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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Habanero Pork Roast / Cupcake the Elephant Dog

Well know that I'm back in the working world, I'm going to have to turn more often to my old friend (or in my case friends, as I have 3 sizes) the slowcooker. For this blog post I was inspired to modify a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook. The original recipe was for an Apricot-glazed pork roast with apricot jelly, which I modified for what I had in my fridge.

For my version you'll need:

1.5-2 pound pork roast (mine was a sirloin roast, but shoulder would work too)
Habanero Jelly (5.5 oz or whatever size you can find)
1 red onion, chopped
2 Tbs. Cranberry Mustard
1 orange

First, mix together in a bowl the onion, jelly, juice of the orange and mustard

Then trim the fat from your pork roast and put it in your crockpot (I always coat with a little cooking spray for easier clean up)

Then spoon the mixture over the pork. I put it in the fridge as is to start in the a.m.; but you can just cook from this point, 5-6 hours and high or 10-12 on low
Final Result:

It was nice and fall apart tender and juicy- but I was a little underwhelmed by the habanero flavor- I was hoping for a little more zip- would be yummy tossed with a spicy, fruity bbq sauce though

And now for something completely different:

My poor cupcake woke up looking like the elephant man. Her cute turkey waddle under the neck has ballooned to a bullfrog-like bulge. The vet didn't know exactly what's goin on, but thought it was just an infection with some inflammation and sent her home with some antibiotics- my poor deformed looking baby- reminds me of the Seinfeld episode with the goiter lady

Her mood seems good- just a little more lazy (I didn't think that was even possible:P) so hopefully she'll be on the mend soon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dueling Cookbooks: French Macarons, Alice Medrich and Fiona Cairns

So I've been seeing these french macarons around the world wide interwebs for awhile now, and finally had to see what all the fuss was about. I decided to play dueling cookbooks and used recipes from two different books: Alice Medrich's "Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies", and Fiona Cairn's "Bake and Decorate"

French macarons are basically a meringue with almond meal added. The almond meal is very pricey-$10 for a 1 pound bag. That was really hard for my cheap self to place in the shopping cart:)
The recipes were very similar, but had some differences in ingredients and technique. First up: Alice Medrich's Recipe

First, the almond meal and powdered sugar are mixed together, and then go through a strainer to aerate
I wanted to try the coffee-flavored variety, so I added some coffee powder to the dry ingredients. I only had regular instant coffee, which didn't dissolve much- next time I will definitely use espresso powder.

The egg whites and food color get whipped to stiff peaks. Well, that was what the recipe said: mine just turned into a foamy blobby shape:

Said Foamy blob:

Not sure if I just overbeat? Then the almond meal gets folded into the whipped egg whites:

I was a little nervous at this point that I had failed, since it was kind of a lumpy-looking mess; but as the ingredients were quite expensive I persevered on and put the mixture in a pastry bag and piped it onto parchment-lined cookie sheets:

Then the macarons "rest" for 20-30 minutes before going into the oven. In this recipe, the macarons go into a pre-heated 400 degree oven, which is immediately turned down to 300- the quick blast of 400 is supposed to help give the macaron a "foot" or platform- a desirable macaron quality apparently:P

Then the filling:Nutella:) I try not to buy Nutella too often as I have the tendency to eat it straight from the jar. The flavor combo was soooo good!

Now time for Fiona Cairn's recipe. In her version, the powdered sugar is sifted, and then the almond meal mixed in.

Then the egg whites get whipped with the food color. Note to self- in future use a LOT more food color to get the garish macaron colors you see in pictures (usually I don't like to go overboard on food color in baked goods- but something about those bright, bright cookies makes me smile:)

Cairn's recipe differs from Medrichs as it uses a little superfine sugar with the egg whites. (I don't have superfine sugar in my kitchen, so I just put some for a spin in my coffee grinder and Voila! superfine sugar)

Then, the almond mixture is folded in, and piped onto the prepared pans:

Let rest for 20-30 minutes. The baking instructions also differ a bit from the other recipe. In this recipe, the oven is pre-heated to 325 degrees, and baked with the door slightly ajar- she recommends putting a wooden spoon handle in the door.

