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!!

Ahh… ahh… Choux

No, I don’t have a cold. It is cold here, below freezing at dawn, but it warming to the high 40’s to mid 50’s in the afternoon. When the sun is out it is beautiful. When its raining… well there is nothing like a 40 deg rain to keep one inside and baking.

Normally, I make my cream puffs with choux, creme pat and chocolate ganache. I thought this time I would make a lighter pastry with sweet chocolate and vanilla whipped cream filling, and with deference to the season, decided to stack them like a snowman. (Full disclosure: I saw them on the final of The Great American Baking Show and thought they looked amazing and I never have a problem with the baked choux sticking to the parchment paper like Amanda Faber did. Hmmm.)template

I drew a template of circles 1.75″ and 0.75″ diameter on one side of a piece of parchment
paper. The paper was then placed, pencil side down on a double thick cookie sheet and set aside.

Choux Pastry

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ c (65 grams) AP flour
  • ½ tsp granulated white sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ c (120 ml) water
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tbl water to glaze (optional

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 400o F (200o C) and place rack in center of oven.
  2. In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt.
  3. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.cooling-choux
  4. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. It will look like mashed potatoes. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). The dough will film the bottom and sides of the saucepan and make cleaning a pain.
  5. Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will piped-chouxseparate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).
  6. Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe disks, alternating sizes onto the parchment lined baking
    sheet. (Hold the bag at a 90-degree angle and pipe disks.) Alternate sizes so you don’t end up with all large or small disks. If baked-chouxdesired, with a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with the lightly beaten egg.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350o F (180o C).
  8. Remove from oven, pierce an end of each éclair with a small skewer to release the holes-in-chouxinterior steam.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

METHOD

  1. Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar, and beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form / it’s scoop-able with a spoon and holds its shape.
  3. Place leftovers in a container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Sweet Vanilla Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Pour the cream into a well-chilled bowl and add the sugar and vanilla.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer or balloon whisk, beat the cream to the desired consistency.
  3. For soft peaks, the cream will be just thick enough to hold its shape in soft billows.
  4. For stiffly beaten cream, the beaters or whisk wires will leave distinct traces on the cream and stand in firm peaks when the beaters are lifted.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Fill large puffs with chocolate whipped cream and small ones with vanilla.
  2. Pipe a swirl of vanilla whipped cream on top of the large puff
  3. Place small, filled puff on top of large one using the swirl of whipped cream as a binder.
  4. Drizzle with ganache
  5. Top with a berry, if you have any. A dab of whipped cream piped on top would be good also.completed-choux-dessertchoux-showing-filling

 

Do You Know the Way to Canelé?

do-you-know-the-way-to-san-jose-sheet-musicA canelé is a small French pastry flavored with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It takes the shape of small, striated cylinder up to five centimeters in height with a depression at the top. Originally a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France, today it is widely available in pâtisseries in France and abroad.

I had my first canelé in Seattle while visiting Neil and Maureen this past December. It was delicious and I knew I would make them soon. I started researching recipes and equipment when I returned home. Traditional canelé molds are copper to facilitate heat transfer and provide an even caramelized crust. At about $24 each, I decided to opt for the modern silicone mold version ($15 for a sheet of 8 molds.) Supposedly, the crust is more difficult to caramelize and more likely to be uneven.

Adapted from ChezPim, basically her recipe and technique with some of my words and comments.

Ingredients

  • 500g (2c) whole milk
  • 50g (3½ tblsp) butter
  • 1 vanilla bean or 3-4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 100g (¾c +1 tblsp) AP flour
  • 250g (2c) un-sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼c rum (optional)
  • 20g (¾oz) beeswax cut into small chunks (using a hot knife will make your life easier)
  • 20g (¾oz or 1½ tablespoons) butter, cut into small chunks

Method

  1. Make the batter – 2 days before you plan to bake the canelés.
    1. Place the milk, butter, and vanilla bean (cut in half and scrape the seeds into the

      canale-liquid-ingredients

      Liquid Ingredients

      pot) over medium heat and bring to a boil. If you want to be precise it should be 183F. Remove from heat and let cool down while you get to the other ingredients. Measure and then sift together the flour, powder sugar and salt.

