Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Frosting......Real or Fake??!!

I am so excited it is FINALLY Spring!!!! The snow, cold and darkness has ventured away and I hear birds. I am so excited for the flowers to bloom and hanging out in the warm sun. Seeing the world come back to life after the dark cold winter makes me excited about every morning I wake up and the possibilities. 

My excitement for Spring jumped into my baking as you can tell.  I had so much fun designing these treats as a birthday gift for a friend. I do admit I attempt NOT to jump onto the cupcake bandwagon on a regular basis. I try to limit my cupcake adventures to a few times a year since it seems to be a crazy obsession right now.

As you can see from the photo above, I think most of my friends thought I got a little carried away with the piping bag. (But......is that a bad thing??) A debate ensued with friends over these wonderful sweets on what is the correct proportion of frosting to cake???......(yes, my friends actually debate things like this. lol)

I am a frosting fanatic and love an amazing sweet frosting. It better for me if it is made out of real butter, sugar and some good vanilla. When I moved to the Midwest, this is the first place I ever experienced a thing called "Whipped Frosting"...this was a new concept to me! Who wants a frosting that has to be "whipped" and in my opinion isn't "real".  I remember the day I first tasted it. It was the most disappointing piece of cake I ever had and went directly into the trash. 

Have you ever had something that logically should be one way and it appears society ruined it????

So all I ask.....please NEVER make fake frosting again. (Or if you do dont tell me.....)

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 1/4 C Sugar
5 Egg Whites, room temperature
4 C Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
2 Tsp Vanilla
Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot about 3 minutes.  
Transfer contents to a mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high until mixture has formed stiff and glossy peaks and has cooled, about 12 minutes.
Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Note: if buttercream looks curdled keep mixing. It will smooth out. Add vanilla and only mix until combined. Add paddle attachment, mix on low to remove any bubbles – about 3 minutes.
Hint: When making colored frosting, always use gel food coloring to small amounts until the desired color is reached.  Decorate to your heart’s content!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is Spring here yet?????

It is Spring yet???? Oh wait....It starts TODAY!!!!

If I had this in my kitchen right now.. Post coming soon. (Let's just say I didn't even get a piece when I made this....guess I will be making it again.) Hope you are enjoying this wonderful Springtime!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One Sweet Day....What about Yours???

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2012!!!!

Today........how do you describe YOUR Annual St. Patrick's Day Tradition?? 

My annual tradition seems to consist of a parade, a 5K race, green beer, live music, tons of people and not to mention corned beef and flying leprechauns (sweet!!!.....). While I am not Irish, I look forward to this day every year since it reminds me to enjoy life one moment at a time.  

However this year, I decided to change it up a little. Why not right?! Life is always full of surprises and some a little sweeter than others. I am throwing all of this tradition out the window and venturing into a new day.  So while this post is short and sweet....I wish you the best today....be safe and enjoy those around you! 

And if you have figured out the "hints" in this post....I offer you a sweet - Praline Fudge. 

Praline Fudge
adapted from Cook's Country Magazine - Brown Sugar Fudge

3 C Light Brown Sugar, packed
1 C Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Tsp Vanilla
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/2 C Pecans, chopped

Line a 8-inch square baking pan with foil. Grease foil and set aside. 

In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 6 minutes or until temp reaches 234 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove from heat and allow to cool about 50 minutes or until internal temp reaches 120 degrees.  

Using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until mixture lightens and is no longer shiny about 5 minutes.  Stir in pecans and stir an additional 2 minutes. Spread into prepared pan and let sit until firm in fridge. 

When ready to serve, take out of pan and remove foil. Cut into 1-inch squares. 

Hints: Use light brown sugar and not dark since dark will make the taste too intense. Also, instead of pecans you can mix in any other ideas and see what happens....why not have a little fun!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What has been your Biggest Challenge lately?????

This is mine......

For those of you following my post yesterday.......

         Tomorrow's party dessert.......12 layers = coffee buttercream, bittersweet chocolate buttercream,    
         2 spongecake layers, 2 hazelnut meringue layers, 2 souffle layers, 12 eggs and 6 sticks of
         butter.....and 30 minutes whipping the buttercream........even I am saying WOW on this one!!!!
         Let's hope it works!!!!

I am happy to provide you with the above photo of the final product - Twelve Layer Mocha Cake.

Can I just say this has to be my HARDEST endeavor to date!!!! The amount of time, detail and patience this recipe needs is shocking..(the meringue buttercream takes over thirty minutes just to whip)..but as those who know me know I love being able to conquer a challenging recipe and check it off my list!

This may not become a regular recipe for me but I am happy to have it as an option for special occasions.  Plus, the fact the recipe takes a dozen eggs, six sticks of butter, coffee and chocolate, no one should eat this on a regular basis.....ha ha!

