There are a number of reasons why food bloggers might plan a get together.

Perhaps it’s to finally meet long-time fellow food blogger friends in person.

Many times we get together for a worthy cause.

Since we love what we do, we are always looking for ways to learn and improve our craft; we’ll get together for that.

However, regardless of the circumstance that might bring us together there is one thing you can be certain of… rarely does one show up empty-handed.

Those who know me, know that I usually show up with a batch or two of french macarons. And, anyone who knows Rachael of La Fuji Mama knows without a doubt that she will most likely show up with a delicious batch of Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee.

Which, while we are on the subject I really think should be renamed to “Fuji Nana’s Dangerous Chocolate Almond Toffee” because:

a)You run the risk of not being able to control yourself once you have possession of said toffee.

b)You can end up with a chocolate dipped chin or a chocolate dipped lens.

c)You might turn your head at the bowl of oatmeal you had planned on having for breakfast, and have this instead.

So consider yourself warned…

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Toffee
inspired from Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee

1 cup roasted unsalted hazelnuts
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts

1. Line a baking sheet with foil or a Silpat, spinkle the hazelnuts in a single layer over the over baking sheet to cover an area of approx 9 X 12; set aside.

2. In a heavy saucepan or copper pan combine butter, sugar and salt. Cook over high heat stirring constantly until the candy reaches 300 degrees F (Hard Crack stage) this step takes between 5 – 7 minutes. Remove for heat, stir in hazelnut liqueur, and quickly pour candy over the hazelnuts; allow to cool completely.

3. Melt chocolate in the microwave oven in intervals of 40 seconds at 50% power and stirring inbetween until chocolate is soft enough to spread. Spread chocolate mixture over cooled toffee and sprinkle with your favorite ground nut. Allow chocolate to cool completely before breaking toffee into bite-size pieces.

Here’s a batch of Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee I made a couple of weeks ago. Mmm Mmm Mmm…

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July 2010 – Daring Bakers’ Challenge

This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Sunita of Sunita’s World – Live and Food. The challenge she chose for us was a Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake inspired from this recipe from Taste of Home.

Chocolate Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake
The components of this challenge consisted of:

The challenge was a bit time consuming but totally worth it, the cake was fabulous. I followed Sunita’s recipes as outlined below. The only thing I changed up a bit was the filling, I decided to add mini chocolate chips to the filling so it would provide a little crunch factor and contrast the creamy smoothness of the ice cream and the light and fluffiness of the cake.

Chocolate Swiss Roll
6 medium sized eggs
1 C / 225 gms caster sugar /8 oz+ extra for rolling
6 tbsp/ 45gms/ a pinch over 1.5 oz of all purpose (plain) flour + 5 tblsp/40gm /a pinch under 1.5 oz of natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted together
2 tbsp /30ml / 1 fl oz of boiling water
a little oil for brushing the pans

2C / 500 mls/ 16 fl oz of whipping cream
1 vanilla pod, cut into small pieces of about 1/2 cm (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
5 tblsp / 70gms/2.5oz of caster sugar
(I added 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips to the filling)

Preheat the oven at 200 deg C /400 deg F approximately. Brush the baking pans ( 11 inches by 9 inches ) with a little oil and line with greaseproof baking paper. If you have just one pan, bake one cake and then let the pan cool completely before using it for the next cake.

In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat till very thick; when the beaters are lifted, it should leave a trail on the surface for at least 10 seconds.

Add the flour mixture, in three batches and fold in gently with a spatula. Fold in the water.

Divide the mixture among the two baking pans and spread it out evenly, into the corners of the pans.

Place a pan in the center of the pre heated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the center is springy to the touch.

Spread a kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle a little caster sugar over it. Turn the cake on to the towel and peel away the baking paper. Trim any crisp edges.

Starting from one of the shorter sides, start to make a roll with the towel going inside. Cool the wrapped roll on a rack, seam side down. Repeat the same for the next cake as well.

Grind together the vanilla pieces and sugar in a food processor till nicely mixed together. If you are using vanilla extract, just grind the sugar on its own and then add the sugar and extract to the cream.

In a large bowl, add the cream and vanilla-sugar mixture and beat till very thick. Divide the cream mixture between the completely cooled cakes.

Chocolate Swiss Rolls filled with Vanilla Chocolate Chip Whipped Cream
Open the rolls and spread the cream mixture, making sure it does not go right to the edges (a border of 1/2 an inch should be fine).

Roll the cakes up again, this time without the towel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge till needed, seam side down.

