Friday, December 28, 2007

Project Lila


Robb and I had a wonderful opportunity to make a cake for the 3rd birthday of Lila, the daughter of our friends Geoff and Hillary. Her birthday was on Thursday December 13th, and the celebration continued through that weekend. Lucky girl!

This post has obviously taken some time, but we've had a lot of real life stuff happening, some of it happy and some of it sad, and we are able to get to writing about this really fun time now.

Lila loves princesses and pink. So, castles, tiaras, pink, pink, pink, polka dots, flowers, whimsy, pink, pink, gowns, frills, etc. swam around in our minds as we thought of lots of possibilities. We hoped to include only edible items, this is obviously a big limiting factor for novice decorators, but we were willing to be pushed to (and beyond?) our limits. We considered that cake that is shaped like a gown, with a waist-up barbie sticking out the top. Seemed too predictable... although we did purchase the pan, and some scalloped edge pans that looked like they might be useful: 6 and 8 inch just in case. We also knew that we wanted sparkle and did I mention, pink? We found some pink gel food color (and a zillion other cool colors, too), flaky edible pink glitter, some pink food spray- yes like pink spray paint, also some really cool stuff called lustre. It's a powder that you can brush on and it's really sparkly. We got some of that in dark and light pink, white and pearl. We knew that we wanted the cake to look top notch and that our frosting skills are ok, but not professional looking. We decided that we would have the best luck creating a smooth cake with fondant. We got some pre-made fondant, and also made some (recipe in the CB pg. 307), and discovered in a practice coloring and rolling session (see the Art Deco cake) that they were virtually identical. And easy to work with- really easy! We were so confident, we didn't give the fondant another thought.

Originally, Robb and I had a design that included two tiers: one 9 inch round, topped with one 6 inch scalloped, each with some combination of cake and fillings, and a pointy princess hat on top. The 6 inch layer was to hover over the 9 inch layer by about a 1/2 inch or so. We figured that we could make the pointy princess hat out of caramel, similar in concept to a caramel cage that we've all seen placed over fancy shmancy desserts. For the cone shaped mold we considered foil, but realized that we'd have trouble getting it smooth enough. We ended up making one out of radiator screen. We thought that would be smooth and flexible and could withstand the hot sugar. We also tried a styrofoam cone covered with foil, and hoped the foam wouldn't melt. We planned to get it colored pink or close enough with all manner of the pink items listed above. We tried it out and for a number of reasons, did not get a good result. #1 we overcooked the caramel, #2 the radiator screen mold was too wide and short, #3 the application of caramel wasn't uniform enough to produce a strong enough caramel network to withstand the prying needed to unmold it, and #4 and most problematic for this project, it didn't color very pink with the stuff we had to work with. I think that it could be done, but we made this discovery on the Tuesday before the party. Yikes! So, we relaxed our restriction about edibility and agreed to use a plastic tiara. That was a tough choice, but a pragmatic one.

Funny how in making this cake, the actual cake part wasn't our focus. We were feeling fairly confident in our ability to make tasty cake and had dwelled completely on the look of it. In our batting ideas around stage, we had talked about an almond flavored cake layer with some kind of pink filling. That would have been fine I'm sure, but like a lightening bolt I was struck with the idea of making the inside look like Neapolitan ice cream. Brilliant! We decided on chocolate, raspberry, and vanilla, with raspberry puree between the layers and the wonderful raspberry mousseline buttercream for frosting (see our July 17, 2007 post for our raves). We still had to pick which cake recipes, so we looked back through our notes of butter cakes and decided that we like the Chocolate Domingo and the White Velvet Butter Cake best. We agreed that we could just color some of the white cake pink and call it raspberry, which we did. The only adjustment that was made to the cake recipes aside from coloring one batch pink, was some brown and red food color was added to the chocolate layer. In a practice muffin-sized version, the chocolate layer took on a slightly chalky look once it was cut. The brown and red made it just enough richer- or my imagination said it worked! Lastly, in addition to the cake layers, raspberry puree and yummy buttercream, I thought it would be good to have an almond dacquoise layer to add a bit of nice texture. Robb agreed once he tried the muffin-sized mock up. I think this may have been his favorite part! (It definitely was. A good crunch in a lovely cake!)

So, we come to Friday night, the night before her party and we have tickets to see Paula Poundstone (right here in Peekskill at the wonderful Paramount Center for the Arts) and we get started on assembly and decoration AFTER the show. We at least had the cake layers assembled: chocolate, raspberry puree, dacquoise, pink layer, raspberry puree, dacquoise, white layer, all covered with a thin layer of the raspberry mousseline buttercream, and the same for the 6 inch layer, except that the scalloped edges got lost in the trimming and it turned out to be round. That's ok in the big scheme of things. But, oh boy, we enter murky territory...

We got the fondant colored pink finally- it took a bit of time and a total scrapping of the first attempt. Fuschia isn't really pink, at least not in the way we wanted. Adding more and more of a color that isn't what you want doesn't magically make it the right color- go figure! Lessons learned- color a little bit at a time instead of 4 pounds worth, and use pink food color if you want to end up with pink fondant! (Ok, I'm a hair colorist and I know this, but somehow after seeing Paula Poundstone, it didn't come to me in a blinding flash, until the 4 pounds were already a lovely shade of a too violet fuschia.)

We had a heck of a time getting the fondant on the cake this time. The Art Deco cake was simple, partly because it was very wide and only an inch tall. So much for smooth sailing. Our 6 inch layer was at least 6 inches tall,and we ended up with a LOT of excess fondant on the sides and had a terrible time trying to smooth it. In fact, we took so much time trying to get it sorted out, it got hard. So, we ended up with a sort of bustle of fondant on one side of the cake, and a couple of seams. We were strategic with some fondant ribbon placement and all in all I think the "bustle" area looked suggestive of flowing hair at the back of the tiara. We stuck on some flowers and dusted the whole thing with the fantastic lustre mentioned above. Some princess ribbon on the tiara added to the flowing look.

Given the excitement of the fondant effort on the 6 inch layer, and that it was past midnight, we figured we'd go with buttercream for the bottom layer. We had a terrific polka dot ribbon and I was especially keen to see it wrapped around the base of the cake; minimalist and classy. We topped it off with a small branch of alstroemeria. (I think this small hand-held bouquet is called a tussy mussy or something similar- from Victorian times.) Lila enjoyed the flowers, carrying them around and then later in the day when she was tired, she got to tear them up into very tiny pieces. What a bonus!


We intended to have the layers stacked, but the pinks clashed and the style was quite different for that to make sense. With the overhanging fondant, we did need a pedestal for the smaller layer, so it was perched on some columns with a fluffy cloud of organza ribbon beneath.


The cakes were well received, the taste was great. And despite being mashed into slices with the side of a dull cake server, it held up pretty well. We had a great time thinking and planning for this one! We learned a lot in the process- found some good sources for supplies and interesting products. To some extent executing this one was less fun- there was even a moment for one of us of laying on the kitchen floor and trying not to lose it. But, we're troopers! We made it through and isn't that what this blog project is all about...

Bake through!

Janet

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Daring Bakers challenge


Just a quick post... more about the daring bakers group shortly... we have departed from the Cake Bible on this one.

The Yule log, or Buche de Noel as some of us might call it was a great success. It is a basic yellow genoise and a very yummy coffee buttercream For the filling, we chose cranberry, which turned out to be a very good selection. It was pretty simple: cranberries, a left over can of cranberry sauce that never got used at Thanksgiving, and a LOT of ground cloves, some apple cider vinegar, and so on. It was a chutney really, and modeled after one we recently enjoyed from Trader Joe's. It wasn't so sweet which worked out very well becasue the cake itslef was really sweet, too sweet actually. The contrast of tart cranberry, spice, and coffee buttercream is pretty darn good.

The mushrooms are marzipan, and were a treat to make, the evergreen bough is rosemary that was still hanging in there in the snow covered garden. I'm very pleased with the festive look.

Like I said, more about what the daring bakers are next time- back to holiday guests and fun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The New Math

Ok, we decided a long time ago to do the all the brioche recipes over December 3 & 4. It seemed like a good thing to do and we put it in our calendars weeks ago. I was afraid if I didn't do it, I'd end up scheduled teaching a class on the Monday and leave J the excitement of roll out, fold, roll out, wait, fold, wait, roll out, place. Truly, since it was on my calendar when I got the email for open days to teach in December, I could honestly not include those days as open.

