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: 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:

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....


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,


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 -- 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.