Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 baking goals

Last week I wrote about the baking goals I set for myself in August. I didn't do too shabby; I completed seven of eight. Now it's time for my new baking goals for this year. I'm thinking I give myself until the end of May or so to do these. It's a very loose timeline.

1. Beignets — I won't lie, seeing these little New Orleans pastries in last year's Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog" really made me want to make them. Good thing I haven't gotten it into my head yet that I should make the whole dessert spread from the "Be Our Guest" scene from "Beauty and the Beast" (that's what I'm watching right now...seemed like a good comparison). Another inspiration for these? My friend Jonathan made them with one of his friends. I'd like to try my hand at them.

2. Souffle — Another thing I saw in a favorite movie, although this one goes much farther back than a 2009 release date. One of my favorite movies of all time is "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn. In that movie, there is a scene where her souffle goes terribly, but it's because she forgot to turn on the oven. Often, the biggest problem I hear with this dessert is that it doesn't rise appropriately. I'm hoping that's not a problem for me. Completed in here.

3. Crepes — I had this tasty French dessert on a couple trips in the last year or so, most recent in Las Vegas and before that New York City. Both of those times I had sweet crepes, and now I'd like to try making them myself. I think the toughest part will be making the paper-thin crepe and getting it off the pan without breaking it!

4. Homemade pudding — I've made a number of custards and pudding-like things, but never plain ol' pudding. I appreciate the simplicity of instant pudding, but I want to try it the old way.

5. Cannolis — I really dislike frying things. Oil spitting freaks me out and I hate getting burnt by it, despite the fact that I got burned multiple times while working in food service. So cannoli shells are going to be an interesting feat for me. I'd like to try some traditional ones with a pastry cream and chocolate chips, but also some more interesting fillings. Suggestions are welcome! Completed in here.

6. Truffles — I've made a few versions of truffles before, of the cookie dough and Oreo variety. But here I'm talking the more difficult stuff, tempering chocolate and the like. It involves a lot of temperature changes and very specific directions. But they just look too good not to try. Completed in here.

7. Petit fours — These are yet another French dessert, little mini sweets for the end of a meal. I first saw them in a Martha Stewart cookbook my mom got me for graduation. There are a number of varieties, but they're often decorated and iced. It seems tedious work, but I will just have to hold my own interest I guess.

8. Jayhawk cake pops redux — This is the goal I did not achieve last time. So here's hoping I do it this time. I'm thinking March Madness... Completed in here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Kansas Day!

While working on a story about Kansas Day events the other day, I noticed on the Kansas sesquicentennial website that it was challenging Kansans to bake a cake for Kansas Day. So, I did. Of course. I made this how-to video to go with it and did a write-up for the LJWorld. The method and recipes are there, but basically this is a yellow cake with fudge frosting and a sunflower on top. It turned out great, and after a day of video editing, I made this. So, happy Kansas Day!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' challenge: Biscuit Joconde Imprime around an Entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

When I first heard of this challenge, I was pretty intimidated. I had never heard of such a thing. Turns out it's a pretty fun dessert that's incredibly customizable. The biscuit jaconde imprime was a flat almond cake that you poured the batter of over some designs made of pastry cream. That cake became the outer rim to hold a filling, or the entremets.

Aunt Betty and I had a few problems, mainly in that the pastry cream we made hardly turned out. We had to thicken it a LOT, which meant the cake baked a little funny and the pattern became less crisp. I decided to ignore the fact that there was lots of snow outside and make this a nice summery key lime entremets filling. So we had the almond cake around the edge, then made a nice graham crust for the bottom. Then a layer of key lime filling, a layer of more graham cracker crumbs, then more key lime. Our last problem was I was too impatient to wait for it to set completely. But it was so darn tasty I just wanted to try it!

I want to make this again when I'm more patient and work out the pastry cream recipe better. It's definitely provides limitless options for customization, and I think would make a pretty snazzy birthday sweet for a friend!

Monday, January 24, 2011

2010 baking goals recap

So back in August, I gave myself some goals. I'm one of those kinds of people who really struggles without a constant in my life. For the last 17 years, I'd had school there to pace my life, with homework to come home to and breaks to plan vacations for. I knew that when I left school, I would get really bored really quickly without some goals. I wrote this post to give myself eight baking goals to complete before the end of the year. Granted, I'm a little late writing about it, but here, in pictures, are my seven of eight goals. I failed on one...whatever.

1. Macarons. I actually made these a couple times, once with Aunt Betty and once at Mom's in Michigan. I got reallllly tired of egg whites by the end of this goal. Maybe this year I will experiment more with flavors, but for now, I'm happy not beating egg whites.

2. Jayhawk cake pops. This is the goal I failed on. I only recently perfected just plain old cake pops, so shapes are coming soon.

