King Cake?

I’ve been thinking I’d make a King cake this weekend, but I’ve never had one and now as I look at recipes, I find three variations!

There’s one from Food Network that has a raisin and pecan filling, I’ve found another that has cream cheese and one with no filling at all…

Then there’s the cake itself, all say round like a doughnut, but one called for it to be braided (the one without a filling obviously)…

I don’t mind the work, but I’m not sure which version is “authentic”. Does anyone out there know?

Apple Cider Caramels

Alright, so besides getting a new laptop as an early Christmas present that was determined to have issues, I don’t have a decent excuse for not posting, besides life, there’s been a lot going on, not to mention, as you might have noticed, several holidays… and then, whenever I’d think about posting, all I could think about was how long it had been since my last post and that didn’t spur me towards my computer. However, I’ve renewed the site’s fees for another year, so I shall have to try harder!

Back around Thanksgiving, I made my second ever batch of caramels, this time using a recipe off The Food Network website for Apple Ciders Caramels.

Now, I was slightly hesitant, for my last batch turned out tasty, but harder then I was hoping, so this time around, I watched the thermometer like a hawk, and pulled it off a few degrees early, thinking that maybe the temperature would continue to rise a little after I took it off the heat.

I also lined the pan with parchment paper, which made removing them much easier, though not waiting for them to cool! The nice thing about my apartment being poorly insulated is that things cool off faster then normal. Somehow, I managed to wait an entire day to take them out and try and cut them to see how they were!

Perfect, the exact texture and chew I was hoping for, as well as ever so tasty. I froze some and gave them to the adults in my family for Christmas.  There are still a few pieces hoarded in my freezer, to be slowly enjoyed at a later date. This recipe will definitely be staying around!!

Here are some sights from that day, if only I could included smells….

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Meyer Lemons

I found Meyer lemons at the fancy grocery store last week and couldn’t wait till the weekend to turn them into something tasty…it was a long week!

Yesterday was finally the day. I’d decided to try Anne Burrell’s recipe for a ‘Meyer Lemon Curd Tart’. We’ve only ever made one tart before (ala Heston Blumenthal) and it was a long, complicated process, which, in my opinion, wasn’t reflected in the taste. This was part of my apprehension, the other was I only bought a 1 lb. bag and didn’t want to muck it up!

First things first, I blitzed the crust together in my food processor (it was a very moist dough) and put it in the fridge to chill for half an hour. I had several things going in the kitchen yesterday and found plenty to do with that time!

Rolled it out once, but it was so moist that it absorbed the flour and I found it was stuck to the counter. I dusted it liberally with flour, scraped it up and folded it back together, then re-rolled. Much better! This time, I had no issues whatsoever when I tried to roll it around the pin to transfer it onto the tart pan (newly purchased at ‘The Restaurant Store’ for just this occasion) and easily placed, arranged and trimmed it. Trimming was the easiest thing, I simply rolled the pin over the top of the pan, slicing of the extra and getting a nice, uniform edge.

I followed Anne’s instructions to line the shell with foil for baking and poured some of the contents of my coin jar on to that for a “pie weight”, a tip from our first tart experience, though Heston had us use parchment paper, which let the oil from the butter through and I had a fun time getting it back off my coins. Foil worked perfectly, but I think I’ll fold it over the top edge next time, so that it browns a bit more evenly.

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Now for the curd! I had 8 lemons and it took 7 1/2 of the to get the 3/4 C. I needed. I also had to zest three of them, this took the longest, cracking 5 eggs and adding salt and sugar was far quicker. On to the stove, whisking and whisking, paranoid that it might burn.

It was very easy to tell when it had cooked enough, the consistency changed, yes, but the color changed too, so there was no second guessing there, which made me happy. Poured it into the shell and put it into the oven. Let it in for the max time (and as long as I dared!), then pulled it out, though it still seemed a little swimmy.

Now the hard part, letting it cool. Fortunately, I had those other things I mentioned earlier to focus on and didn’t suffer too badly. After 3 hours, during which it had moved out of the kitchen and into the air-conditioned living room, we declared it cool enough and he sliced into it (I was too scared).

