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April 26, 2009

Working with Fondant

I took off from this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays Baking Session. Recipe of the day was Granola Breakfast Cookies, chosen by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen -- be sure to check out her blog for the recipe, as well as the blogs of the other bakers. There are some fabulous cookies out there.

BTW, I made another batch of apple turnovers -- apples were on sale, i still had leftover ricotta and i wanted to take another stab at working with puff pastry. Again, I made the apples & cheese ahead of time and this time, i remembered to thaw the pastry sheets at least an hour before baking. The turnovers were a huge success, of course.

I've been hired to bake for a wedding coming up in mid-May.
For the wedding, the Bride would like a bazillion cupcakes (obviously, this is an overstatement --- but a blog entry about the cupcakes will be posted as the wedding date nears, so stay tuned) as well as small cake (for cutting) covered with fondant. My fellow bakers have told me that it's super easy work with fondant and since I've never worked with it, this weekend i thought i'd give it a try.

So on a hot Sunday afternoon, with the AC cranked I decided to tackle this.... covered my workspace with powdered sugar and began rolling..... WHAT A TASK!!! I dont know if that's how fondant is, but its super hard to roll out... took me FOREVER!! Eventually, after about 15-20 minutes I had a huge enough sheet to cover a 7" cake.

And here it is:

Not bad for a first-timer, huh? The bride will be decorating the top with fresh flowers. Is there something I can do to the side that will make it look nicer and not so plain or should I just leave it alone?
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April 21, 2009

Strawberry Country Cake

I baked my brother & his best friend their favorite cake for their birthdays --- they happen to be born on the same day, too --- Strawberry Shortcake. The original recipe I was going to use required cake flour. Wouldn't you know it -- i ran out! I searched the web for substitutions and found some. Some said i could make my own cake flour by using one cup of all purpose flour, minus 2 tablespoons -- sift then measure or use all purpose flour plus corn starch. Then I read the reviews of the substitutions -- some said it worked; some said they produced a horrible looking/tasting cake.

I stumbled across Ina Garten's recipe for Strawberry Country Cake, which uses all-purpose flour plus cornstarch (sounds like a cake flour recipe to me). Well the cake definitely looked like a strawberry shortcake and I've been pretty successful making recipes from the chefs of Food Network and there were rave reviews about this cake... so i made Ina's cake.

I needed a slightly bigger cake so i increased the recipe by 1½ times. The recipe posted below yields two 8-inch cakes.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions for the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans. I used a 10-inch square pan.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Reviewers of this recipe stated that the bake time was too much, so i started watching my cake at the 30 minute mark... only to forget that I was making a larger cake. So my baking time was off. By the 45 minute mark my cake was lightly brown but the middle was still very jiggly. So I decreased the temp. to 325 degrees and tacked on 15 minutes more. It actually took 25 minutes more, for a total baking time of 70 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using 1 cake, wrap the second well and freeze.

For the frosting (which also was used as the filling), I needed a frosting that was sturdier than regular whipped cream. I wanted the entire cake frosted just like a bakery-bought strawberry shortcake. So I found a recipe for a sturdy whipped cream frosting, which used gelatin. The recipe posted below is double the original recipe. You can never have too much whipped cream!

Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 teaspoon gelatin
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, mix together the gelatin and 1/4 cup of the cream. Let rest for 5 minutes to soften, then place the bowl over barely simmering water until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool to tepid. In the meantime, in a mixing bowl, whip the cream until slightly thickened. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and whip to the consistency of shaving cream. Fold 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture, then fold in the rest.

Assembling the cake:
Take the cake and split into two layers. Here's one of the layers.

Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with whipped cream

Add sliced strawberries.

Add some more whipped cream.

Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream.

Decorate with strawberries.
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April 19, 2009

::SMS:: Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling

This week's SMS recipe, Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling (p. 25), was chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Head over to her blog for the complete recipe.

I love apple pie..... hate making the crust.
I love danishes..... hate ones made with cheese.
So what did i think when i saw that this recipe was next? WTH... go for it.

