Archive for November 2009
I love that time of the afternoon on a warm fall day when the sun begins to set. The waning rays of sunlight stretch so far across the horizon that they have a way of making everything: the grass, the trees, the changing leaves, look illuminated from the inside. Like the color saturation knob is turned up full blast right as the sun departs.
I found myself last year at this time of day in the middle of an apple orchard with my very favorite 4 year old, Aela. I had been feeling particularly down that week and for some months prior and I thought apple picking, fresh air and some fresh cider and donuts could easily bring me out of my slump. Though my companion that day was only 4 years old I recall one of my favorite memories of her in that orchard and her imparting a strange wisdom to me.
Once we had jumped off the back of the wagon that brought us to the trees I found it funny that Aela, wasn’t overly concerned with picking fruit. After a trip back and forth to the basket she was more content to find a nice shiney apple and sit next to me on the side of hill and look out across the brimming sunset. She talked to me then about what she wanted to be for Halloween. I assumed I’d hear about an anticipated princess or mermaid costume. She instead told me that she would be dressing up like God. Hmmm? I thought. Aela went on to tell me that she thought God was a girl (I assure this is her own belief and not her parents.), that she wore very pretty dresses, and that sometimes, though it was sad for us on Earth, this party dress clad diety called people to live with her in Heaven in her big beautiful house.
I liked how simply Aela described life, God, and that somehow in her short 4 years she already knew the importance of not picking as many apples as one could, but to instead sit and admire an orchard at sunset and appreciate a finely ripened fruit. I think we learn lessons all the time from all sorts of people whether or not we want to. So to celebrate the end of apple picking season, and to commence Thanksgiving week here is an apple pie recipe, to remind us all to take a slice of life and to slow down and enjoy the sweet things.
This recipe comes from The Taste of Home Cookbook, and was submitted by Mrs. Woodrow Taylor.
German Apple Pie
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c shortening (somtimes I thrown in some butter with this
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp ice water
Combine flour and salt and cut shortening in with pastry blender. Add vanilla and water. Kneed with your hands once dough forms a ball. Roll out to about an 1/8 ” thick. Using a rolling mat will make rolling your crust to the proper circumference. It also makes transferring your crust to a pie dish easier because you can just throw your arm underneath the mat and flip it into the dish.
Patch any rippsin your crust by pinching small pieces off the edge. Pinch the edges of the crust to flute.
1 c sugar
1/4 c flour
2 tsp cinnamon
6 c Apples, peeled and sliced chunky
1 c heavy whipping cream
Drizzle heavy cream over pie. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 an bake for 50-60 minutes. Apples should be tenders. Cool on wire wrack, and store in the fridge.
Its typically suggested that you use tart apples for apple pie. Honestly I’ve made this pie countless times with sweet Macintosh apples, and this time in particular I used granny smith. When I used sweeter apples I found any excuse to dig into a slice of pie. With the granny smith I found I enjoyed the pie most with a scope of ice cream. I think all dessert is better a la mode, but the tart apples were best complemented with a scoop of Butter Pecan.
This week will bring biscotti, and the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had– from the master herself Martha Stewart.
Add a comment November 23, 2009
Marilyn Monroe is my favorite pin-up of all time. Yes, I know thats rarely a shock when it come to choosing the hottest-coolest-hollywood screen legend-actress-siren-icon… Ever. I’ve seen just about every movie shes made with few exceptions. Some Like it Hot is timeless; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes I adore; and How to Marry a Millionaire should not be missed.
I dressed up like her for halloween on two different occassions. The first time I was mistaken for a drag queen in the West Village. The second time was more successful, despite the fact that I achieved the goal of making my costume in under a day…White bedsheets aren’t only good for ghost costumes.
So why not dress up your cupcakes?? I’ve been working on recipes of cupcakes inspired by some of the most timeless ladies of stage and screen. Be sure to stay tuned for Vivienne Leigh, Audrey Hepburn, and Marlene Deitrich. The following recipe is inspired by Marilyn Monroe and one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. Marilyn’s dress billowing above the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch.
