Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Midweek Kitchen Recommendations 2: Bak-klene

This is the most amazing stuff. You know how you get that sort of sticky, greasy build-up on baking pans from using traditional cooking spray? This doesn't leave any of that residue. It has some kind of starch in it, as well as vegetable oil, so you don't have to grease and flour your pans, both are in the spray! You can order it online here. Or, I have found it in Williams-Sonoma stores.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chocolate Irish Car Bomb Cake

These are a few of my favorite things.

So, I didn’t actually make this cake completely according to The Priestess’s recipe. Throughout this past week I kept hearing and reading about chocolate stout cakes and I thought that would make a delicious alternative to the cake part of the recipe. I found this recipe at epicurious (and an altered version of it here at smitten kitchen). And frankly, I’ve never seen a recipe on the internet that had so many glowing reviews. I figured I had to try it.

It was such an easy cake to make. I did cut the recipe in half, as a lot of the reviews suggested that it makes a ton of batter. A half recipe was perfect for two 8-inch cake pans. Some of the reviews also mention that the butter/stout/chocolate mixture starts to look like it has “broken” as it cools. It’s true. But if you stir it up it’s fine, and it incorporates well when you mix it with the other ingredients.

The Priestess’s Irish Whiskey Pastry Cream is delicious. Probably my favorite part of the recipe. It doesn’t taste too much of the liquor, but you can definitely taste it in there and, yum.

The Bailey’s frosting...didn’t work out so well for me. In the cold light of day I’m just now realizing that I only used half the amount of powdered sugar that I was supposed to. Which makes my experience with the recipe that much more strange--read on. When I first put the ingredients together it was more like a glaze than a fluffy frosting, so I added a little bit more powdered sugar. But then it started tasting too powdered sugar-y for me. So I thought I’d try to nudge it closer to being a buttercream. I added (in small increments) 7 Tbls. of soft (but cool) unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. It was closer to buttercream, and I went ahead and used it to frost the cake, but it was still not ultimately what I wanted it to be. And it still had a really powdered sugar-y taste and texture.

So--the whole package together--was pretty good. A hit at the St. Patrick’s Day party. But, I don’t know that it really works for me. The chocolate stout cake was really delicious-dense and dark, but the chocolate overwhelms the taste of the stout. It’s good if you want a dark chocolate cake (and it has given me a plan for mr.’s birthday cake). But next time I want a car bomb cake, I’ll want to taste the stout, so I’ll try The Priestess’s recipe intact. EXCEPT--I am going to figure out how to make a Bailey’s buttercream. I’m thinking that if I use the BAKED buttercream recipe, but replace maybe half the milk (3/4 cup) with Bailey’s, it will have the taste and texture I want. More experimentation to come.

TGIP Rating--Chocolate Irish Car Bomb Cake--Needs work. The chocolate cake is perfect on its own--but maybe not right for this combination. The pastry cream is perfect. The frosting needs some tweaking to be what I really want.

Next up: Easter weekend will be the next time I take on a project. When I was a kid we always had cake with green coconut on top (for grass) and jelly beans scattered around on the "grass". So, I feel compelled to make a real, live coconut cake. I saw this episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and the cake looked beyond delicious. I'm not a Southerner, so I don't really know anything about the coconut cake tradition--but I'll learn!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 31: I can't...

...keep going at this pace. I'm having fun. I'm learning a lot. I'm also battling every day to lose weight. This blog is not entirely to blame for my weight gain over the past year and a half, but it has certainly contributed. So. I'm changing my plan to baking (and blogging about it) every other week.

Between weeks, I promise I will share with you some of my favorite baking-related sites and tools, and, of course, recipes that I've found and hope to try--maybe you can try them first!

You can't know how much it saddens me to realize that I shouldn't be baking as often as I am. But my options were either this or start baking low-calorie treats...which...I just don't believe in anymore. If you're going to take the trouble/time to bake, go all out...and this is the part I have yet to master...just eat a smaller portion. We'll call that your first dose of Kitchen Wisdom from TGIP.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Wedding" Cake

The top secret project is no longer a secret! My parents celebrated 50 years of married bliss on Thursday, March 4.

We (their 8 children and our ever-patient spouses) threw a bit of a party for them. I was in charge of the cake (naturally). We wanted to have something like a wedding cake. As I've disclaimed before, I am not a professional baker, not by a long shot. I lack the tools, the space, and the know-how to make a real wedding cake (although I'd certainly like to try my hand at that someday). So, I decided to make a 3-layer 8 inch cake, almost like the top layer of a wedding cake, as well as enough cupcakes to feed all the guests at the party.

It was an undertaking fueled by wine and kindly assisted by my sister, Yoga Girl.

The original plan was to use fondant for the 8 inch cake, stamp a diamond shape into the sides and put gold dragees in the corners where the stamped diamonds meet. I made my own fondant using this recipe, and it was much easier than I thought. Evidence:

But I got gunshy about working with fondant (which I have only a passing familiarity with) for a project/event like this one. Another project for another time. Instead, I decided to use regular buttercream. As I've also mentioned before, my piping skills are lackluster, but luckily, I had made more than enough of these chocolate hearts (in white, milk, and dark--intended to top the cupcakes) and decided to use the white ones to decorate the 8 inch cake.

