Hello Chocolate, I Love You

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With the holidays upon us, chocolate is admittedly on my mind. Well, maybe it always is. I love to get out to gourmet food shops and patisseries to see what ideas pop in my head from tasting and experiencing what is going on in the world of sweets.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the things currently feeding my chocolate obsession:

  1. Valrhona Chocolate Class

I recently took a 3-day seminar at the L’Ecole Valrhona Brooklyn cooking school. I came away totally inspired from working with pastry chefs from around the world with ideas for chocolate creations that are going to blow your mind and your diet. I perfected the Big Chocolate Cake and our new Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream.

2) Chocolate Manjari Bûche de Noel

This cheesecake filled bûche puts a smile on my face. It is so chocolate, so cheesecake, so crunchy, and so smooth and dreamy. We have really stepped up our game with a contemporary take on this classic French Christmas dessert. Cheers!

3) Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

A combination of melt-in-your-mouth Valrhona chocolates with a caramelized butter flavor and crispy texture, you literally can’t eat just one of these cookies. You’ll need to buy 2, because you won’t want to share.

4) OMG Candy Bar

Morsels of luxury in this chocolate bar I bumped into in SF’s Ferry Building.  It’s made with crispy hazelnut praline and sea salt caramel with caramelized Rice Krispies enrobed in 64% dark chocolate, and it’s a perfect stocking-stuffer.

5) Theo Chocolate Book

Seattle based Theo chocolate is North America’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory.  This 75-recipe book also tells the story of the company and its mouth-watering photos are sure to inspire you in the kitchen.

6) Chocolate Inspired Jewelry

Girls of all ages are going “ga-ga” over our dessert inspired jewelry from France.  Les Delices d’ Emilie hand makes everything from éclairs and chocolate bars to Oreo Cookies and macaroons. Necklaces and earrings so enticing, you’ll want to buy them for the chocolate lovers in your life.

7) Extraordinary Desserts Baker’s Chocolates

A line of Valrhona chocolates and baking sugars to amp up your holiday baking or to give as a gift.

Wishing you a delicious and peaceful holiday season!

-Karen

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Paris = Love

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Paris is positively romantic, but it’s not just a city for lovers. It’s where you can fall in love with everything from food to design. Our recent trip to Paris inspired me to pick my loves, including places to dine, shop and a few special items that you can now find at Extraordinary Desserts.

  1. After spending the morning browsing on Rue Cherche Midi, a charmingly chic shopping street, the ideal lunch can be found at Cuisine de Bar. The sandwiches are all opened faced, grilled on Poilane bread. This is the place that inspired our paninis!
  1. Brasserie Thoumieux, is a truly special spot for dinner. It appears to be a beautiful traditional brasserie, but once you step in to dine you realize it is all of that, and much more. Very hip and fashionable, but with a more contemporary menu.
  1. A temple of gorgeous gourmet foods, an epicurean paradise, La Grande Epecerie is my pick for a favorite spot “not to miss.” Located in the Bon Marche Department Store, there are dazzling displays of produce, baked goods, desserts, cheeses, wines, savory foods, bottled condiments…the list goes on and on. Bring your extra bag to stock up on treats to bring home.
  1. I can never leave Paris without being inspired to create something magical for Extraordinary Desserts. Look for these two Paris inspired desserts on your next visit.

L’Envie des Fraises is a strawberry tart updated with a new shape, a triangle. The triangle mold is new for bakers in Europe.

Chocolate dipped espresso shortbreads, like a buttery crunchy mocha!

  1. At our Little Italy location the merchandise items are often inspired from my travels and Paris provided some fantastic goodies including: books I love, jewelry being made for us in the South of France, and pocket books I found in France.
  1. Luxurious teas are a staple at Extraordinary Desserts and this one I found in France, Macaroon tea (almond meringue flavored after the confection) from Mariage Freres, is stunning to display and to sip.

Au revoir for now!

