Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Storms and Blueberry Clouds

I'm a seasonal eater.  I like rich, warm, comforting food in the winter, and light, delicate flavors in the summer. This, in spite of the fact that our summers, with their frenetic winds and bursts of torrential precipitation, frequently are dark and glum as a mid-November grey-out. We just (thankfully) exited a one- week-and-counting run of continuous sheets of unrelenting rain.  (Not quite as bad as the ones that destroyed my entire back yard a few years ago, but still. . .) Smack dab in the middle of a stretch of storms that radio djs in my college town used to refer to as 'those thunder-boomers' to unfailing and vehement eye-rolling by myself and my friends.

But regardless of the likelihood of flood warnings, I eat strictly by the temperature on the thermostat.This drives my husband crazy, since I go through a six month stretch every year of not wanting anything to do with sushi (incidentally, one of his favorite foods,) because it doesn't hit that necessary temperature threshold during those frigid, icy months. (He insists that room temperature doesn't mean cold -- I counter that room temperature most definitely does not mean hot.) That's why today's post may seem like a bit of an aberration.  Marshmallows, for many, conjure up dreams of cozy nights by the fire, sipping steaming cups of cocoa, while pillowy mounds of snow climb the outer windowpane.  But while I would never turn down a cup of sweet chocolate piled high with marshmallows in the dreary depths of winter, marshmallows also speak of spring and summer -- sunshine and light.  And even though those days of sunshine and light are sometimes more like weeks of darkness and clouds, when infused with the fresh flavors of juicy, ripe fruit and heavily scented flowers, these little cushiony cumulus delights are a treat meant for sultry, sunny, (but sometimes stormy) summer days.

Blueberry Clouds, two ways

First, the Blueberry Balsamic goodies:

 Fluffy and gorgeous in the bowl. . .

Add some blueberry goodness to kick up the color and the flavor. . .

Pour (with some difficulty) into the pan -- make sure it's oiled!

Admire. . .

Smooth. . .

Dust. . .

Cut. . . and eat!
I struggled a little with the decision to share the following recipe, aka Hidden Treasure Marshmallows, because they really didn't turn out the way I had wanted.  The good part about these marshmallows is that they are made in mini-muffin pans, so they do look pretty much exactly like little cumulus clouds!  But that was where the success story ended. Essentially, these are jam-filled marshmallow, but my jam oozed out of the side of the marshmallows so they ended up being not-so-hidden treasures, and sticky to boot.  I think if I had made a slight well in the marshmallow after piping the tin half full and only filled that well with jam, these may have been more of a success.  And, the jam wouldn't have overwhelmed the delicious yet delicate flavors of the marshmallow itself, which it most certainly did.  So here's the picture of how not to do it. . .

Again, you can see the jam dripping off the side of the marshmallow, so the additional marshmallow on top didn't seal it in the middle properly.  You live, you learn. . .

And for the complete recipes, below. . .
(As much as I wish I could take full credit for these recipes, they were both modified from already-pretty-tasty-original recipes by (1) Bakers Royal and (2) Savvy Eats)

print recipe

Blueberry Balsamic Marshmallows

Just like biting into a ripe blueberry -- if blueberries were cloud-like, that is.
  • 1/2 cup, 1/2 cup, 2 Tbsp +1 tsp Water
  • 2 teabags Jasmine Tea
  • 3 packets Powdered Gelatin
  • 2 cups White Sugar
  • 1 1/8 oz, 1.5 oz Freeze Dried Blueberries, blended to a fine powder in a food processor
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Zest from one Lemon
  • 2/3 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
1. Using a food safe brush, lightly oil all inner surfaces of an 8x8 casserole dish.2. Bring 1/2 cup of water to boil and then steep the teabags for 3 minutes.4. Let the tea cool slightly and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.5. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the tea and let sit.6. Meanwhile, combine the other 1/2 cup of water, maple syrup, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.7. Continue to heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F.8. Slowly pour the hot mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer along with the balsamic vinegar, first mixing on low until combined, and then on high for 10 minutes until white and fluffy.9. Meanwhile, combine the 1 1/8 oz of blueberry powder with the 4 Tbsp and 1 tsp of water until a paste like consistency.10. Add the blueberry mixture to the marshmallow mixture and beat on high for another minute.11. Fold the lemon zest in with a spatula.12. Using a slightly oiled spatula, spoon into the prepared dish and smooth the top as much as possible.13. Let sit in a cool area overnight.14. The next day, combine the remainder of the blueberry powder with the powdered sugar and cornstarch and mix well.15. Cut the pan of marshmallow into 5 strips, and then cut each strip into 5 squares. (It is best to use an oiled serrated knife and a sawing motion.)16. Dip each side of the marshmallow into the blueberry sugar mixture until the surface is not sticky.
Active time: Inactive time: 12 hours Total time: Yield: 25 large marshmallows

