January Birthdays – Hot Chocolate Bar

Happy New Year Friends,

We were inspired to choose hot chocolate as our theme for this month after watching the PBS show, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Episode 3: Paris. Among many delights from football-sized croissants to succulent roast chickens, was a jaunt at the Les Deux Magots for their legendary hot chocolate. After seeing Phil experience it, I dare you not to instantly place the dream of drinking hot chocolate there at the top of your culinary bucket list. It looks like the best chocolate you’ve ever had in luscious liquid form. Oh, yeah!!!

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Here’s the selection:

  • Hot Chocolate on a Stick
  • Vanilla Marshmallows
  • Hot Chocolate Cookie Cups
  • White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies

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Hot Chocolate on a Stick. Totally indulgent (and portable) melted Belgian chocolate (from Trader Joes) that you may eat directly off the stick (highly recommended) or dissolve in hot milk; either way, you won’t be disappointed! A couple tips: We used silicone ice cube tray molds which worked extremely well. You have to work fast with piping the mixture into them, as the mixture behaves much like fudge, solidifying immediately. Also, the sheen on the chocolate is beautiful but takes on fingerprints easily, so try your best to work them out without touching them (wish I could provide more on that, but I ever so inelegantly barely wrangled those suckers out).

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Vanilla Marshmallows. Puffy and delicious, easy to make, and a great idea for gifts! This is the first time we used gelatin in one of our treats; it had a disconcerting smell but worked beautifully. The mixture transforms while it is whisked from thin and clear with a vanilla tint to voluminous and bright white; I just love seeing ingredients transform – for me, it’s one of the best things about baking! After pouring the mixture into a baking dish sprinkled with powdered sugar and cornstarch and allowed to set, it can be cut. A good tip is to use kitchen shears to separate into pieces; they give a more professional touch than you can achieve with the average knife.

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Hot Chocolate Cookie Cups. Not only are these adorable, but they are truly delicious! They are more than the sum of their parts; the other thing that I love to see when baking – simple ingredients coming together into something beautiful and delicious J After baking sugar cookie dough in mini muffin tins, you fill them with chocolate ganache mixed with hot chocolate mix, and top with a marshmallow. The recipe, by the Gunny Sack, called for pretzel “handles” attached with melted white chocolate so they resemble mugs of hot chocolate. They were so cute, and really, really good!

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White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies. Yum! Soft, with a crunch and appropriately minty, the perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate, we have found this cookie to be everything a cookie should be. The special texture is due to the addition of an extra egg yolk and a couple teaspoons of cornstarch. And, the white chocolate chips add the right amount of creaminess🙂

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May this year be one of many blessings for you!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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December Birthdays – Cardinals & Faux Bois

Dear Friends,

Hope this post finds you well! We had so much fun putting together this winter forest themed dessert table with bright, cheerful cardinals, gleaming white snow, and kraft-colored birch trees. The faux bois and cardinal red inspired our treats:

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Here’s what we made:

  • Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake with Kahlua Whipped Cream and Chocolate Shards
  • Kouigh Amann
  • Raspberry Shortbread Bars
  • Iced Nutmeg Logs

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Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake. Moist, velvety, and sweet, this cheesecake beckons you to swim in its decadence🙂 Topped with thick whipped cream flavored with Kahlua to accent the coffee flavor in the cake, we added chocolate shards made from melted semi-sweet chocolate distributed thinly on waxed paper and allowed to dry. They’re actually harder to make than you think! The chocolate has to be very, very thin to achieve the jagged artistic element that you find on high-end treats. We’ll have to keep on practicing!

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Kouigh Amann. Trendy and delicious, these treats hail from Brittany and feature flaky layers interspersed with plenty of butter and sugar. They’re pronounced: “quee ahman” and they are so good! I had the opportunity to learn how to make these laminated treats during my Croissant Class in San Francisco this past August and to taste an official one at b. Patisserie, the premier place to do so before I did.