Karen

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Every girl deserves a trip to France

Every girl deserves a trip to France….especially my daughter. She got to ride her momma’s ride and now she understands why I love and need to go back as often as possible. It’s about finding out what’s happening in food, drink, design, and pastry, of course.

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Merci, indeed.

Merci, indeed.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

We started in Paris where no trip is complete without checking in on the masters of pastry.

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Pierre Herme window display

Pierre Herme window display

Keep the day light- start with lemon.

Move into pistachio.

Move into pistachio.

Pastry Crawl from master to master.

Sebastian Gaudard serves incredible pastry and tea near the Lourve.

Sebastian Gaudard is a must.

I said it was incredible.

Start with a little cream.

Finish off with chocolate.

Finish off with chocolate.

Fauchon makes everything - from creative pastry to twists on traditional baked goods.

Still cutting-edge, Fauchon is delicious and prestigious.

Croissants with additional flavors - pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Flavored croissants – pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Creative Fauchon pastry - Sahara's favorite.

Sahara’s favorite.

Little gems at Patisserie des Reves.

OMG!

One of the best Saint Honore’s in Paris.

One day, you’re eating an eclaire…..

....the next day, you're sitting on one to rest your weary feet.

….the next day, you’re sitting on one.

Thomieux baked goods are worth sharing.

Thoumieux baked goods are worth sharing.

You have to save room for his cakes.

You have to save room for his cakes.

Because there is plenty of trouble to get into. Choose your mousse.

At Chapon, grab a scoop of mousse.

A girl cannot live on pastry alone…she needs love.

Love is everywhere.

Love is everywhere.

Ours is locked on a bridge with countless others.

Ours is sealed on a bridge.

She needs food and drink at cafes.

Cafe La Flore

Cafe de Flore

And a girl needs yoga.

Finding peace and calm...

Finding peace and calm.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

She needs to escape the city and head South.

Always on the go.

Always on the go.

In search of a new bag.

Hitting the marche in search of a new bag…

To put delicious, fresh food into.

…to fit goat cheese stuffed peppers into.

Keeping an eye out for Saint Christians.

Pastry creme with caramelized almonds.

Oh so good!

Oh so good!

Gorgeous little roads of Provence.

Gorgeous little roads of Provence

Lead to gorgeous discoveries like these almond trees.

lead to discoveries like these almond trees

Pastry inspired jewelry.

and pastry inspired jewelry that

You will be seeing these soon in our stores.

you will be seeing soon in our restaurants.

A girl needs nice places to stay.

A girl needs nice places to stay

and amazing wines to drink.

and amazing wines to drink

To get back on the road.

to get back on the road

in search of another regional pastry

in search of another regional pastry

to enjoy.

to enjoy.

Truly blessed to live a life doing what I love.

Thank you
xo
Karen

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Desserting Down Under

During Spring Break, my family took a trip to Australia in search of beaches, gastro pubs, and great wine. My hidden agenda was to eat as much of my favorite dessert, Pavlova, in any way shape or form. Pavlova is named after a famous Russian ballerina from the 1920’s. It combines the crunch of a meringue base with creaminess in the center topped with fresh fruits or sorbets. While there is much debate between Aussies and Kiwis over who created it, many pastry chefs create their own delicious spin on it worldwide.

While hunting for Pavlovas, I was inspired by some of the best desserts Down Under. If you are going to Oz, then take note, as these are the places that made a 30 day cleanse necessary after arriving back home to San Diego.

1) Chiswick

We had an unforgettable garden to table lunch at Chiswick in Woollahra where all of the vegetable dishes prepared are from their property.  Although we were full, I saw Pavlova on their menu, and it was possibly the best one I have ever had.

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2) Gelatissimo

We took the ferry to visit friends in Manly and stumbled across a place with OMG “Berry Pavlova Gelato”.  Lucky for you, they have locations throughout the Sydney area.

