Friday, March 9, 2012

Because Sometimes a Birthday is More Than Just Another Year...

Sometimes a birthday is a celebration of a life that hangs in the balance. A joy that this date has come and hope that the next one will too.  Sometimes a birthday is proof of the blood, sweat, and tears of countess survivors, husbands, wives, sons daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, doctors, nurses, hospice workers, researchers, activists, volunteers, and so many, many more. The American Cancer Society calls itself "The Official Sponsor of Birthdays" and I love their commercials and guest artists. Something as simple as hearing the birthday song sang sometimes means much more.

I got to make a cake for someone celebrating a milestone birthday. Family, friends, and coworkers came together to celebrate a whopping 50 years! (Dang that's old!) She also started her third round of chemo this week.

The numbers actually gave me fits. I made some out of fondant, but only dried it overnight so the dang things fell apart this morning. It's one reason I'm really not happy with Satin Ice, but when I need black that's the best option. I ended up making the numbers out of chocolate. Piped them on parchment papers similar to a technique I've used before. I got smart and stuck straws in each of them to support them (you can see the one in the 5 peeking on the left side between the curly part and the straight part). Once they set up (took like 10 minutes in the fridge versus like two weeks the dang fondant takes), I covered them in my favorite Moonstone luster dust. It's a good thing you can't see the back of these. I guess you have to make two sides and glue them together to make it look good.

 I thought the black and white would make a nice theme (and keep me from having to color a bunch of fondant), but it desperately needed some color for "pop." Again, I busted out the Moonstone luster dust and hit the little pearls along the bottom for some funkiness. I suppose that's not the best word choice for food products, is it?

And flowers, oh flowers... They add color and softness to a cake. And I've seen pictures of beautiful cakes with just a simple red flower and no other decorations. I searched around and this seems to be a cross between an anemone and a fantasy flower. Super easy to make and just the perfect shade of red to add to the cake. I can promise you'll see more in the future.

And of course, my favorite, the aftermath:

My favorite chocolate cake recipe, cookies and cream filling, and covered in chocolate ganache. I snuck a bite of the filling before I used it in the cake, quality control you know, but managed to avoid temptation at the party.

Happy Birthday Donna! And here's to many, many, many more.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week!

I was surprised to learn that there is such a thing as Chocolate Chip Cookie Week, but it is so. And it is the second week of March. I was looking for a cookie recipe to take to my class since a student suggested I needed to bring in cookies to class (it was offered tongue-in-cheek but I figure they'll appreciate it since I'm also giving them a quiz).

I went in search of an awesome recipe. I have big shoes to fill since the woman who invented the cookie was Mrs. Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn. Apparently she got a lifetime supply of chocolate from Nestle for all her trouble. Sigh...if only... But this time I got fancy with the chocolate. An unusual trip to Big Lots (previously one of my favorite stores) left me with pounds of soon-to-expire Scharffen Berger. Right now there are like 12 bags of bittersweet and semi-sweet chunks in my pantry. That's in addition to the four bags of bittersweet I used in these cookies. I see lots of ganache in my future.

I decided to find the best recipe available. I usually go with the Nestle Toll House recipe, because that's what Phoebe's grandmother used.

But I wanted to make sure I had the best ever recipe. Fortunately, someone else did the hard work and I got to reap the benefits. The winning recipe was David Lebovitz's recipe, which calls for chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking. Something about liquids and proteins in the eggs. I don't try to understand the science of baking, I just appreciate the magic.

They turned out pretty good and the bittersweet chocolate was a nice touch. I hope my students like them tomorrow. And that they studied metamorphic rocks.