This Recipe comes from Martha Stewart, also an icon in her own right.
4 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla ext
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
Beat egg whites, vanilla and tartar on low till soft peaks form. Add 1 cup superfine sugar, also known as castor sugar, 2 tbsp at a time. Beat on medium until stiff peaks form. Fold in the last 1/4 cup of sugar.
Pipe batter into baking cups with a pastry bag. (or just use a large ziplock with a hole cut in the corner. )
Bake for just about an hour at 200 degrees. Meringues should be dry on the outside with a soft center.
8oz cream cheese
1 c Greek whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar.
Cream ingredients together. This frosting is really a great compliment to the super sweet pavlovas. Add a cupcake topper of your favorite starlit for the ultimate garnish.
1 comment November 22, 2009
Its a big week in the world of Cupcakes…Well in my humble opinion anyway. I will be leading a specialty project class at Michael’s this weekend or TODAY, from the book Hello Cupcake. I will also be giving this same class for a special troop of girl scouts! We will be making Turkey Cupcakes just in time for Thanksgiving!
In related news I have just found out I will once again be providing the cupcakes for our second annual Holiday party at the theatre. Last year I made 300 cupcakes, this year I’m aiming for 400, plus some truffles, and mini cheesecakes…I’m super excited!! Our theatre guests are in for a big treat when the show ends. For tickets: www.artscenter.org
And I attended a demonstration and book signing by the authors of –you guessed it Hello Cupcake. Turns out they have a second book arriving on store shelves this April called What’s New Cupcake. Can’t wait to pick it up and share some new ideas!!
Add a comment November 21, 2009
I’m a big Harry Potter Fan. I didn’t start reading these books until recently. I figured by the time the fifth movie came out that it was time to join the rest of the population. Little did I know what a guilty pleasure these books are. The further I get in this series the more I’m aghast at just how huge J.K. Rowling’s imagination is.
My favorite Character (I’m reading The Half Blood Prince currently) is Sirius Black. I didn’t think it was possible to have a crush on a fictional story book character…it is. (If you haven’t read the Potter books, stop reading this blog and go to the Library. –Spoiler Alert) Sirius is a wrongly accused felon, escaped convict, member of the rebel organization Order of the Phoenix, general outlaw, and Harry’s Godfather. Sirius is misunderstood, bruding, and the way Gary Oldman portrays him in the movies is just wonderful.
So here is a spin on a recipe straightout of my grandmother’s kitchen. Black Out Cake was big in the 1950’s. Traditionally this is a multi layered chocolate cake, covered in chocolate frosting with layers of chocolate pudding in between. The signature mark of a Black Out Cake is the chocolate cake crumbs crushed against the sides of the cake. I looked around, improvised and decided to just take license with the amount of chocolate in this recipe as I wanted this not to be just a Black out Cake, but a Sirius (seriously) blackout Cake.
Sirius Black (Out) Cake:
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup of milk
2 1/4 flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 bar bittersweet chocolate (ghiradelli is what I used.)
The bittersweet chocolate was not originally in this recipe. Melt in a double boiler or like I did, place it in a oven safe bowl and pop it into your preheating oven (350 degrees). It only takes a few minutes to start melting. Take it out and stir and you’ll find you don’t have to have it completely melted in the oven, stirring it will finish the melting process. Remember its very easy to burn chocolate!! Let the bitter sweet chocolate cool, but not harden.
Sift your dry ingredients: flour, soda, powder, salt. Set aside.
Whisk together milk and cocoa. The mixture will become a thick mousse like consistency. Set aside.
Combine butter, shortening, and sugar until FLUFFY. Trust me you’ll want to stop beating this at the crumbly stage, but mix until its legitamately FLUFFY. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each egg. Now add dry ingredients and milk ingredients alternating.
