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Monday, December 28, 2015

Roses and Roulade


As the holidays draw to a close (along with the year,) is anyone else just absolutely, unbelievably, stuffed? It seems to me that all of those healthy eating New Year's resolutions may not actually be a way to start the year off right, but more likely a consequence of finally reaching the breaking point by the gluttony of the past few months -- a stubborn contrariness stemming from a overwhelming weariness of eating.  I, for one, am wholeheartedly sick of it -- I'm actually craving a salad, if that's even possible. But realistically, where's the fun in ringing in the new year with a flute of champagne and . . . a veggie tray?  So for the last hurrah of 2015, here's a recipe that's elegant and light at the same time.

Rose and Cherry Meringue Roulade 
Adapted from Ottolenghi.

Note: I changed this recipe a good deal.  As written, the filling uses sour cream, which I think taints the dish with an overwhelming tanginess.  It almost tastes like an unsweetened Greek yogurt -- which for some may hit the spot, but I actually prefer my dessert sweet, not sour. I also thought that the filling needed a bit of a punch, so I threw some brandied cherries in with the original, and lastly, used a different method of sugaring the rose petals, since I'm a little skittish with raw egg whites. For those who would like to try the original, instructions can be found here.

Decoration

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
40 rose petals 
(approximately 3 roses -- be sure to use the outer petals which are flatter, and as always, go organic for flowers that will be used on food)
Sugar 
(preferably caster, or superfine sugar, but regular white sugar will work as well)



Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over low heat until combined.  Then bring to a boil without stirring.  Let cool completely. Dip each petal in the syrup and lay on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Scatter a light layer of sugar over the petals.  Gently shake the petals to remove any clumped sugar.  Heat at 170 degrees F for 30 minutes.  After removing from the oven, re-coat the petals with another light layer of sugar and loosen gently from the parchment, shaking to remove clumps of sugar, once again.  Try to keep the petals whole, although if they crumble, it's okay -- you will need 3-5 crumbled petals anyways.
Set aside.


Meringue

4 large egg whites
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cornstarch
9 oz sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, until firm glossy peaks form.  This should take 5 to 10 minutes. Add the white wine vinegar, vanilla extract, and cornstarch and whip until well incorporated.



Line a Swiss roll pan (33 cm x 24 cm) with parchment paper, leaving a little extra parchment to climb each side of the pan. If you dab a bit of meringue at each of the four corners, it will help the parchment to stay put.
Smooth the meringue over the parchment in an even layer. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely.



Filling

13 1/2 oz heavy cream
4 1/2 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 1/2 Tbsp rose water
1 Tbsp confectioners sugar 
6 oz Morello cherries (these can be purchased at Trader Joe's -- just be sure to drain them well)
2 oz brandied cherries




 Whip the heavy cream and sugar together until soft peaks form.  Add the mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and rose water and whip until creamy.
Flip the meringue out (carefully -- don't be fooled by the word flip!) onto a sheet of parchment paper.  Peel the top parchment off of the meringue and spread with the majority of the cream (reserving about a 1/4 cup.)




 Leave about a cm bare of cream on each side of the meringue. Scatter the cherries and the rose petals on top of the cream.  





Using the bottom sheet of parchment to guide you, roll the meringue along the long edge (meaning the final roll will be long and thin, not short and fat.) Don't worry if it crumbles a little -- the inside is still very flexible and it should not crack throughout.  When the meringue is rolled up entirely, the outer edge should be on the bottom of the roll, to add stability.  Using the parchment paper, transfer the roll to your serving platter and carefully tear the parchment out from under the roll.  Top with the reserved cream and the whole sugared rose petals. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

The texture of this dessert is divine -- it's just a touch crispy at first bite, but because the meringue isn't fully cooked (in order to give it the flexibility to bend) it retains a cake-like feel, especially after soaking up the cream for a while. And the taste! Tart cherries with sweet mascarpone -- the absolutely perfect combo.  So indulgent, but without the extra pound of butter that usually accompanies a special occasion dessert like this -- it really is an ideal beautiful, light, but oh-so-flavorful finish to round out the rich holiday eating fest.



And with a sugar kick to get you though that gym workout (New Year's resolutions and all. . .)









Monday, December 21, 2015

Crumbling Croquembouche

Okay, it happened.  About twice a year, I have a total baking disaster.  Usually at the worst possible time (although I did get lucky with the previous meltdown -- the blueberry brioche was only witnessed by myself and my husband.)  So, given that the brioche happened early in 2015, I suppose I was due for this horrifying mess.  Although, the timing really was terrible.

