Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Birthday Cakes

It was quite a busy weekend. Spending time with my sister and 4 yr old nephew in Boston, packing for my week long trip back to Ohio for my FAVORITE holiday, and putting together 2 birthday cakes.

The first little cake was made for my roommate. It allowed me to use some of the many Royal icing flowers I have been making in the level two cake decorating class and also allowed me to practice my basket weave for the 2nd cake. The small cake for my roommate is chocolate, a leftover I had frozen from my baking class. It has a raspberry preserve filling and a buttercream frosting. I hope she likes it. I'm actually afraid she'll think it's too pretty to eat.
The 2nd cake was made for Pete's nephew's first birthday. I was informed that Jonah is "coo coo" for raspberries. This is a vanilla 2 8in layer cake with a raspberry preserve filling, topped with an additional 6in layer, covered in all butter-buttercream frosting and adorned with fresh raspberries. The idea was to make it look like a basket of fresh raspberries. I think Jonah enjoyed that cake, but enjoyed the leftover raspberries I brought, even more.

I really like the look of the basket weave icing. It's a little tough to do, and very time consuming. I learned a few things from these two cakes that I will definitely apply in my future attempts.

I'm giving a little shout out to Pete here, who was a big help during the Sunday morning frenzy of putting this cake together and icing it. He helped me keep my sanity, and made sure the numerous dishes and utensils I dirtied in the process were cleaned up before I left. Thanks a bunch!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Death by Chocolate

I suppose this is the best possible way to end a baking class. I'm sad that the classes are done, and now I must wait till I can afford to take the next classes in the series. We made cakes last night, from scratch. I went with the chocolate cake recipe and the chocolate buttercream icing. I've made plenty of icing for my cake decorating class, so far no chocolate buttercream. Let me warn you, this icing is addicting.

The cake recipe turned out with a nice texture and good flavor. Once the cakes were cooled, we iced them. I got to impress my fellow classmates with some of the icing techniques I've already learned.

Both cakes were soaked with a frambois simple syrup, filled with a raspberry chocolate buttercream and then frosted with regular chocolate buttercream.
I hope looking at the photos and not being able to actually taste the cake doesn't kill you.

4th Annual Fall Feast

I love to cook, I'm sure that is pretty obvious, but the thing I love more than just cooking, is mixing good friends and cooking. Four years ago I decided to host a dinner party at my tiny apartment in Dedham. The menu I planned included Raspberry glazed chicken, potato spinach and gruyere souffles, a green salad with bacon, eggs, tomato, avacado and blue cheese, and for dessert- chocolate whisky cake and my apple pie topped with a pecan crumb topping.

It was probably one of the most successful parties I have hosted and also the most exhausting. By the time it was over, my friends were full, satisfied and raving about the food, and I felt I had spent the entire night in the kitchen and had very little time to talk with my guests. I started a tradition that year, that I dare say my friends look forward to each year.

This year I wised up a bit. Having a smaller kitchen than my previous apartment, and wanting to be able to enjoy the evening a little more, I decided to make it a potluck this year. I prepare two main entrees and my friend didn't hesistate to fill in with side dishes, desserts and drinks. The food was great and the company was even more wonderful as always. It always feels so appropriate to host this in the fall near Thanksgiving because in a way, it's my Thanksgiving with my friends; I'm thankful to have such good friends to share my cooking talents with.

This years menu items prepared by me:
Rosemary and lemon roast chicken
Braised Beef Shoulder Roast

and I couldn't resist, I made a pumpkin praline tart too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

FNS - Friday Night Sushi

I remember as a child thinking sushi must be the most replusive thing a person could eat. I also grew up in the Midwest and no matter how hard my mother tried to get me to eat fish, canned tuna or anything covered in batter or deep fried was as far as I'd go.

Fast foward to my college years. My taste buds finally woke up and I started to rethink sushi, but didn't really try it till I moved to Massachusetts and then I was hooked. My friend Leah introduced me to Asahi, my favorite sushi restaurant in Brighton. Often we'd meet up there for a friday night sushi dinner before heading off to the Havana club for salsa dancing.

I've wanted to learn to make sushi for some time now, but classes in Boston are few and almost always sold out. The CSCA, where I have been taking the baking classes, offers sushi class too and I signed up.

It turns out that sushi is not really difficult to make; the big challenge is to cook the rice properly and season it just right. Another challenge is to get sushi grade fish. You don't want to take chances with raw fish. Thankfully living in Boston, fresh fish is not too hard to find. Once you have all this, it's really up to your creativity and rolling skills.

I made the spicy tuna roll, one of my favorites. However if I make this one at home, I may rearrange the recipe a bit to suit my tastes. Other fillings we used in the class included salmon, fresh veggies, vegetable and shrimp tempura, and buckwheat soba noodles. Below is a slide show of the other photos I took.

And for those of you who are still squeamish about raw fish, sushi can also be made with cooked fish or just vegetables and it a very healthy meal. Now I just need to get a rice cooker and a sushi mat to try this at home.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Call for help.

