Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baby Shower

Final shower cake
Its a strange feeling for me that my little sister is going to be a mama in a few short weeks.  I am pretty excited to meet the little guy though.  Now every time I am at the store, I wander through the baby section to see if there is anything that looks cute.  I think about my aunts and how involved they were and still are in my life and how I am looking forward to being part of his life.
Just getting started

Speaking of aunts, my aunt and I threw a baby shower for my sis this past weekend.  I made the cake for the event using bold colors because Em dislikes pastels and airplanes because that is how she is decorating her baby room.  This was my first tiered cake and my first time working with fondant.  I do not know what possess me to try new things with cake when I have twenty people coming over to see it , but I do.  I had originally planned to make a fondant bow on top of the cake, but that was not meant to be.  It collapsed on me overnight so I had to pull it off and do some quick repairs.
Pretty  bow that wasn't meant to be

Overall it worked out all right.  In the future I think that I need to make the cake from scratch to better support the top tier.  I used Funfetti box mix because that is my sister's favorite, but it was a little weak.  I used the recommendation from Rose Levy Beranbaum to use straws instead of dowels.  This system worked great.  The straws were easy to cut to length and supported the cake just fine.  Also, I already had them in my cabinet which is even better!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fruit Salsa

I made this fruit salsa as a dish for my little sister's baby shower last weekend.  It was a light and refreshing; an interesting alternative to your typical fruit salad.  I chose it because it was easy and I had already abused myself by making the cake.  A dish made in the food processor was exactly what I needed.  It was a total hit.

Fruit Salsa adapted from Pampered Chef
4 Granny Smith Apples
4 kiwi
1 Orange
1 pint of Strawberries
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons apricot preserves

Take the apples for a spin in the food processor until they are chopped into small pieces but not applesauce.  Pour into a bowl.  Put the kiwi and strawberries into the food processor and pulse until they are in small pieces.  Pour on top of the apples.  Zest the orange on top of the apple, strawberry, kiwi mixture.  Juice the orange and put into a bowl.  Add the brown sugar and preserves.  Mix together and pour over the fruit mixture.  Stir to combine.  Serve with cinnamon chips, tiny sugar cookies, or just eat it right out of the bowl.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Busy Busy

Its been a busy couple of weeks.  Will post soon with July's Daring Baker's Challenge.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Walnut and Blue Cheese Sourdough

So a little while ago, I tried my hand at another batch of sourdough bread. Since I already had the barm, I was able to simply refresh it for a few days and then Saturday morning I was on my way. This bread has a starter that takes four hours to make. I again chose to spike the final dough with a tsp of yeast in order to have a simple 60-90 minute fermentation time. This time, however, I decided to try one of the variations that Peter Reinhart suggests and incorporate walnuts and blue cheese into the dough. The dough is very stiff to knead. I initially put it in my Kitchen Aid mixer and then after listening to it struggle, I pulled the dough out to knead by hand. It took a lot of kneading to become a smooth and elastic dough that passed the window pane test.

The final bread was fantastic. The blue cheese was a subtle overtone and the walnuts provided crunch as well as a crimson ribbon running through the bread. I did not know that the walnut oil turned the dough red until now. Because of the stronger flavor (both the sour flavor and the blue cheese) this bread makes a fantastic appetizer bread that pairs easily with wine. I also found some artichoke antipasto at Trader Joe's that is absolutely wonderful spread on the bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Scotch Ale Spent Grain Bread

I was recently lucky enough to acquire some spent brewer's grain from hard core home brewers that my husband works with. Rumor has it, this scotch ale that they make was amazing.  Not being a beer drinker myself, its hard to say, but the spent grain from this ale made fantastic bread.  The final product was a sweet and moist bread that was delicious on its own or paired with a little butter or cheese.  The best part about it, it is whole wheat.  I only used a few tablespoons of regular bread flour to soften it a touch and frankly, because I had run out of wheat flour.

I had enough spent grains to make two batches of this bread.  On the second round I tried making a rye soaker, but my husband and I both preferred the whole wheat soaker.  Ingredients like buttermilk, honey, and olive oil were added for flavor and softness.  Those can be omitted or reduced as desired.

I am going to submit this baby to Susan's weekly Yeast Spotting.  

SPENT GRAIN BREAD adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread

8 ounces whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Mix ingredients together and leave covered overnight at room temperature.  I was unable to use it the next day so after being out overnight, the soaker was placed in the fridge for a couple of days.

8 ounces whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup water at room temperature

Mix ingredients together.  Knead for a few minutes.  Cover and place in the fridge.  I also had this in the fridge for a couple of days.