3. Fondant-covered cake. Okay, so it's only a fondant bow, but it was still covered on top with the fondant bow. This cake was for Grandma's 90th birthday party, and she loved it. I will try more fondant work later, but this bow dyed my fingers pink for about a week, so I will go for a different color next time.

4. Maple leaf candies. While these aren't leaf-shaped, this maple fudge ended up tasting exactly like those leaf candies I pure maple-y sugar.

5. Marshmallows. I've made these a couple times now. This first time was just for fun, and the second to give as gifts with Grandma's famous hot chocolate mix. Perhaps I should try some flavored ones soon.

6. Buche de noel. This tasty French tradition is something Aunt Betty and I tackled, and it was so worth it. It's my first jelly roll-style cake, and I know I will be making plenty more. Giant Swiss roll, anyone?

7. Doughnuts. I've actually made three styles now: apple cider, chocolate glazed and maple glazed. What I've learned? Oil is very temperamental.

8. Frosted sugar cookies. I gave this to myself as only a partial goal, but then it became a Daring Bakers' challenge, so that was perfect. Aunt Betty and I made the cookies and did the icing all in one day, and that took a LONG time. Not doing it again any time soon.

So seven of eight isn't too shabby. Coming in the next couple days: my new baking goals for this year.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tiramisu cake, candied almonds and champagne cupcakes

First, I have a few fairly exciting announcements. I'm going to be on TV, doing my baking thing. More on that later, though. Second exciting announcements: last week's Sour Patch Kids cupcakes were wildly successful online. They made Foodgawker and Tastespotting. They made the blog Cupcakes Take the Cake, which I've never been on. A Martha Stewart Twitter account retweeted my post. I got reblogged on Tumbler. A few other blogs reblogged it (TipJunkie and Ediblecrafts), and Bake It Pretty included it on a post. I'm pretty darn excited after that. Third exciting announcement: I'm a real person now. As in, I got moved to dayside. That means I get weekends off. I think only someone who's worked nightside at some point really realizes how monumental this is. Granted, I've never been (and probably never will be) a morning person, but it's amazing how much time I have to do other things after work. Like go to the gym. I have a new goal to go every day after work, except for today, of course, when there was a snowpacalypse. Still got my workout shoveling the driveway, though. I'm also starting to watch The Wire, about an episode per night. And I get to do stuff with friends at night after work. I'm pretty darn excited to have a life.

One of my night-time friend nights resulted in this tiramisu cake. I like taking requests for desserts because it presents me a challenge. Brianne requested tiramisu, and since I didn't feel like making homemade ladyfingers, I went with this cake I'd seen. Two layers of white cake soaked with a coffee syrup with a mascarpone-whipped cream filling and chocolate chips and we have a very tasty cake, even for someone like me, who doesn't like coffee.

Part of this going to the gym thing is also monitoring what I eat. I'm a snacker, and being at work during the day means I get pretty hungry. These candied almonds were the perfect portion-controlled sweet for work — that is, until the Girl Scout Cookies were delivered. Oh well, it worked for a couple days.

Finally, my exciting TV news. I'm going on Jayni's Kitchen, our local station's cooking show. Via some people at work, Jayni heard about this blog. She saw the champagne cupcakes I did for the holiday cupcake challenge and asked me to do those for the Valentine's Day episode. I had to test the recipe again, just because I improvise a lot and had to nail down amounts for the recipe she'll post. So I tape on Monday and then the episode will air the first time on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 6 here. I'm hoping to get a video of my segment to post on here. I'm pretty nervous; I'm sure I'll make a fool of myself. Here's hoping I don't!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sour Patch Kids cupcakes

First they're sour, then they're sweet! First disclaimer: I know I don't usually write about just one dessert. But this one, I just had to. So Kelly and I have a favorite candy: Sour Patch Kids. Kelly will buy me a box of them any time I'm really down (she's a great best friend!). A bag of Sour Patch Kids has even mysteriously appeared in the background of one of my roommate's videos about Big 12 sports. So needless to say, the candy is a favorite.

So a while ago Kelly and I started talking about making Sour Patch Kids cupcakes. Like, six months ago. But I figured if we were going to make these cupcakes, we'd have to make them right.

So I got cupcake wrappers to match the four flavors.

Coloring to match the colors.

Flavoring to match each flavor (cherry, orange, lemon and lime). And the kicker, which was tart and sour flavor enhancer. (Edit: Looks like my original source for this is out, so here are a couple other places to find it: LorAnn, Baker's Nook, Sears and Amazon.) Add it into a swiss meringue buttercream.

A basic yellow cupcake and a Sour Patch Kid on top.

In the process, obliterate the kitchen. Many times over.