    2. Use your fingers, or a spatula and press the eggs and yolks through a strainer into the dry ingredients to mix them without incorporating air.
    3. When the milk/butter/vanilla mixture is just a bit warm but not so hot ~120F or so, remove the vanilla bean halves. Don’t throw them away

      Dry Ingredients

      Dry Ingredients

      though, instead put them in another bowl of about the same size. Pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl containing the dry ingredients, and gently stir together until well-blended. You’ll see plenty of lumps in the batter, but that’s fine for now. I use a wooden spoon to mash the large lumps against the side of the bowl to break them up.

    4. Strain the lumpy batter (through a fine-mesh strainer) into the bowl you put the vanilla bean in earlier, pressing the lumps through until you get a

      Batter

      Final Batter

      totally lump-free batter. Add the rum and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (no need to press the plastic right over the surface of the batter) and place in the fridge to rest for 48 hours. Stir once after 24 hours and put it back in the fridge to continue to rest the second 24 hours.

  2. Coat the silicone molds:
    1. Place the molds in the hot oven for a few minutes to warm.
    2. Melt equal amounts of beeswax + butter in a small pan set in nearly boiling water.

      melted-wax-and-butter

      Melted Wax and Butter Mixture

    3. Stir occasionally until melted. Keep mixture warm as it will set up quickly,
  3. With a pastry brush, (don’t use a good one, it will be ruined. I bought a silicone bristle brush from which the wax can be cleaned,) paint the hot beeswax + butter mixture on the warm mold. Brush mostly on the side of the molds, the wax will drip a little down to the bottom on its own. If you brush all the way to the bottom you’ll end up with a thick pool of wax on the bottom of the mold. Brush a thin coating such that you can see the mold through it.
  4. After coated, freeze the molds for ~10 minutes, you want

    Coated Silicone Mold

    Coated Silicone Mold

    them to be very cold when they go into the oven. Keep the batter cold too, this will keep the moist, custardy interior.

  5. When you’re ready to bake, fill each cavity almost to the top. Place the mold on the middle rack of your preheated oven.
  6. Bake them for 15 minutes at 450F (preheated at 475F) then lower the temperature after you put the molds in the oven) then an additional 40 minutes at 375F, turning the molds every 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
  7. The canelé batter will expand over the molds, but only

    Baking Caneles

    Baking Caneles

    slightly. If you see the massive poufs (Pim’s word, but a good one), especially around the first 10-20 minutes take the whole baking sheet out of the oven and put it outside for a few minutes, the poufs should calm down and settle back into the molds. When the batter settles back into the molds, put them back in the oven to continue baking. (Make sure you pause the timer when the molds are outside the oven and restart it when you put it back so you could keep track of the actual baking time.)

    caneles

    Baked Caneles

Summertime, And The Livin’ is Easy

It’s summertime again. Actually, it is the end of May and summer is still 3 weeks away but if you live in South Florida summer began months ago. I needed a cake for a dinner party this weekend and said to myself, “Self, what springs to mind when you think about summer?” After a moment, I replied, “Well, after a long hot winter I want to fall into a cool, refreshing cake that shrieks summer.” I decided on a Watermelon Cake. It doesn’t taste like watermelon (it is actually a white cake dyed reddy/pink) but sure looks like one. IMG_1421[1]

Bake the cake in a greased and flowered Wilton Egg Pan (because I own one.) Fill the pan to within an inch of the top and be sure to put a cookie sheet under it while baking as it will overflow the pan. My oven is slow so I baked it for an hour at 350 F. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Trying to remove the cake while warm will destroy it.

After the cake is completely cool, (I know, the cake is very cool, but in this case I mean the temperature) cut the excess cake along the edge of the Egg Pan to make a perfectly flat side then turn it out onto a wire rack. If necessary loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a flexible spatula.