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Raspberry Shortbread Bars. Soft and buttery, with lots of crumbs, we made a homemade lightly-sweetened raspberry pie filling for the center of these bars. The pie filling, happily excluding preservatives and other additives, included a ton of raspberries, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch and only took about 15 minutes to cook. Impossible to eat just one, these beautiful treats have become a permanent part of repertoire.

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Iced Nutmeg Logs. We thought these treats would be lovely given the wood element in the packaging! They feature rum extract and freshly grated nutmeg, which also flavor the icing. These are THE solution to your holiday nutmeg fix🙂

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Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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November Birthdays – Vintage Floral Pie Bar

Dear Friends,

We decided to do a Pie Bar for this month’s treats after perusing countless fun ideas on Pinterest! In addition to fresh-from-the-orchard apples and pie crust leaf accents, we used a lovely seasonal floral paper from Rifle Paper Company (we love them!) for the decorations/packaging.

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Here’s the menu:

  • Apple Cranberry Pie with Pecan Shortbread Crust
  • Snickerdoodle Pie with Butter Crust
  • Mini Pumpkin Pies with Butter Crusts

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Apple Cranberry. Layers of Granny Smith, York, and Fuji apples (from Syria, Virginia) interspersed with dried cranberries and butter – this dense, juicy pie defines the fall season! The recipe calls for a crust and lattice top made of toasted pecan shortbread which perfectly complements the fruit. The shortbread was a little tricky to work but the effect that it creates is worth it.

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Snickerdoodle. Oh my! What I thought was simply a cookie in pie form turned out to be so much more! It just might be better than the actual cookie with its two layers of melted cinnamon sugar butter. The recipe contains a number of steps, none of which are difficult, so it does take some time. We paired this outrageous filling with a nicely salted flaky butter crust. Yum!

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When online shopping for pie boxes at Big River Packaging (my favorite box site), I came across boxes for individual slices and an accompanying wax paper insert template. The boxes are well made and feature a window so the recipient can eagerly anticipate their treat. At last, pie sharing is now feasible and attractive! Templates and decoration ideas for these cute and functional boxes are all over Pinterest. Will have to try them to compare🙂

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Mini Pumpkin. These festive and adorable little treats were so fun to make and even more fun to eat! We use the filling recipe on the back of the Libby can with one other secret ingredient🙂

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Lastly, we made little felt owls (pattern available in the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication, Make It Yourself, Fall/Winter 2013) for our Thanksgiving order customers to convey our heart-felt appreciation for their loyalty and enthusiasm.

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Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

 

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October Birthdays – Creepy Caramel

Dear Friends,

This month’s inspiration came primarily from BAKED Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (been out since 2008 but new to me) with their recipes for a caramel cake (Burnt Sugar Bundt) and caramel-filled brownies (Sweet & Salty). For the last few years, every time I would go into Williams-Sonoma, I’d make it a point to flip through this book. I don’t know why it took me so long to buy it! I read the book, cover to cover, and happily and surprisingly found that these guys share my personal dessert philosophy as well as a unanimous estimation of the brownie. Brownies have long been my ultimate treat; I’ve even joked that I consider them vitamins due to their therapeutic properties🙂

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It was all about caramel this month; can’t get enough of it apparently! We used Halloween as our theme, which led to orange and black colors and a creepy watercolor effect for the treat sign and brownie picks.

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Here’s the menu:

  • Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum Buttercream
  • Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Salted Caramel Brownies with Caramel Drizzle

October 2015 Birthday Sign

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake. The cookbook description for this cake was dead-on! Delicious flavor owed to the addition of coconut milk, a hefty amount of butter, and a neat technique where the sugar is melted (caramel) past the usual amber color. I had to part ways when it came to the frosting, however. I used all the same ingredients called for in the recipe – the same burnt sugar liquid used in the cake, rum, butter, and powdered sugar – just in different proportions. It comes down to the consistency that you prefer and in my case, I use much less butter but more powdered sugar.