Final Dough
All of the soaker at room temperature
All of the biga at room temperature
4 ounces spent grains
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon extra light olive oil
5-7 tablespoons bread flour

Mix together all of the ingredients.  Once they come together in a ball, knead with the dough hook adding up to 7 tablespoons of bread flour as needed.  Allow mixture to rest for about 5-7 minutes and then knead until bread passes the windowpane test.  Allow to raise for about 1 hour.

Shape as desired.  I made this bread in a loaf pan and as a free standing loaf.  The dough is soft and does a bit better in a loaf pan.

Allow to raise again.  Heat oven to 450 degrees for 20 minutes and then turn temperature down to 350 degrees.  Bake bread at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls are hands down my favorite breakfast food.  My mom used to only make them for special occasions, like Christmas, and I would anticipate them for weeks.  I love these cinnamon rolls plain, warm, with icing, a few days old, any which way.  The basic sweet dough that makes these delicious lovelies also makes a fantastic clover dinner roll.

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 teaspoons instant yeast)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk, scalded and then cooled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
  • sugar and cinnamon to add to the inside of the dough

Microwave the butter and milk.  Add water and eggs to the mixture and stir.  Feel the bowl, if it is only lukewarm, add the yeast.  Mix in the rest of ingredients in, taking care to use the flour sparingly.  Knead for a few minutes and allow to rise until doubled.

Once the first proof is over, turn dough out onto a lightly flofured surface.  Roll dough out into a rectangle.  Melt some butter/margarine.  Brush melted butter onto the dough.  Sprinkle the buttered dough generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  I use a mixture that is a little heavier on the sugar than cinnamon, but my husband prefers it opposite.  Roll the dough up and slice into rolls of desired thickness.  Honestly, these rolls are best a bit on the thin side.  I have tried making them fat, but the ratio of dough to filling was not as tasty.  Place the rolls on a pan.  Above I used a round cake pan, which makes the rolls nice an soft.  My mother always used a cookie sheet, which is very good, but makes for crustier outsides.

Allow rolls to rise for about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake the rolls for 25 minutes or so.

Ice as desired.  My mother's icing was just a simple combination of powdered sugar, milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Use as much milk as you would like to make the icing as thin as you like.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Recently I got a new toy.  Kitchen torch!  I had been wanting one for awhile, not because I am a creme brulee addict, but because I like torched meringue so much better than baked meringue.  I have such issues with meringue under the broiler.  It shrinks and dries out and is just plain icky.  A friend of mine had even more trouble with the broiler.  Her meringue caught on fire!  So a kitchen torch it is.

I decided as my first dessert using my new toy to make lemon meringue pie, one of my husband's favorites.  I like to use lemon curd for my pie filling, I love how the tartness is offset by the sweet meringue.


Lemon Curd  (about 2 cups) adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes
8 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy pan mix the egg yolks and sugar together.  I read in Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Cake Bible that mixing the egg yolks and sugar together helps to keep your curd from curdling.  After mixing the egg yolks and sugar together, add the lemon juice and mix together.  Heat over medium heat until mixture thickens to where it coats the back of the spoon.  Do not let the mixture boil or really even almost boil or you will have curdling problems too.

Once the mixture thickens, remove from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.  If curdling occurred (i.e. there are little bits of scrambled egg in your curd) strain through a fine mesh strainer.

If you are concerned about calories and cholesterol, this version uses fewer eggs than the above version and is still tasty.  

3-4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter with whisk attachment until foamy.  Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all incorporated.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Crust (This recipe makes a lot of crust.  You can cut it down or wrap it well and freeze the leftover)
1 pound 4 ounces pastry flour (I use 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 cake flour. Pastry flour has a slightly lower percentage of gluten then all purpose, but higher than cake.  The combination leads to a lighter crust.)
13 ounces lard (you can use shortening if you are afraid of lard or are vegan or just plain don't like it, but the taste is different
5 ounces cold water
.4 ounces (2 1/2 teaspoons) salt
1 ounce (1/8 cup) sugar, optional (I use it in sweet pies like this one but I ditch it for savory pies)

I like to make my pie crust in my food processor.  It helps me not to over agitate the gluten and I find it tedious to cut the lard into the flour.  My friend who is a pastry chef and who gave me this recipe told me to rub the lard into the flour with my fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  She does make a mean pie crust, but I am lazy and the food processor is faster.

Put flour, sugar, and salt into food processor.  Pulse for a few seconds to get everything mixed up and aerated.  Add the lard to the food processor.  Pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal.  Add just enough cold water so that it comes together.  The dough should not be wet, it should just stay together when you squeeze it.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Roll out and place into pie pan.  Dock (poke) dough with fork to keep from puffing during baking.  You can also fill the middle of the dough with parchment and beans, however, I find this a delicate dough that rips easily and just docking usually does the job.  Bake crust at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely.  Fill with lemon curd and pile the meringue on top.  Take kitchen torch and brown the top of the meringue.  Alternately, place pie under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top.  Watch carefully!  

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