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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cookbook post 3 : Carole Walter's Great Cookies

Well, It is definitely cookie season, so for my next cookbook post/review I'll be using Carole Walter's "Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets". I got this cookbook a year or two ago and have made not nearly enough of the recipes (the problem is I can't stop eating them if I make them)
You can visit Carol Walter's website here: http://www.carolewalter.com/index.htm

For this endeavor I chose to make "Carole's really great chocolate chip cookies" and "Chocolate chocolate chip cookies" (find the second recipe her on her website: http://www.carolewalter.com/chocolate_chocolate_chip_cookies.htm



Ghirardelli 60% chips are my grocery store fave (plus I'm poor so no premium chocolate for me:( )
For some reason my picture of the sugar and oatmeal in my food processor disappeared, so you will have to take my word for it. I love the addition of oatmeal to the flour, you can't really taste "oatmeal" but I think it adds a nice flavor ( dare I say complexity?) As I was only making a half batch, I used the crappy hand-held mixer instead of my beloved Kitchen Aid:

Halving the recipe called for half an egg. Usually in these situations I just opt for either the yolk or white, but decided to use my little measuring glass (Wal-Mart special- I love these and buy two at a time since I tend to break them regularly) to find exactly half:
Side tangent upon taking apart the food processor: beware the food processor blade: they are nasty little buggers. I don't know if you can see the barely perceptible scar below my ring-finger knuckle- but my one and only injury requiring stitches was due to said blade. Of all things, I managed to slice through my hand while drying dishes: the blade was sitting in the drying rack, and as I turned to get another dish I impaled my hand through the knuckle. Yes, I am accident prone. I once also nearly gave myself a concussion while flushing a toilet, but that's a whole nother story:

I usually hate using ice-cream scoops to do cookie dough, but in this case it worked well, just dipping the scoop into water after each 2 or 3 cookies
Mmmmm!
What the book promised looks-wise:
My cookies: The recipe warns to not overbake, but I like to live on the edge (i.e. get distracted by shiny/stupid things on the computer and not get the cookies out of the oven fast enough)
I had used my silicone mats instead of parchment, and had a sneaking suspicion that might have been part of the problem; so for the chocolate chocolate chip cookies I baked one half on parchment and one half on silicone. You be the judge:
Parchment it is. The only change I made from the original recipe was to use Ande's mint chips instead of just regular chocolate.
Both cookies, yes, even the ones I overbaked, were delicious- I definitely have to work my way through this one cover to cover.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lady Gaga/ Garbage Birthday Cake

It's been awhile since I posted, sorry. I started a temp job that has me working from 6a.m. to 5 p.m., and with the roads being awful this week it took forever to get there and home. I am feeling crabby from missing almost all my workouts, but ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. Anyway, enough boo-hooing, in this busy time my brother asked me to do a cake for his boyfriend's birthday. I really didn't feel like trying to squeeze in a cake, but I haven't gotten to do any cakes this month- I needed to do some caking. My guidelines were that the birthday boy likes Snooki, Lady Gaga, and the band Garbage. My first idea was a Snooki bust, but with my limited time frame I wanted to pick something I could work on in shorter periods ahead of time. I decided on doing a smaller cake with a Garbage album cover on it, and the "meat boots" Lady Gaga wore to the VMAs
My first step was to lay out my composition:

I started with the meat shoes as they were going to be rice cereal teats and could be done farther ahead than working on the actual cake (which I had already baked and threw in the freezer a few days earlier). I started the process on Tuesday (the cake was supposed to be for Saturday), and mad a big batch of cereal treats.

I traced the bottom of a high heel onto my piece of styrofoam that I was using to make the boot shape to use as a general guide:




 

I just starting smooshing the cereal mixture into a boot-shape. It took the entire batch, so I called it a night after the first boot- I figured I could carve more off the first boot the next day after it firmed up, and then work on the second. Here is the first one after carving the next day:

Then I used that as a guide to mold the second boot:




After I shaped the second boot, I started too add the "meat" to the first boot.





I opted for modeling chocolate for the meat. I think the texture looks like beef fat, with kind of the same consistency
I started by rolling out a piece of red modeling chocolate. Then I started adding pieces of off-white modeling chocolate and rubbing them to thin and blend into the red. I just kept layering and blending til I felt happy with it.











I used some green modeling chocolate left-over from another cake project to fill in some of the gaps in the cereal treats:


I attached the pieces of modeling chocolate meat with melted white chocolate applied with a pastry brush:


Here is the first boot after covering with the modeling chocolate pieces:


I wasn't totally happy with how it looked at this point, so out came the Everclear and food color for a paint job



Time for bed. I planned on completing the second boot the next day, and the actual cake the following day. Then I found out that my original plan for delivery wouldn't work as the person I planned on sending it with was leaving a day earlier. My brother said he had off Friday, so he could get it then, or on Saturday. I didn't think I could finish on Thursday night, but busted my butt to try. The second boot went a lot faster, as I knew what to do this time.