Frost the cake with a heavy IMG_1422[1]layer of white crusting butter cream frosting (I made a double recipe of the below) and place in the freezer. When the frosting is set, about an hour, coat with another layer of white frosting making it as smooth as possible, returning to the freezer. This makes the thicker white watermelon rind. While the twice white frosted cake is again setting add some green food coloring to the remaining frosting. This green should be the background green of the watermelon, not the dark green lines. Add a little additional milk to reduce the viscosity, or to the non-scientists among us, reduce the “thickness.” After the frosting on the cake is set, smooth a layer of the light, thinner green frosting over the entire cake and return to the freezer. After the now light green cake is set, remove from the freezer and smooth the surface. I like to use a latex gloved hand wetted by holding it under the faucet. A bowl of water would also work but then you have to clean another bowl. You will have to clean and re-wet your hand a few times to smooth the entire cake. Once the light green frosted cake is smooth, guess what? Return it to the freezer to set.
IMG_1427[1]Remove the smooth light green frosted cake from the freezer and paint the dark green stripes. I used Duff green airbrush dye and a 3/8″ brush (because I own them.) If you are the artistic type with a good eye and imagination this is no biggie. If you are the more analytical, fallen chemist type, set your iPad with a picture of a watermelon next to your cake and copy to the best of your limited artistic ability.

BTW, here is a tip I found online: to disperse the chocolate chips and not have them settle to the bottom of the cake batter mix them into the flour mixture being sure the are well coated with flour. This seems to help them “float” in the cake batter as it bakes.

Here is another tip: don’t let the cake with the thick frosting warm up in the car ride to your party. Soften or melted rind signficantly affects the overall impression of the cake.

Recipe: Heavenly White (Watermelon Colored) Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites ( or substitute)
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • Red dye

Directions

  1. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
  2. Add chocolate chips and mix being sure the chips are well coated with the flour mixture
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks. Add red dye to approximate a watermelon color.
  4. Cream butter or margarine. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add red food dye until the same watermelon pinky/red is achieved. Mix in flavorings. Add colored meringue, and beat thoroughly into batter.  Pour into well greased and floured Egg Pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 60 minutes. Check the springiness of the cake after about 45 min. Guess when it is done (when the depression caused by your finger is anti-depressed, or springs back up.) Leave the cake in pans until completely cool, then trim the bumpy puffed up cake above the rim of the Egg Pan and remove and transfer to a wire rack.

Basic Crusting Butter Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup solid high ratio shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon of meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (or extract of choice)
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Green food color (add after cake is frosted with the white frosting)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla and milk. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating on a slow speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Keep bowl or covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Don’t overwhip or it will bring air to the icing and is impossible to smooth. If you have a kitchen Aid use white attachment, not whip attachment.

 

A Berry Good Tip

A few weeks ago Fran found a tip on how to keep berries fresh in the refrigerator. If you are like me and am annoyed when the berries you buy on Saturday are all white and fuzzy by Monday try this. I know everyone else in the world new and uses this tip but it worked so well I had to post it.Blackberries

Wash the berries in a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water. Swish them around for a couple of minutes to wash all the dirt and bugs (just kidding) and unseen mold spores out. Then wash well, at least a couple of minutes. The berries will be clean with no odor of vinegar and the ones I did this way lasted 2 weeks and are still good.

Here is another suggestion: mash some berries and layer with vanilla ice cream in a tall thin glass. This will create a parfait and as Donkey in Shrek said: “Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet! “

Baked Almost Donuts

About mid-morning yesterday I realized the banana I had for breakfast several hours earlier was not going to sustain me until lunch. Suddenly I had a donut craving. IMG_1145Remembering that I had a mini-donut baking pan I searched AllRecipes for a baked donut recipe, assuming it would be healthier (and easier) than frying. I chose a recipe for “Donut Muffins” and planned on baking them in my donut baking pan. I started assembling all the pans and ingredients but couldn’t find the ^#&%#* donut baking pan.

Finally I realized the recipe directions were inaccurate. I should have planned 15 minutes for preparation and 15 minutes for baking and 20 minutes to find the ^#&%#* donut baking pan. Ultimately I had to settle and use mini-cupcake pans. Also, the recipe says it makes 24 servings. In my humble opinion this recipe makes 24 delicious mini-muffins which are one serving, unless there are two people home, when it could then, under duress, be 2 servings. I strongly suggest not making these if there are more than 2 people home, there won’t be enough. You could always double up the recipe, if you really wanted to.