By the way this is the classic process in making homemade spongey cake:
1. Beat butter and sugar till fluffy.
2. Add one egg at a time
3. Alternate flour mix and milk, starting and ending with flour.
Alright we are almost done. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate, remember it shouldn’t be hot and it should still be a liquid consistency.
Pour batter into two 8″ or 9″ round pans. (butter and flour the pans) And cook for apprx 30 minutes. The addition of the bittersweet chocolate makes this cake more like a brownie and more likely to dry out so make sure not to overcook.
2/3 c white sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c milk (2%)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate OR 3 oz 100% cocoa ghiradelli chocolate. (Siriusly take license with the chocolate!)
Combine everything over low heat. Increase heat to medium, whisking constantly until pudding is boiling. Remove from heat. Place in a bowl with plastic wrap against surface of pudding so it doesn’t form a skin (eww pudding skin!). Refridgerate until cool.
Make chocolate butter cream icing. (Ingredients: butter and /or shortening, vanilla extract, water, Unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar.)There is a video with it if you forget how. Click Butter Cream on the side bar.
You’ll also want to make Ganache. Ganache is semisweet chocolate and heavy cream. I used 16oz. chocolate and 8oz. of cream, melted and whisked over low heat. You can do a 1:1 ratio. Ganache can be heated and used as a syrup, cooled slightly and piped, or spread like a frosting. Its pretty awesome in terms of versatility.
OKAY. So when your cake is cool slice each layer in half (horizontally). Now you will have a 4 layer cake. You could go as far as 3 times if your cake is thick enough. Pipe a ring of frosting around the bottom layer and fill in with pudding. Stack the next layer and repeat. Now frost the cake with butter cream and refrigerate. Once the cake has “crusted” meaning you can touch the icing with your hand and it doesn’t stick, instead it is smooth and hard–has a layer of crust– you are ready to cover with ganache.
Its best to assemble this cake on a cardboard cake circle that is the exact same size– so an 8″ circle for an 8″ cake. This will allow you to move the cake around, pour Ganache over it without messing up the board or plate you will ultimately display the cake on. If by this point your ganache has hardened, reheat in the microwave, or over low heat or by placing in a bath of warm water. Mix to assure that all the ganache is melted and smooth.
Place a tall sturdy cup on a large cookie sheet. Place cake on top of cup. You can now pour the ganache over the cake– be generous and just DUMP it! push ganache toward the side with a long metal spatula. Excess will drip onto cookie sheet, and you can reuse this extra on other cakes later. Once cake is covered make one smooth pulling motion across the top of the cake to assure that the layer of ganache is even– this will also give you a smooth top.
Like I said Ganache can also be piped. I added some black food coloring to my leftover ganache and placed in a piping bag and just swirled it all over the cake. I was trying to imitate all the cool prison tattoos Sirius has. I thought this was a bit cooler than crumbing the side.
4 comments November 20, 2009
Its been a pretty busy week for me. I had a big concert at the theatre I manage–my real job, many of my students had to bringing in their first cakes this week, and the holidays are just around the corner. Wow.
At some point this week I found a few minutes at my local Target store, to purchase a few small things, one of which included Madonna’s new CD Celebration. I figured I needed some upbeat motivational dance music, and after all I like that new single.
What I didn’t realize is the track on the double disc CD is not the radio edit. Isn’t that always such a let down! The single you’d love to play on repeat isn’t actually on the album, and instead theres the first draft of the song?
Its like a blog without pictures!
Ahh thats better.
So what does this have to do with Fondant? Well almost nothing except that this recipe was also just a tease. In doing some exploring and going through various recipes for Fondant, I came across a ButterCream Fondant Recipe and was excited. It seemed easy to make and perhaps it would offer a better flavor than the store bought (just about everyone I know HATES the taste of store bought.) And Buttercream Fondant is known to have a natural shine. Mmm sign me up!
