Steamy Soiree. What naughty images does that invoke in your mind? How about a gathering of fantastic fabulous food bloggers to eat and talk about food? I recently was flown out by Thermador to Scottsdale, Arizona to meet other bloggers, talk food and learn a little bit about the Thermador brand and witness the unveiling of their new Pro Grand Steam Range. And of course eat fantastic food. From Barramundi fish, a sustainable fish from Australia (I had met the rep at BlogHer Food and was so pleased to have a chance to taste it on this trip) to beef satay to braised bok choy & shitake mushrooms to decadent a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, it was left me satisfied in so many ways, least of which, the chance to hang out with some amazing people. On top of that we learned a little bit about whole grain baking and it inspired me to make these chewy chunky whole grain toffee chocolate cookies. I baked them here at home in my (non-Thermador) sad E-Z Bake like apartment oven. They came out different from the cookies that we had at Thermador as I tinkered with the recipe to make them a little more chewy and thick and I’m sure that if I had a fabulous Thermador oven (hint hint AJ) they would have been even better but I’m not complaining with what I made.
Right on the heels of BlogHer Food, I ended up turning around and flying out to Scottsdale, Arizona, to meet up with a small group of food bloggers that Thermador had selected. We got to be the first media to see Thermador’s Ultimate Culinary Center and in the end most everyone fell in love with it the steaming oven and the crazy low heat burner. OK, well maybe I fell in love with it, but then I’m a total geek about that sort of thing.
The trip started with me waking up early to get to the airport and then arriving and having the flight delayed. *sigh* A familiar feeling, I sat around the airport alone and dejected this time ‘round, as I had no food bloggers to entertain me like my last delayed trip. Finally, as we took off and then landed, I found myself checking in an hour before dinner was scheduled but utterly starving. I ran down and bought about $25 worth of chips at the hotel market (I know, it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy an actual sandwich before dinner, so it was chips or red velvet cupcake and as much as I wanted the cupcake, it seemed even more wrong than the chips).
Luckily dinner was around the corner and I got chance to not only eat incredible food, but I got to meet some of the amazing bloggers I was going to be spending the next day with. Seated next to me was Kathy from Lunchbox Bunch and Finding Vegan who was just darling. She and I chitchat and chewed our way through dinner, discussing vegan food, health food, the awesomeness of vegan food (yeah, I may be an “omni” who eats all sorts of meat and animal products, but some of the best dishes and things I’ve made are totally vegan). BLT Steak, a steak house in Phoenix, treated her really well, with some amazing specific vegan dishes made for her, including a white chocolate dipped pistachio encrusted apricot & spun sugar dessert that looked spectacular. Kathy was definitely not wanting for good food, though she did look longingly at the popovers that they delivered to the table. I vowed to her that I would develop a vegan popover recipe for her, so look for that sometime in the future here at Eat the Love.
Also seated at my table was Sarah from TasteSpotting. I tried to give her the stink eye for rejecting all those perfectly shot photos of mine, but it just couldn’t last. She’s totally winsome and lovely and at the end of the evening, I basically wanted to be her best friend. She had driven to Phoenix from Los Angeles and regaled the table with stories of frozen bottles of water (she was rather paranoid that she would get trapped in the dessert without water on the drive) and drinking date shakes, which I had never heard of, but apparently were quite popular in Palm Spring/Indio region of California. It also didn’t help that Sarah completely charmed me the next day by telling me that I would be perfect for a TV show (someone get on that for me will ya?).
The Thermador people was lovely too. I had a chance to chat with my Beatriz from Thermador about why I don’t like blogging contests at dinner and she was genuinely curious about my opinion (pitting blogger against blogger? no thank you). Post dinner we head back to the hotel and I got a chance to get drinks with the lovely Jaden from Steamy Kitchen. How can they have an event called Steamy Soiree and not have Jaden there? Jaden, of course, is friggin’ amazing. I told her that I was in awe of her ridiculous amount of energy and asked her if she ever got any sleep. Her response was “Well of course not, I have kids!” Ha! I then asked her how come she wasn’t at IACP and she said she was flying out from Arizona the next day to go to Austin for it. The woman is crazy!