print recipe

Hidden Treasure Marshmallows
If done properly, these little beauties hide a gem of jam right in the middle -- a tasty surprise!
  • 2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 cup divided in 1/2 cup portions Water
  • 3 packets Powdered Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups White Sugar
  • 1 cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • from one lemon Zest
  • 1/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia Flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/3 cup Blueberry Preserves
  • to grease pan Oil
1. Using a pastry brush, coat the mini muffin cavities with oil.2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment.3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining water in a saucepan and heat at medium, stirring until the sugar has fully dissolved.4. Stop stirring and heat without disturbing until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F.5. Pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture, slowly, with the mixer on low. The sugar mixture is very hot! So make sure you don't splash.6. Increase speed to high and mix for 10 minutes. In the last minute, add the extracts/flavoring.7. When done mixing, fold in the lemon zest.8. Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.9. Pipe each mini-muffin cavity half way full and use the back of a spoon to create a divot in each marshmallow. 10. Only just fill the divot with jam, and then continue to pipe marshmallow into each cavity until full.11. Let sit for a few hours, then remove each marshmallow from the tin and roll in a mixture of the powdered sugar and cornstarch.
Active time: Inactive time: Total time: Yield: 25 mini muffin sized marshmallows

 In all their summery glory. . .

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mirror, Mirror, on the cake stand, who is the shiniest in the land?

Anyone like me who is even a little bit addicted to Pinterest (I'm probably a lot addicted,) may have noticed the recent mirror glaze trend that's taken over as the current craze of the moment.  (You know, the have to have it treat of the week. . . like cronuts, and ruffle cakes, and geode cakes, etc., etc.) I finally got around to trying it, and it's a surprisingly accessible and approachable technique.  I have to say, I see the appeal.  These cakes are so, so gorgeous -- shiny, and sheeny, and totally reflective.  In fact in some of my pictures, you may be able to discern the light fixtures hanging overhead, reflected from the surface of the cake.

It must be said that this post has been a long time coming -- this particular cake has been long baked, decorated, and consumed (months ago, in fact.)  But the process of making the cake was so long, that I couldn't even think about writing about it without making myself tired (before nary a word was written.)  Luckily, after few consistent weeks at the gym, my energy levels seem to have spiked (who knew that actually really, truly happens!)  Don't get scared by the length of the post.  Like I said, it was a long process -- but not really that difficult, if you'd like to give it a shot.

Before the most awesome step of decorating, of course you have to start with a bare cake.  Which means that you have to bake a cake. (Maybe -- you could probably start with a plain store bought cake. . . but I baked it.)

The cake du jour was based on a doctored cake mix cake. (I promise, one of these days I'll post a from scratch cake, but this entire process took so long to begin with, that I took every short-cut I could find.) To be specific, it was a yellow cake stuffed with fresh blueberries and white chocolate chips, then filled with a store-bought lemon curd (again -- short-cuts) and a blueberry white chocolate whipped cream. Although I initially put the cake together in the pan, layer by layer; in the future, I would probably tort and fill on a regular turntable cake stand, and then transfer the cake as a whole to the springform pan.

As you can see, the springform pan is lined in acetate and is larger than the actual size of the cake.  It is important to trim the acetate so that it is exactly the height of the pan. (The acetate shown above was too high and had to be trimmed down further. The plan is to fill the space with a cheesecake mousse (which ends up being the frosting.)  My reasons for doing this were primarily to ensure a super smooth surface both at the top and sides of the cake, since a mirror glaze will hang on to any imperfection or dent in the cake and detract from that very shiny, very smooth surface that I'm trying to attain.  After the cheesecake mousse is piped in, the top of the cake is also covered with the mousse and the top of the cake is smoothed with a spatula so that it is exactly level with the top of the cake pan (hence the importance of the acetate being the correct height.)  The entire cake is then wrapped in saran and frozen for at least 12 hours.

I wrapped the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil in case it leaked; but it didn't, so I probably will skip that step in the future.

While the cake is chilling, it's important to make the mirror glaze in advance since it also needs to be chilled (in the refrigerator) for 12 hours before it's ready to go.

After sufficient chilling time, the cake is unwrapped, the pan is unclasped and the acetate is unpeeled from the cake, which should leave a very even surface. The cake is then placed on top of a cooling rack, which itself is on top of a rimmed cookie tray.

The glaze is poured over the cake, making sure to move the stream of glaze along the cake so that all spots are covered. Make sure to drizzle along the edge of the cake so that the sides are also covered as the glaze drips down.  Immediately after pouring, you can swipe the top of the cake with a spatula so that all spots are covered. It is important to do this immediately, though.  Because the glaze has gelatin in it, even after a few minutes it will start to set, and if you touch it, the glaze will come off on your spatula.

Depending on how you want to decorate, you can use several layers of different colors, or just a single layer.  After about 10 minutes, use a butter knife to run along the bottom of the cake to clean the edge.

