Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

DBlogo2

It's that time of the month again ... meaning it's Daring Bakers time! Every month, hundreds of Daring Bakers are assigned a baking project by that month's host, and we have all month to bake it. At the end of the month, on the assigned day, we post our final product! This month, Elle and Deborah assigned cheesecake pops! At least a few had to be covered with straight chocolate, but we could also use whatever other "roll-ins" we wanted. I made a small, simple, straight-forward batch--just enough to make a couple handfuls of flavors.

Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

These were pretty yummy! The cheesecake had an almost flan-like flavor. Between the snappy chocolate coating and the crumbly coatings, one had to be careful with eating these, though most held together pretty well. It's either the kind of dessert you have to eat while standing over the sink or with your plate right under your chin with your face jutted forward over it, or fed to you decadently while reclining in the tub or on a chaise lounge. Woot!


My flavors were chocolate sprinkles, honey apricot, ginger cookie, muddy buddy (peanut butter, chocolate ganache, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar), chocolate peanut butter, peanut butter with chocolate sprinkles, almond, blue sugar, and dark chocolate.
Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

A recurring problem with this recipe amongst the DBers was that the cheesecake didn't seem to want to set up within the prescribed bake time. That was frustrating to read, since I'm a stickler about published recipes being well tested. I halved my recipe, and I had to cook it the full time to get it to set well enough to have workable cheesecake--we had to be able to scoop it up into balls, or at least form it into balls with our hands. I was able to use spoons to form "quenelles." Although the recipe called for shortening, I decided to just use tempered chocolate, melting it, then letting it cool to body temperature, which also resulted in a thicker chocolate for dipping. Tempered chocolate will give you that bon bon "snap," and it will still set up quickly, especially since they're going straight into the fridge after dipping. I was really happy with the result, and really happy that I got to avoid having to buy shortening. The non-chocolate-dipped pops (honey apricot and peanut butter chocolate)

I combined all the crumblies left after coating to make a "special of the day."
Daring Bakers, April: Cheesecake Pops

Read more!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today is a good day to eat out!

I should've mentioned this earlier, but I goofed it:



Today is a great day to eat out! Certain restaurants all over North America are donating a percentage of today's take toward AIDS/HIV service organizations! Click on the image and scroll down to see if your city is participating and which of your local establishments are donating. Today, I'm eating takeout from the delicious Acacia Cafe, which is donating 100% of todays sales! Read more!

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 13

final project: wedding cake

Can I actually build it? Well, I dunno. No. I dunno. Maybe. No. If I had more time to play with the sugar, maybe, but there's a lot to do. Last week, we masked the cakes we'd baked the previous week, made rolled fondant (not nearly as painful as when we had to make it in Classical Desserts), and covered our cakes. I hate to say it, but ... the Wilton stuff is better. Bought stuff is better, with all its funky additives that keep it flexible and soft. Handmade stuff was prone to drying out quickly and cracking (at least, the stuff we made in CD and this class was) while covering our cakes, especially my base cake, which was a monster.


Masking went well, but afterward, I took my team's prep dishes to the wash station to wash them. When I came back, my two cakes were gone, and one of my teammates told me that our third teammate had taken our cakes to the cooler to store them. Next thing I know, I look up and see him carrying a full sheet pan with two chewed-up cakes on it. At first, I thought he was joking. This was, after all, the same guy who'd sent me an e-mail advising me to study for the quiz when there was no quiz--we'd taken it last week, and I'd forgotten. He wasn't joking, though--that really was a handprint in my large base cake, complete with deeply sunk finger holes, and my small top cake really was somehow upside down on its cake board. It turns out the top cake had taken a total header, falling on the floor, frosted side down. Coincidentally, I'd made my team members wipe a dab of frosting on their cake boards to make sure their cakes wouldn't slid around while frosting. Unfortunately, a dab of frosting can't help a cake defy gravity. More accurately, I needed a dab on the bottom of the cakeboard to stick it to the sheet pan. Anyway, my teammate did a bang-up job remasking the large cake, paying special attention to fill the finger holes, and I found an extra cake in the walk-in to mask.

I spent a lot of time tonight doing some sugar work. Tips: you can remelt cooled sugar in an oven set to 300 and rework it if you don't have a heat lamp; digital thermometers with alarms are really handy; you can scrub cooled dribbles of sugar off your flat top stove; silicone mats work just as well as the more expensive silpats when working with sugar; you really don't need a lot of food coloring to dye sugar; rubber gloves are awesome, though try to find a pair without grippy texturing ... unless you want to make imprints on dragonfly wings; attach wings as soon as possible to cake assembly, or they'll snap off, the brittle bastards.

Tomorrow after work, I'll be cutting pillars, making royal icing, dying piping gel, coloring/rolling/cutting/shaping fondant, trying to see if I can paint fondant (high-alcohol extract and powdered food dye), making a clear sugar dome (time willing--I already have a black one), making fondant walls to go around my cake pillars, making fondant lilies. If I get through half that list, I'll be very happy. I'll have to separate what I have to do tomorrow from what I might be able to do just before class starts if I can get into the kitchen early (read: if I can sneak past Chef B's French Cuisine Class and find some counter place--hopefully they won't be doing their final; when I took the class, we made an awesome five-course meal, and it was consuming ... in a completely awesome way).
Read more!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mini Book Review: America's Best Lost Recipes from America's Test Kitchen

One of my friends gave me a nifty cookbook to celebrate the winter holidays:



And so far, I’ve made two recipes from it.


