A Quick Recap of Chocolate Fantasy 2010

I'm tired. No wait, I'm EXHAUSTED.

After a couple of intense days of baking and decorating about 375 mini chocolate cream pies, plus a regular size pie and on top of that my regular orders for clients, I happy to say that this big weekend event called Chocolate Fantasy is now behind me. It was another great year and as usual, my samples were one of the first to run out, in fact by 7:00 pm they were all gone! Keep in mind this event started at 6:00 pm, so from what I could tell people really loved them.

Here are few picture of the Jillicious Desserts table all set up with the mini dessert samples and please ignore the terrible lighting--I didn't have ideal conditions to work with.

The Mini Chocolate Cream Pies could have been called bite-sized.  There are 75 mini chocolate cream pies on that round large platter, to give you a better perspective of how cute and tiny they were.

I think my favorite was the 9-inch Jillicious Chocolate Cream Pie that I made for a display and a very lucky gentleman purchased it as a surprise for his wife. I hope they enjoyed it.

Now what to make for next year....hmmm...I'm glad I don't need to worry about that for a few months.

Chocolate Fantasy 2010

It's been a busy week and I've been getting ready for a wonderful event called Chocolate Fantasy.  The Arts Center in Corvallis hosts this event as part of their annual fundraiser. Click here for more information.  This year is the third year that Jillicious Desserts has been invited to be one of ten chocolatiers who provide 350 samples of a chocolate dessert.   I just wanted to give you a little sneak peak of what I've been creating and I'll post more pictures later in the weekend of how it goes.  Wish us luck!

*Due to February being a busy month, I had to pass on the Daring Bakers' Challenge, but be sure to check out our other members blogs to see their completed challenges!

Heavenly Cake Bakers: Double Chocolate Valentine Cake

Double. Chocolate. Valentine. Cake.  No other words needed.

If I had a Valentine, this is what I would have baked for him.  And of course, he would have to share!

This is the second cake that I've baked with the Heavenly Cake Bakers group and I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that I joined this group. First of all, everyone has been so welcoming and have left such kind comments on my blog. I had a rather busy week last week (hence, only one post last week) and I will be catching up with my blog reading and will get back to those in my group who have been so nice and friendly during my first week (again, THANK YOU for your comments). In addition to the wonderful support, I was honored to be the featured baker at the Heavenly Cake Blog and it totally made my week!

When I first went through Rose's Heavenly Cake book, this was one of the MANY recipes I marked that I wanted to try. I'm so glad that I didn't have to wait long, because this is a FANTASTIC chocolate cake! I had a feeling that this cake would be very TEMPTING and since I'm trying to not eat too many desserts (since I'm around them so often with Jillicious Desserts), I decided to cut the recipe in half and use my new small heart-shaped pans for this cake. But let me just state for the record, when I make it again, it will be the regular 9-inch size and I'll have to invite friends over to help eat it, so I can justify making a larger cake--yes, it really was that DELICIOUS.

Double Chocolate Valentine Cake

Prior to making this cake, I read the directions carefully and even watched this video over at Rose's Blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum and found this cake very easy to make. This particular cake pan had fairly deep heart shapes and because I did cut the recipe in half, it made four nice sized heart cakes. Because they were smaller cakes, it only took less time, about 28 minutes to bake.

As soon as I pulled them from the oven, I used a bamboo skewer to poke holes in them, to prepare them to soak up the chocolate ganache glaze.

Ganache Glaze

I made the ganache the regular way; stirring the scalded cream into the finely chopped chocolate. Since it was a small batch, I didn't use the food processor (although that technique works very well) mostly because I didn't want to wash any extra dishes. (I made the ganache while the cakes were baking.)

After poking the holes in the cakes, I brushed the ganache over each of the cakes and then following the detailed directions from the book, I inverted them onto a tray with plastic wrap, poked holes in the bottom (which was now the top) and brushed more ganache over the surface and sides of the cakes.

I could already tell that this was going to taste great--just look at all that wonderful chocolate goodness!

After soaking a good amount of ganache on each cake, I refrigerated them for about an hour and then decorated them.

Whipped Cream Topping

In the recipe, Rose suggests to pipe the whipped cream around the base or serve with a dollop of cream on the side. I decided to pipe the whipped cream on the top of the cakes, because I used a darker cocoa in the cake and knew it would need the whipped cream to balance out the richness of the dessert. It was the perfect combination of rich chocolate and sweetened whipped cream.


Luckily, I had a few raspberries left over from some dessert orders over the weekend and I didn't have to go searching for them or pay the expensive amount they cost at this time of year. I also garnished the cakes with some Guittard Dark Chocolate curls that I had made.

Jill's Notes
One of things that I find very useful when trying new recipes, is to make notes right in the book. I find that in doing this, the notes won't get lost and if it is awhile before I make it again, I'll know exactly what I did, or changed or what to do differently next time. Also, I write the date I made the recipe and when I make it again, I note that date as well. I usually rate the recipe as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor and this one was definitely rated EXCELLENT. Since I'm not the best at keeping a regular journal, I love looking back to see how often I was baking and remembering the experience--like a little baking journal.