The Cairn's recipe gives guidelines for different floral fillings: lavender, rose water, and orange flower. I tried the lavender. It is basically a white chocolate ganache, but the cream is first heated, then dried lavender is stirred in and steeps for 30 minutes to add flavor. It smelled so good in my kitchen:)

Very yummy, although the 1/3 cup cream to 3 ounce of white chocolate ratio is too runny. It also makes waaay more than needed. I was going to try and make a truffle with it, but managed to drop the bowl on my kitchen floor:(

The verdict? Both were delicious. I'd say the Medrich recipe is a little easier - no messing with superfine sugar- just the powdered, and turning the oven down seems better to me than leaving the door slightly open. Only the coffee macarons had the coveted "foot" but I'm not sure if that was because I erred on the side of under-beating the eggs since I feared I had overbeat the first ones. Both books are excellent and I can't wait to try more recipes from both.

Can't wait to make more varieties- the lemon flavor with lemon curd filling and cocoa flavored with ganache filling from Alice Medrich sound divine, as does the rose-water filling :)from Fiona Cairns

And I leave you with some cuteness to go with the sweetness:)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Coors Light/ Brewers Racing Sausages Cake

This week I did a cake for my friend Emily's boyfriend Bob. My original guidelines were something with either Coors Light or the Brewers (Milwaukee Brewers that is). I love the Klement's Racing Sausages, so I decided to do the Coors Light mountains logo with the racing sausages on top. If you don't know, the racing sausages are giant sausages that race during Brewer games

I started with two 3" tall cakes, one 8" and one 10" layer. I filled these with lemon pie filling.
When I split and fill layers, I use a dab of frosting to mark the layers to make putting them back together easy. I used to try and cut a notch or line, but that usually ends up too hard to see.
The Wilton cake mover is perfect for working with cake layers this size!

After I filled and stacked the layers, I popped the cake into the freezer for about 45 minutes to make it easier to carve. I used a serrated bread knife to make a mountainous shape:

Then I covered the whole thing in white chocolate ganache. First I nuked some of the ganache till it was quite runny, and used it as a thin crumb coat, then followed with a thicker layer of thicker ganache on top after the first layer set-up.

I then covered the cake in fondant. It seemed to be missing something, so I used some extra fondant to make mountain peak shapes along the edges of the cake board:

I rolled out some more fondant, leaving a hole the size of the bottom of the cake, and slid it over the top:

I used silver luster dust mixed with Everclear to paint the mountains, and added some moonstone luster dust areas for depth. I used melted white candy melts for snowy mountain tops

Now time for the sausages! I used modeling chocolate for the figures (love that stuff!) I had a lot of left-over red from the Lady Gaga cake, so I used the red to make a center base for all the sausages and added the other colors on top of that.

Here I'm getting ready to apply the outfit to the body of one of the figures:

And after:
For the striped shirt I just rolled thin sheets of red and blue modeling chocolate, applied them to the red center, and smoothed together.
Sorry there aren't more in-process pics of making the sausages. When I get into the decorator zone (not to be confused with the danger zone Mr. Loggins) I forget to take pictures.

Here is the finished cake:

I was trying to imitate the Coors' Light logo font for the Happy Birthday part:

It was fun to do a cake again finally (after three weeks I was going through caking withdrawal:P) but man was I tired- kudos to all you cakers with full-time "real-world" jobs out there- it is hard work to find the time, and I don't have kids either, extra kudos to mom/dad cake makers:)

After I finished I really wanted to go to bed, but I had one more cake to do for the evening- semi, kinda, sorta dirty- but very silly and all in good fun, here are some pix with no other details or explanation