Archive for October 2009




Every freaking time…

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You know that scene.  The part in A League of Their Own.  When they post all the team lists at the end of tryouts.  And all the girls go running to the bulletin boards and then jump away one by one excited they’ve just made it.  Then the coach starts to talk welcoming everyone to the league…until everyone uncomfortably notices there’s still a girl staring alone at the board.  The coach is stern and says

“If you don’t see your name, you’ll have to go home. I’m sorry!”  

Just then another girls gets up and goes to the poor forelorn girl at the bulletin board and calmly says “Can you read?”

The first girl shakes her head no.

“What’s your name?”

Stuttering “Ss Sh Shirley Baker.”

Then they happily find Shirley Baker listed as a Rockford Peach.  

:Sigh:  I cry every Freakin’ time.   I see that scene.  Its over.  My frostings melted.

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Me and some of my closest gals at Yankee stadium in August.

The World Series is here and I’m a Bronx resident so I figured a baseball themed recipe would be good.  Lets hope the next few games are not tear-filled for us New Yorkers.  Its rainy today in the Bronx but hopefully the game will go on.  After all CC Sabathia is pitching.  If I had to pick a favorite yankee, well it’d probably be him.  He’s a giant! 

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“Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…” Carmel Corn it is then.

I’ve been searching all over the internet for different recipes and they are all about the same.  Your main ingredients are Popcorn (of course) brown sugar, butter, corn syrup,  vanilla, salt.  Easy enough right?  Now Cracker jacks have peanuts in them and anyone whose come to New York and hasn’t stopped to get a bag of roasted peanuts on the street is missing out!!  But I didn’t have peanuts in the house so I did the next best thing.  Peanut Butter.  I’ll refrain from vulagrity on this site, but WOW this popcorn is $#@*&$ GOOD!!!!!

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Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

Ingredients:

4-5 quarts of Popcorn.  I made mine fresh on the stove…I don’t own a microwave, but plain popcorn, air popped, or in the microwave works.  Refrain from using that movie theatre butter kind of popcorn you’ll be adding enough real butter soon enough.

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2 stick of butter (1 cup)

2 c light brown sugar

1/2 c light corn syrup

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Melt these in a sauce pan, bring them to a boil.  Stir frequently.  Add:

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt ( I added 2 because I was using unsalted butter)

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I added 1/3 peanut butter.  One of the recipes I referenced at allrecipes.com said to boil this mixture for 4 minutes without stirring.  I was worried about burning so I couldn’t help myself but to mix.  Pour mixture over popcorn.  I burnt some of my kernels…I removed the good stuff, then tried to get some of those dud kernels to pop, but then my cat got her paw caught under the fridge.  How?? I totally had a freak out and left the kernels burning on the stove while I searched in vain for a flashlight.  The kernels burnt and my cat came walking out of the kitchen a few minutes later having freed herself.  She’s a bit of a princess sometimes…

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Needless to say I had more carmel than I need, but I’m going to attenpt to reuse the carmel peanut butter on candied apples later this week.  Mmmm. I love this time of the year!!

After you mix thoroughly you need to bake your corn.  Bake in a casserole dish and stir the mixture every 15 minutes or so for 50-60 minutes.  Then flip you dish over on to a sheet of parchment.   So that you can actually break the pieces apart.  You could just skip the casserole dish and bake on a parchment lined baking pan. If you want to use this recipe for some DIY holiday gifts, get colored cellophane bags and place baseball (ha! pun intended) size balls of carmel corn inside. Tie with a bow!

Or pull this straight out of the oven tonight and tune in to Game One.  Heres to CC and the Bronx Bombers tonight!

1 comment October 28, 2009

Truffle Shuffle

If you are a child of the eighties you no doubt watched The Goonies during many a sleep over.  Perhaps you even recall the little known Octopus scene.  If not you can find it on the deleted scene section of the DVD.  Anyone can agree that the truffle shuffle just might be the funniest part of this movie. 