Chocolate Swiss Rolls

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, minced or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Grind together the sugar and vanilla in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, add the cream and vanilla –sugar mixture and whisk lightly till everything is mixed together. If you are using the vanilla extract, grind the sugar on its own and then and the sugar along with the vanilla extract to the cream.

Pour into a freezer friendly container and freeze till firm around the edges. Remove from the freezer, beat till smooth and return to the freezer. Do this 3-4 times and then set completely.

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup caster sugar
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and water.

Place the pan over heat, and stir constantly, till it begins to thicken and is smooth (for about 2 minutes).

Remove from heat and mix in the butter and vanilla. Keep aside to cool .

Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup caster sugar
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Grind together the sugar and the cocoa powder in a food processor .
In a saucepan, add all the ingredients and whisk lightly.
Place the pan over heat and keep stirring till it begins to bubble around the edges.

To Assemble
Cut the Swiss rolls into 20 equal slices (approximately 2 cms each).

Cover the bottom and sides of the bowl in which you are going to set the dessert with cling film/plastic wrap.

Arrange two slices at the bottom of the pan, with their seam sides facing each other. Arrange the Swiss roll slices up the bowl, with the seam sides facing away from the bottom, to cover the sides of the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm (at least 30 minutes).

Chocolate Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake
Soften the vanilla ice cream. Take the bowl out of the freezer, remove the cling film cover and add the ice cream on top of the cake slices. Spread it out to cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till firm (at least 1 hour)

Chocolate Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake
Add the fudge sauce over the vanilla ice cream, cover and freeze till firm. (at least an hour)

Soften the chocolate ice cream and spread it over the fudge sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4-5 hours till completely set.

Remove the plastic cover, and place the serving plate on top of the bowl. Turn it upside down and remove the bowl and the plastic lining. If the bowl does not come away easily, wipe the outsides of the bowl with a kitchen towel dampened with hot water. The bowl will come away easily.

Keep the cake out of the freezer for at least 10 minutes before slicing, depending on how hot your region is. Slice with a sharp
knife, dipped in hot water.

Chocolate Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

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I have to say I’m still not quite comfortable working with yeast, I find it a bit intimidating… I’m not sure why.

This weekend however, feeling inspired from my recent trip to Mexico, I was determined to tackle my fear of yeast and make some Mexican sweet bread for you. I chose “Conchas” or Shells.

I also wanted to share with you something else, my mom sent me home with a few of her kitchen treasures from Mexico, here’s treasure number one:

Kitchen Treasures
Have you ever seen one of these before? Doesn’t it look like it just came out of the “Sales Resistance” episode of “I Love Lucy”? :)

Mexican Shells – Conchas

Makes 12 large or 24 small rolls

30 g yeast
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 3/4 cups (600) g flour
1/4 cup (50 g) shortening
1/2 cup (100 g) butter
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup warm water
7 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place yeast and 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar in the warm water, stir to combine and let it rest until it blooms. Once the yeast has bloomed, combine it with 150 g of flour then kneed until a dough has form. Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook combine the dough, with the remaining ingredients, beat on medium-hight speed for 5-7 minutes until well combined.

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
Cover stand mixer with a plastic bag and let dough rest for 4-6 hours until dough has doubled in size. Once dough has rested you can form dough balls or place dough in refrigerator overnight.

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, (dough will be slightly sticky) form balls and place over 2 lined cookie sheets making sure to leave room between each one. Let the dough rest again until they have grown and have soften.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Shell Topping

3/4 cup (100) g flour
1/2 cup (100) g granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) Shortening
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 egg yolks

Blend ingredients with a pastry blender until it forms a paste.

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
Roll out rounds into a “tortilla”, make slight cuts with a knife to form shells. Place over the dough balls. Brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
Place cookie sheets on lower rack and bake until a base has formed, transfer to 1 rack higher than the center of the oven until they have started to brown. Bake for 15-20 minutes

Chocolate Shells - Conchas de Chocolate
I couldn’t help not taking a couple of bites out of one as they came out of the oven…

Chocolate Mexican Shells - Conchas

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while you might remember that last February I flew to New York on behalf of Foodbuzz and Electrolux to participate in Kelly Rippa’s Cake-off for a cause. With the help of the Cake Boss – Buddy Valastro, a group of selected Foodbuzz Featured Publishers including myself decorated 5 beautiful cakes and asked you to vote on them in an effort to help raise awareness and funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF).

