Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to Frost a Miette hot milk cake

The cupcakes
Well--I've never made buttercream frosting the European way--which is to melt sugar and whip it into meringue--but it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it might be.  It takes a while, because the hot melted sugar tends to freak out the egg whites, but with a stand mixer it DOES eventually whip up stiff and slick and shiny.

Only problems I encountered were:  the cakes were underdone in the center--both of them.  And I forgot to spread on the lemon syrup I had so painstakingly made.  Sigh.  Wonder if I can drizzle it on the slices of cake after I cut them?

I had doubled the cake recipe, but only made the frosting as called for, and I still had frosting left over to store in the freezer.  And when handed cakes with an underdone center, you cut it out and create mini-bundt cakes.  :-)

As you can see from the book photos, these cakes are filled with lemon curd between the layers, along with the frosting--yum.  Then I simply piped on some tiny flowers, sprinkled with sparkling sugar, and I consider myself done.

Now, off to make paella for dinner tonight.  Talk about throwing everything into a pan!  My recipe calls for chicken, clams, lobster, sausage, and saffon--and I had no luck finding saffron at the grocery yesterday.  Guess we'll have to do without.  :-)

This cake is only missing the center on the bottom layer. (See why I don't do this professionally?) 

Ta da!  Mini-bundt cake. :-) 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Hot Milk Cake from MIETTE

With company coming for dinner tomorrow, I decided to make a new cake tonight.  I opened my Miette cookbook--a beautiful book with lots of errors, but a corrected edition is coming out soon--and trusted that this cake would be error free.  And it almost was.

Six inch cake pans are small. 

The hot milk and butter must remain thoroughly mixed. 

The eggs, sugar, and vanilla are melted and mixed in a double boiler. 

The moment I touched this in the oven, I had a feeling it was under done. But the tester came out clean--should have trusted my gut instinct. 

This is what it should look like. One out of two isn't bad. :-) 
The first thing you have to know about Miette cakes is that they are small--they bake in two six inch pans, and each cake only requires one pan (you're supposed to freeze the other one for later).

I sifted together the required flour, baking powder, and salt, then mixed the whole milk and butter on the stove.  This mix must cool to 80-85 degrees before it can be added to the batter, so I quickly realized I had to take it out of the copper pot, as copper retains heat very well.  :-)

The eggs, sugar, and vanilla must be heated in a double boiler to 110 degrees for the sugar to melt--again, a thermometer is indispensable for this recipe.  Then it is whipped on high with a stand mixer, and goes from a yellow mix to a white, fluffy mix.  Then you stir in the dry ingredients, and finally you pour in the cooled hot milk.

I doubled the recipe, thinking I'd like to make some cupcakes, and they turned out very well.  But when I went to remove the golden cakes from the oven, the first cake jiggled--and I should have left it alone.  I did take it out and stab it with a tester, which came out clean, but a toothpick didn't' fare so well.  I returned it to the oven, but apparently the damage was done.

Tomorrow we'll see how I do at decorating the cake that didn't collapse in the middle.  :-)  BTW, the cupcakes are lovely--golden and crunchy on top, not-too-sweet interior. With a little frosting, they'd be perfect.  :-)

More tomorrow!


BTW--A manufacturer has dumped a load of copper pots and pans at Marshalls, Home Good, and TJ Maxx.  I've always wanted a set and have been stocking up at bargain prices--I love them, though they are a bit on the fragile side.  Easy to scratch, easy to tarnish, and they don't go into the dishwasher.  But boy, do they cook.  :-)  

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Fudgalicious up here!

Bill Myers tries his hand with the paddle.
So I'm up here teaching at the Blue Ridge Novelists' Retreat, a small workshop that's very intimate.  While   Jeff Gerke did thin-skinned critiques tonight, some of us went to Black Mountain and discovered Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream shop.  (Lynette Eason had a hankering for ice cream).

The owner, Tom, was making fudge, and was very generous with his time as five of us gathered around to watch and pepper him with questions--after all, who knew when we'd need to know how to make fudge for a book?  So we learned about the importance of temperature, the marble slab, the metal paddle, the copper cooking pot, etc.  And then Tom generously supplied us with samples of pumpkin fudge (oh, my!) and Turtle fudge--chocolate and carmel and nuts--oh, my!

We really had a nice time--I think I could happily live in a chocolate shop. The aroma alone would make me happy.  :-)  

So here are some pictures of our evening out.  And if you're ever in Black Mountain, now you know where to go:  Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream.  You'll be glad you stopped in.

I'm sure Tom gets a good workout handling all that fudge! It's heavy with good stuff! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to Bake a Sour Cream Streusel Cake

I can never spell "streusel" correctly.  Thank heaven for spell check.

