One Week till Cookie Con!

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

That’s right, folks. Los Angeles has a Cookie Convention and it’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center next Sunday! We were floored by this news and quickly went to their website (lacookiecon.com) to get our tickets to this sure-to-be-awesome event. (I believe our exact reaction was “Cookie Con?! How did we not know about this?!”)

Reality TV buffs will appreciate the celebrity lineup of guests from Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and Next Food Network Star, Fox’s MasterChef, and more. There will be fondant rolling classes, candy apple making for the kids, and demonstrations for new tools and equipment. But most importantly, the website highlights “hundreds of delicious free samples from national and local vendors, offering an extravaganza of cookies, candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, beverages, and unique baked savories too.” SIGN US UP!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

After our chocolate filled adventure at Indulge LA, we know we have to develop a game plan to synchronize our (precious and limited) stomach space and our (ravenous and unrelenting) sweet tooth. Luckily, we will be attending with a pair of friends with whom to share the bounty. I know Martin is going to keep an eye out for the best chocolate chip (his favorite) while I am always game to try unique variations on the traditional cookie (like our limoncello and semolina version).

VIP tickets are already sold out, so grab your GA passes soon if you want to attend the first annual LA Cookie Con! (Psst — sign up for their e-newsletter for a 10% off coupon code!)

As if you needed more convincing, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You definitely won’t want to miss out on this chance to stuff your faces while helping to support a great nonprofit. (But in case you can’t make it, stay tuned for our post-event recap with plenty of mouth-watering cookie photos!)

cat eated cookie

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive discounted press tickets to the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

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Food Pic Friday: Churro Borough

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Move aside, food trucks, this is the era of the pop-up. We had heard of these mythical churro ice cream sandwiches, even saw pictures of these elusive treats on social media, but the existence of this epic duo had yet to be confirmed. Until one day, we saw a Facebook post that announced the time and date for the release of a round of tickets to The Churro Borough Pop-Up. “Tickets” are free but, as they represent one of only 300 available slots, were extremely limited. I sat in front of my computer at 9:50am, F5-ing my browser window over and over until the “Buy Tickets” button finally appeared. It was like trying to buy concert tickets back in high school. They sold out in four minutes but Martin and I each snagged a pair of tickets. We were so excited.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

That Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the Mexicali Taco & Co. storefront on the outskirts of Chinatown. There was already a long line forming, each person eager to spend $4 a pop on these desserts. We took his parents with us to celebrate his mom’s birthday, and they could not believe that so many young people put in that much effort for this exclusive sweet. When our turn finally came, we each only got one since we had dinner plans shortly after. Mine? Horchata. It tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in the best way possible, though the churro itself could have been crispier.

If you want to get one of your own, follow Churro Borough on Facebook for their latest pop-up updates. I don’t know if I would go through all that trouble again, but if they ever purchased a truck or brick & mortar storefront, I would be happy to stop by for a $4 churro ice cream sandwich; this is LA’s new gourmet cupcake and I hope it sticks around for a long time.

IN EXCITING NEWS, tickets for the next pop-up go on sale in just ONE HOUR. Here is their update from their Facebook page:

Come join us this SUNDAY, August 10th at Mexicali Taco & Co!

*** Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, August 8th! ***

Sunday, August 10th 2-5pm
702 N. Figueroa Street
Downtown Los Angeles

Purchase (FREE) tickets for this pop-up – Limit 2 per customer. Only 250 tickets available!

Each admission ticket will allow up to 2 sandwiches per customer. $4 per sandwich.

