29 February 2012

Madagascar Cocoa Scones

My friend Mel is a foodie and Francophile from way back.  He is also a huge supporter of our Boulevard Market.  He supports not just as a customer, but gives ideas, notes from foods he's tried and loves, shares tasty treats he's come across and experiences/knowledge.  We met at Jardin de Luxembourg while we all visited Paris and shared a lovely lunch near the Sorbonne.  Mel is no longer our customer, he is our friend.

Several months ago, Mel brought me a bag of cocoa powder that was apparently lurking around his cabinets.  It was a special type from Madagascar.  More reddish than brown in color, an earthy deep chocolate aroma drifted up as I opened the bag.

I wanted to make chocolate scones.  I didn't want Nutella on them, or chocolate drizzle, just PLAIN, rich, deep chocolate flavor in a crusty, moist, bready wedge.  Bingo!  I used a recipe from the cookbook "Baked Explorations" that I picked up several months ago, with a few minor adjustments because I was out of heavy cream. (strange but true)  I did press half the batch with Nestle Butterscotch morsels for the rest of the family and to avoid eating the entire batch myself!

2 cups flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (Valrhona would work nicely too)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter, cold
1 egg
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Nutella (warm in microwave 15 seconds)
Butterscotch chips
Egg wash and raw sugar
Chopped nuts

(I used sour cream and milk in replacement of 1/2 cup heavy cream...worked great, but if you've got the cream, use it!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Combine egg, sour cream, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl and stir until completely combined.

Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into mixture until mixture resembles crumbs.  Add liquids and use a fork to bring mixture together, but be careful not to over mix.  Pat into an 8 inch circle and cut into wedges.  

Brush each wedge with a bit of beaten egg and a sprinkle of raw sugar, or press butterscotch chips into, or leave plain and drizzle with nutella after baking.  Place on a butter baking sheet and bake 18-20 minutes.

The morning after making these scones was like a winter wonderland!  I had to grab a photo with the trees covered in a heavy blanket of snow.  It was beautiful! 


19 February 2012

Choosing a family room paint color in 45 minutes...

A few weeks ago I mentioned our ongoing home improvement updates in "Here we go AGAIN".  In some rare feat, John got the drywall/painter to begin in 2 weeks...only no one really told me until the night prior to arrival.  Hmmm.

So Wednesday was super fun choosing a family room color between working at The Market and my evening cooking class.  Not to mention all the furniture is under plastic.  I'm happy to say I DID IT!  45 minutes, while placing a French cheese pre-order, gathering materials for the cooking class and dealing with Pierre's stranger-in-my-house anxiety. 

I brought home 2 books bulging with Benjamin Moore's entire color collection.   I was really leaning toward a red paint again, as the previous color was "Merlot", and I have loved it for 3 years.  I had a clear red (think tomato-red) in mind.  John also suggested a shade of orange, possibly a dark terracotta (what strange alien has taken possession of this man?) that a cousin has in her kitchen area.

Well, we were both wrong.  I didn't want to purchase new furniture for this room, so I needed to work with the upholstery which has an olive-green tone to the browns.  Most of the oranges were running to corals or brick and the clear reds were a touch too modern for the overall look of the room.  So I went with a color called "Glazed Pear 1092".

It's a color similar to a bosc pear with a nice caramel tone.  It matched well with the couch and furniture, looked great with pure white trim and melded well with the olive green of the living room, as there is a french door that separates them.

Here are a couple shots I took with and without flash at 5pm and 8pm:

I think this piece of artwork needs an olive green background?

We are all shocked at how much we love the color!  Thinking about some roman shades for the windows, even though I like them bare, it might add a little pizazz.  Still have a bit of organizing and decorating to do....I'm avoiding the computer cord cluster. 

14 February 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes; Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I wanted to make a little something special for Valentines Day this year.  We don't really celebrate this day too much.  I have a really romantic husband.  He buys me flowers every Saturday during the Farmers Market season, hauls me to a coffee shop in the dead of winter, puts his new contacts in (FINALLY) and tells me I still look great...no red roses can beat that.

That being said, John loves chocolate.  Expensive, homemade, cheap, imported, milk, dark....it makes absolutely no difference, he loves it.  So I decided to make him red velvet cupcakes.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I have never made red velvet cake.  It's so trendy these days, but the flavor never got me too excited.  But this is not about me :)  I upped the chocolate factor and got great results!

I used a combination of recipes for the cake itself, but the absolute best part of these cakes is the frosting.  Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream  Can I get an "OMG" ?!  This frosting defines romance, you will just want to lick it off the cake.   A bit messy, a bit of work, but worth every dang minute.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES (PS the thought of all that food coloring grossed me out, so I omitted it; now they are chocolate velvet cupcakes)

2 1/2 cups flour
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder (dutched)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, oil and blend until creamy, add eggs one at a time mixing until smooth.  Add vanilla and food coloring.  With your mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk until well combined and smooth.  Fill baking cups and bake about 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Be careful not to overbake.