Wednesday morning I was running around like the proverbial headless chicken.  I slept late because I'm still feeling the effects of a cold I picked up in Michigan (those chilly breezes gave me the sneezes!), and because I'm selling some stuff on ebay and had to put some packages together.

Furthermore, hubby and I are leaving for another trip tomorrow, so I need to shift into packing gear soon.  But other things to do first--some shopping (copper cookware on sale at TUESDAY MORNING!), some accounting, some vacuuming, and some work.

Mix into light and fluffy batter
Anyway--one of my dear book club ladies brought me fresh eggs from her girls--Rhode Island Reds--and I simply had to use them before I left town.  So I found a recipe in THE ART AND SOUL OF BAKING that called for four eggs: Sour Cream Streusel Cake. Trouble was, my sour cream was a month out of date and there wasn't enough of it, so I had to go to the grocery.

Sprinkle top with streusel mix
Anyway, the recipe is pretty straightforward, so I won't go through all the steps here.  I will mention, however, that since I've gotten serious about baking, I've begun to weigh my ingredients instead of measuring them--greater accuracy, you see.  And I've also learned that two cups of sugar is NOT sixteen ounces, but fourteen.  Solid weights differ from liquid weights, and a cup of flour or sugar is only seven ounces.  (I don't make up these rules, I just accept them. One day I will have a conference with the Master of the Universe and ask why a batter can hit the ball and not get a hit, but until then I'll just dip my head in a sagacious nod. )

So you cream the sugar and butter, and then add the raw eggs by tablespoonful.  Why?  Because if you dump them all in at once, the batter will lose that lovely light consistency and "break" into a gelatinous mess.  You can get it to whip up again, but "breaking" is considered a bad thing.  If someone can explain this to me, I'm willing to listen.

Anyway, I mixed in the eggs and vanilla, then alternated mixing the flour and sour cream.  Then you spread half the batter in a tube pan, sprinkle with streusel, and then top with the remaining batter and more streusel.  The concoction is baking now, so I'll let you know how it comes out.

In the mean time, I have to finish a proposal (don't worry, fearless agent, it's coming) and put together a blog piece on the end of baseball season.  Sniff.  Sort of sad to say farewell to the boys of summer.  But there's always next year.

OH--why am I baking a coffee cake when I'm heading out of town?  Because I'm heading to see the Grand Baby, and I thought it'd be nice to take a cake for my daughter.  :-)  Nanas should never arrive empty handed.  :-)

And ta da!  The cake is done.  I turned it upside down, thinking the underside was more attractive that the streusel-bumpy top, but you can do whatever you like.  And maybe I'll dust with powdered sugar before serving.  But it's all ready to go visiting, and in a bakery box, no less!

Happy baking!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baseball cupcakes

Bake and frost cupcakes with flesh-toned frosting (okay--mine ARE a little pale!) 
My book club met Monday night, and we had read THE ART OF FIELDING, a book about (among other things), baseball.

PLUS, our St. Pete Rays were in the playoffs, so we're all pretty excited about baseball around here.  To honor the occasion and the theme, I found two pictures of baseball cupcakes that looked do-able.

The first features a doughnut hole dipped in white chocolate and mounted on a grassy cupcake.  The second turns a cupcake into a player's face, then adds a cap made from dipped chocolate and a chocolate-coated marshmallow cookie.

I pulled them together, but did have to make a couple of changes, none of which suited the cupcakes very well.  The instructions called for the hats to be attached to the cupcake with a pretzel stick, and I didn't have any.  I "glued" the hats onto the cupcake with frosting, but had to do it at an angle which obscured most of the player's "face."

Add cereal O's, jellybeans, whatever you have for facial features
The doughnut holes for the other design should have been dipped in white candy coating (again, didn't have any and neither did my grocery store), so I used white chocolate (which doesn't harden very well.)  Furthermore, the only doughnut holes in the grocery store were coated in sugar, and the sugar had a tendency to resist being coated with white chocolate.

So--though my baseballs weren't as smooth and solid as I would have liked, I thought they'd do in a pinch. For a pinch hit, maybe.  (Groan.)

The doughnut holes on piped "grass" frosting
So--I filled my cupcake tree with cupcakes, and away we went.  You'll probably have much better luck.

Go, Rays!

From a distance, they look like baseballs, right? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to Spoil Your Doggies

Roll out the dough, using flour when sticky
I'd been traveling for a week, so when I came home I wanted to bake.  Upon discovering that our doggie cookie jar was empty, that settled the question of what to bake.  Dog treats, of course!

I've been using a recipe from FLOUR, but saw this one at King Arthur and decided to give it a try.  It has peanut butter, and what dog doesn't like peanut butter?