So, if you have this book, turn to page 113 and make this cake today!

Monday Must Have: Rose's Heavenly Cakes Book and a New Baking Group.

Whew! The weekend just FLEW by way too fast and the first week of February is already a distant memory. But, I have a treat for you today. Not only do I have a fabulous Monday Must Have, I also joined a new baking group based on the book I'm highlighting today.

Let's start with the Monday Must Have. I have had my eye on this book since I heard that Rose Levy Beranbaum was releasing a new book last September called "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" and I finally purchased it last week. You may be wondering what took me so long, but as I've mentioned before, I own a TON of baking books and I was trying to show a bit of self-control and purchase things I NEEDED, not things I WANTED. I had received a Border's gift card for my birthday (last October) and recently received a 40% coupon and I decided it was time to buy myself a belated birthday gift (thank you Jenna!). I can't believe I waited that long.

For those of you who may not know about Rose Levy Beranbaum (the author of this book), she also wrote "The Cake Bible" which happened to be the very first professional cake book I had ever purchased about three days into culinary school (the first class I had was a cakes class) and one that I've used many, many times over the years for information or inspiration. Buying this book brought back memories of the excitement I had when I first looked through "The Cake Bible." Her newest book is full of helpful hints, informative technique descriptions and beautiful cake photographs.

This brings me to the second part of this post: the Heavenly Cake Bakers group, which I recently joined. I had been following this site for awhile now, and after finally buying the book, I decided it was time to join. It's a smaller group and I'm looking forward to getting to know the 29 other bloggers and see their creations too. The requirement is to bake at least two cakes each month and then post on Monday. So from here on out, two Mondays each month will have the Heavenly Cake Bakers posts and the other Mondays will still focus on the Monday Must Have.

Also, since everyone in the group has the book, the purpose is to share our experiences and discuss how the baking process worked, rather than posting the recipe in its entirety. Usually, I will share pictures of the step-by-step process, but this time I was caught up in the enjoyment of baking and I forgot to take pictures along the way.

True Orange Genoise
This week's cake is the True Orange Genoise, which had several components: genoise cake layers, orange simple syrup, orange curd and a dark chocolate ganache icing.

The Genoise Cake Layers
It's been awhile since I've made a genoise, and this one was an excellent one. Rose does a wonderful job of explaining the technique, especially if you've never made one before. She gives many helpful hints and very specific directions each step of the way. I found that these cake layers to be the perfect combination of light fluffiness and a hint of vanilla. The cake texture was due to the Wondra flour used--which is equal parts of cake flour and cornstarch sifted together. I was very happy with this particular formula and will definitely use it again.

Orange Curd
The whole point of this cake was to use Seville Oranges, which are bitter oranges which are used for marmalade, curds and sauces. Also the peel can be candied and the essential oils from the peel can be used to flavor foods. One of the downsides to living in a small town is that we don't have access to ingredients that aren't as common (I really missed the Bay Area when I couldn't find any here), so I used blood oranges, naval oranges, lemons and limes. In combining these citrus' I was able to have a similar flavor to the Seville Oranges, but I suspect that it wasn't exact. The curd recipe was very straight forward and similar to a curd recipe I use often.

Orange Syrup
I used the blood oranges and the syrup was a pretty red-ish, pink color and tasted delicious. When I cut the cake, it had a very cheerful color inside from the red in the syrup and the orange in the curd.

Dark Ganache
Although, I LOVE dark chocolate ganache, I felt that this particular ganache was too dark and too heavy for such a light, sponge cake with the citrus flavors. The recipe called for 60% to 62% cacao, and I used a bittersweet which was probably closer to 67% cacao. But I did enjoy making the ganache in the food processor, which I don't typically use in making ganache (usually I just stir by hand).

The yield of this cake was one 9x2-inch layer, which is split in half. Instead of using a 9-inch pan, I split the batter in two 6x2-inch pans and then cut each in half, creating four layers. I decorated mine a little different than the picture in the book--I added chocolate shavings about two-thirds up from the bottom of the cake and decorated it with chocolate curls and fresh orange slices.

Jill's Thoughts
Overall, I thought this was an easy cake to make, especially since the directions were so detailed and helpful. I loved the genoise and I think that was my favorite part to make. Rather than the dark ganache for the icing, I think I'd try a whipped cream with some orange curd folded in for a lighter frosting--with these changes, it would be a lovely spring dessert.

I think I'm really going to enjoy being a part of the Heavenly Cake Bakers and I'm looking forward to making the next cake and marking some more recipes for future use.

Fresh, Simple Ingredients = Delicious Food

Happy Thursday!

Let's talk bruschetta.

Bruschetta = From the Italian word meaning "roasted over coals."

I love that there are endless possibilities in the flavors you can combine to create a fresh and delicious topping for these wonderful little concoctions. Usually I don't measure any of the ingredients and just make everything to taste. But, since I had a friend ask me for my recipe of how I make my bruschetta, I decided I need to make a quick batch and MEASURE most all the ingredients. So here is one version that I really enjoy and it is quick and easy to make.