Well, the week before, we were discussing what we were going to do and realized that about two recipes later, there was a sticky bun recipe that used the brioche as its base. Again, any forethought shown in this blog goes to J. She's the one that finds all these connections. It's times like these that I feel like I'm just along for the ride.

There was this great moment when we were doing three batches of yeasty bread type cakes and rolls, and had doubled one, even though we really could have just tripled it and had two batches to work with since the sticky buns and the struesel brioche start with the very same dough. It was confusing, and it looked like a comic kitchen. I sorta half expected the Three Stooges to come out and poke our proofing yeasty bread type things for fun and hilarity.

We did manage to make three batches, and never had to throw any out and start over, thank you very much. It's really much easier when you double -- if you forget to double you can always add. Halving on the other hand is a bit different. By the time you discover you forgot to halve the leavener, your zucchini bread has exploded out of the pan onto the bottom of the oven- not saying that's ever happened of course.

Just as RLB cautioned, we did find that we were overtaxing the motors on our two food processors when we were making the brioche. We ended up using the Kitchen Aid mixer. The virtue of using the food processor is lost on us, next time we will begin in the stand mixer and just stay there.

Our day started with the La Brioche Cake (CB pg 76) which is used in the Praline Brioche (pg 171). It started with making a sponge the night before. Relatively simple process. Actually nothing we did for any of these recipes was difficult or required a lot of hands on time. While it took about 2 days to make them, we only had to be in attendance on them for about 15 minutes.

I loved the fact that we start on Monday and when we get to cooking on Tuesday, it's only in the oven for 15 minutes!

After all the work, the Praline Brioche wasn't one of our favorites. So much so that we never even took a picture of it after we sliced and soaked and frosted. You are asked to make a cake which is not really a cake, but a giant domed mass of brioche in a 9" springform pan- see below,
then cut away more than half of it to have a crustless 7 1/2" by 1 3/4" disc of brioche. Then into this relatively small amount of cake, you are to let it absorb, practically submerging it, almost 2 cups of rum syrup. Then the the sodden layer gets frosted. All that manhandling -- or should I write person handling as J did quite a bit of that herself? :) -- seemed for naught. The texture was a bit weird, as in wet, and the rum was totally overpowering although the sugar put up quite a fight in that battle. This is one that I might think of making again only because it seems like it should work. It seems unlikely that what we produced could possibly have been near the mark, despite following the instructions explicity. Really, I think it was the fabulous Coffee Caramel Silk Buttercream (pg 242) that makes me such an optimist- what a delicious buttercream.

This is The Holiday Hallelujah Streusel Brioche (CB pg 94) and it was really similar to the previous in process. The recipe states that it freezes well and since we'd been pretty much brioched out, we froze it. J and K brought some over for the holiday party that M and I throw every year. (One of the happier things that took up some of our time this last month). This recipe did hold up well in the freezer. It was a nice addition to the other cloying sweets that we had on our table. It was eaten quickly. With many compliments. The texture was a bit dry to me. But others disagreed, they said it was flaky, which might have seemed a bit odd since it was a yeasty cake, not a pie crust. But a good brioche has a texture that is a cross between flakes of yeasty dough and the crumb of cake.

MMMM sticky buns (CB pg 98) These were very much worth the effort that we made them again for our Carb Fest 2008 (More on that in the next installment).

These start out with the exact same dough for the Streusel Brioche. Then you top (or is it really, bottom) them with butter light brown sugar and pecan halves. This is the most dreamy, melt in your mouth, smells like a home should smell like bit of baking we have done. It comes out all toasty and gooey and if you stop to think about it for any amount of time at all, everyone has beaten you to them and all the sticky buns are gone.


As you can see, these are well worth the work.

Bake through....

Robb

Fondant ain't so bad after all.

Well, this is a long time coming. J & I set to work right after Thanksgiving. The Tuesday after, we bit the bullet and did the Art Deco Cake, including working with fondant, and the crumb cake.

Could we have chosen two more dissimilar cakes?

We were excited and I have to say for me, a bit scared of the fondant. Honestly, I don't like fondant on my cakes and usually peel it off like it's the rind of a cheese. But now that I've worked with it, it's quite fun really.

Let's back up....
Our first cake was the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte (p 84). I guess I shouldn't say ours as J did all the baking of this as it needed 24 hours in the fridge. According to her, it was simple. Really, it's only three ingredients. Yes, three: Chocolate, butter, eggs. Amazing what can be done with eggs.

When I arrived on Tuesday, 11-27, it was a thick, dense, rich, chocolate colored torte not too high, but remarkably heavy.

We had decided to do this as the Art Deco Cake (p 204). Here is where the fondant comes in. We decided to decorate only one layer. Remember J doesn't like chocolate that much, and really why would two couples need enough cake to serve 50? That's just crazy talk.

So, we followed the directions of covering the torte in a layer of white fondant, and created green stripes to mimic the art deco feel of the picture. We really enjoyed working with the fondant and J is excellent at creating an even color with food grade dyes.

This is a good thing since we are doing the cake for our friend's 3-year old daughter next week, and our design has a lot of fondant in it. We'll post about it as well....since we won't have a Cake Bible cake that week.

This concluded the Custard Cake Chapter for us. So, on to the Breakfast Cakes Chapter with the other cake we did, the Sour Cream Coffee Cake (p 90).

Simply put, unanimously, the cake rocked. Never has everyone liked a cake, until this one. My only complaint, if it can be called that, I would have liked more streusel topping. That is usually the case for me. I love the "extra streusel topped" Entenmann's coffee cake. And most times, I make a double recipe of the topping, but not this time.

This cake had a layered effect. Once you have the dry and wet ingredients combined, you put about 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of the pan then sprinkle with some of the streusel topping. Then, place the remaining 1/3 of batter on top in "large blobs" then spread it out. Then sprinkle the remaining topping on top and bake for about 60 minutes. It seemed like a long time, but it did take the time suggested.

It was crumbly, and light and moist and really good with coffee. I guess that is why she called it a coffee cake. And, it smelled like all the good smells of a grandmother's kitchen.



I don't want this to feel like the reading of the minutes of previous meetings, but there is a bit of unfinished business from the previous post......

Fruitcake follow up: My sister in law loved the fruitcake. She said that the rum was mellow, but with enough kick to stand up to the sweet fruit. It must have been a hit as all of it was gone when we left Saturday morning.

And for those of you who know the reason I was I Indiana for so long, my 21st High School Reunion!, it went well. Got to meet up with a bunch of people who I've not seen for about 20 years. And to think these are the people I spent every day during the school year and much of the summer as most of us were in marching band together. I know, it's hard to imagine that I was in marching band, but I was (I played the Bass Drum - loud and plodding, just like me.)

20 years ago, I couldn't conceive of a time without Bekki, Teresa, Kelly or Mike around. Hopefully, 20 years from now, I won't have to conceive of a time when J and I aren't baking.

Bake through everyone,

Robb

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who you callin' a fruitcake?

Well everyone, this will be short. M and I are about to head over to J and K's house for dinner. Sort of a pre Thanksgiving dinner as M and I are heading to Indianapolis (see previous post's pic of my home state). The folly isn't that we are flying on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the folly really is that we are driving to Indianapolis. Yes, driving. All 753 miles of it. In, according to Google, 12 hours. Somehow, I doubt that time will be right.

Anyway, J and I baked today. We realized we hadn't seen each other since our last installment on cheesecake. Remember all that superfluous information about a bain marie?

We still haven't figured out what to do with all that left over cheesecake. Although, if there is a way to incorporate it into something, I bet we find it. Julian suggested using it in a buttercream. That sounds completely interesting. Wonder how that would come together.

This time we baked the Less Fruity Fruitcake (p 66). We finally found all the fruit cake mix candied orange, lemon, cherries and pineapple and citron that we could handle. I bought the fruit cake mix and J bought the citron, interestingly we independently picked up 4 tubs each. We'll be ready for future candied fruit needs!!