Perhaps you are a child of an earlier decade?

In terms of actual truffles…well there are a couple different things to think about them in terms of food.  Of course when it comes to this blog you know I, when referring to truffles am talking chocolate confections, but truffles are actually…fungus.  

Real truffles are in the mushroom family, there are hundreds of different species and they typical grow underground on the roots of trees.  They are somewhat difficult to harvest therefore they are really expensive, in fact they are hard to find and many times both trained dogs and pigs are used to locate large growths of truffles.

Okay I’ll stop talking about fungus.  The only relationship the fungus share with the dessert is the name.  The chocolate confection were named truffles because of their resemblence to the lumps (truffle comes from the latin word for “lumps”) of fungus covered with dirt. DSCN0741

Here are a couple of recipes for truffles.  They can be covered with chopped nuts, carmel, cocao powder etc. And they are relatively easy to make.

This recipe is from The Taste of Home Cookbook

Double Chocolate Truffles 

1  1/3c semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 c heavy whipping cream

3 tb butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 tb shortening

1 cup milk chocolate chips

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Warm heavy cream and butter in a double boiler with semisweet chocolate chips.  Add vanilla and stir until blended.  Refridgerate until almost solid. Shape into 1/2″ balls.  Melt white chocolate in double boiler or microwave with shortening.  Dip truffles in white chocolate and set on wax paper.  Melt remaining tablespoon of shortening and milk chocolate and dip truffles again allowing them to set on wax paper. 

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Now my white chocolate just wasn’t cooperating the way I wanted.  Underneath the milk chocolate is white chocolate.  Either dip the truffles carefully with your hands or try as I did to do it with a tooth pick.  Either way this cooling rack was the best way to get them to set.  

Get fancy with it?  Sure!! I put some melted white chocolate in a pastry bag.  Cut the smallest of holes in the end or use piping tip number 1 and drizzled it.  Make sure you have a nice thin syrupy consistency else your drizzle will look more like shoelaces…like mine do.

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This recipe I got from the show Good Eats. Boy do I love that show!  Check out clips of it on www.hulu.com 

10 oz. semi sweet chocolate

3 TB butter

1/2 c heavy cream

1 TB corn syrup

1/4 c brandy (I used cherry kirsch, because thats what I had, and now think about all the different flavors of alcohol infused truffles you can make…Mmm )

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Combine cream and corn syrup over medium heat stirring constantly.  Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave–I also did this over the stove top. Melt until there are still a few lumps  but the chocolate is mostly liquid.  Combine the cream mixture with the chocolate mixture and let sit in a bowl to finish melting.  Add brandy and stir till everything is smooth.  Refridgerate for an hour.  I actually let mine stand in the fridge for a day or so.  

Now its time to get dirty.  A little inspriation:

In either recipe you are really just making ganache.  Ganache is really awesome (and there will be future posts on the topic) because at lower temps you can roll them in your hands and make truffles, and at higher temps spread or pipe as frosting, or dip and drizzle it over cake as a liquid that eventually hardens.

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Where gloves if you don’t want to get dirty– decorator gloves are best as it won’t contain that powdering latex stuff that disposable gloves sometimes have.  

One at a time toss your truffle into the garish– be it pecans, or unsweetened coaco as I used, or chopped almonds, pistachios…the list is really endless.  

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Add a comment October 27, 2009

Hot Date…Bread

Having had a few close friends get hitched recently and it being Saturday night this post is dedicated to that one hot date.  You know a great first date, theres that spark, witty banter, maybe a little bit of tension– will their be a kiss good night?

So heres a recipe that I think has it all…Date Bread. Ahem HOT Date Bread.  This aint your grandmother’s recipe.  Its dense, rich, has a complex blend of spices and its got a little something in it that gives it some heat.  I originally found this recipe after trying to figure out what to do with the dates and chocolate my neighbor gave me as a little present.