Jill's Bruschetta Recipe


3 Roma tomatoes
3-4 Fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 tsp. minced dried onion *You could also use a fresh onion, but I think the minced onion gives it a good flavor too.
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar *I used a cherry aged balsamic, which has a wonderful flavor.
Pinch of lemon-herb seasoning
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Garnish with 1 1/2 tsp. of feta cheese

1) Cut the tomatoes in small square (diced) pieces and put into a small bowl.
2) Roll up the basil leaves and slice in thin pieces and add to the tomatoes.
3) Add the minced onion, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and gently mix together with a spoon.
4) Top mixture with feta cheese and set aside.

*Use your favorite french baguette bread.

1) Slice the baguette on an angle for 1/2 inch thick pieces.
2) Place on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.
3) Toast in oven under the broil setting or if you have a roast setting for about 3-5 minutes; be sure to keep an eye on them, so that they don't burn. When they are a nice golden color, remove from oven.
4) Serve baguette pieces on a platter with the topping in a bowl and everyone can serve themselves.

*Another variation I love, is to add a slice of fresh mozzarella to the baguette pieces and toast, then spread the topping over them--so yummy!

What are your favorite bruschetta toppings?

Monday Must Have: My Favorite Rolling Pin

Every kitchen needs to have certain tools for cooking and baking.  You don't need to have every new and fancy gadget that comes out on the market (although some of those gadgets are cool and can be useful), but you should have some basics. 

Today's Monday Must Have is one of those basics--the Rolling Pin.

Rolling pins come in several styles, shapes and sizes, materials and even different colors.  I own four or five, but the one I typically use for most of my rolling needs is the Straight Rolling Pin, sometimes also referred to as the French-style rolling pin (but not to be confused with the French Tapered Rolling Pin). 

I first used a Straight Rolling Pin in culinary school.  In fact, the one pictured above is the very same one that came as part of my culinary tool kit.  At first, I wasn't sure if I liked it.  Growing up, I'd always used the type of rolling pin with the handles and that was what I was used to.  The first time I used the Straight Rolling Pin, well to be honest, it was a frustrating experience.  It felt awkward and strange to use the palm of my hands on the pin, instead of keeping them on the handles.

It was so different to me, that I was resistant to changing over to it.  In fact, in one of my first classes, I opted to use the regular rolling pins when learning to roll out pastry dough--until the Chef came over and explained why he loved using the Straight Rolling Pin for rolling out many types of dough.  He encouraged me to give it another try and showed me the advantages to using this type of rolling pin and once I got the hang of it and had a bit more practice, I understood how this tool was a very valuable part of my collection.

The Pros of the Straight Rolling Pin:

Balance ~  The straight rolling pin is uniformly balanced and can roll out larger amounts of dough because it is longer than a rolling pin with handles.  This balance helps to roll out the dough evenly and with some practice, it is easy to use.

Control ~  Because you are using the weight of the pin to help roll the dough out and also depending on your touch, you can add more pressure and feel the dough as it rolls out or add less pressure if you only need a little more.

When starting to roll out your dough, it's best to add more pressure and this can be achieved by pressing down with the palms of your hands to help spread and roll the dough out to the desired thickness.

For less pressure, roll the pin over the dough using the tips of your fingers to control the rolling pin.  I keep a lighter touch towards the end of the rolling process and this allows me to feel the thickness of the dough and to make sure it is evenly rolled out.

Relaxed ~  I actually find myself more relaxed while rolling out dough, because I'm not gripping the handles and forgetting that I'm not handling the dough gently enough.  Also, this type of rolling pin allows you to be closer to the dough and you are able to feel the dough's thickness while rolling it out and make the necessary adjustments through the pressure from your hands on the rolling pin.

Size ~  The Straight Pin is 18-inches long, vs. the handled rolling pin which is about 10-inches long.  This is helpful in not adding edging dents which can occur with the other type of rolling pin at times.

How-to-Care for your Straight Rolling Pin:

Before using a brand new rolling pin, it needs to be oiled, to help protect the wood from drying, spliting or cracking.  Mineral Oil is the best type of oil to use for protecting wooden kitchen tools and should be used rather than vegetable oil.  Vegetable oil can turn rancid and that in turn, produces an unpleasant oder and flavor; not what you want on your beautiful pastry dough.  Follow the recommended directions on the Mineral Oil bottle for how often to use on your rolling pin.

As with most rolling pins, you don't want to soak this in water, but rather wipe it down after use.  If you do have a bit of excess dough sticking to your pin (because you didn't use enough flour--it happens), then wash it quickly with a little mild soap and warm water and dry it right after to remove excess water. 

Once my rolling pin is clean and dry I put a rolling pin cover on it; which is like a tube made of a stretchy, soft cotton material and protects it while in the drawer with other tools.  This way, I can prevent any possible scratches or dents from occuring.

As I mentioned before, I do own other types of rolling pins and I do use them from time to time for certain baking projects, but the Straight Rolling Pin is my go-to pin for the majority of my dough rolling needs. 

If you've wondered about this type of rolling pin or wanted to know why many people use them, I hope this post helped.  And with anything that is new, practice is key and you may change your mind after giving it a go. 

I did.