Tag Archives: savor your sweet tooth

Sur La Table Chocoholics cooking class

For my birthday this year I received one of the best birthday presents of my life from my little Hosanna Fuller. When she found a Chocoholics cooking class at Sur la Table, she knew that we had to do it (her chocolate addiction may be as bad as mine). My excitement was quite evident when she told me about it, and the class, as well as the food we produced, certainly lived up to these expectations. I had done a lot of cooking with chocolate before, but this class taught me new methods of tempering chocolate as well as new, delicious ways to use it. Throughout the course of two hours we were able to make balsamic cherry chocolate truffles, sea salt caramels dipped in chocolate, chocolate almond biscotti, and chocolate soufflés!
The chocolate truffles and sea salt caramels were very new to me, so I was excited to learn how to make them. I had never really attempted to make candies because I had always assumed that they were extremely difficult and easy to mess up. However, I soon realized that they are not as terrifying as I had thought, especially if you have a candy thermometer to us. For starters, the balsamic cherries blew me away. They were the perfect amount of savory and sweet. The cherries were simmered in balsamic vinaigrette and absorbed tangy flavor to complement their sweetness nicely. We made the truffle by melting 72% dark chocolate and adding cream to it after it had cooled for a minute or two, so that it didn’t seize. We let this mixture chill in the fridge until it was workable into round balls that we could fill with the cherries and roll in a bit of cocoa powder. It came out to a rich, chocolate truffle with a delectable surprise inside. The mixture of flavors complemented one another so that neither the savory nor the sweet overpowered the other. The chocolate was dark so it wasn’t overly sweet so as to taste like you were eating a Hershey kiss filled with cherries. It truly tasted like a culinary masterpiece, so if you want to impress your friends this is the recipe to use.

The same goes for the sea salt caramels. It takes only a few minutes to mix and heat the corn syrup and sugar to a medium-dark caramel color where it is time to remove it from the flame. Then, we added the butter in little pieces at a time with a whisk to make sure that it was all melted in evenly. Afterwards, this mixture was cooled and cut into bite-size candy pieces, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with sea salt to produce a delicious caramel. Caramel and chocolate is one of my weaknesses. I could probably have eaten this entire brick of caramels if I hadn’t shared them with my suitemates. The caramels were a chewy consistency that didn’t hurt your teeth to bite into and the flavor was out of this world. The butter and sea salt were a bit overpowered by the corn syrup and sugar to give a sweet caramel with a slight hint of salt. Plus, a chocolate coating never hurt any desert. These were Hosanna’s favorite recipe of the day because they “had a balanced taste and were easy to make”. This simple recipe will impress anyone and will be gone in the blink of an eye.
After the two candies we made chocolate almond biscotti which Hosanna and I preferred as an unscotti. The batter was made by creaming the butter and sugar, adding eggs and vanilla, and then adding a flour/baking soda mixture. It is a similar process to making cookies up until that point. But, the dough is a bit thicker than cookie dough so we were able to mold it into a think loaf (about 5×12 in.) and then bake it once. After it was baked the first time and cooled, we cut it into 1 inch slices, sprinkled with a bit of sugar and cocoa powder, and baked a second time. However, we tried this unscotti and were in love, it was gooey and moist with a little almond crunch mixed in. We weren’t loving the idea of baking it a second time to get a dry, crunchy cookie….so we didn’t! We learned that unscottis are a very popular dessert in Italy so we aren’t the only chocolate fanatics who prefer our cookies baked once as opposed to twice. We took home our unscottis enticingly moist and introduced our friends to the delectable unscotti.
Last but certainly not least, we made the chocolate soufflés. This was the only item on the list that I had made prior to this class. I have tried various recipes at home because they are the perfect way to end any dinner party as well as heavenly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. They are all made in a similar fashion by beating the egg whites and sugar until fluffy and then adding in a melted chocolate, butter, and egg yolk mixture. The recipe I use at home uses bittersweet chocolate and a splash of Grand Marnier for extra flavor whereas this one used in class uses only dark chocolate. It produced a creamy, sweeter chocolate taste than I had expected, but it was nevertheless incredible.
All in all, the cooking class was informative, fun, and delicious. The chef running it was highly trained and knowledgeable about all sorts of cooking so we were able to ask a lot of questions during the class. It was a calm atmosphere where everybody wanted to learn to cook but there were all different levels of chefs there so even if you are a beginner you will be able to follow the course. Best of all, we got to take home everything we made in cute little boxes to share with our friends. Although the box of chocolates didn’t last me more than a few hours, the memories from this class will. So if you need a birthday present, an anniversary present, or an “I’m just feeling nice today” present, no girl is ever going to be opposed to attending this chocoholics cooking class.