Well, Kelly Rippa has dreamed up a new, fun, delicious, and oh so appropriate summer dessert to be the focus of this summers’ campaign.

A few weeks ago Foodbuzz helped Electrolux and Kelly Rippa raise money for the OCRF by sending two Foodbuzz Featured Publishers and their children to New York to make banana splits.

Serendipity 3
This time Kelly reached out to the Emperor of Ice cream Stephen Bruce, founder of the famed Serendipity 3 in New York City (basically an Ice Cream lover’s paridise) for guidance.

Here is a tiny sampling of Serendipity 3’s handy-work my family enjoyed when we visited Las Vegas last December, and of course the aftermath…

Serendipity 3 Goods
But I digress… Foodbuzz being so very generous is offering it’s Featured Publishers an opportunity to take over it’s Top 9 page for 1 day by posting a Banana Split themed post; in addition to donating $50 towards the OCRF for every Featured Publisher Banana Split themed post they receive.

And, just like with last winter’s Cake-off for a cause you have the opportunity to help raise funds as well by creating your own virtual banana split on

I now give you my version of the perfect banana split…

Monochrome Banana Split Ingredients
Monochrome Banana Split
Monochrome Banana Split

1 scoop dark chocolate ice cream
1 scoop peanut butter brittle ice cream
1 scoop vanilla bean ice cream
1 medium banana
2 tablespoons hot fudge sauce
2 tablespoons hot peanut butter sauce
whipped cream
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

Slice the banana lengthwise.

Place the scoops of ice cream between the two banana slices drizzle with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce.

Top ice cream scoops with whipped cream, drizzle more peanut butter sauce and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Note: I would have loved to make my own ice cream for this post. However, since I had been out of town on vacation I didn’t get a chance to and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to participate in the challenge for this very special cause.

Peanut Butter Sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons blue agave sweetener

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, place over low heat and stir to combine. Remove from heat when mixture is smooth and creamy.

Mini Monochrome Banana Split
Effects of Serendipity 3
We had an opportunity to enjoy only a couple of Serendipity 3’s amazing desserts while we were in Las Vegas this past December. Next time I go back I’m ordering the Banana Split (Coward’s Portion).

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Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

This past weekend my husband and I flew to Mexico to attend my Aunts 90th birthday.

Unfortunately the boys weren’t able to join us on this trip. I did however, make sure I left a little piece of me with them before I left.

To kickoff the birthday festivities my uncle celebrated mass in her honor.

Mom, Aunt, Uncle

A trio of young whippersnappers.

Jose and I with my Aunt

After mass we all headed over to the potluck party. Daughters and daughters-in-law each contributed their “specialty dish”. Everything was fantastic since they are all amazing cooks. It must run in the family. πŸ˜‰

Leftovers were equally divided so everyone got to take home a little taste of everything.

Leftover distribution

She celebrated this very special day in company of siblings, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends.

Some of us had longer flights than others…

Cindy & I
Ana Silvia & I

During the short visit I was also able to spend time with some of my closest friends from Elementary, Jr. High, & High school.

Friends since elementary
High School buds...

We had a great time, but we are glad to be back with the boys!

Coffee Ice Cream

Coffee Ice Cream

adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely round coffee
2 oz chocolate covered espresso beans, whole or chopped

In a medium saucepan warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Once the milk is warm remove from the stove, cover, and let it steep at room temperature for at least 1-2 hours. The longer you let it steep the more intense the coffee flavor will be.

Place the saucepan back on the stove and reheat. In a large bowl pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream, and place a large strainer on top. Slowly pour about half of the warm milk in a thin stream into the egg yolks while whisking constantly to warm the egg yolks. Now return the egg yolks back into the sauce pan.

Over medium heat stir the ice cream base with a wooden spoon making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan while you stir until the ice cream base thickens and coats the back side of the wooden spoon.

Pour ice cream base through the strainer and stir it into the heavy cream. With the wooden spoon press on the coffee beans held in the strainer to extract as much of the coffee flavor as possible. The coffee beans can be thrown away at this point.

Add vanilla extract and ground instant coffee, stir well to combine. Cool over an ice bath then finish chilling the ice cream base in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Pour ice cream base into your ice cream maker and follow your manufacturer’s instructions. About 5 minutes before the ice cream is done churning add in your whole or chopped chocolate covered espresso beans. Pour ice cream into a sealable plastic container and place in the freezer until throughly frozen.

Coffee Ice Cream Base
Coffee Ice Cream
Coffee Ice Cream