ImageI planned three stops that would be guilt free since our afternoon would be spent doing the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte.

3) Lorraine’s Patisserie

Lorraine Godsmark was the head pastry chef for uber Aussie chef, Neil Perry, at his landmark restaurant, Rockpool, for 10 years before going on her own. This small and open kitchen creates truly beautiful cakes, tarts, and pastries.

While I couldn’t part with the Raspberry Pecan Cake, which was like a buttery, French Financier, my husband and daughter wrestled over the Chocolate Macadamia Salted Caramel Tart and the Strawberry Mascarpone Cake.

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4) Black Star Pastry

Though their website has a gorgeous Pavlova that drove me there, a whole one must be ordered 24 hours in advance.  Too many other choices to be disappointed by that, it was easy to try other desserts.

Black Star is the brain child of pastry chef, Christopher Thé, and the baked goods are contemporary, creative, and styled to perfection.

The Strawberry Watermelon Cake with rose scented cream was a standout, but the three of us agreed that the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel Jelly was lick the plate WOW! The Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding with Warm Vanilla Sauce was equally as good the next day cold as a to-go leftover.

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5) Flour and Stone

Nadine Ingram learned at some of Sydney’s best restaurants and bakeries including MG Garage, Bourke Street Bakery, and La Gavroche. Her quaint bakery is a wonderful place to stop in for a few treats and a cup of cappuccino if you are in Woolloomooloo.  The desserts are simple, perfectly moist and fresh out of the oven.

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6) Kakawa Chocolates

This chocolate store in Darlinghurst is on par with any Parisian Chocolatier. Hot chocolates, ice cream sandwiches, caramels, chocolate bars, and best of all, bags of raspberry swirled meringues. Ooh la la.

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7) Just Fine Food

Mornington Peninsula proved to be over-the-top for wine and food but no Pavlovas. We did find the Famous Vanilla Slice at Just Fine Food in Sorrento. It can be described as an ultra-thick, vanilla custard Napoleon and I will admit that it elevated our picnic spread.

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8) Saffire Freycinet

Our last stop was in Tasmania. There were no notches left on our belts, and this Pavlova did not disappoint.

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I’m working on accruing enough miles to head back down and explore Lamington’s and Violet Crumble desserts.

Hopefully, I’ve excited you about Pavlova’s and you can come in to try ours.

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Thank you.

K-

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Giving Thanks and Celebrating

Thanksgiving is spending days off with friends, family and football, but let’s face it, it’s really all about snacks and food. For me, it’s all about the dessert.

Whether you make and bake things yourself or if you just want something easy, here are some ideas to make your Thanksgiving Day and weekend more extraordinary.

DESSERTS

My family counts on me for desserts every year. Our tradition is a dessert buffet that I am in charge of putting together.

If you want to make desserts yourself, here are some options:

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             Caramel Apple Trifles from Bakersroyale.com

 

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No Bake Sweet Potato Cheesecakes from HowSweetEats.com

 

Extraordinary Cake Kit

Our Gourmet Cake Kit makes it easy to create a moist, rich chocolate cake at home. The Dark Chocolate Truffle Banana Cake kit includes imported chocolate, dry ingredients, baking mold, round, pastry bag, pastry tip and ribbon to help you bake and decorate your own extraordinary cake. You provide the butter, eggs, bananas and sour cream. Cake Kits are available in both of our locations and online. A gluten free option is also available. Best of all, you get the credit.

However, if you need to have us do the baking for you, from our Thanksgiving Menu, I recommend:

cheesecake  pumpkin pie                        Pumpkin Cheesecake                                              Aloha Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin apple pecan torte 1  blood orange                  Pumpkin Apple Pecan Torte                              Blood Orange Ricotta Torte

SETTING THE TABLE WITH A SPECIAL TOUCH

I like to keep the table top simple, but with a special style that does not take much effort. While I was pinning on Pinterest recently, I found these unique DIY ideas:

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Rosemary wreath place cards from SpoonForkBacon.com

 

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A simple twist of ribbon can add unique color accents.  Ladolfinalifestyle.com

 

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A votive candle in leaves to celebrate fall from San Diego based, Joyful Weddings & Events.