Savoring my Sweet Tooth (Even on Passover)

Every spring I look forward to matza brei, mandel bread, matza ball soup, and all my other favorite Passover foods. I have a special section in my recipe box just for Passover delicacies that are good enough to eat once the 8 long days of Passover are over. When I returned from spring break and realized Passover began the next day, I thought it would be fun to try to find a kosher for Passover bakery for my next review. I hadn’t realized how many options I would have, because so many bakeries in our neighborhood cater to Passover. Even classic places like Crumbs, Tonnie’s Minis, and Magnolia Bakery make kosher for Passover products.

I decided to check out the restaurant My Favorite Food because it had fabulous reviews for not only their Passover desserts, but for their main courses as well. It was an easy subway ride to 72nd to get there, and when we arrived there was a short wait during which we got to admire all of the delicious looking dishes as they were brought out of the kitchen. They had everything from squash pasta to tuna and cheese popovers. By the time we were seated we were starving and more than ready to savor our sweet tooths. We considered splitting a main course first, but many things on the menu were a bit pricey, so we just skipped right to the desserts. They had Passover classics like macaroons and mandel bread, as well as adventurous ones like lemon génoise and almond meringue with French vanilla créme. They all sounded delicious, so it was a tough call.  But eventually we decided on the plum tart, which our waiter recommended, and the marjolaine cake, which is an almond hazelnut meringue with layers of chocolate nougat and mocha butter crème.

The service was phenomenal and our desserts were brought out in minutes. I was skeptical about them both because Passover desserts are very easy to mess up. A drop extra of matza meal and your cake will be too dry or your crust will taste like matza. However, I quickly learned that their fabulous reviews were much deserved, and that their desserts were about as good as it gets on Passover. I dug in to the plum tart first because the fresh plums layered on top of the sweet plum jam looked irresistible. The jam was a bit tangy but the fresh plums gave it a natural flavor to add to its freshness. My friend Frankie commented on how refreshing the tart was and I couldn’t agree with her more. She thought the crust was not dense, which would’ve made the tart too heavy. The thin crust was the perfect complement to the plums because it did not overpower their fruity flavor and its spices gave a savory addition to the sweet dessert.

The cake was just as impressive with its several layers of chocolate nougat and meringue. The outside was coated with thick chocolate and nuts which were divine. The nougat layers were a bit dry but the mocha butter crème helped to moisten it up. The crème was rich and buttery, however it would have been better had it been fluffier like the sweet almond meringue. The flavors mixed together with the chocolate nougat combined to make a tasty Passover treat, though.

When I left I was more than satisfied by the generous portions and the delicious desserts. Plus, their non-Passover dessert menu looks just as incredible, so I will definitely be back once Passover is over to try them out. My Most Favorite Food proved that even on Passover, I could savor my sweet tooth, and I definitely recommend that you do too.

New Kid on the Block- Chokolat Cafe

We all love Nussbaum bagels and Hungarian Pastry Shop coffee but occasionally we all need a change. Chokolat Café is a quaint bakery/coffee shop on 125th and Broadway that I would like to deem the “new kid on the block”. I have driven past it numerous times over the past two years and during exam week when I needed a few coffees to keep me studying and a baked good to satisfy my sweet tooth; I decided to check it out. I was blown away by the café and think it is completely underrated for something so close to campus. It opened in October 2011 so maybe it has not made a name for itself yet in the area, but I would definitely suggest making the walk there your next coffee date or study session.

I was shocked when I walked in to see how laid-back the decorum was. I wished that I had brought a textbook to read because it was the perfect, cozy atmosphere to study in. The café smelled of freshly brewed coffee and unlike Butler there were actually tables open. The next surprise was the prices of the coffee and baked goods. Everything was extremely cheap for things that were so fresh; their pastries and desserts are made in their kitchen daily. They had various breakfast options like muffins and breakfast sandwiches as well as desserts. Since it was early I ordered a coffee and a blueberry-cream cheese Danish, as opposed to the tasty looking green tea and red bean cupcake.

