Monday, February 28, 2011

a taste of the tropics in a snowstorm

It's a snow day here today. We were gifted a  pineapple yesterday, and I had promised Cha that we would make smoothies out of it after school. No school, but Cha still requested a smoothie. I had to oblige.

Pineapple Lemonade Smoothie

1 cup chopped pineapple
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup ice
glug of honey

Blend all the ingredients in a blender. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Almond Mocha Fudge Baked Alaska

I settled on individual Almond Mocha Fudge Baked Alaskas for my mom's birthday. I thought I was giving myself plenty of time, but on Friday morning, I realized that I had to get in gear if I wanted to get everything done. So while Cha was at school and Ro was napping, I quickly tackled the almond genoise that would become the base of my Baked Alaska after spending a whole 5 minutes searching through recipes. I went with an Epicurious recipe for Opera Cake (must try that soon too!). I only used the genoise recipe obviously, and decided that the ground almonds I had in the pantry would stand in for almond flour. Yeah. Right. Cake didn't rise, but that's all right. Tasted good. I used the bottoms of my mini cheesecake pan as guides to cut it into rounds with a paring knife, and placed a cake layer in each of the mini cheesecake pan mold.

I also had time to tackle the ice cream base. I used what I think might be a cheesecake ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz. I love the texture of it, and it's really simple to make. Plus, it's not too cheesecakey, so I didn't think it would clash with the rest of the flavors in the Baked Alaska. I did consult my MIL because I remember that when I first made it, it was too sweet, and we had decided to decrease the sugar. And then I forgot. So I made it according to the following recipe.

 Cheesecake Ice Cream

4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until creamy and set aside.
Bring the milk to a boil over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and very slowly add it to the cream cheese mixture while mixer is running at medium low until combined and smooth. (If you add the hot milk to fast, your mixture will curdle.) Add the entire mixture back to the pan.
Stir over medium-low heat until thickened slightly (should take around 3 minutes). Remove from heat, strain mixture, and let cool 10 minutes.
Combine the heavy cream and cream cheese mixture together. Chill thoroughly. Pour into your ice cream machine and freeze according to manufactures instructions.

 In the afternoon, I made the chocolate mocha fudge that would be swirled into the ice cream. I spent a bit more time looking at recipes for that. I didn't want the fudge to be incorporated in the ice cream but remain a clear ribbon, with the distinct fudge swirl mouth feel, and not chocolate syrup. I went with this recipe. I was worried throughout. I melted my butter and my chocolate. Seemed all right. Added a mixture of milk and cream because I didn't have half and half. Seemed weird. Added sugar. Mixture totally separated. Added more sugar. Mixture still oily and not right. Added more sugar - at this point, it was quite thick - still oily but better. I stirred it a lot! And I added maybe 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder. Then cooked it for 25 minutes. It came out all right. Very all right actually. It's not too sweet, tastes like chocolate with a kick of coffee. Very good.

Hot fudge
barely adapted from RecipeGirl

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
instant espresso powder, to taste (optional)

1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together over simmering water. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in half & half. Add 1/2 cup sugar, whisking as you pour it in. Continue stirring until sugar has dissolved (and isn’t grainy)- about 30 seconds. Add another 1/2 cup sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and stir again.

2. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes glossy and thickens slightly, about 25 minutes.

3. Serve warm.

Yield: About 2 cups

When both my ice cream base and my hot fudge sauce were cool, I churned the ice cream and when it was soft serve consistency, I used a squeeze bottle to add ribbons of fudge in it. It totally jammed the machine, so I ended up just squeezing the fudge on the ice cream and folding it in by hand. It did a really good job. Must remember to use a squeeze bottle the next time I want swirls in ice cream.

I poured the freshly churned ice cream directly in my mini cheesecake molds, on top of the almond genoise, and put the whole thing in the freezer overnight. Next morning, I unmolded them, and put them back in the freezer while I made the meringue.

