Category: events (page 1 of 11)

Cupcake Smash 2014 is almost here!

Cupcake Smash 2014

This Saturday is the return of the ever popular Cupcake Smash, benefitting Philabundance. The 4th annual Cupcake Smash ultimate baking competition will be held in the middle of The Piazza with Jessie, Radio Host on Radio 104.5 emceeing. Judges will vote on the best cupcake for the amateur and professional categories, while attendees will vote for the “People’s Choice.”

Like last year, there are 2 sets of judges … one for the pro group and one for the amateurs. The judges are:

Pro Division
Toni Johnson, Production Sous Chef/Kitchen Manager at Philabundance Community Kitchen
Jennifer Reed, Blogger at One Curly Fry in a Box of the Regular & SideTour/Groupon Dessert Tours
Patricia Smith, Owner/Pastry Chef at Foam Floaterie
Davina Soondrum, Owner of Sweet Intentions

Amateur Division
Gretchen Fantini, Owner/Pastry Chef at Sweet Box Bake Shop/Truck
Stephen Wilson, Pastry Chef at 10Arts Bistro & Lounge
Jennifer Zavala, Chef/Owner at Cherry Bomb Bus & Top Chef Season 6 Contestant

and …


Judges page

Exciting right? I’ve turned in my whisk and apron, and instead of baking my usual 150-300 mini cupcakes, I’ll be judging them. I’m super excited, but I’m also trying to figure out how I’ll make it through sampling 15+ mini cupcakes without going into sugar shock.

So, if you’d like to see me and the rest of the incredible bakers who are raising awareness about hunger in the Philadelphia area, make it out this Saturday to Cupcake Smash! You can get your tickets online, and help us smash hunger!

Event Details at a Glance
4th annual Cupcake Smash
Saturday, April 26, 2014
The Piazza at Schmidts
1050 N. Hancock St.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
*Rain or shine!*

Advance Ticket: $25
On-Site Ticket: $30
Child’s Ticket (Ages 6-12, with parent): $10
Children Under Age 6: Free

Your ticket includes entry into the event, mini cupcake samples created by our professional and amateur bakers, complimentary cocktails (for those 21 and up) and more.

Tradestone Confections to be featured at 2014 Food for Thought

Tradestone Confections

Get your tastebuds ready … Chip Roman (Blackfish, Mica) and Fred Ortega of Tradestone Confections will be bringing some of their signature confections to ACHIEVEability’s 2014 Food for Thought on March 22.

The two chefs are responsible for handcrafting artisan chocolates, delicious confections and gourmet goodies, including signature bon bons and palets, classic truffles, caramels, barks, pate de fruits, macarons and more.

For Food for Thought this year, there will be an array of chocolates available for sampling, including chocolate truffles, earl grey tea bon bons, and chocolate covered caramels. Have you gotten your ticket yet??! You don’t want to miss out on such treats, as well as all the other amazing foods to sample that night.

Tradestone Confections is based out of Conshohocken, Pa., and can be found at Roman and Ortega’s storefront—Tradestone Cafe,  117 Fayette St., Conshohocken—as well as at Night Kitchen Bakery in Chestnut Hill, High Point Cafe in Mt. Airy, and Green Aisle Grocery in South Philadelphia.







ACHIEVEability’s Food for Thought fundraiser is back for 2014

Food for Thought 2014

Do you love great food? Do you love supporting a great cause? What’s your calendar looking like on Saturday, March 22?

If your evening is wide open, then ACHIVEability’s Food for Thought 2014 fundraiser in the City of Brotherly Love is the place you need to be.

ACHIEVEability is an agency that permanently breaks the cycle of poverty for low-income, single-parent and homeless families. ACHIEVEability provides housing and supportive services so parents can pursue higher education and become self-sufficient. Everything the organization does promotes accountability for families. This year, ACHIEVEability is celebrating 32 years of helping families achieve self-sufficiency.

The event perfect for those who love the great food of Philadelphia. Attendees will be able to sample food, using sustainable VerTerra plates and flatware, from  top chefs and restaurants in the city:

Joseph Baldino / Zeppoli
Phoebe Esmon / Emmanuelle
Nathan Johnson / Garces Trading Company
Steve Linneman / Shop 543
Jeremy Nolen / Brauhaus Schmitz
Mitch Prensky / Supper
Chip Roman & Fred Ortega / Tradestone Confections
Keith Rudolf / Terrain Garden Cafe 
Shake Shack / Shake Shack 
Lance Silverman / Sabrina’s Cafe
David Simms / Eatible Delights
Brad Spence / Pizzeria Vetri
Justin Swain / REX 1516
Karen Weinstein / Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House
Peter Woolsey / Bistrot La Minette

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse is the featured restaurant in the VIP Lounge, and La Colombe Torrefaction is serving their unique farm direct specialty coffees.