The Quilter had sneakily stolen my parents' original cake topper and I did a little repair work so we could use it on this cake.

Isn't it sweet?!

I used the Whiteout Cake and Cinnamon Buttercream recipes (minus the cinnamon) from BAKED and a basic chocolate creme filling recipe from Fannie Farmer to fill the 8-inch layers.

I've used the BAKED Buttercream recipe (in various versions) at least 4 or 5 times and each time it worked out perfectly, so I was very surprised and more than a little dismayed when the batch that I was using for the 8-inch cake broke and became curdled-looking. It still tasted delicious and the texture when we ate it was perfect, it didn't feel curdled in our mouths. But, needless to say, it didn't look as lovely as I'd hoped. Perfect buttercream on the left, notsomuch on the right:

I don't know that anyone other than those of us intimately involved with the cake really noticed. But I have to admit, if I hadn't been under a time crunch I probably would have had a good sob session. A 50th Anniversary cake is not the one where you want your Buttercream to fail. I asked the BAKED boys what could have gone wrong (I love Facebook!) and they said that usually is the result of overbeating. Which I didn't feel like I had done. So, here's my theory: with the first batch, I let the butter sit out from the beginning of the process to get soft (but still cool). With subsequent batches, I waited until I was partway through the recipe to take the butter out of the fridge, out of concern that it would get too soft. I think what happened was that it was not soft enough, and so had to be beaten for longer to get it to be completely integrated.

Ultimately, I think the entire presentation turned out to be very pretty. And it tasted good, which is what honestly matters the most to me.

The happy couple now:

TGIP Rating--Whiteout Cake--The cake part is definitely a KEEPER. The best white cake I've ever tasted. Moist and delicious. I'll have to try the recipe as a whole, complete with White Chocolate Buttercream, another time.
--Buttercream--I still contend that it's the perfect buttercream. I just need to test my theory so I know what to do to make it perfect EVERY time.
--Chocolate Creme Filling--Also a KEEPER. It was surprisingly delicious.

Next up: I'm going to try to make these cupcakes into a regular 8-inch cake. Just for kicks. And because the Priestess is laid up with a brand new hip replacement. And also (obviously) for St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

French Silk Chocolate Pie AND Tiramisu

Indulge much? Why yes. We do.

I'm warning you now: you should not make either of these recipes. They are too good. You will like them too much. And you will crave them.

First up: French Silk Chocolate Pie. If you think the "French Silk" pie you pick up at Village Inn or the Sara Lee freezer version is really French Silk, you are sorely mistaken. You will be ecstatically surprised to discover how rich and delicious and EASY a homemade French Silk pie can be. And, like me, you will never go back to the fake stuff. My friend Miriam (who guinea-pigged and recommended this recipe to me) suggests multiplying the recipe times 2-1/2, because otherwise the filling will be too shallow. With my pie pan, I probably could have done just a double-up and it would have been perfect.

There was almost too much filling. Almost. However, since it was the most delicious pie filling on earth, we managed. I was concerned, as I went along, that the filling was going to turn out grainy. But, I stuck with it, following directions to the letter, beating the mixture for 5 minutes after each egg addition, and it all came together beautifully.

Creamy. Smooth. Not too fluffy, but chock-full of flavor. Yes, there are raw eggs in this pie. And yet again, nobody suffered, so I stand by the notion that average grocery store eggs are not as scary as people would like you to believe. But, if you want to use pasteurized eggs as extra insurance, that's probably not a bad idea.

Now: Tiramisu. Holy mother of god. Or the Italian version of such an exclamation. Again, I have to say, the stuff you think is Tiramisu at "Italian" restaurants? Not so much. This is rich, thick (as opposed to fluffy), creamy, oh so good.

And not difficult at all. I have heard lots of people report about their Tiramisu turning out runny or soggy, or various other problems. Not this one. I followed some of the advice I found here (specifically the part about how to dip and arrange the ladyfingers) and then just followed the recipe to the letter, and it turned out perfectly.

The children liked it, even though there is a little bit of booze in it. The adults liked it. A lot. I used Marsala wine as the recipe suggests in the mascarpone mixture, so the flavor ended up reminding me a little bit of my Aunt Dorothy's Wine Cake (which calls for Sherry). But depending on your liquor tastes, I think it would be just as delicious with spiced rum, kahlua, or brandy.

TGIP Rating--French Silk Chocolate Pie--KEEPER. Maybe a once-a-year treat? It's addictive.
--Tiramisu--KEEPER. I will try it with homemade Ladyfingers, when I take on that baking project, but frankly, I don't have high hopes about the homemade version having enough substance. Guess we'll see!

Next up: A TOP SECRET project. Hopefully not an epic fail. Some occasions really call for an epic success.