Saturday, July 12, 2014

I ♡ FL

There is something to be said for the feeling of peace when you cross over the Florida state line.  I have lived here my whole life and there is something soothing about flat land and horizons that go on forever.  I love how there is nothing else like a Florida sky or the smell of orange blossoms and jasmine wafting through a hot summer breeze.

Let's just say, an amazing summer full of thunderstorms every afternoon and lazy days made me want to haul myself out of cookie-retirement and get back to the business of baking.  And sharing.  :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Double Chocolate Kahlua and Salted Caramel Cake

Double Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Sugar Cage
A good friend and fellow team member Thomas commissioned me to make his birthday cake this year...with only three requirements:  Cocoa, Caramel, and Espresso.  A few weeks later he came to work with a bottle of Kahlua to add.  So this is what I came up with...
I added the Kahlua into the double chocolate cake but it lost alot of the flavor in the oven.  So, once the cakes were cooling, I used a pastry brush and soaked each 6 inch cake round with the Kahlua.  It ended up adding a layer of moisture as well as added flavor.
The salted caramel buttercream was none other than Martha Stewarts' recipe.  Fairly straightforward to follow, although a few times it looked like it was going to separate.  I held my breath and let the mixer do its thing... and it came right back together after adding the caramel.  I added a sprinkling of Sal de Ibiza (salt brought back from my trip to Spain) to each layer, on top of the buttercream. 
After dusting the top with cocoa powder over his initials I began the sugar cage to sit on top of the cake.  Jacques Torres is the king of all things chocolate and pastry so I was able to find his method for making sugar cages.  The base of the cake was lined with dark chocolate covered espresso beans.
Happy Birthday, Thomas!

Oatmeal Cream Pies

As funny as this sounds, I had a jar of marshmallow Fluff and was desperate to use it.  With limited ingredients and a strong desire not to set foot in a grocery store, I worked with what I had.  After a quick marshmallow Fluff Internet search I found this recipe for a throwback snack: Oatmeal Cream Pies.  I used to love these little snacks as a kid...
...but anything that comes in a Little Debbie box can't be good for you.  Made from scratch Oatmeal Cream Pies are the perfect solution; no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors.  Super easy to make....and they don't stick around for long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Making Beignets

Years ago, when I worked at La Parisienne (a fancy pants French restaurant) every Saturday and Sunday afternoon we served brunch.  One of my jobs was making beignets.  It was a really simple dough that was allowed to rise, cut out into small rectangles, fried, then dusted with powdered sugar.  I made so many of those little fried jewels that I often had to throw a dishtowel into the hot grease just to shake things up a bit.  Nevertheless, beignets are still one of my favorite memories from the restaurant. 
After searching the Internet for some recipes that came close to the "big batch" beignets from the restaurant days, I came across a recipe from a chef that I really admire, Alex Guarnaschelli from The Food Network.  These little pillows of fried dough came out perfectly, although a bit larger than your average beignets.
After mixing up the dough, I left it alone to rise.  Here it is after it doubled in size.
Next, I rolled the dough out to the thickness I wanted (about 1/2 inch) then cut out each beignets with a medium size round cookie cutter.
Once cut and on a floured sheet pan, let the beignets rise again.  Then it's time to fry!

Have a little plate or bowl filled with granulated sugar next to the fryer so that you can immediately roll the beignets in the sugar when they come out of the hot oil.

The recipe calls for a raspberry filling so definitely add that if it appeals to you.  I am a purist by nature so I opted out and left my beignets plain.
They came out warm, sugary, and delicate...and absolutely delicious!  Beignets take a bit of patience (all that resting, rising, and waiting) but they are well worth the wait!