For your sweet tooth, Little Baby’s Ice Cream will delight us with unique flavored ice creams, while Tito’s Handmade Vodka will provide their handcrafted and award winning vodkas and Yards Brewing Company will be a featured beer vendor serving a selection of craft beers.

The event is hosted at Urban Outfitters’ headquarters at the Naval Yard in Philadelphia (check the site for driving directions).

Purchase your tickets here and be prepared for a wonderful evening benefiting a great cause and a full belly!


Top 5 gifts under $60 for your favorite baker

Christmas is next week, have you finished your shopping? Better yet, do you have the perfect gift for the special baker in your life? Sure, gifting a KitchenAid standmixer in one of the many delicious colors it’s available in is a classic Christmas gift, but what about something a little different? Something that won’t break the bank this holiday season.

I’ve gone through and curated this list of beautiful gifts that almost any baker would love to receive. And the best thing? Every gift is $60 or less! Because it’s not about the money you spend … it’s the thought and creativity.

Jadeite cake plate

Handcrafted Jadeite Glass Cake Plate ($55, Provisions by Food52): I can just picture some of the beautiful cakes I could make and place on this cake plate. This is a stunning show piece that is as functional as it is lovely.

Frosting Kit

Best Ever Cupcake [Frosting] Kit ($19.50, Bake It Pretty): I have this kit and I use it all the time—the extra large round tip is my favorite.

Quirk Books Baking Titles

Baking Books from Quirk (ranging from $15.95 to $22.95, Quirk Books): Quirk publishes books that are both fun and beautiful. Some of my favorites are Booze Cakes, The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook, Marshmallow Madness, Sprinkles!, and Pure Vanilla. These are definitely not your grandma’s cookbooks (and that’s a good thing).

Stoneware pie plate

Handmade Stoneware Pie Plate ($44, Bennington Potters):  You can’t leave the pie bakers in the cold this holiday! Sure, a simple Pyrex plate is great, but a stoneware plate with the ruffled edge makes every pie look amazing immediately. The black on green agate glaze is my personal favorite.

Macarons from Dana's Bakery

Customized Box of 1 Dozen Macarons from Dana’s Bakery ($30, Dana’s Bakery): It’s nice to treat sweet-makers with something they can sit back and enjoy (and if they’re anything like me, analyze every tiny crumb). I was really impressed when I ordered from Dana’s Bakery earlier in the year, and love that you can customize the box. Don’t like Red Velvet? No worries! You don’t have to select it. My one suggestion: make sure you take advantage of the seasonal flavors, like White Chocolate Peppermint Bark and Gingerbread Man.

Check back later in the week to see some of my favorite ideas for baking-related stocking stuffers!

Disclosure: I selected these items based on my own opinions; none of this is a paid promotion. In many cases, I own some of these items and think they’re just really spectacular.

Chai sugar cookies and a Tipu’s Chai giveaway!

Chai sugar cookies with Tipu's Chai Now

I firmly believe that a solid sugar cookie recipe can be adapted a number of ways to produce even more amazing cookies. By adding ingredients like coffee, matcha and spices, your sugar cookies take on a new life, all the way keeping things simple for you, the baker.

I’ve mentioned Tipu’s Chai in the past, and now I want to share a little more about it, as well as host a giveaway! See, what’s great about the chai is that you can add it to your baking ingredient arsenal, as well as sip it in the afternoon with a couple of cookies. Tipu’s Chai Now can be stirred right into your dry ingredients because it’s not a liquid concentrate, but it’s also not like some of those dry chai mixes, which in my personal experience, always end up as chalky messes at the bottom of my tea cup (if it doesn’t make a good, drinkable cup of chai, I don’t want to bake with it either).

Tipu's Chai Now Black

Tipu’s Chai Now “The Simple Life” is the company’s black chai, which is what I use and recommend for baking because there is no sweetner or milk product added (and if you choose to brew yourself a cup, you have complete control over how much of each of those you add). Another feather in Tipu’s cap is that the chai is certified Kosher, uses only organic spices, it’s chemical- and preservative-free, vegan and gluten free. No extra stuff you don’t need here!

I also find a little goes a long way. I was sent a 4 oz bag of Tipu’s Chai Now to try out in September, and since then I’ve had a few cups of the tea, and have used it in 2 cupcake recipes and now in these cookies, and I still have a lot left … enough to fill a 1/2 pint jar. According to the website, the 4 oz bag will make 30 8 oz servings of brewed chai … and by my guess, you could bake many, MANY cookies with it.