Oh but I spoke too soon. This Fondant kinda sucks! The only ingredient it includes thats different than Buttercream Frosting is Corn Syrup. Now Corn Syrup being a liquid seems like a strange ingredient variation, considering that its the reason that this frosting goes from a stiff liquid to a dough. Buttercream Fondant is easy to roll out, and is shiney. The corn syryp continually rises to the top of the surface adding a sheen to the fondant. It also doesn’t dry out like your typical store bought fondant or Marshmellow fondant So its nice not having to compulsively cover the dough when you’re not working with it.
Its difficult however to roll this dough out without using tons of powdered sugar to keep the fondant from sticking. The more sugar you add the harder it is to keep the dough from cracking and falling apart.
All in all this recipe was kind of a let down. I had to re-roll the dough several times as it continually just craked and broke off my poor cooperative cake. Even after I finally got it to stick the dough looked like there were lots of pox marks in it…Eww. The recipe is below and I encourage anyone to try it, make me look like a complainer who just had a bad day with a new recipe, and should have just bought the song she wanted on iTunes.
Butter Cream Fondant
1 cup shortening
1 cup corn syrup
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
2 lbs powdered sugar
1/2 tsp of fine salt
Mix the shortening, syrup, extract and salt until well combined. Add sugar until you have a moldable dough.
Add a comment November 15, 2009
I’d hoped to post this a week ago, but making Croissants is about as difficult as putting together a great Halloween costume in under 24 hours, which is another challenge I seek out every year.
So this Halloween as in most previous Halloweens I waited till the last minute to figure out a costume. I have some rather ridged rules about how I get a costume. I prefer to put it together and/ or sew it rather than just buy it. With that said I hate haphazard -can-barely-figure-it-out-only-if-I-explain it to you costumes. I know thats picky, but evermore is the challenge to put together my costume in one whole day. Last year I managed to sew a whole jumpsuit and got a friend to sew me in hair extensions all within a day. I’m sure you’ve seen the Opps I did it again Britney on Flickr.com
With that said, even if I think my costume is spot on (as in I watched the movie over and over while I put it together just to make sure everything was right) sometimes still…Not everybody gets it.
Its not totally obvious in this photo–and thankfully there was another Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) in the room because I had my eye glasses on most of the night, out of necessity, which caused at least half the room to think I was…Sarah Palin. Election day was just around the corner, even if Mrs. Palin has stepped out of politics. All that effort chasing around costume jewelry and opera length gloves, not to mention a dress, when I could have just wore a pants suit from my closet. That second Audrey helped set the record straight a little. Alaaaaskaaaa.
So Breakfast at Tiffany‘s begins with an interesting “walk of shame” if you will. That somewhat awkward walk home early in the morning still wearing lasts nights party dress…Ms. Golightly stops in front a famous jewelry store sipping her coffee and snacking on a breakfast treat. So les croissants is what I set my mind to. If you didn’t have respect for those hard working pastry arts students before, try this recipe and see how you feel. This is why people study the culinary arts. Try this for your next Sunday brunch, just make sure you stay home on Saturday night.
I first attempted what seemed to be an easy recipe, but figured out quickly, when my dough didn’t rise, that the recipe was lacking and I was lacking– lots of information. Then I did some serious research comparing recipes and videos on Pastry making. The recipe below comes from epicurious.com.
The most important thing to know about Crosissants is that they are time and temperature sensitve. Prepare the dough the night before you want to have them. Also plan to stay close by as you will need to roll, refridgerate, roll and refridgerate several times in your preparation.
1 1/2c whole milk heated to warm 105-110 degrres F (I Used 2%)
1/4 c package light brown sugar
1 Tb + 1/4 tsp dry active yeast. (this is about one standard packet.)
3 3/4- 4 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tb Kosher Salt
3 sticks cold unsalted butter
Tools: rolling pin, counter top mixer with dough hook, pastry cutting wheel (or a pizza cutter), garbage bags, parchment paper, pastry brush, spray bottle, large plastic resealable bag, tall drinking glass
Combine milk, sugar and yeast into the bowl of an counter top electric mixer. You will use your dough hook attachment to mix. If you don’t have one you can stir and then use your hands to kneed this.