Meringue is just 4 egg whites and a cup of sugar, whisked in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water until it hits 110 F and then whisked until cool, about 10 minutes. Plop the whole thing in a piping bag with whatever tip you want, and go nuts covering the whole cake and ice cream with the meringue. Sounds simple enough. NOT SO. I have to admit that my freezer is not in the best condition right now, so maybe my ice cream was not as frozen as it should have been. Maybe using homemade ice cream with such a creamy texture wasn't such a good idea. The meringue kept sliding off the ice cream. The ice cream kept getting mixed in with the meringue. Piping it was easier than trying to spread it, but my piping skills need refining. But in any case, I got them covered as best as I could.

After a very copious brunch, my brother and I had fun toasting them. Well I had fun, I'm sure he was mostly humoring me.

I was kinda surprised at how much I liked that dessert. I thought, oh whatever, tiny layer of cake, ice cream and meringue, how special could it be? But it was really good. The different textures were good. The ice cream was really, really good. The toastiness from the meringue brought in some dept. Overall, a dessert I would make again. I'm not sure about the individual portions, as the covering with meringue part was a bit tedious, and I got complaints that the serving size was too big, but I would definitely consider making a big Baked Alaska that we could slice up and serve.

Happy birthday Mom!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

perfectly imperfect waffles

"What did you bake mommy? Pizza? Bread?" That's my 3-year-old coming home from school and recognizing the distinct aroma of yeast. Nope! Waffles. Again. Since we can't find a spot to stash the waffle iron, might as well use it while it's on the counter.

I've been reading countless recipes for Liege waffles, trying to pick one to make, when I came across one blogger that used maple flakes instead of the pearl sugar I still can't find. I actually had maple flakes in the cupboard. Not quite the 2/3 cup that the recipe required, so I smashed sugar cubes into chunks and used that too. The recipe came together quickly enough, even if the dough had to rest twice for 30 minutes each time. Not sure I'd make those first thing in the morning for breakfast, but since they're good room temperature too, we'll just make them ahead of time.

So, sprinkle yeast on milk, let rest. Mix dough. Let rest. Cream butter and sugar, mix with dough, let rest. Cook. Finally, 3.5 minutes later... Golden weirdly shaped sugary Liege waffles! I cooked 7 waffles, and I still couldn't figure out the amount of batter to put on the iron to make a full perfectly round waffle. Oh well.

Ate the first one straight off the iron, and it was delicious! Buttery, and crispy, and doughy and yum. The only thing is, those pockets of sugar I was looking forward to were underwhelming. Probably because of the lack of pearl sugar. Or maybe my stand mixer broke them up in even smaller chunks when I mixed them in with the butter? Next time (until I can find the proper sugar), I'll use a full cup of smashed sugar cubes. And maybe I'll fold them in by hand, see if that helps.

Sugar Waffles
source: Eat my cake now 
3 cups all-purpose
1/4 tsp salt 
1 cup milk, heated to 100°F
2 tbsp instant yeast
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup maple flakes, pearl sugar or smashed sugar cubes

Combine the warm milk and the yeast in a medium bowl. Set aside until bubbly, about 5 - 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt.
Add the eggs and the vanilla to the milk and yeast mixture and beat lightly with a fork.
Add the wet mixture to the flour and stir until the dough looks uniform in texture.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot.
Beat butter until creamy and add maple flakes or sugar.
Stir butter mixture into the dough.
Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Heat waffle iron.
When ready, scoop batter into the waffle iron.
The dough should cover 3/4 of the grid.
Cook according to waffle iron instructions.
Serve with butter and syrup.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

baked alaska - is it really?

My mom's birthday is this weekend, and I'm having my parents and my brother and his wife over for brunch on Sunday. We're going to have waffles - buttermilk, belgian or liege, I haven't decided (UPDATE: I used this recipe, and it was awesome!) - scrambled eggs, mini pommes anna, bacon and fruit salad. For dessert, a Baked Alaska.