A Modern Baby Shower

I recently had the opportunity to create some cookies for a very special baby shower.  A few months ago I received a message from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Audrey, asking if I was able to help out her Mom who was throwing a baby shower for her very pregnant sister-in-law.  They requested onesie cookies and the only guideline was "no pink!".  The mother is not a girly-girl (to which I can relate), so I decided to keep the cookies clean and modern.
I found some inpspiration cookies over here and loved the simplicity of the onesies.  The modern gray, white and teal needed a pop of color, so the pink was only used as an accent.  They really turned out exactly as I had hoped.

It was so much fun to reconnect with old friends!  Baby Harper has since joined the world and is doing well. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Last Minute Strawberry Shortcake

During a recent trip to visit some family, the topic of "what's for dessert?" came up.  Naturally, I had already come prepared with a few ideas and there was one in particular that had a very short prep list and easy assembly:  i am baker's Strawberry Shortcake.

After a quick adaptation (she used red velvet for the cake), I decided on a mix of chocolate and vanilla layers of cake.  I am almost ashamed to admit that they were boxed cake mixes from the grocery store, but they are quick and easy to make.  Especially when you're in someone else's kitchen with none of your proper tools or the luxury of time to do the job from scratch.  This recipe also called for Cool-Whip as the icing.  I layered the cake alternately and topped each layer with Cool-Whip and sliced strawberries. 

The best part about this cake is the presentation layer of Cool-Whip.  The bumps of icing were pretty easy to accomplish.  You take a sturdy piece of plastic or cardboard and cut out 1/2 circles into the edge.  Then, after you apply a heavy layer of Cool-Whip to the cake, drag the "comb" around the sides of the cake, while turning the cake with your other hand.  These types of cake "combs" are widely used in bakeries and come in varying sizes.  I unfortunately didn't have a sturdy enough piece of cardboard for the effect to really work on this cake...but it sure tasted good anyway!

The cake was so tall that when we cut into it, it hung off the side of the plate!  Typical fashion in my family.  :)

*This cake recipe was adapted from i am baker.

Chocolate Coconut Cake

Operation:  Birthday!

A good friend of mine commissioned a surprise birthday cake for her boyfriend and only gave me three requirements:
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate
  • Almonds
After brainstorming and pouring through recipes, this is what I came up with:
  • Dark chocolate cake, Coconut cake, Dark chocolate ganache, Coconut buttercream icing, Sweetened shredded coconut, and Toasted sliced almonds
I made four 6-inch round cakes, two were dark chocolate and two were coconut.  While the cakes were cooling, I melted 62% dark chocolate in a double-boiler for the ganache filling.  After adding some heavy cream, the ganache was set aside to cool to room temperature.  Once the coconut buttercream was made, I began assembly.  Here's how it all stacked up starting from the base of the cake:
  • Coconut cake layer
  • Dark chocolate ganache
  • Dark chocolate cake layer
  • Coconut buttercream
  • Dark chocolate cake layer
  • Dark chocolate ganache
  • Coconut Cake
  • Final top layer of Coconut buttercream
  • Coconut buttercream to frost the cake
  • Sweetened shredded coconut pressed into the sides
I am still working on my ability to pipe letters directly onto the tops of cakes.  I get all nervous that I will make a mistake and panic that I will ruin the cake.  So instead, I melted some of the leftover dark chocolate in a bowl in the microwave and poured it into a paper piping bag that I made. (The link will take you to a super easy tutorial on how to make a paper piping bag with parchment paper!)  On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, I piped "happy birthday brian" in cursive with the chocolate.  The cursive lettering makes it so that the chocolate is all in one piece for easy transport to the cake top.  After 2 or 3 minutes setting in the fridge, the chocolate accents were ready to top the cake.

I came back with the melted chocolate after and crossed my "t's" and dotted my "i's".  It wasn't until I brought the cake to work for delivery that I remembered to add the toasted almonds in a decorative border around the lettering.  (Convenient that I work in grocery retail so the ingredients and oven were readily available at the last minute!)

I do enjoy the simplicity and clean lines of the cake without the almonds, as well.  You could leave them out entirely or even put them on top of the ganache layers for an added crunch.