Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baking with the Cake Boss Review

Baking with the Cake Boss 100 of Buddy's Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets – Buddy Valastro (Free Press)

Baking with the Cake Boss is Buddy Valastro's second cookbook and this time, the focus is all things sweet. In the "Introduction," Buddy writes about his first baking experience with his father at the family bakery. Buddy reveals how his baking progressed from making butter cookies to decorating gorgeous show stopping cakes. Buddy offers advice for the aspiring baker whether you are a home baker as I am or going for it as a professional baker.

In "Getting Started: A Tour of the Kitchen" Buddy stresses organization is key for successful baking. No baker can succeed without the right stuff and in the chapter, "Equipment" Buddy provides a detailed list of essential needs for baking.

Every baker has staple ingredients on hand like flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, eggs, extracts, chips and butter. "Notes on Ingredients" breaks down which baking ingredients every baker should have stocked in their pantry. Buddy shares his expertise on what works and what does not when baking.

The very brief chapter "The Zone and How to Get There" is a fun read and I get what Buddy means by being in "The Zone" when baking.

There are just four pages in "Basic Baking Techniques" but essential information for all bakers. Buddy offers his know-how in the "Cookies" chapter in terms of baking in batches, cooling cookies and storing them.

From page 42 and on "It's Go Time!" as Buddy says on Next Great Baker and we get to the recipes. I love that Buddy breaks down each recipe to a very simplistic level so it makes them all easy to follow. Buddy's first recipes are Butter Cookies in plain and chocolate, so you can bake them both ways or choose your preference. I think having a variety of butter cookies is best and tinting the plain ones in different colors is fun especially for Christmas. Double Chocolate Chip Cookies is the next recipe and they look so yummy.

I am happy Buddy included a recipe for Seven-Layer Cookies (Tri-Color or Rainbow Cookies) since I have always wanted to bake these. If you love nuts, you can enjoy baking Peanut Butter Cookies, and Pignoli Cookies. The recipe for the Chocolate Brownie Clusters looks delicious as well as the Tarelles recipe. I never had Rugelach before, so I may bake them one of these days to see if I like them. Buddy includes a recipe for the classic Black-and-White Cookies, which have a cakey texture and are so delicious. I am excited to bake these since I have eaten this iconic cookie since my teens. There is a recipe for Linzer Tart Cookies, and I baked the Icebox Christmas Cookies for my valentine hearts and they were delicious. I added 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to the recipe.

One thing I have yet to tackle is making pastries, and I look forward to baking alot of the recipes in this chapter this year. The chapter opens with a recipe for Choux Pastry which is the dough used for éclairs, cream puffs, and French profiteroles. There are step-by-step recipes for Éclairs and Cream Puffs. One of my favorite pastries is Napoleons and I am happy Buddy included a recipe for it. The "feathered icing" technique looks simple, but the recipe itself will take some practice. There are recipes for Butterflies and Cassatini and Rum Babas. The Cannoli and Cannoli Cream recipes are not intimidating since Buddy has some beautiful photos to accompany the recipe instructions.

There is a recipe for Brownies and Brownie Icing for you brownie lovers, and the Raspberry Bars look so yummy. Buddy offers three Doughnut recipes: Old-Fashioned, Mae West and Munchkins. The final recipe of the chapter is Chocolate Truffles which are miniature flourless chocolate tortes baked in a cupcake tray.

The next chapter "Pies and Tarts" has me drooling and I am going to make Buddy's Pie Crust next time I make pie, since I usually buy the ready-made Pillsbury Pie Crust. The Lemon Meringue Pie is a beauty. Buddy's recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Coconut Custard Pie and Apple Pie look outstanding. I never had Pastiera di Grano Wheat Pie or Pasta Frolla before but plan to try them when Allen and I visit Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. If I like them I will give them both a shot. The recipe for the Frutti di Bosco Italian Fruit Tart looks beautiful, gets an A+ for presentation and I bet tastes great. There is a recipe for Cream Puff Parfait, which would be a fun dessert to share for a family gathering since it serves 24.

The "Cakes and Cupcakes" chapter opens with a gorgeous photo of Red Velvet Cake, one of my favorites. Decorator's Buttercream is the first recipe in this chapter. The Cupcake recipes look too pretty to eat, but I do not really mean that. Buddy has recipes for Sunflower Cupcakes, Puff Flower Cupcakes, Flat-Petal Cupcakes, Daisy Cupcakes and his signature Buddy's Cabbage Rose Cupcakes. Buddy offers instructions on Piping Buttercream Roses, and the Red Roses Cupcakes and Christmas Tree Cupcakes are gorgeous.

