Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cruel Summer

Hey there. You thought I disappeared again didn’t you? Not quite. I haven’t been super busy but I’ve been keeping busy with a couple projects: both kitchen and non-kitchen related. My main project right now is painting my room. It used to be this yucky brown and hopefully, soon, it will be a nice bright green. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. My other project is keeping my daughter and I entertained while we’re on summer break. That’s probably the most daunting task.

Kitchen related! I made a cute Elmo cake for another of my mom’s co-workers. It came out so cute. I love doing those cakes. The lady I did loved the cake design but not so much the cake. She said it tasted “wheaty”. I am always willing to take criticism and I usually know what’s wrong before I get any criticism. I am my own worst critic after all. But I know you can’t please all the people all the time and I guess that’s what happened this time. If anyone has any ideas of why it would taste “wheaty” I would love to know. I tasted it myself and it tasted like cake, I didn’t think it tasted off in any way. But I will post a picture of it soon.

My daughter had an end of school pool party over at a friend’s house and I supplied the cupcakes. I made a banana cupcake with chocolate swiss meringue butter cream, a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla swiss meringue butter cream and a white cupcake with a cotton candy flavored swiss meringue butter cream. That cotton candy butter cream is my new all time favorite and I ended up eating the rest of it like it was ice cream. I want to make some right now just because! Anyways, all the cupcakes were a hit but they’re cupcakes and my audience was kids. So, I would have had to make really nasty cupcakes for them to not be a hit.

Also kitchen related and keeping-my-daughter-entertained related: we made a couple things out of some of her cookbooks. She has these three cookbooks all from the same publishing company: Pink Princess Cookbook, Fairies Cookbook and Mermaid Cookbook. They are all super cute and for the most part they have recipes that any little girl would love to dig into. But there are some recipes that I’m not sure what kid would like it. But most of them are little girl friendly and little girl approved.
The first one we tried was Rainbow Milks out of the Pink Princess Cookbook. This one didn’t turn out so great but it my fault. The recipe gives you the choice to use pretty much any fresh or frozen fruit. We chose blueberry. That wasn’t the mistake though. I made the big mistake of pouring the vanilla into the measuring spoon while it was over the bowl. And, well…… I ended up pouring too much in… Oops! It ended up tasting, well, yucky. My bad!

Another one we tried was the Bitsy Banana Bread Bites also out of the Pink Princess Cookbook. I love! love! love! banana bread. This one is very kid friendly. I basically just measured everything out for my daughter and she threw it all in the bowl and mixed it herself. We only changed one thing. I had some old bananas in the freezer and when they defrosted they produced that yummy liqueur and instead of using vanilla we used that. Let’s just say that I ate about half of the banana bread.

The last one we tried was the Fruit Salsa out of the Mermaid Cookbook. This was kinda kid friendly. While I was cutting up kiwis, apples and strawberries I had her measuring and dumping blueberries and raspberries. But her job didn’t take very long and she ended up standing there waiting on me to finish. The only thing I have to say about this is that the end product doesn’t quite look like the picture in the cookbook but I thought it was very good. My little girl only eats the strawberries and kiwis and I eat the rest so it’s a group effort but it gets high marks from us.

Bitsy Banana Bread Bites (makes 24 mini muffins)
word for word from the Pink Princess Cookbook (except for my changes, of course)
3 bananas
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla (we used the liqueur from the frozen bananas)
1/2 cup pecans, mini chocolate chips, or dried cranberries (optional) (we used pecans)
powdered sugar for dustng (we didn't even bother with this)
small, fresh, edible flowers (optional) (again, we didn't bother with this)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (I think we upped it to 350).

Mash bananas in a mixing bowl.

Add remaining ingredients (except optional ingredients), stirring until just blended. Fold in pecans, mini chocolate chips, or dried cranberries if using.

Line a mini muffin tin with 24 paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between mini muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with a small, edible flower if desired.

It's a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

Walter Winchell (1897 - 1972)

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Orange Dreamsicle and an Irish Car Bomb


OK Enough all caps. First of all, thanks for the well wishes. It’s much appreciated. I started my first infusion of Remicade and so far so good. I have to go again in two weeks for another one and after that it should be all clear from there and only go every eight weeks.

On the culinary front I’ve kept a little busy. I made two cakes for a small banquet at my mom’s work. They were celebrating a few birthdays and one guy really liked the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes I made once before so I made it a cake this time. And my mom wanted something kind of on the lighter side for the other cake. It being summer and one of my favorite ways to keep cool is with an Orange Dreamsicle I decided to do an Orange Dreamsicle Cake.

Before I go any further, I apologize now. I don’t have many pictures. I did these cakes really late at night and that was really the last thing on my mind.

Back to the cakes. The Irish Car Bomb Cake is a Guinness Stout Chocolate cake that I grabbed off of The only thing I changed was whole milk for sour cream. Probably made it a slacker batter than they intended but the end result was amazing. I picked it because it was very easily cut in half and I didn’t need much. And even cut in half it still made THREE POUNDS of batter. THREE POUNDS!!! Sorry about the caps again. On to the Guinness Stout Chocolate Cake I put a Jameson’s sugar wash: one cup water, one cup sugar and one sampler bottle of Jameson's. Then, I ice it with Bailey’s Irish Cream Butter Cream. As a finishing touch, a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top.

For the Orange Dreamsicle Cake I took a basic yellow cake recipe that I found on Smitten Kitchen and replaced the buttermilk with orange juice. I also took the zest of one orange and added that in as I was creaming the butter and sugar. It came out moist and flavorful and perfect. I halved that recipe too but came out with two pounds which was just perfect. Just a heads up if you try this recipe, when you add the orange juice the mixture separates. I just used the whip attachment and let ‘er go. But once the flour is added it is just as smooth as any other recipe. And like I said, it came out wonderfully. On top of that cake I did an orange juice sugar wash, just equal parts sugar and orange juice. I filled it with vanilla butter cream and iced it with orange butter cream. I got a chance to try this one and it was so good.

Again, sorry for the lack of pictures. I’ll work on that next time. Next thing I’m making are some muffins for my daughter’s Daisy Scout Troop. They sold enough cookies that they earned a trip to a local water park and we get to stay overnight so I offered to help with breakfast. Then, I get to make an Elmo cake for one of my mom’s co-workers. Those are so fun to do and I will definitely take pictures of that.

So, until next time, love ya!

Butter Cream Base
from the Art & Soul of Baking
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pound butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the egg whites and sugar in a bowl of a double boiler. Place bowl over pot of boiling water and constantly stir, scraping sides constantly. Heat until sugar is dissolved. To test, occasionally take off heat and swipe finger over spatula (warning: it will be hot) and if you still feel sugar put back on heat and keep stirring and scraping. When ready, whip in a stand mixer until doubled in volume and light and fluffy looking. Kind of marhmallowy. At this point I take butter that isn't room temp but isn't straight out of the fridge either. Depending on the time of year and how hot or cold it is in the house, I take the butter out as I'm starting this whole process. Making sure that the egg whites are cool enough (if you can touch the mixing bowl that you are whipping the egg whites in without burning your hand off then it's cooled enough) I cut the butter thinly as I drop it into the egg whites as it is still whipping. Sometimes the butter cream will not come together until the very last bit of butter goes in. Give it a chance make sure you scrape the bowl so all the butter gets whipped in. Then add the vanilla extract.

- add Bailey's starting with 4 teaspoons and then adding 2 teaspoons at a time to taste.
- add zest of one orange