Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New year resolution.

I usually dont set any new year resolutions, I dont think I should wait for the end of the year to decide to do something to improve my life same as I usually dont like to wait for Mondays to start a diet, or more appropriate, healthy regimen.

This year went so fast, but it feels like the past 20 years went like the blink of an eye anyway.

If I was to set a goal for the 2010, it would be to be healthier and spend more quality time with my family. Travel would be also very nice, I just dont see that happen soon.

I guess I should set a goal for my business, after the slow bump I had during these holidays and the catching up I have to do, there is alot to be done and planned, but honestly right now I am just dreading it.

I thought taking time off would do the trick and help me reset, but I was wrong. Instead I came back to a lots of work and not much energies to actually do the job.

Also beginning of the year means fees! Money lots of money to keep this thing going and at this point I am not too sure is still worth it.

I wish I felt exited and full of new ideas to start the new year with DesiderioChocolates in full gear, but I dont and the only thing that makes me feel at ease is the thought of letting it go.

Maybe a year off?

But then I dont want to disappoint all the family and friends that always supported and believed in me, the customers that never stopped appreaciating my work and for whom I feel extremely grateful.

Well still a year off would be better than just completely give up on the past 6 years of work, hopes and sacrifices.

Today is the 30th of December I need to make a decision.

What to do?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I see the light!

Ok ok, I might have been a tad pessimistic and a pinch freaked out, but I think today I see the light!
Yesterday after I got off from work I went to the kitchen and there I tried to relax and don't feel in a pinch. I like when I can take my time to create something, my chocolates are my art, my stress relief, well they are when I don't have a deadline anyway.
Well I worked passed midnight and I did manage to finish everything I had in my list, I am very proud and tired, but I am not done yet. Since I am still at work and will be for few more hours, I will have to go back after work and finish up everything. I really want to make sure the case is nice and full with all of those edible gems, make sure I don't disappoint anybody, I hate that.
After these holidays I need to have a plan for the next one, so I don't end up so stressed out, tired and what is most important, I don't leave anybody without chocolates!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Back and not ready.

I know the title of the blog is deceiving because I really have not posted much about my chocolate adventure.
I was hoping to be more motivated once I was back home, come out with some new ideas to start my holiday production with an extra gear.
The actual plan was to dive full time into my chocolate business, but life got in the way and we had to go with it. That is why I got tired and demotivated about my chocolates, there are too many things to take care of on a daily basis, and so few energies left.
Usually every time I was in the kitchen to make chocolates, it was a relaxing time, I enjoyed every minute of it, but lately is just another thing I have to do and it is not so enjoyable or even inspiring, I just want to be done with it.
The vacation was extended an extra week which usually is a good thing, but when you are in the middle of the busiest season, it is a suicide! I should have known better, but my hubby really needed it and I was happy to enjoy the family little longer.
Now though,I am in trouble, the production is way way behind and I am experiencing some major pain in my hands and arms, I have carpal tunnel syndrome and the extra work I was welcomed back with, at my day time job, didn't help at all. Now I have not much left to get the chocolates done. Plus I found the kitchen very warm, which is a big no no, that messed with colors temper and the chocolate. So I find myself have to re clean the molds and what is worst polish them!! I am afraid I am not going to be able to do more than just fill the case at the Glacier at this point, and that would be ok I guess, I need to make sure I get back in gear for the next season which is right behind the corner.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Time for a break!

After a year of little sleep and lot to do, I am in desperate need for a break. This Saturday my little one turns 1 year, we are celebrating his first B-day in Michigan with the paternal grandparents, or at lest the half of it!
I am so burned out mentally that I don't even feel like going anywhere even if that means vacation. But every parent knows that there is no real vacation, a resting vacation that is, with small children. We are leaving tomorrow and I am not even packed or even organized! I should have made more chocolates before the trip but not enough time, there is that small thing called "job" that often gets in my way, but it would really stinks if I didn't have that now would it?!
So I can't complaint, only vent. I seriously need a break to gather my thoughts, new ideas or even elaborate old ones, trying to figure out what I would like to do when I am all grown up! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Rigth now I don't feel like thinking, or planning or make decisions on how when and what, I just hope I can sleep a lot, don't do much and sleep some more, enjoy family, which doesn't happen often here, savor my father in law exceptional food and give my boys the chance to be the center of the attention and not have to deal with their tired boring parents for a change. Not that we don't try to be entertaining, but I guess working parents can only be entertaining so much.
I am also working on my website, I am hoping to be able to dedicate it more time to finish it and have all the features I need. I have to get some new pictures of the chocolates and the other confections, I would really love to pick a custom package with logo and all, but that could wait, if I can have the rest done its already a good start.
Well I am really looking forward to see my little one face when he'll sees the cake, and no I am not baking it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday's Breakfast: French Toasts

