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5 Nov 2012

Autumn thoughtfulness and CreativeLIVE

Coffee-Quark cheesecake pudding with caramelised Pumpkin in Spiced nuts bowl

Autumn is the season of change. From the vibrant electricity of Summer days we slowly transition toward a sleepy November. The skies often mirror our moods and our woolly cloaks. Mornings are dark  the blankets become our best friends.
The sun isn't disappeared from our lives, it shyly emerges seldom from its blankets in the dark blue sky bringing a warming smile into our daily routines. Somehow this season always makes me more introspective and focused toward the future, the light at the end of a cloudy day.

Walking toward the season

It is now clear in my mind what I would like my future to be; at least it is clearer than it was few months ago. Finding our life-call and than, hopefully, following it is what we all struggle with and friends can help us in the task.
I have always been grateful for the people that have dotted my life. A honest and caring friend always adds up fuel to the locomotive that brings forward our lives.
Finding the right people to absorb knowledge and expertise from isn't easy but at least nowadays we have the huge advantage of ease of choice. The world is fuller of discernible information and voices like no-time before. The remote control (or the mouse) is a powerful weapon in discerning what is worth dedicating time and energy to and what not. A proper use of the new technological means at our disposal make the growing experience unexpectedly fast and surprising.

Cozy afternoon
The difficult economical situation we are into these days make for a deep shift in life-plan, compared to our parents' and the generations before us. A secure job is somehow a mirage, we are back in control of our lives with the need to choose the right turn to take almost on a daily base. This is scary, I can't deny that but at least we are surrounded with many more people we can relate to, rather than giants to fear and overshadow us.
At least this is how I started feeling when I embraced my future life as a freelancer. I realized that I am not alone, I am part of a larger organism where each and every part have the power to choose and impact on its future. Blogging started to open my horizon toward this reality, toward the empowerment of our individuality; photography is pushing this realization further day after day.

Where are we going?
Beautiful realities are arising in the world around us whose main aim is to make us succeed in order for them to succeed. Such a symbiotic business relationships seem destined to survive longer than the god-money driven ones, since they are based on personal respect.
I am talking of business like CreativeLIVE in Seattle. Many of us photographers have grown fonder of these guys week after week during the past year or so. Like a positive karma machine, their efforts in spreading the knowledge and hope in the photography and business world is creating a wave of positiveness and empowerment that I am sure will benefit us all, across regional and temporal boundaries.

The photography community in Europe is, unfortunately, hard to interface with. Despite the coveted union of intent, still huge nationalism stay afloat providing boundaries that require some sort of unidentifiable passport to cross.
With organisations like PPA and WPPI, the American photographic community has the chance to behave in a more coherent way with more chances for photographers to interface with each other and grow. CreativeLIVE has made this experience possible worldwide.
Aside teaching techniques that make us better professionals; instructors like Don Giannatti, Roberto Valenzuela, Tamara Lackey, Sue Bryce, Ramit Sethi, Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck (to name just a few) have shared their life experiences both positive and negative making us realize how common our daily struggles and doubts are.
With their formula of "watch first buy then" formula CreativeLIVE, in the person of their highly qualified (and approachable) tutors, is giving us the concrete hope for sunnier mornings for those who apply themselves with dedication and respect to their craft.

Urban Landscape
The fog is clearing up and a new life-plan is being laid out in front of me day after day. This is a busy and introspective period when many life-defining decisions will be taken. It may be the first of this magnitude but I am sure it won't be the last. I am just grateful I am not walking the path alone and not so unprepared and naive as I was at the beginning of the year.