Let me start at the beginning.  Remember how, in the last blogpost, I was bragging (insufferably, I know) about my cream puffs?  The ethereal beauty, the pillowy softness, the heavenly cream. . . Well I decided to (in the immortal words of Emeril) kick it up a notch -- and to build a croquembouche.  The day of my holiday party.  Where I was expecting around 50 guests.  Note, I did not say I decided to attempt this architectural feat.  Because, to be honest, my recent projects had all gone so flawlessly, that I really didn't contemplate the possibility of failure.  Cocky, I know. . . and you know what they say about pride. . . (and in this context, the fall was both figuarative and literal. . .in quite a spectacular way.)

In the beginning, everything proceeded flawlessly.  I baked one hundred and twenty cream puffs --every one looking absolutely gorgeous coming out of the oven.




They were individually, painstakingly filled by hand with four batches of smooth-as-satin pastry cream; the last drop of which perfectly topped off the last cream puff, as if by divine intervention.

I had purchased several Styrofoam cones from Michaels earlier in the week, and wrapped them with parchment paper, sealed with tape (which miraculously, for the first time ever, didn't peel off the moment I turned my back.) This was to be the mold. Upon inspection of all of the cones, I decided to go big or go home (as a matter of speaking. . . I already was home. . .) And big it was -- approximately 20 inches in height, and 6 inches in diameter.



Sugar and water was heated to the requisite 310 degrees F -- and with foresight that I usually don't possess -- I had rubber kitchen gloves on hand to work the boiling hot confection. Each puff was dipped in hot sugar (those kitchen gloves saved me from more than a few blistering sugar burns, I have to say) and carefully placed around the mold, with each puff meticulously "glued" to the ones around it.
So far, so good.  About 1/3 of the way up, the sugar cooled and a new batch was made, with the same sparkling, effervescent quality of a freshly sprung bottle of champagne -- if champagne could maim with a mere splash that is.  But with my trusty kitchen gloves, it was no problem.  I was a confectionery expert -- dip, flick, paste.  It was artistry. . . until I hit my first snag.  The cone is normally supposed to be removed, with the puffs free-standing upon their own weight, but when I went to remove the cone, it was stuck, STUCK, with a vehemence that I wouldn't have thought possible.  I had used parchment paper! I had sprayed the whole cone with an over abundance of olive oil spray! Why, oh why was it sticking?  Eventually I gave up. . .so there would be a cone inside. . .not ideal, but still okay.  Minor detraction, but still, it could be FABULOUS.  When the whole thing was finally constructed, I used a box of raspberries and a dozen roses to construct a Christmas-worthy centerpiece.

And it was so beautiful.  So, so, so beautiful.  It makes me want to weep when I think about it.  Because exactly four hours after the last creamy rose was delicately posed, four hours after the last one of forty raspberries was artfully placed, four whole hours after my towering masterpiece was lovingly wrapped with the golden beads and iridescent strands of spun sugar -- the cream puffs started to fall off.  I'm still not sure exactly what happened -- maybe the cream puff shell was too soft. . . or too filled, and eventually the puffs started to sag, breaking the fragile sugar bond? Maybe the house was too warm or humid, softening the sugar of the hardened caramel? In any case, the croquembouche crumbled. . . right in front of my eyes, and right as the first of our fifty guests started to arrive.

And so it was, my beautiful journey with the ugliest of endings -- namely, me, scraping hot sugar off of our coffee table and piling the decimated puffs on plastic plates.  Consider it the ruins of a beautiful architechural piece, I suppose -- though while most structures takes centuries to come to this state, my own only took four hours.  Photos are only of the good times, since I couldn't bear to document the end. Ah well, at least they still tasted good, and like my mother used to say of ruined pancakes -- it all gets crumbled up in your stomach anyways.  Wise words to live by. . .






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cream Puffs, Embellished


You know how there are certain foods that taste so good that you think "There's no way that this could be improved. . . none, whatsoever. . . definitely. . . but. . . what if. . . "

For me, that one item is the cream puff.  Like little pillows of contentment, they represent the perfect comfort dessert.  (Aside from the fact that all dessert, really, can be considered comfort dessert.) There's nothing quite like taking a bite into that first slightly crisply, crackly outer layer and sinking your teeth into the smooth rich sea of pastry cream.  (The best filling invented by God or man.)