Ahh Finally Sunday. A day off from work and my chance to do what I like the most; Baking and making breakfast for my family.
Yesterday evening I whipped a nice batch of Challah from Hamelman book "Bread", I made few small modification to the recipe, since it is very forgiving and very very easy to execute. Honey instead of sugar and little bit more than the recipe calls for because I like it sweeter and butter instead of oil, in this case I didn't have any neutral flavored oil in the house. I breaded and instead of baking it in free form like I did the first time I tried the pan loaf method. It came out incredible, very tasty and the smell, oh the smell is enticing. The loaf shape works better for making French Toasts and sandwiches.

And there they are ready to be devoured. We used fresh Chantilly ( lightly sweetened whipped cream) instead of the butter and plenty of powdered sugar, some real maple syrup is very welcome as well. While I was eating I thought that some whipped butter would be great with the addition of maple syrup to make maple butter, instead of the Chantilly of course!
My husband asked me if this bread was hard to make and when I said that was incredibly easy he said "oh well make a bunch then I will eat it all!!" Ah.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seasonal Marshmallow Lollipos

I have already mentioned how much I love to make marshmallows.
I have decided to start producing Marshmallow Lollipops, in shapes and flavors related to each season. The first time I came out with marshmallow lollipops was for Valentine's Day show in Fort Collins and the lollipops went fast.
Best sellers I would say.
For this fall winter season I am making;
Pumpkin pie, Apple caramel, PB&J, Gingerbread and Mint.
Each flavor has its own shape and decoration. I think they are fun and yummy and easy pick for gifts or even stocking stuffer.

I will also offer single piece chocolate boxes, that are perfect as tree ornament, since they have a little loop to tie a string on for easy hanging, or stocking stuffer.

The chocolates collection is pretty much the same, but during the holidays I usually offer few different flavors such as;
Gingerbread, Mint Nougat, Pumpkin pie, Hot chocolate and few more depends on what inspiration I get from the food around me.
Three nuts Nougat covered in chocolate is also a fall winter favorite.

I have been thinking to try something with Miso, well I know sounds weird but if they use bacon in chocolate I think Miso is not that weird after all, right?
I rediscovered Miso few weeks ago, I wanted a Miso soup so I bought some light Yellow Miso and I ended up trying the dressing recipe written on the lid. Wow, I am totally addicted!
I use it everywhere, the real meaning of "Umami" I guess, I never thought about it. So I think well I am enjoying this so much because the savory addicting flavor, what if I make a chocolate with it?
I just bought some red Miso want to see the difference in flavor.
Well I hope this Holiday season is going to be a great one for everybody, we are going to keep it very simple and Homemade.

Enjoy the snow!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Marshmallows are fun to make. I have never even thought I could make them at home. Then one day I found a recipe, give it a try and ta da! I was hooked! And so are many of the people that tried them. Its hard to think tasty fluffy marshmallow when the only reference you have are those tasteless ones found at the grocery store. The homemade one are very fluffy, tasty and they melt in your mouth. The array of flavors combination is limited only to one's creativity and boldness.
I have tried many flavors and so many more to test, some are a staple in my collection, like the Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel, Raspberry Chambord, Mint, Pumpkin Pie (fall flavor), Brandy Cinnamon and few more. They are all made with fresh ingredients like raspberry or pumpkin puree', fresh organic vanilla beans and high quality liquors.
I recently play with the idea of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Marshmallow. So the other night, since I couldn't sleep anyway because baby boy is not a good sleeper, I decided to give it a try and made them.
My husband commented, after trying a piece, that it tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread! The white bread thing is because its pretty much banned from our kitchen, unless I bake Italian or peasant bread, and even then I always add a good amount of whole wheat flour and flax seed meal.
They really taste like a Pb&J sandwich, soft melt-in-your-mouth little pillows of tastiness! I cut some as lollipops and the left over in little pieces rolled in corn starch and confectionery sugar. I served them with tonight dinner, along with the Pumpkin Cake and an Italian Cappuccino (Oh Yummy! Need to remember to make it more often).
The challenge is that the marshmallows are so soft and tender that it's hard to hold them into the lollipop sticks, I use the long clear plastic ones, which are very slick . Well there might be room for improvement but the taste needs to stay exactly the same, and I added them to my collection.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's Baking Time; Pumpkin Cake.