This recipe rocked. I thought the rum added just a hit of spice, and warmth. It definitely brought out flavor. This is the first recipe, I think, where we got to cream the butter and the sugar. It was brown sugar, but we did get to cream. Honestly, if you've made any regular cake, this followed that method. After the creaming, add the dry ingredients in thirds with the milk/molasses mixture in between.

Then scoop into muffin tins and bake. This was so simple and the results were so outrageously good that both J and I thought we'd do it again.

It is so good, that I'm taking all the little beauties with me to my family in Indiana.

I'm sorry for the rush on this, but I was afraid I'd forget to write it if I waited for us to get back from Indiana.

One last thing, I had a idea flash while standing in line at Wal Mart. I call this cake:

The Cheater's Cake

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 can of pumpkin, (15 oz or so)
1 bag of chocolate chips (11 or 12 oz or so)
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice

2 tubs of cream cheese frosting

To the cake mix, add the chocolate chips, stir to dust the chips. Then add the pumpkin. Continue adding all the ingredients called for in the instructions for your particular boxed cake mix, leaving out any liquid. After you have incorporated all the other ingredients, add the liquid (water, milk) a little bit at a time. When the batter seems to be right for cake batter, stop adding liquid. (When I did it, I only used 1/2 of the water.)

Pour into two 9" round cake pans.

Bake according to package directions. Then cool.

Frost with tubs of cream cheese icing.

Changes from first attempt: I found that 1 tub wasn't quite enough to really frost it. And the cake could use a bit of Pumpkin Pie Spice to add a bit of zing.

It's the first cake in a long time that M and I ate all of. It was quite nice.

Well, that's all for this pre Thanksgiving post.

Bake through, or since it's the holidays, Eat Through.

Robb

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

One cake with no flour... is a cheesecake!

What did we do this week?

It's been a wild wacky end of October. So much so that it's now November.

I spent the last two weekends in Boston teaching a class for a chain of salons. It was all good, but boy is that a long ride from Peekskill to Boston (3 hours). Ok. It's not that long of a ride, but it does take its toll on you when you do it alone.

Guess I'm in trouble since M and I are going to Indiana for Thanksgiving. Well, that's not a big deal. The big deal is that we've decided to drive. That is a 12 hour drive. I'm happy to have some one to share it with. Here's a picture of my home state:



Again with the diversions. What did we do this week? Oh, yeah, the cheesecake. (Glad J wrote the title or I'd have forgotten.)

The Cordon Rose Cream Cheesecake (pg 81) is treated more like a custard by RLB in that she has you do a water bath (a bain marie in French cooking terms). Bain Marie is really a double boiler. I never thought of a cake/custard in a pan half full of water as a double boiler. To me, that is a pot inside a pot. But I guess extrapolated, a pan in a pan is very similar to a cake pan in a roasting pan.

Ok, this'll teach me to search something on Wikipedia:
The term bain-marie originates from alchemy, where some practitioners needed to give their materials prolonged periods of gentle heating, in an attempt to mimic the supposed natural processes whereby precious metals germinated in the earth. It was said to be an invention of Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist traditionally supposed to have been Miriam, a sister of Moses. The name comes from this tradition: balneum Mariae in medieval Latin, from which the French bain de Marie is derived, although, in the French wikipedia the coinage of the term is attributed to the medieval German philosopher, theologian, and chemist/alchemist Saint Albert the Great (1193-1280).

Probably more information than any of us need on that subject.

One of the things that J and I noticed was that the recipe had a tremendous amount of lemon juice (3 tablespoons). It was definitely tangy, what with the lemon juice and the 3 cups!!! of sour cream to only 1 lb. of cream cheese.

She suggests adding a tablespoon of cornstarch to help it thicken and not leach water after unmolding. Interestingly enough, we used the cornstarch and it did seep a bit- a lot really.

You do get to incorporate one egg at a time much like when we added flour in the butter cakes. Speaking of butter cakes, this cake also contained no butter. Wow, that has to be a first..... well, except for the vegetable cakes that used oil.

This cake came together with out any fuss or fight. It poured into the prepared springform pan just like we thought it should. It was a bit tangy as mentioned before. We had that wonderful Raspberry Puree (pg 337) from a previous cake in the freezer, and added a lovely swirl of it to the cheesecake. We put it into the bain marie (see long dissertation on that above). Set it in the oven and waited.

While we waited, we discussed our plans for a birthday cake for a young friend of ours (she'll be 3) whose mom asked us to bake a cake for her. Her only requirements are that it be pink and princess-y. I know, hard to imagine a child who likes pink AND princesses. But Lila does.

So excited were we by the discussion of the birthday cake, we didn't notice that the oven was still on and we cooked to the cheesecake for an extra 18 minutes. We then let it cool and refrigerated it overnight as the recipe stated.

I stopped by the next day after tricker or treaters (or in the case of J & K's house, right in the middle of the steady stream) for the taste test.

This wasn't our favorite. It was too tangy, lacked a certain creamy/cakiness, and really seemed off. Now, it could be the overcooking of it. But, since the instruction was to turn the oven off and let the cake sit for an hour immediately after baking, the extra bit of time should not have been a large factor given our complaints. And in fact, one would expect that extra time would create a firmer, perhaps more cake-like consistency. Instead it was a too-fluffy, too-tangy, too- wet, absolutely not New York style cheesecake. That's fine, not every cheesecake has to be NY style, but RLB took pains to describe it as such. This is one instance where not making every variation listed is a very good thing indeed. We would not have been happy with 4 or 5 times as much cheesecake. This one didn't even get distributed, that's how little we thought of it. Currently it sits in the freezer. Who knows maybe we'll need it as an ingredient later on- raspberry cheesecake ice cream?? Cheesecake ice cream doesn't sound any better today than it did when it first came out 20+ years ago.

Personally I like creamy desserts: cheesecake, flan, tiramisu, creme brulee (not as much as one of my coworkers who sometimes sneaks downstairs to have one as a late night snack -- I won't say who, but she knows who she is), but I couldn't get it to like this one. Even with the best Raspberry Puree in the world.

Here is a picture.....


I hope you are enjoying the first bits of real autumn (or is it fall?) at least here in the North East.

Bake Through,

Robb

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In This Kitchen, Carrot Cake is a Vegetable

The forecast for today was hot. Not as hot as yesterday -- we broke records all up and down the Hudson River. You know, it's very pretty river. And, it's ours.




It didn't get that hot today. All our preparing. I even wore shorts. Guess I wouldn't be talking about it, except that it's October! And, 90 degrees yesterday (or there abouts) is just plain wrong.

However, today wasn't wrong. It was warm to start, but while the 4th cake cooled (Mind you that is not the 4th pan with cake in it, but the 4th kind of cake we made today. We actually used 7 pans for our 4 cakes- la de da.), J and I sat out on the back steps and commented on how cool it had gotten. And, now as I write this, it rains. Sometimes rain makes me think of sadness. Sometimes, it's more like a promise of things to come. Really, I love rainy days and mondays. (Mondays are a part of my weekend!) Rainy nights are good too. They mean a restful sleep. Cool rooms. The lightening makes the world light up in split second intervals and somehow it all seems more doable. All this, plus it'll be more seasonable tomorrow. (We are so lucky to have a stream of consciousness section from Robb in this installment, hopefully this therapy is doing him some good!)

This week was carrot cake. We made the Golden Wheat Carrot Ring (pg 75). There is a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar, RLB's first adornment suggestion. It was suggested that the white chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream would also be a nice compliment, but someone (namely me) totally spazzed on getting the white chocolate. In my defense, I had to take my dog to the groomers, pick up colored construction paper to fabricate this thing for a class I'm teaching in Boston....basically, I didn't write it down, so it didn't happen. Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa. (if you're only going to know a little Latin, that's the phrase.)

Here's a pic of my doggie so you know how cute she is.


This cake tasted good. And, the grated carrot had a lovely orange speckling. The cake itself was a nice "wheaty" brown -- probably from the whole wheat flour it used. Interestingly enough, 1 cup of Whole Wheat Flour was about 1 oz heavier that 1 cup of Cake Flour. We never thought of how much heavier it could or would be. The wheat flour did come through the finished product. It was really noticeable to J, but not as much to me. This cake is a wonderful breakfast/coffee type cake. You could be happy with a slice and a cup of tea to start your day. It strongly reminded me of the zucchini and pumpkin cakes we've done recently. (M said to me yesterday, that Pumpkin Cake was amazing -- and that was two cakes ago!)