The danish was hands-down the best Danish I’ve had in my life. The puff pastry dough flaked as you bit into it and its buttery flavor complemented the sweet filling perfectly. Plus, the cream cheese custard was still moist, so I could tell that it had been made freshly a few hours before. There was a thick, sweet layer of it yet it was not overwhelmingly cheesy nor did it overpower the blueberry fiilling which was swirled in. My favorite part of the blueberry ham was the fresh blueberries in it which gave it a natural flavor as opposed to a fake, sugary taste. Finally, the coffee grinders behind the register were used daily to make the coffee fresh which was evident in its rich flavor.

It was fresh and inexpensive for that necessary caffeine boost during exam week. I was blown away by the atmosphere and quality of the goods at Chokolat Café; you will definitely see me there during reading week. The best part about it is that they have a mini shop on 123rd that sells all their delicious goods. If you don’t want to sit down in the café, you can go there and get your coffee and a pastry to go!

Café Luxembourg

Every now and then we all deserve to do our hair, put on our heels, and enjoy a taste of luxury. There are many places in New York City you where will shunned for wearing sweatpants, and Café Luxembourg was certainly one of them. Looking in the window before going inside, you can already tell that this is a place of class, style, and quality food. The host was welcoming and we were seated promptly with menus full of divine choices.

I was with two other classy dessert lovers and we were unsure at first if we wanted an appetizer to share just to taste their food or if we should go straight to the desserts. However, most things on the menu, as delicious as they seemed, were not great for sharing and with their prices we decided to just stick to the dessert. Plus, the dessert menu was certainly no disappointment. One glance at it and our taste buds we watering. There were homemade ice creams, specialty cakes, profiteroles and more. I was really impressed by the range and combination of flavors on it as well. All the originals were paired with something more adventurous to give the dessert a little kick like the chocolate fudge cake with maple cinnamon ice cream and the pumpkin cheesecake with salted pecans and ginger anglaise. After a tough debate we ordered an upside down caramelized pear cake with butterscotch sauce and bourbon ice cream, crème brulee, and the chocolate fudge cake.

While we waited, we munched on fresh warm bread that was perfectly toasted on top to give it a crisp outer crust. We admired the simple, yet eloquent decorum of the restaurant with soft jazz playing in the background and we couldn’t help but think that this would be a great place to celebrate a special event or milestone in one’s life. Although it was certainly pricey, everything that the waiters were carrying out of the kitchen looked like it would be worth the price; especially our beautifully plated desserts. It was difficult to tell which one looked the most appetizing, so we just dug right in to find out.

The pear cake with bourbon ice cream was my first choice just because it was such a tasty combination. The sweet pear layer on top made the entire dessert. It was fruity yet not too sweet nor too thick to overcome the cake. Disappointingly, I found the cake to be a bit dry if it wasn’t eaten with the ice cream which had subtle hints of bourbon to amplify the pear cake flavor. The crème brulee was perfectly crystalized on top, almost to the extent where we felt bad ruining its beauty. I’m glad we did though because it was absolutely divine. The solid sugar layer on top was thin yet it magnified the silky custard. The custard was creamy yet it still had a light texture so that you did not feel like you were eating spoonful’s of heavy cream.
At our table, the clear favorite was the chocolate cake with maple-cinnamon ice cream. We are all chocolate addicts, so we could be a little biased; but the warm cake was rich and gooey on the inside making it the front runner. Plus, the maple-cinnamon ice cream gave it the perfect amount of added flavor. There was just enough cream and spice to complement the chocolate yet the moist chocolate cake still shown through. When the luscious desserts were completely devoured we were more than satisfied and amped up on sugar. Each one was bursting with flavors and I only wish I could go back soon to try all the other magnificent options on the menu. Café Luxembourg is the perfect getaway from campus if you want an excuse to get dressed up and treat yourself to some high quality dining. It is an easy subway ride to 70th and you feel like you’ve been transported 15 years down the road the moment you sit down in the luxurious restaurant. Whether it a birthday, an anniversary, or a summer job, Café Luxembourg should definitely be next on your list of places to host a celebration or to simply savor your sweet tooth.