Ok, so couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend retirement birthday party. The dinner was held at a the Ollin Farm here in Longmont. Under a heated tent the guests were seated in round tables of about eight people each. Live music featured by a very talented guitar player. The food was prepared on site by a Chef and his team, using many of the fresh produce from the farm, which was wonderful and right there with the idea to always use local whenever possible.
The food was outstanding! I don't remember when was the last time I had such a wonderful meal, but I am pretty sure was in my parents kitchen back in Italy! The vegetables were cooked perfectly, the meat was to die for. And of course after all the good food and the laughter, the desserts were served. Oh my oh my! Among pastries and hot coffee there were two three layers round cakes. One was a chocolate and I think toffee crunch of some sort, the other was a Pumpkin cake. I shamelessly asked for both! I couldn't resist, I needed to taste them and see if I could get some new idea.
The chocolate cake was very good, moist, tender and the frosting light and flavorful, but the pumpkin one really amazed me. I was expecting a good cake and it was one of the best cake in its category, I have had. It was moist and light and at the same time dense, just the right amount of spices, the frosting was real buttercream, not too sweet, real butter buttery and light. It reminded me of a Buttercream I use for a sour cream chocolate cake, that I discovered few years ago, while I was on a mission to find the best chocolate cake.
I have been obsessed with that cake since then. I never made a pumpkin cake so I researched little bit on the net to see if any of the many recipes would caught my attention. I found one on the Libbys web site. Its a sour cream pumpkin cake, the original recipe is for a bundt pan, but I baked it into a three nine inches round pans. The cake itself baked very nicely, and is tender and light. Unfortunately I made the mistake of overbeating the batter after I added the dry ingredients, and the cake had tunnels, you know holes all over the baked cake that happen when the mix is overworked etc. I wanted my son to have some fun, he was feeling lonely and bored because none of his friends were available to play with him that day. He helped measuring all the dry ingredients, in which he is really good at, but I did get distracted in the process and oops! Anyway the cake turned out tasty and suitable for the next step: Frosting it. I made the Buttercream I have been making for the past three years, from the Baking Illustrated book, called "Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting". I also made different variations like caramel or coffee, it is very versatile. To the original formula I added about a cup of fresh pumpkin puree' and lots of pumpkin spices.
The final product was tasty and satisfactory, not at all sweet and rich in taste and texture. There are few things that I will change next time, like making sure I finish the batter by hand instead the stand mixer, bake the layers in 2 round pans but cut each of the layer in half, I liked the fact that the layer of the original cake were thinner, more like a torte. I am happy with the overall result, but I will keep baking until I bake the perfect pumpkin cake, same as I did for the chocolate one, I will need lots of tasters! Do I see hands in the air??

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In Love with all things squash!

So I have decided that this fall I am going to enjoy Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash and all of those nice fall/winter goodies. I think I am definitely in love with the Butternut squash.
I have made Risotto, Creamy Soup, Chocolates and Marshmallows! The creamy soup was a winner, my little boy enjoyed it as much as I did and so did my beloved neighbor, that came that night to help me with my newsletter editing :-).
The recipe goes little bit like this, as usual I never write down my formulas:
Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Creamy Soup
6 cups of cubed sugar pumpkin and butternut squash, seeded and peeled.
1/2 small white onion chopped
3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of evaporated milk (not condensed)
2 to 3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tbsp of butter (optional)
2-3 Tbsp of Amaretto liquor
Salt and white pepper to taste

Saute' the onion with the olive oil. Add the cubed pumpkin/butternut squash. Let it cook for about 5 minuets on medium heat, add the Amaretto liquor, let it evaporate. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the vegetable or chicken stock and let it cook covered until tender. Add the butter and the evaporated milk, puree' with an immersion blender, or into a food processor, until creamy and smooth. Let it cook for about 5 more minutes. Enjoy hot or warm. Croutons would be good for some crunch. Keep in mind that I made this recipe as I went so you might need to add some extra liquid to obtain the consistency you like. This is a very easy way to create a nice elegant creamy soup (vellutata) with a different variety of vegetable. Cauliflowers make a wonderful soup as well.