Then we made the Carrot Cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Why did we do this? RLB's recipe didn't seem like it would yield a "carrot cake" like the ones we grew up with. The Silver Palate recipe did. And, honestly, this is the recipe that a local restaurant must use for their carrot cake. It is a perfect carrot cake. We even used their Cream Cheese Icing. And, boy howdy did it taste good. (It's the triple layered cake on the pedestal in the photo.) The taste was deep and rich. In other cakes I wanted to add nutmeg or cloves or some woodsy, earthy type spice. While this cake didn't have any in it, the depth of flavor brought that to mind, surprisingly. We used a new tool, well new to me, a cake comb. What a groovy invention. (Sorry for the really bad pun.) Here's a picture if you don't know what one is.


We made Linda's (J's Mom) recipe. One thing about getting recipes from people who've cooked for a long time, is that they tend to have shorthand versions of recipes that are mostly a list of ingredients with instructions like "mix it until it looks right," which seems to be a common instruction included in pie crust or biscuit recipes passed down within families. And, while an accurate instruction, it's not that helpful if you don't know what Looks Right is!! Well, J got Linda's recipe over the phone and wrote everything she said in order to record all her nuggets of wisdom for posterity, or whatever. This included and I quote the recipe "1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla & not that fake stuff" and "Bake for 25 minutes, ... or until done. It may be done sooner." That makes one wonder if the baking time is really 20 minutes, or perhaps even just 15? With practice, we'll know what done looks like. Maybe we'll even translate that in to a measure in time for the next generations of bakers... or not, why should they have it any easier?

There was a moment of worry with these cakes. We realized that we were at the end of our Pam. For those of you who haven't had this happen, when you run near the end of the can, it sputters. That means that it's not evenly coating your pan. Therefore, you will have trouble getting cakes out of pans. Out of this came a series of learnings:

1. Parchment can be your friend.
2. What does come out can be cut into circles to create lovely variations.

The ones we created are the two rings on the silver tray with the powdered sugar and the small three tiered cake. We used the store bought icing for this one. It is our gift to K. We thought, it turns out mistakenly!! that he preferred the tub 'o frosting to the real stuff. What was that handy turn of phrase, oh yes, mea culpa. Actually, I really like it. All I need is a graham cracker and a spoon and I'd be happy.

The 9 X 13 pan is a "Faux Carrot Cake" recipe we made from a friend of mine at my new salon. Sandi and I got talking about carrot cakes and she sent me this version:

'faux' carrot cake recipe

20 oz crushed pineapple (drain and set aside juice)
2 eggs lightly beaten w/ pineapple juice
2 cups flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp baking soda

mix flour and baking soda together in separate bowl combine all other ingredients
then mix in flour and stir until just mixed; pour in greased & floured pan 13 by 9 or 2 round cake pans

bake at 325 for about 45 mins or until sides start to pull away and center springs back

icing:
1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat cream cheese, butter & vanilla till fluffy add in sugar slowly and beat till smooth frost cake when cool

We were both shocked when we looked at the recipe and there wasn't any fat or salt in it. It comes together in more or less the same fashion as other cakes, but it's a bit drier, and paler. When it's baked, it doesn't brown until the very end of the time. Then, it turns a nice brown that looks a bit like a potato latke. It makes an interesting cake, one that would benefit by the addition of some oil or melted butter. We might consult the CB for an idea of how much oil to add to the proportions of flour, etc.

I did like the icing. It was a bit thinner than the Silver Palate version, making it pourable. But, with a bit of fridge time, it set up nicely. It had a very nice tang and was not overly sweet.




Wow, a behind the scenes photo. Here we are loading them up to "ship" to our network of cake eaters. Can you see the tasting plates?



There was a point where we had to stop, not because we were tired or because we had run out of anything, but because there was no more room in the oven.

Now, that is baking through, isn't it?

Robb

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In U End D'oh

Ok...my goal this week was not to wait until next week to get the blog done...check one thing off my list of things to do...

I have to say that I don't like bloggers who talk about the difficulty of getting the blog out without explaining why....so, here's why...I've been battling a very nasty sinus bug...caused either by allergies or a cold or the stress of starting a new job...by the way, I had a busy Saturday...woohoo...just wish my sinuses would clear....Am I bordering on TMI?

This week was a quick week...for a lot of reasons...one, we only made the Zucchini Cupcakes (pg 73). Why would we only make the one, you ask? because last week we made a zillion of them....(ok, honestly, last week was so much fun, but the conversation we had during it was fractured....too many things to do and not enough time chatting with each other....we made up for it this week however.....)

J said that last week she and K didn't get back until almost midnight after delivering all the goodies...granted they did spend some time talking with Jessica & Mark, at least I hope it wasn't a drive by drop off....by the way Kathy, did Geoff and Hil and Lila get their samples or did they stay at your house?

The other reason we didn't spend so much time doing the baking thing is that K's parents are coming into town. They should be there sometime later this week. M & I get to meet them on Saturday. Can't wait! So, J is frantically cleaning the house. For her, that includes painting some items- talk about clean!


(OK, frantically makes me think
of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil).









Did you know that they are a real animal?



Not as cuddly as I would have hoped....but really how cuddly could a devil be?

Well, really, she wasn't racing around like that, but she did have a long list of things to do....Now that I think about it, J always has a long list of things to do....hmmmm....




This cake (remember we are here to talk about baking cakes, right?) is very similar to the Pumpkin Walnut Ring that we did last week. The differences are really that this has zucchini in it and therefore needs more flour. RLB straightens that out for us in her "Understanding" section, which for me is a great section. I love the whys and wherefores of baking science.

One theme for us was what is the difference between this Zucchini "cake" recipe and the usual Zucchini Bread recipe? And, if it is a "bread" recipe, why is it in the Cake Bible?

RLB uses the words Cupcake and Muffin almost interchangeably. Are they really the same thing? I have a distinctive image of a cupcake that isn't at all like a muffin. The cupcake while it has icing, rich sugary icing....it isn't as domed usually. The muffin is a domed and usually sans icing/frosting.

My little research yields:



A cupcake or fairy cake is a small cake designed to serve one person, usually made in a small paper cup container. As with larger cakes, frosting and other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are defining characteristics of modern cupcakes. (wikipedia.com)

A muffin is an individual cup-shaped quick bread made with wheat flour, cornmeal, or the like, and baked in a pan (muffin pan) containing a series of cuplike forms. (dictionary.reference.com)





Perhaps there is no difference and they are interchangeable. Anyway, what do you see as the differences? Discuss.

So this time, due to its ease, we decided to double the recipe. We split the work load thusly: I did the dry ingredients and wet ingredients, while J prepped the pans, preheated the oven, toasted the walnuts and grated the zucchini.

We are both working away at our tasks and I'm standing over a bowl talking to myself. Those of you who know me may realize that math isn't my strong suit so I spend a lot of time talking to myself while I do figurin'. (For those of you who really know me, this is strange because I was a Math Education major when I started at Purdue, all those years ago.)

Really we were working away until while J was grating the zucchini on the box grater, I heard, "I probably shouldn't spend the next half hour 'pleasuring the zucchini'. I'll use the grating disk for the food processor." The silence after the sentence was complete, no dogs barked, not a bird chirped....then, I giggled and broke the mood...

Having gotten the dry ingredients ready, I'm putting together the wet ingredients, packing the brown sugar (this recipe uses brown sugar, which gives them a darker than golden brown color and really makes the edges crispy...in a good way), counting the eggs and doing numbers aloud to myself. When out of my mouth, I say, "Are my nuts warm yet?"

Still pleasuring the zucchini, J looks at me and laughs out loud.

We added the optional raisins and a bit of currants. I have to say I was a strong liker of the currants as they were smaller, yet gave the flavor of a dried fruit, to me the raisins were a bit too grapey and the different texture threw me off.

J on the other hand loved the raisins and didn't really mention the currants. What she liked about them was the change in texture ("They keep it from getting boring.") We both liked the flecks of green that we could see in the muffin/cupcakes. Also, when you cut it, it looked more like bread to us. Dense, but not too soggy. When they came out of the oven, they were quite heavy, so heavy I thought they might have needed a bit longer in the oven to complete baking, but I was wrong. It sliced like you'd expect a pumpkin/zucchini bread to cut, crumbly, but not falling apart.

