Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making Makeup

KMR cake update - been playing with gumpaste, here's a sample of the real deal vs the gum past versions.

I'm finding that gumpaste is very elastic and almost rubberly, so it's kinda hard to form and get it keep the form I make, it prefers to be rounded rather than create hard edges - nice sometimes, others, very frustrating.

For my next cake... I had to shop at Home Depot

This is the cake stand / structure for my next cake. I'll leave you to imagine what I'm thinking here, it's more fun for me that way.

I have been asked by Kristie of KMR Makeup Academy to provide a cake for her Grand Opening event. She has this terribly cute new studio that's nearly finished - she'll be teaching makeup lessons, and hosting make-over parties and such. It's all very fun. She's a good friend of my friends Chris and Brandy - and did their wedding makeup, so I'm really excited to be doing this!

She's given me total creative control - and I'm running with it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A week of lemony goodness

Last weekend, Erin and Greg gave me a bag. A big bag. This bag was full of lemons. Fresh, wonderful, ripe lemons from their tree.

While I had started of thinking that I'd use some and then freeze the rest - I ended up having a week-long bake-fest, which I think my coworkers were appreciative of.

I did a great job of failing to take photos though :( So you only get a few.

Tuesday - Lemon Cream Puffs

These were simply fantastic right after being baked - the shell lost it's crisp-ness when I brought them in on Tuesday for my co-workers. The cream is lovely, so lovely, in fact, I used it later in the week for something else.
This is a "fancy" recipie that is unbelievably simple, and easy.
We (Dan and I) followed the recipie on all points except for adding twice as much lemon to the cream. I like lemon.

Thursday - Ultimate Lemon Bunt Cake

I made two of these. One s the recipie prescribes and one slightly altered. The recipie version was OK. The texture was great, it was light and soft - but the flavor was lacking on all fronts, in my opinion.
The altered version used all purpose flour instead of cake flour, and instead of 1 cup of milk - 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 cup cream cheese. This was because I didn't have lemon extract until Dan brought some home for me. So instead of lemon extract - I used vanilla extract. The flavor of this was far superior, and had that fantastic tartness of lemon while still being light. The texture, however, was off - the all purpose flour really did make a difference :(

Friday - "I Hate Lemon Meringue Pie Lemon Pie"

This was me wanting a lemon meringue pie without the meringue - I love meringue cookies, they are crisp and melt in your mouth - meringue on pies, however, is soggy and weird. So anyway..

Shortbread Crust -
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp or so salt

preheat 350
Beat butter, shortening and sugar till light and fluffy
mix in flour, salt, and baking powder
press into greased pan on bottom and up sides - it'll be rather thick.
prick all over with a fork to avoid too much puffing
Bake 15 minutes or till just starts to turn golden brown.

Now, make this lemon tart recipie - pour into the pie crust and bake as described.
After baking allow to cool, and then put in fridge and let cool *completely*

Now, make the cream from the cream puff recipie above - and spread it all over the top of the pie.

This was so great - the crust is so tender, thick, crumbly and tasty - the tart is tart, and the cream is fabulous, it's just.. lovely, like an ultimate lemon bar.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reactions to Purple Cashemere

I took the batch into work and here are some reactions... as I guessed, lavender is a rather particular flavour for people...

"Lovely!" *takes another*

"I like it.. but it's not my favorite.. I mean, it's a cupcake, of course I like it!"

"I like *this*" (me)'You mean it's not soapy?' "Yes, the first time I had lavender it was soapy, but this is good!" (she mentioned earlier in the week that her first experience with lavendar and chocolate was a soapy disaster)

"I don't dislike it - it's an interesting flavour though -it's not what you would expect. These would be excellent for a garden party!"

"I like it! But I think the chocolate on top (frosting) is unnecessary, maybe lemon instead?"

"I'm confused. My nose says I may have just eaten soap. But my tongue says, no you didn't."

"Oh wow! Surprisingly that was a really good balance."

"Hmm. Different. It's good! But different. Definitely taste the lavender." *has another* "These are good!"

I myself have eaten 5 (they're mini cupcakes.. so..) :-O

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dutch Baby

Once I finished with my purple mayhem Dan felt inspired to try a recipie he'd found recently - Dutch Babies!

What the heck is a dutch baby? It's apparently a German pancake of buttery evil. So very tasty.. so so so very evil...

Here's the recipie.

