Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Something Besides Cake Decorating

Thought I would update my unfinished knitting projects.  Just two are underway at this time but I bought ribbon to start a new project.
I wanted to use that Martha Stewart knitting loom, so I set it up to make a shawl.  This is finally one configuration where the pegs stay in place.  Not totally sold on this system.

I have about 4 feet done and would like it to be at least 6 feet, more like seven.  The color has a nice pearl sheen and fades in and out of a light spring green.

The other project is an adult size cardigan using more of that yarn I found on sale.
I am at the first sleeve, which will be added to the body then the yoke knit last.

Last night I adapted a recipe I saw on Ten Dollar Dinners, Food Network.  It was great, quick, easy and crammed with flavor.  The recipe made 4 generous servings and with sides and smaller (hot dog) buns could have easily made 6.  The original recipe is at:
Three Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Here is my adaptation using what I had on hand.

                          Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Serving Size  : 4    

3/4 pound frozen sirloin steak -- partially thawed (or freeze fresh sirloin for 45 minutes)
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil -- plus more if needed
1 large or 2 small yellow onions -- sliced with the grain
1 red bell pepper -- cut into thin strips
8 ounces mushrooms -- sliced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
3 tablespoons cream cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 slices American cheese
4 hoagie/ Sub rolls (the smaller the roll, the more servings)
3/4 cup shredded Co-Jack cheese

Slice the partially frozen meat into very thin slices. Mix together the chili powder,  garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Toss the meat slices in the mixture to coat.  Set aside to marinate.

Heat the oil in heavy saute pan (such as cast iron) over medium heat.  I would not use non-stick for this as you want the fond and a pretty high heat for the meat.  Cook the onions and peppers, salting them generously,  until tender and onions are caramelized.  Remove to a plate. Add another teaspoon of oil and the mushrooms and garlic, season this as well and cook until all the vegetables are soft and golden, about 5 minutes longer.

Remove the remaining vegetables to the plate and add a splash more oil to the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high because now it's time to flash-fry the meat. Cook the meat very quickly in the hot pan, stirring to brown all sides. Once brown, reduce the heat (if it was a cast iron pan you can just turn it off)to low and mix together the vegetables and beef. Add the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and American cheese, and stir until creamy and well incorporated.

Preheat the broiler to high.

Split open the hoagie rolls and place on a baking sheet. Divide the beef mixture among the rolls and top with the shredded cheese. Broil until the cheese begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully for burning. (Serve with a knife and fork, these are messy)

NOTES : This recipe started with Melissa d'Arabian and her show on FoodNetwork: Ten Dollar Dinners (Episode: Open-Air Fare).  My changes were few - omitted the oregano originally called for and added 2 cloves of fresh garlic in the mushroom saute.  I also subbed Colby-jack for the mozzarella she used because fresh mozz is not a frequent flyer in my house and Colby-jack is.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cake Decorating Class #3

that pink really, really stands out
 Lesson #3

Roses.  Not the petal roses but ribbon roses.  And drop and turned flowers.  Sweet Peas and rosebuds.

I started with a 2 layer buttermilk 1-2-3-4 cake.  Something solid to hold up to all that frosting.  I filled it with extra-thick vanilla pudding flavored with Fiora di Sicilia (this is something you just have to try, I can't describe it but it is lovely.http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/fiori-di-sicilia-1-oz ).  The "buttercream" I flavored with a tiny bit of orange oil and vanilla.

I obviously forgot that color deepens as it ages and that the gel paste colors are very strong.  I meant for the pink to be softer.  But the yellow flowers and the soft green leaves did color nicely, varied from not mixing too thoroughly.

Instead of a shell border at the bottom I used the large closed star tip and made it look more ruffled. 

Here is the recipe for an almost no-fail cake.  I always use White Lily self rising flour.  The lower protein content is closer to pastry flour so the result is lighter.
                                  1-2-3-4 Cake - Revised

  1                cup  butter -- (2 sticks) at room temperature
  2               cups  sugar
  4                     eggs -- Room temperature (warm them in hotish water if cold)
  3               cups  sifted self-rising flour -- Sift then measure
  1                cup  buttermilk
  1           teaspoon  pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed.   Mix by hand rather than risk overbeating.

Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean .

  "2 8" layers"

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fluffy Pillows of Yeasty Goodness

Once upon a time and long, long ago in a different universe we would yearn and pine for the day when the high school cafeteria ladies would serve their famous yeast rolls.  This was not a localized phenomena, if you look on the web there are people all over this country with a soft spot in their hearts for the yeast rolls of their childhood school cafeteria.  Sadly, today's kids will never know this yeasty bliss. 

I have tried for years to replicate the ultimate softness and airiness of these remembered rolls.  Today, with the stars in perfect alignment and atmospheric conditions ideal, I reached their lofty peaks.

                    Fluffy Pillows of Yeasty Goodness
Serving Size  : 8     (yeah, right)

  1                cup  water
  2          teaspoons  brown sugar ( I used Sugar in the Raw)
  2          teaspoons  yeast
  1           teaspoon  salt
  2        tablespoons  milk
  3               cups  flour
  2        tablespoons  butter -- melted and cooled

  1. Mix everything in the dough cycle of the bread machine.
  2. When rise is complete, turn out onto floured board and divide into 8 pieces.
  3. Place dough pieces in a greased cake pan.
  4. Let rise in a warm place (I use the microwave) for 40 minutes, until doubled.
  5. Brush with more melted butter.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, brush with more melted butter.  Turn out on wire rack to dry bottoms.

Any remaining melted butter can be added to each roll as it is eaten!

We had these rolls with almost meatless "Crab" chowder.  This is an easy, tasty and inexpensive soup.  I like imitation crab and lobster, it makes a lovely salad with lots of celery and a tiny bit of Mayo.