This, as far as we were concerned, was the best ever. It was even tasty with a bit of cream cheese.

This is what it's all about folks, hanging out with friends, talking about family coming to visit and baking a cake or two.

By the way, J's in laws are going to have the Zucchini Ring we made (pictured in the center of the muffins at left) for breakfast their first morning. You can check that off the list, J.




Bake Through,

Robb

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"mare ing gay" is what goes through my head as I type that

Ok....confession time..sorta...the title comes from an email J sent to me when I couldn't remember how to spell meringue. Somehow it helped.

My real confession is I'm having a heck of a time writing the blogs in a timely manner. You've probably all figured that out as you get them almost a week late. Please, if you've been sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation -- I always think of Rocky Horror Picture show -- and "An-Tissa-Pay-Shun". Here's a photo to bring back the memory.....







(of course I chose the one with the buff guy in trunks who usually grunts and doesn't say much -- please don't read anything into that. M is extremely conversant when he wants to be.)

But anyway, if you've been waiting for the blog and you've gotten mad at no postings on Tuesday or Wednesday, blame me. Not J, she's completely innocent in this matter -- there may be others where she's not innocent, but I'm not gonna tell. She'll kill me if do.

So, you ask, what have you two baked this time?
Well, let me tell you:

1 Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie.
2 Lemon Meringue Pies and
1 Pumpkin Walnut Ring

So, we were very, very busy....

As you may have figured out J and I are a bit obsessive. And, a little compulsive. Need I mention the "screening of nuts" incident? I think not, too.

This time, it's J who's got the compare and contrast bug. Jessica, One of J's clients from her dog sitting business, (she does it along with her husband obviously as you can't really hide dogs in a house and not have the other homeowner not notice, can you?) The link is posted at right for those of you in the area who want to avail yourself of her and K's services, feel free.

Where was I going with this?....oh right....

Jessica was headed to Oregon..nice, right?....



Anyway, Jessica asked J if there was anything she wanted her to bring back from the west coast and J said, yes, C & H Golden Brown Sugar, because for some reason Fine Cooking magazine mentions that when you make a meringue with C & H Brown Sugar it tastes different than the Domino's Brown Sugar those of us from the Eastern half of the US are used to.

We figured since Jessica had brought the Brown Sugar, she should be a part of the baking of the meringues. She made it (yea!) and hung out with us and it was a great time. Hopefully, she'll come back on many other occasions. Look, C & H has a very catchy jingle as both Jessica and K (the husband) sang it during our baking time.

So, there is the compare and contrast. We made two Lemon Meringue Pies each with different meringues and crusts. We really went for the gold here. The hands down best pie crust -- there were three (remember the Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie?) -- was the Pate Brisee from the Silver Palate Cookbook (we strongly recommend this recipe and the entire cookbook, especially the 25th anniversary edition with color pictures.)

Which meringue did people like? We had 6 tasters once we included the husbands of the three bakers- see below for how that unfolded. Mostly people liked the one that they didn't grow up with. Which shocked both of us entirely. I tried to make up some lame rationale for why it was so, but after reflecting on it, I have no idea why people would like the one that "mom made". So that's 2 for Domino (Kev and Jessica, the west coaster's in the bunch) and 4 of us for C&H (the mostly east coaster's in the bunch). Go figure.

Here is the link to the Fine Cooking Lemon Meringue Recipe that we used which is originally from the baker at Mustard's Grill in Napa Valley. Search the Fine Cooking website for Lemon Meringue Pie. (Or, you can copy this hyperlink into your search engine: http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/articles/lemon-meringue-pie-technique.aspx?collection=72318. For some reason, I can't get the link to work. Sorry :(

The Pecan Pie is the recipe for the cover of the latest Fine Cooking. Honestly, I don't like Pecan Pie, but this looked really good. And, it was. The chocolate and espresso rounded out the usually cloying sweetness of a pecan pie, making this more of a grown up desert than the children's version I was used to.

I made my own pie dough this time. Really, it's my 6th time, and according to J it wasn't too bad. I was extremely flaky, even before baking and when it was blind baked, you could make it evaporate by walking by it. Actually, I didn't think it was too bad. Again, search Fine Cooking for the Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. (Here is the link to this recipe to cut and paste: http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/recipes/chocolate-espresso-pecan-pie.aspx?nterms=52314&ac=ts&ra=fp)

The Cake Bible baking we did was the Pumpkin Walnut Ring (pg 71). This was quite rocking. It was, if I'm not mistaken, the first cake we did without using any butter! RLB uses safflower oil and walnut oil. We baked ours in a bundt pan and it turned out to be perfect. This was moist, with a great crumb. It had a heady, earthy -- think holidays at your grandparents house, or think of Autumn. The cinnamon, clove and nutmeg always say Thanksgiving or Holiday to me. And it was topped off with a chocolate glaze which sounds like it might have overwhelmed the pumpkin and spice, but it actually complimented the cake quite well. The glaze was simple enough too, chocolate melted with walnut oil. Try it.

And, really who doesn't love a reason to use pumpkin?


Michael and I had dinner with J & K that night -- the meringue pies had to chill for 4 hours before you could meringue them....So, all four of us tasted all 4 of them all together.

After dinner, I was in no condition to traipse all over northern Westchester (Janet chose a kick butt red wine -- I liked it so much I left my hat at J & K's place.) So she delivered them to the usual culprits for tasting. J & K made it to Jessica's house and shared the pies with her and her husband. So, while Jessica had to leave before the pies were completely ready in the afternoon, she did get to try them after all. Schlepping the sugar 3000 miles paid off!

For those of you who are interested....Fruit Cakes haven't been forgotten, we've just decided that we'll make fruit cake cupcakes and they don't have to cure at all. Now, thanks to Barbara in NJ who suggested the King Arthur Flour Company, all we have to do now is put in the order for the candied fruit.

Bake through....

robb

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Banana's a fruit right?



Look at it. Isn't it lovely? We thought so too.






This is the Cordon Rose Banana Cake (pg 69). This cake is based on the classic butter cake -- and we all know how many of these we've done -- thus, it came together like all the other cakes we have done.

When it came out of the oven, both J and I noticed how bread like it was. RLB suggests a variety of "adornments", including none. This would have been a good "plain" cake to take on a trip or picnic. It was dense, but still light. The crumb was lovely in that it was moist and didn't just fall apart. While it would have been good with a splash of milk -- J said, "I bet you'll want to have a bit of milk with this." -- honestly, it didn't need it at all.

We created the Sour Cream Ganache (pg 275) and proceded to pour it over the top. This time the Ganache was the right consistency. The last time we made it, it was a bit too thin and we had to add butter to get it to firm up. This had a definite tang and was extremely chocolatey. I guess it should be since it's just sour cream and melted chocolate. This time we used Nestle Chocolatier Bittersweet Chocolate (62% Cacao). It melted like a dream and had a rich thickness to it when melted. A very nice chocolate, especially for the price.

Well, this cake was very well received by the people I dropped it off to. Michael loved it, thought it was one of our best. Geoff and Hillary and Lila all enjoyed it. (They are smart. They freeze what they don't eat and have it later. Somehow, I can't delay my gratification that long.) Kevin didn't like the chocolate and banana pairing. I also dropped a slice off at David, Natalia and Santiago's house. Our circle is ever widening.

Ok, for those of you who are keeping on top of things, yes, this was supposed to be a fruit cake. Well, as you can tell, it's not. We are having a difficult time finding candied fruit and candied citron. Either we're both blind or it's not out yet. When it's out, we'll make fruit cake.

So, next time could be fruit cake, could be pumpkin walnut ring or it could be a pie feast. Now, you'll just have to stay tuned.

Now is the perfect weather, bake through,

Robb

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fall Glorious Fall

September, it's a time of new beginnings. Starting over, but not in a I've screwed up so badly, I have to leave town sort of way. But, if you had screwed up that badly, this would be the perfect time to start over.

While J may wax rhapsodic about Summer and its myriad bright spots, I prefer Fall, Autumn. Such a great season it has two names!