After returning from Santa Fe just a few months previous I started experimenting with this original recipe adding chocolate and chili powder as they are a popular combination in New Mexico.  And finally the Cayenne Pepper in such a small amount adds the perfect amount of heat–not spice.  It helps the other spices turn up the volume a bit.

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“HOT” Date Bread

2 1/2 c chopped Dates. (don’t buy them pre-chopped else they come with all sorts of preservatives)

1 1/2 c boiling water*

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Chopped Dates and place in a bowl with baking soda sprinkled over.  Added boiling water and allow the dates to reconstitute.  *Below you will notice that one of the spices I add is ground cardamon.  This is a pretty expensive spice and can sometimes be hard to find SO if you don’t have it, can’t find it, or are on a budget, add 2-3 chai tea bags to your bowl of dates.

Cardamon seeds are found in all sorts of indian, and morrocan dishes– it goes great with chicken and pork, yet actually lends itself to sweet flavors and its what make chai tea taste like chai tea….

Combine the following dry ingredients and set aside:

1 3/4 c Flour

1/4 tsp ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, chile powder,  cayenne pepper…hmmm.  

Now if you’re wary of the heat take the cayenne down to 1/8 of a teaspoon to test drive it a bit. 

Wet Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter 

1 1/4 c sugar

1 egg 

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 c chopped pecans

3/4 semi sweet chocolate coarsely chopped.

Beat the butter and sugar together until crumbly, add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and date mixture alternating.  Stir in pecans and chocolate.

Pour batter into a greased and floured  9″ bread pan.  Bake at 350 for 65-75 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes minimum before removing from the pan.

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Have right out of the oven plain or, with a schmear of cream cheese, or freeze it for the holidays. This bread is great for dessert, an afternoon snack, a night cap…haha. I tend to find its one of those treats thats gets whittled away at till its gone .

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1 comment October 25, 2009

Halloween Cupcakes Classes

I’ll be doing 2 different classes on All Hallow’s Eve at Michael’s for Kids and Adults.

Bring 8-12 plain unfrosted cupcakes and Frosting and prepare to decorate in some scary ways. 

Classes are 11:30am-1:30pm or 2pm-4pm.  Registration for Classes is available at the checkout.  Classes are $15.  A full list of supplies is available as well as a 10% discount on all supplies purchased for the class in the store.  Some supplies will be provided.

Add a comment October 20, 2009

Here comes the Bride

This past weekend I was in my friends wedding.  In fact I was the M.O.H.  Maid of Honor.  Sarah and I have been friends for along time  and I had joked for years about how I’d tell the story of how we met at her wedding, so its surreal that the day has actual come and past.

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This dubious job of being MOH comes with many responsibilities including planning the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and holding the train of the gigantic dress up while the lady of the hour has to pee.  I’ll breifly paraphrase the toast i gave at the reception…aka the story of how we met. Ahem.

The first mutual memory Sarah and I have of each other is one fateful day during snack time in kindergarten.  Sarah wasn’t feeling good and puked purple grape juice all over my desk.  We’ve been friends ever since…

I’ll save all the tear jerky lines about how much I love both her and her new husband Sean and how the first impressions people make on us aren’t always important, and what makes someone special is that you can’t picture your life without them…sigh

There are more important things at weddings beside bathroom breaks and embarrassing stories…THE CAKE.