For my husband, that's where it ends.  There is no improving the cream puff.  Any alteration may as well be considered sacrilege.  And while it's hard for me to disagree, (like I said, they're just about perfect) there are only so many times I can eat the same thing, without getting, well, a little bored.  There, I said it.  So here's a fun little way to spice it up (figuratively.)

Cream Puffs, from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

The cream puff creation is a bit of a chore, but the saving grace is that the pate a choux and almond cookies can be made up to a month in advance and frozen until needed.

Ingredients 

(Sorry for the lack of numbers, but there's that pesky little thing known as copyright law. . .but seriously, the cookbook is worth buying for this recipe alone)

Pate a Choux

Butter
Sugar
Salt
Sugar
Eggs

  • Spray both parts of a silicone cake pop mold with PAM for baking.  Set aside.
  • Bring water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the flour until the mixture becomes a paste-like consistency.  Continue to stir vigorously until the paste forms into a ball and pulls cleanly from the sides and bottoms of the pan.
  • Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until steam ceases to rise from the dough. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. 
  • Fill a pastry bag with the mixture.  Snip the tip off of the bag.  Fill each half sphere of the silicone cake pop mold to the top. 
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until desired, maximum of one month.

Almond Cookies

This is the secret ingredient that makes these puffs awesome.  Baked on top of the cream puff, it adds the requisite crunch to create the perfect textural combo.

Light brown sugar, sifted
All purpose flour
Almond flour, sifted
Cold, unsalted butter
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, fitted to a stand mixer.
  • Using the paddle attachment, mix in the butter until just combined
  • At low speed, mix for 5 minutes -- the mixture should cake together against the wall of the bowl. (It is imperative to mix an adequate time.  If the mixture is not holding together on its own, it hasn't been mixed for long enough.)
  • Turn the mixture out onto a board and roll as thin as possible without breaking. Since the mixture is delicate, you will likely have to patch the dough as necessary.
  • Cut out 1.5 in round circles and place on parchment covered cookie sheet.  
  • Freeze until use (up to one month.)
  
Decorations

 For this piece, we need a batch of white modeling chocolate.  Instructions on how to make modeling chocolate can be found here. Make it a couple days in advance and set aside, well wrapped at room temperature.


When ready to bake the cream puffs:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Remove the frozen puffs from the molds and place, flat side down, on a lined cookie tray.  Top with one almond cookie per puff.
  • Spray the puffs generously with water.
  • Place in oven and immediately turn temperature down to 350 degrees.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate pan.
  • Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Turn down oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  • The puffs should be golden brown and feel hollow.

Faux Pastry Cream

So, this is my preferred (read: shortcut) way of making pastry cream.  Much easier, much quicker, and to my unrefined tongue, lighter and tastier as well.  

Small Box of Vanilla Instant Pudding
Milk
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
 2 Tbsp Sugar


  • Whip heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract at high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Make vanilla instant pudding per box instructions.
  • Fold whipped cream into pudding until desired consistency and taste is reached (I like a 1:1 ratio of each.)
  • Fill a pastry bag fitted with a tip (any tip will do -- you just want the metal end, so that you can poke into the cream puff with it.)
  • Refrigerate until needed (but not more than a day or two, at the most)



Finishing Touches
  • Poke a hole into the bottom of each cream puff with the metal tip of the pastry bag that you just filled.  
  • Pipe filling into the cream puff until it gets heavy. You will feel it, trust me.  The more filling you want, the heavier you let the puff get.  The worst that will happen is that it will leak a little if overfilled. 
  • Once filled, set the puffs aside. 

 Now comes the decoration.  Since Christmas is swiftly approaching, let's go with that theme and make a holiday wreath. 
  • Take your modeling chocolate and color half with red food coloring and half with green food coloring.  Use candy or gel colors.
  • Roll out the green modeling chocolate into a sheet and use a cookie cutter to cut multiple leaves.  Vein the sides and edges.  Then shape the leaves on a rolling pin or other curved surface so they have a natural shape them.  
  • Roll multiple small balls from the red modeling chocolate.
  • Set aside.


