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl!!!!

Oh Boy, here we go!!  It's Super Bowl week are we are busy, busy, busy.  New Orleans has an area off of Canal Street called Super Bowl Boulevard and Bittersweet Confections has a booth!  It is open from Thursday through Sunday and we will have lots of delectable delights for all of the fans both locals and visiting to come and try.

Our menu for the booth is red velvet cup-side down cupcakes, brownies dipped in chocolate and then drizzled in white chocolate, pretzels that are dipped first in caramel and then chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and hibiscus tea.  Can you say mmmm' good?

We have been doing a lot of prep work leading up to this week, but there is only so much you can ahead of time especially when you are busy with all of the normal offerings for the shop.  The owner decided to put a halt on king cakes for this week in order to leave more time for Super Bowl production.  They were able to get into the booth Wednesday to start setting up and then the area opened to the public on Thursday at 5:00pm. 

Chocolate chip cookies
For the cookies we made batches of about 600 cookies at a time.  We scooped the dough and flattened them into little hockey pucks and then stored them in the cooler.  We will be baking the cookies fresh each day for the booth.

The brownies have had a few more steps.  We started the end of last week and made a batch of brownie batter for 12 half sheet pans, baked the brownies and then once they cooled we wrapped and stored them in the freezer.  Starting Wednesday we cut the brownies from the freezer (which is much easier than after they thaw) and half dipped them in dark chocolate.  Once the chocolate set they were then drizzled in white chocolate.  They kind of reminded me of a Little Debbie.......only much better!

Cupside down cupcakes
Just what are cupside down cupcakes you ask?  Well, they are basically cupcakes served in a cup.  This makes for a much easier transport to the site and can be a little easier for the patrons as well......less chance of dropping it.  We bake all of the cupcakes and freeze some extras immediately after they have cooled so no freshness is lost.  A little of the cream cheese icing is piped into the bottom of a small clear cup and then the cupcake is placed inside and additional icing is piped on top.  Last but not least a few red velvet cake crumbs are sprinkled on top for decoration.

The pretzels for the booth are really delicious.  We take pretzel rods and dip them into caramel and once the caramel has set we dip them first into dark chocolate and then drizzle them with white chocolate.  The combination of the salty pretzel with the sweet caramel and then the velvety chocolate is a little bit of heaven.

If you are in the NOLA area be sure to check out the booth and tell Cheryl that I sent you!

Oh, some super exciting news......I will be attending the ESPN NEXT Super Bowl Party on Friday night!  The party is one that ESPN throws to promote all of the upcoming athletes and based on pictures from last years event there should be many celebrities in attendance as well.  CeeLo Green is performing which will be awesome!  I'll report back with my celeb sightings and pictures from the event.

Tata for now and remember Life is Sweet so make the most of it!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Icing on the Cupcake

Cupcake shops are all the rage right now and who doesn't love a cupcake.  Many of you probably watch the show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network and have seen Candace Nelson the owner of Sprinkles cupcakery which is located in California and is credited to be the world's first cupcakery.  Cupcakes are probably one of my favorite things to make so I thought naturally I should write a blog post about them.  They can be quick and fairly easy, but absolutely delicious!!!

Based on what I have heard over the years it appears that no one is really sure where the name came from for the little individual cakes.  Some have said it is because they were originally baked in cups and some say it is because in earlier recipes the amount of ingredients were measured by a cup of this and a cup of that, etc.  I don't really care how the name came about.......I'm just glad cupcakes themselves came about.  :)

I love being about to play around with different flavors and different flavor combinations you can create with the cake, the icing, and a filling (if you choose to add one).  I have a few combinations written in my handy, dandy notebook for when Sweet Inspirations hits the ground running.  Some of you taste testers may need to be on alert in the next few months.  (hint hint)  Now, while I am a cake girl there are many icing people out there whose favorite part of the cupcake is the icing.  In my opinion the icing is just as important as the cake in that if you have a great cake, but a mediocre icing then it is not going to be an enjoyable experience.  In the next few pictures you will see a few different types of icings.  Each are delicious but just a little different.

In this first picture you will see the usual American buttercream icing.  Buttercream icing holds its shape very well and is recognized by many.  It usually has a delicate balance of butter and powdered sugar to make it both sweet and creamy.  If you need even more stability in your "buttercream" you can substitute some or all of the butter with shortening which melts at a higher temperature and allows you to create a whiter icing.

Another type of buttercream is a Swiss Meringue buttercream.  This buttercream is not made with powdered sugar but with a light, fluffy meringue and is a little more delicate than the American buttercream.  In the picture below the icing is a fresh strawberry swiss meringue and it was so delicious!  The texture of a swiss meringue buttercream is so smooth and I can't wait to share it with all of you at Sweet Inspirations.  :)  (I have to start getting in my plugs where I can right???)

Of course who doesn't love a delicious cream cheese icing.  In the picture below are dark chocolate cupcakes with a peppermint cream cheese icing.  The one thing you have to remember with cream cheese icing is that it cannot sit out for an extended period of time due to the cream cheese.  You wouldn't want to make anyone sick.