The recipe is 3 parts: apples, cheese, puff pastry. The apple part was easy. I added a pinch of cinnamon (and made this the night before). The cheese part was easy.... also made this the night before; strained the cheese during the day.

The puff pastry part was another story. I NEVER worked with puff pastry before so i didnt really know what to expect. My first mistake: should have read the instructions on the box the night before because --- DUH! --- i was suppose to thaw the pastry for at least 40 minutes before beginning to work with it. So on Sunday morning, starving and ready to eat an apple turnover for breakfast (because the book says its best to eat it warm the day you make it), I was sad when i realized i had to wait at least another hour before breakfast was served. I didnt like working with the puff pastry sheets -- maybe because i was impatient and couldnt wait to start making the turnovers. Or maybe it was cause i hate working with dough (pie crust). Or maybe i was frustrated cause the pastry sheet was still frozen -- the dough kept breaking apart on me. And when i finally got it to be a pliable dough... it was sticking everywhere and i was dusting flour everywhere.

SIGH! Anyways.... i didnt make any nice triangles cause i was having a hard time with the pastry sheet as it was so i made huge rectangles. I think on 1 or 2 of them i overfilled it cause when it was time to close it, cheese was oozing everywhere. My turnovers were ready and a nice golden brown in 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

THE VERDICT: Even though i hate working with puff pastry, i must say that this is something that i will DEFINATELY make again (pastry thawed, accordingly, of course!). If the apples & cheese are made ahead of time and the pastry sheets are ready to go -- this is a breakfast item that can be whipped up in no time! I love this recipe! I'm two for two with the recipes I made so far.... i'm loving this book! Head over to Sweet Melissa Sundays to see how the other bakers made out with this super-easy, delicious breakfast treat.

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April 16, 2009

Baby Makes Five

A really cool friend ordered these for a baby shower for a Super Mom-to-Be --- she's having baby boy NUMBER THREE!!! (I know who to call if my next child is a boy.) CONGRATULATIONS, Mon!

Red Velvet w/Blue Cream Cheese Frosting

Featured in, entry # 22236
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April 12, 2009

::SMS:: Brooklyn Brownout Cake

FINALLY!!! I get to join in on all the fun for Sweet Melissa Sundays.

Elyse of Confectionery Creations chose Brooklyn Brownout Cake (page 111 in Sweet Melissa's Baking Book) for this Sunday's baking session (the recipe can be found on Elyse's blog). Last week when I went thru the list of recipes, I was super excited when I came across this one. I think it had something to do with the fact that i was born & raised in Brooklyn. Or maybe because BabyDaddy would actually help me eat this since he's a huge chocolate fan. But how can anyone go wrong with a chocolate cake with brownie crumble and gananche frosting?!?!?!? HEAVEN!!!

The brownie crumble is made with a brownie recipe that can be found on page 82 of the cookbook. So first things first.... making the brownies. I made them on Wednesday night (without walnuts cause I didnt have any and BabyDaddy said he didnt want walnuts in his cake). I gave half my batch to (fellow-SMS Baker) foodcarious cause she had the gall to tell me she was going to use a brownie mix --- or even worse to my ears --- BUY THEM. Ugh.... I was making them anyway... might as well share. (Plus, she's really cute & i was more than happy to see her again!) Anyways, sorry... back to the brownies.

The recipe for the brownies suggests using a 9 x 9 x 2 pan but the only pan i have that is close to that size is an 8 x 8 x 2 -- which worked out great. Using my pan, the brownies were done in 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I must say -- my whole house smelled like chocolate.

You go from this.... liquid chocolate

to this...

Next was making the cakes. I didnt have regular coffee on-hand; all I had was hazelnut flavored coffee. I made that stronger than usual and just used that. Using 7" pans my cakes took about 45 minutes complete. The cakes were really puffy when they came outta the oven but eventually they flattened themselves out... i didnt have to trim off the tops. After they came out, I wished i used 8" pans instead cause i thought that the 7" cakes were really high. I thought about cutting them in half then making two smaller cakes but decided not to and just went for it.