The leaves change. Root vegetables become all the rage -- who doesn't love a beet? Pumpkins become whatever your mind can make them. The air smells of cinnamon. Back to school shopping. Vogue Magazine is about 30 lbs. Sweaters come out of hiding. Jackets make a strong come back. The light in the sky seems both bluer and more golden -- go figure on that one.

For me, this fall means I start a new job nearer to my house. My commute is now 1/2 hour as opposed to 1 1/2 hours. Don't fret those of you in NYC, I will still be doing hair on Fridays, book your appointments early and often. Those of you who are close to Westchester or wanna day trip, look me up at Richard Scott Salon in Mt. Kisco. It's like starting at a new school. And, if I'm smart, i'll learn just as much.

Oh, Fall, Glorious Fall.

For us dear blog readers, Fall 2007 means that we've come to the end of the Butter Cakes Chapter of RSB's Cake Bible! I think I just heard a cheer go up across the land.

We finished with the Checkerboard Fantasy Cake (pg 32). You need a little contraption -- we looked for it at AC Moore and Bed Bath and Beyond, Linens 'n' Things and finally found it at Amazon.com. -- It's sold as a checkerboard cake kit. You get three pans and a plastic thingy with a bullseye sort of look to it.

You make one batch of cake and sorta divide it in half. To the smaller half (I know, technically a half would be equal....) you add the melted chocolate & butter. Then, you put the cake in alternating rings. Switching one pan. So, two of the pans are White in the center and outside ring and the middle ring is Chocolate and the other pan is Chocolate in the center and outer ring and the middle ring is White. Then you shave off a bit of the top of two of them -- ours domed quite a bit. Then frost the between layers and the top and sides. It's a pretty straightforward cake -- except that we had a brief moment of which layer goes where? As you can see in the photos, we did get it all worked out.

We diverted from the book for the frosting. We used J's mom's Fudge Icing. Dagnabit, that is one fine frosting. It was so reminscint of frosting you open in a tub and eat with a spoon, J had to swat my hand away. Really, I could have just sat with a box of graham crackers and eat the entire batch, it was that good.

I wish I could remember J's Mom's name, but I can't. Anyway, here's her recipe:
(Her name is Linda. -J)
Fudge Icing

4oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 C Butter
1 lb. Confectioner's Sugar
1/2 C Milk
2 tsp Vanilla

Melt the chocolate and butter together. Mix the sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth, add chocolate. Beat over ice until thick.

It was just dreamy.

This cake rocked for many reasons. The texture of each of the cakes, chocolate and vanilla was quite nice. Crumbly, but not falling apart, moist yet fluffy. It was a very even mix -- I guess I expected them to be different textures....since you add chocolate, it should be more moist or wetter or something, but somehow they were identical.

The frosting was easy to put together, and spread like a dream.

For the record, this is the first time i've ever made a three layer cake and had it not slip off into oblivion.

So, while we are glad this was an excellent cake, we are more glad that it's the last in the butter cakes.

Coming up is the "Fruit, Vegetable & Bread Cakes" Chapter. We really need your Carrot Cake Recipes. Please email them to us, or post them here as a comment for everyone to see. Trust me, RLB's cake may end up being absolutely wonderful, but it doesn't have a cream cheese frosting -- or any frosting, and, that just ain't right.

Remember, bake through, eventually you'll finish the chapter.

Robb

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Suicide Buttercream




This week we made the White Chocolate Whisper Cake (pg 50). She turns this one into the Blueberry Swan Lake cake (pg 165).

This is the perfect time to take a minute and thank Janet. She not only made the Blueberry Lake, she also made the aforementioned swans. And as you can tell in the pics, she did a mighty fine job of it. It required a Classic Lemon Buttercream, which decorated the cake. Again, kudos to J. Look at the sides of that cake. It was mighty fine. You run the spatula in vertical lines -- simple, but completely effective.

Really, this cake came together like that -- only because of J's two days of intensive swan making. (It was much simpler than that.-J)

And when we put the cake in the oven, I asked Janet, "Well, how many more do we have in this blankety-blank chapter?"

Thumbing through the pages she says, "Two." She got that gleem in her eye, the one that I love so much and she asked, "Wanna do another one?"

My response was, "Oh, what the hell." And we both set out to gather up the mise en place for the second to last cake in our butter cake section. The Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake (pg 54) requires some sort of buttercream -- don't they all.

In High school, we'd drink "suicides" I'm sure that's not really politically correct, but you'd add all the different sodas to the glass and drink it. Recently, I've found myself doing just that sort of thing at the movies. I really like Diet Cherry Coke and it's never available at the fountain machine. So, I create my own with 1/2 Diet Coke and 1/2 Cherry Coke. It works for the taste and I don't get too much sugar, but boy do I get the same amount of caffeine.

Ok, where was I? Right. Suicide Buttercream. RLB suggests any buttercream for the Perfect All-American. Remember last time when I said leftovers can be your friend? They sure can be. There were three buttercreams left in the freezer: 1. Orange Curd Buttercream written about on 07.25.07; 2. Vanilla Buttercream- the silky meringue one that was half creme anglais, from some cake we baked and 3. One we couldn't identify after much trying, but it must have been the first one we made. Anyway, they whipped up so perfectly that we both took a small moment to stare at them: perfect consistency. Best of all, they tasted great together.

The swan cake was nice to look at, and delightful to hold....I liked the mix of lemon, blueberries and cake, but for me the cake didn't have the ummph that I'd have wanted. It was nice, but not Wow!

The chocolate cake had a good crumb, but a ton of holes in it. It looked like a chunk of brown, rich, dark chocolate brown, swiss cheese. Overmixing I guess... it's suspicious that the chocolate cakes tend to have this difficulty. The best part of it was the buttercream. We'll never be able to make that again (Was that 1/16 of a vanilla buttercream + 1/4 orange curd buttercream + a random amount of an undisclosed buttercream whisked together until it looks right then slathered on?) The combination of vanilla and orange with Grand Marnier is one that we will work to recreate though. It was fantastic with the chocolate.





As you can tell, J and I are just about over the butter cakes. And, just about done with them, thank our lucky stars. The next cake is also the last one in the chapter -- The Checkerboard Cake.

Honestly, we can't wait for this one.

Bake through everyone....

Robb

Monday, August 27, 2007

Belts & Suspenders

Ok...last Tuesday (August 21, 2007 - almost 7 days ago) we made the Bittersweet Royale Torte (pg 198).

It includes a 1/2 recipe of chocolate buttercream. We used our Milk Chocolate Butter cream from 5.17.7 and 6.5.7. Thank God for freezers and zip top bags! As you may recall, it was a big hit when we used it last time. This time it whipped up quite nicely.

It also includes:
A Perfect All-American Chocolate Torte (pg 56).
Chocolate Cream Glaze (pg 271)
20 or so chocolate Rose leaves (pg 385).

The Torte mixes up just like all of the other butter cakes.

Honestly, this was not our favorite cake. It was a bit too dense and really, really crumbly. It almost seemed more like a kitchen sponge to me. Dickey, one of our tasters, said that it was really good with milk in a bowl. I thought it would be good with a big scoop of ice cream.

Originally we thought it was because of the fact that you have to refrigerate the cake before you can pour the glaze on and then again after you pour on the glaze -- this was a bit of a discussion for us. We both read the directions and initially thought it was that way, the reason we did it that way. Then after reading it again, I thought it shouldn't have needed to be refrigerated and J thought it did. With that in mind, I left the cake out all evening so that when Michael got home it would be room temp. It still had a crumbly texture and a stiff, almost chewy consistency.

The butter cream was quite nice. Leftovers are your friend!

The glaze. As it's written, and this time we did follow the directions exactly, the glaze wasn't pourable. There just wasn't enough cream to make it drizzly. We added more cream and it eventually got to a place that worked, but really, it was stiff and gloppy and eventually J had to frost it. Luckily, we had cooled it in the fridge after we buttercreamed it, so the "glaze" would actually work a little bit as a frosting. Too bad it wasn't the smooth as glass top we had expected. Really, not our favorite. At some point, after we've been away from Butter Cakes for a very long time, I'd like to make "our version" of this cake which would have a nice moist chocolate layer (think flourless) a bittersweet buttercream and ganache poured over. On paper, it sounds just delicious.

