International Chocolate Festival

This past weekend, I attended the International Chocolate Festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL. I was very excited, and hoping to sample all kinds of chocolate treats.

The venue was really cool; it had beautiful plants and scenic views. However, I was a little disappointed in the festival itself. First off, there was a $20 charge to get in. From this, I thought that there would be a lot of free stuff from the vendors, as was common at other festivals/fairs I have been too. Unfortunately, you had to pay for everything! The only vendors that were willingly giving stuff away were Yelp.com (which obviously has nothing to do with chocolate) and Taylormade Cookies, which were delicious. Also, Bella Sera wines were giving away samples, but as it was 11 in the morning, I was not interested.

For anything else, you had to dig into your wallet, and it was not cheap. I got the “Taster’s Plate” ($12) in their House of Chocolate.

Sure, it was tasty, especially the Mayan Hot Chocolate. But I don’t think I would pay 12 bucks for it again. The other item I bought was a chocolate smoothie made with chocolate grown at Fairchild, for $3. It was truly delicious! It was perfect on a hot afternoon in Miami. Other than those two things, I was not willing to pony up.

To be fair, I should mention that they were doing several cooking demos, and book signings. However, I wasn’t about to spend the entire day at this place. If you did though, you would have probably learned a lot.

In the end, I would say it was probably a successful event. But I love my free stuff, and I left pretty much unsatisfied.

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Dinner Rolls

Ever since I got my KitchenAid Mixer, I have been reading up on breads. I have made a few pizza crusts with success, so I decided to try something new: No-Knead Dinner Rolls from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. The rolls were supposed to be stuffed into a 9″x13″ pan, but because I only have to feed two people, I cut the recipe in half and just made balls of dough. The recipe was extremely easy, but did take some time so I would suggest planning which meal you want to serve these yummy rolls with. They came out great and had a slightly sweet taste, which I liked.

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Happy Birthday Allie!

My boyfriend Allie’s birthday is on the day after Christmas, and because our families live in different states, I never get to see him on his birthday. So, we always celebrate it in early January.

Unfortunately, he is not a huge fan of sweets, but he loves cheesecake. I had only made one cheesecake before, but I had a new springform pan and decided to try Chantal’s New York Cheesecake from All Recipes. It was easy enough to make, although I was surprised at how much cream cheese was called for. As always, I like to read the comments on any recipe before I try it. I noticed that this recipe had a lot of reader comments on preventing cracking. I didn’t have much time to make this cheesecake, so I didn’t try the water bath that was strongly suggested, and lo and behold, I got a huge crack in the the top.

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Of course, this didn’t change the taste, and it tasted wonderful! Truly delicious. I would certainly make it again, but next time I will try the water bath.

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Birthday Cake!

My brother Eddie gave me a cake turntable for Christmas, and I got to test it out for his girlfriend Nancy’s birthday! There was nothing too original in the recipe. The cake was Duncan Hines and so was the frosting, which I dyed green, but that wasn’t the point! I wanted to test my decorating skills and use the turntable. I love it!

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Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

I have always loved the gingerbread cookies from The Gingerbread Construction Company, which has two store locations in Massachusetts (www.gingerbreadusa.com) . My mom would bring them home from the Wellesley craft fair every December. This year, I finally felt confident enough to take them on. First, of course, I needed to find a good gingerbread recipe. I went to my favorite website, allrecipes.com, and selected Eileen’s Spicy Gingerbread Men, which had excellent reviews. After I mixed the dough, rolled it, chilled it, and cut out the shapes, I was ready to bake them. They came out delicious! I was off to an excellent start.

I knew the hardest part of these cookies to replicate would the the frosting. The Gingerbread Construction Company’s frosting on their gingerbread cookies was always very hard, sweet, and extremely tasty. I immediately thought that it was probably royal icing, which is known for it’s sweetness and stiffness. I knew that royal icing consisted of powdered sugar and egg whites, but I needed a good ratio. So, I selected Royal Icing I from All Recipes. I cut this recipe in half because I knew I wouldn’t need too much. On my first try, the icing never fully dried and hardened. You can see the stickiness in these pictures:

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I decided to try another batch to give to people as gifts. My first try wasn’t good enough. The only changes I made to the cookies was to roll the dough out a little thicker. The cookies were very moist and delicious once again. For the icing, I beat the eggs much longer and added a little more sugar until it got the consistency described in the recipe. Success! It took about two days to harden completely, but I could tell right away that it was going to be perfect. Once they were dry, I placed them in little tins along with the Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
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And I sent them off for friends and family to enjoy!

I hope you had a Merry Christmas as well!