On to assembling the cake. Place one cake layer on a plate, spoon some brownie crumble, add 2nd layer, add ganache and voila!

THE VERDICT: Almost as good as my Valentines Chocolate Cake. I thought the cake was a little too dry. I loved the brownie crumble in the middle. Loved the ganache. And like my Valentine's cake, next time.... will add a huge layer of chocolate buttercream on top.
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April 08, 2009

Web Address Update

FYI.... in case you didnt notice, you can now remove the ".blogspot" from the web address.
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April 05, 2009

::SMS:: Honey Beescotti

I missed out on this Sunday's baking session because of prior commitments. But check out some other Sweet Melissa Sunday Bakers and their adventures in baking.
Mermaid Sweets
Pink Stripes
Elyse's Confectionary Creations

Megan had a playdate on Saturday and this was their take-home treat.

Featured in, entry # 20990
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April 02, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays

My baking group is using The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. We are not affiliated with Melissa Murphy or her bakery Sweet Melissa Patisserie. We're just fans of the cookbook and bakery!

Here's a list of our completed & upcoming recipes:
1. Honey Beescotti
2. Brooklyn Brownout Cake
3. Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling
4. Granola Breakfast Cookies
5. Strawberry Shortcakes
6. Lemon Icebox Cake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
7. Guinness Gingerbread
8. Sour Cherry Pie with Pistachio Crumble
9. Bee Stings
10. Bear’s Peach Cobbler
11. Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds
11. Butterscotch Cashew Bars
12. Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies
13. MY PICK: Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Fudge Sauce or Butterscotch Sauce
14. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Cornmeal Crumble Crust
15. Whole Orange-Poppy Seed Cake
16. Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves
17. Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
18. Snickerdoodles
19. Hazelnut Truffles
20. Mom's Bananna Apple Bread
21. Fresh Peach Muffins
22. Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake
23. Perfect Pound Cake
24. Orange Scented Scones
25. Caramelized Onions, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins
26. Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble
27. Sticky Buns (with Toasted Almonds)
28. Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes
29. Devils Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
30. Sweet Almond Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce
31. Pear Cranberry Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble
32. Butter Toffee Crunch
33. Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas
34. Golden Almond Fruitcake
35. Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake with Blackberry Glaze
36. Chocolate Creme Caramels
37. Chocolate Pie Crust
38. Lemon Walnut-Sour Cream Pound Cake
39. Black Bottom Brownies
40. Butterscotch Pudding
41. Red Velvet Cake
42. Easy Chocolate Mousse
43. Strawberry Lemonade
44. Sugar Cookies
45. Roasted Pecan Cake with Caramel Orange Marmalade and Burnt Orange Buttercream
46. Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
47. Double-crusted Caramel Apple Pie
48. Pavlova Peach Melba
49. Pecan Shortbread Cookies
50. Chocolate Malted Layer Cake
51. Sweet Potato Bread with Cinnamon-Rum-Orange Glaze
52. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
53. Peanut Butter Truffles
54. Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble
55. Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel-Rum Raisin Sauce
56. Butterscotch Pralines
57. Coconut Custard Pie
58. Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints
59. Chocolate Orange Macaroons
60. Chestnut Honey Madeleines
61. Ginger Snaps
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April 01, 2009

Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake

Forget Sara Lee; move over Entenmann's. This is now my favorite pound cake, as well. It's buttery and dense as pound cake should be. The only thing that I would do differently is cut out one egg next time.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for buttering pan
3 cups cake flour plus additional for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (4 1/2 inches deep; not with a removable bottom) or a 10-inch bundt pan (3 1/4 inches deep; 3-qt capacity). I only had a 9" bundt pan on hand and it worked out fine.

Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven.
Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess flour.

Sift together flour and salt into a bowl THREE TIMES -- that's right, three times!

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.

Spoon batter into pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 325°F. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely.

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