The Big Chocolate Show

big-chocoalte-showAlways wanted to know how to make our amazing chocolate chip cookies?  Want to take them over the top?  Fill them with cookie butter and make a sandwich cookie.

big-chocoalte-show-2On this past Saturday afternoon I showed lucky attendees of the brand new Big Chocolate Show all my tips and tricks for making what I think are the perfect chocolate chip cookies.  And here is the recipe for you to  make them at home.

What is my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie?  For me its substantial, crunchy and chewy and most importantly packed with a whole lot of great chocolate.  For  this one we used Valrhona Caraibe, a 66% dark chocolate.  I use the pieces whole, so that when the cookie bakes I get shards of chocolate spread throughout.

Its very important to chill the dough fully before baking, mostly to control spread, but there is also a bit of flavor melding going on there that really improves the overall taste.  You can scoop them, chill and bake immediately, or you you can resist, you can freeze the raw scooped dough and bake them whenever you want fresh cookies.  (or sometimes sneak the raw cookie dough to snack on)

You’ll also want to make sure the butter is melted and cooled.  Hot butter added to the sugar will change the spread too.  Baking from frozen will take longer than from chilled so don’t be surprised if yours take a bit longer than the estimated times.  big-chocoalte-show-3

After the cookies have cooled, I make the cookie butter and pipe mounds of it onto an upturned cookie, and top with another.  We use a meringue buttercream at the shop, but the recipe below is for an American Buttercream.  Either way will be great, but the American version will be a bit sweeter.

Its a good idea to chill them a bit to set, but them bring them back to room temperature to enjoy.

Happy Baking!

Sugar Couture’s   Chocolate Chip Cookie   

Yield 20 1 oz cookies



¾ cup (6 oz) white sugar

¾ cup (4.5 oz) brown sugar

6 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 1/5 cups (11 oz) All purpose flour

¾ tst salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ t baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 yolk

1 cup (5 oz) high quality chocolate pieces or chips




  1. Melt butter and set aside to cool down.
  2. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream cooled butter with white and brown sugar
  4. Add egg and then yolk to the creamed butter and sugar.   Add vanilla and mix to combine
  5. Stop the machine and add half the flour mixture. Mix to combine.   Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand.
  7. Scoop cookies with one ounce pastry scoop. Alternately you can use a table spoon to portion or roll into a log, chill and cut even 1/3” rounds.
  8. Its best to refrigerate the portioned cookies overnight. You can also freeze them at this stage in a single layer on a sheet tray. Once fully frozen you can place them in a zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to bake them.
  9. TO BAKE: Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets with at least 3 inches between them. Place in preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges and still a little soft in the centers. Move to a rack to cool.





3/4 pound soft butter

1 pound powdered sugar

2Tbs heavy cream

1 t vanilla


  1. Beat soft butter in the bowl of standing mixer until homogenous.
  2. Turn mixer off and add powdered sugar.
  3. Add cream and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.


Cookie Butter Buttercream

5 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

3 T canola oil
1 recipe buttercream


  1. Process cookies in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Add enough oil to form a paste. If necessary warm water can be added in 1tbs increments to form a paste.
  2. Mix into buttercream
  3. Pipe into the center of baked and cooled cookie and top with a second cookie.
  4. Chill to set. Remove to room temperature to enjoy.







a good kind of change…

In pastry school, one of my chef instructors was ex-military…. If I remember it correctly he was a sniper… though I might be inflating with the advancing years. Chef Sniper told us very early on, “I make pastry.  Pastry has sugar, white flour eggs and butter.  Don’t even ask me about replacing them. That’s not what I do.”  I agreed with him completely.

Do I still agree with Chef Sniper?  Hmmmmmm…. I was convinced of a few things…. For one thing, cakes have butter.  It’s flavor, structure, color, body….  It does so many things that it seemed sacrilege to me to think of doing it any other way.

I often say that everything I do is custom, right down to the flavors.  But generally I stop there. I’ve spent years refining my recipes, and it seems people really enjoy them.   I’ve learned the hard way, and from no less than Hugh Jackman, not to mess with a good thing.  So customization ended with flavor profiles.

Recently an incredibly lovely couple contacted me for their son’s birthday cake.  After we brainstormed a super fun pirate treasure cake, they mentioned that their son had a dairy allergy and asked if I could accommodate that.  Like I always do, I said yes, to worry about it later.

