Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pralines, and Kisses and Turtles.....Oh My!

I survived my first holiday in the pastry business.  I posted last week about all of the pies and other goodies we made for the holiday, but this week is all about confections.  I have finally had the chance to make a few more items that are in the shop that are on the confectionery side of things.  Yay! 

Those of you who have known me through school are probably surprised at my excitement given that confections and chocolates (although delicious) were not my favorite subject in school.  However........I have seen the light!  Working with it more at Bittersweet has given me a whole new outlook on the world of confections.  This week I had the opportunity to try my hand at some items that we carry in the shop like pralines, caramels, meringue kisses, marshmallows and turtles.

New Orleans is known for pralines like Philadelphia is known for cheese steaks.  Pralines are these yummy, sugary, caramely flavor, pecan, cookie looking confections.  They are shaped kind of like a cookie, but are nothing but sugary pecan goodness.  They can be very finicky in that you have to be sure and watch your temperatures when cooking the sugars very careful.  It is easy to mess these things up people!  You have to cook down sugars, butter, cream and milk to a specific temperature and then add the pecans and cook a little more, and then take it off the heat and cool to yet another temp.........then stir, stir stir until it looks creamy and hurry up and scoop them before they start to crystallize.  Phew, now you have made pralines.  Sounds easy right????

Every time I make meringue kisses I think of my friend Michele back in Tallahassee.  I remember when she discovered these in the local grocery store and she has been hooked ever since.  I really need to take her some one day.  :)  Meringue kisses are basically these little clouds of sugar that are light and airy and crispy and YUM!  First, you have to make a nice stiff meringue of whipped sugar and egg whites, and then here we also fold in powdered sugar at the end.  After your meringue is ready you fill a piping bag and pipe the meringue into little kisses of white sugar cloud and bake them at a very low temp for a looooooong time until they are dried out.  If you don't bake them long enough they will collapse as they cool.  In school we learned that you can put them in an oven that has recently been turned off and let them sit overnight as well.  I haven't tried this method so I can't comment on how well it works......yet.  At the shop these little cuties are then sandwiched together with chocolate ganache and then half dipped in the chocolate and rolled in chocolate vermicelli (sprinkles to most of  We also made a batch of chocolate chip meringue kisses that were individually half dipped in chocolate and rolled in the vermicelli.  I was never one for meringue, but I am a changed woman.  These things are tasty!

Turtles, oh how I love turtles!  We offer two different ways to enjoy a turtle at Bittersweet; one as the traditional confection and one as a cookie.  To make the traditional turtle you have to first toast some pecan halves and then lay four of them out for the "feet".  I have also made them with 5 halves using one for the "head", but here we use four for just the feet.  We then make caramel and pour just a spoonful at the center where the four halves meet letting some of it spill out one side a little more to form the head of the turtle.  Once the caramel sets it is topped with chocolate and then striped with additional chocolate.  We also paint the bottoms of the turtles with chocolate so the caramel doesn't cause them to stick together in the package.  Oh, the wonderful and simple tricks I am learning to make things easier in the long run.  The turtle cookies are so good!  You start with a sort of shortbread cookie that has a hint of caramel flavor and then a rich chocolate fudge icing is piped on top.  Usually we sprinkle toasted pecans on some of the cookies and leave some without nuts for those who don't like them.  Crazy I tell you, Crazy.......who doesn't like nuts!  Well, excluding my friend Zach and all other who are allergic.  You are forgiven since we know you would if you could.  :)


Well, that is it for this edition and I hope you are enjoying keeping up with my journey as much as I enjoy sharing it.

As they say in New Orleans......Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!  (Let the Good Times Roll)
and as I say......Keep It Sweet People!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bring thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  My wonderful family and friends who have been so supportive of me and my journey to becoming a pastry chef and this awesome opportunity that I have to learn at Bittersweet Confections just to name a couple.

This was a very busy time at Bittersweet Confections.  This week not only did we have many of our usual cakes and confections to make, but we had pies to make.  Lots and lots of pies to make.  We offered three kinds of pie for the holiday, as well as a couple of different cakes.

As for the pies we made both 9 inch pies and 3 inch individual pies for people to pick up.  We had a few orders before we even began, but of course there were many, many drop ins looking for something delicious to add to their Thanksgiving spread.  I was very proud of my pies thank you very much!  :)  We had a bourbon pecan pie, dutch crumb apple pie, and of course, pumpkin pies.  I don't even remember how many we made, but it was a lot!

We had a few orders for cakes and I was able to make one of the red velvet cakes that was ordered from start to finish.  I pretty much make all of the cake for the shop, but I rarely get to ice and decorate them.  The head pastry chef Eric takes care of most of those so needless to say I was very excited to show a little skill.  We also had an order for an eggless carrot cake.  It wasn't vegan so the customer still wanted the cream cheese icing.  He just wanted to make sure there were no eggs in the cake.  I have to say I was very surprised at just how moist and delicious this cake turned out.  I wasn't able to get a picture before he picked it up though.  :(  We also went ahead and prepared a few of our chocolate mousse cakes that are coated in chocolate ganache (uh, can you say YUMALICIOUS!) and they were ready to be decorated with a cute turkey for the holiday. 