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake

The neatest part was that the authors show you how to elevate the cake with a striking but simple sugar decoration. You melt a half cup of granulated sugar over medium heat until it turns amber. Pour the melted sugar on a cookie sheet fitted with silicone mat. Allow to cool. Break into shards and arrange on your cake. AWESOME! Bottom line: this perfectly fall recipe is a keeper.

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Pumpkin Bread. This bread, actually, it’s a pumpkin cake in loaf form, is AMAZING! We make it every year and get a ton of positive feedback. Moist, dense, lightly-spiced, and lightly-sweetened with a creamy topping – we can’t get enough of it. It’s easy to justify eating for breakfast, and did I mention, it’s on our menu for October!

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Salted Caramel Brownies. Yes, yes, yes! Salty and sweet, dense and moist, these treats hit all the right notes! They are filled with dark chocolate, butter, and scratch-made salted caramel. The caramel recipe differs slightly from the standard with the addition of sour cream. This prevents the caramel from baking into brownie batter keeping them really gooey! For the order, we cut them into smaller pieces, stacked them, drizzled them with more salted caramel, and topped with an extra sprinkling of salt. If you’re as big of brownie fans as we are, you will love these gems which are also on our menu!

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Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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September Birthdays – Beige, Lace & Cookie Dough

Dear Friends,

Fall is fast approaching, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Definitely looking forward to cooler temperatures and fall flavors🙂 We used a beige and lace look to decorate our treats this month. Here’s the menu:

  • Italian Cream Cake with Chocolate Ganache
  • Coffee Cream Macarons
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

September 2015 Sign

September 2015 Treats Display

We used chocolate ganache both as filling for our cake and as a glaze for our truffles. You can always find a bowl of ganache in my kitchen!

Italian Cream Cake. Apparently, this cake is not of Italian origin, but rather, a Southern favorite usually topped with cream cheese frosting. This moist, decadent treat features lots of coconut and pecans, a small amount of hand-whipped cream (yes, this was my first time whipping it by hand), and buttermilk. It couldn’t be any more luscious, even after sitting on the counter unwrapped all day. I consider this quite the accomplishment. Pairing the cake with ganache was a delicious decision inspired by Vintage Cakes author, Julie Richardson, but now I’m wondering how it tastes with the cream cheese frosting🙂

IItalian Cream Cake

Coffee Cream Macarons

Coffee Cream Macarons. Macarons haven’t lost any of their trendiness or widespread appeal. And, why should they. They are such neat treats due to their dual nature: the perfect crunch on the outside, sweet chewiness in the inside. And, they are super cute and customizable to any flavor or color you need. The coffee flavor and color lend well to our all-natural standards and provide a lovely beige that fits with our decorations. The cream – a coffee-flavored cream cheese frosting – is incredible all on its own. We placed them in brown, fluted brioche baking papers which were staged on a cream wire stand, encircled with lace.

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Coffee Cream Macaron 2

Cookie Dough Truffles. These candies were AMAZING and HIGHLY addictive! I am one of those rare people who never grew up eating cookie dough and constantly wonder what all the hype is about. Not anymore! I would have eaten more than one, but thankfully, I had to send the rest for the order. Not only is the recipe easy and quick to prepare, but you most likely already have all the items on-hand. The chilling and dipping parts of the process obviously take more time, but there’s no need for all that if you’re making them for yourself. I used the recipe from Bakerella (which she got from the Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by Lindsay Landis), which yields about 22 balls. These delicious candies get their moistness from milk and vanilla rather than egg. If you don’t already have a go-to egg-free cookie dough recipe for when cravings strike, you will thank me for passing this along!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

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Finally, I found adorable (and free!) chocolate chip clip art with tiny hearts (so cute!) which I used on the flags for the truffles.

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Chocolate Chip Clip Art

Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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San Francisco Revisited – Croissant Class & Bakery Tour

Dear Friends,

You’ll never guess?! I was back in San Francisco!🙂 After finding the baking class of my dreams, Croissants and Other Laminated Doughs, with renowned Pastry Chef Nicole Plue at the San Francisco Cooking School, I knew we had to go back. Other highlights included the botanical gardens, bakeries I had to try (b.Patisserie and Boudin), China Town, and some adorable shops in Hayes Valley (Miette and Chantal Guillon) providing lots of baking and decorating inspiration.

