Sunday, May 25, 2008

No sweets for my sweet

It's Sunday. The day I designated as "post day". And I have no sweets to blog about. That would be because my kitchen is in full-on remodel mode. But that doesn't really give the full picture. A more accurate description would be full-on remodel-since-we -already-have-it-torn-apart-due-to-a-leak-in-the-bathroom-directly-above mode. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who can sympathize. It's not all bad though.

Ever the optimist, I'm looking for the silver lining. I mean, yes, our kitchen is a mess....making cooking cumbersome and not very appealing and baking even more unappealing. Especially since I don't know where anything is at this point....i wasn't here when the cabinets were unloaded and taken off the walls. (see, silver lining) And yes, this is happening at the exact same time our living room is in shambles because we are getting the ceiling replaced due to a crack. That crack has been there FOREVER, and recently the ceiling began to sag more and more making the crack bigger and bigger. As luck would have it (yes I said luck), the leak happened the same week we had scheduled to have the ceiling fixed. And the guy, Doug, who is fixing the crack and is apparently a jack-of-all-trades, was also able to fix our leak (silver lining) and re-drywall the kitchen soffit/ceiling after having to punch holes in it to locate the leak. All for a really great price. (silver lining) And yes, because of this, during parts of the day and evening, we are confined to a very small addition that was serving as our dining room. It has now become our ad-hoc living room as we've crammed our sofa and TV and various other pieces of furniture in there. But, (silver lining alert) since the kitchen was torn apart we decided to make some long-planned and long-awaited (on my part) flip the cabinets on one wall so we could move the refrigerator to another spot and actually open the door all the way. And we're adding a microwave/range hood combo and a dishwasher (!! yea, right?!) I've never had a dishwasher. Well I did in a couple of apartments, but since it was only me and I didn't grow up with one, I never used them.

But the ultimate silver lining....yes there's something better than new appliances believe it or least to me. Since we're confined to the one little room and our doggies are admittedly stressed over the changes and workers in and out and their schedule being disrupted...we've relaxed the rules a bit. They are now--just during the remodel--allowed on the sofa with us! And I'm not sure who's enjoying it more, the doggies or us. I think it's us. There are few things I like more than snuggling with my 70-pound puppy dog watching Grey's Anatomy.

So, my friends, hopefully by this time next week I will at least have my kitchen back, if not my living room as well. See you next week.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's A Boy! (not my boy though)

Not the best pictures (it was late at least for me). Not the best decorating job either. Again, it was late, what can I say. Actually, the cake was kinda cute the next day. I think the lighting the night before was bad and the colors looked harsh. But I was pleasantly surprised the next day, after a good night's sleep. I made it for a girl at work who will soon be going on maternity leave. I almost forgot that I was making the cake. Well, not almost, I did forget. But I did manage to remind myself with enough time to produce this. It's a banana cake (her favorite) with a marshmallow type buttercream. Both came from Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours. The book finally came in the mail the day I remembered I needed to make this cake. So, I flipped thru and was happy to find a banana cake recipe. And it was a great recipe. But then, it's Dorie. And everything I've read about Dorie is wonderful and positive. So the banana cake was lighter than banana bread, as it should be. But definitely denser than the banana cake you normally get at some bakeries or from a box, I imagine. I really liked it. And I loved the frosting. It's the frosting that went with Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, which I plan to make soon. It was really fluffy and was downright luminous. And at first I thought it was too sweet and I'd have to adjust the sugar when I make it again. But that sweetness really mellowed so I don't think I'll change a thing.
So, here's the rub....part of my reason for not being super excited about this creation is that I was defeated once again by chocolate. I had planned on filling two of the layers with a chocolate ganache because I love chocolate and banana. So I used another one of Dorie's recipes. I know! Another one from 'the book'. You really need to get this book. Well, since it was late and I really needed to get this cake together and decorated and I couldn't wait for the ganache to thicken up naturally, I decided to speed up the process. I placed the bowl of ganach inside a bowl of ice water and kept stirring. It was taking awhile, but it finally started to thicken to almost spreading consistency. I took the bowl out of the ice water, continued to stir for a bit and everything seemed to be coming off without a hitch. I set the bowl of ganache aside to gather the cake layers and frosting to start assembling. When I returned to the ganache it was a solid mass with these air bubbles in it and it seemed to be separating. It was a mess. Not the beautiful dark ganache I was hoping for. Completely me anyway. So my quest to master chocolate continues.....

Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake
from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours"

  • 2 2/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg ( i didn't use freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar, or granulated sugar (i used dark)
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 large Eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp Dark Rum or Malibu Coconut Rum (optional)
  • About 4 Very Ripe Bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup Canned unsweetened Coconut Milk, Regular (stir well before measuring) or "Lite" (or whole milk, buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt) [I used Stoneyfield Farm's Vanilla Yogurt)
The following is optional:
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, preferably toasted (or an equal amount of moist, plump dried fruit, such as currants, raisins, chopped apricots, cranberries, blueberries or halved cherries, or a combination of coconut and dried fruit) [I didn't use any of this]

Center a rack in the oven an preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2 inch round cake pans, dust the sides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and rum. You'll have a beautiful satiny bater. Now lower the speed and add the bananas -- the batter will curdle, but that's fine; it will come together as you add the remaining ingredients. Still on low speed, add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately, adding the flour mixture in 3 portions and the coconut milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients). Mix just until everything is incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the coconut. Divide the batter evenlybetween the two pans.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. They should start to pull away from the sides of the pans and a thin knife inserted into their centers will come out clean. transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • [I substituted heavy cream for the lemon juice]
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate -- just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice (cream), waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then vanilla. you should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. [and you will!] Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercrream and set side briefly.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chocolate Cake Recipe

Hi....okay, no chocolate cake recipe to post. I can't find it. Just as well I suppose, since it didn't work for me. I can tell you it was the Devil's Food Cake recipe by Carole Walter. Well, the one I used was adapted by Sarah Phillips of Baking 911, but I didn't get permission to post that one and I'm not sure what the changes were.