Intrigued I started testing immediately.  Yes, this is my idea of fun. Because it was more of a challenge, I was more worried about creating a yummy dairy free icing than the cake, so that’s where I began.  I tested soy, soy creamer, coconut milk….  So many yummy tests side by side.  I was blown away by how good they all were.  It was a matter of degrees, which I liked better.
I was even more surprised to have found my way to the most delicious chocolate cake I’d ever made!   So yummy that I served it in consultations without mentioning its special nature, and time after time, it was gobbled up.  An empty plate is a always a good sign.   So I switched.  I switched my chocolate cake to this new dairy free one.  I don’t always keep it dairy free, but you wouldn’t notice the difference either way.

Not everything is as easy to replace successfully as dairy is, and even that is not suitable for every kind of cake. Carved cakes require a different kind of structure in the cake than tiered ones. But I’m up for the next challenge.  Test me! Who knows what I’ll stumble on next…  And hearing from my lovely client that she loved the cake, as was so happy to have found options for her dairy challenged son that she couldn’t wait to order the next one.  And that’s just the best thing to hear.  And yes, Sugar Couture now makes dairy free cakes. And, might have a surprise for Chef Sniper.

Yummiest Ever Dairy Free Chocolate Icing

The best way to make this icing is to start it the day before so that it sets well.  It calls for solid coconut cream.  In full fat cans of coconut milk… Thai versions are the best…the rich fatty cream of the coconut milk will separate and float to the top. You’ll want to scoop this off and use only it, reserving the remaining coconut water for another use.   Avoid shaking the cans, to keep this cream in tact. If your can is emulsified, you can place it in the refrigerator and it should set up and solidify.

This batch will ice about 32 cupcakes.

16 oz             best quality semi sweet chocolate

13 oz              solid coconut cream

¼  tsp           salt

16 oz             powdered sugar

-Chop the chocolate finely, either by hand with a serrated knife or in a food processor. Place in a medium sized bowl.

-Scoop off the cream from the cans of coconut milk get 13 oz.  Place cream in a sauce pan and bring just to a boil over medium high heat.   You need to bring it to a boil for it to properly melt the chocolate, but you don’t want to boil it for any length of time.

-Pour the hot coconut cream over the finely chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes.   Add the salt… chocolate is always better with a bit of salt, and whisk the mixture until fully combined, luscious and glossy.

-Cover the top of the chocolate with a piece of plastic wrap touching the entire surface and let this sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours until firmly set.    If you simply can’t wait, you can refrigerate it a bit to help encourage the firming, but you don’t want it to get too hard or you’ll have to re-warm it and start over.

-When the chocolate is set, beat the powdered sugar into it to sweeten it up a bit.   Don’t add it all at once, but add to taste.  Depending on the strength of the chocolate you’ve used, it may need a bit more or less sugar.  If doing this on a mixer, take care not over beat it or the icing will stiffen and be difficult to use.  Use this immediately to ice cooled cakes or cupcakes, fill eclairs, or eat with a spoon… your call.

Boston Cream Pies on Design*Sponge

The first time I landed on Design*Sponge, I was hooked. For someone like me, who yearns for daily inspiration, this brilliant blog delivers over and over again. So when the talented ladies behind it agreed to feature me, and my Boston Cream Pie recipe, I couldn’t wait to get started.

I love photography… its been part of me my whole life, and I have the shoe boxes of photos to prove it. My cousin Tony and I are both passionate amateurs, and between us, there isn’t a moment left undocumented! And we have the shoe boxes to prove it. Later while at NYU film school, I began to explore it in a whole different and more technical way. Now, food photography is getting my juices going and I loved coming up with new and interesting ways to shoot the photos to be included in this post. I knew there was a reason I’ve been collecting those vintage pink yelloware bowls!

Everything about developing this recipe, creating the cakes, taking the photos, and of course, tasting the results, was pure pleasure. Thanks so much to Grace Bonney, the brains behind Design*Sponge, and Kristina Gill the editor of the “in the kitchen with” column for inspiring me to make something beautiful, and for making it even better!