Thanksgiving Day
This was by far my favorite day of the week because I got to see my boys!  I have missed them so much and I can't believe it has been a month since I have seen them.  They arrived on Wednesday night with my mother in law for the holiday.  Even though it was just the four of us we had quite the feast.  I baked a nice little turkey, cornbread dressing, mac and cheese, collard greens, green bean cassarole, rolls, and of course gravy.  I have lots of  It was a busy week with working every day and then prepping for Thursday in the evening, but it was so worth it.  I was also able to squeeze in some delicious desserts.  We had spice cake with cranberry filling, chocolate silk pie, apple pie, and pumpkin pie (duh). Even though this paragraph wasn't actually about what I did at work, I thought it was a great lesson in multi tasking and making the most of your time.......not to mention it was about all of the cooking and baking I did too! 

I hope you all had a wonderful time with family and friends and took a moment to reflect on all of the things we should be thankful for in our lives. I had to say goodbye to Lane and Brandon again this morning and it was a tough morning for sure.  I will be counting the days until I see them again. 

Instead of my usual "Keep it sweet" sentiment I will leave you with another in honor of the holiday.

May your bellys be full and your hearts be stuffed with love!

See you next week! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Filling up the case!!

One of the most important things that Cheryl stresses to us is to always be aware of the case. This would be the front display case where the customers see all of the deliciousness that is Bittersweet Confections!

There are always many, many items in the case at any one time and let me tell you when a couple of things are missing you can really tell. This is such an important part of my job because if there are no items in the case, then there is nothing to sell.

The left side of the case is full of all of the beautiful truffles that we have to offer. Each truffle is hand made and there are so many flavors to choose from that are all delectable.  Look for more delicious details in a future post.  lol

 The right side of the case is our domain, meaning Grace (my co-worker) and I. We help with the truffles too, but the right side of the case is where we shine. :) The top shelf is always full of cupcakes that we prepare each day. There are both filled and un-filled cupcakes and there are of course flavors that are there every day and some that make special appearances, but talking about the amazing cupcakes will be yet another post.

This week I also prepared some peanut butter cups, cheesecakes, and petit fours for the case. The peanut butter cups are not exactly what you would imagine. We first create a chocolate shell by painting chocolate into the wax paper cup and then pipe the peanut butter ganache into the shell and decorate with a couple of macados, a white chocolate/ chocolate striped decoration. The painting of the shells can get quite time consuming so this week we are trying out some premade chocolate shells ordered from the same swiss chocolate company. So, same great chocolate, but a little bit easier for us. Win, win if you ask me!

Cheryl had me try out a new recipe for personal sized cheesecakes that turned out to be so easy, but delicious and creamy all the same. We baked the cheesecakes in muffin liners for the personal size and then tried out a couple of different ways to serve them. First we prepared a sweetened sour cream sauce to spread on the cheesecake and then topped that with some fresh fruit. They looked a little small that way so we then decided to try something similar to the way we prepared the cupcakes for the Music in the Park series from last month. (see previous post) We took the clear plastic cup and spooned some fruit compote in the bottom of the cup, placed the unwrapped cheesecake on top and then spooned on some additional compote, topped it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a strawberry half. We decided that was a little too much compote so we changed it up a bit. The cheesecake is baked with a graham cracker crust so we came up with our final winner (I think). I used the same plastic cup and spooned some graham cracker crumbs into the bottom, placed the unwrapped cheesecake on top and spooned some compote on top of that, piped a little whipped cream and placed either a strawberry half or a few blueberries on top. When I took my break later in the day I noticed a man had ordered one and the next thing I knew I saw him licking out the cup! Winner!!!!

I also prepared some petit fours for the case this week. Most people think of a petit four as a small bite sized cake, but it can actually be any small dessert that is about two bites. Petit fours can also be savory, but most consider a petit four to be something sweet for a dessert. Our petit fours are made of simply of almond cake that is covered with a poured fondant and decorated with a buttercream swirl and a little fondant decoration like a flower like in the my picture below. Grace and I are talking about making little snowflakes or ornaments for the petit fours during the holidays. Other petit fours that I have made in the past have a thin layer of raspberry jam between two layers or on the top of the cake before the fondant is poured over, but this is not always done.

I am learning so much and even though I am missing my Tallahassee family I am having a blast just soaking up all of this pastry chefness.  Is that even a word????  Well, it is now!  :)

You know what comes next........Keep it Sweet people!!

Friday, November 9, 2012


This week at work I finally had the opportunity to decorate some cakes! Everyone who knows me, knows I love to make cakes........and cupcakes of course. Each week I have baked lots and lots of cake that has been used for birthday cakes, grooms cakes and of course, wedding cakes.  All of the cakes and cupcakes at Bittersweet Confections are made from scratch which does take a little longer, but the results are well worth it and I know the customers appreciate it too. 