Its important your milk is warm, as this allows the yeast to foam. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. If your yeast doesn’t foam, its no good and you’ll need to start over.
Add Flour and salt and mix on low speed till a stick dough forms (7 minutes). Now hand knead on a clean floured surface for about two minutes. Form into a ball shape or thick square shape and wrap with plastic wrap. Refridgerate for an hour.
Meanwhile, place 3 sticks of butter in large zipperlocking bag next to each other. Leave the bag unsealed so it doesn’t pop. Now whale on them with any aggression or stress you may be holding in using a rolling pin. haha! Once you give them a few thwacks, you can actually roll the butter out like dough. a 5×8 rectangle is suggested as the ideal size. Place in refridgerator. Its import your butter be cold, otherwise it will be impossible to work with.
After your dough is chilled roll it out to a 16×10 rectangle. Place butter inside so the the longside of the butter is parallel with the short side of the dough.
Fold like a letter: the top third on to the butter the bottom third on top of the dough. Now roll into a 15x 10 square. Fold into thirds again roll again. Fold for hte third time and roll. Wrap in plastic and refridgerate for an hour. You can expedite the process by using the freezer to chill the dough. Only 20 minutes needed to chill. You will repeat this process 3 times.
So by folding you are distributing layers of butter between the dough. When it cooks the butter melts, creating steam which causes little bubbles to form in the dough. It puffs creating a thin flaky layers of pastry.
After completing the last fold wrap dough again and place in the refridgerator for at least 8 hours, but no more than 18 hours. (Are you sick of this yet?) Roll out into two large cirlces (dough should be about 1/4 of an inch thick) slice into wedges– the way you’d cut a pizza. Roll starting with the wide end of the dough.
Now you can, if you want to get fancy add chocolate and go for a pain au chocolat pastry. Most people recommend bittersweet, but semisweet, or milk chocolate work well too. Add chips a few morsels to the wide end of the cut, and roll.
Place all croissants on parchment lined baking sheets. make sure the pointed end of the croissant is underneath the pastry else the dough will unwind in the oven. Place baking sheets in garbage bags. Use a tall drinking glass to prop plastic , and keep it from touching the croissants. Tuck bag’s ends under tray. Croissant will rise. Let stand for 2- 2 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425. Spray inside of the oven, now remove croissants from bags and place in the oven. Spray again. Close door. Reduce heat to 400 and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate racks and reduce heat to 375. Croissants are done when they are a golden brown.
WOW thats a lot of work!!! Here are some links if you want to take on this project:
Add a comment November 11, 2009
Here are some Posts you can look forward to this week:
Les Croissants— In honor of my halloween costume this year I’ve ben trying to attempt (and they have been several) to make great homemade Croissants. This french pastry is no walk in the park.
ButterCream Fondant— I’m asked all the time if there are alternatives to the store bought fondant found in most craft stores. Click on the Marshmellow recipe I posted last month or try this easy recipe for a shiney fondant.
Biscotti— I just recieved my advanced copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Jar. I’ll go through a few traditional recipes and give you my review of some non-diary, no-egg options.
Apple Pie— Thanksgiving is in a few short weeks, and as the leaves continue to change and fall from the trees the Apple Picking season is ending soon. Stay tuned for a great German Apple Pie recipe.
Pin Up CupCakes— A little recipe inspired by my favorite pin-up of all time–Marilyn Monroe.
Add a comment November 9, 2009
My first video blog or vlog if you will!!!! I edited this myself with iMovie. I’m not as Mac saavy as I’d like to be so I’m gushing with delight!! For any of my new students who’ve just begun Course One this is the frosting you’ll need to prepare for class. For anyone is just no good at making homemade icing, well watch below and see if you can improve your frosting skills the same way I’m improving my techie nerd skills.
