Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thing 1 and Thing 2

I haven't posted anything in a while, not because I haven't been baking or finding ways to use up those leftover supplies but because almost everything I've tried has been a dismal failure. I have an oddly short loaf of banana bread sitting on the kitchen counter. I like banana bread, but this one just wasn't right. Too sweet. Guess that's what I get for deciding it needed brown sugar, it messed up the taste.

My saddest failure, however, was a birthday cake for the husband of a friend, though I suppose you should probably consider him a friend as well. He does like the Seahawks and I'm a huge fan of those bright green uniforms they wore this weekend while getting stomped by the Bears. This couple had visited San Francisco recently, so Melinda and I stuck our little heads together and we decided that using San Fran as a theme would be awesome. And I decided that I needed to make a cake in the shape of the Palace of Fine Arts. This is the happy couple during their vacation. You can visit her blog for a long-winded account of the trip, but you may want to block out a few hours to get through the whole story. I stole this picture from her blog, I suppose I should have asked permission first. Oh well.

This should have been a fairly easy project. I have a Wilton ball pan, so dome was done. That fit nicely on my tiny little 6" pan, so I could just fill that three times and I'd be done. Then a 9" to which I was supposed to add the lake complete with fondant swans (it's like Play-doh but you get to eat it). The Palace itself was just going to be covered with fondant with cutouts to mimic the arches. I even bought little cardboard rounds and dowels to create the internal structure.

But things went awry when I baked the cake. Erik had asked for carrot cake. I've baked these before with success, but didn't really note where I got that recipe, so I turned to the interwebs and that's where I went wrong. The first batch of cake never rose so they were sad little layers that wouldn't make the palace tall enough. So I made a second batch with a different recipe. These rose a little too nicely in the oven, overflowing the pan, but then sank so that the cake was definately concave.

I did try to stack these up and go with it, using the dowel rods to hold it all up, but it was to no avail. And I was pissed off, so I decided just to deconstruct the cake and make two. These shall henceforth be known as Thing One and Thing Two since I refuse to refer to them as "cakes." I did my best to salvage the day and they still tasted pretty good, sunkend middle and unrisen layers and all. I didn't get any photos of the process since I was too busy cussing at the cake to take pictures, but I give you the results:

I decided to keep the dang swans that were supposed to be in the lake by sticking one big one on the top of the dome cake. Odd for a dude? Yes. Something I find great pleasure in anyway? Of course! But I had made up a whole bunch of white fondant and needed an excuse to use it up anyway. And the picture doesn't show how even the swan was lopsided, but it does nicely show off the swan cleavage. :)

The birthday dude (felt bad typing boy) still ate at the cake anyway. And yes, he's going right for the swan with the knife.

Of course it's just not a party at my house without the cat. So here she is trying to convince Erik that she really needs a slice of cake too. Yes, she does sit for treats, she's very strange.

So happy birthday Erik, even though it's been a while.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lemon Posset

This technically isn't baking, but I thought it'd be a nice addition anyway. I was making the Chocolate-Peanut Butter cupcakes and they're topped with ganache. Since heavy cream generally comes in a larger container than you really need for just ganache, I went searching for something that called for it. I love creme brulee, but I wouldn't have quite that much cream left over, not to mention that's pretty heavy on the cholesterol.

So I turned to the ingredient search on Allrecipes. You can tell it what ingredients you have, it'll tell you recipes that include them. It's a great tool, particularly when you're craving something but want a new way to use it. Or when it's still two days away from grocery shopping and you're desperate to use whatever is in your freezer.

This particular search gave me Lemon Posset. Score. Three ingredients: heavy cream (this was the point), lemon juice (had some in the fridge, personally squeezed by me), and sugar (I'm a baker, this is always around). Heat the sugar and cream, add lemon, refrigerate. Easy as pie. Or easier, since pie can be kinda tricky. I added some lemon zest while the cream and sugar were heating and a little less sugar, both suggestions from other users on the web page.

The lemon dessert was chosen because the hubbin loves lemon. About the only way I really like it is in water, which he won't touch. Odd, no? But I thought it would be a nice consolation prize since he got to clean up the kitchen after I wreaked havoc for three days straight in there.

The verdict?

"It's lemony." I suppose I should take that as a complement. And a warning to not ask the hubbin' for his opinion in the future. I also got a request to leave out the lemon zest since it apparently annoyed him. Wimp.

I got a taste myself though and I have to say it was pretty yummy. Not pudding like at all. The flavor was nice and deep and rich thanks to the heavy cream. It's the flavor I like so much in the creme brulee. I'm thinking you could even through some sugar on these and break out the blow torch (I tell people I have a blow torch, but it's really just one of the little hand-held guys to caramelize sugar) and make a "brulee" since you don't stick these in the oven.