The rose leaves.....well, it's a lovely idea if you can peel them off in a walk in freezer. We found that after you painted to chocolate with a light coat, the chocolate tore. If you did a heavy coat, the chocolate tore. If you did two layers, the chocolate tore. Honestly, we couldn't figure out how to get this to work efficiently. The ones that turned out were absolutely stunning. This might be one technique we enjoy trying again in the winter when room temperature is likely to be more favorable.

The photo turned out kind of blah, our attitude had soured more than usual by that point. But we put a couple of geranium petals in the center on the top and it looked decent.

We took our bite at the end, with our separate forks, on the same plate and both looked at each other. J said, "I don't understand, she's the belts and suspenders lady. There are so many fail safes in this book, yet this didn't come together at any point....what's up with that?"

Really, she's right. What is up with that?

And, even though it might not always work out, Bake through anyway.....


Robb

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shrimp boil, barbeque and cherry pie... (sung to the Chevrolet jingle.)

Ah, summertime. May it never end.

I know, I know, what about the beautiful change of seasons- the crisp air, the first aroma of fireplaces burning, the colorful leaves in fall. And for skiers, I suppose the snow that follows is quite welcome. And surely spring does offer the first glimpse of new growth in the garden, and that tender just-born green of new tree leaves. But, the sun, heat and outdoor life that summer affords are the best. I hope to someday live year round in a warm clime. I'll be sure to let you know if I miss freezing pipes and shoveling snow.

The foods of summer are my favorite, too. Real bbq, grilled anything- strike that- grilled everything!, boiled seafood of all varieties. Surprising as it may seem, dessert is something I can usually do without. (I'll admit that is a bit odd for one who is doing this baking project.) In summer however, I have a hard time passing on my favorite late summer dessert: PIE. Cherry pie. I know that peach and berry are popular, but cherry is second to none, it just screams summer. In fact, cherry pie at any other time of year is out of place. It's like putting on a bathing suit in January- not comfortable, unless I suppose, you are one of those leather skinned tanning booth people. Good for you if that's your thing.

I like the pies of other seasons, too: rhubarb and lemon or tangerine meringue in spring; pumpkin, chess and raisin in fall; mince or cranberry apple in winter; and all the fruit pies of summer with cherry at the absolute tip-top of the list.

Early on this season I remembered a fantastic cherry pie recipe I made 8 years ago in Seattle for an end of college party a bunch of us threw for our department. My friend Carrie enjoyed a piece of this pie with the same enthusiasm that she brings to living her life- such gusto and pleasure in every bite. She still inspires me to enjoy everything that comes down the road. Well, I hadn't actually forgotten about the pie, but the drive to have it again could no longer be ignored. It comes from a really terrific cook book by Carole Walter called Great Pies & Tarts. To our favorites, I added the link to her website. She is as fussy as Rose in some respects, and the results are worth it. I'm not familiar with her other books, but the book on cookies has caught my eye.

Carole's cherry pie recipe calls for canned tart cherries, to which you add sugar, and the result is a sweet, tart, pleasantly thick filling around plump, soft, whole cherries. Ground almonds are in the pastry, and a cream cheese layer on the bottom adds a creamy richness without making it heavy. Instead of a fussy lattice top, I chose a simple upper layer of crust comprised of circles of the almond pastry. Some will argue that everything is better with ice cream on top, and while this pie doesn't need it, vanilla ice cream doesn't hurt.

Summer is where it's at, and as I cling to every last warm evening outdoors, I lament that in just a few weeks, I will again have to wear shoes. My feet will adjust, and so will my attitude. I'll embrace autumn and apple picking, and raking leaves, and the fun of Halloween. Pumpkin season is my second favorite time of year after all. Then, maybe I'll change my tune and say that Christmas cookies are the best thing ever and fall in love with winter. But, I doubt it.

Vive le Soleil, vive l'été !
Janet

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ROAD TRIP!!!!!!

For those of you who don't live on the East Coast, there were reports of wide spread heat and humidity and general mugginess in the weather reports. Your wise and intrepid bake throughers decided that baking in 95+ degree heat and 98% humidity would be just plain silly.

So, as is the case, Janet and I can't keep away from each other on Tuesdays. Something about the second day of the work week -- for the rest of the world -- makes us want to hang out together.

I heard a wine shop listed on the radio as having 10,000 square feet. I couldn't quite fathom what 10,000 square feet looked like so I suggested a road trip to find out.

Ok, really it was an excuse to hang out with J and buy wine. I do love wine.

We headed out in my Ford Escape -- I know, it's an SUV, but it really did seem like a wise choice when we were going to be hauling all sorts of crap from the Home Depot. Now, I'm not so sure....

I looked over the directions on my computer, while J left the directions on her counter -- haven't we all done that once or twice before? And we didn't plug in my Navitron 4000. And, we actually made it. In the same amount of time that MapQuest said we would, thank you very much.

This wine store -- Star Wines in Monroe NY (There is a link at the right) -- was like Valhalla for wine lovers. There was row after row of wines and spirits. Not to sound too much like an ad, but it rated the most "Oh, Look At That"s I've ever experienced since I walked into Bruised Apple (Peekskill's very own used bookstore). The wine, plentiful and reasonably priced. Stop by and see them if you can. They were very nice to us.

I had promised Michael that I'd only buy one bottle -- Well, that wasn't really true. I bought about 6. Some I'd had before and liked (who would buy another bottle of wine they didn't like, I'd like to know.) I had to get the Pink Truck. It's a rose wine from the people who make Red Truck Table Wine in California. Hey, it's pink and I do like a rose from time to time.

Really the whole trip was about restocking J's Chambord that we'd used in the absolutely kick ass cake -- the White Velvet Butter Cake (pg 46) on July 17. We'd finished her bottle of Chambord. Just so you know, it wasn't like we poured a ton into the Mousseline or into ourselves, there was only the required amount left in the bottle.

I have to apologize for talking about Chambord as a cherry liqueur. It is made from black raspberries, and I know that now. I was wondering why it went so well with the raspberry mousseline, and now I know. Haven't you ever said the wrong word or pronounced something completely wrong and after a couple minutes realized it wasn't what you meant to say or even the right way to say it? Well, this is just like that only it's in print for all the world to see.

So we didn't really do any baking this time. We just went wandering in a very large and well stocked wine/liquor store and had a wonderful time.

You know, it didn't really get that hot today. Janice Huff, the weather person on Channel 4 (NBC), said that it didn't hit the record highs they were expecting due to clouds and a front of some sort that was closer to us than they thought. See, even with WeatherTron 4000, they can't get it right every time.

But when they got it wrong, we got it right -- a fantastic wine store and a road trip with friends!

Next week as I'm away for training on the new haircuts/color techniques/fashion for Fall/Winter 2007/08 in Chicago, we'll have to find some way to hang out together. We'll keep you posted on what's up for us. Our baking schedule has been a tad spotty this summer, hopefully September will mean a return to a cake or two a week.

Bake through (or if it's hot, drink through)

Robb










Here are a few of our favorites- the sparkler from Australia is a shiraz: beautiful deep red bubbly. -J

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Inspiration in Cake Form

We got together later than usual on Tuesday. Usually we bake in the morning, about 9 am or so (Usually, I seem to be running late at that point, but I do make a stop at Dunkin' Donuts.) Today we started at 1:45 or 2.

So it began for me, harried, late and frazzeling (ok, I have no idea how to spell that word). It started out, for Janet a bit on the rough side, too. The leader of the Tour de France's last section was kicked out for doping. And it was a rest day so there wasn't much being said about it on our news. I just noticed that it was in the headlines on my homepage, so it's news here too.

You could say we both got up on the wrong side of the oven. Given these bumps and the fact that last week's cake was very, very good, it's safe to say that we both expected today's cake to be ok, alright, not great, plodding.

We made the Golden Luxury Butter Cake (pg 48) I know, it's another butter cake -- but we are only 4 away from the end of the butter cake chapter! This cake goes together like most of her butter cakes, sift dry ingredients, aerate, add butter and wet ingredients in 3 batches, only for 20 seconds after each batch....This one came together with no problems. We did notice a bit of bubbling on the tops when the layers were cooked, so we probably over mixed, but it wasn't a problem overall.