Sarah went with a popular trend in terms of wedding cakes.  A giant cup cake tower. With a miniature cake for the cutting ceremony.DSCN0574

Cupcake towers are great.  Your guests are far more inclined to partake, in a cupcake or two.  Sarah had a variety of flavors, from carrot cake to chocolate, with different custards and filling.  And her cake designer was even able to oblige in some non-dairy options, as the groom is lactose intolerant.  One more plug for vegan baking.  Its not just for strict vegetarian folks.  Sarah actually had some trouble finding someone who could pull off non-dairy.  To all those soon-to-be-Brides out there:  Do not be discouraged its pretty easy to make great cake non-dairy. And your groom will never know the difference as you are shoving it into his face…In this case the bride got a surprise handful to the mouth as seen in the scathing look below.DSCN0578I’ve come across a few horror stories from some other brides that the cake of their wedding day dreams wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Someone once told me during a class that she was promised beautiful gumpaste Hydreangias only to find out a day before her wedding that the decorator didn’t actually know how to make them!!!

Gumpaste is a lot like fondant.  It is edible but dries quicker and more solid than fondant.  Colored gumpaste tends to fade some what quickly so you should be aware and dye it a shade or two darker when using it.  Its most ideal for very thin petals and delicate flower designs.  In the case of Sarah’s cake she had Gerber daisies atop many of her cupcakes which match the decore as well as the bridal bouquets.  I wasn’t super impressed with the decorator’s flowers…but I suppose I’d built it up in my head– just what these daisies would look like.

Making flowers out of gumpaste is pretty simple.  If you totally suck at piping flowers you might find that making roses, daisies etc are quite easy when it come to gumpaste– its done mostly with cookie cutters. Hey as I say in class some of us are sculptors not painters.  Sugarcraft. com as well as Wilton.com offer a variety of cutters.  Here’s my take on Gerber Daisies using the Wilton daisy cutters.

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Below is one of the Wilton Daisy cutters available at Michael’s or just about any craft store with a cake decorating aisle.  For each daisy you’ll need to roll out gumpaste to 1/16 of an inch (really thin–not total see-thru but close to translucent).  And cut 2 large daisies and 2 medium daisies.

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Once you’ve cut the daisy blossoms use a balling/veining tool to thin the petals more. Place a blossom on thin shaping foam and run the balling tool from the edge of the petal to the center on the daisy.  The petals will curl in as you do this. Do this to all four blossoms cut.

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Now chop ’em up.  Run a pastry wheel, a small pizza cuter, along each petal making 3 small cuts in each petal.  The cuts don’t have to be clean, just impressions.

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Now glue all your blossoms together.  How you ask?  With gum glue–1/4 c warm water with 1/2 tsp of gumpaste dissolved in it. If you find you have hardened pieces of gumpaste along the edge of what you’re working with–this is ideal to dissolve for gum glue.  Typically one should let it stand for an hour.  Make some in advance and store it in the fridge for future projects.  Drop a little gum glue between each blossom with a paint brush and your set.  Let these flowers dry on flower formers–this is another Wilton Product.  Cutting paper cups in half and letting the blossoms dry in the concave shape produces the same effect if you don’t have Wilton flower formers on hand.

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I used piping gel mixed with a little chocolate syrup to pipe a donut shape in the center.  I sprinkled with pink and yellow colored sugar and then filled in the center with chocolate syrup.  If you what a realistic comparison to real Gerber Daisies just scroll up my page–they are the header on the back drop of this here blog.

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Find these instructions a little confusing or feeling like too much of a novice to do this on your own? Take a Wilton Fondant and Gum Paste Course (CHECK OUT THE NOVEMBER SCHEDULE PAGE) you’ll learn traditional Daisies, as well as Calalilies, and Carnations!

1 comment October 20, 2009

Back in Black or I’ve Been Living Under a Rock Part Three

I suppose starting a blogging and posting every other day and then just slacking off and ignoring it for weeks is kind lame huh??  

Yeah I think so too.  In a nutshell without getting too personal are the reasons:

My real job is crazy busy and my boyfriend and I might have broken up.  Its hard to conjure up art without a muse…I mean taste-tester and the bills gotta get paid.  I also  purchased one of those Jet Blue Unlimited All-You-Can-Jet-Passes, (hey some girls cut their hair short in a break-up, I on the other hand go find a beach and some long lost friends) so I’ve been setting off to Florida, California, and Texas lately, and have ignored this page all together.