Mmmm. It was rather perfect, if I do say so myself, maybe could have baked another 30 seconds, but the flavor, yum, lemon! The texture was good too, smooth and creamy. He liked it too (see below).

First we shared a slice.

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Then he had another.

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Then I had one of my own.

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Then he had one more.

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How do you know when it’s good? When you eat half of it in one sitting!

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Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream!

We’ve finally done it! We’ve finally made ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

A friend of ours asked us to help cook for her son’s wedding rehearsal.She served a cheese platter for the appetizer. We made green beans almandine and roasted a pork loin and some baby vegetables for the main course, then all that was left was the dessert.

She had mentioned ice cream and my fiancé instantly promised her ice cream and a floor show, if she’d get some liquid nitrogen. She did.

He mixed up a batch of vanilla custard and left it to chill in the refrigerator while they ate, then when the time was right, we went into the dining room with a stand mixer, a metal pitcher with liquid nitrogen in it, and the custard. He handled everything, I simply watched as he poured the custard into the mixer bowl, then turned it on and slowly added the nitrogen.

When it started to clump up on the outside, he didn’t miss a beat, but simply stopped the mixer and knocked it back into the main ice cream. I realized at that moment that we’d never gotten around to testing/practicing this at home beforehand at all, um… I thought for certain that we’d now have lumps in our ice cream. Fortunately, I was wrong, for he knew what he was doing, having done his research, it mixed right back in.

As it mixed and the steam/fog slowly poured across the table and down on to the floor the ring bearer and flower girl thought it was amazing and loved feeling how cold it was, but some of the grownups were on their phones, checking to see whether or not we’d be poisoning them!

Still, everyone happily ate some once the groom had a taste and proclaimed it ready. It was smooth, creamy, and full of flavor, by far the best vanilla I’ve ever had, and vanilla isn’t at all my preference.

Chocolate & Caramel Ombre Cake

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

This is the cake I made for my family’s Easter gathering last Sunday. I’d never made such an ambitious cake before. I was done with work early on Friday, around 1:30 and found myself with plenty of time to bake and assemble, thinking everything through twice, since I wouldn’t have time to start over.

It took me two hours to mix and bake the first two layers, which would end up being layers 1 and 4 in the end product. I followed Cook’s Illustrated instructions for mixing it together, since my family hasn’t had much success with white cakes in the past (but then, we hadn’t a stand mixer then either). Feel like I should have prehaps sifted the ground almonds, but the recipe wasn’t very specific with those sorts of details. Also, I maybe should have used granulated sugar instead of raw… to make it more white. Washed up the dishes I’d made up to that point while they baked.

Once the cakes were cool enough to remove from their pans, I started on the second batch, which went quicker. Used various shades of brown sugar, since I don’t have all the British ones (at least not at prices I could afford right now). So at this point, one could find this on my kitchen table,

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Looks good already, right? Let them cool for awhile while I washed the dishes and ate some dinner.

Frosting went smoothly enough, though it took a while for the ganache to cool. I’d delayed making it, not wanting it to set up too much before the cakes were ready for it. I’d never used canned caramel before and was surprised by how thick it was, but I managed.

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As you can see from the picture on the left, the gradient layers were working on the outside, at least…. That’s what ‘ombre’ means in this instance, by the way, gradient layers.

At this point, I just had to sit back and wait until Sunday afternoon when it was time to serve it. I had a very hard time waiting for all my nieces and nephews to finish finding eggs! But, once they had, I carefully, ever so carefully, cut into it and found this:

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I’m rather happy with the results and my family seemed to be as well. The two-year old niece said ‘yum’ with every bite and her father had three pieces. For me, it was moist and rich, but, the texture was a little odd (maybe the almond flour) and it could have had more flavor. Still, the family was happy and I got to stretch my baking skills, so that works for me!

Easter Cake!

I now know what I’m making for my family’s Easter get together. I found recipes for a pear and blueberry cake, vanilla cupcakes with ‘surprise’ bunnies inside, a strawberry layer cake, and a four layer, chocolate and caramel ombre and submitted my ideas to the sister in charge of planning the menu. She choose the last one (my family loves chocolate), so there you have it.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

After a trip to the local Wegmans last night, I’ve found all I need, except for the exact sugar, but then, I don’t live in Britain, so I’ll make do.  There will be several new experiences in this process, i.e using almond flour and yogurt in a baking, so here’s hoping it all turns out. Stay tuned!