So I mixed up the ingredients, rolled out the dough (on my new kitchen baking center--wood makes the best dough surface!) , and used my dog biscuit cookie cutter to cut a LOT of treats.  I doubled the recipe because I have double the dogs.  :-)
These don't puff, so you can place them side by side

I baked them for the allotted time, then kept them in the oven a while to really make sure they were crisp.  The other recipe I use keeps the cookies in the oven for six to eight HOURS, so I know how important it is for the cookies to be thoroughly baked and crisp.

Result?  One happy dog! 
The result?  Two paws up.  The doggie love the cookies.  They're so funny.  In the morning, when I'm pulling my vitamins from the cabinet near the doggie cookie jar, Babe sits right next to the cabinet and keeps cutting her gaze from me to the cookie jar.  Who says dogs can't talk?  Her message is clear enough.

Caution:  as the recipe says, these are relatively high-calorie treats, so one per day should be the limit for your pup.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

How I learned to make Custard . . .

I'm home!  I'm in the middle of clearing my desk and paying bills, but I plan on baking DOG BISCUITS later this afternoon.  So I'll report on that later. 
But until then, here's a post from my personal history.  I've always been frightened by the idea of . . . custard! 

My baking fixation has led to many hours of watching any TV show with cupcakes in it, and this practice has led to a fixation and fascination with Buddy Valastro andCake Boss. (Wouldn't you love to have an Italian family that works together and eats together all the time?) Anyway--I ordered Buddy's delightful book and after cleaning the house on Saturday, I took off to the grocery store to stock up on cake flour, eggs, butter (lots!), and confectioner's sugar.

But before I started one of Buddy's cakes (the book has recipes!), I wanted to try an ice cream recipe that I found on epicurious.com. I have an ice cream maker that I hardly ever use, so I thought I could make some ice cream and freeze it for a day when I'm NOT on a diet. Then, while the ice cream churned away, I'd start Buddy's carrot cake because that's my favorite kind of cake in all the world.

Well . . . the ice cream recipe called for only a few things: whipping cream, whole milk, sugar, eight, count 'em, EIGHT egg yolks, and a teeny bit of Frangelico. Oh--and an entire vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise.

Vanilla scrambled eggs, anyone? 
Had to go to two stores before I found a vanilla bean, and I almost didn't buy them--TWO beans in a jar cost $9.99. Ten bucks! Five bucks a bean!  (Since them, I've found them much cheaper online.) 

But because I was in a gourmet mood and feeling pretty invincible because I've been watching so many hours of Buddy and Company, I bought the beans.

Came home and put on one of my new aprons (I'm still making them!), then poured the cream, milk, sugar, and bean into a saucepan and began to heat and stir. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see little black flecks appear in the mix--the bits of the vanilla bean you often see in really good vanilla ice cream. Then I whipped the eight egg yolks together. I was supposed to next pour the egg whites into the milk and vanilla mixture, while not letting it boil.

I have a gas stove, so I thought if I kept stirring and kept an eye on the flame, I could keep it from boiling. So I'm stirring and stirring and suddenly, a bubble--Eeek! I quickly lower the flame, but suddenly--I mean really, all of a sudden, I find myself staring little bits of scrambled egg with vanilla flakes all through it.

Sigh. I had a sinking feeling, but I persevered. I strained the mix, following the direction, and ended up with a small bowlful of watery whey, and a big bowlful of very sweet, very spotted scrambled eggs. (I tasted them. If I hadn't been on a diet, I might have eaten them all.)

I realized all hope was lost and set the eggs aside for my dogs.

On to Buddy's cake.

He gives good directions, but I see right away that an OPTIONAL ingredient is a vanilla custard cream. I consider doing without it--especially when I see that the steps to making the custard creme are almost EXACTLY like making the ice cream-with-the-five-dollar-bean I just ruined, but I'm determined to make this like Buddy would.

So I stir in the milk and the cream and the sugar and vanilla extract (Buddy saves me a bundle of cash by not asking for the vanilla bean), and I whip the egg yolks--five of 'em--in a separate bowl, then I have to pour the eggs into the milk mixture. This time I'm so paranoid about getting the mix so hot that it scrambles the eggs that I turn the flame WAY down low, practically off.

Buddy says to beat the mix on the stove for a minute, so I do. The mix is supposed to be thick and creamy, and mine is like yellow soup. Not working. I try to convince myself that my soup looks like cream, but then I have to get real and admit that it's not. So I turn up the heat, pray, and beat for another minute, and YES! The froth disappears, the mixture thickens, and it's CREAM! I quickly turn off the flame and beat in the butter.


The rest of the recipe was fairly standard: I added carrots, sugar, cake flour, spices, the custard, walnuts, raisins, etc., and after baking I placed two cakes into the freezer--I'll defrost and frost them when I need a dessert for my book club or something.

So now I won't faint if I have to make a custard. Now, if he can only teach me how to melt chocolate without burning it . . .