I also got a chance to talk with Dana of Dana’s Treat who now one of my new favorite people. We bonded over vegetarian food, healthy living and her love of the city I live in. She lives up in Seattle (which I love!) and though I somehow am fully connected with a slew of Seattle food bloggers, I somehow have overlooked her and her blog. Well no more. Gorgeous, warm, intelligent and so giving, after the weekend was over, she had me promise I would come up and visit Seattle again and cook a meal with her. I can’t wait.
The next morning, bright and early, found us at the Thermador Showroom for a tour and presentation of the history of Thermador. Let’s contemplate for a minute the waiting entry room of the Showroom that looks like a spa for a moment. Is everything in Arizona zen like? I mean, our hotel was definitely zen like, with it’s 10 swimming pools. But then it was billed as a hotel/spa getaway. Thermador makes stoves and ovens (and fancy dishwashers too), but the waiting room looks like you should be ready for your massage!
That said, Thermador has a pretty rich history, which I found fascinating. Maybe it’s the design geek in me, but I do have that slightly obsession with brands and the story behind them. Turns out Thermador has a wonderful back story that include being part of the Brady Bunch set (no wonder I felt like I grew up with Thermador in my life, I grew up with Jan and Marcia!) as well as part of Julia Child’s set on her PBS show. Random fun fact, Thermador actually offered to give Julia Child an entire Thermador kitchen for the show free of charge, but PBS and Julia Child said that they never allowed for freebies, and insisted they would pay for the entire thing. True story.
Another random fun fact, if Thermador offered to put in a free kitchen stove/oven unit into my apartment so I wouldn’t have to bake everything in my dinky EZ Bake oven that my landlord gave us, I’m willing to sacrifice my morals and take it without paying. I’m totally easy that way. True story.
All fun facts aside, it was the unveiling of the new Pro Grand Steam Range that was the reason that everyone came out to Arizona. Pretty to look at it, it packed some crazy features, including a super hot 22,000 BTU burner (hello heat! how awesome would that be for wok stirfrys?) and this awesome low heat burner that cycles on and off, which mean you could actually use it to melt chocolate, and not worry about using a double boiler. In fact, they put a paper plate on the burner filled with chocolate chips, as an example that the heat was so low that it could melt the chocolate but never burn the plate. Show offs!
But the best part of the unit is the new steaming oven. As a baker, I’m kind of obsessed with this oven. With a built in steamer, everything bakes better, from bread (man the crust on the bread is fantastic) to cinnamon rolls, to hardboiled eggs, to even sterilizing jars for jam. Tessa from Handle the Heat and Tabitha from Lady and the Blog totally pitched in and we all made super moist pineapple upside down cake using the steaming oven. Tabitha diligently cut the pineapples as I traded turns with Tessa in creaming the butter with the sugar by hand, with a spoon. Yep. We went old school (and have the cramps to prove it).
The lunch was pretty darn fantastic. Insane food, wonderful people and lively conversation abounded. Highlights included beef satay, miso glazed pan fried tofu, edamame and red quinoa salad, Hawaiian sweet bread, Southeast Asian lumpia, and a Thai inspired stir fry with glass noodles. And dessert included our pineapple upside down cake, chocolate cake, coconut macaroons and whole grain heath bar cookies (which is what inspired my cookies).
Afterwards we had a chat with the Thermador peeps about food trends (healthy, unprocessed and natural food came up a lot, which had me feeling a little bit guilty about the potato chip binge I ate the day before) and then we headed down to learn about grains from Chef Brad. Chef Brad is insanely passionate about whole grains and it was utterly infectious. He showed us some of his favorite grains including amaranth, which he popped (he adds it to rice crispy treats which is a great way to “hide” it), and firmly feeds his family of five kids (FIVE KIDS!) with an 80/20 rule. 80% good stuff, 20% not as good stuff. No one wants to eat a meal of just healthy food, and one of the worst things is when your meal tastes “healthy”. You want it to be delicious AND healthy. So if adding some of the not as good stuff, like chocolate, sugar or anything else, makes you eat more healthy stuff like whole grains, then it’s worth it. Talk about a sensible approach to eating (also, considering how much food I had eaten the day before and that day, I felt like those potato chips I got when I arrived really only counted as 10% of my intake, so I felt much better).