 
  • Pick a serving dish which is approximately the desired diameter of the wreath.  
  • Place the cream puffs in a circle, so that the edge of the cream puff is just about at the edge of the platter. (I did this on a cake round, which isn't quite as pretty, but was necessary in order to transport the final product . . . on a plane.  As long as the distance from your kitchen to the serving station numbers in the double digits in miles, you should be fine putting this on just a platter.  The pastry cream at the bottom of the puff actually acts a little like a suction agent, and adds stability.) 


  • After the first ring is done, form another circle of puffs, directly inside the first circle.
  • Then form a third ring of puffs, nestled on top of the two original rings.  You can further stabilize the puffs by "gluing" the sides together with caramelized sugar or melted chocolate, but I find that leaving them as is makes it easier to break them apart when serving.





  • Now, fill a pastry bag with white candy melts and microwave at 15-20 second intervals until the chocolate has completely melted. 

  •  Drizzle the chocolate over the wreath, and top with the prepared leaves and berries. Sprinkle with pearl luster dust.




And there you have it, an (edible) holiday wreath! It makes a really dish if you're going to a a potluck also -- people just love food that looks like something other than food (and I'm no exception to that rule.)  So, despite my husband's belief than a cream puff is best in it's natural state, I think that this take makes a pretty wonderful dish even better -- after all, we eat first with our eyes, no? Consider it cream puffs, evolved!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Bouquet of Apples



We are right smack dab in the middle of another holiday season.  Which means, if you're anything like me, you constantly feel full.  Between the holiday parties, baked goodies at work, and seasonal "specials" (holiday Starbucks turkey sandwich, anyone?) it's almost like we're so busy eating, that there isn't even enough time to digest!  So at a time like that, what's a girl to do? (No, the answer is not "practice self control and stop eating," -- not this girl, or this post, anyways.) So, really it's a question (and answer) of lesser evils.  If you can't abstain entirely, at least indulge in a lighter dessert. (And when I say lighter, I mean in taste -- I make no promises as to the calorie count.)


Bouquet of Apples Pie
adapted from hipfoodiemom

Pie Crust

Ingredients

First part
8 Tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups quick oats
pinch baking powder
pinch baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Second part
1 tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbs butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.  This is best done with a stand mixer.  It can be done with a hand mixer (I've tried it both ways,) but it's very difficult to prevent the materials from clumping when using a hand mixer, which means you have to stop every 30 seconds or so, scrape the whisks, and then start the process again. If done with a stand mixer, mix until light pale yellow and fluffy -- if using a hand mixer, you won't reach this color or consistency -- just mix until well combined.
Add the egg yolk and mix well.
Add the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated, and a soft dough starts to form (cookie dough consistency.)
Spread the mixture onto a pre-greased/pre-buttered cookie sheet so the dough is approximately 1/4 inch thick.
Bake for 10 minutes or until cookie is just set, but still soft. (Keep the oven on.)



After the cookie has cooled, break into small pieces and add to food processor.
Add in salt and brown sugar and process until the mixture resembles a fine sand.
Turn the crumb mixture out onto a clean surface and mix with butter until you can form a ball without the mixture falling apart.
Press into a 10 inch tart pan.
Bake for 10 minutes.




Meanwhile, while the crust cools, make the filling.

Ingredients

3 cups whole milk
12 egg yolks
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the milk on medium on the stove.  Stir relatively frequently to make sure that it doesn't burn.
While the milk heats, whisk the remainder of the ingredients in a separate bowl (with the exception of the vanilla.)
When the milk starts to bubble (gently,) add the mixture to the milk and stir constantly over medium heat until the custard thickens.  This shouldn't take very long.  If there are lumps in the custard (which mine always have) beat with a hand mixer until smooth.
Add the vanilla.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

**Note** 
Up until now, everything can be done anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple days in advance of serving.

About an hour prior to serving (or prior to whenever you have to be ready to host your party/dinner/fabulous get-together,) take the custard out of the refrigerator and whisk until creamy.  Smooth into the prepared pie crust.

 

Decorating

Ingredients

3 Gala Apples (as red as possible)
Apricot preserves
Lemon juice


Cut the apples in fifths -- basically stand the apple upright and make four cuts, yielding the core in the middle, and four slices surrounding it (one on each side.)





Lay the cut aspect of each slice (the side without the skin) against a mandoline, and slice so that each slice is very thin, yielding a somewhat circular slice for the two larger sides and a semicircle shape for the two smaller sides.

The circle/semicircle should be majority flesh of the apple, with the skin only at the rim.



