Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers, March: Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake


At the beginning of every month, the ever-growing and always welcoming group of Daring Bakers (DBers) are assigned a baking challenge by the month's host, and at the end of that month, en masse, they blog about the baking project, revealing to the world what it is! This month's host was Morven, and she assigned Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake.

It's a fairly straightforward white cake recipe out of Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. It's lightly flavored with some lemon zest and frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream--an easy frosting, and one I prefer much more to American buttercream--it tastes less sweet and doesn't leave that horrible greasy feel in my mouth. We had to follow the recipe exactly, and we had to have four layers. Filling and frosting flavors were totally up to us.

I decided to use apricot preserves and honey
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

I love layering cakes
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

Even though I like Swiss meringue buttercream, I'm generally not a huge frosting fan, so I opted not to fill my cake with buttercream. I stuck with just the apricot honey filling.

I served the cake to friends at my monthly Savories and Sweets party on March 23, which, among other things, was my Mom's birthday. I dedicated the cake to her. I remember her watching her decorate cakes when I was a kid. They were always so beautiful, but I didnt' really appreciate them until I grew up and started decorating cakes on my own. She's so awesome. Happy birthday, Mom!
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

The other dessert was King's Hawaiian Bread with some blood orange curd I made (tasty!).
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

I was worried that my friends might not like it without the frosting filling, but they all agreed that it was just right the way it was, and I got great reviews: light, moist, very fluffy, and yummy.
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

It's definitely a cake worth making again! Thanks for a great recipe, Morven!
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 9

Note to self: Check to make sure all pens are removed from chef’s jacket before washing it with apron, side towels, assorted undergarments, and boyfriend’s work trousers. I baked the evidence into a pie. Just kidding.

Anyway, a lot of people were absent last week—maybe they thought Spring Break was two weeks long. That didn’t bother me much, since it meant more space in the kitchen to work on our sugar projects! We’re working on sugar sculpture for three weeks, and so far, we’ve learned a lot of neat tricks. Hopefully, by the end of today, I’ll have a little sea-themed sugar display to show. So far, we’ve made a base (like a little sand bar), “oyster” shells (which Chef kept calling clam shells before he was advised that clams didn’t produce pearls, but really, they look like clam shells), pearls, some seaweed, and coral.

The first thing to remember about sugar is that it’s really friggin’ hot. We’re all under orders to wear our sleeves rolled down and to use gloves when handling the cooled sugar, which is still pretty warm since it has to be warm enough to shape it by hand. Temperatures reach over 250 degrees, and if you spill it on your skin, prepare to lose a patch of it.

The second thing to remember is to watch your sugar closely, especially as it nears workable temperatures. Otherwise, you might hear one classmate yell at another across the room that he’s burning the hell out of the pot.

And everything else is fun. So far, we’ve worked with simple casts and ice-formed sculptures to make coral-like forms. Today, we’re supposed to work with pulled and blown sugar. Next week should be pastillage. We’ve been given the option to just keep working on our sea-themed show pieces or finish our sea piece and then create one from scratch. I think I’ll wait to see what we learn today before deciding. I don’t think we have enough burners to accommodate all the show pieces we’d all want to make!

We got our current class grades last week—so far, I have 113%, thanks to some extra credit I did (make a paper decorating cone). Sweet! Pardon the pun!
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Public Market, March 22

Whew! Between a big workload at the office, freelance deadlines, trying to pull my condo together after recent extensive repairs, and suffering from allergies and asthma, I mostly wanted to retreat from the world and stay in bed. But ... I had to have my veggies!!! And then run around doing errands and going to bridal showers and and and ... honestly, the market's familiarity was a refuge. And a source of amusement:

Humongous carrots and a parsnip from One Windmill Farm
One Windmill Farm, two carrots and a parsnip

With all that was going on and not feeling well, I didn't take many photos. I wanted to show off the bunny at The Wei of Chocolate, though!
3/22/08 public market

Here's the ever-growing line and crowd around the booth at One Windmill Farm. Their produce is just getting more and more amazing!
3/22/08 public market

And a shot looking south from the One Windmall Farm line. To the left, you can see what will soon be the market's permanent building (except for Saturdays, when they'll have the usual open-air outdoor market). The building straight ahead is being faced, and I like the look of its side panels!
3/22/08 public market
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tunisian couscous with vegetable stew