 Donut Muffins

24 Servings, Prep Time: 15 Minutes, Cook Time: 15 Minutes, Time to find the ^#&%#* donut baking pan: 20 min

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup margarine, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Search every cupboard, drawer and cabinet for the ^#&%#* donut baking pan.
  3. Failing to find it, grease and flour 24 mini-muffin cups.
  4. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup margarine, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. While muffins are baking, place 1/4 cup of melted margarine in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted margarine, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool slightly and serve.

Break The Fast 2013

BreakTheFast2013InvitationSmall

Ilayne’s Break The Fast Invitation

Each year I make a “themed cake” for Break the Fast. This year, I was so blown away by the incredible invitation we received I decided I had to take homage to Ilayne’s talent. Her invitation used lace for borders and the silverware was punched out of used (and cleaned) soda cans. Absolutely amazing.

BreaktheFastCake2013 InvitationSmall

Dave’s 2013 Break The Fast Cake

The cake I made was a simple white velvet, two layer 9′ x 13″ cake, roughly the same aspect ratio of the invitation. I used a crusting dark chocolate frosting, substituting 6 tbs dark cocoa plus 3 tbs vegetable oil for 3 bittersweet chocolate squares to darken the color of the frosting. Nuke the chocolate, oil and 1 cup butter until almost melted then add 1 tsp vanilla. Stir 1 cup of milk into 2 lbs confectioners’ sugar, add the chocolate mixture and stir. The frosting will harden as it cools. Add more milk to make it spreading consistency. (Warm the milk if you think you need more time before spreading the frosting.)  Frost the bottom layer, stack the second layer and frost completely. To evenly smooth the frosting, heat a long spatula in boiling water, wipe dry and use the warm spatula  to smooth the top and sides of the cake. (Thank you Patty Beck for that great hint.)

BreaktheFastCakeLace2013 InvitationSmall

Gum Past Lace

Roll out white gumpaste to a large thin layer. Cut one piece into a strip 1″ wide and 13″ long and allow to dry flat. Cut another piece into an isosceles  triangle 4″ high with an 8″ base and allow to dry flat.  (In Euclidean geometry, the isosceles triangle theorem, also known as the pons asinorum, states that the angles opposite the two equal sides of an isosceles triangle are equal. It is, in essence, the content of proposition 5 in Book I of Euclid’s Elements.) When dry, cover the cut, white gumpaste with a lace paper doily and airbrush with black edible airbrush paint. (Use alcohol as the solvent. I use vodka, purchased in the little bottles airlines use. They are inexpensive and do not require much storage space.) The round place mat was cut from the same gumpaste using two round lids as templates. The larger circle was airbrushed silver, the other left white. The words “Dig In” were sugar sheet punch-out letters. I wish I could have done script, but I only had block letters and my piping skills are not adequate to small script lettering.

BreaktheFastCakeSilverwarewith template2013 Invitation

Gumpaste Silverware and Template Image

Make the silverware by cutting gumpaste in the shape of a knife, fork and spoon. Lay the cut gumpaste on a similar sized real knife, fork and spoon so the gumpaste utensils conform to, and 3 dimensionally take the shape of the real silverware. (Note 1: 3 tines are much easier than 4.) (Note 2: Do not set heavy objects on the dried, completed gumpaste silverware. It causes bad language to be spoke out loud.)


RECIPES:

White Velvet Cake (Requires two cakes this size)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan. Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour into the 9″ x 13″ inch pan.
  • Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing. Each finished cake should be 1″ to 1.5″ high, slightly dense and very moist.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 tbl dark chocolate cocoa
  • 3 tbl vegetable oil
  • 2 pound confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 1.5 cup milk

Directions

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave, or in the top of a double boiler. In a large bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 1/2 of the milk. Blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Add remaining milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
Let stand until spreadable (frosting will thicken as it cools).