Newsletter #39 In Search of Pastry and Chocolate NYC

As the Covid numbers drop I’m off to my next venture, or shall I say “adventure”?  As long as my health holds out I’m travelling the globe in search of grate chocolate and pastry.   Maybe great cooking schools, too.  Add to that, how about recipes from Michelin starred restaurants?  So many ideas and it’s time to get rolling.   The hope is that it will culminate in a book or set of books.  So pardon me for the change in format from my usual newsletter but I hope you enjoy.

As a cooking teacher I always find it fun to shop at cookware supply stores.  New York Cake was on my list.  It was such a wow with an incredible array of dishes and tools to make chocolates, cakes, tarts and cookies.  I decided to purchase holly shaped and Christmas cookie plungers.  I’ve never used these but they will be debuting in my Holiday Cooking Classes, holiday cookies on December 10 and buche de Noel on December 24..

I went in search of pastry and chocolate after a lovely dining experience at Benno in New York City.  I have been hopping in and out of New York City for the past few years, pandemic time excepted, and had a tough time finding a magical chocolate shop.  There are plenty of transplants from other cities.  La Maison de Chocolate from Paris.  Royce of Japanese origin.  But it was only on this trip that I was to find exactly what I was looking for, a small shop where hand made chocolates were crafted.  

On a morning with scant to do I searched Google maps for “chocolate” near my hotel.  It pointed me to Chocolat Moderne and I thought, “Why not?”  I had nothing to lose.  Google maps led me to a door looking like the entry to an apartment building at 27 West 20th street.  There was no chocolate shop to be seen but I asked the doorman.  He indicated I should take the elevator to the 9th floor.  This seemed rather crazy but again I thought, “What do I have to lose?”  I entered a very orange but very closed door apprehensively but was so excited to see bon bons being made en masse by hand.   It was so fun to chat with chcolatier Joan Coukes.  She gave me some tips on how to pop molded chocolates out of hard plastic molds.  It seems best to refrigerate them right after pouring the chocolate in and freezing them a bit if the chocolates stick and won’t unmold properly.  And I found out they are mostly a wholesale shop and sell to Allegio in Palo Alto, right down the street.  I adored their raspberry marzipan bon bon in the Christmas box selection.  And it was so interesting to find out they specialize in chocolate from Valrhona. They made dark milk chocolate bars.  With the milk yum and not so much sugar.  I thought this such a find I brought my dear friend and chocoholic, Laila, there the next day.

I ate a LOT of pastries on this trip but most of them were forgettable.   If in New York City I would definitely steer to Chelsea and visit Dominique Ansel’s Workshop, a recommendation from another dear friend, Nathalie.  This is the heart of Ansel where the pastry creations are made.  I have heard they make cronuts (so says my friend, investment partner and fellow traveler Jocelyn) but I chose the S’More Pastry, one they were showcasing that day with had made marshmallows atop a pastry with a dollop of chocolate.  I took a Salted Caramel pastry to go.   

Then off to Le Maison de Macaron, with a display case of so many flavor choices.  It’s a small shop managed by a husband and wife.  She was at the front counter taking orders while he crafted macarons in the back.  If you love macarons, head here and not Laduree, the Parisian transplant.  Le Maison is the only macaron specialty shop in NYC and a great find.

Chocolat Moderne, 27 West 20th St.

NY Cake, 118 W 22nd St.

Le Maison de Macaron, 132 W 23rd St.

Dominique Ansel Workshop, 17 East 27th St.

Benno, 7 E 27th St.

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Newsletter #38 and Kimchee with Potatoes and Eggs Recipe

News and Fun Facts   For those of you who have missed my newsletters, I’m sorry to have been so quiet.  It’s just an indication that in person classes are BACK.  I’m teaching both at Sur La Table (Sept 23, Pizza) and at my place: Tuesdays (savory), Fridays (baking Fridays)

·      September 21,   POT STICKERS


·      October 5,   SHAKING BEEF

Top Tip  On a recent trip to NYC I spent time reading back issues of my favorite magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.  I came across thie article “All About Oils” which is a great read and answers the question I get often in class “Which oil should I use for this dish?”

What I’m Reading   Many of you mastered sourdough bread in the last year.  I’m a bit behind the game as I’m generally making bread with fermented dough.  I am just embarking on my sourdough bread journey.  If you want to look forward and join me that would be fun.  For those who want to look back, read “The Year Flour was King”,

What I’m Watching   Well, I told a bit of a white lie as I’m not really starting my sourdough journey, I’m just paying more attention to the details as I wasn’t 100% successful a few years back.   I have recently mastered sourdough bread and I love it. You can do this too.  Trust me.  Watch the Food Geek show to do it here.   I’m happy to share some starter.