Well, this week I finally was able to actually decorate some of the cakes that I baked. Eric, the pastry chef, was out of the shop on Tuesday and we had two orders for cakes so Grace and I finally got to decorate. :)


Red Velvet Birthday

Our first cake was a joint effort and was a 6in. red velvet cake that I baked the day before. I iced the cake with some of the yummiest cream cheese icing I have ever made. I masked the sides with cake crumbles and Grace wrote the message in chocolate. Grace is wonderful with writing in chocolate and I can't wait to learn more from her. She has worked in the industry in different New Orleans hotels for a few years now and said they all of them write in chocolate so she has had a lot of practice with it. I have more experience with writing in buttercream icing than she does so we make a pretty good

Petite Cakes

In the shop we have what are called petite cakes. They are small approximately 3 inch chocolate cakes that are filled with chocolate mousse and covered in chocolate ganache. These are very popular in the shop and would be a nice little personal sized birthday surprise for a friend or co-worker. They really are the perfect size for a good chocolate fix or you could share if you really wanted to and both people would be satisfied. I have tasted these cakes and personally I'll keep mine to myself thank you very much.

Obama Cake

On Election Day we had an order for a 6in. vanilla cake decorated with the Obama symbol. Since Grace had already left for the day I got to do this one all by myself! I made this cake from start to finish, the baking and the decorating. :) The vanilla cake was a chiffon cake that we make from scratch. We make the base cake batter with butter, sugar, flour and leavening ingredients and then a meringue is made and folded in. It can then be flavored accordingly and baked into a cake that is so fluffy and absolutely delectable. It was decorated in buttercream and I piped the design in stars (appropriate for Election Day don't you think???) I kept waiting for a Romney order to come in too, but nope. I thought it would be fun to take a picture of them side by side. 

Eric makes all of the wedding cakes, grooms cakes and really most of the orders that come in.  I am hoping that as Grace and I have opportunities to decorate cakes he will let us help with some of the orders.  He is very talented and I am really looking forward to learning from him.  A couple of weekends ago he made a grooms cake that looked like a red and white popcorn box.  I wish I had taken a picture to post, but that was a very busy day and there was no time to stop and take out the phone and snap a pic.  The fake cake that is on display now (pictured below) is one that he made and it really a neat design.  I can't wait to learn more and get some more experience with fondant. 

More to come later.  Keep it sweet folks!

Friday, November 2, 2012


First, just in case you are saying.......What the heck is an amenity?  An amenity is just a little something that someone (usually a business) provides to their customer or guest as a little something extra.  For example, at my old job I planned a meeting at the Grand Bohemian hotel in Orlando, FL and when I arrived and checked into my room there was a beautiful fruit and cheese platter with a very nice bottle of red wine waiting for me as a thank you for booking the meeting with them.  Chocolate covered strawberries or an assortment of chocolates is another common amenity.

There is an upscale hotel here in New Orleans that Bittersweet Confections provides the amenity boxes for the hotel's special guests.  The hotel colors are red, black and silver so the amenities are prepared using boxes that are a combination of those colors.  We place some shreds of black crinkle paper and silver strands in the bottom of the box, and place little bags tied up with ribbon of items that are either a nice treat or are indicative of New Orleans.  Each box is then tied up with a pretty red ribbon and is ready to go.  We usually prepare at least 100 of these boxes each week for the hotel.   

Some examples of things that I have learned are well known in New Orleans are:

Cheese straws are something I had heard of before, but really wasn't all that familiar with.  They taste similar to a Cheese-It cracker.  They are piped into short "sticks" with a star tip so they have ridges and baked until crispy.  We actually used these in the box lunches we made last weeked instead of chips.  These are probably better for you than chips anyway........maybe.

Pecan roca is yummy deliciousness in your mouth!  Roca is basically a nut brittle with chocolate on top and can be made with several different nuts.  Each time I have helped with boxes it has been pecan roca, but we also have almond roca in the shop.  Cheryl (the owner of Bittersweet Confections and a confection queen) explained to me that when making the roca you can tell if you have it right if it is shiny when you pour it out to harden.  If it looks cloudy then it is going to be too soft and you want it to have a nice snap and be crunchy when you eat it, not chewy.

Amaretti cookies sweet little almond flavor cookies that are made with almond paste, sugar and eggs and are piped onto a cookie sheet to bake instead of scooped.  Once they are baked and cooled we dust them with powdered sugar before bagging them up for sale.  Although they can be kind of expensive to make because of the almond paste, they are well worth it!

The Fleur de Lis is seen all over the city.  Almost everywhere you look you see a Fleur de Lis somewhere.  We make some molded chocolate Fleur de Lis for the shop and they are very popular.  We pipe the tempered chocolated into the chocolate molds and let it set, then once the chocolate has set we pop them out, dust them with silver dust and place them in individual clear bags.  They really are pretty and Cheryl uses quality chocolate so you know they taste good too!

Hmmmm, mental note.........this is definitely a little nugget to tuck away for coming back to Tally and the some of the nice hotels there that may consider amenities for their special guests.  I just need to come up with treats that represent Tallahassee.  Any ideas?

Until next time......Keep it sweet!