Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Garde Manger Project

I've been keeping pretty busy lately. New job, school, kid, and trying to fit in a personal life. But this mock cake that we had to do for a class project was one of the things that took up my time lately and something that I can sit back and look at and see a finished product that I take pride in. A fellow classmate / friend and I went in on the project together making tons of salt dough roses and fighting with the red salt dough to make it go on and stay on. And now it's done and it will be going on display at our school because we're just that kick ass. The following picture is the final cake with the salt dough roses, and fresh bouquet that was shown at our Grand Banquet at CIV. I will hopefully get better pictures of it soon and add them in at that time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

This week I had to make a sweet treat for my daughter's class. I already knew I wanted to make cookies and decorate them. And I've been dying to use a book I got for Christmas. Well, actually I got a gift card and this is what I got with it. It has great ideas for cakes and cookie and recipes in the back. I used her Basic Sugar Cookie and Royal Icing recipes. Her sugar cookies are simple to make and taste great. Same goes for the royal icing. Very simple and still comes out tasting great.
I played around with designs a little bit but since I was making these for a class of 3 and 4 year olds I kinda felt obligated to stick with one design to be fair to everyone. I made hearts withing hearts for the class. There's a couple of examples in the picture to the left. Other than that I did polka dots and squiggles and stripes. Kerah even got to decorate two. Check out the Nana and Papa cookies.

These are some of my favorite designs. I wish I had made a bigger batch so I could have played with it more.

Basic Sugar Cookies from Beautiful Cake by Peggy Porschen

Makes about 25 medium-size or 12 large cookies (I got 28 hearts)

Baking temerature: 350*F; baking time: 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size ( it took about 15 minutes on 350* but my oven's old)

  • 1 3/4 sticks unslated soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Optional Flavors

  • For vanilla cookies, add seeds from 1 vanilla bean ( I used 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • For lemon cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • For orange cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • For chocolate cookies, replace 1/3 cup of the flour with 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  1. In the electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and any flavoring until well mixed and just becoming creamy in texture. Don't overwork, or the cookies will spread during baking (very very true).
  2. Beat in the egg until well combined. Sift in the flour and mix on low speed untill a dough forms. Gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it for at least 1 hour. (I roll it up into a tube like the tube of cookie dough you get at the grocery store. Makes it easier to roll out later.)
  3. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it briefly. Using 2 1/4 inch marzipan spacers, roll it out to an even thicknes. (I used a rolling pin with spacers on it. And I rolled my cookies out to 1/8" thickness and they came out fine.)
  4. Use cookie cutters to cut out the desired shapes and, using a spatula, lay these on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper (I prefer parchament. I end up having to peel the cookies off of wax paper.) Chill again for about 30 minutes and heat the oven to 350*.
  5. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Wrapped in foil or plastic wrap, these cookies will keep well in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

Tip: Always bake equal-size cookies together to make sure they bake in the same time. If you mix different sizes, the smaller ones will be baked when the larger ones are still raw in the middle.

Royal Icing from Beautiful Cakes by Peggy Porschen

Makes about 2 1/4 lb

  • about 1 oz. dried egg white powder, or whites of 4 medium eggs (I ended up using 5 whites of large eggs just to keep from killing my mixer)
  • 8 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • squeeze of lemon juice ( I used 1 tsp clear vanilla)
  1. If using the dried egg white, mix with 2/3 cup water and strain to get rid of any lumps. Ideally let this rest overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Place the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, add three-quarters of the egg-white mix or the lightlybeaten egg whites and the lemon juice, and start mixing on low speed.
  3. Once these are well combined, check the consistency. If the sides of the bowl still look dry and crumbly, add some more of the mixture or egg white until the icing looks almost smooth but not wet.
  4. Keep mixing for 4 to 5 minutes, until it reaches stiff-peak consistency.
  5. Spoon into a sealable, plastic container and cover with a clean, damp cloth and the lid. Store at room temperature for up to 7 days; if using fresh egg, store in the refrigerator. The egg white can seperate from the sugar after a couple of days, which will turn the icing into a dry, dense mixture. In such a case, remix at low speed until smooth and at stiff-peak consistency again. Make sure no dried icing bits sticking to the sides of your storage container get into the mixing bowl.