The section on "Working With Cakes" tells you how to trim and cut cakes, fill and ice cakes and soak a sponge cake. Several illustrations guide you on decorating techniques before you get to bake the cakes. Both the Boy and Girl's Birthday Cake recipes are so pretty. The pages on the different Cake Combinations are really helpful and plentiful.

I found the "Fondant" chapter informative and less intimidating than I previously thought since I have never worked with fondant. The fondant cake recipes like the Dot and Bow Cake, Groovy Girl Cake, Valentine's Day Cake, Mother's and Father's Day Cakes, Summer Beach Cake, Fourth of July Cake, Halloween Frankenstein Cake, Autumn Cake and Winter Wonderland Cake are all beautiful designs and seem simple enough. They are so pretty which is the point of using fondant in the first place, since it gives cakes a clean and sharp look. Personally, I do not like how fondant tastes but Buddy mentions the type of fondant he prefers. Maybe this kind of fondant tastes better than the ones I have tried. Even if I never make a cake from fondant, I will use these recipes as design inspiration when I make my cakes with buttercream frosting. For fondant users, there are also advanced fondant recipes like the Thanksgiving Turkey and Animal Safari Cake I recently saw Buddy make on the Rachael Ray Show.

The "Basic Cake Recipes" chapter features recipes for Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, White Chiffon Cake, Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Pan di Spagna (Italian Sponge Cake), Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Cake.

The final chapter, "Frostings and Fillings" features Vanilla Frosting, Chocolate Fudge Frosting, Italian Buttercream, Italian Custard Cream, Cream Cheese Frosting, My Dad's Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Lobster Tail Cream, Italian Whipped Cream and Syrup for Pan di Spagna.

Baking with the Cake Boss will elevate your baking repertoire. The recipes in this cookbook are attainable for all bakers, and provide many recipes you can enjoy with your family for years to come.

-Sophia/Two Frys

Monday, February 20, 2012

Roman Romance Valentine's Dinner, Caesars Atlantic City, February 18, 2012

Roman Romance Valentine's Dinner, Caesars Atlantic City, February 18, 2012

Beautiful roses at our table
The invitation only Roman Romance Valentine's Dinner at Caesars Atlantic City Saturday, February 18, 2012 was really beautiful and offered romantic decor, delicious food and a live band. The invitation Allen received in the mail read "L'amore Domina Sensa Regole (Love Rules Without Rules). In celebration of Valentine's Day, Caesars Atlantic City invites you and a guest to a headily-romantic evening. Join Caesar and his love Cleopatra for dinner and dancing and ancient ruins. Come get lost...together!"

Allen and I at our table
Allen and I sat at the first table on the left side of the band and we had a perfect view of the dance floor and musicians. The couple we rode down in the elevator with from our Centurion Tower room sat next to us and they were really cool. It was nice meeting new people in our age group. There was another couple that sat to Allen's right who were celebrating their 40th anniversary. They were adorable and it was fun to watch them dance throughout the evening.

Cleopatra and Caesar greeting guests at each table
Our servers Debby and Diane were so great and they even got me a list with the menu for the blog which was helpful and much appreciated. Debby and Diane were both very attentive and nice. The table had a lovely roses display and there were assorted specialty breads and butter. I felt bad cutting through the butter with the mold of Caesars head (see picture below).

Buuter mold of Caesars head
The salad was Romaine Heart with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Tomatoes with Caesars Dressing. The salad was so good and my favorite part about it was the mozzarella which just melted in your mouth.

Romaine Heart with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Tomatoes with Caesars Dressing
The main course was very hearty and delicious. The dish was Parma Ham wrapped Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail Franchaise with heart shaped Dauphinoise Potato and Broccolini. The presentation was lovely and the filet mignon was my favorite. I loved the creaminess of the dauphinoise potato and it was so tender and flavorful. The broccolini was the perfect texture with a nice crunch and the lobster tail franchaise Allen thought was heavenly. Everything tasted so great.

Parma Ham wrapped Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail Franchaise with heart shaped Dauphinoise Potato and Broccolini
For dessert, Opera Cake was served and it was rich and decadent. Opera cake is almond sponge cake, that is soaked in coffee syrup, and layered with ganache and coffee buttercream. It was exquisite and I tasted all the different layers of flavors with each bite.