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The class exceeded my expectations in every way. The description warned that the days would be physically exhausting and that was true. After pounding butter blocks and rolling out three different stiff doughs multiple times each day I was sore, using muscles I thought I had previously developed. There were so many neat people in the class, from various areas of the food industry in the city.

SFCS Croissant Class

Chef Nicole walked us through all the steps and was available for all sorts of questions from: my butter is leaking out of the dough to whether or not we needed to refrigerate or freeze a specific dough. We received information packets with the recipes as well as all the tips and techniques covered. We made three different doughs: croissant dough from which we cut croissants and pieces to roll pain au chocolat, Kouigh Aman dough which was a concept similar to croissant dough but easier to work with and happily included the addition of vast amounts of sugar in addition to all that luscious butter, and finally, puff pastry dough which we were to bring back “home” to use.

SFCS Croissant Class - Me

The culinary students and teachers at the school made us wonderful lunches each day and champagne was flowing for our “bake off”, as well as snacks: an apple tart that usually only occurs in my dreams and a puff pastry tart with a mascarpone cream base topped with macerated berries. I attempted the apple tart at the home I was staying at for the week and it was good; just not AS good as Chef Nicole’s🙂. And, I used the following recipe from Fork Knife Spoon, Macerated Strawberries with Mascarpone Whipped Cream, to attempt to duplicate the extreme deliciousness of the fruit tart. This recipe hit the mark!

My Pain au Chocolat

My Croissant

The key tip with laminated doughs is keeping them very, very cold. So, the plan is to attempt them once the weather cools a bit. The temperature gauge in my car today read 97 and it’s already September! Looks like my plans will be delayed!

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In addition to the baking class, I had a nice little visit to the Botanical Gardens in the Golden Gate Park vicinity. There were a number of things in bloom (this should be obvious given the year-round mild weather but being from the seasonal east coast it still happily surprises me time after time). After taking a break to sit down on a bench to take a phone call, I noticed multiple hummingbirds, zipping this way and that and occasionally chasing each other away from the central foliage they were attracted to.

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I was very much looking forward to visiting various bakeries I had missed the last time I was here. As luck would have it, I managed to try the Kouigh Aman at b.Patisserie the day before I tasted the one I made in class. This is THE location to have your first experience, so I’ve been told. You can see the difference in the photographs; mine is quite dark – singed really. When I commented on the color of my pastries to Chef Nicole, she said that the color means it has more “flavah”. Very kind and very true! She also said that we needed to listen to our doughs. Sometimes, they will require that we treat them gently and let them stretch on their own; other times we need to show them who is boss🙂 How true this is for life situations as well. I won’t soon forget these words of wisdom.

Kouigh Aman - b.Patisserie

Kouigh Aman 2 - b.Patisserie

My Kouigh Aman

On the weekend, after the busyness of the week including Jeff’s travels, Jeff, Taryn (our friend we stayed with), and I were able to unwind with a relaxing brunch at Café de la Presse before heading to a musical performance later in the afternoon. It is a quaint place with lots of wood detailing, café tables, potted plants, and French newspapers for sale and is only steps away from China Town. The food was delicious, but the company was best of all.

Taryn Jeff and Me

Cafe de la Presse Sign

Corrie & Jeff - Chinatown

After walking back from Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Nob Hill for the performance, we found Miette in Hayes Valley. What a real treat! From the lovely wallpaper in the store (that according to their website, everyone inquires of), the individual treat signs and arrangements, to the packaging, there was a lot to appreciate. They even have a station for packaging up the candy that you select housed on a vintage furniture piece. Their packaging is everything that I want Peachie’s Treats’ to be: simple, fun, lovely, and detailed. I tried the mini meringues (so adorable!) and the tiny shortbread discs. The meringues were sweet and fun and the shortbread was much lighter than I expected – the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea.