When I made this I got it to soft peak consistency with the recipe above using my edits. Using the soft-peak consistency I outlined my hearts. Then I thinned it out with water to make it runny so I could fill in the outlines. I added a teaspoon of water at a time until it was runny or until I could scoop up the icing with my spatula and it would run off like a ribbon.

"Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art."

--Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Created a Little Baking Monster

There's a new rule in my house, and quite frankly it should have never been a rule but just a way of life, but there is one hour of the day everyday dedicated to no TV. I started in yesterday after I picked my daughter up from school. I sat with her and explained it over lunch and asked her what she wanted to do with her one hour with no TV. And I very clearly said it could be anything: Barbies, dolls, drawing, painting. What does this little girl want to do? Make challah bread. Yes, I have brought my daughter to the dark side. Or maybe I've shown her the light. However you want to see it.

So, I guess I could take this opportunity to take the mystery and magic out of bread. Before I took my baking class in school I was petrified of yeast. I didn't know how to take care of it or that I even needed to take care of it. Then Chef Jay enlightened me and now I know. Yeast feeds off sugars to produce Carbon dioxide and alcohol. The starch in the flour feeds the yeast making it expand and make all those wonderful little bubbles. In the case of challah, sugar provides more food for the yeast.

Another thing about making yeast bread is there are steps in the process that if you remember them or keep them close by while baking makes everything else easy peasy:
  1. SCALE ingredients
  2. MIX ingredients
  3. REST
  4. PUNCH
  6. ROUND
  7. REST
  8. MAKE UP
  9. PROOF
  10. BAKE until internal temp reaches 180*
  11. COOL
  12. STORE only after completely cooled.

Those last two steps aren't actual steps that worry anyone but still a part of the process.

After I scale out my ingredients, I start out by pouring my water for the recipe into my mixing bowl and adding the yeast. Since I made challah yesterday I'll be using that recipe for my examples. Then, I add the brown sugar (food for the yeast), the oil and the eggs. Right on top of that I add my bread flour and the salt on top of that. Adding the salt last is very important so that you don't kill the yeast. When they mingle bad things happen. Then, I get to mixing. MIX only until everything comes together, about 2 minutes on a low setting, then take a look. Is it too moist? Is it too dry? Or does it look just right? Fix it now if there is fixing to be had. Then start mixing again and step up the speed. But don't kill your mixer. My mixer can handle bread dough only but so much so I set it on second speed. Mix for about 6 - 8 minutes then check your dough. You should be able to stretch out a small piece and not have it break. And if you can take that small piece and stretch it out really thin without tearing it then you have done everything right up to this point. The gluten in the flour has been worked and kneaded to the point where it has become elastic and stretchy and that's exactly what you want.

Now it's time to let your dough take a nap. Let it REST for about 15 minutes, maybe 30, depending. You can either let it rest in the bowl of your electric mixer or oil up a bowl to let it rest in. I set my timer for 15 minutes then check it out. If it's not ready then I come back in another 15. It should be doubled in volume when ready and when you can poke it with your finger and the dent stays then it's ready. Like so:

Now, it's time to get physical! It's time for PUNCHING! Not as fun as it sounds but I guess if your pissed or frustrated this could help. I take the side of the dough furthest from me pick it up stretching it out and then punch it into the middle. Then I turn the bowl a quarter turn and do it again until each side has been punched. Or you can take the east and west side of the dough stretch it out and punch them in and then do it to the north and south sides of the dough. Whatever. This just gets rid of the bubbles that have formed to this point, redistributes the yeast so they can feed more, redistributes the temperature and relaxes the gluten.

Now, get that scale out. It's time to PORTION and ROUND your dough. My recipe made about 17 4oz. rolls and 1 1lb loaf. But I'll be giving you a scaled down version. If you just want loaves of bread I see no harm in just cutting down your dough into equal portions. Just as long as they are equal. It makes for easier baking. When you've portioned it all out then round them by stretching the dough on one side and pinching it on the other. Set it down pinched side down on some parchment paper or plastic wrap. Leave plenty of time for it to expand, if not they'll grown into each other. Protect them by loosely covering with plastic wrap.