Opera Cake
It was a beautiful evening and we celebrated our 13th engagement anniversary and 13 is my favorite number, so here is a blog toast to many more celebrations. 
-Sophia & Allen/Two Frys

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart set up and ready to serve
I wanted to make a velvety smooth and rich chocolate dessert for my hubby and found a recipe I clipped out of a magazine some time ago. I made some modifications to it and here is my recipe. I am not kidding when I say this is a very decadent dessert.

Ingredients for the Dough:

1/3 cup toasted Hazelnuts

1/4 cup Sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons cold Water

1 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread
Pie Crust cooling
Ingredients for the Ganache:

5 pieces (each 1-ounce) Chocolate - Milk, Semisweet or Dark

1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

1/3 cup Unsalted Butter, softened

2 tablespoons Karo Light Corn Syrup


Toast the Hazelnuts in a small pan for about 7-10 minutes. Cool completely.

In a food processor, combine toasted Hazelnuts, Sugar, Salt, and Flour and pulse until smooth.

Add Butter and Water pulsing until a smooth Dough forms. Shape Dough into a ball and place in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Do not freeze Dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press the Dough into the sides and bottom of a 9-inch tart pan. I used a ceramic one, but a removable bottom one will be easier to work with when you serve it. Trust me.

Line Dough with parchment paper and make sure it hangs slightly over the pan. Add pie weights or dry beans to help the Dough keep its shape.

Ganache poured over Nutella spread, shiny and beautiful
Bake dough for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights or beans and parchment paper. Bake uncovered for an additional 10-13 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool completely for about 1 hour.

Once the crust has cooled, spread Nutella evenly and generously over the crust.

Make the Ganache. In a bowl, add chocolate pieces. I used semisweet and put aside for now.

In a sauce pan, combine Heavy Whipping Cream, Butter and Corn Syrup. Stir until combined and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Pour hot cream mixture over the Chocolate in the bowl to melt it and whisk until it is smooth. Pour over the Nutella spread.

Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Bring to room temperature before you serve.


-Sophia/Two Frys

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine Cookies

Valentine Cookies

All the Valentine Cookies I decorated

The two heart shaped cookies cutters I used
I made red and white heart shaped cookies yesterday and used two different recipes. For the white hearts, I used Buddy Valastro's Icebox Christmas Cookies recipe. Buddy warns the dough is super sticky and that was such a pain but with the right amount of flour on the top of the dough, the rolling pin and your hands it was feasible. Just have patience with it.
Valentine Cookies

Valentine Cookies

Valentine Cookies
I found a clip of Buddy making these cookies on the Rachael Ray Show so here is the link for it: The texture of these cookies are really supple and nice. They are not too sweet and really remind me of Italian cookies I have eaten from a bakery before, so I think I did a good job for my first try using this recipe.

Valentine Cookies
Valentine Cookies
For the red cookies, I kept it simple and used 1 package of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix. I used 1 4 oz. bottle of McCormick Red Food Coloring to turn the dough red. I use this recipe for my Christmas cookies but if you are only using 1 package, just cut the recipe in half. Here is the link for the Sugar Cookies recipe:

Valentine Cookies

Valentine Cookies

Valentine Cookies
I used Wilton Red & White Cookie Icing, Red & White Sparkling Sugars, Rainbow Nonpareils, Red & White Sprinkles, Red & White Confetti, Jumbo Hearts Sprinkles, and Sugar Pearls for my Valentine Cookies.


-Sophia/Two Frys

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dos Caminos

Dos Caminos

After spending half a day at the Chelsea Market, Allen took me to Dos Caminos for dinner just a few blocks away. Dos Caminos is a Modern Mexican Cuisine restaurant and was a lovely place, with great food service and overall was a great dining experience. The food was excellent and we had a wonderful time. We ordered the Gaucamole with the homemade Chips and they were delicious. My Gaucamole picture was too blurry so I did not post it. The three Salsas that accompanied the chips were divine, especially the green tomatillo salsa. The salsa (pictured in the middle below) had a great smokey flavor and the orange habanero salsa was super spicey.

Chips and Salsas

Allen enjoying Chips and Salsa
Allen's Dos Enchiladas
Allen loved his dish, Dos Enchiladas Roasted Chicken Rolled in corn tortillas, chihuahua cheese, with mole poblano and tomatillo verdes sauces. I took a bite and thought it was superb. Love that mole sauce.
My Carne Asada Burrito
I loved the Carne Asada Burrito I ordered and it had a kick to it but the side salad helped smooth that out for me so it was not overbearing and I could taste all the flavors. I really loved the taste of the spinach tortilla. Allen is the spicey fan not me and when he tried mine said it was spicier than his food. The Carne Asada Burrito was Grilled Marinated Steak, chihuahua cheese, pico de gallo, baby arugula and spinach tortilla.