So in the end, you get a complete cupcake with a sour-sweet frosting in a specific flavor. Completely successful. I will make them again...but not for a while.

Edit: Since posting this, I've had requests for amounts and how to make them. I tend to experiment a lot, but here's the amounts. I wanted a massive amount of cupcakes to share with people at work and for Kelly to take home. I made 1 1/2 recipes of the yellow cake. Be careful not to fill the liners very far, because this recipe rises a LOT. 2/3 full will do it, and better to go a bit lower even. This gave me 48 (!) cupcakes. One batch generally makes 30, give or take a few.

Then I made two batches of this swiss meringue buttercream (not at the same time though, just when I was ready for them. I split the recipe in half for each flavor. I put in a bit of color and flavoring, then about a quarter bottle of the tart flavoring. That seems like a lot, but it took that much to really give it the punch of Sour Patch Kids. Then I added coloring and fruit flavoring to taste. So for two batches split in half, you'll get all four frostings. The amounts were almost perfect for 12 cupcakes each. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Comfort baking: Butterfinger cupcakes, homemade Oreos, red velvet cheesecake cake, stuffed bread and stuffed pretzels

Does anyone watch the show "American Pickers" on the History Channel? I think I'm hooked. Dad turned it on one day when we were visiting my grandma in the hospital after her vertigo spell during the holidays. My dad loves the History Channel, but I'd always seen him watching shows about the war and that sort of thing. This seems a slightly different take on history. What they "pick" is historical items found all over the country, mostly in those places you see on the side of road that have stuff just piled in the lots. They find some crazy the episode I just watched, they bought a motorcycle motor from "Hobo Jack" that ended up being more than 100 years old. In case you haven't noticed, I'm fascinated by this sort of history and Americana, as evidenced by all I write about my family history on here. Also by the stories I like writing best, most recently about a local man who restores pinball machines. So cool!. I know what show is going to fill up my DVR for the next few months!

After all the stress of my holiday season, I needed some serious baking with Aunt Betty. I'm still not completely on my A-game, but I'm getting closer. This stuff helped. Like these Butterfinger cupcakes from my Food Network magazine. Unfortunately, there's no recipe online, and it's from my year-old magazine...I've been wanting to make them for a while. That being said, I'm going to make some serious changes next time I try them. The chocolate cake was good, but too light a crumb for a cupcake. The frosting was actually a ganache, and waaaay too thick for piping like I wanted to. Next time: a light peanut butter frosting. The killer was the brittle on top, which was just sugar, peanut butter and butterscotch chips and tasted exactly like the inside of a Butterfinger. I'm going to make just that sometime soon, dip it in chocolate and make homemade candy. All those went with my Uncle David for his retirement party.

Next on our list was something that reminded me of one of my favorite places to get dessert, the Cheesecake Factory (mainly because there are so many options). Who doesn't love red velvet cake? Who doesn't love cheesecake (besides Kelly)? Put them together, and you get red velvet cheesecake cake. Pretty tasty, although once again, I'd prefer a cake with heavier crumb. It's modeled on the coolest cake spatula thingy my stepmom Cathie got me. It's a high heel with a magnetic heel! Neato. I brought this cake to work and I'd say it was a hit. A few minutes after I brought it in, I told someone upstairs it was there. He said he already knew it was there because he saw a Twitpic. Ah, the joys of journalism and technology.

Our last project for the day was to make a bread I've been wanting to make for a while from Flour Girl. It's a stuffed braided bread, and actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. The dough was basic pizza dough made in the food processor and didn't even need to rise. The recipe called for bacon, but anyone who knows my eating habits knows that I don't eat any pork products, including bacon, and no, I'm not Jewish. I just don't eat it. So we used turkey bacon. Also inside was spinach we cooked down with some olive oil, provolone cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Dip it in marinara and it made a pretty tasty dinner.

When my newest Food Network Magazine magazine came, on the front it talked about pretzels, which is one of my favorite things to make. What caught my eye especially was pesto-stuffed pretzels. I loooove pesto, especially when it's extra garlicy and cheesy. I think I'm going to need some more practice stuffing pretzels, because you can't taste the flavor of the pesto and the cream cheese that's inside them too much. But the dip I made with the extra pesto and cream cheese is excellent. I will definitely make that again. Also, this was the christening voyage for my new food processor. Verdict: amazing.

Last, I wanted to make some sort of sweet for the night, and Kelly suggested homemade Oreos. I had all the stuff to make them, so I did it. The cookie dough looked like dirt, and was a really strange consistency. The middle is supposed to be white chocolate ganache, which I edited a bit to be more frosting-like. All-in-all, very tasty, especially when dipped in milk. Mmmmm. Next up? Tiramisu cake for a girls' dinner. I get to try out my new cake stand on that one!
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