Treats from Miette

Chantal 1

And speaking of tea, also conveniently in Hayes Valley, we encountered a very French Macaron & Tea shop called Chantal Guillon. Taryn placed our order in French. Thankfully, she is fluent and, of course, I’m no help on that score :) While she talked with the proprietor in French, I was able to take my time and gawk and soak in the whole experience. Apparently, they carry tea from the longest-running company in France, Mariage, as well as the PRETTIEST macarons imaginable. Which is so ironic; the macarons are what drew us in, but we ended up only buying the tea! I purchased the Vert Provence with lavender and rose; I cannot wait to try it. And, the vintage desk in the window with one green leg, decorated with macarons with flags. Yes, I will be hanging on the memory of this place for a while🙂

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Boudin Bear

On our last day, I was able to get a sourdough bear (with bowtie!) from Boudin. He is so much like the ones that Peachie and I made a couple years ago. We should do that again! And, I got macaroons for the first time! They are truly delicious; chewy, sweet (but not overly so), with a touch of chocolate. The recipe is simple, and based on how good they are, will definitely try making before the year end, maybe right around Christmas.

Boudin Macaroon

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I think that’s all for now…..anxiously awaiting the next adventure!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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August Birthdays – Doughnuts!

Dear Friends,

We are nearly through the summer which means we need one more extra fun dessert to finish it out. Doughnuts have been all the rage so we easily found a number of fabulous recipes and a great themed paper from Paper Source. This is what we selected:

August Doughnuts

  • Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar
  • Lemon Lavender Doughnuts with Lemon Icing and All-Natural Sprinkles
  • Samoa Doughnuts with Caramel Coconut Topping and Chocolate Dip

August Birthday Sign

Pumpkin Spice. Oh baby, these are good! The canned pumpkin keeps these doughnuts moist and the cinnamon sugar covering is so satisfying. And, they’re easy to make. They also look quite official when you pipe the batter into Wilton doughnut pans.

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Secretly, I eat pumpkin treats throughout the year. I really can’t just limit this flavor to fall. And to be true to our readers, I feel it is my duty to share this recipe with you. We used the recipe from Cooking Classy, adapted from King Arthur.

Pumpkin Spice Packaged

Lemon Lavender 1

Lemon Lavender. These delicious treats combine elegance with adorability! They feature a sophisticated lavender sugar and cute pastel sprinkles. All-natural sprinkles (Let’s Do…Organic Sprinkelz Confetti, courtesy of My Organic Market) that actually tasted good, I might add🙂 In fact, the best feedback we received on these doughnuts was a guy who said he’d arm wrestle a grandmother for one of them! I’m not joking!

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Adding lavender to your treats is easy to overdo. You want the flowery scent and a few purple specks in your bake, but how do you know when it’s too much. I tend to go with the less-is-more mentality meaning that I use less than the recipe directs. One way to do this is to combine the herb with the right proportion of sugar. This also helps even out the flavor. In this instance, place 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons culinary-grade lavender in a glass jar. Keep sealed for at least one day. Then only take out the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.

Lavender Plant

Lavender Sugar

In addition to lavender, we included plenty of lemon zest in the doughnut batter and fresh-squeezed lemon juice in the lemon icing. I chose a lemon base for the lavender because it accompanies most herbs so well, neutralizing the earthiness and brightening the flavor.

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Samoa. My all-time favorite Girl Scout cookie in doughnut form – yay! Caramel, coconut, and chocolate, what’s not to love?!🙂 These treats are also a well-documented part of my strategy (or conspiracy) to bring on more coconut. The base is a buttery, yeasted doughnut that is dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate and topped with a mixture of toasted shredded coconut with a batch (actually, make that two batches!) of homemade caramel drizzled in more melted chocolate.

Samoa 1

Samoa 3

Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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Baseball Baby Shower

Dear Friends,

We had the fun opportunity to make some treats for a baseball themed baby shower!

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The treats, Lemoncellos (Lemon Sugar Cookies with Lemon Buttercream) and Madeleines (French Sponge Cookies with Vanilla Buttercream) looked quite like baseballs and bats, don’t you think?!