CASH ONLY (ATMs available on-site)

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/churro-borough-summer-pop-up-series-v5-tickets-12565201857

Sweet Marsala Tiramisu

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

My dad only recently developed his sweet tooth, so back when I was experimenting with recipes in college, I knew he would rarely accept an offer of dessert. I definitely remember one such lucky occasion, however, when I dug up a recipe for tiramisu. It’s one of his favorite desserts and arguably my favorite, at least from Italian cuisine, over cannoli, spumoni, even gelato! Though it took a bit of coercing for him to take that first bite, I can still vividly recall his eyes lighting up as he polished off his serving wordlessly. This recipe has been in my repertoire ever since.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Three things. First, you’ll want to make sure you have some strong arm muscles for beating those egg whites to a stiff peak (thanks to the souffle, I’ve had plenty of practice). It’s the aerated whites that really makes this cream filling fluffy and light and not-too-sweet. Possibly among the best tiramisu, or so I’ve been told ;) Second, at six tablespoons of Marsala, this particular recipe is a bit more boozy than others. Have fun with it. (If you do need to cut back, play around with the coffee-Marsala ratio.) Lastly, this tiramisu is topped with grated chocolate just before serving, which truly makes a difference — it tastes way better than the bitter cocoa powder that some restaurants use instead.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee, freshly brewed

6 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine

1 package of ladyfingers (16-24 pieces)

3 eggs, separated

8 ounce package of mascarpone

Dash of nutmeg

Dark or semisweet chocolate for garnish (about 1-2 ounces, grated)

I got this recipe many years ago from a cookbook that I just cannot seem to track down (it doesn’t help that I’ve made some adjustments from the original proportions). If anyone recognizes the source, please let me know and I will gladly credit it.

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Step 1: Dissolve one-half of the sugar (1/8 cup) into the coffee. Stir in the Marsala; you should end up with about 1 cup of liquid total.

Layer #1

Layer #1

Step 2: Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch round trifle dish (or a 1.75 quart Pyrex round). Drizzle about one third of the coffee mixture. Set aside.

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Step 3: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar. Fold in the mascarpone.

Adding the Nutmeg

Adding the Nutmeg

Step 4: When the yolk-mascarpone mixture is creamy and fully integrated, sprinkle in the nutmeg. Stir.

Beat the Egg Whites

Beat the Egg Whites

Step 5: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Folding

Folding

Step 6: Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites — first, lighten the mascarpone mixture by stirring in a bit of the fluffy whites, then cut down and scoop over with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, “folding” the mixture onto itself so as to minimize deflating the whites.

The Setup

The Setup

Step 7: Spoon about one-third of the mixture over the soaked ladyfingers and spread smooth.

Next Layer

Next Layer

Step 8: Continue with a layer of ladyfingers, drizzling with one-third of the coffee mixture and topping with one-third of the fluffy mascarpone cream. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with mascarpone on the very top layer.

Ready to Chill

Ready to Chill

Step 9: Let chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. This will help set the cream.

Shaving the Chocolate

Shaving the Chocolate

Step 10: Just before serving, shave or grate the chocolate over the top of the tiramisu using a microplane. Buon appetito!

Yields: 6-8 servings

Witches’ Hats Cookies – Halloween 2013

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

It’s finally here – All Hallows’ Eve! One of my favorite holidays of the year! I hope you’ve got your pumpkins carved, costumes donned, candy stocked, and witches’ hats ready. Oh, you don’t have a witch’s hat? Have no fear! These easy-to-assemble snacks are here to save the day!

Witch's Hat Cookie

Witch’s Hat Cookie

Every holiday, I love to browse the recipes on AllRecipes.com for seasonal ideas that had a fun and festive flair to the party table. I always see all sorts of creative ideas in varying from complicated made-from-scratch confections to boxed cake mix tweaks and skill levels ranging from kid-friendly to formal culinary education recommended. But these witches’ hats are incredibly easy and I thought they are oh so clever! Plus I welcome any excuse to buy a package of Fudge Stripes cookies — the lunchbox holy grail of my childhood.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 package Fudge Stripes cookies (approximately 24 cookies per package)

24 Hershey’s Kisses (or the same number as cookies)

Orange icing — I used a bottle of Wilton’s Cookie Icing, but you can buy cake decorating gel or whip up some homemade royal icing

(Adapted from this AllRecipes.com recipe)

Line the cookies up, striped side down

Line the cookies up, striped side down

Step 1: Arrange your cookies on a tray or baking sheet striped side down. I put mine in a 9×13 Pyrex dish which came with a lid (the height is perfect to keep the hats intact).

Pipe the frosting onto a Kiss

Pipe the frosting onto a Kiss

Step 2: if needed, transfer the icing to piping bag with a small round decorating tip (I used a No. 2 round). Pipe around the edges of the bottom of a Kiss.

