In The Beginning…

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It all started with a post-wedding cake. Daniel and Frances were married in Sacramento, then honeymooned in Egypt. Upon returning to the States they stopped by South Florida for a second reception for our friends and family who couldn’t travel to California.

Over the years, and once safely ensconced in retirement I expanded both my baking and short story writing. I completed a set of religious fiction short stories and compiled them into my first book “Ruth.” We then acquired a rescue dog, Rosie, and I wrote a number of short-stories basked on Rose, or Rosie, or Rosalita. Enjoying writing for fun so much I expanded into fiction, writing a political thriller, The Star Alliance, and science fiction with “The Quantum Butterfly Effect.”

A BATTERED OLD SUIT CASE

Daniel and France's Post Wedding Cake

I made my first “wedding” cake for that party. It shares the colors of Boston College and the University of Florida. I then continued making cakes for various occasions before expanding into pastries and entrees. My last project was 3 doz raspberry/chocolate chip brownies with a ganache frosting and mini-eclairs.

TO A HOTEL SOMEPLACE

ToAHotelSomeplace is my writer’s portal. Short stories and novellas are described and listed with links to Amazon and Kindle for purchase, or Prime Members to read for free! Upcoming work includes flash fiction of backstories of some of my favorite song lyrics. Several of my backstories can be read for free on Booksie.

GHOSTS THAT SELL MEMORIES

Cover 1 Color Labels

GhostsThatSell Memories chronicles our 2018 Big Adventure as we spend two weeks driving across country, from Sacramento to Vermont. I blogged each day, pretending our Havanese Rosalita was with us. This turned into the book “Road Trip! Rosie Goes ‘There and Back Again.’” I wrote it primarily for the friends we visited on the trip and my family members. GhostsThatSellMemories contains my trip blog and continues with additional travel adventures post Road Trip.
(Header photo of my hometown, Middlebury, Vermont by my life long friend David Griggs. Please visit his website  www.djgriggsphoto.com.)

 

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Straight Down the Middle

As we near the end (of some peoples playing season,) one of my golf buddies invited our foursome and families over for a patio dinner before the weather starts turning cold(er). I offered to bring a cake along to the dinner. This is what I made this morning

It’s my extreme chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

The trees are gum-paste cones made by wrapping thin gum-paste around a form, then set to dry overnight.

Of course, I rarely hit it straight down the middle!!

First Birthday

Well, I was all set for Vivian’s first birthday party on August 10, but due to typical one year old circumstances, it was postponed until today, August 25. This offered no problems, rather a whole new opportunity to perfect (maybe too strong a word) a mermaid themed birthday cake for Vivian.

The cake was comprised of two 12″ round merengue white cake layers and three 9″ chocolate layers. Each were crumb coated and refrigerated. Meanwhile, I made marshmallow fondant and colored portions a shades of “ocean green” colors. The entire 3 layer chocolate and 2 layer vanilla cakes were covered with fondant.Then used some of it to punch out circular “scales.”

A variety of sea “creatures” were molded from both chocolate, white chocolate (tinted pink) and gum paste. The purple “sea weed” was made from gum paste and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. These were actually made over a month ago and were fine to use today. The chocolate sea creatures were made three weeks ago and stored in the fridge.

The cakes were stacked this morning and the “sea creatures” and mermaid tails were attached using Dab-And-Hold edible adhesive.

My critique: the design and execution was good. The chocolate cake was outstanding, the meringue white cake tasted good, but was a bit dry. I am still looking for an acceptable recipe. Marshmallow fondant is too sweet, but the little figurines need to be a fixed to a smooth surface. I may give rolled buttercream next. I also found a recipe where I can substitute the cocoa ingredients to create a vanilla cake with similar crumb and moisture to my chocolate cake recipe. More experimentation!!

Extreme Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Grease and flour the two Wilton 3D Egg cake pans. 
  3. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer.
  6. Stir in the boiling water by hand.