I wanted something extra to go on top of the cake for dimension, so I decided to make a quick chocolate bowl.  Here's how to do it:
  • Line the outside of a container, in the desired shape of your bowl, with aluminum foil. I used a small metal prep bowl, which worked very well. Make sure there are as few creases as possible in the foil and it is flush with the shape of the container.  
  • Place the container upside down on the counter (open side facing counter.) 
  • Fit a piping bag with a small round tip, and fill with melted chocolate. If you want a colored bowl, you can color white chocolate with candy colors, which is what I did. 
  • Drizzle the chocolate over the container in a random pattern.  Curlicues work well. The more densely your chocolate is placed on the container, the stronger the bowl will be.  
  • Pop the container into the freezer for 10 minutes. When it's ready, the chocolate will look matte and be dry to touch.
  • Carefully unmold the foil from the container; ball up the foil in the middle of your chocolate bowl and remove.  
  • Now, you can fill with whatever you'd like -- fruit, candy, etc.

The complete recipe for those who would like it:

print recipe

White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake Mirror Cake
This is my take on the trending mirror glaze cakes. I found it to be surprisingly easy (but admittedly very time consuming.) It's definitely a go-to cake when you want to bring the WOW.
  • 1 box Butter Golden Cake Mix
  • 4 Eggs
  • 7 Tbsp Softened Butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 cup White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 small box of each Jello Instant Pudding -- Cheesecake Flavor and White Chocolate Flavor
  • 2 8 oz packages Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cups or to taste Powdered Sugar
  • 120 mL Water
  • 4 tsp Powdered gelatin
  • 200 g White Chocolate Chips
  • 140 mL Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 200 g Caster Sugar
  • 100 mL Water
  • 200 g Glucose
  • Food safe acetate, cut to length of circumference of 9 in pan
  • 9 in springform pan
  • 8 in cake pan
  • to taste Blueberry Jam
  • 2 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 jar Lemon curd
This is a multi-step process. First we'll tackle the cake, then the filling, followed by the frosting, and finally the mirror glaze. Here we go!1. Combine cake mix, eggs, butter, cheesecake pudding mix, and milk in bowl of stand mixer. 2. Using paddle attachment, beat at low for 30 seconds to just combine and then for 3 minutes until fully combined at high.3. Fold in the 1 cup of chocolate chips and blueberries.4. Bake in an 8 inch pan (3 inches deep) at 350 degrees for approximately one hour, or until set but not overdone. Cool on wire rack.While the cake bakes, work on the filling. . .1. Using the whisk attachment, beat the 2 1/2 cups of whipping cream and package of white chocolate instant pudding on high until stiff soft peaks.2. Add blueberry jam to taste. Refrigerate until needed.While the cake cools, work on the frosting. . . 1. Combine cream cheese, 1 1/2 cup whipping cream, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth.2. Add powdered sugar and beat with a paddle attachment until well combined. Refrigerate until needed.When the cake is completely cool. . .1. Torte and fill with blueberry white chocolate whipped cream and lemon curd.2. Line the side of the springform pan with the acetate and cut down so that the acetate is exactly the height of the pan. The acetate should be flush with the side of the springform pan. Use a dab of frosting/filling to adhere the acetate to the edge of the pan if necessary.3. Center the filled cake in the springform pan. There should be a small gap between the cake and the acetate. 4. Using a piping bag with a large tip, fill the gaps between the cake and the acetate with the cheesecake frosting. To ensure that the sides of the cake have equal frosting all the way around, make sure that you move the piping bag around the cake as you fill. Fill as tightly as possible, so that there aren't air pockets in the frosting.5. Add a layer of frosting to the top of the cake and run a frosting spatula over the top of the cake pan to smooth. This should ensure that the top of the frosting is flat and even, and level with the top of the pan.6. Cover with saran wrap and freeze until ready to frost, at least overnight.Now to make the mirror glaze. . .1. Sprinkle gelatin over the 120 mL of water, in a large bowl. Let stand for at least 5 minutes.2. Melt the 200 g of white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.3. Add the white chocolate and condensed milk to the gelatin mixture and set aside.4. Heat the caster sugar, 100 mL of water, and glucose while stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 217 degrees F.5. Pour heated mixture over gelatin and blend with a hand mixer until smooth.6. Now is the time to separate into smaller bowls and dye as desired. (Gel color always!)7. Cover the bowls and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.Time to glaze!1. Take the cake out of the freezer and onto the counter top.2. Unwrap. Carefully unclasp the sides of the springform pan and peel away the acetate.3. Due to the technique, the frosting should already be extremely smooth. But, take care of any dents that may have occurred by using a spatula dipped in hot water to smooth the surface to perfection. Any imperfections can cause the mirror glaze to catch.4. When the cake is perfectly smooth, place on top of a cooling rack, which itself is on a rimmed cookie sheet.5. Pour the mirror glaze over the cake, quickly, making sure to move the bowl around as you pour so that there aren't any bare spots. (The sides are the hardest.)6. Immediately after completing pouring one color, smooth with a spatula by wiping from one side to another. This glaze sets VERY quickly, so if this isn't done immediately, the only thing accomplished with swiping will be to pull the glaze off of the cake in chunks.7. If you choose to use another color, repeat the above steps, remembering to wipe quickly to maintain that shiny perfect surface.Other notes: This cake can be froze for up to a couple of weeks without affecting the appearance at all. Before serving, defrost overnight in refrigerator.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 9" cake

And there you have it.  Just look at those reflections!  For the record, (and to answer the question) this is probably not the shiniest in the land, but it's pretty darn close!