With the boots pretty much done, it was time for the cake. I had baked and orange-flavored cake in two 8" pans. I filled and frosted this with a white chocolate ganache, then covered with fondant.
I then moved into the living room, so I could use a image of the album cover on the computer as a reference as I am completely out of ink in my printer

I wasn't exactly sure how to get the feathery look in a short time- so I just started brushing different shades of pink over the cake and blending, sponging with some toilet paper.



The marble-y effect was very pretty I thought. After the cake was covered in pinks, I went over it with white to make some feather details:



Then I used black gel color to add the name and initial

Ok: boots-check; cake-check. I had planned on finishing the boots by wrapping with kitchen string. However, after tearing apart the kitchen, realized I didn't have any:( But, I did have a sorta, kinda, similar looking substitute: wrapped floral wire:
At this point I moved the boots and cake around my board, and decided I needed a bigger board. I cut a square of 1/2" foam core, and wrapped it with cake board foil, and trimmed it with pink ribbon. I positioned the boots and hammered bamboo skewers through them and into the board.


I trimmed the skewers and covered the tops with more modeling chocolate. Then I positioned the cake and secured it with a blob of ganache

I was surprised and happy I had gotten it finished, and called my brother and made plans that he'd come the next day when I got off work. I HATE leaving a cake mess before bed- but I was just dead tired and made an exception.

Checking my messages on break the next day, I had one from my brother saying his friend would pick it up Sat. morning as she'd be in the area anyway. Doh! I could've had an extra day. Oh well, I was relieved to have it done, and it made much more sense than him driving an hour+ each way to come get it.

I was happy with the cake, and think an actual cake of the meat boots and purse would make a cool cake if I need to do something for another Lady Gaga fan, especially if I had more time. I am not a Lady Gaga fan, and personally think the only statement her meat dress made was "hey look at me! look at me! I'm so desperate for attention I'm strapping steaks to my outfit and calling it art", but in photos it actually looks pretty with the vibrant reds and creamy whites.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Princess; a..ka Cupcake, a.k.a the Brown Dog

My Cupcake, she is my Princess (God I am such a dork, and very much need more human interaction). After my Thunder died, I ended up looking up a little info about his background (I had the Rabies vaccination card that showed he had been at the Grundy County Humane Society /Dane 911 Great Dane Rescue (In Illinois). You can find them here on Petfinder.com. They are awesome people. I found out Thunder was older than I had thought(which made me feel a tad better, but not much. She also told me they had some Great Danes for adoption then. I hadn't planned on replacing Thunder so soon, and replacing is not the right word as he was irreplaceable, but a life without a dog is not a life for me, so I checked out their photos of "Sheila" on-line. I said yes immediately. My boyfriend and I drove to Illinois to pick her up. The lady whose house she was at had4 or five danes of her own (including a massive 180# male, who was too shy to say hi) and a dalmation or two.
As with Thunder, it was love at first sight. But she was definitely no Sheila-c'mon. She's definitely more of a sweet little Cupcake.
She gave me the Cupcake greeting (she gets millimeters away from your face and just sniffs all over- not really touching. If you're lucky a quick kiss. Her foster mom told us about her insatiable lust for her favorite food- bread. The foster mom had been sick, laying on the couch, and Cupcake stole and ate 2 or 3 loaves of bread from the counter:) Naughty Cupcake! Now the old lady wouldn't expend the effort- but we used to catch her stealing hot dog buns off the top of the fridge. It's really hard to yell while laughing, which Cupcake and Apollo prove time after time.
The Princess napping (her favorite pastime)
and sneezing:

Just lounging around:
Biog stretch:
Cupcake during deer gun season. We walk past wooded areas of farm fields where people do hunt, and I'm not taking any chances. She's pretty much the same size and color as a smaller deer:
All tuckered out after a walk (which for her nowadays is only like 20 minutes- makes me sad reminding me she's getting old:(
Scratch that itch!
Trying to will the chocolate cake to her with her mind:
My poor pathetic Princess "trapped" in the back yard. Her lead was wrapped behind the tree and she couldn't figure it out and just stood there looking pitiful: (this happens a lot)

Cupcake is such a silly girl:) When I get home, or when she's excited she has to grab a stuffed animal in her mouth, and then walks around snorting. A few weeks ago she did this while we were getting ready for a walk, and I let her keep the stuffed kitty in her mouth to see how far she'd go. Kitty accompanied us on out walk for a good half mile. I would've loved to hear what the passing car passengers were saying:) If there isn't a stuffed animal around in such situations Cupcake will make do. She has substituted shoes, sweatshirts, socks, etc... The best is when she goes for a blanket and tries to stuff as much of it as possible into her mouth before trotting around:)

When I got Cupcake, I was living with my boyfriend's sister and her dog Roxanne. Roxanne and Cupcake always enjoyed playing/roughhousing with each other. When my boyfriend and I moved to another city, we wanted to get another Dane so Cupcake would still have a friend in the house and not be alone
: enter Apollo (more on that next time)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Booze Cakes: Cookbook Post/Modeling Chocolate Rose Attempt