Chocolate!  Probably the second most requested icing I make.  Well, unless it is for my friend Jennifer in which it is the most requested flavor......specifically my fudge icing.  Hmmm, I owe her a batch of fudge icing don't I?  Anyway, this fudge icing starts with actual actual melted chocolate instead of just cocoa powder to get a rich chocolate flavor that is so decadent and rich!  The cupcakes below are from my brothers birthday.  Even though I was making cupcakes I wanted them to be just a little manly so I thought chocolate and sissy flowers or delicate flavors here.  lol   Mmmm, I think I want some fudge icing. 

If you are looking for something a little lighter you can always opt for a whipped cream icing.  Again, like the cream cheese icing this cannot sit out for extended periods of time due to the cream.  I really love this icing and because I am more of a cake girl the mixture of whipped fresh cream and just a little sugar really pairs nicely since it is so light and really lets the cake shine.

There are many more icings, but these are the ones I have worked with the most.  I planned to go into some of the different ways you can decorate a cupcake, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that is for yet another post.  So, stay tuned to read all about the art of the cupcake in a future posting. 

February 3rd is the Super Bowl here in New Orleans, not to mention that we are in the midst of Carnival/ Mardi Gras season.  Soooooo, we are going to be so busy over the next couple of weeks.  Don't worry though.......I'll be sure to take notes and lots of pics to share with all of you.  Who knows, maybe with all of these celebs in town I'll have a pic or two of them to share.  Fingers crossed!

And so I bid you good day and remind you that Life is Sweet, so enjoy all of those delicious calories of life that good times and good friends have to offer. 

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

King Cakes

It's that time of year.......the time of year for that yummy deliciousness called king cakes.  King cakes are enjoyed starting after Twelfth night (the night of Jan. 5th, twelve days after Christmas) throughout Carnival (Mardi Gras) season.  Although many bakeries start selling them prior to January 5th many consider it bad luck to eat king cake before January 6th.  :)  They signify the three Kings who bring gifts to baby Jesus.  While I have only been living in the New Orleans area for a couple of months I have enjoyed king cakes for many years.  What is a king cake you might ask?  Well, a king cake is more of a bread than what most people think of when they hear the word cake.  The traditional king cake is filled with cinnamon/ sugar and is in the shape of a crown or an oval.  It is topped with icing and sugars in the colors of mardi gras (purple, gold and green) and a little plastic baby (representing the Baby Jesus) is hidden somewhere in the cake.  It is said that whomever gets the baby in their piece of cake has good luck and must purchase the next king cake to share.  Most bakeries place the baby in the open center of the cake and allow the purchaser to hide it in the actual cake.  Don't want anyone forgetting about it and choking or breaking a tooth!  Here in Louisiana you can get king cakes at many places and with many different fillings: cinnamon/ sugar, cream cheese, apple, chocolate, pineapple, cherry, praline, etc. 

At Bittersweet we offer two types of fillings in our king cakes, the traditional cinnamon/ sugar, and a chocolate cream cheese........oh yea baby.....chocolate and cream cheese together!  I have pretty much taken ownership of most of the king cake production at the shop and let me tell you I am loving it!  I make many, many of the items in the shop, but it is rare that I have a hand in it from beginning to end.  There is something so satisfying about make something completely from start to finish and knowing that people are buying it and enjoying it. 

I start by making a huge batch of brioche and then portioning out the amount needed for each individual king cake.  I round the ball, wrap it in layers of plastic and store them in the freezer (although they don't stay there for long since I am rolling king cakes on a daily  They day before they are needed I take the appropriate number of dough balls out of the freezer and once they have thawed I roll them out into a rectangle and coat them with the cinnamon/ sugar butter, or pipe rows of the chocolate cream  cheese filling.  I then cut the rectangle into three even pieces lengthwise and starting with the longest side I roll each piece up to seal in the filling (just like when you make cinnamon rolls).  The three pieces are then braided together, formed into an oval shape on a sheet pan that is wrapped in plastic and placed into the cooler to rest overnight.  The next morning the pans are taken out and placed on a rack near the oven to proof.  Once they have proofed to twice their size they are baked to golden perfection!    The cinnamon/sugar cakes can get a little messy when baking because no matter how well you seal them a little of the filling always leaks out.  After the cakes have come out and cooled I ice them with either a white chocolate fondant (cinnamon/ sugar king cakes) or a chocolate fondant (chocolate cream cheese king cakes) and decorate them with the colored sugars.  They are then placed in a box along with the ever important baby and set out for purchase or set aside for pick up if there is an order.......which it seems like there always is at least one or two or three or four.  Have I said how busy we are???? 

Check out these beauties!!!!

Oh, we also make individual king cakes for those wanting just a little taste.  I make a 3 oz. brioche ball, place it into a muffin tin to rise, and bake it until, of course, golden brown.  Once it has cooled I core it and fill it with cream cheese icing, chocolate cream cheese icing, or sometimes apple filling.  It is of course then iced and decorated with the traditional sugars as well.  Yummy in your tummy!!!

I wish I could send each of you a King Cake to enjoy, but for those of you in Tallahassee you can bet I will be making these for Mardi Gras season at Sweet Inspirations!

Now, go wipe the drool of your mouth and remember Life is Sweet!  Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!! (Let the Good Times Roll!!!)