Affix the Kiss to the Cookie

Affix the Kiss to the Cookie

Step 3: Affix the Kiss to the Cookie. The icing will harden and act as an adhesive. If some peeks out on the edges, don’t worry — we’ll decorate over this later.

Step 4: Decorate the Hat

Step 4: Decorate the Hat

Step 4: Pipe around the base of the Kiss to create a “belt” or “ribbon” on the hat. Get creative. I added little “buckles” as well, though I think they ended up looking a bit pilgrim-like.

Let the icing harden. Royal icing (and cookie icing) will take about an hour. Plate up for the party and amaze your guests with the simplicity and innovative vision of assembling these store-bought goodies.

Optional: serve alongside another easy hocus-y pocus-y accessory. Flip a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniature upside-down. Stab a pretzel stick down the center and voila — broomstick! (Thanks, Irene!)

Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween!

nomnomcat print button

Sticky USA – Hollywood, CA

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

On Sunday, we trekked up to the Hollywood & Highland Center, a side of town we rarely leave the Westside to explore. But we had a wonderful reason to visit the heart of Tinseltown tourism — the team at Sticky had invited us over for a candy-making session!

Sticky - right in the heart of Sweet!

Sticky – right in the heart of Sweet!

Sticky is an Australian candy company started by attorney-turned-confectioner David King. This Hollywood storefront, their first in the US, is situated in the middle of Sweet!, a full floor of the shopping center that’s completely dedicated to sugary treats. But skip those Hershey bars and kitschy Oscar statuettes and make a beeline for the entertaining live candy-making by the awesome team at Sticky… and possibly some newbie guests like us.

We were greeted by the friendly Candy Master himself who invited us behind the counter and handed us our aprons and kevlar gloves. We were very excited for some hands-on involvement in the candy-making process, but we had no idea that we would truly be following it through from start to finish! (PS: David’s wife Rachel kindly offered to take photos for us throughout the process, so we are very grateful for the excellent material we have to share below!)

Start at the beginning: the sugar

Start at the beginning: the sugar

Here we are right at the very beginning – boiling down water and pure glucose to a hard-crack stage. Craig of the Sticky team added in kiwi flavoring and this was when we were informed that we would be making the kiwi candies on their infamous fruit mix. I am certain my eyes widened with surprise, especially after David said that it would be a relatively easy design for first-timers. “Easy” was not the first word to come to mind…

The Cooling Table

The Cooling Table

As we waited for the sugar to be ready, David gave us a mini-tour of the long story short, pointing out the water-cooled table, then the heated warming table, and that was when we realized we would be working in front of the many visitors, shoppers, and candy lovers wandering by. No pressure.

Hot hot hot!

Hot hot hot!

The sugar is piping hot, around 300 degrees F. After David shared his story of a burn severe enough to warrant a skin graft, we were convinced that there is no messing around with this stuff.

Adding color

Adding color

At this point, it’s time to add the coloring that makes candy so attractive. We mixed in different sections – a large area for the brown kiwi “skin,” a sizable amount of green for the “fruit,” black for the “seeds,” and some clear/white for the center.

Separating the colors

Separating the colors

After a bit of blending, we used a pair of heavy duty scissors to separate the colored sections. (If the green looks a little sparkly to you, it’s likely because that part contains some citric acid powder gently mixed in.)

Making some white...

Making some white…

The clear sections were moved to the warming table to keep them pliable, but we had some work to do for the white and light green portions. What do you do to make clear candy turn opaque? You pull it!

.... and some green!

…. and some green!

Using those trick-of-the-trade hooks, we pulled the candy like pulling taffy. The process incorporates air bubbles and leaves us with an opaque candy mass with a satin-like sheen.

Sculpting the seeds!

Sculpting the seeds!

Now for the fun part – the sculpting. David described this art form as building a 3D sculpture to create a 2D image. So first, the seeds. A tube of black, some opaque green, and some clear green, assembled like so:

Looks like a hot dog

Seed #1 resembles a hot dog

So that’s one seed. Of 24. We have some work to do. Pull pull pull.