What I’m Cooking  Since of course I don’t make bread for every meal, I thought I’d share this recipe with you.  Korean food is trending.  This recipe is bit like Shakshuka gone Korean.  It’s actually pretty easy and a wonderful weeknight dinner or creative Sunday brunch idea.  Kimchee and Potato with Eggs recipe is here.

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Newsletter #37 and Peanut Sauce for Noodles Recipe

News and Fun Facts   I have posted a new “How To” video on my YouTube channel.  Come watch it if you’d like to learn how to temper chocolate.  It’s a bit tricky in the summer but even in the summer tempering chocolate will work in the morning while the air is still cool.    

Caroline is an incredible baking student and sends me great photos so she’s the Snap and Cook winner of a FREE class.  Above is one of her photos.  To enter the drawing, send me a photo of something you made in class or one of the recipes I’ve posted in my newsletter.  That will enter you in the drawing for a FREE class.

Baking Classes on Friday’s go hybrid.  If online isn’t your thing come join in person.  Limit of 2 in person students per class. Sign up here.

May 21 German Chocolate Cake, May 28 Peach Pie, June 4 Peach Cobbler, June 11: Lemon Almond Cake

Top Tip  At La Toque  If you’re like me, you probably pull out a baking sheet almost every day but probably haven’t given a lot of thought to the nuances of this great kitchen essential.  To learn about baking sheets, read “The Reason you Shouldn’t Throw out your Old Sheet Pan

What I’m Reading   I’m so excited the Covid era is coming to a close that I’ve started lining up dinner parties.  I’m starting small but still excited about the prospect.  Get inspired to do the same by reading “Most of All, I’ve Missed the Dinner Parties”.

What I’m Watching  Bake Like a Pro Easy Apple Cinnamon Fritter Cake,  I love the way he uses clips to hold the parchment paper in place.

What I’m Cooking  A friend had an abundance of cilantro growing in her garden and gifted me part of her harvest.   With it I made this awesome peanut sauce and served it with rice noodles.  It’s super easy but super delicious.   I’ve made it for so many years I can’t recall the source but perhaps from Greens restaurant in San Francisco.  If vegan isn’t your thing, toss in some cooked shrimp or chicken but I promise it’s delicious without either.  Click here to see the Peanut Sauce recipe.  

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Newsletter #36 and Sweet Potato Ball Recipe

News and Fun Facts   With such a successful vaccine rollout I am getting optimistic I’ll be able to open in person summer cooking camp this summer.  If you’d like to be one of the first to know, please send your email address to

Top Tip  At La Toque we have a LOT of fun cookie cutters.  My favorite are made from copper.  If you want to stock your kitchen with unique ones, check out Ann Clark Cookie Cutters.  This video will tell you all about how they are made in the U.S. and how to buy them.  

What I’m Reading   If you’ve joined one of my baking classes, you’ve used baking soda many times as it’s a key pantry baking staple.  Did you ever wonder how it works and why we use it?  See How Baking Soda Really Works

What I’m Watching  I find Jamie Oliver’s YouTube cooking shows so much fun but what’s even better is his 8 year old son, Buddy Oliver.  Here he is making scrambled eggs. 

What I’m Cooking  I have been enjoying my recipe tests from the “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” cookbook .  One of my favorites is their rum punch which I’ll skip since many readers aren’t of drinking age.  Another is sorrel soup which I’ll skip as I don’t know how many of my readers  have this growing in their yard and it’s challenging to find this lemony green in the market.  So here is one for you: Sweet Potato Balls

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Newsletter #35 and Miso Salmon Recipe

Lemon Berry Tart, Winner of Snap and Cook Drawing

News and Fun Facts   The fun fact for the week is that covid numbers are plummeting.  That means that I can foresee in person classes in the not too distant future.  Until then, join Friday’s online bake class at 3:30.  Feb 19 Crescent Cookies, Feb 26 Milk Chocolate Cookies, March 5 Chocolate Pistachio Cake.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  Congrats for this lemon berry tart photographer from a recent class.  I love her heart shaped pan (photo above)!  Send me a photo of the recipe below something you made in class to win a drawing for a free class.

Top Tip  Cooks Illustrated had this great article on Butter Know How.  I’m a fan of European style butter these days but read what they have to say.  Better yet, subscribe to their fantastic magazine.

What I’m Reading  Are you as tired of reading all about the U.S. woes and triumphs as I am?  Satisfy your wanderlust this week.  Here is what’s happening in other parts of our world.  India farmers are protesting

France is now allowing workers to eat at their desks. 

