Bad Days and Chocolate Soufflés

Chocolate souffleEvery once in a while, a perfect shit storm plows into my day derailing my projects, knocking out my patience, and shutting down my ability to function. Today was one of those days. It was a day where I questioned everything and wondered why I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. It was a day where chocolate was my version of smack.

On shit storm days the best thing for me to do is go home and bake. Chocolate soufflé sounded like a redemptive and restorative task. And for the record, I have NEVER made chocolate soufflé in my life. I don’t know why I was enamored by the idea today, but I just had to have it. I even listed “make chocolate soufflés” on my yearly bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish. Chocolate soufflé was going to turn my day around!

I used a modified version of Giada De Laurentiis’ Gianduja Soufflé recipe. I did not make the chocolate filling used in Giada’s recipe, instead opting for Ukrainian dark chocolate that I received as a gift. I also halved the recipe so I didn’t make too much.

How was it? Take a look. I’m still licking the ramekin. Chocolate really is a religious experience! Now, where’s the wine…Souffle Dessert

Cupcake and Champagne Sunday!

Champagne and cupcakes

Sundays are perfect for whipping up lovely sweets and enjoying the end of the weekend. Today, I decided it was cupcake and champagne Sunday!

I am very fond of springtime in Paris. Yes, I am still in love with the romantic notion of the city-I am such a sucker. I fell head over heels when I saw An American in Paris as a kid. I even had my wedding photos done in Paris 🙂 It is still my dream to spend an extended amount of time in the city painting and writing!

One of my favorite pastimes while in Paris is visiting the pâtisseries. The pastries are truly works of art. They are sometimes too beautiful to eat! Today’s cupcake recipe was inspired by the rich chocolate ganache frosting that is often used on French pastries. I love vanilla and chocolate together so I decided to make a vanilla bean cupcake recipe. And, of course, champagne goes with chocolate!Champagne and bubbles

Vanilla bean and chocolate ganache cupcakes made my Sunday decadent and we all need a little decadence before the work week starts again! So, put on some music, dig out your pretty plates and napkins, and Winedown!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

  • Servings: 12
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 28 minutes

Cupcake Ingredients:

  • Baking spray
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup room temperature butter (if salted butter then do not add additional salt)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

Ganache Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees. Spray cupcake pan with baking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until combined. Scrape vanilla bean into butter mixture and mix thoroughly.

Add flour mixture to creamed batter alternately with milk. Mix well after each addition. Beat an additional minute to make sure all ingredients are combined.

Spoon into prepared cupcake pan filling each cupcake halfway. Bake approximately 24-28 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from pan. Place cupcakes on wire rack to allow to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the ganache topping by heating the cream over medium heat until bubbles start to form on the edges of the pan. Do not overheat! Pour heated cream over chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted and cream is combined. Let chocolate rest for 5 minutes before using.

When cupcakes are cooled, hold the cupcake upside down and dip the tops into the chocolate ganache. Place cupcakes on a plate for 10 minutes before serving to allow the ganache to set. Top cupcakes with raspberries or strawberries for a little extra elegance!

Champagne and cupcake pictures

Cabs and Cookies

Occasionally, I get the time to enjoy the art of baking. It doesn’t happen very often, but I was possessed by the need to make homemade chocolate chip cookies last weekend.

And what goes better with chocolate than a nice bottle of 2007 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet! Dark, smokey, and rich to complement the sweetness of the cookies. This is by far one of my favorite wines! I drink it with everything.

Half a bottle of wine and 5 cookies for dinner…hey, we all have our weaknesses 🙂 Enjoy it!

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WineDownAustin goes to France–Food!

Final MBA project almost complete and wedding pictures are done! After almost 3 wonderful weeks in France I had to return to reality.  I have only been back for a few weeks, but I have been dreaming about the food! 

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My favorite restaurants in Angers and Paris…

Chez Remi

Chez Remi is a tiny, closet restaurant with roughly 12 tables. A group of 10 of us walked in and took most of the restaurant! I am sure we provided amusing entertainment for the evening. The menu is chalked on the wall and offers a selection of traditional meals. The wine list is diverse and offers something for every price point and palate.

The menu changes daily and offers fresh, farm-to-table food. Everything was perfectly cooked (you never have to worry about that in France!) and so full of flavor! I started with salmon on a bed of mushrooms and carrots, lamb for a main course, and chocolate cake for dessert.

Le Relais

My favorite meal in Angers was at Le Relais. The food was more sophisticated than other restaurants in Angers and the service was amazing. I received personal attention and they were very patient with me as I struggled through the menu. The waiter explained the entire menu, how the food was cooked, what wines he recommended for the pairing, and went as far to educate me on regional food. I learned so much! I had a salad with proscuitto and melon, white fish cooked in beef broth and potatoes, and a fruit tartlet.

When I return to the Anjou region I will definitely stop by Le Relais again!

Les Plantagenets

Les Plantagenets was the hotel restaurant. I ate there twice as I was too tired to venture out after work. It was nice. I ordered the three-course tasting menu both times and tried different dishes. The first visit I had escargot in pastry shell, white fish with vegetables, and a chocolate something was just amazing. The second time I ordered the eggplant and goat cheese, artichoke ravioli, and of course the chocolate something!

Auberge du Champ de Mars

Auberge du Champ de Mars was near our hotel in Paris. We were staying a block from the Eiffel Tower which can result in poor food for crazy prices! We found Auberge while out walking around one evening. It was small, quiet, and intimate so we decided to try it. What a treat! The chef, Philippe Excoffier, is an award winning chef offering a diverse menu.

My fiancé and I started with the eggplant lasagna then moved on to the veal chop and the roasted duck. We could not get enough of the desserts in France so I had chocolate cake (shocker!) and Mr. D had the cheesecake with strawberries.

 La Fontaine de Mars

La Fontaine de Mars was a fun experience. Not the best food in the world, but certainly an experience. I read about the place online and it was highly rated. Apparently, President Obama ate there as well. So, what the heck? We adopted the French lifestyle and went over at 9pm for dinner, but it was packed! The hostess was wonderful and worked us into the schedule. While waiting, she also brought us a plate of sausage and two glasses of Bordeaux to enjoy before dinner. Very sweet! We both had the steak and fries which was enjoyable. It wasn’t the best value for the type of food we ordered, but it was a lively square with tons of people watching. We also discovered we loved Bordeaux!

O’Chateau

O’Chateau is a wine bar/restaurant that offers wine tasting and wine dinners. We opted to do the wine tasting dinner our last night in Paris. It was very entertaining! The wine dinner was held in the cellar room downstairs. We enjoyed  a three-course meal and TONS of wine. The sommelier teaching us about the wine was very funny. I would recommend this place to anyone going to Paris. It is relaxed and offers high quality food and wine for a decent price.