Check out the Mini Boston Creams… and all the gorgeousness they have to offer here…

In Between the Cake…

By popular demand, I’ve added a brand new basic bread making class to the fall curriculum at Sarah Lawrence College. So with every free moment, in between the baking, icing, carving, covering and decorating, I’m testing the recipes. Actually, its a great way to do it. I’ve sometimes thought that making bread is just too much of a commitment… the amount of time it takes to let it rise requires a kind of planning ahead that I’m not really great about. My middle name is Immediate Gratification.

But, having to squeeze in these recipes around an already busy schedule, it began to dawn on me that once you know the basic procedures, bread making actually fits very easily into your life. There are few ingredients- most will already be in your pantry. The work load comes in small doses, over a period of time that is much better spent doing something else. And made all that much easier with the use of a trusty heavy duty mixer.

Come and join us in our hands on baking class this October and learn the basics to find a comfort zone with all things yeasty. To whet your appetite, or if you’re not able to make the trip to Bronxville, NY, here is a basic focaccia recipe that lends itself to tons of creative variations.

Focaccia Al’Olio


1 package active dry yeast

2/3 cup warm water 105-115 degreed F

1 cup all purpose flour


½ cup water

1/3 cup dry white wine

½ cup olive oil

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp large flake salt

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

First make the sponge, by stirring the yeast into the warm water until it dissolves. Allow this to sit about 10 minutes until its foamy, to be sure the yeast is still alive and active. Add 1 cup flour and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let this sit in a warm, draft free area for about 30 minutes, until its very bubbly.

Combine all the liquid ingredients (water, wine, olive oil) with the sponge, stirring to combine. Combine the 2 ½ cups flour with the 2 tsp of salt, in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attached. Mix a bit to distribute the salt. Add the sponge/liquid mixture and mix until completely combined and forms a soft dough. No kneading required. The dough will still be moist and stick a bit to your hands. This is good… its what gives you the air pockets and light airy crumb. Grease a large bowl with olive oil or pan spray. Place dough into bowl and cover. Sit bowl in a warm, draft free spot and let rise for 1 hour. Dough will double in size.

Preheat oven to 425.

Grease a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Punch down the dough and press it out into a rectangle, about 14” by 10”. Using your fingers, dimple the dough all over. Cover lightly with a clean dish towel and let rise again, until double in height, or about 50 minutes.

When dough has risen for the second time, dimple again with your finger tips. With a pastry brush, distribute the ¼ cup olive oil over top of dough and sprinkle with the 1tsp of large flake salt and fresh thyme leaves.

Put the sheet pan in the oven and turn the temperature down to 400 degrees. For the best results, you want to keep the crust for setting too fast. To aid this, spritz the walls of the oven with water from a spray bottle often during the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and center is set. Remove the focaccia from the pan as soon as you take it from the oven to keep it from over baking and drying out.

What to do with all the peaches…

Its so easy for me to overbuy… something looks or smells amazing at the market, and I’m of the mind that more is always better. So as I’m sitting at my desk, working on something important I’m sure, that wonderful ripe peach smell wafts up to me. A delicious perfume yes, but also a warning… I’d better do something with them quickly or they will be past their prime.

In a recent exploration through the over stuffed “cabinet of mystery” or the really deep cabinet above the refrigerator, I had rediscovered my popsicle mold. I was pretty sure the peaches would become healthy frozen treats, but once I started thinking frozen, ice cream was on my mind. I asked my husband Jay, ice cream or peach tart, and of course his answer was “both!”. The destiny of the perfect peaches was sealed.

So as not to overdo it, I kept the ice cream to a simple delicious vanilla bean, and focused on the peach tart.

Peach Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1T good quality vanilla extract

-Combine heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean (if using) and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium high heat until bubbles form on the side of the pot and sugar has dissolved, but don’t allow the mix to boil.
-Place yolk in medium sized bowl. Wrap the base of a bowl in a dish towel to keep it in place. Starting very slowly, pour hot cream into the yolks mixing constantly. You’re working to temper the hot milk into the cool eggs gently so as not to cook them to quickly and get scrambled eggs.
Continue adding the hot milk mixture until they have been combined. Pour this mixture back into the pot, place it over medium heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until you can draw a line in the custard on the back of the spoon and it doesn’t come back together.
-Strain this mixture into a clean bowl and discard vanilla bean if using.. If using the vanilla extract, add it now. If you want to freeze the ice cream now, place the bowl over an ice bath… a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Otherwise refrigerate the mixture until completely chilled.
-freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Pate Brisee
6 ounces all purpose flour
1Tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and kept very cold
1 ½ fl oz cold water