What I’m Watching  Here’s another wanderlust option for Francophiles. Éric Kayser, the artisan baker who opened the first of his shops in Paris, teaches you how to make classic French breads, including “la baguette,” on his lively Maison Kayser Academy YouTube channel. Eric Kayser’s YouTube channel Maison Kayser Academy 

What I’m Cooking  I have seen a LOT of recipes with miso so it must be trending.  I’m not a stranger to miso as I’ve enjoyed many bowls of miso soup at Japanese restaurants.  Yet I had never cooked with it until this month in this Miso Salmon Curry recipe.    Try that out.  It’s easy and fun to cook with a novel ingredient.  Want to learn about miso?  Check this out

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Newsletter #34 and Turkey Leftover Recipes

News and Fun Facts  Today’s newsletter is random in content but all good as you finish the biggest cooking weekend of the year: some post Thanksgiving tips, some just fun reads, all good. I just listened to a Trader Joe’s podcast.  In it they mentioned some of their fun holiday items soon to be on the shelves.  Although I’m all about cooking from scratch I may take the night off soon and try out their beef en croute (a take on beef Wellington) and their black truffle pesto.  If you’d like to cook with me come to the beef taco class or try out tarte tatin with all of those just picked fall apples.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  This is a quiet week so no winners.  Above is a tarte tatin photo to entice you to join class on Friday.

Top Tip  Pouncakes are a fairly easy dessert to make but if you’d like to up your game.    If desserts are not your thing, there are also tips to use soda (yes soda) to improve meat dishes in “The Secret to Poundcake That Really Pops”.

What I’m Reading  Some of you may be aspiring to be a chef like the pros but here is an article to lower your game right after you up it with the poundcake mentioned above in “Things Chefs Do that You Should Not Do”.

What I’m Watching  Ina Garner shows you her kitchen and her favorite tools and ingredients.  Check it out in this video.

I was so happy she uses the same scale I own (well I actually have 10) and makes her own vanilla.   It’s SO easy to make vanilla.  In December vanilla beans are fairly affordable at Costco.  Great for your vanilla project.

If you’re looking for turkey leftover ideas, see also this sandwich video from Adam and Eats.  It reminded me of a terrific turkey sandwich Oakville Grocery used to serve after Thanksgiving.

What I’m Cooking  If you had a small group around your Thanksgiving table yet a large turkey as I did, you would probably be looking for a fantastic leftover recipe.  I turn towards Indian flavors after Thanksgiving and really like this turkey biryani recipe. 

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Newsletter #33 and How to Make the Perfect Pie Shell Video

News and Fun Facts   It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m teaching some mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing this week.  So, you can make it with me and then have it ready to serve for Thursday.  Want a fun fact?  Here is what the Pilgrims probably ate.  Eels and lobster were on the menu.  They had pumpkins but, alas, no mashed potatoes

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  Congrats to one of my regular baking students.  She has submitted so many wonderful photos it’s high time she won the drawing for a FREE class.  The photos above are from many of her baking creations. 

Top Tip  If carrots are on your Thanksgiving menu, how about jazzing up the dish with a unique type of carrot?  Or think about planting some seeds during the long weekend.   Read Getting to Know Carrots to learn about a host of carrot types.

What I’m Reading  Onions are probably a key ingredient in your Thanksgiving dishes.  You can just pop down to the local market to buy your onions but learn about the Onion Johnnies which were popular 100 years ago in England and France, onion salesmen via bicycles.

What I’m Listening to  If you  like you’ll love their podcast “Homemade”.  It’s been fun to listen to chefs (and how Jet Tila became one) and learn how to be a social media cooking star with Eitan Barnath.   

What I’m Cooking  The Thanksgiving pumpkin pie class was so much fun on Friday.  If you missed class but want to make a pie for Thanksgiving, perhaps watch my video on “How to make the Perfect  Pie Shell”

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Newsletter #32 & Rice Cooker Oatmeal Recipe

News and Fun Facts   The weather is taking on a chill as it does in California once the Halloween costumes are put away.   To brace myself against the morning chill, oatmeal and maple syrup are top of mind.  So I have some interesting tidbits about those in this newsletter.  Classes have a Thanksgiving focus for the next 2 weeks.  Even if the number at your table is small this year a fabulous dessert would be wonderful.  So you’ll see pumpkin pie on the class listing for this week and a not so Thanksgiving chicken tender class.  Next week we head towards Thanksgiving sides.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  The pumpkin mousse photo above was shot by a student in a recent class.  She won a spot in the pumpkin pie class.  You can win a class too.  Join a class and take a photo or maybe take a photo of your oatmeal you make with the recipe below.

Top Tip  For those of you with pie on your mind for Thanksgiving, learn about pie shields.  Or go whole hog on pies and buy the new “The Book of Pie” cookbook.

What I’m Reading  When I was young, maple syrup generally came in a plastic Log Cabin bottle loaded with chemicals.  We are so lucky today to have real maple syrup from maple trees at nearly every grocery store.  Even in the pure form it does beg the question, “Maple Syrup.  Is it good for you or just pure sugar?”

