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After our loved-up dinner of Cioppino, I was compelled to further spoil my fella with the following super indulgent (and super Valentine’s Day appropriate) dessert! A raspberry & dark chocolate tart…

Started out by making a lil’ chocolate cookie crust. Couldn’t find these surprisingly elusive “chocolate wafer cookies”, so I resorted to using the sexiest of children’s cookies – Teddy Grahams. Crushed them up in my (stupid) mini food processor, mixed the cookie crumbs with a bit o’ melted butter and then firmly pressed the buttery crumbs into my fluted, removable-bottom tart pan. Baked it in a 350F preheated oven for about 15 minutes and then let it cool.

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Halloween 2008 was one of the best Halloweens I’ve ever had (barring those magical pre-teen Halloween evenings in late 80s Virginia, spent gorging myself on candy corn and fun-size candy bars).

S, our roomie K and I threw the most epic, till-7-in-the-morning party at our Brooklyn apartment and I feel that such an event will not likely ever be topped. Everyone showed up in costume and laden with bottles. The music was bumpin, creepy decorations hung and Freaks was on a silent loop in the background.There were Hitchcockian references, chubby Asian superheros, Little Mermaid sushi and Zack & Lisa during that one beautiful summer. Yes, that was a magical evening.

So far, my SF Halloweens have been decidedly lower-key, but still super fun! This year, I thought I’d bring a little hint of NYC to my SF Halloween shindig by attempting to make the holy grail of NY sweet treats…

The Black & White cookie.

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Everything about this recipe has me goin’…

Dark chocolate? Check.

Layers of sugar? Check.

Booze? Check.

Yes, it was love at first click and I knew that I had to have the cleverly monikered Chocolate Crack Cookies under my proverbial belt. Gather round, my friends… gather round.

Started out with a lovely Maraschino cherry liqueur – Luxardo… This was something new for me, as I am not all that well-versed in liqueurs. It’s syrupy, super sweet and surprisingly tasty with whiskey.

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I’ve heard them all… mostly from the little voice in my head. “Lauriebot…”, I’ve sternly said to myself, “You’ve neglected your bloggie duties for over two weeks and it simply will not do. Get off your keister and get back to work.”

So I’m doing just that. But, in my own defense, I did just start a new job a few weeks ago and it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of life when I’ve had the luxury (for the past year and a half) and doing things on my own time whenever I feel like. So now it’s back to reality, back to the work-5-days-off-2-days cycle, and back to the importance of time management.

I’ll kick it off with a bang… my ambitious birthday cake, the recipe for which I stumbled across on Poires au Chocolat – a beautiful blog written by a very, VERY talented young lady. Seriously, my cake pales in comparison to the gorgeous confection she created, but I had my heart set and knew that I needed this cake in my life for my birthday.

So settle in for the long haul, this post is FULL of piccies because there are about 8,371 steps to this cake! For clarity’s sake, I’ve written out the ingredients and quantities (converted from UK measurements to US) at the end… otherwise, things would just get way too confusing!

Without further ado… my Dark Chocolate & Whiskey birthday cake…

First I made the cake – started out with 8.5 oz of delicious 70% dark chocolate plus 1 oz each of 60% dark and unsweetened chocolate. Chopped it all up and melted it over a double boiler before setting it aside to cool.

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Mama made some adorable little meringue cookies!

Actually, this is my second attempt – the first was not documented on account of an unprecedented pastry bag mishap. You see, I mistakenly used a tiny, tiny pastry tip, one that I had no business considering as a suitable option for this particular application. As a result, I had a minor temper tantrum, my meringue fell flat and my cookies were stupid.

Flash forward a few weeks to when I am in better spirits and have procured a giant Ateco drop flower pastry tip… Now… I can do this.