 Place the apple slices on a paper towel and microwave, starting at 15 seconds at a time, until the slices are pliable enough to roll without breaking. Be careful not to overheat, since then the apple slices will become too soft to prop up in the custard.

Using the full circular slices, roll tightly and place into the custard.  Then using the semi-circular slices, roll more loosely (really just bend into an arched shape and place around the tightly rolled apple) to resemble flower petals.  Pack the apples as tightly or as loosely as you wish.

When you've filled the custard with as many flowers as desired, brush lightly with warmed apricot jelly thinned with lemon juice.  This will prevent the apples from getting brown before they're served.

I'm so in love with how beautiful this pie is when it's done.  You'll have to excuse my multiple photos -- like I said, I fell hard for this pie, and I just couldn't narrow the pictures down to just a couple. More than one person exclaimed that it's almost too pretty to eat (note, I said almost.)  If you're looking for something to take one of the many holiday parties this season, this pie definitely brings the wow factor.  And, like I mentioned before, it's not heavy at all.  It's actually the perfect cap to a holiday meal -- a little fruit, a hint of sweetness, and a touch of beauty to round out the evening.












Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Toasting with Cake

I'm running seriously behind on blog posts, and the pictures from my latest experiments are piling up.  So expect a greater than usual density of new posts in the next couple of months. . . One of the posts that's been waiting a while is the post in honor of my husband's birthday (cake.)  I have to say, he was so excited about the way it turned out, that he jumped the gun and posted all the pictures on Facebook before I even had a chance to think about the blog post.  Followed by other people re-posting the pictures, one of whom was my brother, who referenced the (nonexistent at the time) blog post. . . So I apologize if you've tried to access this post before it was written.  But here it is, finally. .
I always try to theme my husband's birthdays -- usually with a class that we take, together.  So far, we've learned to make sushi, did a little glass-blowing, brewed some beer, etc, etc.  This time, the big celebration was alcohol-themed (a no-brainer for the celebratory thing, right?)  And, in keeping with the theme, I decided to do a wine inspired cake.  I have to say that this cake succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. It definitely turned out better than my husband expected -- the only clue I gave him as to the finished cake were the colors that would be used.  When he heard brown, black, ivory, and a touch of red, he was dubious at best as to the quality of the final result. However, to both of our delight, it turned out almost exactly the way I imagined it, thanks in no small part to this YouTube video from Haniela.  The video was so easy to follow, and if you prefer to watch rather than read your tutorials, you should definitely follow her.  I'll try to break it down in the pictures below -- it wasn't half as hard as you would think, but this cake was definitely time consuming.  For the sake of everyone's sanity (including my own,) I'll focus on the decorations instead of including the entire process of baking, as well.

For reference, the cake was a vanilla cake, filled and frosted with a chocolate Italian buttercream, and topped with crushed Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The cake itself was baked in a 9x13 rectangular pan and sliced and diced to make a 4 x 11 in cake.

As you can see, my cake was a little uneven.  It didn't rise evenly in the oven, so despite all of my patchwork, it still was lower on one side than another.  However, this particular cake design is so fool-proof that it didn't even really matter.


So, if you couldn't guess, this is going to be a wine crate.  To make it look like a real wooden box, I cut ivory colored gumpaste into four rectangles to fit each side of the cake (but really, a little larger, so that the top of the box is higher than the top of the cake.  To allow for each rectangle to fit along the edge of the other rectangles, the gumpaste was rolled out an additional 0.5 in for each piece (so two pieces which are 4.5 in in length and 2 pieces which are 11.5 inches in length.  Since the height of the crate has to accommodate the bottle that will be in it, the height of each panel was 5.5 in in height.



Now, as you can see, the colored gumpaste looks a little more like wood than a bright white strip would, but it's still not very convincing.  To get that wooden texture, I placed a wood imprint strip over the gumpaste and, using some major pressure (triceps workout!) rolled the print onto the gumpaste.  I repeated this over and over along all the panels of gumpaste until they really looked like strips of wood.


Well. . . they looked like strips of wood if you ignore that pale yellow-ey tan color (kind of gross looking, in actuality. . .)  But never fear, this is only the base color.  How do I get that rich textured look of an aged wood?  By using my brand new airbrush kit! (Which, incidentally, I received for my birthday.)  So airbrushing looks really hard, and if you're trying to get a nice even sheen of color, it can be difficult, but to get that aged look, the color really should be a little patchy to look realistic.  So spray some brown color onto the panels, let the color pool in certain places more than others, and easy-peasy, you have wooden panels.   Now, don't forget, these are still essentially strips of sugar paste, so they're really flexible and thus will tear very easily.  I left them to dry flat on parchment for several days until they were stiff enough to really resemble wood.


