Thursday, May 27, 2010


DSCN0320 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Being a graduate of Peter Kump's Baking School, now The Institute of Culinary Education, definitely gave me an advantage in this month's challenge.

It was about a year ago that I had last made this recipe, still a new pastry student, in my still crisp uniform with my shiny new tools.

DSCN0317 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Croquembouche is the traditional wedding cake in France, a fact that I found somewhat facinating.  It was interesting to imagine how couples might personalize their own croquembouche to reflect their relationship.

Somehow, the creative possibilities seem a bit more limited than the extraordinary options available for wedding cakes in America.

But upon making this complicated dessert, I quickly realized achieving a visually appealing and delicious tasting croquembouche required much patience, perfection and attention to detail.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

DSC_0278 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

There is something so welcoming and exciting about seeing petite pints of strawberries and long, bright red stalks of rhubarb appear at the farmer's market.

So long blustery winter days - summer is, at long last, on the horizon.

DSC_0201 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

But we are not there - not just yet.  While rhubarb is at its peak, local strawberries are just making their first appearance.  They have not yet reached the point where the tiny, red fruit is so packed with juice that it sends a trickle of red liquid from the corner of your mouth.

Despite the strawberries not being at quite this level of ripeness, combined with rhubarb and macerated in just a bit of sugar, they do make for a delectable filling for a crisp.

Sometimes, I crave just the filling of a pie, without the work of a pie crust.  Crisps make a wonderful option in this case - the topping is still crunchy and slightly sweet and the nuttiness provides another layer of flavor for my tongue to explore.

As we here in NYC are still watching our vegetables and fruit transition into the summer crop, I decided to incorporate hazelnuts into the crisp mixture.  The warm, deep flavor of this nut, combined with almonds and the bright flavors of rhubarb and strawberry, provided a dessert that reflects this transition.

DSC_0208 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

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DSC_0238 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Instead of making the crisp as one dish, I decided to create individual portions.

I filled my cute little serving dishes to the brim with the fruit filling and carefully balanced a generous covering of the crisp on top.

DSC_0247 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

They emerged from the oven with a golden hue, filling the air with their sweet, homey smell.

Like most warm, fruit desserts, these beauties seemed to beckon for the accompaniment of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0285 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0287 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

The result was exactly what I hoped to create.  While the addition of the hazelnut would not likely be desirable in the heat of summer, it provided a depth of flavor perfect for the spring days of May.

I suspect I will be revisiting this crisp recipe over and over again as more fruit graces the stands at the farmer's market and the current offerings become riper and sweeter with each passing week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Scones


I slept fitfully Sunday night, never more than 20 minutes passed between my eyes shutting peacefully and being startled awake by some thought springing them back open.

As of recently, I have a lot on my mind.  I feel as though I am desperately trying to stay motivated, trying to stay positive, trying to hold all the pieces together.

It's hard work.  It's exhausting.  And I am not entirely sure I am succeeding at my efforts.

By 5:30 AM, I gave up on sleep all together.  My mind, along with my heart, would not stop racing.  So, I shuffled quietly into the living room, poured a steaming cup of coffee and sunk into the soft, leather of the couch with a new book in tow.

The world outside my window was dewy and silent.  Too early even for the cab drivers to fill the air with their endless honking.

As I sat there, clutching my knees to my chest, reading as the sun began to stream through the dark, wooden blinds, I decided a crispy, hot scone would pair quite lovely with my coffee.

And I figured if I incorporated chocolate chips, Mike might take a few extra lingering moments to enjoy a rare, hot breakfast before the beginnings of another long week.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Flour Tortillas

DSC_0347 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Making my own tortillas was not something that ever registered as a possibility or, for that matter, a necessity.

While I have played extensively with the components of fajitas or soft tacos over the past couple years, the tortillas were always an afterthought. The only component shoved into my grocery basket, in it's prepackaged plastic, without any care or concern.

But, somehow, when Cinqo de Mayo rolled around earlier this month, I was craving a meaty, juicy fajita wrapped in the best tortilla I had never made.

My work schedule left me helplessly craving this creation through long, endless shifts. So, it took me a few extra days, but I finally ventured into my kitchen, ready to take on a task bigger than just filling my coffee mug.