What I’m Watching A new season of “Someone Feed Phil” just popped up on Netflix Streaming.  Season 4, episode 2 hits close to home as Phil eats his way through San Francisco and hob nobs with some of the Bay Area’s greatest chefs.   He raves about Tartine’s chocolate croissants, has a heart to heart chat with Dominique Crenn, tours 3 of Thomas Keller’s properties in Yountville.   Check it out and make a list of all of these great restaurants to visit when we are able to do that again.

What I’m Cooking  The former Whole Foods CEO wrote an article a while back about making oatmeal in a rice cooker.  He would travel with a rice cooker and oatmeal and make it in his hotel room on business trips.  I’m not kidding about that.  I thought it was a great idea and I’ve been making my oatmeal that way ever since.  Here’s how:

I use these ingredients and then press the “on” button to let the rice cooker do it’s magic

1 cup old fashioned oats

2 ½ cups liquid (my preference is 1 cup water and 1 ½ cup almond milk

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Newsletter #31 & Shrimp Risotto Recipe

News and Fun Facts   My kind of fun fact and kind of not so fun fact is the same.  I was itching to test out a Hungarian recipe book recently donated to me and chose to make peppers stuffed with veal.  Alas, veal was no where to be found.  It seems it has been banned in California.  So scrap any veal recipe on your list.  And, really, standard beef is no substitute.  As we head into fall, we’ll start by baking this week Traci de Jardin’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert, cranberry walnut tart.   And for dinner this week you can imagine yourself in Paris with the quiche class on Wednesday. Hey, this is the week to eat some great food while musing over the election results.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  We had a fun Halloween week and I wanted to share our winner’s photo with darling Halloween cupcakes.  Send me a photo from a recipe posted in the newsletter or from a class to enter the drawing for a FREE class.    

Top Tip  While we all hope to make a perfect pie or tart shell, sometimes all doesn’t go so well.  Try out this way to patch your pie shell,  offered to readers in a recent Cooks Illustrated article.

What I’m Reading  I’m not saying that corn syrup is a super food but read “We need to Talk about Corn Syrup” to read why’s it’s actually not as bad as you think.  It’s a key ingredient for my ooey gooey brownies and this week’s cranberry walnut tart class.

What I’m Watching  I’m still watching the most recent season of the Great British Baking show (season 7, episode 4) and I recommend it both to inspire your baking and to build your self esteem.  You’ll see that even the experts have some flops.  For instance, if you put too much custardy filling in the middle of a bundt cake it can easily crack, sadly this happened to one of the contestants on the show.

What I’m Cooking  I LOVE shrimp risotto.  If you do, too, try out my recipe.  As I tell my students, risotto is a “process”.  Once you master it you can swap out the ingredients and let your imagination go a bit wild.  Ditto for quiche.  We’ll learn how to make quiche this week in class. Once you learn the techniques for quiche you can mix and match the cheese type and main ingredient.  In class we’re going classic with either a mushroom or bacon (Lorraine) quiche.

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Newsletter #30 & Free Form Apple Pie Recipe

News and Fun Facts   Have you been baking bread this year?  The fun fact (and maybe not a surprise) is that bread cookbooks are having record sales in 2020.  I’m trying out breads from a cookbook recently donated to my collection “Bread” by Ruth Hensperger.   Tried their very interesting for oat/pistachio bread and yesterday made a whole wheat loaf which uses part whole wheat pastry flour to make it light and fluffy.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  To get you into the Halloween spirit, here’s a photo from a family who attended my spider peanut butter cookie class.  Very cute!!

Top Tip  If you’re whipping up some cream for your Halloween treats, it’s best to start with cold cream.    Here’s a recent tip from Cooks Illustrated to get your cream down to a frosty temp super fast.

What I’m Reading  In the Cookies with Royal Icing Class this week, we’re using a tad of cream cheese for the cookies, a bit of a twist on the standard sugar cookie recipe.  Any cream cheese will do but it may be fun to read “How Philadelphia Cream Cheese Took Over the World

What I’m Listening To  The Extra Spicy Podcast aired an episode about the Meadowood Restaurant in Napa Valley, now lost to the Glass fire.   I never had the opportunity to dine there but if you did (or even if you secretly desired to drop more than $300 on your fine dining dinner experience) you may find this interesting.  It includes interviews with some of the former employees and some insight into that it takes to rise to a 3 star Michelin rating.

What I’m Cooking  Just this weekend the temperatures are dropping in California.  That makes me think of fall fruit!  We had fun on Friday at my Apple Pie class but I’m posting the recipe here in case you missed it and want to venture out on your own.  It’s from the Fog City Diner in San Francisco.  When they first opened they felt a proper diner wouldn’t be right without apple pie on the menu yet they had forgotten to purchase pie plates so they quickly created this galette like pie for the opening.

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