I've been receiving much praise and encouragement from everyone lately. I really appreciate the support and the obliging taste testers. Many people have said, 'oh you need to open a bakery', or 'you should do this full time', ect. Believe me, it crosses my mind, even more so as I try new things and receive great reviews. It has always been a dream somewhere in the back of my head, and is now seeming very much in reach.

A coworker today commented that a fund should be started to send me to more cooking classes, and who ever contributes would get to vote on what kind of class I should take and get to eat the results. I'd be more than game for this. But I'm not here to ask for money. I'm going to ask for your help in a much more, well enjoyable way and less-expensive-than-paying-for-culinary-school way. Here is how you can help me succeed and share in the results of my trials.

Next time you need a cake, a pie, a dessert and you start to think, 'oh I'll just stop at the market and pick something up', STOP! Call me and tell me what you need. I will only ask that you contribute to the cost of the supplies (which in most cases is going to be much less than the cost of that less than exciting dessert you're going to end up with from the local grocery). This is going to be a benefit to both of us. I will get practice on making the cake, decorating it, and baking to suit someone elses tastes. You will get the freshest and best possible dessert for a small cost. So, what do ya think?

I really need to improve my skills, cause I may have promised to make a friend's wedding cake for them as their wedding gift......thankfully I don't think they've set the date yet. :-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bite size cream puffs and pizzettes = Very busy Sunday

First, I just want you to know it is waaaaaaay past my bedtime. This is unfortunately becoming a Sunday night habit for me. My Sunday started off with a pumpkin muffin for breakfast with Pete and then church with my roommate, followed by a trip to Trader Joes and upon returning to my apartment, a flurry of cream puff making and then off to baking class. Return home, visit with my downstairs neighbors, mix up Royal icing for cake class tomorrow and just as I start to think about going to bed.....Oh I can't disappoint all of you who have been anxiously awaiting my next post (even if it may only be one person). I hope you appreciate my sacrafice of sleep to bring you this up to the minute post.

Tonight was the third class; meaning we covered breads, and sadly also that next week is the last class of the series. Once again very many tempting options to try. I was going to offer to make the Rosemary Garlic bread. Trying to go savory since I've been inudated with sweets lately. No one offered to make the pizzettes; the first recipe on the list. I didn't want my classmates to hungry, so I stepped up the plate.

I've tried making bread on my own before. I get the concept of using yeast, letting the bread rise, ect. My downfall with bread is I get impatient with it. I learned a few things tonight. Apparently, I have never kneaded the bread enough in the past (this I am told will not be nearly as time consuming once I get better at it), and the difference is noticeable now that I have tried it. I experimented with rolling out thin crusts and hand strecthing a slightly thicker crust. I found I prefer the thinner rolled crust. It sgves the pizzette a bit of crunch. The hand crusts were a little too, uh doughy. The pizzettes turned out to be very tasty with great toppings of carmelized onions, portabello mushrooms, peppers and sauteed spinach. I also used fresh and regular mozzerella to top the pizzettes. I can't wait to try this one at home. I love a good pizza.

The bite sized cream puffs turned out lovely. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and had to run off to class. I'll have to make filling later this week. Oh, but then I'll have another reason to post.

Sorry I can't satisfy your hunger for food right now, but hopefully this satisfies your hunger for another post. :-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Baking Class II: Frangipane Fruit Tart

We had the opportunity in class tonight to make one of several items; the frangipane tart, a sweet potato pie with a praline topping, lemon curd tartletts, a blueberry cheese pie, a cherry pie, a savory pot pie, or a tomato pesto quiche. Tough choice, but I have always admired the beautiful glazed, fruit topped tarts you see in the pastry case at Whole Foods, or the local grocery. I even tried my had at making them a year or so ago, but didn't have the recipe for a good filling. So I jumped at the chance to make one tonight.

The filling is amazing. Its made of butter, almond paste, eggs, lemon zest and a small bit of flour. I got to use the school's pretty red kitchen aid mixer to make the filling. The frangipane smelled amazing, just like marzipan. Once the tarts had baked and cooled, I got to top them with the sliced fruit and glaze them with a mixture of apricot jelly and kirsch. Seriously, I had to get my hands on some kirsch. Maybe I just need to make one of these tarts on a weekly basis. Oh heaven. And I just bought a removable bottom tart pan at Home Goods yesterday.

The pictures are not the greatest, but this tart tastes heavenly. I have been a fan of marzipan since the first time I had a marzipan heart from Godiva several years ago. This probably also means I would like Amaretto liquor, but I've never really had it. Might have to start using it to flavor some of my upcoming cake creations. The almond paste in the tart filling stands out just enough to please any amaretto, marzipan loving, tart eating person.

Cake decorating level 2 starts tomorrow night. I will be learning advanced flowers and colorflow. Don't ask me what colorflow is. I have no idea. Once I learn it, I guarantee you'll see examples right here. So hang in there, there is more good stuff to come. I promise. :-)