Chef Brad showed us a bunch of great whole grains like Kamut, Quinoa, Spelt, Buckwheat and Barley. I bake with a lot of them (especially when baking gluten free) but I’ve only recently started to bake with some of the grains that have gluten in them like Kamut, Barley and Spelt. I’m lucky to have a grocery store that sells the flour in bulk though Chef Brad was pretty adamant that you should grind the flours yourself to ensure freshness. That said, AJ would probably kill me if I showed up with a flour mill to put on our countertop (as much as I would love one).
Random fun fact, I completely embarrassed myself at lunch when I referred to millet flour and how it was my new favorite flour to bake with. Apparently I never talk about flours and grains with anyone before (AJ’s eyes just roll to the back of his head when I start talking about baking) because I pronounced it “millay” and everyone looked at me as if I had two heads. Then I spelled it and pretty much everyone’s eyes lit up in recognition and said “OH! MILLET!” *sigh*
After packing up our things, including some homemade raspberry blueberry jam (I ended up mailing it back to myself as I only did carryon back) we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and go to dinner. I spent some time wandering about the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale pools (did I mention the ten pools?) with Tabitha from The Lady and the Blog looking at the ducks and talking careers. She’s both insanely talented (blogger, psychology major, work with autistic kids) and gorgeous (former model, current fashion student at F.I.T.). Gah! I can’t believe I was surrounded by everyone so amazing. I need less talented friends to hang around with. All these over achievers make me feel like such a slacker.
Dinner, of course, was wonderful. I was seated next to Tessa of Handle the Heat and the Kitchen Generation and she finally told me the secret origin story of how the Kitchen Generation came to be. Maggie of Three Many Cooks was there as well, telling us all about her new venture, Blogger Without Borders which is a brilliant idea (look for it to official launch in July). I can’t wait to help her out on this wonderful nonprofit that helps other bloggers in times of need (think Sweet Relief but for bloggers not musicians). Tabitha was there at the table, along with Liz and Shun from Thermador. Again crazy wonderfully warm people.
During the dinner, we did pause a moment to sing happy birthday to one of my new favorite people (I know, I have a ton of new favorite people, but I can’t help myself, I love them all) Brooke of Cheeky Kitchen. It was her birthday and the restaurant decided to bring out a flaming pineapple for her. I guess I wasn’t the only thing flaming at the restaurant that night.
Back at the hotel, people hung out for a little bit drinking nightcaps and then Maggie and Brooke and I decided to jump in the pool for a midnight swim. We had the entire pool to ourselves but let’s face it, it was pretty awesome. We finally left the pool wrinkled, wet but completely satisfied that we had wrung as much out of short but productive trip as possible.
The next day found us all leaving bright and early for the airport. I shared a ride with Sara and Kate of Our Best Bites who I now adore and who were giving me sage advice about my blog, as well as Amanda of Kevin and Amanda who said she would turn my handwriting into a font (I love that! Have you bounced over there and checked out her free fonts on her blog? So cool!). I didn’t want to leave, but life goes on. Of course, I nearly didn’t get through security as they found the truffle salts that Thermador gave me suspicious. Luckily they decided they were harmless because I wasn’t going to give those up without a fight!
Finally, landing in San Francisco, whisking myself off to a client meeting directly from the airport and then coming home to bake a pie for the DIY Desserts event that I was hosting that night at 18 Reasons, I was able to collapse and think of the whirlwind event that was the Steamy Soiree. Meeting people like Maria & Josh from Two Peas and Their Pod, Sandy and her husband Paul from the Reluctant Entertainer, Robyn from Add a Pinch and Anne from fANNEtastic food made me made me realize that the blogging community really is a special community, of the warmest, friendliest people I have had the pleasure of meeting, all of whom kind of kick ass with their blogs, and make me wonder why I’m such a slacker (hello, I’m posting only twice a week? How does Anne wake up early to go for a run at 5am AND post every single day? I’m exhausted just thinking about it).
On top of that, I met some kitchen designer bloggers and editors and they were all brilliant as well. Susan of the The Kitchen Designer, Linda from Better Homes and Gardens and Leslie from KB Culture were all stylish and knowledgeable in a world utterly foreign to me, but that I was intimately familiar with, as I have to spend a good chunk of my life in our kitchen. They were refreshingly smart and down to earth and gave me such insight on designing a kitchen.