P. S. (Off Topic) I also bought Malt Syrup last night and will be using it in my bread this weekend. I’ll post about that once it’s done.

Easter Cakes?

My family is getting together the weekend after Easter. There are 14 of us now, and only half of us are adults. In the past, I’ve been responsible for the dessert and have been asked to make an ‘Angel Lush Cake’. My Mom found the recipe on Dole Fruit’s website. It’s an angel food cake that’s been cut into 3 layers, then filled/iced with a mixture of frozen whipped topping, canned crushed pineapple and vanilla pudding mix and finally, topped with fresh cut fruit, like so:

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However, this year, I’d like to make something different… I’m just not sure what. I’ve been looking online, and while I’ve found a few cakes that look quite tasty, I don’t think I’ve found the right one yet. Does anyone who is reading this have an Easter dessert that appeals to kids and grownups alike?

Lemon bars – for his birthday

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Friday was my fiancé’s birthday and I let him decide what sort of sweets he wanted. We’re not really cake people, so I wasn’t too surprised when he asked for lemon bars instead. The one, slight problem? I have no experience with lemon bars, none, not even eating them, as I’ll opt for chocolate instead, every time. Not a big deal though, I simply had to find some recipes and do as I’ve done before, taking what I want from each to make my version of lemon bars.

First up, I made the dough. It was quite simple, butter, sugar, flour and a teensy bit of salt. Room temperature butter is hard to come by lately, but when the mixer is the one doing the creaming, I don’t mind. Pressed it into an aluminum pan (my pyrex was busy) and put it into the oven. As it baked, I noticed it sliding down the sides, so I took the back of a spoon and pressed it up again. Didn’t bake as quickly as I expected, but I left it in until it was golden brown.

As part of my mash-up, I sliced some of my lemons as thin as I could with my knife, which proved to be easier if they weren’t the same lemons I had zested. I then tossed them in the zest and sugar and let it sit while I mixed up the rest of the lemon filling. Gently combined them and poured it onto the crust, spreading out the slices evenly.

They took awhile longer to bake than the recipe said they would, with the outer inch finishing far before the rest.

As far as taste goes, he had to be the judge of that, I’ve nothing to base it on. It was fresh and full of lemon flavor. He found parts of it to be bitter, but sifting some powdered sugar on top helped. One can tell the outer edge was overdone and the crust was a little off tasting (which I can’t figure out, unless the pan had something to do with it), but all-in-all, for a first attempt, it managed to hit the spot.

I’d love it if some of you would comment and give me tips on how to improve the process. Citric acid? Pyrex? Anyone?

Baklava: The Chef’s Thoughts

As you can see in the previous entry, I made baklava this past Monday, which was a new experience on many levels.

I’ve never made Greek food, or used phyllo dough before. I wanted to make the phyllo dough myself, as I’m that sort of baker; I want to make everything from scratch whenever possible! However, my fiancée was more familiar with it and urged me to spend the $4.00 for a pound, rather than complicate the process (at least until I’m more experienced with it). And when I opened the package and unrolled it that morning, I was glad that I took his advice, for it was far thinner then I imagined!

Sometimes, when I look up a recipe, I find very different ingredients and/or amounts, so I tend to take the different parts I like of each one, whether it be technique or ingredients and combine them to come up with my own plan. This time, I had three I sourced from and I’m rather pleased with how it turned out.

One thing I did that I didn’t see on my source sites but wanted to do anyway was to toast all my nuts beforehand. I used a glass pan and trimmed each sheet to size with a plastic knife, then managed to use the scraps to compose two more layers.

Added cinnamon and lemon juice to my syrup. We don’t like things to be too sweet. The suggestion of vanilla made by one source seemed as though it would mute the flavors.

Having only ever had baklava in ice cream, I expected it to be a bit more dough-like or cakey, but it turns out that I like it this way too.

I leave you with my favorite shot of the final product, you can’t tell its baklava, but I love the layers! I’m off to plot this weekend’s sourdough.

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