So what have you ever challenged yourself with in life? (not necessarily...baking)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Coconut.....Hate or Love???

I do have to admit I am NOT a fan of coconut! It is not something I jump to use when I bake. But I came across this little treat from Australia that is so worth it. The original Lamington usually contains chocolate sauce instead of the buttered-rum sauce. While the original version is amazing, this creation takes it a notch higher with a little rum (actually not a little...). 

This dessert consists of a great moist cake, buttered-rum caramel sauce and toasted coconut. The combination creates a wonderful treat to enjoy or share. (and this from a non-coconut lover....) I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did (as well as my neighbors...who stole the tray from me before I took my coat off) so I offer you Buttered-Rum Lamingtons. 

Note: I recommend chilling the squares of cake before you roll in the Buttered-Rum sauce. 

So what ingredient have you used in the past that you were never a fan of but a recipe changed your opinion?? I would love to hear....

Buttered-rum Lamingtons
Adapted from Oregonlive.com

2 1/2 C Unbleached Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Eggs
1/2 C Dark Rum
1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tsp Vanilla
3/4 C Unsalted Butter
1 1/3 C Sugar

2 C Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 C Unsalted Butter
1 C  Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 C Dark Rum (divided)

5 to 6 C Sweetened Shredded Coconut, toasted (*see below)

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and  line the bottom with a piece of parchment. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Combine rum, cream and vanilla in another bowl. (yes, I know this is a lot of bowls...but the end with be worth it..lol)

Place butter in a bowl and beat until creamy.  Add in sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pour in eggs, a little at a time, until combined and beat for about 2 minutes.

Put mixer on low and alternate adding flour and rum/cream mixture until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Then  cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, until cold and firm.

To make sauce: In a medium saucepan, place brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of the rum and continue simmering for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup rum. Remove from heat and cool completely before coating cakes.

To assemble lamingtons: Trim off edges of cold cake and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. (Hint: Do in stages and keep cake in fridge to keep cold). Place toasted coconut in a shallow pan and set the caramel sauce in a bowl (it should be cool but still saucy). Roll cake in sauce to completely cover and then pat coconut onto sauce until coated on all sides. Refrigerate cakes in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Note: To toast coconut, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven. Toast, stirring every 5 minutes until most of the shreds have turned golden brown.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Baking Tip Thursday!!! Top Ten List.....

Hope your week is going well. My week has gone by so quickly...I think I missed part of it. But luckily the week consisted of a wonderful night out with the girls. Always love getting together to catch up, enjoy amazing food and some entertaining stories.

I am excited to share with you what I made for this wonderful evening in a post to come. But let's just say...the tray was stolen from me before I took my coat off...and they were being eaten before I turned back around. So...I guess this recipe will be added to the keep list.

From my experience with baking, I realize I love the process. (and the outcome isn't too bad either...lol) While I realize for me it is so much more about precision, science, etc. than the experimental/emotional aspects of cooking. (those who know me know the OCD side of it statement is right on....) I have to admit I am so NOT a great cook or an even good one...but give me sugar and flour....I am in heaven!! Home for me is being covered in flour waiting to see the outcome. It may be a messy process at times...but is so worth it in the end!

Today, I wanted to share with you my top ten tricks I use on a regular basis. I hope you find them as useful as I do....

Top Ten Tips
10. Make your own Brown Sugar (in a pinch).  In a bowl, 1 cup granulated sugar and 1-2 Tablespoons molasses until the sugar can be packed in a cup and measured like brown sugar.

9. When making homemade whipped cream, place the metal bowl and whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes before using. 

8. When prepping a cake pan, always grease and sugar (or cocoa for a chocolate cake) instead of grease and flour. This will offer a great sugar (chocolate) crust when the cake comes out of the pan and NO white spots.

7. When using a bundt pan, remove the finished cake from the oven and invert onto a wire rack. Take a kitchen towel and soak in cold water then wring out water. Place towel over hot metal pan for about a minute. (Just be sure to not burn yourself) Repeat 3-4 times. This will allow pan to cool quickly without the heat from the pan to darken the cake inside. Cake will pop right out in one piece.

6.  When frosting a cake, ALWAYS crumb coat...........never never skip this step

5. If something didn't work, first check the expiration dates on dry ingredients. :-)

4. Buy AMAZING chocolate and REAL unsalted butter.....(it does make a difference.)

3. Buy real maple syrup......This may be my New Hampshire roots coming out....but once you switch...you will never go back. 

2. Never rush a recipe.........if things don't come out quite right, sometimes slowing down makes things work out. (I have had a few things work at midnight...but I don't recommend trying it)

And the #1 tip......

1. When measuring flour, aerate it......(I do this out of habit EVERY time I measure flour). 

So what is your favorite baking tip??? I would love to hear......