Meringue White Cake

INGREDIENTS

• 1 cup butter (softened)
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 cups cake flour* (345 grams spooned & measured carefully)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 cup milk (2% milkfat)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup egg whites plus 3 tablespoons (160 g)

METHOD

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until they are stiff and form peaks. This may take a minute or two. Pour the egg whites into another bowl and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to add them to the batter.
  2. Using the same bowl that you used to beat the egg whites, place the softened butter in and cream the butter for about 2 minutes (using the beater blade attachmenuntil it is white in appearance.
  3. Add the sugar to the butter and beat until fluffy (about another 1-2 minutes).
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour (measured carefully*), salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  5. In another bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk.
  7. Add the stiffly beaten eggs to the cake batter. Fold the egg whites in gently. Do not overmix at this point. If you do, your cake will become more dense.
  8. Grease and flour 2 9″ round cake pans. Pour the cake batter equally into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Bake the cakes at 350 degrees for 25-27 minutes or until the top bounces back when you touch it.
  10. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges and remove them from the pans to a wire rack, allowing them to cool completely.

Marshmallow Fondant

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g marshmallows
  • 1000 g confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp white vanilla
  • 2-3 Tbl water

METHOD

  1. Grease (well with Crisco or equivalent) a heat proof microwavable bowl
  2. Place marshmallow in the bowl and sprinkle 2-3 Tbl water over the marshmallows
  3. Heat in a microwave in 30 second increments until the marshmallow is melted and smooth. Don’t overcook and burn.
  4. Grease (well) dough hook and stand mixer bowl and add melted marshmallow.
  5. Add confectioners sugar a cup at a time and stir on medium until incorporated.
  6. Add the vanilla during one of the sugar additions.
  7. Reserve about a cup of sugar to use during hand kneading
  8. Grease (well) your workspace and hands and turn the fondant out.
  9. Cover with sugar and begin kneading, adding more sugar as necessary until the fondant is smooth and not sticky.
  10. Use a greased rolling pin and roll the fondant out to required size. For this cake I rolled it out to about 24″ x 24″. Once kneaded and no longer sticky I folded it into quarters to make it easy to pick up and drape over the cake. Be careful. If not adequately kneaded, it will tear.


Peace on this (and all) Shabbats

Most synagogues host an Oneg after Shabbat services on Friday night. The name Oneg Shabbat means joy of the Sabbath in Hebrew and usually refers to a celebratory gathering held after Sabbath services, often with food and socializing.

Our synagogue, Temple Or Rishon, invites each family to host an Oneg once a year and many do so, often joining efforts with other friends or families. We have baked desserts for the Oneg we host with friends every year. This year I made eclairs and chocolate chip/raspberry bit/ganache covered brownies. These have been favorites of the synagogue membership. The recipes for both can be found at eclairs and brownies.

I made two dozen eclairs.

 

And three dozen brownies. This year I topped them with ground cashews. Last year one friend said they would have been the best brownies he ever had, if they had some nuts on them.

Time Was On My Side

Last year, after fresh peach season was over, I saw a recipe for Roasted Peach and Strawberry Jam. I saved that link for a half a year, until this week, when the farmer’s market was selling BOTH fresh peaches and strawberries. It was worth the wait.

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This jam isn’t cooked, but will last a couple of week if refrigerated. As if!

It is an easy and (hands on) quick recipe.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (350 g) hulled and cut up strawberries
  • 3 cups (415 g) halved peaches
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl lemon juice

METHOD

  1. Halve peaches and remove the stone
  2. Bake peach halves at 250 F for 15 minutes, then turn over, skin side up and bake for and additional 15 min
  3. Slice strawberries – they don’t have to be too small, but should at least be sliced in half
  4. Remove peach halves from oven, remove the skin and dice them, toss with the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.
  5. Spread fruit on a lightly olive oil sprayed, aluminum foil lined baking sheet (with edges) for 45-60 minutes or until the fruit is very soft, but not so long as the juice solidifies.
  6. Remove the fruit from the over and let cool 5-10 minute.
  7. Pour fruit and juices into a food processor and puree until the desired consistency is obtained.
  8. Can and place in the refrigerator.