And perhaps, one day, I’ll have a home (not an apartment) that I will own, where I can actually design my own kitchen. Who knows when that will happen and who knows how that will happen, but I know I’ve drunk the koolaid and will buy myself a Thermador. You know, unless they *cough* give me one or something.
In the meanwhile, I’ll be happy with these cookies. One taste, and I’ll be instantly transported back to that amazing trip to Arizona, where I lusted after an oven and met some lovely people. And I’ll eat this cookie and think “we’ll always have Arizona and the Steamy Soiree with Thermador.”
Thermador was kind and generous enough to compensate in full the travel, accommodations, meals and tour of their showroom during my trip to Arizona. That said, while my costs were covered, everything I wrote above was my own opinion and I stand by them. Thank you everyone at Thermador and DGWB for organizing and hosting me.
Feel free to visit these other awesome bloggers (who I now adore and love) and read their thoughts on the Thermador Pro Range and the Steamy Soiree event:
- Anne from fANNEtastic food
- Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen
- Dana from Dana’s Treat
- Kathy from Happy Healthy Life
- Maggie from Three Many Cooks
- Maria and Josh from Two Peas & Their Pod
- Tabitha from the Lady in the Blog (part 1, part 2)
- Tessa from Handle the Heat
- Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer
- and Thermador’s Official Blog
Adapted from Chef Brad’s Whole Grain Heath Bar Cookie
These cookies are packed full of nutritious whole grains like spelt, kamut and rolled oats. But don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t taste healthy at all. In fact they have the hearty chunky chew of a totally bad for you cookie. Kamut and spelt are “ancient grains” that haven’t been crossbred for disease resistance like hard red wheat (the grain that regular all purpose flour comes from). Some people who are allergic or intolerant to wheat can tolerate them, but they do have gluten in them so they aren’t suitable for celiac or people with severe gluten/wheat allergies. Check with your doctor if you are unsure. Chef Brad recommends that you grind the flour yourself from the grains but most of us don’t have a grain mill or a very expensive mixer. That said, you can find the grains and the flours in the health food stores or via mail order.
225 g (1 1/2 cups) Kamut flour
150 g (1 1/4 cups) oat flour
150g (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) whole spelt flour
115 g (2 cups) thick cut rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
226 g (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
480g (2 cups) organic brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
160 g (1 cup) toffee bits
190 g (1 cup) chocolate chips
1. Place the flours, oats and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Take a balloon whisk and vigorously stir until the dry ingredients are well blended and uniform in color.
2. Place 113 g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) of butter in a shallow pan on the stove. Turn to medium and melt the butter until it is liquid and the butter fat starts to brown. The minute you notice the butterfat turning brown, turn off the heat and let the residual heat of the pan cook the butterfat until it’s becomes golden brown and fragrantly nutty.
3. Pour the butter in a mixing bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attached and then add the remaining butter. Mix until the solid butter melts. Add the brown sugar and beat until mixed well, about 30 seconds on medium speed. Then add the eggs, one at a time beating on medium until incorporated, scraping down the sides with large spatula between additions. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and beat until incorporated.
4. Scrape down the sides again, and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to mixing bowl. Beat on medium until incorporated, scraping down the sides afterwards. Repeat two more times with the dry ingredients until they are all incorporated. The dough will be stiff.
5. Add the toffee bits and chocolate chips and mix on low speed until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
6. Pull a large sheet of plastic wrap out and take about half the dough and place it in the center. Flatten the dough and wrap the plastic wrap around it tightly. Repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
7. The next day, pull the dough out of the fridge and let it sit out while you preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Break off about a 2 oz (57 g) chunk of dough. The dough will be very crumbly. You can squeeze the dough and play with it to make it more sticky and pliable. Once it’s workable, roll it into a ball (it’ll be about 1 1/2 inches wide) and then flatten it into a disk (about a 2 inches disk). Place on the lined baking sheet and repeat, placing the cookie dough about 2 inches apart.
8. Bake the cookies in the oven for about 12- 15 minutes or so until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack
Makes about 48 cookies.