Thursday 27 January 2011

Thyme, Orange, Almond and Chocolate Biscotti

In attempt to fully indulge myself in American culture this year, I have acquired the habit of drinking coffee everyday. I always like to accompany my daily brew with something sweet on which to nibble. Back in England, I would always have a stash of chocolate digestives, chocolate bunnies (around Easter time) and other chocolate treats to consume with my daily cup of Earl Grey. I believe that it is only fair that my coffee has a sweet companion too!

I decided to stay away from the giant cakes and muffins (as I would like to return back to England a similar size to that which I was when I left), and found out that Americans enjoy a nice chunk of biscotti with their coffee. That sounded like the perfectly-sized treat for my coffee!

Needless to say, a student life isn't the most affluent of lifestyles. I decided that by making my own biscotti, I am not only saving money, but have the ability to choose the exact flavours I like!

I decided to try out the combination of thyme, orange and dark chocolate. I was toying with the idea of dipping the biscotti in chocolate instead of adding chocolate chips but actually decided to keep the chips in the mixture. I love it when chocolate chips melt in my mouth with hot coffee... bliss!

As for the flavours, I think that they all go very well together. The thyme and orange add a refreshing aroma to the biscotti, the almonds add the perfect crunch and I have already mentioned the chocolate, above.

The beauty of biscotti is that you can add practically anything to it! Cranberries, figs, cinnamon, anise, rosemary, walnuts, lemon, pistachios, pumpkin, pecans, coffee, brazil nuts, ginger, macadamia nuts, honey, poppy seeds, coconut, raisins and the list goes on and on!

The only issue with these delighful chunks of biscuit is the unfortunate fact that they leave crumbs absolutely everywhere! I guess that'll teach me to use a plate for once...

Monday 17 January 2011

A Beautiful Butterfly Brunch in San Francisco

I think that I have just experienced the most magical weekend of my entire life. January used to be the one time of the year that I really dreaded. It used to be filled with exams and bad weather. Everyone was depressed because they were poor, fat and/or ill.

In California, however, things seem to be quite the opposite. Winter is still here (many people from England forget that California has winters too) yet depression is far, far away!

Down The Embarcadero - The Bay Bridge in the background

The idyllic weekend started with a very chilled out dinner at my friend's place with lots of yummy food, wine and lovely friends. My Saturday involved a whole day's skiing in Lake Tahoe. This was the second time, only, that I had skied in my life and the last time was seven years ago. I was overjoyed that I managed to remember how to ski and the stunning kaleidoscopic sunset pushed my thoughts further into believing that this was all a dream. I was devastated that I didn't have my Canon with me to capture the sunset but I'm pretty sure that the camera would not have survived!

A sign outside the new Tcho chocolate shop and factory, down The Embarcadero

Sunday included a spontaneous trip to San Francisco with my fellow English friend Jennie and my photography buddy Matt. The aim of the trip was to get some great shots of San Francisco, which we did, and we also experienced an exquisite brunch in Butterfly down The Embarcadero.

Inside Butterfly Restaurant - Pier 33, The Embarcadero

I thought that I should avoid the bottomless mimosas but then thought that I would have just one. Because I can, now that I am 21!

Mimosa inside Butterfly Restaurant

I chose the Smoked Salmon Scramble with asparagus, tobiko caviar, crème fraiche and texas toast, but I asked for my eggs to be poached instead of scrambled (I just love 'em poached!).

Smoked Salmon Scramble - poached, not scrambled

The plate contained a dazzling plethora of colours. The eggs had a wonderfully soft yolk that provided a great sauce for the smoked salmon and al dente asparagus. Each forkful was a multi-textural adventure. The result was ultimate satisfaction!

Texas toast with butter and jam

Delicious salty residues

I had never had Texas toast before, but this gorgeous thick yellow fluffy bread was just perfect for mopping up all the delicious salty residues.

Not a trace left!

The meal was delicious and the picturesque dish was a shocking $12. The three of us almost keeled over with ecstasy after we had completed our meals. It is the experiencing of moments like these that remind me why I am studying abroad.

I thought that I would share a few of my favourite photos of the day. What's the point in taking photos if you don't share them?!

Fog at Lands End Trail

Rusty post on China Beach

The Golden Gate Bridge from China Beach

This photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken from China Beach. When we arrived at China Beach we could not see any resemblance of the bridge. Within minutes, the fog slowly lifted to reveal what my friend calls "The Statue of Liberty of the West Coast". It was as if the Golden Gate Gods were there yesterday. It was a truly memorable experience.

Market Street, San Francisco

This photo of Market Street was taken from a friend's apartment on the top floor of the complex. I could have sat here and stared for hours.

This emotional weekend of bliss and enchantment will remain in my heart forever, California - you're the best!

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Peppermint Bark - a little late!

Yes, Christmas is behind us now. However, I bought the ingredients to make peppermint bark in California before I flew back to England for Christmas and, unfortunately, amongst my birthday and end of quarter celebrations, I did not find any time to make it!

So now I am back in California for winter quarter, and lo and behold, the ingredients were still in the cupboard. I finally found some time to make it, with the few remaining candy canes, so here it is!

This peppermint bark is made from a layer of dark chocolate followed by a layer of white chocolate laced with peppermint oil, topped with a little swirl of red food colouring and a generous helping of crushed candy canes.

My father bought me lots of interesting bars of chocolate as part of my Christmas present (along with my new macro lens, thank you Daddy!) yet none of these chocolate bars included peppermint - a flavour I am rather fond of. I have been nibbling at these random chocolate bars every day with my cup of Earl Grey - salted hazelnut milk chocolate, dark chocolate with pink peppercorns and my personal favourite; Montezuma's orange and geranium dark chocolate (so in love with the taste of flowers!). Now I have another chocolate to add to the collection - some beautiful peppermint bark!

I guess you could say that this recipe isn't late and is actually a way of using up any leftover Christmas confectionary! I'm sure you could add any type of chocolate or candy to it, or make a completely different type of bark with whatever you have leftover. The only remaining confectionary I had from Christmas, however, were the candy canes and some very unpleasant chocolates from my $1 advent calendar, and I was most certainly not going to include those!