From Jake Tilson's Tale of 12 Kitchens.
Tunisian couscous with vegetable stew
So many things I love! Couscous, curry, and veggies. Read more!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogging by Mail

Way back in the beginning of January, The Happy Sorceress of the "Dispensing Happiness" blog opened up sign-ups for the latest round of Blogging by Mail. The idea is that you sign up and are assigned another blogger to whom you send a package of goodies. It all perpetuates the idea that getting mail through the post is A Very Cool Thing. And it is! This was my first time participating, and my mailee, Shannon of Everyday Vegetarian did a wonderful job fulfilling this round's theme of "Little Things Mean a Lot"--filling a little package with cool little things!

BBM from Shannon, the whole haul
The haul encompassed vanilla nut Teecino, mint chutney mix, Indian peanut brittle, Lindt truffles, Kheer mix, Russel Stover easter chocolates, Hershey's whole bean chocolate squares, Tetley's Masala tea, whole spice garam masala, and chocolate-scented soaps.

Here are some closer looks at a few of the goodies!

Whole-spice garam masala.
BBM from Shannon, whole spice garam masala

Vanilla nut Teeccino, which is an herbal coffee substitute--a good way to get your coffee bzzt without caffeine!
BBM from Shannon, vanilla nut teecinno coffee drink replacement

Chocolate-scented, handmade soaps. I wanted to eat them!
BBM from Shannon, chocolate-scented soaps

Indian peanut brittle--yum!!!
BBM from Shannon, Indian peanut brittle

I've been nibbling my way through the package already and have plans to roast and grind up some of the garam masala spice next week. I'll have an entire Indian-themed dinner, which I'm always in the mood for!

Thank you kindly for the wonderful package, Shannon! I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and I know I'll enjoy everything you sent! Read more!

Monday, March 17, 2008

February’s SAS party (belated)

As I prepare for this month's SAS party this weekend, I remember that I didn't really post about February's SAS party outside of the February Daring Bakers' post (where I posted more bread details). Since I can't invite a whole lot of people to begin with, I try to cycle through my list of friends, keeping a few names consistent. This time, a pair of friends I wanted to see could only do dinners, so instead of the usual lunch, I prepared a casual sit-down dinner. My friend Chris photo-documented most of the dishes since I was too busy running around. The DB project was Julia Child's French bread, so I tried to incorporate bread in most of the courses.

Course 1: Tepary bean hummus and roasted red pepper tepary bean hummus with baquette .
Course 2: Roasted beet salad with sautéed beet greens and kabu (Japanese salad) salad with sautéed kabu greens.
Course 3: Vegetable stew with epi rolls.
Course 4: Lemon curd and raspberry trifle and carrot cake cheesecake spread (from Safeway) with minted dessert boule.

All photos, courtesy of Chris!

Bread! And such a good bread recipe—long rises ensured a nice flavor for a day-long bread project, and it was fun to work with. I found a DVD of Julia's "The French Chef," season 2, which shows Julia making this very same recipe, and it was a lot of fun watching her smack the bread around. I'm finally just now getting used to working with such sticky, sticky dough, pushing it around until the gluten develops enough so that it isn’t so sticky.

Veg stew! So simple, yet so satisfying! I really don’t miss using white potatoes if I can have the more flavorful sweet potato.

Trifle! Such an easy recipe, and I was glad to be able to find a way to use up the lemon curd I'd made.

Boule of sorts! I'm glad I had fresh mint around to decorate the bread with, though I wish I'd put more prep time into it to make a nicer presentation of it. Still, it went well with the dessert cheese spread. While I was bummed that the boule didn't want to round out as it rose, I was very happy with the crust and crumb!

Teresa's thumbs up! See, I really do feed people at these parties—it isn't all just food laid out on the table. =)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 8

By the end of our third day working with chocolate, most of us were done with it. Tempering, retempering, tempering again, all night long. One of my poor classmates had the unenviable task of trying to temper white chocolate--the stuff never wanted to melt! When all was said and done, though, I came away with no concerns about working with chocolate. There was no fussing with thermometers or endless scraping of chocolate across marble. We mostly just melted it down, then cooled it with some stirring (or just by getting involved with another project, letting the bowl sit, and coming back later to find it in temper). So our last day of chocolate sent us home with a solid chocolate prickly pear pad and some pieces of printed (with cocoa butter patterns) chocolate ...
pastry class chocolate

Chef had made silicon molds of prickly pears at his main job, and he brought them in to explain the process of making the molds and so we could use them. So what does one do with a chocolate prickly pear pad?
pastry class chocolate

Turn in into a backdrop for the strawberry prom, is what.
pastry class chocolate
The wound in the left-most berry is from being pressed into the styro box. Fire the limo driver! Oh, wait ... I was the limo driver!