RLB suggests that we make a Lemon Buttercream for the cake, but we had done that with our Buttermilk Country Cake
(Mar.30.07) And since we want to cook as many things as possible without making duplicates, we made the Mousseline Buttercream (pg 244) We do realize that we made it the last time (Ju.17.07). This time we made the Orange version,

For a fruit Mouselline RLB suggest using puree or curd. Due to my tardiness and Janet's feelings of stir craziness she made Orange Curd (pg 342) before I came. Following the directions as written it came up a bit pasty, floury without the almost silky, slightly opaque quality of curds.

"This really frosted me!" Janet said grumbling under breath. I burst out laughing, cause, near as we can tell, the reason would be we used frozen eggs yolks -- remember the 4.5 egg whites from the last cake? We assume that being frozen changed the proteins and made them coagulate in tighter balls. At this point Janet said, "Ok Alton." I grinned and said I don't know if I'm channeling Alton Brown or Shirley Corriher. (Mr. Brown is the host of Good Eats, probably one of my favorite all time cooking shows. Ms. Corriher wrote a wonderful food science book _Cookwise_ that would be the entire text of my food class.)

At this point, we're both thinking, "Rats, this is going to be a big let down." It's followed by a comma when the feeling's not as strong -- can anyone tell us where that's from?

Then, the cakes came out of the oven. They were lightly golden brown, the edges were that crisp, crepe like edge that we both like. They turned out easily -- well it was easy for Janet, mine got a bit of a crack in the top.

Both of us looked at it like them like they were the Holy Grail. They smelled righteous.

The Mousseline turned into its fine self. And Janet and I got the idea that we'd place the curd between the layers. A great idea until it started to slide. Domed cake tops will do that! So I sliced off the dome of one and they fit together much more nicely. As I said, "There are no accidents here, only snacks." We placed the domed parts in a bowl and continued to eat them up. With a fine crumb and a dense texture, it was a pound cake without the weight. Kathy, who got a drive by caking last night, said to me on the train, "That cake was so good. It's texture...great."

What is beauty? To me along with a good long dinner with friends, it's a cake that inspires you. Janet and I were so happy with the outcome of this cake that we both started to spout out ideas of what would work as an addition to the frosting.

We said nuts finely chopped, almonds, walnuts, pecans, placed between the cake layers would be good. So, Janet turned around and pulled out a bag of each. "You're so like me, only prepared." Strangely enough it's true. We do work well together.

In the taste test: Untoasted almonds were quite bland. Walnuts caused such a reaction on my face that Janet said, "If it did that, I have to try it." Way too bitter for the cake frosting combo. Pecans were quite a nice addition with their texture and their sweetness. Janet still holds out for toasted almonds.

This led to a discussion about what herb would we use. I suggested Basil. Orange and basil often work well together. Alas, we had no basil to test.

With the orange, we did decide that blackberries would be wonderfull added to the plate. Then we found blueberries in the fridge. Adding a splash of orange flower water, a bit of sugar and muddling that with the blueberries was a wonderfully refreshing, perfumy addition to the cake. Try it. It was a bit like sex.

"Don't get me wrong, I like sex...a lot. But it's never going to replace cake." Stephanie Plum. Thank you Kristing in West Lafayette for the quote. Read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum Series, they are a hoot!

Bake through....

Robb

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Cake, Many Recipes

Well, it's been a long time. Between work and family visits for the 4th of July and a hellishly hot day (about 95 with about 95% humidity) it took us awhile to get back to the Cake Bible, but today we did.....

Today we made the White Velvet Butter Cake (pg 46). This is the one used to make the White Lilac Nostalgia cake (pg 167) that requires 1/2 recipe of the Raspberry Mousseline (pg 245) and 1 full recipe of the Creme Ivoire Deluxe (pg 246). You are supposed to use crystallized lilacs (pg 326) but we didn't.

Ok, honestly, I grumble and complain about baking day. I'm that way about anything that I "have" to do. So imagine just how much grumbling I can do when it takes 4 separate and completely different recipes to create a cake. Well let me tell you, it's a lot. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get my head around all the parts of this cake.

The interesting thing is that it's no longer the actual cake part that makes me slightly nervous. I now understand what her process is for putting together a butter cake -- one would hope I could do it after what, 17 cakes!

The cake portion is a wonder to behold. It's light in color, almost crepe like in its crispy edge (hope it's supposed to be like that, 'cause it was tasty) and blonde almost white interior with a really fine crumb.

One learning of ours -- our butter has been consistently too soft -- runny butter isn't room temp butter, now is it?

This cake batter came together like none of the others. And baked in the alloted time. Seriously, I think this is my new favorite white cake. It reminded me of a cross between a white butter cake and an angelfood cake. Janet said it was very much like her Granny Martin's white cake. High praise indeed.

The raspberry mousseline was fabulously rich and wonderful. It did require a bit of orchestration and I did make the raspberry puree/sauce (pg 337) the night before. Trust me this sauce was worth every single bowl and strainer in my kitchen being raspberry-ified. The secret is in boiling down the raspberry juice from 1 cup to 1/4 cup. It's tart and sweet and has a depth of flavor. I gave Michael a taste of the sauce and he said, it's like the berry just explodes in your mouth. Truly it was perfection.

You add this sauce to the Mousseline buttercream. That was a bit of a bother, but honestly well worth it. It's similar to the Silk Meringue Buttercream we did back in mid June. The difference is that you add butter to the beaten whites and firm ball sugar syrup. We did it this time with a hand mixer so that we could do a steady steam of sugar into the egg whites. This offered a seemingly smoother version, but since we didn't do a side by side with the stand mixer, we don't know for sure.

There is a liqueur option and we choose to use it, but instead of the Grand Marnier she suggests, we thought Chambourd with its dark, cherry taste would be better suited to the raspberry sauce -- raspberry Stoli was dismissed outright, but got us thinking.

Raspberry Sauce/Puree Recipes: (You only need 3/4 cup of it, so you will have left overs):
Add a bit of the sauce to your lemonade or your favorite lemon lime soda. For an adult version, add it to Raspberry Stoli and ice.

There is a moment in the middle of the mousseline when you may feel that it's all over. It's not, don't stop, bake through. It is devine decadence in a non chocolate form.

The real bother and part that made us scratch our head more than once was the Creme Ivoire Deluxe (pg 246). Basically you melt all the ingredients white chocolate, cocoa butter (which is very, very expensive), clarified butter, a flavorless oil (we used canola).

Once melted, you cool and whip into a buttercream. This wasn't the case for us. By hand it never seemed to whisk to cool, although it did have the whisk marks on top, right away. We put it in the stand mixer and put the pan of iced water under it, like we did a couple cakes ago when we realize that over 90 degrees in Janet's house isn't good cake baking weather. We did add 4 tablespoons of butter at room temp. This helped, but it took a very, very long time. (I consulted my mother about this recipe and she said "That's insane!" and agreed with us that we followed the recipe, and that it does seem a stretch to make a glaze and then through magical whisking somehow it will turn into buttercream. -JM)


We spread the Mousseline between the layers (they were cut in half horizontally, thus making the four layers you see). Then, we crumb coated -- see our learnings from before. Then we put it in the freezer to cool. Then frosted it, but the frosting was warming up and getting strange so we put it in the freezer again. (See we can learn from previous mistakes.)


Then we sat down and had a nice bit of lunch and while I know that we're doing the Cake Bible, Janet came up with a wonderful chicken salad that I thought we should share:

Janet's Chicken Salad

Shredded cabbage & carrots (bag of cole slaw mix)
sour cream & a little teriyaki sauce
grapefruit vinegar
toasted sesame oil
chinese 5 spice powder
leftover jerked and grilled chicken, shredded
celery, sliced
water chestnuts, diced
toasted almonds, chopped
salt & pepper

I don't have amounts (& I hope that's everything that went in it), but think of making cole slaw and taste as you go. It was a recipe that Robb described that prompted me to purchase the slaw mix, but I couldn't remember what was in his aside from the slaw and chicken. This was good served with cantaloupe and cracked pepper. -JM

She served it over thinly sliced cucumbers and it was so good. I hope you don't mind that we included it here. It just needed to be published.

After we finished eating, the cake was a bit too cool. But we finished decorating it. Notice the zinnia, pretty huh?

This cake was the best one we've made, really. We ate the whole piece that we cut to taste. Very rare for us.

Only one cake, but what a cake it was.

Bake Through

Robb