 

Three Times a Charm

Time flies when you are having fun! The past year was filled with several personal achievements and lots and lots of fun, my granddaughter’s third birthday being the best of them. Much of my time and energy was applied to writing short stories and novellas. I published two novellas during the past twelve months and am working on a book of short stories and flash fiction. The novellas, The Star Alliance and The Quantum Butterfly Effect are available on Amazon. Buy a copy, or read for free on Amazon Prime and let me know what you think.

D2AA03A7-4C00-445D-97F9-B0500131ACC0This year’s birthday theme was Disney’s “Frozen.” Grace loves all the Disney princesses (Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” is her favorite.) As a special surprise, Princess Elsa and her sister Anna, visited Grace’s birthday party! (I was Chef Louie.)img_0023-1

Keeping with the theme I made a six layer “Frozen” cake, two 10″ vanilla as the base, two 8″ chocolate in the middle and two 5″ vanilla for the top. I offset the layers to provide a ledge for the characters of Anna and Olaf, the snowman.

The cakes were crumb coated with buttercream to which I added a few drops of purple and blue food coloring with minimal stirring. This provided the swirling ice sheet pattern to the cake. Remember to put some aside for coloring to be used as the trees, tree trunk and snow. (I also made a half sheet cake to assure there was enough for everyone at the party. I left this with the frozen ice design rather than frosting with the meringue.img_0009-1

The frosting was a basic meringue stabilized with boiling corn syrup. It needs to be img_0012-3applied and sculpted to the cake quickly as it firms rapidly and will skin over when cool. Again, put some in a piping bag to use as icicles and touch up around the cake.

Blue food color spray added the ice highlights which really finished the cakes. The figurines made great toys for the birthday girl, Princess Grace.

 

We Only Have One Second Birthday

Granddaughter Grace’s 2nd birthday was Friday, June 1 and her party was Saturday the 2nd. For Mother’s Day, Fran and I met the rest of the family at the San Diego Zoo sending Grace to near Nirvana with all the animals. In the following weeks she visited the Los Angeles Zoo. She fed the giraffe and when she tried to pet it, the zoo keeper said, “No, no, no, don’t pet him,” so now every time she sees a giraffe Grace says “No, no, no.” She calls lions “Roars,” elephants are the trumpeting sound of an elephant that I cannot spell and zebras, oddly, are just “Zebras.”03C2353D-6118-4EC7-B8C0-84C1E604F759

So of course I had to make a zoo themed birthday cake with several fondant animal decorations. I made a “roar”, a “no, no, no” a “bbbrrrrreeeeehhhhaaaaa” (sp?), and a zebra from marshmallow fondant. They sat atop a  a double layer chocolate cake beside a white meringue “2” cake. The chocolate base cake was frosted with pink Italian Meringue Buttercream and the “2” was frosted with traditional white buttercream.

The white meringue “2” cake and the animals were bordered with green buttercream grass and “Happy Birthday Grace” was piped in purple letters. Purple is currently her favorite color. Unfortunately, my handwriting does not enhance the quality of my piping script.  The zebra is eating the grass (because he was falling forward and Fran suggested having him graze to make it look on purpose.)

White Meringue Cake

INGREDIENTS

• 1 cup butter (softened)
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 cups cake flour* (345 grams spooned & measured carefully)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 cup milk (2% milkfat)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup egg whites plus 3 tablespoons (160 g)

METHOD

1. Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until they are stiff and form peaks. This may take a minute or two. Pour the egg whites into another bowl and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to add them to the batter.
2. Using the same bowl that you used to beat the egg whites, place the softened butter in and cream the butter for about 2 minutes (using the beater blade attachmenuntil it is white in appearance.
3. Add the sugar to the butter and beat until fluffy (about another 1-2 minutes).
4. In a small bowl, combine the flour (measured carefully*), salt and baking powder. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk.
7. Add the stiffly beaten eggs to the cake batter. Fold the egg whites in gently. Do not overmix at this point. If you do, your cake will become more dense.
8. Grease and flour 2 9″ round cake pans. Pour the cake batter equally into the prepared cake pans.
9. Bake the cakes at 350 degrees for 25-27 minutes or until the top bounces back when you touch it.
10. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges and remove them from the pans to a wire rack, allowing them to cool completely.

Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting

https://ofbatteranddough.com/italian-meringue-buttercream-frosting-recipe/ Author: Rebecca Blackwell
Serves: 7 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup water
  • 1¼ cup plus ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 9 large egg whites
  • 6 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

METHOD

  1. Combine the water and 1¼ cup sugar in a small saucepan and stir once or twice just to moisten the sugar. Do not stir again; stirring encourages the sugar to crystalize. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and continue to cook until it reaches a temperature between 246 and 250 degrees.
  2. As soon as you set the syrup to cook, begin the meringue. Beat the egg whites in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment at medium speed until frothy. While beating, sprinkle in the cream of tartar and then the remaining ⅓ cup sugar. Beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. *The goal is to have the syrup at the right temperature and the meringue at the stiff peak stage at the same time. If the syrup is not quite ready, but the meringue is, continue to beat the egg whites with the mixer on the lowest speed until the syrup reaches the desired temperature. If the syrup is done before the meringue is ready, add a very small amount of hot (not cold) water to lower the temperature slightly.
  3. When the syrup is ready, turn off the mixer and quickly pour about ⅓ cup into the meringue. Immediately turn the mixer to medium-high and then continue to pour the hot syrup into the meringue in a thin, steady stream. Try to keep the syrup from getting on the beater, although some will get on there no matter what you do.
  4. Continue to beat the meringue with the whisk attachment at medium speed, until you touch the bottom of the bowl and it is cool to the touch. *It’s important to not add the butter before the meringue is completely cool, so that the butter doesn’t melt.
  5. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter in 2 or 3 tablespoon size chunks. Keep mixing and adding the butter until all 6 sticks are incorporated. If the buttercream doesn’t look completely smooth at this point, just keep beating. It will smooth out. If it looks runny or curdled, the butter has probably melted. Put it in the refrigerator for 20 or 30 minutes and then continue beating until it’s smooth.
  6. After the butter has been fully incorporated, you can add any flavor additions you like. See ideas below.

A Remiss is as Good as a Re-mile

I was remiss in not documenting the baking I did for our synagogue’s Oneg (celebration of the joy of Shabbat after Friday night services) a couple of weeks ago. All of the recipes are posted elsewhere. Search this blog for the various key words for more detail.

We were one of three families providing pastries etc for the Oneg. I made Gooey Strawberry Brownies. (Previously I made raspberry brownies so tried strawberry this time.)  Due to the size of the strawberry jammy bits the brownies ended up very moist and “gooey,” which is not a bad thing. Somehow, only half of the brownies made it onto the serving tray, so sadly, the other half had to come home with me.

I also made sweet whipped cream filled, chocolate drizzled profiteroles. I find choux pastries easy to make and freeze well for a last minute snack when invited out, or if friends stop by. I actually saw them online a few weeks ago and decided they would be good to add to my Oneg selection.

There is nothing like a couple of dozen tartlets with cream patisserie filling and blueberry topping. Tartlets and cream patisserie are quick and easy to make, and again the tart shells freeze for future use, if necessary.  It wasn’t necessary to freeze any, they were decimated at the oneg. I like to glaze pastries with apple jelly to add that nice shine. Last year I could not find any apply jelly in the stores, or even anyone who had heard of it, so I made a couple of pints and am still using it.

And finally I decided to make some fig newtons with some of the huge store of figs I have in the cupboard prior to this year’s harvest.

Oh! I almost forgot.  I had some sugar cookies in the freezer so added them to the mix on a whim. A few months ago I froze them in cylinders so I could just cut them into disks and bake them. I used them all up so need to make another batch.