1/3 c. butter
4 eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. flour

Put the butter in the pan and set it into a 425 degree oven after first dusting the pan with nutmeg, then mix batter quickly while butter melts. Put eggs in blender container and whirl at high speed for 1 minute. With motor running, gradually pour in milk, then slowly add flour; continue whirling for 30 seconds.

(With a rotary beater, beat eggs until light and lemon colored; gradually beat in milk, then flour.)

Remove pan from oven with the butter melted and pour batter into the hot melted butter. Return the pan to the oven and bake until puffy and well browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve at once with any fruit topping, i.e. canned pie filling, hot fruit, fresh fruit. (Best - fresh strawberries then topped with whipped cream.) Syrups or powdered sugar is good, too.

Purple Cashmere Cupcakes

I recently stumbled across *Quirky Cupcake* the home of Cupcake Hero, which I've seen mention of here and there.. well this month's Cupcake Hero ingredient is cocoa, and even though I'm not sure I've been officially entered into the Cupcake Hero ranks to participate, I went for it anyway, and here's my entry.

Purple Cashmere Cupcakes. These are lavender cupcakes using an adulterated recipe for Red Velvet (get the name now?) - with lavender chocolate buttercream. They actually taste like something of a spice cake all on their own - but with the frosting, they're quite heavenly (in fact, after eating the first one I did a little dance of joy around the kitchen).
Here's the obligatory "hey look! cute kid eating it!"

I was inspired to the lavender use with chocolate because of some chocolates Dan recently got me - Newtree's Rejoice. It was so lovely, I had to see if I could apply the same idea elsewhere.

So, on to the recipes..

Some prepwork -

Lavender butter -

Grind or rub 4 teaspoons lavender into a food processor, blender, whatnot along with a squeeze of lemon juice, and 2 cups unsalted, room temp butter. run till all well blended. again, let sit a few hours or overnight (in the fridge if it's overnight).

Lavender Oil -

Grind or rub between your hands 3 teaspoons of culinary lavender (i found some in the spice section at my local supermarket, actually) and immerse in 1 1/2 cups of cooking oil (I used canola). Peel half a lemon and drop the peels into the oil as well, shake up and let sit - i only let it sit for a few hours, but overnight would probably be better.

Purple Cashmere Cupcakes
(adapted from here)
2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup lavender oil (lemon peels removed, but otherwise unstrained)
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 container liquid purple dye (blue and red make purple!)
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Prepare either 3 8in round cake pans, or enough cupcake tins for 24 large cupcakes

Sift dry ingredients together

Whisk wet ingredients together

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour into pans.

Bake 15 - 30 minutes or until cake bounces back when touched.

Chocolate Lavender Frosting

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups lavender butter at room temp.
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Combine water and sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir until all sugar is moistened. Heat on medium, careful not to burn, till candy thermometer reads 240.

Which heating sugar, in blender, whisk egg whites on high until just at soft peak. don't over-mix.

turn mixer on high and *slowly* pour sugar mixture into egg whites. leave mixer on high for about 25 minutes.

Add butter 1/4 cup at a time. at some point the mixture will get all lumpy and weird, just let it keep mixing. blend until smooth - continue to blend while adding vanilla and chocolate. again, blend till smooth. taste - add more chocolate to taste. you're going for a milk chocolaty flavour.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

S'more baking with Erin

Earlier this week, Erin and I had been blogsurfing together, when we came across these. Of course, if you clicked the link, you would know what we were thinking "Oh my god I have to have that!"
But we wanted to try to get an authentic S'more eating experience.

Sunday, the kids played in the pool with Greg, while Erin and I played in the kitchen.

First, we made the graham cracker cupcakes.

The batter was most excellent, although looked, as Erin said "Like puke."
The cupcakes came out very moist - rather greasy, and tasted only remotely like graham cracker. We were rather disappointed, but decided we'd make up a few just to see how they turned out.

So we dipped some in the ganache - which we then decided was far to runny.
And then we topped it with a melted marshmallow/vanilla/powdered sugar/corn syrup concoction. It didn't solidify, and blobbed itself all over before we torched with with the blow torch. Oh, and they looked rather disgusting.

All in all - the first batch was something of a total failure.
Liam didn't mind though.

So, starting over, we went for a new plan of attack. First, the graham cracker. We wanted a crunch to it, and a genuine graham cracker taste - so we made mini graham cracker crusts.

While the crusts baked, we worked on our ganache - added more chocolate and some butter - it became most excellent.