Armed with the most basic of ingredients - flour, salt, butter and hot water - and a visual inspiration by Butter + Cream, I was ready to make my own tortillas for the first time in my entire life.

DSC_0322 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0331 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

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DSC_0344 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

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DSC_0347 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

The oh-so-simple ingredients and preparation yielded the homiest, flavorful tortilla I have ever tasted. Hot off the griddle and amazingly delicious, even before any other ingredients were neatly piled in the middle.

I wrapped the hot tortillas in a warm cloth, packaged up the other additions and ventured to midtown to share a belated Cinqo de Mayo picnic lunch with Mike, who instantly fell in love with the newest addition to my recipes.

Before the meal was even close to complete, we were already discussing the unseen benefits of making your own tortillas - ability to control size and thickness - and I was dreaming of other flavor combinations for the future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

DSC_0160 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

I wanted to make something extra special for my Mummy this year for Mother's Day.

But it needed to be sturdy enough to ship from my tiny Manhattan apartment to my parent's beautiful home nestled snugly between the sky, the mountains and the green pasture where the cows graze lazily throughout the day.

Lemon flavored desserts are usually on my mind around Mother's Day and, while I had lots of dessert ideas using lemon, nothing was really inspiring me.

And then, flipping through my endless, but never complete, collection of cookbooks, I discovered this recipe.

The funny thing is, my mother could take or leave chocolate.  It just isn't something she craves.

But, when you create the deadly combination of chocolate and peanut butter?  Well, that's a whole different story.

For the woman who loves Reese's Peanut Butter cups so much she used to steal them from her own children's Halloween candy stash (don't lie Mum, I forgive you), I couldn't imagine a better treat for Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mother's Hands

DSCN1659 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always hated her hands. She has a seemingly endless supply of adjectives used to justify why she doesn't like them.

But I love her hands - all hands for that matter. Of all the places on our bodies that can tell the story of our lives, I think hands are the most reflective.

Watching her hands make quick work of a pie crust, her life's work and love is reflected in the small bones and veins flexing and relaxing in a familiar, peaceful rhythm.

The same hands that held me as a baby and cooly took my temperature when I was sick.

The hands that scolded me when I was wrong and comforted me when I was sad.

The hands that taught me to bake long before I could read or understand a recipe.

The hands that encouraged me the night before I moved to New York, as I cried on the couch and asked if I was making a mistake.

The hands I see when I peer down at my own hands, happily covered in a light dusting of flour.

My mother's hands are not perfect and I suspect that is why she does not like them. They show a life of hard work, a few disappointments and an enormous amount of love.

But they reflect everything she taught me about life.

It's not easy. But the simple task of providing nourishment and love to your family is by far the most important and most treasured part of life.

Her hands helped shape and mold me into the woman I am today and will become in the future.

Happy Mother's Day Mummy. Thank you so much for everything. I love you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chili Lime Tequila Popcorn

DSC_0090 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

As you might remember, I have a bit of a gripe with stadium food.

I'm not talking about Citi Field, where I could live on Box Frites with the super-addictive bacon sauce.  Although my thighs might protest my diet change.

And I'm not talking about my beloved Fenway Park, where a Fenway Frank somehow tastes gourmet among the atmosphere, game and fans.

I'm talking about just about every other stadium.  The lines.  The prices.  The soggy, flavorless reward.

Luckily, most stadiums will now allow you to bring in a "modest" amount of food.

Here inlies the problem: what is considered a "modest" amount of food?  For 2 people?  What if I'm meeting more people and bringing them food?  Is that then considered an immodest amount of food for one person to bring into the stadium?

Yes, I think/worry about such things.

Yes, my hands begin sweating when I have to hand my bag over to be checked before entering the stadium.

No, I'm not a goody-two shoes.  Why do you ask?

But - once you taste this popcorn, I guarantee the thought of some security guard confiscating this treat might also push you to the edge of hysterics.

After making the popcorn, willing my hand away from eating it all before the game, fitting it securely in the bottom of my Kate Spade (known as just "Kate" around these parts), I was worried 4 quarts of popcorn might be excessive for 2 people.

Is it?  I don't know.

When something tastes this good, it can't be that bad for you.  At least, that's what Mike and I told ourselves as we consumed this popcorn by the fist-full.

Buttery.  Spicy.  Zippy.  Boozy.

Popcorn that begs for a good game and a big margarita.

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