Okay, so enough nerding out about Tipu’s … let’s talk about the giveaway! Since National Cookie Day is on Wednesday, Dec. 4, I’ve teamed up with Tipu’s to giveaway a 4 oz bag of Tipu’s Chai Now “The Simple Life.” To enter, post a Facebook comment on the post with the same name as this blog post (not here on the blog!) about what you’d use Tipu’s Chai for. Entries close Friday, Dec. 6 at 9 PM EST, and I’ll announce the winner shortly thereafter.

Chai sugar cookies and a Tipu’s Chai giveaway!

Yields: 30-40 cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutter

  • Ingredients
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 tbsp Tipu's Chai Now black chai tea, depending how heavy you want the chai flavor to be
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking silicone.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and Tipu's Chai Now in a bowl. Set aside.

Using a standmixer, cream the cold butter and sugar into light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the egg to the butter and sugar and mix to combine.

Add the vanilla, mixing to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as necessary. The dough should be slightly tacky and a little crumbly. If it still feels wet, add more flour, 1 tsp at a time.

Scrape down the bowl one more time and place the dough in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, prepare your work surface to roll out the dough by scattering it with flour.

Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick.

Use your cookie cutters to cut out shapes, placing them on the prepared cookie sheets. Once a sheet is full, place it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Once the cut out cookies have had time to chill on the pans, take them out and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before enjoying.

Caramel apple pecan praline pie

Caramel apple pecan praline pie for Collingswood Farmers Market Pie Contest

This past Saturday was the annual Apple Pie Baking contest sponsored by the Collingswood Farmers’ Market. Fresh off of our 1st place win for presentation in the August Peach Pie Baking contest, I decided to do another shaped crust and chose to make a squirrel—since I adore them. I was sure we had a 1st place pie again, but this time a lattice pie with a decorative bunting (I didn’t realize non-edible decorations counted here) took 1st and I tied for 3rd place. I was honestly a bit bummed out, but I know that I’m proud of this design.

As for taste, I placed us in the “apples whatever” category because of the pecan praline. However, after tasting our pie, I feel that it’s a closer fit for the traditional apple pie category. Something to keep in mind for next year. We didn’t take a ribbon for taste, but we did come in 4th, which is still a good thing.

Mel with the pie

The caramel in this pie is wonderful, and it’s a no-brainer when paired with the pecan praline. Originally, I thought about making it a salted caramel apple pie, but Ray made an excellent point that it could end up being a bit too salty (since the praline has salt in it).

Are you making an fantastic pies for Autumn? Tell me about them!

Caramel apple pecan praline pie

  • Pie Crust Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (keep in freezer until ready to use)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 to 4 tbsp apple liqueur (or use equal amount of ice water)
  • Pecan Praline
  • 2/3 cup pecans, chopped medium-fine
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Apple Filling Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4" slices
  • 1 1/2 lbs McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4" slices
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Caramel Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Begin with the pie dough so it has time to chill. Pulse together flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.

Blend in butter by dropping a cube at a time into the food processer, just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps.

Drizzle 1/3 cup apple liqueur over the mixture and pulse a few times until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more liqueur or ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. With heel of your hand, smear the dough once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.

Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball.

Divide in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

For the pecan praline, place all praline ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Once the pie dough has chilled, grease a pie plate and roll out the bottom crust. Fit it into the plate, trimming the edge, folding it under, and then pinching it into a fluted design.

Place the bottom crust into the fridge to chill for 40 minutes.

For the filling, combine the peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, Chinese 5 Spice and salt. Toss to combine.

Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until the foaming subsides. Add the apple mixture and cook with the lid on for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the apples have softened.

Place a colander over a large bowl and drain the apples, shaking a bit to get as much juice drained as possible. Set the apples aside.

Return the juices to the dutch oven and add the heavy cream. Heat the mixture over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring.

Continue cooking and stirring the juice/cream mixture until it's thick enough that a wooden spoon leaves a trail in the mixture. This should be about 5 minutes.

Add the apples back in, stirring to coat, then set aside to cool slightly.

To make the caramel sauce, stir together granulated sugar and water in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.

Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth. Let caramel cool for about 15 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

To assemble the pie, remove the chilled bottom crust from the fridge and spoon in the pecan praline, spreading it out evenly to coat the bottom.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit prep a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (this will help catch any drips)

Spoon in the apples, then gradually pour in the caramel sauce, coating the apples as evenly as possible.

Roll out the second disk of dough and either place on top, fitting it with the bottom crust and cutting slits to vent, make cutouts with a cookie cutter and place the crust pieces in a design on top of the pie, or hand-cut a design (like the squirrel).

Place the pie on the parchment-paper lined pan, then into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Check the pie, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the top crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

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