I used the shards on a little cake, pressing them into the buttercream, mosaic style. It was fun to eat, sorta like cracking creme brulee.
cake with leftover chocolate pieces

What I learned:
-How to make chocolate-covered strawberries using tempered chocolate, and to give them a little push after resting them on the parchment paper so they don't develop a big "foot." Also, how to dress strawberries in fancy clothes.

-How to spread temepered chocolate on cocoa butter transfer sheets, then how to bend the sheet to give the chocolate some shape (you can curl it into a teardrop shape and fill it with mousse.

-How to use acetate sheets to pipe chocolate shapes onto that you can later place on other desserts.

PS--Since I have to grab a bite before class or risk the consequence of eating my homework for dinner, this is what I usually do:
dinner before class

I'm determined not to do what I did during Classical Desserts class and eat my way to an all-time high. ;)
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Thursday, March 13, 2008


I didn't grow up eating pizza. I think my family went to Round Table a couple of times during my childhood, and around the time I got to junior high, Mom was starting to play with various pizza toppings on store-bought French bread. Surprisingly, the woman who made up the exotic corn and avocado ice cream favored pepperoni pizza more than any combination she made up. She never made her own pizza dough, though.

I did a pizza night with friends and once made a little pizza with some leftover dough. I've helped with some grilled pizza and baked up a handful of focaccia recipes, too. But I've never been pressed to make pizza from scratch. Good food and all, but not the first thing I'd choose to make. So it was fun when I saw that the most recent ATK test recipe was pizza bianca.


Pizza bianca, a Roman flatbread, is a simple white pizza--usually, just salted bread with no toppings. Variations include rosemary, sometimes cheese, other herbs--you get the gist. It's almost like focaccia. The endearing difference is that pizza bianca is thin with a crispy crust and a chewy, airy crumb. Holy yum. This is my new favorite pizza. The dough is incredibly wet and baked in oil, making the crispy crust. Top it with some fontina and capicola, and ... wow ... simple, but satisfying and addictive! Even without the toppings, the crust is wonderful! Lewis was right--I need to bake more bread.






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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Public Market Photo roundup: Feb. 23-March 8

One Windmill Farm

I've put off learning how to code jumps into blogger posts long enough. I'm hoping this will work for subscribers to my LiveJournal feed, since I know how horribly this can slow down their download. I'll be testing it out, too. I'm also going to make a point not to wait a month before posting these photo updates!

broccoli raab at Maya's Farm

grapefruit at Maya's Farm

broccoli at Maya's farm

Romanesque broccoli at Maya's Farm

orange beets at Maya's Farm

purple broccoli at Maya's Farm

blooming basil at Maya's farm

Japanese turnips at Maya's Farm

Maya's Farm flowers

Dos Arbolitos' big awesome flowers

Rainbow Valley Farm cheese samples

Urban Cookies

Sapna  Chill Out Cafe

Dos Arbolitos, heriloom tomato plants

Dos Arbolitos, heriloom tomato plant

602 Chocolates, Jennifer

Mountain Top Honey Co.

flower's from Maya's farm

Feb. 23 haul

Feb. 23 haul

One Windmill Farm: sage

Belle Fleur Chocolate

Sapna's Chill Out Cafe: brie and marmalade quesadilla

3/1/08 Market haul, mostly One Windmill Farm

One Windmill Farm: Swiss chard

One Windmill Farm: Swiss chard, broccoli

One Windmill Farm: shallots, garlic, sage

One Windmill Farm: shallots, garlic, sage

Un de los dos arbolitos!

Dos Arbolitos

Maya's Farm, fennel

Maya's Farm, dandelion greens

Maya's Farm, Romanesca

Maya's Farm, turnips

Maya's Farm, green onions

Crooked Sky Farms

March 8 Public Market haul

One Windmill Farm, kohlrabi

One Windmill Farm, kohlrabi

One Windmill Farm, kohlrabi

One Windmill Farm, kale

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