Back to reality.

I did this cake like a month ago, in response to that cake contest I found out about all too late.  My most impressive work? No. But totally me…YES! Lets put it out there.  I’m a Taurus, a stubborn, opinionated, loyal, horned …sweetheart.  And when I saw the different designs you could pick from to participate in this contest, a soft part of my heart went for this design. Had I found out sooner about this contest I would have totally chosen something far more complex, and actually entered but as they say, “it just wasn’t meant to bee…”

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So in addition to some photos, why not a recipe?  Below is a recipe for Marshmellow Fondant.  Now I’ve got a few things to say about Fondant:

First off, Fondant pronounced Fahn. Dahnt, or as many of us say “Fawndint” is in fact a French word.  Its not another term for fondue, its not called “fondantine”, or any other hybrid of something that sounds fancy.

I’ve been watching The Cake Boss a bit lately.  Buddy pronounces Fondant correctly.  So if you want to pronounce it right say it like him…Fahn Dahnt…with or without that New York/ Jersey accent … I suppose that would be me cawlling the kettle black, now wouldn’t it?

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“Fondant” actually stems from the word “Fondre” which in French means “to fold.”  Actual real bakery-made Fondant is made by boiling sugar to just under a temperature that would render it hard candy.  The oozing hot lava liquid is poured out onto a marble or metal slab and allowed to cool slightly.  Then begins the process of scooping the gel substance and folding it on to itself.  As the mixture cools as its folded it becomes white and eventually resembles the white sugar paste we all know and …have become quite frustrated with from time to time.

I don’t recommend any novice try making fondant at home as you could seriously burn yourself.  BUT you can try this easy recipe to attain a good stand in.

Marshmellow Fondant for some people has a more desirable taste.  Is easy to make, not to mention way cheaper than store bought fondant.  In the end, its not as strong as authentic fondant, but you might scarcely be able to differentiate.  Worse case scenario mix this with the real stuff and your cake will turn out as good as ever. Heres how it goes:

1 bag (16oz) mini marshmallows

4 TBSP of water.

2lbs. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 c shortening

Melt marshellows with water in a double boiler till fluffy and liquidy.  Stir regularly until you can not longer see lumps– but be careful not to let cook too long.  If mixture has a translucent quality you’ve over cooked. PICT0577

Pour in to a bowl and let cool slightly.  Add 1 cup confectioners sugar (4 cups total by the end) and begin to stir. After 1-1/2c cups have been added, coat your dominant hand in shortening and begin needing mixture by hand adding more sugar continuously.

PICT0578After lots of sugar you will (I promise) get a dough substance.  And you’ll have Pop-Eye forearms to prove it.

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Once you’ve achieved the dough consistency, you can refridgerate and save for a couple of weeks.  If you are preparing for a big project make your fondant in advance coat with a layer of crisco and then wrap air tight in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Remember both bakery fondant and Marshmallow Fondant dry out in the air, so make sure you keep what you are not using covered at all times.

PICT0587When rolling out fondant make sure your surface is well coated with shortening.  Roll out as evenly as possible, starting from the center working outward evenly.  Roll out no thinner than an eighth of an inch.  If you roll your fondant too thin it will tear once on the cake and be wrinkly.

PICT0588Smoothing Fondant onto a cake takes practice.  Make sure you’ve rolled enough to fully cover all sides.  (By the way you still have to frost the cake with icing before you put fondant on it!) Starting at 12 o’clock pull the edge of the fondant up at you smooth the fondant against the cake.  Then go to 6 o’clock and do the same.  Go to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock until the fondant is smooth and adhered to the cake and all the wrinkles have been pushed to the edges. Cut off the excess and you’re done!

3 comments October 14, 2009

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Sugar, Frosting, and Fondant: an artistic exploration of Cake and other Sweets

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