Next, we filled the crusts with ganache (many samples were tested to find the correct chocolate ratio)

Finally, the S'mores needed to be topped with marshmallow. Since the first attempt failed miserably, we decided to try making a marshmallow meringue, something pipeable - by melting the marshmallow and whipping it into a meringue. Tasted good.. and looked good initially, however, after a while the meringue was disintegrating - we had no cream of tartar and we were only torching the outside. It wouldn't last to give to our co-workers tomorrow.

After much deliberation, trial, and error, we finally produced a working marshmallow topping and technique that would torch appropriately. I'm not sure we'd ever be able to recreate it again though, since it was a "little of this" "little of that" "oh now it's too runny.. do this!" etc situation....

Dan's first words after eating one "Those are gooood!!"
He then proceeded to complain that there weren't enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How to Cook / Eat an Artichoke

This is a blog about cakes.

This is a post about Artichokes.

Oh how I love thee.. thine leaves of rich, delicate yummyness. Thine hair of a spineyness to be avoided. Thy leaves able to destroy a garbage disposal.. (as you might be able to tell, I'm not so good at the Shakespearian whateverspeak)
A good artichoke is a wonderful thing.
And living in the Salinas valley is even more wonderful, because this is the land of strawberries, garlic, and the vegetable many are afraid of.. artichoke!

Do you see this still steaming flower of beauty? Do you see the plate it is on? THAT IS A DINNER PLATE. This is the largest artichoke I have ever seen. *snoopy-like dance of joy* And it was 2 for $3! Sweet! I love artichoke season! (And the artichoke festival is coming up, we might actually go this year!)

Have you never had an artichoke? Is it because you have no idea how to prepare and eat one? Or because you live in a sad desolate land of sadness which does not have them often?
If it's the former, I suggest out go out to the store and buy yourself some, for I am going to try to make you brave! If it is the latter, I suggest you move to somewhere that sucks less.

What does it taste like?

This is a hard question to answer, because they are so unique, and I honestly can't think of a comparison that is really fair. If you have had pickled artichoke hearts, you might have an idea of the flavor, but really, just as a pickle tastes nothing like a cucumber.. same thing with pickled artichoke hearts.. canned as well for that matter. You're really just going to have to try one for yourself.

Purchasing an artichoke:
Artichokes come in many sizes, if you don't live in California, I have been lead to believe that your selection is smaller - literally - but the size rarely matters, it's all about the leaves. And funnily enough, to a point - the uglier the leaves are, the better. Now don't take that to the extreme, listen to what I have to say first.
A perfect artichoke, with unblemished green leaves isn't always the best choice - you see, for whatever reason, a little frostbite is *good* for the choke's flavor, frostbite causes brown patching on the leaves - not holes, not bruising, but slight discolouration. So seeing frostbite isn't bad. If I see a pile of artichokes, I go for the uglier ones in general.

You want the leaves to be just *slightly* opening, not flayed open, and not super tight and closed. Some say you should do a "squeek" test - sweeze the leaves together and if it squeeks, you're good. I just go by looks myself.


Chop off the stem about an inch down from the base of the artichoke.

Most artichokes have spines at the tips of their leaves, if you like, take a big knife and shave off the tips of the leaves, you're only going to be eating the stuff near the stem, so you don't need to worry about wasting leaves, just shave off the last cm or so of leach leaf - you can also use kitchen shears. I don't usually bother doing this, but sometimes those spines are quite sharp!
Now, I've only ever cooked artichokes two ways - steaming or boiling. I've noticed no difference in the product of the two, and boiling is faster - so that's what I usually do.
Boiling: Get a pot large enough that you can cover the artichoke with water, and the water has room to boil. Lid is optional. The artichoke will float, so just make sure it's well submerged, stem down if you can get it to stay down. Boil.
Steaming: Need a pot large enough to hold the whole artichoke and a lid. Make sure you watch the water level as you cook since artichokes take FOREVER to cook, you might need to add to the water periodically.

I like to add herbs to the water for either method - my favorite is to add a bay leaf or two. Today i added Herbs de Provence (I don't know what all is in it except for rosemary and it smelled good :p ). As you eat them more you'll figure out what you may want to add to add flavor - plain is perfectly fine as well.

For either method - you cook for, generally, 45 minutes. Check at 30 minutes, and then every 15 or so. To tell if it's done, reach in (with your hand or tongs, depending on your bravery) and pull on a leaf. If it pulls away rather easily, that's good, if you pull and it starts to lift the whole flower out of the water, forget it and come back 15 minutes later. If you do get a leaf off - let it cool, and then eat it (see directions below) if the meat comes off easily, and is tender, not hard, you're good - take the artichoke off the stove and out of the water and let drain. If not, again, just come back and try again later.