                              "Crab" Chowder
Serving Size  : 4   
  2             strips  bacon -- diced
     1/2           cup  onion -- diced
     1/2           Cup  celery -- diced
     1/2           cup  red pepper -- diced
  1           Teaspoon  salt and pepper
  1           teaspoon  Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  2               cups  chicken stock
  1                can  evaporated milk
  1                cup  potatoes -- diced
  1            package  imitation crab -- flaked
  2        tablespoons  potato pearls or flakes

  1. Get out a large pot and start rendering the bacon! (This is the almost meatless part)
  2. Add the onion,celery, and red pepper.  Let it sweat.
  3. Now add the stock.  Then add the entire can of evaporated milk and the potatoes. Cover
  4. Simmer, simmer, simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Stir in the fish and bring back to a simmer.  Add the potato pearls or flakes to thicken.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.  Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Still more cake

Another practice cake.  I've been forced to use the zucchini maneuvers - leaving it on the doorstep, ringing the bell and running - to rid myself of the overage.  And it's all overage as far as my hips are concerned.

I stacked and trimmed all the layers so I had flat sides.

I sprinkled each layer with vanilla simple syrup.

I filled between layers with the Bailey's chocolate mocha butter cream (which is yummy).

I did not use the icing tip, just slathered it on top then sides.  I found that to be easier.

Initial smoothing with a bench scraper, removing excess icing.

Smoothing with wax paper for a smooth and even surface.  At this point it looked almost professional

Decorating.  Practice with shell border, piping lines, leave tip, open star, closed star.

I like the fringe effect from jamming the stars together

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cake Desecration 101- part Two

I had my second decorating class.  We were to use a transfer pattern for the top of the cake, shell border along the bottom and the rest was up to us.

Despite my knowledge of the color wheel and perusal of many color schemes on my Pinterest pages, I succumbed to the pretty colors in the little jars and ended up with a lavender, light green and cream cake.  That purple tint was too hard to resist and the little flowers looked so springlike, kind of like little violets.  With more petals.  And not as purple.  Okay, they didn't look like violets.

My daughter pointed out that the cupcake was running over on one side.  Just like my cupcakes  usually turn out!

See the clever ribbing on the cup part?  Our instructor showed me how to do this using a rose tip and a leaf tip.  The white cupcake part is using the multi-tip that makes grass like strands.

I had to pick the one spot with cake showing through to photograph.   At least it's blurry.

Oh, the cute little purple flowers.  The color did get darker as the evening progressed.  It started out lavender.  You can see a bit of the shiny gel from the transfer

This was a yellow cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I used a single layer for the class, splitting it and filling it with some nice quality strawberry preserves.

                         Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake

  2 1/2           cups  cake flour -- plus extra for dusting pans
  1 1/4      teaspoons  baking powder
     1/4      teaspoon  baking soda
     3/4      teaspoon  table salt
  1 3/4           cups  sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
  10       tablespoons  unsalted butter -- (1 1/4 sticks) melted and cooled slightly
  1                cup  buttermilk -- room temperature
  3        tablespoons  vegetable oil
  2          teaspoons  vanilla extract
  6              large  egg yolks -- room temperature
  3              large  egg whites -- room temperature

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

 In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

  "Makes two 9-inch cake layers. Published March 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated."
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NOTES : Nonstick cooking spray can be used for greasing the pans (proceed with flouring as directed). Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Frost the cake with our Foolproof Chocolate Frosting (see related recipe) or your favorite topping.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cake Desecration 101

I attempted my first decorated  desecrated cake.  This is not as easy as it looks on TV. 

First problem:  How do you keep the layers from falling when the instructions say to rotate halfway through baking?  They fell so I ended up with swayback layers.  The Icing edging to keep the filling from leaking out the sides made this even more evident.
What's with the knot on the left?

Second problem:  Crumb coat is supposed to seal in crumbs, not create a bunch of them.

Third problem:  The graceful drizzle ended up looking like a serious Julia Child and the chicken moment.  I spread it out with the back of a spoon so it wouldn't look so macabre,

and I did a lovely job spreading it evenly, I see.  Well, just sprinkle on some slivered almonds to distract from that.

I did pipe along the bottom to close in the gap between the cake and the board.  Unfortunately I didn't make a nice shell border at the bottom as I did at the top.  The top border doesn't look too bad for a first attempt.

I used the recipe for The White Lily Almond Cake.  I ground up about 1/2 cup of whole almonds to put in the cake.  The filling is just raspberry fruit spread.  The icing is flavored with vanilla and almond. 

The instructor at the Wilton class (first one was last week) said that I needed 6 batches of Icing for our next class on Thursday.  I found that hard to believe.  No longer.  This was one batch of icing, I did not have enough to frost the crumb coat or to add any other decorations.  A shell border at the bottom would have used up everything before I even got to the top.  And this was a single 8" square layer. 

Good thing I have a large Kitchenaid.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sugar, sugar

March 1st I started a Wilton Basics decorating class.  One of those things I thought I'd like to get better at since every time I use a piping bag I end up with more frosting on me and in my hair than on the baked goods.

First night we learned basic piping bag filling, holding and squeezing.  This resulted in more frosting on me than on the baked goods.

The next day I practiced on some more cookies.  I finally got a little more on the baked goods than on me!
sugar cookies with raspberry filling

I did one dozen of these cookies, each 4" across.  I tried three types of piping bags; disposable, lightweight vinyl and vinyl coated linen.  The vinyl coated linen bag was extremely hard to squeeze and really tiring.  But it is really durable and can be washed easily.
Next week we frost and decorate a single layer cake.  I need to make 6 batches of decorator (shortening flavored) icing.  15 cups of frosting.  All for a single layer cake.  That should be good.