Black Beans and Rice
The Black Beans and Rice were so good and my only complaint was I wanted some more. Hee, hee...

To learn more about Dos Caminos and locations, go to:

-Sophia & Allen/Two Frys

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chelsea Market continued...

The Lobster Place

The Lobster Place

The Lobster Place
The Lobster Place is a seafood lovers dream come true! While the lobster is the main specialty and yes, they looked lovely you can also choose from a very large selection of caviar, sushi, oysters, clams, scallops, sea urchin, crawfish, alot of fish varieties (mahi mahi, tilapia, ...) and much more. The seating space is small and lined up against the windows and with some seating outside. We waited a few minutes to sit but Allen said it was worth it because he loved the Massachusetts Atlantic Oysters he bought. It was real crowded when we there which is always a good sign. The Lobster Place also sells alot of sauces, spices, asian noodles and other delicacies.

Massachusetts Atlantic Oysters
Allen with his lunch - Massachusetts Atlantic Oysters

Allen about to try the Massachusetts Atlantic Oysters
Jacques Torres Chocolate

Jacques Torres Chocolate
Jacques Torres Chocolate
I had just eaten a Napolean from Ruthy's Bakery & Café but had to check out the lovely selection of chocolates from Mr. Chocolate himself. Jacques Torres Chocolate is known for his fine selection of chocolates worldwide and there was such a nice selection for the quaint space. Allen bought me a white chocolate bar called Barry White, which I indulged in today. The white chocolate bar was silky smooth and rich. I will be back to try the Liquid Caramel and some other delights soon.

Jacques Torres Chocolate
Barry White - White Chocolate, Jacques Torres Chocolate

Sesame Sticks, Corn Nuts, Coconut Chips, Nutbox
I love the Nutbox's hearty selection of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, yogurt pretzels, honey products, coffee beans and more. Allen picked up sesame sticks, corn nuts and coconut chips.

We will feature more of the shops as we continue to visit Chelsea Market. Pay this place a visit if you haven't already. It is a beautiful place with great food, and right in the heart of the meatpacking district.

For more information, check out these links:

Chelsea Market:

Jacques Torres Chocolate:

The Lobster Place:


-Sophia & Allen/Two Frys

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market located on 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets) is an integral part of the meatpacking district. Chelsea Market offers a hefty selection of shops and some great eateries and restaurants for food lovers. Allen and I went to see the Swamp In The City, History Channel exhibit and visited some shops, had some good bites, bought some goodies, and had a great time just walking around and taking pictures.

Ruthy's Bakery & Café

Ruthy's Bakery & Café

Tarts, cupcakes...
Rugelach, French Macarons, gotta get some next trip
Allen chatting with an employee about the bakery
Napoleon, all mine - yum!
Me and my Napoleon
I have been wanting to come here for some time so I was happy to finally be in Ruthy's Bakery & Café. There were so many choices to chose from: french macarons, cupcakes, rugelach, cookies,  pastries, cakes, cheesecakes, pies, tarts, and more. I decided to go for one of my favorite pastries, a napoleon. I was picture happy in this place but wanted to show you some of the goods they sell. I love the look of the place, and my napoleon was delicious so I will be back to try some other stuff soon.

Cakes and cupcakes

Chocolate Mousse Tart, Fruit Tart

More Cakes and cupcakes

Pies, Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes
Pastries, look at those cute cupcakes
 Fat Witch Bakery

Fat Witch Bakery
I love the cookbook Fat Witch Brownies and had to come in and get a brownie for later indulgence. I love the Fat Witch Bakery and enjoyed perusing the yummies they were selling. Allen got me an adorable white chocolate bear and I almost felt sad for eating him. The brownie was so delicious and I ate it slowly to savor every last bit. Yum.  

Allen filling out a heart for me
Allen filled out a heart for me on the way out. How sweet. Thanks hubster. 

My White Chocolate Bear and Brownie
See the next post for more of our visit to the Chelsea Market.

For more information, check out these links:

Chelsea Market:

Fat Witch Bakery:

Ruthy's Bakery & Café:

-Sophia & Allen/Two Frys