So not too bad if I do say so myself, and a great way to use up those leftover ingredients from baking that would just go bad otherwise.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Well, since the majority liked chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, I set out to try a few recipes. I love the flavor combination and see Reece's peanut butter cups as some sort of gift from the confectionery gods, so this was a great fit for me and something I've never tried before. Since every baking adventure starts with a Google search, off I went.

The winner was the Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling from Food & Wine. This won since the ingredients were all things I either already have or I keep around anyway so it's a good excuse to restock. Plus, this includes filling the cupcakes and I haven't had an excuse to use my nifty new cupcake filler tip yet.

I made very few changes to the recipe since it sounded pretty good right from the start. I didn't realize I was out of buttermilk until I got home, but I found some yogurt in the fridge and decided to make an easy substitution. Since yogurt is pretty tangy, you don't lose much flavor the buttermilk would have added. I mixed up the ganache for the top early on since I wanted to see how much heavy cream I'd have leftover for another recipe. I stirred it all up, got it nice and smooth, but the jar of peanut butter I'd left on the counter after the run to the store was taunting me from behind the flour. Never one to back down from a food themed taunt, I stuck a few spoonfuls in with the chocolate. :)

The batter itself mixed up nice and fluffy, almost moose-like. That's moose as in the dessert, not moose as in Bullwinkle. No antlers on the cupcakes. But this made it easy to scoop out with an ice-cream scoop. Some didn't crown quite so nicely as they baked, but I got a few that looked real purty.

Of course the next step after baking these little guys was the filling part. As I said, I had a tip that I hadn't had the opportunity to use yet. That's pretty tragic in and of itself, but I'd also never actually filled cupcakes before. Read about how to, thought about fillings, but never got this far. So yay! It's pretty easy: shove the tip in the cupcake and squeeze till the top starts to dome up.
After all the peanut butter filling was in, all that was left was the ganache. The directions said to just dip the tops of the cupcakes in. Upon reading this I had visions of cupcakes floating in the bowl of chocolate, so I just slathered it on with my handy offset spatula. Probably not as pretty, but definitely cleaner. And since I do have the other tips that came along with the filler tip, I had to add a little bit of flair to the top.

Just too dang cute. And check out that adorable little swirl on top.

Of course the very last step is loading them all up to be toted in to TCTMNBN. I begged for months for the cupcake carrier that holds two dozen. So many of them only hold one and who in the world ever makes just one dozen cupcakes?!

These are some serious cupcakes. See how the weight of them are bowing the middle of the top tray? That's all that yummy peanut butter filling creating all that stress. :) It's the sign of a good dessert.

Hope you enjoy them if you get to try them. I was super busy in the kitchen this weekend, so I've got a few more things in the works. And I'm still looking for a caramel recipe, maybe soon. But up next week is a birthday cake that I'm totally excited about. It's gonna be awesome.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

Welome to my blog! This first post was supposed to be a birthday cake for Nini but I missed her birthday. I finally found a new reason to bake and I thought this would be a great way to start.

The hubbin's boss is having a birthday, so a cake is in order. The hubbin works at The Company That Must Not Be Named (henseforth TCTMNBN); those that work there will probably understand. The only rule for today was no cinnamon, so I went back to my old standby, Red Velvet Cake (a favorite at TCTMNBN). And this being a holiday and all, I decided to go easy on the decorating so this in an entirely fondant-free cake. The beauty of the red velvet cake is the ridiculous quanitites of red food coloring that creates the characteristic color. It leaves the batter looking like something from a bad slasher movie.

But the results are totally worth it. I don't give out this recipe (so sorry if you were watching for it, I won't be so stingy in the future but this is my secret weapon in world domination), but it's from the internet anyway so a little searching will find it quickly. The only change I make is adding way more cocoa than the measly two teapsons that the recipe calls for. Today it was however much was left in the Hershy box, but it's generally even as much as 1/4 cup. This gives it a nice chocolaty taste and smell.

The baked results aren't quite as bright as the batter, but they still look pretty nice. Of course it wouldn't be red velvet cake without the cream cheese frosting, right? Add to that a few pecans (that's pronounced puh-con if you were ever informed incorrectly) and some fancy piping with the frosting and you've got yourself a mighty good cake.

Who am I kidding? This stuff is incredible!!! Seriously, if you haven't had it, as me to make you some cupcakes. These things are made of of awesomeness. And of course, there is the leftover frosting that is sitting in a bowl next to me at this exact moment. :) So here's the final product, pleas excuse the wonky shell right front and center. That was the last few I was trying to squeeze in and things went horribly wrong.

So Happy Birthday Susanne!

And for all of you from TCTMNBN a big thanks for checking out the blog. I'm going to take a vote for what flavor of cupcakes you'd like next. Leave your suggestions in the comments.