Thursday, October 30, 2008

If I knew you were coming......

I'd not only have baked a cake, I'd decorate it too. Tonight I triumphantly finished my first Wilton Cake Decorating class. These photos highlight things I have learned in the past 3 weeks. Learned the recipe for the icing, how to smoothly ice the cake, make some basic designs and master the Wilton rose......yeah I need to work on that one still. Overall I'm really pleased with my results and look forward to starting the next level class next week.

Just in case you wanted to know, it's a chocolate cake, 2 layers with a thick layer of Nutella spread in between. It's going to work with me tomorrow. But like I said; let me know if you plan on stopping by to see me, and maybe I'll bake and decorate a cake just for you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cake decorating and Cream puffs part deux

Several exciting things happening in my life right now and it all involves food. As promised, now that my garden is heading toward its wintery slumber, I have shifted my focus indoors to the kitchen. I have finally indulged myself in a few classes. I am taking the Wilton cake decorating course at a local craft store, and that's not even the best part. I signed up for a series of baking classes at the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts. Now many of you may scratch your heads and ask exactly as my friend Hong did, "why are YOU taking baking classes?". While I appreciate your great faith in my culinary skills; one never stops learning. And since I have never taken any formal courses, I thought I would try it out and and possibly find one of several things: 1. I am doing it all wrong. 2. I'm doing it all right, but here is something else I could try and perfect my skills more, or the most likely outcome- 3. I'm doing ok, but here are some ways I can refine and improve upon my rudimentary, self-taught, magazine, food network, and cookbook derived education.

And just for kicks I signed up for a sushi making class too. I have no experience in this because my belief is sushi is not something you just pick up and try at home. Something about raw fish, ya know? Some things just really should be taught by professionals.

Cake decorating classes are going well, I guess. I am working on mastering the Wilton rose. Turns out I'm better at making icing clowns. I need more practice. Unfortunately during the last class, my icing got too warm and wouldn't hold for making roses, so I ended up eating bits of it squeezed out onto my finger. I've decided unless I want to spend all my free time at the gym; I'm going to have to flavor my practice icing with anise. The taste of licorice should stop me in my tracks.

I had my fist baking course tonight, and it was awesome. We focused on pate a choux, or cream puff paste. We made cream puffs, eclairs and profiteroles filled with vanilla and mocha moussiline. I seriously will need to start going to the gym more often. So attached are the photos of my latest work. My poor camera does not do them justice. The only thing I think could actually do these justice would be your own personal taste buds.

So since this is my second attempt at cream puffs and I just wrote that whole bit about improving my skills, blah blah blah. Here is what I learned. The first time I made the cream puffs on my own, I just followed a recipe. I filled them with fresh whipped cream flavored with kahlua. This class taught me what the texture of the paste should be in each step of the process. I learned that you can more eggs to the mixture than the recipe calls for, IF you get enough moisture out of the paste first. And adding more eggs will in turn give your puffs, more PUFF!
I think the best thing I learned tonight though was to make the creamy custard like filing. This is the most important part as the instructer discussed. The puff is just a vehicle to deliver the cream. Ever eaten an empty cream puff? Don't bother, they taste completely bland. Whipped cream is ok, but the creme patissierie is the creme de la creme! This is what makes the creme puff, a cream puff (and a heavenly dessert I might add).

Next weeks class we cover pies and tarts. For those you who have had my apple pie, well hold onto your forks.....

Going to need to eat a lot of salads this week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by post people.

You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.

You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.

I'm hoping to get out to my garden plot soon and do a little clean up before winter. I sadly abandoned it in late August after my tomatoes started to rot. I'm hoping with the winter ahead, I'll have to time plan a little better for the coming spring, and have even more success next year!

In other news, I have a new car! No photos yet, but I got a 2005 Mazda 3 hatchback. It will be very handy for transporting flats of plants and supplies (new fence) out to my plot next year.

At this point I think I'm going to turn the blog over to my cooking adventures. I regret not taking pictures of the meal I prepared on Monday evening for my vegetarian friends who were visiting from Ohio. I made mashed potato and spinach stuffed portabello mushrooms, a nice Boston lettuce salad with chickpeas, olives and avacodo, and of course- Apple pie for dessert. There were no leftovers. And even Pete, who claimed he wanted a steak before we had sat down to the table, seemed pretty content afterwards. I will definitely be making this meal again.

In other food adventures, I had picked up a bag of Cortland apples to make applesauce and apple butter. Mom graciously sent me her apple butter recipe. I was stood over the saucepan stirring in the cinnamon, sugar and cider vinager. Just as the mixture started to heat and the smell reached my nose, I was instantly transported back in time about 14 years or so, to my Mom's kitchen. I had forgotten how heavenly was the smell of cooking apple butter. I enjoyed a lot of it for breakfast the next day, spread on warmed croissants. Mmmm. I have to stop. I'm making myself hungry.

Happy fall to everyone. It's my favorite time of year!