Archive for September 2010




Indian Summer S’mores

Summer is over ahhhh!!!!! and I feel like a barely enjoyed it.  I still long for the freedom of an elementary schooler having nothing to worry about except making friends at day camp.

Now we enter what is traditional known as Indian Summer.  Not so long ago I got to spend my uninfringed upon summers at a camp my family shared on Lake Bomoseen in VT.  My great grandfather had bought this humble lot of land in the 1940’s when few people inhabited the area and even still its not over run with tourists. I learned to swim on the sharp slate shore and spent my evening braiding my sunsoaked lake dampened hair by the fire in a big baggy sweat shirt. At that point in my life we’d come up with all sort of methods for roasting marshmellows. The patience required waiting for those hot coals to form along the fire’s edge and the persistence in finding the perfect long stick to roast with was scientific.  Many years later my family still tries to spend a week or two on Bomoseen though the family camp is no longer ours.  This time of year was my favorite as there were always a few weekends right as school began that my parents and me, and my brother would sneak back to the camp and enjoy the changing late summer weather for an evening or two.  It is definetly the best time for pie, leaf peeping, and marshmellow roasting.

So a recipe for wishing you had more vacation /beach time or time round the fire.  I’m already wishing I had more time to do absolutely nothing (I’m up to my elbows in a wedding cake as we speak ahhhh!!!)…and this recipe is another excuse to use that chef’s torch.

S’MORES Cupcakes

I’ve tried lots of S’mores cupcakes recipes out there.  I like the one in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The one big mistake I’ve made with those was I decorated with chocolate frosting, then shoved pieces of graham crackers and marshmallows on top…Graham crackers get mushy really quickly.  If you still want a cool presentation cover the back of the crackers with melted chocolate– this way they won’t fall over when they soften.  I’ve also tried Natalie’s recipe for S’mores cupcakes from Bake and Destroy.  She’s reinvented the wheel a couple times and the variations are all good.

I decided to go after Martha (Stewart) though for a couple reasons 1. I’m on a mission to make my Cupcakes book look more and more seasoned and dog earred. 2. Her frosting seemed really interesting (and came out amazing)– plus you burn it wiht a torch and 3.  I attempted her French Macarons recipe this labor weekend and couldn’t be more pissed at how craptastic the came out!! I’m less pissed at Martha, and more pissed at my impatience in not allowing those egg whites to come to the proper stiff consistency… but more to come with that later.

S’mores Cupcake

You need:

1 1/2 c all purpose flour

1 1/3 c graham flour (wtf graham flour?? see below)  I substituted 1 package of crushed graham crackers– it works out to 1 1/3 c exactly though its a bit different then the flour.

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 c (2 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp

2 c firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 c honey

6 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

For topping Chocolate Ganache and Marshmellow Frosting…(this is where it gets fun!)

Alright first off : graham flour– what is this anyway? Well i came across a passage in one of those “Answers to completely unimportant questions” books– the one people have on their coffee tables or better yet bathrooms, and discovered that once upon a time circa turn of the century there was a Reverend withthe last name of Graham, who preached that you could with stand the evils of deviant behaviour such as alcoholism or drug abuse by eating a healthy vegetarian diet.  A company promoting their wholewheat flour named their product after this preacher, which is now most noteable when eating a particular cracker– the graham craker. So Graham flour is really jsut a wholewheat flour.  Bob’s Red Mill brand has an array of flours and meals and I often find myself staring at the large selection of their products whenever I’m in a large grocery store that carries the full assortment.  Rather than buy one more specialty thing (seriously i have lavander extract in my kitchen right now) I thought I should go with whats already in my pantry so Should you not have graham flour substitute with crushed graham crackers.

Combine your dry ingredients: all purpose flour, graham cracker crumbs/ flour, powder, salt and cinnamon and mix.

In a separate bowl, beat butter with brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.  Add honey and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Divide batter into lined cupcake trays and bake at 350 approximately 25 minutes.  Recipe yeilds apprx 24 cupcakes.

Ahhh so this frosting is really interesting.  So typically you’ll find most s’mores cupcakes topped of with Marshmellow frosting.  Usually this consists of butter, vanilla, Fluff and confectioner’s Sugar. It is absolutely devine, and a complete disaster in terms of stickiness…think cotton candy.  This recipe is another take on marshmellows– more along the basis of homemade marshmellows. Its pretty easy too.

1 envelope of unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup cold water

1/4 water to boil

1 c sugar

Combine gelatin and cold water in a mixing bowl– preferably to a standing mixer.  Let rest for apprx 5 minutes — or until gelatin is soft. Meanwhile combine 1/4 water with sugar in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and stir.  Once combine place a candy thermometer in pan.  Brush sides of pan with a wet pastry brush assuring sugar crystals don’t form.  Sugar will thicken and begin to boil.  Heat until sugar reaches the soft ball stage 238 degrees F.  Carefully pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture while whisking.  Its recommended you whisk by hand for about a minute as mixture cools, then use electric mixer.  Beat at medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (not dry peaks).