 

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I loved these hand-crafted cake servers so much that I now sell them in my restaurants.

 

My second favorite part of Thanksgiving is opening a bottle of wine or bubbly and catching up with friends and family. Having easy to prepare foods are vital for gatherings throughout the weekend.

EXTRAORDINARY SNACKS

Here are some easy ideas for serving your loved ones while everyone is hanging out, catching up, and enjoying the time together.

truffle salt     chutney 2

Popcorn popped with black truffle salt          Our Maui Mango Chutney on cream cheese

snacks                             Small batch, hand-made, Gluten Free crackers by Marilyn’s

 

cheese platter

Whether you put your own together or have us do it for you, cheese platters can be refreshed and nibbled on throughout the day and weekend.

pizza

Here’s another creative way to enjoy leftover turkey, make your own pizza.

BREAKFAST

For the weekend, I need some easy breakfast ideas, so that I’m not back in the kitchen again. Our pancake mixes and syrups from Hawaii get my family out of bed.

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Go with a Hawaiian Breakfast: Coffee / Pancakes / Granola with Passion Fruit syrup

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You can also pick up our delicious Pumpkin Maple Pecan Scones

Whether you are traveling far or staying close to home, we all have something to be grateful and thankful for at this time of year. Thank you for letting us be a part of your holiday celebrations.

Karen

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My Cake Walk in Paris

On my trip to Paris last month, I created a plan to bike throughout the city in search of the most delicious chocolate cakes, outstanding fruit tarts, contemporary takes on classic pastries, and other assorted sumptuous sweets.

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I made 24 stops over 7 days and wrangled my Parisian friend, Denise for 3 days of the journey. She was the one who recommended that we stop riding bikes, because finding parking for bikes was as hard as finding rental bikes that actually worked. Therefore, we walked in the 90 degree heat and took cabs instead. My pain is your gain, as I’m now happy to share with you my top picks of what Paris has to offer. Call it a Parisian Chef’s Feed for Dessert Foodies and Chocoholics.

1) I couldn’t wait to get started, so without Denise on day one, my first stop was around the corner from my hotel at Bread and Roses for some of the best cheesecake and carrot cake that I have ever tasted.

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2) My second stop was at Ciel, which is the most adorable, little spot in St. Michel. Here, I enjoyed heavenly angel food cakes with a Franco-Japanese spin.

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3) As I circled my way back to my neighborhood, I stopped in to the renowned salon de thé Angelina. The famous Mont Blanc has been re-invented with a chocolate spin and was remarkable alongside their hot white chocolate.

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4) Denise joined me on day 2 at the Mandarin Oriental, where the desserts were jewels, but we were awe-struck by the stunning flower displays.

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5) We headed out to Fauchon where they were celebrating Le Semaine des Éclairs. Showcase after showcase of sweet and savory spectacular éclairs. There were double decker chocolate, blueberry vanilla, salted butter, grape fruit, blood orange and Moroccan date among dozens more.

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6) We quickly ran through Ladurée salon de thé where we ogled and grabbed a black currant macaron for the road.

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7) Our next stop was Jean-Paul Hévin where I had the best macaron of my life. I was too busy enjoying my chocolate and crème brulee macaron that I forgot to take a photo!

8) Last stop of the day was to the Holy Grail of all chocolate shops:  Le Chocolat – Alain Ducasse. We indulged ourselves as any girl would amongst chocolate ganaches, pralines, truffles, and chocolate bars in 44 different flavors.

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9) La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac is where I was stunned by the largest Kouing Aman (round crunchy caramelized cake made with bread dough and layers of butter and sugar folded in) that I have ever seen. This is my favorite of all-time.