I got the book "Booze Cakes" by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone and couldn't wait to start baking. I normally add booze to most of my baked goods, so this book was perfect for me. The book's website can be found here: http://boozecakesbook.com/, and there is a facebook page as well: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Booze-Cakes/259212436541
After my first perusal of the book the first recipe I was dying to try was the Pink Champagne Cake, which the book's publisher has been kind enough to allow me to share:

For this cake you will need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter- softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 egg whites
a few drops red food coloring
2 cups Champagne

Prepare:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, Grease and flour two 9" cake pans
                                                      (I used the baking spray with flour in it and used a 3' deep 8" pan)
Make:
2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar 3 to5
         minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat in egg whites one at a time

Weighing my Ingredients
O.k.; I will admit to usually just ignoring it when recipes say add eggs/egg whites one at a time because it just means more dirty dishes, but since I was going to be writing about this one I dutifully lined up six little bowls with an egg white each 
I usually cook up the extra yolks for the doggies. From what I have read, dogs can't get salmonella poisoning, but you shouldn't feed them raw eggs anyway because some enzyme or something blocks their absorption of biotin
Of course I am still left with the shells. I try to be as environmentally friendly as I can (re-usable shopping bags which I sometimes even remember to bring to the store, natural cleaners, I bring recyclables I can't recycle in my county to my mom's house where they can be, etc... But I really have no interest in composting. So my compromise is to save all my biodegradables and just chuck them into the back 40 at our house (I live in the country). It is actually pretty fun to hurl potatoes, cabbage, apples etc... out the back door- though my throwing skills are quite pathetic.
But I digress...Where were we? Ah yes, the butter, sugar, egg whites and vanilla are happily mixing away in the Kitchen Aid

3. Mix in food coloring. Beat in flour mixture and Champagne in three alternating additions, starting and ending with flour to prevent curdling (mine curdles anyway) Pour batter into pans and bake 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

After setting aside Champagne for the cake batter and frosting, I had a little leftover, which I poured myself in the closest thing I have to a champagne flute:


For the frosting you will need:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup Champagne
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
a few drops red food coloring

4. For the frosting: In a mixing bowl, beat butter 1 minute. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, Champagne, milk, vanilla, and food coloring; beat until smooth and creamy

Sifting the powdered sugar
I might have added or measured something wrong, but I needed to add a lot more powdered sugar to get the correct consistency. Personally, I think this would be excellent with a cream cheese frosting instead.

Finish:
5. Once cake has cooled completely, place bottom layer on a cake plate and spread half the frosting overtop. Add top layer and cover with frosting.

Now for the decorating. This cake was for the mother of my friend I had made the Ramones cake for. They share the same birthday and both cakes were for the same day. I decided to try my hand at modeling chocolate roses. I decided to try 3 different methods. first up: using the 3 petal cutters in the Wilton Gum Paste Flower Cutter/Book; to start, I kneaded my modeling chocolate and rolled it out as thin as I could
Then cut petals, some of each size:
Once again, I wasn't very good about taking enough pictures, This Wilton gum paste rose tutorial shows the basic process I followed (just in their instructions they use a single cutter and divide into three petals)


Meh, It looked o.k. (I'd have to say this picture looks better than the real thing); but because it was modeling chocolate I kept mushing things together because of the heat of my hands)
Next up, another Wilton product, that just as with the Flower Set, I had purchased years ago and never used til recently: the Step-Saving Rose Bouquet Cutter Kit. This technique uses a five-petal shaped cutter to start:
You cut indentations to further separate the petals:
Then, ruffle the edges with a ball tool, and cup the center with a dog-bone tool. For more pictures of the process, here's a tutorial I found on the Sew Can Do blog.
You slide the petals up on a support (I used spaghetti) that has a cone of modeling chocolate for the rose center. Then you fold up the petals around it:
Finished rose #2, again, I thought these were pretty fugly in real life, though they seemed to photograph well enough

Lastly, I tried a technique from this video tutorial from the Chocolate Addict. Definitely the most artistic tutorial I've seen. Check out her blog, I know I'll be going back for more chocolate techniques.
As in the tutorial, you start this rose with a bunch of circles:

Then, run a spoon around the edges to flatten the edges, (I also pulled the circle out a bit on one side first for a more petal-y look); Then start wrapping them around each other to form a rose

After I had done my three roses, I was going to give them a little dusting with luster dust, but I accidentally grabbed the brush I had dipped into cocoa powder to "antique" the bricks in the Ramones cake, resulting in a god-awful looking rose. I tried dusting the others with a pinky-shimmer color (also resulting in much ugliness). In the end I tossed the fuglies and decided to go with just rose petals, using the circle petal technique. For some color contrast I also cut out some green leaves
And, voila! It's o.k. is all I can say.


But, it tasted wonderful, and the birthday girl seemed to like it, so it counts as a win!
Can't wait to try more recipes from Booze Cakes, too bad I can't think of an appetizing way to cake-i-tize a gin and tonic.