They're multiplying!

They’re multiplying!

Luckily, the designers of the kiwi candies had clever math skills. The one hot dog cut in half became two pieces that could be stacked side by side. Then pulling the new shape and cutting it in half would make 4, then 4 became 8.

One last stretch!

One last stretch!

This last layer, eight “seeds” wide, was stretched extra long, cut into thirds, and stacked again. Finally we have our 24 seeds!

The middles!

The middles!

Next we rolled out the white center for the candy. The “seeds” will wrap around this white tube.

Rollin' out the green

Rollin’ out the green

If you’re lucky, slicing open a kiwi will reveal more than just seeds… so good thing we reserved some opaque green for the “meat” of the fruit. Martin rolled it out to just the right size to fit around our work-in-progress.

Rollin' out the "skin"

Rollin’ out the “skin”

While Martin kept our kiwi burrito rolling (letting it settle too long on the warming table would yield a flat side), David rolled out the brown candy to be wrapped as the “skin” layer. The color looks great and very realistic – it’s only missing the fuzz!

The finished 26 lb monster

The finished 26 lb monster

Here’s the kiwi sculpture ready to be hand-pulled and cut into bite-sized pieces. Believe it or not, it weighs 26 pounds!

Martin happily rolling along

Martin happily rolling along

Martin was charged with two tasks – keeping the mass moving so that no side goes flat and hand-pulling from one end to size so it could move along to my station…

Cutting the pulled candy!

Cutting the pulled candy!

It was simple enough — periodically I took the spade and with a swift whack, separated the candy into long tubes. Craig kept them moving until they were sufficiently cool, again to prevent flat sides.

We switched

Then we switched places :3

Eventually we got the hang of it, but David stepped in to check on our consistency. He explained, as he deftly manipulated the sugar to just the right width, that working with sugar depends heavily on speed. Too slow and the sugar cools too quickly to work with.

The tubes - ready for cutting

The tubes – ready for cutting

Before we knew it, we had finished turning the 26 pound mass into these thin long tubes, ready for the next step – cutting into nom-ready pieces.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

Using a bit of physics, David showed us the technique for cutting up the tubes. This part was probably the most difficult as the candy would shatter down the middle or the slices would end up too skinny or too thick. But not to worry, David came over and told me that the imperfections were the beauty of handmade products. That each candy-maker places his or her own style and flair into the confections.

Finally finished!

Finally finished!

David pointed to one of the pieces I had cut and asked me, “Do you think that is beautiful? Is that a piece that you would want to eat?” It was then that I really understood his passion for his art…. although I didn’t have the heart to say what I was really thinking – no, that piece is ugly; I need more practice.

The finished product

The finished product

The audience, adults and children alike, really seemed to enjoy watching the process and sampling the finished product. We certainly enjoyed participating and working alongside David and Craig. Although now in retrospect, I still cannot believe they consider the kiwi to be one of the easier designs!

The team at Sticky!

The team at Sticky!

We had such an incredible experience learning something new from people who are truly passionate about what they do. And they are not relegated to making fruit assortments every day… one of their main business lines is custom design orders. They do weddings, company logos, funny greetings, you name it!

If you’re in LA, be sure to swing by and check them out! In fact – you could even stop by one of their other global locations in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Funny story, long before we had even heard of Sticky, we tried their candy courtesy of a friend who had brought them back from Hong Kong. The style and intricacy of their designs is so iconic I’d recognize it anywhere!

And speaking of trying their candies, how would you like to skip the drive to Hollywood & Highland and sample some of these confections in your own home?

We are hosting our very first GIVEAWAY! (*insert fanfare*) Click to enter our Rafflecopter giveaway!

Sorry, no fancy widget… we’re working on that. We received a lot of goodies from Sticky and we would love to share some with one lucky reader (open to US residents only). We will announce the winner next Friday 5/31!
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Check out Sticky USA: stickyusa.com

6801 Hollywood Blvd, Ste 201
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Tip: They’re located in Sweet! alongside many other confectionery vendors.

See their Yelp reviews here!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Sonya at And More Food. Cheers!