Started out with 1/4 unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder (oh, hi Whole Foods bulk aisle!)…

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My faith in humanity (and my candy-making skillz) has been restored and I owe it all to an unassuming candy thermometer, purchased at Crate&Barrel in a last-ditch effort to reclaim my sanity. You see, I’ve been burned (literally & figuratively) in the past by shoddy candy thermometers. Burned real bad. And it’s taken me weeks to muster up the mojo to try that most tempestuous of the candy family… toffee.

Strangely enough, my first attempt at sea salt caramels (which were brutally thwarted by the aforementioned evil/defective thermometer) yielded results pretty close to toffee. It had a disgustingly burnt flavor and was just a little too hard to chew comfortably, but still… it was toffee-ish and made me think that perhaps, with the right equipment, I might just be able to pull this off!

So I gave it a shot… here’s my version of English Toffee…

It all starts with butter. 1 cup worth…

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It’s 9 am, and I’m all kinds of jazzed/pumped/amped after a riveting US showing at this morning’s World Cup match against Slovenia. Don’t know if you caught it, but we was robbed. Had that last goal counted, we would have totally had a Mighty Ducks caliber win. Sigh…

Despite my disappointment at our loss, I did enjoy my 7am Irish coffee and as a result, I’m energized enough to finally get to blogging this amazing chocolate Bundt cake I made the other night! Adapted the recipe from Warren Brown’s (of Cakelove fame – holla, DC!) excellently titled new book, United Cakes of America.

I finally decided to¬† use my lovely vintage Bundt pan to make an actual Bundt cake (as opposed to the jello mold I used it for a few months ago!) and it was so fun! This was my first Bundt and I def consider it a success – spongy pound cake flecked with cocoa powder & the most decadent bittersweet chocolate glaze that raised this cake from plain ol’ delicious to X-rated food porn.

My Bundt pan is a weird size (6 cups), so it was perfect for the small gathering of folks we had over to watch Party Down and old Aeon Flux shorts… [Note to Netflix… as long as you’re delving into the Liquid Television archives, please, please, PLEASE get “The Head” on Instantly!]

Anyway… on to the cake!

Started out with 1 oz unsweetened and 1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli and Trader Joe’s, respectively)…

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It seems like it’s taken me forevs to finish up these dinner party posts; blame it on the holiday weekend and the absolutely gorgeous weather we’ve had the past few days! But finally, I’m going to get down to the final dish I served the other day, the decadent dessert, Whiskey Chocolate Pots de Creme.

There’s nothing all that complicated to this recipe – I’ve had it a million times and have made it a few times too. But this one was a little special because I got new ramekins just for the occasion, a set of vintagey-hued ceramic dealies that were in a clearance bin at Crate & Barrel. Woot woot!

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I’ve been making all kinds of excuses for the past year or so, trying to justify why I hadn’t yet attempted that most tempestuous & persnickety of French confections, the macaron. First I wasn’t confident in my egg white whipping skillz. Then I didn’t have enough baking sheets. Then I didn’t know how to handle the pastry bag situation. But slowly, I overcame each of those minor obstacles and had to come to terms with the fact that I was just plain scurred!

See, I’ve been spoiled… I’ve had moderate success with most of the culinary experiments I’ve attempted in the past year (with the exception of those lavender-infused brigadeiros and that first S’mores Pie, but I totally redeemed myself the second time around). In short, I haven’t met with real failure in the kitchen yet. But, you never learn if you don’t try right?

So I got down to it the other night for my mini dinner party…

Started out by obsessively drawing 2-inch circles on my parchment-lined baking sheets to act as a guide.

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Mama was hurting for some sweet, so I scoured my food supply for candy or ice cream or any other treat – but I came up emtpy! What to do?! This craving wasn’t going anywhere and I needed relief… fast.

After all my searching, I came up with two getting-close-to-the-end bananas and a half bar of semi-sweet Ghiradelli. The lightbulb went on.

Chocolate & Banana Pancakes!

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Hi, I’m Lauriebot!

I live in San Francisco. I used to live in NYC, Washington DC, and London.

I like to take the pictures.

I like color, excess, food, light, clothes, and going places.

I also like talking to people.

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