Existentialism aside, today is the monthly appointment for another bonding-experience brought you by the Secret Recipe Club.
This month I got assigned the "Cook Book of Trial and Error" blog. As the name says, this blog (sorry but I wasn't able to find the name of the blogger on the website) is a collection of very varied recipes. What makes it different from many other food-blogs is that here you will find just the recipes with distinctly stated sources of inspiration and a few commentary lines about the outcome; indeed like a digital cookbook.
Going through the archive I was attract by these "Maple Mousse in Walnut Cups" and so I decided to experiment on the idea. I decided to use a mix of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and coconut) for the cups that I spiced with a touch of Moroccan ras-el-hanout spice mix (a very nutmeggy and fragrant mix). For the filling, I went for one of my all time favorites: quark-coffee cheesecake pudding.
Originally I intended to present the cups over some chocolate leaves but, naturally, once I was ready to cook, I found out I didn't have the right kind of chocolate at home so the cheesecake pudding was simply topped with butter sauteed pumpkin dices. A perfect and impressive dessert for your Thanksgiving table, don't you think?

Coffee-Quark cheesecake pudding with caramelised Pumpkin in Spiced nuts bowl

Coffee-Quark cheesecake pudding with caramelized Pumpkin in Spiced nuts bowl

Ingredients (serve 6): 
For the bowls: 
  • 50g walnuts
  • 50g almonds 
  • 50g hazelnuts 
  • 50g grated coconut 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix 
  • 1 small pinch of salt 
  • 6 tablespoons sugar or to taste 
  • 2 large eggs, beaten 
For the Cheesecake pudding: 
  • 2 teaspoons freeze-dried coffee 
  • the point of a knife of guar gum (read Note) 
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened condensed milk, or to taste 
  • 2 teaspoons butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 300g quark cheese 
  • sugar or sweetener to taste 
  • 30g pumpkin; cut into small dices and sauteed in butter, at room temperature
Crush the nuts into a coarse powder either by using a food processor or a zip-lock bag and a rolling pin. In a bowl, mix the chopped nuts with the sugar, salt and the ras-el-hanout using a spoon. Little at a time add the beaten eggs to the nut mixture until you obtain a dough that holds together. The amount of egg needed will vary according to how fine you crushed the nuts. If the dough seems too wet to you, add a little almond or hazelnut flour.
Let the dough rest while you eat up the oven to 170C/340F (150C/302F if ventilated).

Butter 6 cups of a muffin tin and divide the mixture between them. Spread the nuts dough evenly on all the sides of each cup using a teaspoon and bake in the preheated oven until the nuts cups are golden brown and fragrant; this will take anywhere from 40m to 1h depending on the cups thickness. Don't be tempted to raise the oven temperature too much since the nuts need to toast while cooking and this requires time.
Let the nut bowls cool down completely before unmolding.

Let's prepare the cheesecake pudding. In a bowl combine the freeze-dried coffee with the guar gum and 1/2 tablespoon of the unsweetened condensed milk. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients until smooth and thickened; add the softened butter and keep mixing. Add the quark cheese, the vanilla extract and some of the remaining condensed milk. Mix until well combined. Sweeten to taste with sugar or sweetener and thin the pudding with enough unsweetened condensed milk to obtain a creamy consistency.

To serve, divide the coffee-quark cheesecake pudding between the nut bowls and top with some sauteed pumpkin (at room temperature).

The guar gum in the recipe is used to help blending in the butter with the liquid ingredients but it can be substituted y some regular sugar, if you are planning on using it to sweeten your pudding. 
The Chicken Chick


  1. The cups are gorgeous! Indeed, perfect for the Thanksgiving dinner! There is not much left in here from my recipe, you made it all your own! I am glad that at least I provided some inspiration :-).
    p.s. your photos are just beautiful, all of them!

  2. What a beautiful dessert!!

  3. Another amazing post and pictures and the pumpkin spice nut!

    If you haven't already, I'd love for you to check out my SRC entry: Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken.


  4. Love these and the beautiful pictures. Thank you for giving me a taste of fall...although there is no hint of fall where I am. ;)

  5. I love your creativity and your photos never fail to amaze me :) *hugs*

  6. I love, love, love edible containers like that! Thank you for sharing this with the SRC. These are completely new to me. Beautiful

  7. Wow, so pretty! Love your photos! :)

  8. Stunning pics.. the cups look so pretty!

  9. These sound delicious! Your pictures are beautiful!

  10. I would like to invite you to join me at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

    I hope you can make it!
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  11. Love this nut bowls. They are a great idea and it's a delicious recipe.
    Very nice photos.