As for the sweet version, those truffles came out pretty yummy. I have to admit I am not a big fan of Pumpkin Pie, but i do love the pumpkin flavor with fresh spices in chocolates, marshmallows or pumpkin bread! I was so impressed when I saw how the puree' turned out after I barbecued the Butternut squash, that I make sure I always have some in the kitchen now. Microwave would be the next best way to cook it, but barbecued or roasted would be better, the flavor is incredible. That's how I did mine; cut in half the pumpkin or butternut squash (or any other type you like) , take the seeds out, cover in aluminium foil and grill on the barbecue until tender. Then just spoon the fleshy orange pulp and puree it in a food processor until nice and smooth. Its perfect for baby food, my 9 months old son loves it, is naturally sweet and creamy. It can be stored in the freezer, in containers or freezer bags in small amount, for easy use. I will dig out my pumpkin bread recipe and post it next time, is the same as my banana bread and uses whole wheat flour and raisins, I love it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Flavors for the Fall

Between the first post and now, I have found a nice formulation for my peach chocolates. "Peaches & Cream". Colorado peaches Pate' de Fruit layered with a white chocolate vanilla ganache, dipped in Venezuelan dark chocolate. The result is a very nice flavor, that allows the delicate aroma of the peaches to come through and not be covered by the strong chocolate taste. The white vanilla ganache complements well with the peaches. I have also create a new Pear Cardamom Caramel chocolate. Colorado Pears Pate de Fruit, sweet and tangy at the same time, where the flavor of the pears is very prominent, paired with a Cardamom Caramel ganache, in my opinion a very good combination.

I have made these chocolates in the past but I wanted to give them a little extra and I couldn't decide between pear and caramel or pear and cardamom, so I used all of the above :-).
I have been playing with the idea of a Pumpkin caramel truffle as well, maybe presented in a pumpkin shape chocolate box (those are in the making). I will probably try them this weekend. I have roasted some sugar pumpkin and butternut squash and turned them into a luscious and very colorful puree', ready to go.

Still need to decide if I want a free from truffle, a cut or a molded one. Believe it or not there is a lot of difference between these three version. I personally prefer the cut type, where the ganache is firm yet creamy, cut into pieces and dipped in chocolate. The second would be the truffle, which in Europe is the irregular shaped one (hence the name) usually round, oval etc. Where the ganache is firmer so to be rolled and dipped. My least favorite is the molded one, or better, it really depends on the flavor. For example the Chai is great in the molded form but the Lavender has to be cut or a rolled truffle, for my taste of course. Way to be picky huh?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colorado Peaches. Italian Summer

I usually miss Italy very much because all my family is back there. But summer time I feel even more homesick because Roman summers are incredible!

Long walks in the historic center, il Lungo Tevere, l'Isola Tiberina and a perfect end to enjoy it all, Grattachecca. Oh yes I do miss Rome especially in the Summer!

Another thing I miss a lot all year around is Food. Prosciutto, salame, all kind of cheeses, the incredible Pizza al Taglio that Rome is famous for and fresh fruits and vegetables.

So when I finally see Colorado grown produce at the market and farmers markets, like the Rocky Ford Melons, Pears and Peaches I get very exited and I cant wait to try new seasonal recipes.

Right now I have in mind a nice and smooth Peach pate de fruit, paired with some kind of spiced ganache, maybe a spiced dark rum or some Amaretto, since I remember my mom used to make some wonderful baked peaches stuffed with "Amaretti" biscotti, the combination is very nice and the almond flavor perfectly complements the peaches.

I have not been able to be in the kitchen this week and I am dying to go back and get to work .