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10) On my way to the Jardin de Luxembourg, I ducked into Sadaharu Aoki boutique where bright colors and Japanese flavors won my heart, especially this raspberry, strawberry and hibiscus cake.

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11) Pierre Hermé is the benchmark of excellence in pastry. The boutique is like a jewelry store and I did not hold back here. Infiniment Vanille, Ispahan Croissant, and Carrément Chocolat were among the few that came back to my hotel room.

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12) Mulot is an institution in the 6th arrondisment not to be missed. I had the most delicious cherry and coconut tart that I would go back for next time I’m in town.

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13) Un Dimanche á Paris is a beautiful pastry shop and restaurant near Odeon with gorgeous tarts, mousses, and goodies for gourmets in a sleek and contemporary setting.

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14) La Maison du Chocolat is a palace for chocoholics and during the heat of the summer, I was so excited to discover their ice cream verrine to go case. A verrine is a composition of alternating flavors, colors, and textures all showcased in small glass containers. I chose Verrine Tout Chocolat with layers of crunchy chocolate pralines, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ice cream. I skipped off towards the Champs Elysees with a spoon and a smile.

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There is truly a dessert for everyone in the City of Love.

Bisou Bisou,

K –

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Summertime, When the Sweet Treats Are Easy

IMG_7804_txtHello summer!  Where could you possibly enjoy the warm months better than right here in San Diego, where the living always is easy, but never more so than during beach season?  The long days and late, slow-fading sunsets are perfect for sharing laid-back times with family and friends, on the patio, on the sand, at a picnic in the park – just about anywhere you can think to go in San Diego.  And while I always insist on entertaining in style, I take a relaxed approach this time of year.  I may put out a spread of fresh salads, cheeses and artisan breads, accompanied by my favorite wines and bubbly.  A sweet course always follows, to be sure, and while I might very well choose an 2013-06-20 11.51.54txt2elegant cake or dessert for a dinner on the patio, a beautiful selection of Extraordinary Desserts cupcakes, cookies, brownies and other deluxe small pastries are also sure to dazzle adult guests and equally delight the youngsters.

I kicked off my Summer 2013 in a particularly enjoyable way.  I had the opportunity to take my baking art to The New Children’s Museum (NCM) in downtown San Diego and collaborate with the museum’s creative minds to develop a camp that would inspire a group of 6 through 8 year-olds to become artist/bakers for a week.

I’ve had plenty of experience putting kids in touch with IMG_5740_txttheir inner cakes, but probably never enjoyed it as much as when I traveled the few blocks from my Extraordinary Desserts Little Italy location to the museum.  For five days in mid-June, the very first of the summer’s “Creativity Rules” camps brought together happy youngsters for “Sweet-Makes and Cupcakes,” a hands-on program that I nicknamed Camp Cupcake.

IMG_5708smalltxt2Camp Cupcake focused on fun, but with a purpose – which is not unlike what I do when creating a new cake for Extraordinary Desserts.  A week of creativity led up to Friday’s  “Let’s Picnic!” party, at which parents enjoyed the artworks the kids created, and ate the clever cupcakes the kids baked, decorated and shared with the unreserved delight that youngsters bring to a project.

The camp constantly challenged the kids to turn art into play. “Pin the Cherry on the Cupcake” put a sweet spin on the classic party game when the children created a huge drawing of a cupcake and attached it to the wall. Each child created an art piece inspired by a 2013-06-20 11.52.48txt2cupcake.  The camp then got into baking and decorating using cupcake recipes from my book “Extraordinary Cakes,” and the children were encouraged to use their own artistic expressions and a variety of decorative materials to come up with enjoyably eccentric creations.  The kids also used fresh flowers to create designs inspired by the decor we use at Extraordinary Desserts.

I wouldn’t even try to count how many sticky fingers got licked during the camp.  It was fun for the kids and a sweet treat for me.  Happy Summer!

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