I did find on RLB's site a post regarding a possible reason for the dryness of the cupcakes. Not sure if I buy it though. A fella named Aaron says he discovered that when you mix cocoa and hot water (as in this recipe that I can't find or post), and set it aside, you need to cover it to contain moisture. Otherwise you lose an ounce or two. RLB says she never would've thought of that, but then she always covers items that aren't being used right away. So there you go, mystery possible solved.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flower Practice...oh and chocolate cupcakes too!

Only the second week and I'm already late posting! With good reason though. So I went to Indy this weekend for Joey's graduation....from med school no less. Yea Joey! We had a blast, even with very little sleep. And upon our return Sunday, as tired and lazy as I felt, I still had the urge to bake. So I did. I made chocolate cupcakes. I'll post the recipe, as soon as I find out if it's okay. What I really wanted to do was play with frosting and practice making flowers, or at least blobs that look something like flowers. So, the cupcakes were really just a vehicle, a canvas, for that. Well, it's a good thing I didn't have any real expectation for the cupcakes, because they weren't that great. Mark, my resident taste tester, says they were chocolatey (is that a word?), but I wasn't so sure. Of course, I LOVE chocolate, so I'm probably not the best gauge on what's chocolatey for the average person. But that attribute aside, they were dry. And nobody likes a dry cupcake. It's possible that I overcooked them.....they went from soupy in the middle to toothpick coming out clean in a matter of minutes. But I really don't think I did. There wasn't any oil or applesauce or melted butter, etc. in the batter. Could that be the reason? I'll have to do some research on chocolate cake recipes. I've yet to make one that works for me. The last chocolate cake I made was a me. Everyone at the party was really nice and said it was great, but I knew it wasn't great. It had melted chocolate in addition to cocoa powder and the melted chocolate seized on me. It was such a labour of love, it's a wonder I managed to salvage any part of it. See, even though I love chocolate....I have this fear of working with it. It's so temperamental and me at certain times during the month. ;-)
The buttercream flowers were fun though. I don't know that I've gotten the technique down pat, but I'm getting there. Not bad for one petal tip....that I had to keep switching between icing colors!

Sorry, the pictures are a bit blurry. I was in a hurry.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cheesecake Update

Hey there, just a quick tip or two for anyone wanting to try the cheesecake pops. If you're worried about what to do with all the pops a full recipe makes (30-40), or for that matter, how many a half recipe makes if you use the small scoop like I did (about 30-40)...don't worry. Pop them in the freezer. I have Mark to thank for that idea, and it was a great one. They freeze beautifully and so far (what 4 days?) they haven't frozen rock hard and I don't think they will. So, they're great to eat straight from the especially nice treat in the summer!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

DB Challenge: Cheesecake Pops

FINALLY.....I have something to post. I started this blog last week, but generally don't have time to bake until the weekend. So, I had to wait all week to finally have something to blog about. And that something is one of the Daring Bakers past challenges. Don't know anything about the Daring Bakers? Well let me tell you...There's this group out there on the web, The Daring Bakers. This group was started by a couple of women in November 2006 who decided to make pretzels using the same recipe and blog about it. Then December brought biscotti and more women joined in the fun. Fast forward a year and hundreds of members and you have the Daring Bakers. There's a new challenge every month....a secret challenge at that. And everyone posts their completed challenge on the same date. So after seeing post after post and how all the results are different and interesting, I decided I'd give one of the challenges a try.

Last month's challenge was Cheesecake Pops. The recipe was chosen by Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell from "Sticky, Chewey, Messy, Gooey" by Jill O'Connor. You can find the recipe on their blogs. I was really excited to try this one. It seemed as though it would be a lot of fun...and it was. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The cheesecake recipe was just okay I thought. But then, that could've been because I halved the recipe and sorta improvised a bit on measurements. I wasn't sure what I would be coating the cheesecake with, so besides adding some lemon juice I didn't really play up the flavor. So that's definitely an area I'd tweak when I make these again. And I will make these again. On the other hand, the chocolate recipe for dipping the cheesecake pops in was perfect. And so easy! Shortening was added to the chocolate when melting and it resulted in the perfect consistency. And when it hardened the chocolate was shiny and had that snap you look for. I didn't go crazy on the dipping flavors/coatings as this was a last minute idea. But that's where the fun and creativity comes in. I toasted some coconut, crushed up some oreos and chopped pecans. Oh, one innovation......I stirred up a couple spoonfuls of raspberry preserves until it was a bit soupy. And after freezing the cheesecake pops for about an hour, I dipped a few in the preserves and put them back in the freezer. The preserves never hardened, but it did firm up a bit and I had no trouble dipping them in the chocolate. So enough talk.... on with the pictures! Let me know what you think.

Just hanging out in the freezer waiting for some chocolate goodness!




Chopped Pecan