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Archive for July 23rd, 2012

A little catch up

I’m getting pretty lazy on my blogging.  So it’s due time that I catch you up on my adventures in and out of the kitchen.  We’re going to rewind all the way to Easter.

Last year, I made an Easter duck cake, decorated in pastel flowers.  This year, I wanted to make something a bit lighter, to round off dinner nicely without being too rich or heavy.  So I chose to make a pavlova.

I’ve never made a full scale, traditional pavlova before.  If you remember a Daring Baker’s challenge two years ago, I made mini chocolate pavlova’s with ganache.  So after hunting around for a recipe, I used a recipe provided by one of my fellow Daring Kitchen bakers, Audax Artifex.  And for the topping, I folded whipped cream into pastry cream to add just a tad bit of richness.

The finished product was pretty good, though I did have some issues with the pavlova cracking.  I tried to cover up those imperfections the best I could with the cream, berries, and peeps (hey, it was Easter).

After Easter came a Bob Schneider show . . . or not.  He canceled it due to illness 12 hours before the show and 1 hour after I had finished making him cookies.  No problem, I was to see him two weeks later in Chicago so I individually wrapped the macarons and oatmeal white chocolate/cranberry cookies, packaged in two freezer bags, and preserved them in the freezer until that time.  I did remake the Bob Bars though because those are really easy.

Next up, the Fray.  These boys play bigger venues now, unlike the tiny 300-500 capacity joints I used to see them at six years ago.  So when they went on tour playing some mid-sized, general admission venues and excluded Phoenix, I boarded a plane to see them.  Let me just say, the Tabernacle in Atlanta is a pretty cool place.

Right when I landed in Atlanta, I headed on over to the venue to scope out the scene and to try to deliver the cookies so I didn’t have to hold on to them the entire night.  Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would.  I waited over two and a half hours, talking to random security guys and photographers (who snapped some pics of me and the cookies) until I finally spotted Isaac (Slade) and pointed to my box . . . of cookies, guys!  He sent over his tour manager to collect, at which point I found out the show had sold out while I was waiting to drop off the cookies.  But these guys are so good to me, he added my name to the guest list last minute.

After that, I had to take some pictures with fans and sign autographs.  Okay, not quite.  But some girls had seen Isaac say hi to me and wanted to know how I knew him.  A picture was requested with the Fray’s psycho fan (me), but I politely declined.

After the show, my celebrity status increased when Isaac put a picture of my cookies on their facebook page.  In the course of 30 minutes, it received over 1,000 likes.  Yeah, that made my night.  What didn’t make my night though was sleeping at the Atlanta airport for four hours, trying to avoid beggars asking for money.  Hello?  I’m sleeping at the airport.  I don’t have money!  Actually, I’m just too cheap to spend money on a hotel for three hours.

My cookies with over 1,800 likes on facebook.

When we were young.

All grown up.

Next!  What?  Did you think I was done?  I have a lot of catching up to do.

The next thing to come out of my kitchen was coca cola cupcakes to celebrate the life of a coworker who passed away.  My office held a potluck with all his favorite things.  Basically, it was a lot of junk food.  He liked popcorn, chips, hotdogs, licorice, and coca cola.

The cupcakes turned out light and fluffy, with just a hint of the coca cola flavor.  I made my own frosting with a coca cola reduction to give it more of the cola flavor.  Topped with cola gummy bottles, they were rather cute.

Following cupcakes was my first foray into baking with rhubarb.  I’ve wanted to see what rhubarb was all about for a long time, but never got around to it.  So I made a strawberry/rhubarb crumble. Hmm . . . check that off the list.  Maybe some day, I’ll give it another shot.  It was like eating jelly with crunchy oatmeal bits on top.  Not terrible with ice cream, but not really my favorite.

Then came Father’s Day.  Perfect!  I could bake for my dad and satisfy my craving for carrot cake all at the same time.  Lately, I’ve had a thing for tall cakes.  I don’t really like short sheet cakes.  So I baked the cake in a 9×13 inch pan and cut it in half to stack.  Easy enough, but the frosting was another story.

I’ve come to find that cream cheese frosting can only really be made with full fat cream cheese.  Do not try to be healthier and use the reduced fat variety.  The frosting will be too runny and require way too much powdered sugar to get to a thicker consistency.  I had to refrigerate often to set the frosting.  Even with this minor setback, by adding little modeling chocolate decorations, the cake still turned out nicely.

Are you still with me?  Almost caught up, folks.

Sourdough.  Yes . . . again.  Third time’s the charm?  Well, kind of.

I used a different recipe, found on this blog.  It used a little bit more starter than the last recipe I tried.  And it definitely had a stiffer dough than the previous attempt, so I was pretty optimistic.  Unfortunately, the dough didn’t rise at all during baking so I was still left with a flat round.  BUT, it was eatable.  My sister visiting from France even requested I make it again.  I just might, but next time I’ll probably cheat and use a loaf pan so it has no choice but rise vertically.

Last, but not least, a birthday cake for my mom.  Last year, I made a pretty massive cake and took the leftovers to work for my coworkers.  I decided to go tall, but not quite so big.  I made a yellow cake, scaling the recipe to 1 1/2 since I have 9 inch cake pans.  I really need to buy 7 inch cake rounds.

I split each cake in half so it’d have 4 layers, and alternated the layers with caramel frosting and vanilla frosting, topped with chocolate ganache (because I ran out of frosting and didn’t have enough powdered sugar to make more).  The cake crumbs leftover from leveling the cake became cake balls to adorn the top.  Left over modeling chocolate in the fridge yielded some pansies, sort of.  My mom loves pansies, but I don’t have any molds or flower cutters so I have to make everything by hand.  The flower shapes were okay, but food coloring gel doesn’t stick well to modeling chocolate.  Food color pens seemed to adhere better, but the color doesn’t flow as well.  Nonetheless, all the components came together nicely and the cake was a success.

Phew!  There you have it.  Now you’re all caught up and I’ll do my best not to accumulate three months of baking for one blog post.   The recipe for Coca Cola cupcakes are below.

Coca Cola Cupcakes:

Cake:
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup CocaCola®
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting:
1 cup coca cola
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or more, if necessary, to thicken up the frosting)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift sugar and flour. Add marsh- mallows. In
saucepan, mix butter, oil, cocoa, and CocaCola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry
ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to
batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into well-greased cupcake molds. Remove from oven and frost immediately.
To make frosting, boil the coca cola in a small saucepan until reduced to a thick syrup.  In mixer, whip butter and add the vanilla, coca cola, and powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Spread or pipe on cupcakes.
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