4oz rolls

Once again, let them REST for 15 minutes. This resting makes it easier to work with when you MAKE UP the loaves. Which leads us to make up. In my case I rolled out my pieces into one long snakey looking piece then coiled them around and tucked the end piece under. Or you can take your portions and cut them into threes, roll them out and do a simple braid.

Coiled 1 lb loaf

Now it's time to PROOF. I don't have a proofer but I have my ways. I boil some water on the stove and pour it into loaf pans and stick those in the very bottom of my oven and it turns my oven into a proofer. You can let it proof without even doing that, but the steam helps it rise. And depending on what bread you are baking it determines the length of the proof. Here we don't want to proof too much or you'll end up with huge holes in the bread. That's for another kind of bread.


Next, it's time for baking. But you need to egg wash challah bread to give that pretty shiny brown crust. So take one egg (that's all I needed) and beat it to death basically. You don't want to run the risk of having chunks of egg white baked into the crust. Take a pastry brush and carefully brush on the egg and BAKE in a 350* oven. It only took 15 minutes for each tray. But they should be golden brown and shiny. If you want to sacrifice one, check the internal temperature. If they are truly done it should read 180*.

Et voila! Challah bread. I know it was wordy so thank you for hanging in there if you made it this far. Ever since it was lceared up for me I haven't been able to stop baing and now I've turned my daughter into a baking monster. And as a little side story, they were taught Rub a Dub Dub in class today and three kids got to sit in a "tub" and be either a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker. Guess what my daughter was. Yeah, the baker. I thought it was sooo cute.

“The hunger for LOVE is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for BREAD.”

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Challah Bread courtesy CIV Bakeshop

  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 oz instant yeast or 1/3 oz active dry yeast
  • 1 oz brown sugar
  • 3/4 oz oil
  • 1 1/4 oz eggs
  • 1/2 oz egg yolk
  • 3/4 lb bread flour
  • 1/8 oz salt

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chocolate Balsamic Cake and Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with White Chocolate Ganache

Today I decided to take Sunday and get busy. First, I made a Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with White Chocolate Ganache. I used an epicurious.com recipe as a guide. And I finally got around to making a chocolate cake and frosting it with my balsamic buttercream. And Cassie, you were right, the Hershey's chocolate cake is very moist.
The ingredients for the crust: 1 stick melted butter, 2 T sugar and 2 3/4 cups finely crushed gingersnap cookies
The finished gingersnap cookie crust.The ingredients for the cheesecake (not including the cranberry sauce or the ganache): 1 cup sugar, 4 - 8 ounce packs of cream cheese, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 7 ounces greek yogurt, 1 T vanilla and 4 eggs.

As I was mixing the batter for the cheesecake I was heating the cranberry sauce (preferably with whole cranberries) over medium low heat and made the ganache. The ganache was 1/2 cup whipping cream and 9 ounces white chocolate. Although, I must say the ganache was a little too runny even after setting up in the fridge for a couple hours. Next time I'll make it with some more chocolate. When the batter was made I poured it all in the springform pan and then took an ice cream scoop and dolloped four spots of cranberry sauce into the batter then swirled it with a knife. Next, I wrapped the bottom with foil stuck it in a much bigger cake pan and filled it with some hot water and threw it in the oven.Now some people bake the crust before they pour the cheesecake batter in, but my grandma made the best cheesecakes ever and never ever ever baked the crust seperately. Therefore, I shall never do that either. (Stepping off soap box now)The finished product. It looks ooey gooey. In fact it's stands up quite well and the ooey gooeyness is the white chocolate. But it is sooooooooo good. It is the creamiest cheesecake I've ever had.

The very next thing I did was start on my chocolate cake. I had baked the cake a couple days ago and like I mentioned I used the recipe on the side of the Hershey's cocoa powder box, or it's on their website. I had to whip the buttercream back up until it smoothed out again, which took awhile, but I had to clean up while that was going anyways. And here's my helper:

If she likes it, it must be good.

I eventually got to frosting and here it is:

And it is very good. There is a hint of bitterness in the frosting but it all goes away with the chocolate cake. And next time I'm topping it with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and it will be so yummy.

You knew this was coming:

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche." / "Let them eat brioche" attributed to Marie Antoinette but never said it and got stuck with it anyways.