Martha says it takes about 8-10 minutes.  I feel like it took about 15-20, maybe it wasn’t soo long, but it felt like it.  Use immediately as frosting will harden.  I also recommend you double the recipe if you intend on being able to cover all 24 cupcakes generously.  i ran out after the first dozen– which were for a colleague at work, so I improvised with the last 12, using a little of the remaining frosting and then adding a good ole marshmellow on top.  Holding 3-5 inches away use butane chef torch to singe one side (or all sides) of frosting.  A real marshmallow burns very easily so take heed.

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Add a comment September 9, 2010

Traver’s Day and Creme Brulee

Photography by Michael Golding

In the summer upstate one of the biggest attractions is the Saratoga Race Track.  Established in 1863 the track is the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the States.  It garners your typical summer tourists to your big city high rollers.  The Travers race is the oldest thoroughbread horse race in the country, named for the tracks builder John Travers, and though it is not apart of the Triple Crown races is equally famous within racing culture.

Photography by Michael Golding

I, for one am no gambler, and though watching racing Thoroughbreads is absolutely a magnificent experience, I just don’t really like the danger involved with the sport.  I do find enjoyment out of people watching in Saratoga during the summer.  Being the oldest sporting venue in the country comes with some old traditions. The race track perpetuates big hats and fancy dresses for the ladies, and summer suits and cigars for the gents.  I spent most of the Travers weekend perched on the patio watching a parade of hats walk by. So for a fancy weekend comes a fancy dessert…That is soooooo simple make despite what you may think!  Below are two versions of Creme Brulee: the easy easy way  which is a simplified variation on the second creme brulee recipe just beneath it. This method originates from Alton Brown’s Good Eats which requires a little more prep.  You will be the toast of the party with this dessert, even if its just a backyard summer barbeque.

Creme Brulee

The Easy way: you will need ramekins.  The recipe calls for 6 -7  8oz ramekins– these are relatively large so feel free to use 12 smaller ramekins. Don’t have ramekins?  You can easily improvise with shallow but sturdy coffee mugs that are heat safe.

1 quart heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

2 quarts hot water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Boil heavy cream and vanilla in a saucepan.  Remove from heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes.  Combine egg yolks and sugar with a whisk just until the color lightens.  Slowly pour heavy cream into egg mixture constantly whipping with a heat safe whisk.  This is called tempering the eggs.  By increasing the temperature slowly the eggs will cook without curtling.

Pour the mixture into your ramekins.   I recommend beating the egg-sugar mixture in a large pyrex measuring cup and then combining cream in the same bowl to allow for ease of pouring.  Place ramekins in 2-3″ tall cake pan.  Slowly pour hot water around the ramekin dishes. Water should reach about half way up on the ramekin.  Carefully place in oven and cook for 40-45 minutes.

The custard will look slightly bubbly on top.  It will be set but will tremble when you move the pans.  Remove ramekins from water and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.  Will store for up to 3 days.   When ready to serve use 1/2 c sugar to sprinkle across tops of ramekins, place on cookie sheet and place under preheated brolier to crisp sugar tops…

Or for the very best results try a slightly fancier way

You will need the same ramekins, cake pans, and a chef’s torch. These are available at any specialty cooking store for about $30 or around the holidays try Target.  For about $20 Target typically carries a torch and ramekin set especially for gift giving.  Unfortunately its only available around the holidays.  Also make sure to purchase butane fuel else your torch won’t work.

So this recipe is the same as above with 2 exceptions

1 quart heavy

1 vanilla bean sliced

Boil heavy cream and vanilla bean together, remove from heat for 15 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.

Whisk 6 egg yolk with 1 c *Vanilla Sugar.

**Vanilla sugar is one of the easiest things to add to your cooking repertoire.  Slice one vanilla bean and bury 2c granulated sugar in a sealed container.  Some people use within a few days but for peak flavor infusion, store for two weeks before using.  You can use your vanilla sugar in just about anything the same way you would use standard granulated.

Proceed the same way: Slowly add the hot cream to the eggs.  Pour into ramekins, place in water bath and bake. Chill for at least two hours.  When ready to serve remove from fridge (its ideal to remove the creme 30 minutes prior to torching the sugar) Then sprinkle sugar across tops with remaining 1/2 c sugar– you can use the vanilla sugar for extra depth in flavor. Remember its only a teaspoon or two of sugar on each though  I like to be a little more generous with the sprinkled sugar to ensure a real crunch factor when eating the creme brulee.  Heat sugar with the torch holding 3-5 inches away.  Sugar will bubble then brown.  Don’t be afraid to let the sugar get to a dark  brown– it won’t taste burnt rather candied and the sound of the cracking sugar and the texture of the sugar melting in your mouth as you eat it is to die for.

4 comments September 5, 2010

A year in Review…

Wow its been awhile since I’ve posted!  I guess it doesn’t help to mention I had a great piping techinque to show for Mother’s Day (the basketweave) or that I wanted to pay tribute to my dad with his favorite cake for Fathers Day (yellow cake with chocolate frosting)  or that I had about 100 great things to say about strawberries, and had plans to do a whole piece about canning (May and June is starwberry picking season).  Well if you want to see some of the projects that have kept me from posting look in the galleries, as I’ve finally been able to update with some recent photos.