The crowning glory of this particular cake is the wine bottle that nestles within the wooden crate.

Before we get into the actual structure of the wine bottle, I'm going to skip to the best and most interesting part -- the label. I used Microsoft Word to design the label.  I swear, that program can do everything.  I've designed everything from furniture to bottle labels using it -- word processing is the least of it's abilities.  And I had so much fun doing the label! I really did my research and looked up what should go on an actual label -- vineyard, vintage, etc., but made sure I incorporated things like my husband's birth year, his birthplace and his favorite type of wine as a couple of the elements.

Now, you can totally print a label on regular paper and glue it onto the bottle.  But I really wanted everything to be edible, so a frosting sheet seemed like the best solution.  What is a frosting sheet?  Well, a frosting sheet is exactly that -- a sheet that resembles a piece of paper but is actually made of sugar.  It retains the feel and flexibility of paper, but it's edible! And you can print on it (using edible ink, of course.)

So up to the ink part, I was fully prepared to do this entirely on my own, but then I realized that I would have to unburden my printer of the ink already in it, fully clean it, and load it with edible ink of my own. . . which was enough work to give me a headache just thinking about it.  So, solution?  Etsy, of course. After designing the label, I sent it off electronically to TLCEdibles and lo-and-behold, a week later, I had a fully edible wine label sitting in my hands.

For the structure of the wine bottle, gumpaste again -- black this time.

The trick to making this decoration is to snag a real wine bottle to use as the mold (and this can be done with any type of bottle cake -- milk, beer, whisky, etc.)





 Wrap the bottle in saran wrap and coat with corn starch.  Just take a big fistful and smear it all over the bottle; the more the better.










After that, roll a strip of gumpaste large enough to cover the top of the bottle.  This particular technique makes half of a bottle.  Stabilizing the bottle between two items (like books) or on a textured surface, so that it doesn't roll, smooth the gumpaste over the top half of the bottle.

 


Cut the edges so that 1/2 or slightly less than half of the bottle is covered.

If you cover more than the top half of the bottle, the opening will not be large enough to remove the gumpaste when dry.






Let the bottle dry for a few days and then gently unmold.  Trim any rough edges.

Place a piece of parchment cut to the dimensions of the label on the bottle and spray paint the entire bottle black.  Although I used black gumpaste to begin with, this makes the texture and color a lot more even and gets rid of those pesky residual areas of cornstarch.

It's important to cover the area where your label will be so that the black paint doesn't seep through the label later.







Using a maroon fondant or gumpaste (I mixed a red fondant with a little bit of black until I got the color that I wanted,) roll a thin strip to cover the neck of the bottle.  This will be the "wax."  Smooth over the top of the bottle and trim the edges.

 Mix a bit of gold luster dust with a few drops of alcohol to get a thick paste.  Paint a thin line across the bottom of the "wax," and in a circle along the top of the bottle to look like the seal. 







Now, I took the frosting sheet, which had been set aside in a very safe place (note that I had three copies of the label, in case I messed up. . . I used all three.)  The frosting sheet was so delicate; if you so much as breathe on it the wrong way, it tears.  Which can be a problem, because I had to apply piping gel on the back to bind it to the bottle, and then smooth the whole thing down without ripping the edges.  No easy task, and the reason I ended up using all three labels by the end.


The very last step is to make the "wood" shavings that will cushion the bottle in the crate.  What do you think looks exactly like wood shavings?  Toasted coconut of course!  A couple cups of sweetened coconut toasted for 10-15 minutes in the oven, and you get that perfect brown/white mix of wood shavings.

Finally, tack the gumpaste panels to the side of the cake, center the bottle in the middle, and surround the bottle with the coconut shavings, and voila!  The perfect vintage!