Preparing to eat:
You will need:
a plate - to put the artichoke on
a bowl - to put the eaten leaves in, generally a small salad bowl size
a dipping sauce of your choice
a fork
a napkin or three

Dipping sauce:
Lots of choices here. I grew up using mayo, and I know many people use melted butter. This is going to be a personal preference thing. If you like mayo on your broccoli, I'd try that first. If you hate mayo - try butter.
Recently a friend told me to try mixing a *little* bit of basalmic vinegar in with the mayo - yowie, it's good!


First, peel off the first layers of leaves from the outside. You'll notice that they come away with stringness at the base. You want to peel away until the strinyness is no more.

Now you've got tasty, edible meat at the base of your leaves. Pull leaves away one by one, as you eat them, and dip the end in your sauce of choice, just a bit, a whole lot - tha of course is up to you.

Now turn the leaf so that the inside is down and the outside is up, you are going to use your bottom teeth to scrape away the meat. Place the leaf about an inch into your mouth, and bite down. Scrape the bottom with your bottom teeth - lightly, don't scrape too hard or you'll get a mouth full of fibrous yuck. Don't scrape with your top teeth, the outside's no good either.

And that's it! you're eating an artichoke.
It'll take a while to figure out how to maximize the meat you get without eating yuck.
Continue to eat leaves until you get to the middle leaves - you'll notice as you go that the leaves get more and more delicate (and the tips often get sharper and sharper). Once you're at the point where you can't get meat off the leaf without biting off a chunk of leaf - stop.

Take hold of the center leaves and pull them away (experienced eaters can try eating the meat off of these all at once).

Now you'll see the spiney center - artichokes are thistles, you know. To get to the best part, the heart of the artichoke, you need to get rid of these spines.
I saw an episode of Good Eats where Alton told viewers to take a knife and cut away the artichoke with the spines, which you can do - but it's sooo wasteful of goodness. Instead, take your fork in hand, and use it at an angle to scrape the spines away at their base. This will take practice, and is really messy 'till you know what you're doing, hence the napkins.

Once you've delt with all of those spines, turn the heart over and scrape away the stringly fiberous outside with your fork. I leave the stem, since it's a huge pain to get off.

Now you can eat the meat of the heart, fork it and enjoy! It's exactly the same as the stuff you were eating off of the leaves, just in large chunks! (as a child i REFUSED to eat the hearts, I was a moron)

I hope that someone out there reads this and tries (and loves) an artichoke because of me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fat and Thin

Ashley's birthday was today - and three days ago, we (Erin and I) decided to make a cake - Kim's suggestion.. A fat Ashley that we could cut away into a thin Ashley! (Ashley has been losing weight lately and has an odd sense of humor - it was rather perfect)

It didn't end up exactly like that.. but quite the same idea!

I photoshopped some images to use as templates, and printed them out. Erin and I made a 16" x 16" cake, arranged the cut-outs, and used them as guides. First we cut the "fat" silhouette.

We then cut pieces away from that to make a "thin" silhouette. We saved the pieces of "fat" for later.

The thin silhouette was then frosted with butter cream.

Then, a late night of fondanting created "thin Ashley" which was left uncovered to dry overnight.

The next day, I buttercreamed and fondanted (two new verbs there) the pieces of "fat", and placed them around the thin sillouette. And finally.. did another layer of fondant over everything - with a layer of parchment paper between the two.
For realism, Ashley's photo was used.

So in the end - we were able to undress the Fat cake to reveal the thin cake underneath!

Creepy? Quite.
A strech of my creative and technical abilities? Very much so.
I'm rather pleased with the final outcome, and the fact that the reveal of the Thin cake went as planned. I wish I'd had more time to plan this cake though, there's a lot of details I'm unhappy with.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie

While trodding through ReTorte the other day, I saw the posting about Epicurious' Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt, and since had terrible cravings.

The flavor reminded me so much of a lemon meringue pie that I decided to make pie crust cookies, and soft meringue dabs to serve with the ice cream. I also made some ginger sugar to sprinkle on top. Yummers!

This weekend I'm going to make various meringue cookies, I always forget how much I love them - and they are so light, that it's almost OK to eat them all in one sitting! After having these dabs, which were cooked to the same texture of the topping of a meringue pie, I've been craving some nice crispy melt-in-your mouth meringue cookies!

Hit Counters