-In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Process to combine completely.
-Add butter and process in pulses until the butter is about the size of peas.
-Through the feed tube, pour the cold water slowly, while pulsing to combine.
-remove dough from bowl and knead once or twice to form a ball. Flatten ball into a 4” disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

-Follow the process above, but work the butter into the flour mixture with the tips of your fingers, working quickly to avoid adding extra heat to the dough. Sprinkle the water over the top, and keeping your fingers wide, toss the mixture to incorporate it.

Making the Tarte Tatin
5 large, ripe peaches- cut in half
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom

-Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.
-Have a 10”oven safe sautee pan or 9”cake pan ready.
-in a stainless steel saucepan, combine the sugar and water. If your oven safe pan has a stainless steel base, you can do this all in that one pan. Wipe down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals. Cover with a lid and cook over medium high heat until the sugar has been boiling for about 3 minutes. Remove cover and cook sugar until a light amber caramel has formed. Remove from heat immediately and carefully add butter and salt, swirling the pan carefully until the butter has melted and combined with the caramel.
-Pour caramel into the bottom of the sautee pan or cake pan. Arrange peaches, rounded side down into the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may want to cut the peaches to fit snugly into the center space. Sprinkle cardamom over the cut sides of the peaches.
-Remove your dough from the refrigerator. Using a small amount of bench flour to prevent sticking, roll the dough to about 1/8” thick, and wide enough to fit the top of your pan.
-Place dough over the top of the peaches. Remove any major excess dough, and tuck the rest into the sides of the pan.
-Bake tart until the crust is golden brown and caramel is bubbly, aproximately 30-35 minutes.

The tricky part…. Turning it out…
When the tart is baked, you’re going to place a platter upside down on top of the pan, and using pot holder, flip it over. You need to wait long enough for the caramel to set a bit, but not too long that it cools too much and stick to the pot. If you know you’ve waited way too long, you can heat the pot over the stove for 30 seconds or so to loosen it up.

Babycakes- Mini Croquembouche

A litlle more than a year ago, I began working on a book all about mini cakes… elegant little individual sized cakes to make at home. The book was to be called Babycakes. Unfortunately, this publisher was an early victim of the recent cutbacks, and Babycakes future became uncertain.

Left with lots of ideas, some great photos, and even better recipies, I just knew I had to share them!

The first one is mini croquembouche, which is traditionally a French wedding cake. Lovely little cream puffs, filled with pastry cream or chocolate ganache are dipped in a beautiful clear caramel, and glued together while the caramel is still warm and sticky. The same caramel is used to make the glistening spun sugar that embraces the little tower. How dramatic it would be to present each guest at your next dinner party with their own glittery croquembouche! One tower is more than enough to serve two guests.

Start here with the recipie I’ve posted previously for chocolate eclairs.

Instead of piping out strips, pipe out small rounds, about one half inch in diameter. When baked and cooled, fill them with the pastry cream, flavored as you like.


2 cups sugar

½ cup water

-Place the sugar in a medium sauce pan and pour the water around the edges of the pan.

-Put the pot over high heat with the lid on. This will keep the steam trapped inside throught the beginning of the cooking process and let it drip down the sides and wash off any sugar crystals that may form. Keep the pot covered until the sugar has been boiling for about 5 minutes. Do not stir cooking sugar.

-When the sugar begins to take on an amber color, you may swirl the pot to keep the sugar cooking evenly. Cook until sugar has taken on a rich amber hue, careful not to overcook and burn the sugar or it will be bitter.


– Cut a 3” circle out of cardboard. Cover circle with parchment paper and glue it down with a small dab of the caramel.

-Carefully dip the top of each filled cream puff in the warm caramel and place it, with the caramel facing out around the outside of the parchment circle. Continue like this until you have one complete circle. Each subsequent row should start between two of the puffs on the previous layer. Keep builidng up until one puff tops the tower. If carmel starts to stiffen up too much, you can put it over a gentle heat to remelt it, being careful not to cook it further.