Saturday, October 31, 2015

C-4, The Chocolate Explosion


Fall is a big season for my family.  My mom's, dad's, brother's, husband's, and my birthday all fall (no pun intended) from the months of September through November.  So, that's a lot of celebrations. And adding in Thanksgiving and Halloween, that's a lot of calories. The only thing saving my waistline from the never ending stampede of cakes is that everyone, except my husband and me, lives in Michigan, while my husband and I live in Ohio.  That tends to limit the sugar bomb somewhat, since I usually don't make (and eat) birthday cakes long distance.  However, this year, I felt like I had to break that little rule, at least as far as the making goes, because my poor brother is slated to work on his birthday.  Not just on his birthday, but on his Saturday birthday.  Not just on his Saturday birthday, but his Saturday birthday that just happens to be Halloween.  This is very sad to me (especially since everyone knows how seriously I take birthdays.)  So I decided to ship him a cake.  (And this actually wasn't to big an ordeal, since it's already getting super cold in Michigan, so I didn't have to worry about spoilage.  How about that -- something positive about the impending dismal Michigan weather.  "Great, it's getting cold out!". . .  said no Michigander ever.)

I came up with the perfect cake.  Those of you who know me, know that, to me, my brother is perpetually 7 years old.  Those of you who don't know me. . .he actually turns 28 this year.  Anyways, I remember this particular birthday when he was younger (I'm thinking. . . hmmm, maybe 7 years old, but probably not. . .) where the only thing he wanted was this monstrously humongous chocolate cake from Costco.  The thing probably weighed 10 lbs and it was all chocolate.  Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. . . chocolate cake, chocolate filling, chocolate trimming. . . you get the idea.  I remember almost nothing else about the cake.  I don't even remember if it was good (or if my brother actually ended up liking it) but really, for anyone who is a fan of chocolate, it's pretty much failproof.  I mean, what's not to like?  So I replicated the chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cake, with some inspiration from the Chocolate Wasted Cake from the Art of Dessert.  (How perfect is that name, btw??)

Here it is:

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cake
(or C-4, doubly appropriate because it seriously resembles a chocolate explosion. . .)




I used my go-to chocolate fudge doctored cake mix cake, except I thought that the Art of Dessert's idea of brushing the cakes with a liqueur, to complement and deepen the chocolate taste was such a good idea, that I had to add it to my recipe.








However, since my brother has to work on his birthday, instead of Kahlua, I decided to make a coffee simple syrup with which to brush the layers. (I know, I'm totally paranoid -- there's probably more alcohol in cough syrup than in a slice of cake where 1 tablespoon of liquor would be used to coat the whole cake. . . but you can never be too safe. . .)





So, for all of you who are alcohol averse -- for life, or for a day, here is a good replacement for the Kahlua (at least for when brushing cake layers.)

Coffee Simple Syrup

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp instant coffee

Boil sugar and water together for two minutes.  Add the instant coffee and stir until mostly dissolved.  Strain the left over particles out of the syrup.  Cool.




After the cake was torted and brushed with syrup, I  filled it with a whipped white chocolate filling, which can be found here.







Then, I frosted the sides of the cake with a chocolate fudge whipped frosting, (which can also be found here.)  For this particular technique (stay-tuned) the frosting job can be a little roughshod, because everything will get covered in the end.  Which also means that there is no need for a crumb-coat (which makes me very happy.)

Place a cardboard round on top of the cake (this end should not be frosted, not yet anyways.)





There are several techniques that can be used when coating a cake with any type of decoration.  I find that the easiest method is to simply roll the sides of the cake in the decoration of choice, whether it be sequins, or sugar pearls, or. . . drum-roll please. . . generic M and M's.

O-kay, that didn't sound that exciting, but trust me, they are delicious.  They're slightly smaller than M and M's so there is a higher candy to chocolate ratio which is just so yummy!

Anyways, I digress.  To use my method, you simply pour the topping into a large cookie sheet (any dish that is wider than the diameter of your cake will do, though,) spread evenly, and then roll the cake over the candy.

After the sides are sufficiently coated with candy, frost the top, and add your topping of choice.  I did chopped up kit-kat bars and then drizzled with white chocolate.

And here you have it! (So I know this looks kind of weird, and full disclosure -- I photo-shopped out the background.  Mainly because I constructed the whole thing on multiple layers of cling wrap so that I would be able to move it without the candy falling off.  You know what doesn't photograph well?  Cling Wrap.  So I took it out, hence the somewhat weird image. Apologies.) 


And I'll just close this post by wishing my brother a very, very happy (28th, not 7th) birthday.  Hopefully eating a slice of cake for breakfast can give you the sugar rush to get through work a little faster and happier!