Butter Cream and Chocolate Butter Cream
1 cup Vegetable Shortenting
1/2 c butter and 1/2 Shortening
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
2-4 TB water or Milk
2lbs Powdered sugar (if making chocolate frosting omit 1/2 c powdered sugar and add 1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 Tb Meringue Powder (for Wilton class recipe, optional otherwise)
9 comments November 8, 2009
So when it comes to fondant there are a couple important rules. First it dries out and you should always cover what you are not using with a thin layer of shortening and seal tightly with plastic wrap.
Adding any geometric design to a cake will point out any flaws in a second. So make sure if you are adding fondant stripes, checkers, circles etc that you are starting with a level even cake!!
Also understand your medium. The cake is covered in fondant. The pin stripes are also made from fondant. The delicate logo in the center is made from a mixture of fondant and gumpaste, ideally 50: 50 fondant and gum paste. Fondant always covers cakes, never Gumpaste. Delicate designs should always include gumpaste for strength.
If you want those pin stripes to look right you need some good tools. First a straight edge and a sharp blade.
A rolling mat can help you place any stripes in an even fashion. Don’t trust yourself with straight lines quite yet?? Here are a couple of ideas:
Wilton makes a product called “Color Spray.” Its an aerosol spray that replicates an air brush effect and can really help give a finishing touch to any cake, even just by adding some depth in color. Notice the edge of the cake above. I don’t recommend using the black color Spray– but experiment on your own.
You can make a really dramatic look on your cake by swirling the color in your fondant. This can be achieved in a couple ways. First you can take white fondant and twist it with pre colored fondant, both of which you can find on craft store shelves. For a more dramatic effect take white fondant and add some gel based food coloring.
Wear gloves to ensure you don’t get this all over you hands. Twist and kneed and roll out and your will have a Marbled effect in minutes. End up looking like an stunt double for Papa Smurf?? Do a load of dirty dishes. It will take away all that dye in just a few minutes.
Add a comment November 7, 2009
In honor of the Bronx Bombers winning the World Series on Wednesday here is a custom cake with a frosting recipe. I’ll do this post in two parts otherwise I feel like it will get a little long.
So I started with this cake thinking what flavor should this be? I finally settled on red velvet…well actually its blue velvet. The most common way to achieve the deep hue of Red velvet is by using plain old food coloring, so I simply substituted blue for red. I will post a red velvet cake recipe soon, but it will include the original way the red was achieved by including beet juice in the batter.
Red velvet Cake is a mildly chocolate flavored cake, most popular in the south. Its gotten increasingly popular with all the cake shows now on television. I once saw Geoff on Ace of Cakes make a Blue Velvet Guitar Cake for Paula Dean so I figured I’d make my own attempt.
It was only after I started baking that I realized I have a baseball shaped pan that I haven’t broken in yet…Next time.
Red Velvet cake is traditional topped off with Cream Cheese frosting. You’ll also find this on Carrot Cake and a couple other desserts. Its pretty easy to make.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz of Cream Cheese (1 block)
1 stick of butter (1/2 c)
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
4 c confectioners sugar
Beat cream cheese and butter and vanilla until uniform and smooth. Add salt and confectioners sugar. If you have a kitchenaid counter top mixer don’t forget that sweet trick that will keep your wall and your entire kitchen free of that thin layer of powdered sugar. Throw a wet dish towel over the top of your mixer once you’ve added all the sugar. Hit the on button and all those sugar particles will stay at bay.
This icing will come out stiff-ish. The cream cheese will inevitably keep it from the stiffness that butter cream has. You can add a tbsp of water to thin or just omit some of the sugar to thin. In this case I wanted a stiff icing as I was ultimately covering the cake with fondant and a thin icing would only ooze out the sides.
Some tips on Fondant to come in my next post.
2 comments November 7, 2009