2 large egg whites
5 Tablespoons sugar
7 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
7 Tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cube butter and cream cheese in tablespoon increments.
In a COLD double boiler, combine sugar and egg whites.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches 140 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and quickly begin whipping using a whisk attachment on your mixer on high speed.  Add  a cube of butter and allow to fully incorporate before adding the next, continue with cream cheese.  Add vanilla last.  Your buttercream will go through a series of looking curdled or separated, just keep going, it will all come together.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes, or spread with a knife.  DEVOUR!

Happy Valentines Day!  

11 February 2012

Being Innkeepers...our Inn On Evans

Nearly 3 years ago to the day, John and I decided to become Innkeepers.  It wasn't a decision made lightly, it was in the 5 year plan.  A faulty water heater on the 2nd floor of The Market that burst a pipe and allowed thousands of gallons of water to flow overnight bumped up our timeline.  That being said, I've never regretted our decision.  We've met some very interesting folks, become masters of accommodation and really only had one "problem" that couldn't be resolved.  I have an appreciation of urban apartments and historic districts, so I never expect those places to be perfect.  Much like our place, they have their quirks.  I'm not going to make it sound like all roses and sunshine....it can be really hard work to find the right staff for cleaning, managing reservations, billing etc.  but the joy that comes from being a part of someone's wedding, family holidays and more is wonderful!     

Our upper floor consists of 3 studio apartments that we furnished and transitioned  for overnight guests.  We modeled these around apartments we've stayed in in Europe (but with cable, Wi-Fi and air :))  Guests are given the security code for the main entrance, a free parking spot and my cell number or they stop into The Market for a quick check-in.  There is no "front desk" but extra "everything you may need" is stashed in linen closets in each apartment. 

Our Inn is unique for extended stays as we kept all of the kitchens intact.  You can scramble a few local eggs and stash beverages in the fridge!  You can drink your coffee/tea from a real mug and eat with real silverware!  All at your cafe table overlooking our small, charming city! 

New this year is a bevy of services which is fun!  Need a Champagne candlelight dinner with a private chef?  Spa services?  Fresh flowers?  A decorated room for a birthday/anniversary/wedding party?  Private wine tasting or cooking class?  We can do all that and more!  Our great staff members at The Market are wearing a couple hats now and it's really exciting!

Here's a few photos taken at last week's Open House;

The Inn On Evans is a bit unusual as you are more independent versus a full service hotel.  Being located in a historic downtown does give you the advantage of walking to the local bakery, coffee shop, restaurants as they are all located within a couple blocks.  Tecumseh has also installed an outdoor Art Trail which is very cool.  We like this when traveling.  It gives us a sense of community versus off the beaten path locations.

Everyday we learn more about keeping an Inn and making it more enjoyable for our guests.  We try to make it comfortable and relaxing, a place that we'd like to stay.  Come stay with us! 

You can find more information and photos at www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=3275742734433&id=1293391030&ref=notif&notif_t=feed_comment#!/pages/Inn-on-Evans/102696809562 

01 February 2012

Strawberry Conserves in Fruit Panzanella

During the spring/summer months, I hosted a series of food preserving classes at The Boulevard Market.  We cranked out all manner of food and fun.  One such recipe for me was Strawberry Conserves.

Not a jam or preserve, but more of a syrup with barely cooked fresh strawberries to be kept in your refrigerator.  Interesting concept that worked beautifully (it's now January and still perfect!) and is handy to have hiding in the fridge.  I've not tried making a conserve with other fruits, but it's now on my list for summer 2012.

Fresh fruit is not super great right now (excluding citrus) so we did with what we had.  A "fruit panzanella" if you will.... 

Strawberry Conserves

·         4 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled, halved
·         3/4 cup superfine sugar
·         Peel (with white pith) of 1/2 lemon

·         Combine all ingredients in a heavy, wide pot. Cover; let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. (The berries will ooze and sugar will dissolve.)
·         Bring strawberry mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring gently, until strawberries are just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries to 1 pint jar. Continue simmering liquid until it thickens into a syrupy consistency, 1-2 minutes. Discard lemon peel and pour syrup over strawberries; seal and let cool to room temperature. Chill for up to 1 month.

SO, I extended the 1 month deadline by 7 months....(whoops) still great!

Over a year ago, we made "dessert croutons".  Cubes of artisan, crusty bread, tossed with a bit of melted butter and sugar, then baked.  We find we love them tossed with fresh fruit for a quick dessert without so much work with crusts and the like. 

Dessert Croutons

3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups cubed Ciabatta or Baguette bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cube bread into 1 inch cubes.  Melt butter and stir in sugar.  Drizzle over bread cubes and toss until bread cubes are evenly covered.  Bake on foil for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown and crunchy.

I threw a few croutons into some pretty dessert bowls, drizzled with the Strawberry Conserves and topped with a bit of whipped cream.  So good and so easy for a Tuesday evening in January.

The Boulevard Market's Preserving classes will start up again in April 2012.  You can find more information and dates under the "Cooking Classes & Events" tab at the top of the page.