As August comes to an end and my thoughts instinctually turn to sharpened pencils and cozy fall clothes and new starts I realize that this blog is just about 1 year old, give or take a couple of days.  And I got to thinking about what I’ve accomplished, learned, and experienced in the last 365 and 1  quater days…

So here are some highlights: after starting this blog I …

1. Got this blog a spiffy new look. Which was not easy in terms of going back and forth with a designer.  But that designer turned into a good friend, who turned into a fabulous boyfriend, and the web design aint so shabby either.

2. Visited Florida, California, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont , some places I’ve been before, some not, all the same some good R and R.

3. Went to a couple of great live hockey games, including a Ranger Game on Valentines Day –I had great seats, even got to sneak some friends down from the bleeders to sit right in front of us. Saw Sean Avery get a great penalty shot, and me and my crew were on the Jumbo Tron.  This was all topped off by the rangers winning the game!!

4. I paid off my car…then I totalled my car, then I got a new car. Paid off the last of my credit cards! And put some cash in savings!

5. Taught over 500 people the fundamentals of cake decorating.  I’ve opened a second store as a Wilton Instructor.  Did some great private work working with large and small groups.  And I have some future demonstrations up my sleeve.

6. I’ve gotten over 20, 000 views on my Youtube channel and yes I will reshoot that annoying video where I say “uhm” apprx 65 times according to one veiwer.  In fact I plan to reshoot “how to make buttercream”, as well as add a video on “how to make italian meringue buttercream”, complete with better angles.

7. I  turned down a couple of jobs decorating including one position at a very famous bakery…with none other than the Cake Boss…sometimes opportunities just aren’t a fit. Began work in a new local bakery close by with lots of great people who allow me to experiment and let my imagination take me where ever it will!

8. Beefed up my portfolio.

9. Saw the yeah yeah yeahs in concert, began learning to sew, Hosted Thanksgiving, got braces 😦 , had a yard sale,  threw a dance party, began collaborating on an illustration project, finally finished all the Harry Potter books, learned some songs on the piano, and Began doing some research for a host of other cake eccentric projects I’ve got cooking (pun intended)…

10. And finally I adopted an adorable german shepard pup named Billie. (like Billie Holiday– shes a girl. See above.)

In the last couple of months my schedule has been bogged down with weddings, summer get-togethers, birthday parties and bridal showers and lots and lots of work. Balancing 3 jobs, private cake projects, and a new dog aint a piece of cake.  But right now I’m looking forward to the things I plan to fill my fall schedule with:

Sewing projects– some I plan to debut here on the Cake Eccentric

Some Continuing Ed classes at a local college– possibly including American Sign Language II– I love ASL

More Teaching!! I took off the month of August after limiting the amount I was teaching this summer.  I’ll be back starting this September with Flowers and Cake Design as well as 2 project classes: Tall Cakes– this is a one time 3 hours class for adults who have completed all the Wilton courses and are hoping for a little additonal training in tiered cakes.  I’m also hoping to add a fun kids class with a back to school theme. Click Current Class Schedule for the official dates and times.

So for a recipe…August is prime picking season for raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  Hit up those farmers market stands before it gets too cool.  My favorite farm stand is locate smack dab on the border for New York and Vermont.  PattiesPatch.com. The smell of fresh, fruits and vegetables is absolutely intoxicating as you walk through the open air shopping.  I’m also a total sucker for the fresh baked pies.  Though kind of pricey they are totally delicious. Fruit of the Forest is my favorite light and mildly sweet, and traditional and hearty. The perfect dessert to usher us from Summer to Fall.

This recipe is from Desserts: A Collection of over 100 Essential Recipes by Parragon Publishing.

Filling:

1 1/2 c blueberries

1 1/2c raspberries

1 1/2c blackberries

2/3 c sugar

Combine and simmer in a sauce pan over low heat for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Dough:

1 1/2c flour

generous 1/4 ground hazelnuts also called hazelnut meal

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter cut into pieces plus more for greasing the pie dish

2/3 c sugar

4 tb milk

finely grated rind of one lemon

1 egg yolk beaten

Sift flour, then add hazelnuts.  Crumble butter in with your fingers or pastry mixer until mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add sugar and mix.  Then add 3 tb milk, egg yolk, grated lemon rind.  Once dough is uniform knead briefly on a lightly floured surface.  Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll 2/3 dough and drape over grease 8″ pie dish.  Trim extra dough over edges.  Fill with berry mixture. Lightly dampen dough edge with water.  Roll remaining dough and place over pie pinching edge.  Make 2 slits in center of pie.  optional: use any ramaining dough to decorate pie top.  Roll and use decorative cookie cutter to create design.  Brush with remaining tablespoon of milk and bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or my favorite ice cream.

**The Fruit of the Forest at Patties Patch contain peaches and strawberries as well so feel free to go nuts.

1 comment September 1, 2010

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

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