-To make the spun sugar, secure a wooden spoon to a counter top with the handle hanging off the edge of the counter. Masking tape is a good way to do this. Its also a good idea to put a couple of pieces of parchment or papertowels on the floor, as this can get a bit messy.

-Warm the sugar so its fluid. Dip a fork in the fluid caramel and swing it with a brisk movement over the top of the wooden spoon’s handle. Thin threads of sugar should form over the handle. Gather up these threads and wrap them around the base of your tower to create a bed for it, or wrap them around the tower as in the photograph.


The highlight of an otherwise gloomy, rainy Sunday, was the last class of the Spring 09 Season. The heat of the ovens warmed us all as we worked on cupcake masterpieces! Can’t wait to start dreaming up the new fall projects…

Here is the basic buttercream recipe used in class…

7 fluid ounces egg whites
14 ounces sugar
1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter

Combine sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat over a double boiler, stirring constantly until very hot to the touch and all sugar has dissolved.

-Put bowl on the mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip whites until stiff peaks have formed.

-Change to the paddle and add butter, in small pieces, waiting for one to beat in before adding the other. Once all butter is added, beat an extra 10 minutes for smoothness.

** You can flavor this anyway you like using:
citrus curd
reduced fruit purees
or anything you can think of!


One of the bigger surprises in my life… I love teaching. Its a great companion to the more solitary life of cakes. I pack a lot into my classes, and students leave with a feeling of satisfaction, as much info as they can absorb while measuring and mixing, and lots of dessert!

So I though I’d share the highlight dessert from this past weekends Decadent Chocolate Dessert class. While not everyone made these chocolate eclairs, EVERYONE asked for one!

Chocolate Eclairs

Pate a Choux
This dough is a basic cream puff dough. A stand mixer makes easy work of it.

1 Cup Water
3 oz butter
1/4t salt
5 ounces flour
5 large eggs

-preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Combine water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
-At the boil, remove from the heat and add all the flour, stirring to combine completely. Put the pot back over medium heat, and cook this paste until it leaves the sides of the pan, and then just a little longer to dry it out. (the more you dry it out, the more egg you can get into it and the better the puffs!)
-Transfer the paste to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on medium speed to cool the paste slightly.
-Add the eggs, one at a time mixing each until fully combined. Check your dough before adding the last egg… depending on the humidity of the day, you may not need it. You’re looking for the past to be thick enough to stick to your finger, and thin enough to pipe out.
-Place a 1/2 piping tip in the bottom of a piping bag, or alternately, cut a 1/2″ hole in the bag. Transfer the dough to the bag and pipe out batons about 3″ long, leaving at least one inch between them on all sides. (they are going to at least double in size!)
-Coat them gently with a thinned egg wash – one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.
-Bake them at 425 for 10 minutes or until they’ve puffed up. Then turn the oven down to 350 to dry them out well.

Chocolate Cream
Prepare the cream filling while the puffs are baking…

2 cups whole milk
2 ounces cornstarch
5 ounces sugar
1 egg
4 yolks
3 ounces butter
1 tablespoon best quality vanilla
5 ounces bitter sweet chocolate
3 ounces boiling water

-Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of cold milk. Add eggs to cornstarch mixture
-Combine the rest of the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and drizzle hot milk mixture into the egg/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. As the eggs become more comfortable with the hot temperature, you can add the milk more quickly. Pour this back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk until the cream comes together. It will take a while, but once it starts, it will move quickly. Keep stirring until the cream has become thick. Cook, without boiling, until you see one or two bubbles pop from the cream, to make sure you’ve cooked out the chalky texture of the cornstarch.
-Pour the boiling water over the chopped chocolate to melt it. Stir the chocolate, butter and vanilla into the hot cream, then transfer this mixture to an ice bath, or the refrigerator to cool.

Chocolate Glaze

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 oz unsalted butter
2 oz light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

-Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave at 50% power, stopping to stir often.
-stir in corn syrup and vanilla


-Place a 1/4 inch piping tip in the bottom of a piping bag. Fill bag with cooled chocolate cream.
-With the tip, poke a hole in one end of a cream puff. Squeeze bag gently to fill puff – when filled, cream will start oozing out of the entry hole.
-Dip the top of the filled puff into glaze, set aside to firm.
-Enjoy immediately, or keep filled eclairs in the refrigerator for one day.