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We absolutely love the patriotic red, white, and blue and the adorable baseball stickers from Michaels topped them off.

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Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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French Birthday Mini Eclairs

Happy Summer to You!

For a very special little girl’s 2nd birthday, we made mini éclairs with vanilla pastry cream, chocolate ganache glaze, with raspberry pick accents decorated with lots of pink watercolor, scalloped edges, and Eiffel tower icons. Ooh, la, la!

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Homemade choux pastry – which includes cream puffs, gougeres (choux with cheese in the batter), and éclairs – is so delicious and easy to make that you won’t want to go back to the store-bought versions! Actually, you won’t be able to go back – it’s that big of a difference. And, the crisp, buttery shells will beg to be filled with something commensurate in quality and taste. This is where the rich pastry cream comes in🙂 I used the recipe (and inspiration from her cute tutorial!) from Frosting and a Smile for the pastry cream. The recipe calls for the addition of butter at the end; I highly recommend this step! Leave plenty of time to chill your cream before you need it. There are many slight ingredient variations available online for the choux, but I’ve used the Better Homes & Garden’s version here repeatedly with great success.

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While I have made choux before, I had never put together an entire éclair. Using silicone mats with inch measurements around the edge helped me create mini, but not too mini éclairs, of the same size. After baking these and poking holes in both ends to let dry, I made the chocolate ganache glaze using cream and semisweet chocolate. The glaze made dipping the éclairs a cinch, but proved to be difficult down the line when it didn’t dry entirely. In hindsight, leaving them in the refrigerator unwrapped for a couple hours dries the outside perfectly without compromising the moist filling. There were two tricks, in my opinion, for making the éclairs look professional. One is to fill the éclair on both ends, weighing it as you go to a desired fullness. Two, fill each with pastry cream BEFORE dipping in the glaze in order to seal the ends.

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What an incredibly fun project to work on! I wanted the details to be simple, but elegant and distinct and include a lovely light pink in keeping with a young girl’s birthday. Using a few brush strokes of light pink watercolor and black stamps featuring the Eiffel tower, an Eiffel tower souvenir postmark, and the name PARIS, I removed these little gems with a scalloped edge punch.

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I lined each serving tray with the same shade of light pink paper scalloped with special scissors and ran a wide piece of black grosgrain ribbon down the center on which to hang a little image of watercolor and stamp. I placed each éclair in a mini white doily which was then placed in a white eclair paper. The accent, a four inch wooden pick with a pearl on the end, was supposed to hold the raspberry just below the pearl. It didn’t quite work, but that fact didn’t dampen my pleasure with the overall look. Just seeing and tasting these treats transported me to another place that afternoon, complete with rose-tinted glasses, French café music, and a call to savor the moment.

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Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

 

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April Bread of the Month

Dear Friends,

We had the pleasure of making Iced Hot Cross Buns in celebration of the Easter Holiday and Provencal Herb Bread, which we baked in tiny terracotta pots.

April BOTM Sign

Our Hot Cross Buns are one of the best things we make – soft, fluffy, lightly-spiced and lightly-sweetened buns, studded with raisins, and topped with vanilla buttercream. This family recipe has marked my favorite holiday for decades, making it very special for me. How the Easter holiday reminds us of the new life that’s possible, just as we’re seeing new plant life come up from the ground and all around never ceases to delight me!

Provencal Herb Bread in Terracotta Pot

And, speaking of new plant life, how about all those happy gardening memories (let’s forget the weeds for the moment :)) of digging in the dirt, seeing delicious vegetables and herbs grow, and then getting to eat the things you’ve grown. While we didn’t harvest our own herbs for these breads, we did use plenty of dried Herbs de Provence, including lavender, as well as parmesan cheese, and Yukon Gold potatoes. This bread is heavenly, toasted and dipped in olive oil! It’s my favorite way to bring on the warmer weather🙂

Enjoy!

corrie @ Peachie’s Treats

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