This was the first, and it’s now a favorite. You can find the recipe for Waukau here. As that writeup mentions, it’s like a cross between a clafouti and a popover. Maybe it’s like a Dutch baby, only with berries instead of apples. The writeup mentions that clafouti are vaguely skin-like, and I thought the same thing about popovers. What makes Waukau stand out is it’s wonderful "crust"—soft and slightly chewy, with a wonderfully crisped crust. Oh my yum. I used frozen raspberries because that’s all I had on hand, and it made for a delicious syrup for the pancake.
Waukau

Waukau

I also made the Wacky Cake. The recipe is easy enough to find. The book guesses that its lack of eggs and butter stems from war-time rationing. Not surprisingly, it tastes like cake made without butter or eggs—pretty flat and bland, although it did rise well and have a decent texture. In short, it tastes like box mix, and not the kind with pudding powder, either. On the plus side, it’s vegan! (My friend Mario makes a delicious vegan chocolate cake, but that’s his private recipe. Darnit.)

Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake

Overall, it's a fun book! A lot of the recipes are accompanied by photos, and most of them have a story dilineating the recipes history, whether it's cultural, familial, or creative and charming. In true ATK style, any "tricky" maneuvers are accompanied with instructional photos and/or editor's notes.

Update, 5/03/08--It's better with fresh berries, for sure.
Waukau, take 2

Waukau, take 2
Read more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moussaka

moussaka
I've had this in a couple of Greek restaurants, and have loved it totally each time. Last year, it was my birthday lunch when I went to My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.



moussaka

moussaka

moussaka

Basically, I used a recipe from the Food Network Web site. It's not as custard creamy as other moussaka dishes I've had, but it's pretty dang tasty, and I'd make it again! Oh man--just writing about it and loading photos up makes me wish I had a dish of it right now. I think this is a dish that would make an eggplant hater into a lover, and aside from the bechamel sauce/custard ... it's healthy. It's pretty easy to make, too, though some might be put off by the multiple steps (prep the eggplant, make the sauce, assemble the dish). It's worth it!
Read more!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 12

A "friandise"--basically, a plate for small desserts. I made it out of pastillage, or sugar dough.
my friandise



And while I was happy with my pastillage project, I was really wowwed by Marcus' pastillage showpiece, which I called the devil penguin goes to hell.
Marcus and his showpiece

Marcus and his showpiece

Marcus and his showpiece

Marcus and his showpiece

My little glue gun came in handy. Yes, we used hot glue to assemble these. We could've used melted sugar, but hot glue is easier to work with. It wouldn't fly in a competition setting, though.
Read more!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 11

My organic Nouveau bowl
sugar sculpture, 4/4/08
This one was simple, but beautiful. Chef had told us to pour our sugar in a spiral, then fill in the open space inside the spiral with an opposing color, but I wanted an organic look. Once the sugar was firm enough, I turned the sugar onto a steel bowl sprayed with nonstick spray. Once it was set a little more ... well, it stuck to the bowl. I didn't spray my bowl enough. I put the bowl in the oven on a silpat for a few minutes, then pried my sugar bowl off the steel bowl and gently formed the side of the bowl. There you have it! You can fill it with blown sugar objects.



Blown sugar object. My genius classmate Marcus, who did the amazing wedding cake a couple of months back, figured out a way to build air pumps, so he made one for each of us to have!
sugar sculpture, 4/4/08

Here, one of my teammate shoots the bubble. Her bowl is in front of her.
sugar sculpture, 4/4/08

I like her bowl, too. I convinced her to rim it with the copper sugar, and I think it turned out well.
sugar sculpture, 4/4/08

The end of the class is coming up, sadly. We're doing one last sugar project tonight, then starting our final project, which will be another wedding cake. I still need to design it. Wish me luck!

Still on tap: my Menu 4 Hope prize arrives from England, "arroz caldo" made healthy (pearl barley chicken congee), what I ate in Vegas--a phone photo blog, my first moussaka!, and still needing to be done--a marzipan rose how-to for Lewis (sorry it's taking so long).
Read more!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 10

My first ever sugar showpiece!
Sea sugar showpiece, Advanced Pastry Arts
Yes, how do you like my free-formed "oyster" shell?



Putting the project together was a lot of fun, especially once my one of my class pals figured out that wearing regular dish gloves reduced the heat transferred from the 310-degree sugar to our hands was reduced to almost zero. Want to try making your own? All you need is a sturdy pot, a candy thermometer, 5 pounds of sugar, 1 quart of water, and 1 pound of corn syrup. Combine the sugar and water in the pot and bring it to a boil, washing down the sides of the pot. Pour in the corn syrup, but don't sitr. When the mixture reaches 240 degrees, add whatever water-based coloring you like. Be careful not to overcook your sugar--if you do, it will take on an amber or brown color no matter what colors you added, although we did have a couple of happy accidents ... Anyway. When the sugar reaches 310, remove the pot from heat and shock it in cold water--NOT ice water. Watch out for steam! Then you can pour, pull, or blow as desired. We also used a lot of isomalt, which isn't as finicky about temperature, but is really spendy and not very tasty.

Sea sugar showpiece, Advanced Pastry Arts


The base, starfish, oyster shell, pearl, and seaweed are examples of poured sugar. The base and starfish were poured into sugar shaped into the forms we wanted our sculptures to keep. The shell was poured into silicon muffin top sheets and then hand-formed. The pearl was poured into a spherical mold. The seaweed was poured into a pastry bag and piped into the shapes. I had some pulled kelp shapes, but they didn't survive the trip home. You can see a short nubbin of it to the far right. The coral was formed by pouring the sugar mixture into a 200 hotel pan (similar to a bread loaf pan) filled with ice cubes. Read more!