Tag Archives: chocolate

Hershey Weekend

I spent a relaxing, pampered Girl’s Weekend in Hershey, PA the past couple days. We stayed at the Sheraton in York, PA which was a lovely, luxurious hotel with all the amenities and at a discounted price.

The first night, we went to Crimson American Grill, where I shared both an appetizer and a meal. For the appetizer, I got to try Loaded Fries- fries with melted cheddar, bits of bacon and green onion. It was delicious of course. As for the meal, I sampled the seafood platter, which came with fried cod and fried shrimp, crab cake, lobster… It was all very tasty. We also got a side. I chose the rice pilaf, but it was basically just rice. There weren’t really any vegetables, even though they’re supposed to be included.


Later that night, I went out with a couple of the girls to The Hop, which was across the street from the hotel. It looked like it was in a barn and it was fun in a hicks town kind of way. However, I couldn’t stand that everyone was allowed to smoke in there, so we didn’t stay for very long.

Next morning, we all met for complimentary breakfast at the hotel. It was good- Bacon, eggs, potatoes, pancake, orange juice. We decided to head to Hershey Gardens after that, and it was gorgeous! Rolling landscapes, beautiful fountains, Hershey-kiss shaped sculptures, pretty roses, colorful flowers,  lovely brooks and bridges.

We also got to check out the Butterfly House, which was wonderful and charming. Nice little waterfall, leading into a small pond with golden fishes and pretty flowers all around. There were quite a few different types of butterflies in yellow, orange, pink, dark blue and deep purple. They were also quite friendly – A few of them landed on my clothes and fluttered close around me.




We went to The Hershey Pantry for lunch and were very lucky to get a table right away (since there were 9 of us). I had the turkey club with bacon, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, and chips. It was scrumptious- everything was fresh, crisp, flavorful and went together beautifully. And since Hershey is known for chocolate, I just couldn’t resist dessert- I tried the chocolate peanut butter pie, which was simply divine. I loved the taste of the chocolate, merged with the peanut butter on top.


Next on the agenda was Chocolate World, which I was most excited for because chocolate is one of my favorite treats. Chocolate World was huge, and quite crowded but definitely worth it.

We started off doing the free tour around the Chocolate World factory which took place in a ride. It was really cool to see the process of how they make Hershey’s Chocolates.


Then we did a Chocolate Tasting, which was held in Hershey University. We got to try Hershey milk chocolate, extra dark, Bliss, Artisan Confections, kisses and really savored them so we could identify the flavors, whether they were fruity, woodsy, earthy, citrusy, floral, coffee, nutty and/or buttery. Afterwards, we received a Hershey’s University Masters Degree in Chocolate Tasting, signed by Milton S. Hershey, Founder and D.P. Quigley, Master Chocolatier! Pretty awesome to have that distinct honor.

We also got to do a trolley ride that went through the town of Hershey, PA and got to learn about the history of Milton Hershey, the man himself and how he built his Hershey empire. It was really quite an inspirational story, especially because Hershey had failed so many times, but instead of giving up, he kept trying and look at what he accomplished through that tenacity. And the story was told in a fun, lively way- There was our main tour guide who was very knowledgeable and very sweet, and there was also an actor playing different characters from Hershey’s life. It was over the top hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable. They also sang some songs, and passed out chocolate samples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was so much fun to visit Chocolate World, and made me feel like a kid again. We headed back to our hotel after that and just relaxed, hung out in the pool (which was really gorgeous!) and jacuzzi for awhile.

We ended up having dinner in the hotel, and prices were actually not too bad. I ordered the crab cake sandwich with french fries. It was quite good. The crab cake was made of flavorful lump crab meat, bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and made even better with tarter sauce.

After eating, a couple of us went out to a club called Banana Max. I didn’t love it, because smoking is prohibited and I get headaches if I’m exposed to smoking too long, but at least it was better than The Hop. It also had a cover charge, which I pretty much never pay in NYC. However, Banana Max did have a nice dance floor, played great music and was pretty hoppin’.

All in all, a great trip with fun people, full of delicious meals, beautiful places, chocolate, lots of laughter and good conversation!

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French Macaron Baking 101

Over the weekend, I took a Macaron Baking 101 class, of the French variety (not the coconut kind) through Skillshare, taught by the very sweet and very knowledgeable Kristen Joerger. It was a bit of a long and involved process, but I love these cookies so much that it didn’t seem like it.

We started with making the filling, splitting up into two groups. I was on the chocolate ganache team, while the others made a blackberry buttercream filling. The chocolate filling was the easier of the two – We weighed out the chocolate (we used grams in this particular recipe, because Kristen believes it’s more accurate), poured the hot heavy cream a little at a time into the chocolate, gently whisking in between. After letting the chocolate mixture cool to a comfortable temperature, add the butter and let cool in the refrigerator. And voila, you have your chocolate ganache!

Then we started on the French Macaron shells. For this we combined almond flour, powdered sugar, egg whites and cocoa to color the shells brown. We had to sift through the mixture to ensure there were no large clumps. Then for the meringue, we whipped egg whites (on high speed) in a mixer, and quickly added hot sugar water to it. It was kind of cool to watch the mixture thicken, and transform into a marshmallow-fluff consistency.

The next step was to fold the meringue (1/3 at a time)  into the almond/powdered sugar mixture in big sweeping motions. It is ready when everything is completely incorporated and the batter runs in a slow, thick ribbon off the spatula.

Fill a pastry bag with the macaron batter, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Then start piping the macaron shells, by holding the pastry bag at about 90 degrees to the sheet and pipe straight down, cutting off the shell when your circle is about an inch. Below, are the purple macaron shells for the blackberry buttercream filling.

Let the piped macaron shells rest until they no longer stick to your finger when you lightly touch the top of them, which takes about 10-20 minutes. Next, bake them in a pre-heated oven, at 325 F for about 12 minutes. Make sure to turn the pan halfway through. They are done when you lightly tap them and they don’t move too much. Once out of the oven, carefully twist the macaron shells off the parchment and let the shells cool completely before filling.

 

Here is a recipe for the Macaron Shell, taken from Gourmet or Gourmand:

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 egg whites at room temperature
  • 3 Tb. granulated sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • coloring: only powder or gel
  1. Blend the confectioner’s sugar and the almond flour in a food processor.
  2. Begin to whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until they start to froth. Add a pinch of cream of tartar, and as they foam up more gradually add the granulated sugar. Beat until stiff.
  3. Add the almond mixture to the egg white mixture and fold until the mixture begins to flow “like magma”. I would say this will take about 40 – 60 turns of the spatula.
  4. Fill pastry bag fitted with 1/4 ” tip and make 1 inch mounds on cookie sheets lined with parchment. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

And the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Filling, from Chow:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature and cut into cubes
  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
  2. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Stir it into the chocolate without creating bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute.
  3. Add the butter and stir until smooth.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until thickened but still spreadable, about 30 minutes.

To assemble:

Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. If you choose to pipe the ganache, transfer it to a resealable plastic bag and snip about a 1/2 inch off a bottom corner. Squeeze or scoop the ganache to about the size of a cherry (about 1 teaspoon) onto the center of a macaron half.

 

Our French Macarons came out wonderfully. We got to take home a bunch of French Macaron cookies to enjoy later, and of course I sampled some on the spot. Delicious, perfectly chewy and sweet with great flavor!

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