I know the Daring Bakers made Baked Alaska last summer, so I'm in the process of going through their posts for inspiration. They used a brown butter pound cake as a base. I'm debating what to do. And my mom is no help! When I asked what flavor she wanted, she's like, well, vanilla's fine, yeah vanilla... I was thinking of doing a s'mores thing, with some kind of graham cracker base, then chocolate ice cream and the meringue standing in for the toasted marshmallow. But then on a DB post I read, someone said they used to make a brownie base, vanilla ice cream and meringue... That sounds really good too. I remember my mom liking Almond Jamoca ice cream, so what? an almond sponge cake, vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge swirl? But the last time we went to Baskin Robbins, she got Butter Pecan Praline... Arg! don't know what to do!

And  then, do I bake the thing, or torch it? I'm afraid of it melting like it happened to some Daring Bakers if I put it in the oven. But if I take the torch out, I'm afraid my daughter's going to want in on the action, and we'll burn down the house trying to prevent her from coming too close.

At least, I'm pretty sure that I've decided to make individual desserts as opposed to a big one that I would have to slice. If I did, the chances of the meringue sliding off are... pretty high. Ah well, I still have a few days to make up my mind about the other things.

UPDATE: Here's the Baked Alaska that I ended up baking.

Monday, February 21, 2011

pear muffins for breakfast

I'm slowly introducing solids to the baby, and I'm following the order as per this scan of a photocopy of an official looking document that I found somewhere on the internet over 3 years ago that says that up next is pears. So pears it is. It's not a fruit a typically buy, as no one seems to like eating it out of hand in our house. I'll occasionally pick up asian pears, but I find that it's hard to predict if they're going to be good or not. So I picked up a few d'anjou pears to make baby puree, but as I was cutting them up, I realised that if I was to cook them all, Ro would be eating pear puree until she's in kindergarten. So, three became baby mush, and two remained. 

A quick search through my evernote revealed that I had bookedmarked quite a few recipes calling for pears. 38 to be exact. I really wanted to make this one, but I figured I really didn't need just another recipe with cream cheese in it right now. I thought a muffin that we could quickly grab for breakfast would be more sensible. I was really hoping for a recipe with oats, so I could fool myself in thinking that a muffin is just perfectly healthy for breakfast. And a topping of some kind. I couldn't find what I was looking for, so I called my mom for a recipe she had for rhubarb oatmeal muffin. I remember that my husband really liked it when she made it last spring, and though I could go from there to adapt it into what I really wanted.

Pear oatmeal muffins with streusel

1/3 cup oats

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp butter, grated, cold

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup pear puree (can be replaced with another 1/4 cup oil)
1 large egg

2 cups peeled, chopped pears

Preheat oven to 350. 

Make streusel by combining oats, sugar and flour in a small bowl. Rub in butter with your fingers until crumbly. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the muffins.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in chopped pears. Divide batter into 12 lined muffin cups. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

They were exactly what I had in mind. They were moist and filling, perfect for breakfast with a tall glass of milk. The pear flavor came through light and bright. The muffin itself is not too sweet so the sugary crumb topping complemented it perfectly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

classic snack

My husband came home from work the other day and said that his coworker had gotten the best looking rice krispies square ever! So whenever I made marshmallows last week, he asked if I was going to make squares. And could I add mini marshmallows in them, like the coffee place does? With the valentine's day baking done, but still in the spirit, Cha and I grabbed a leftover box of holiday Rice Krispies and got rid of all the green ones to make V-day Rice Krispies squares. It took forever! And there was cereal everywhere! And although I didn't use homemade marshmallows, they turned out pretty good. It's pretty hard to mess up Rice Krispies squares!

Rice Krispies Squares
source: Kellogg's

1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 pkg (about 40) regular marshmallows or 5 cups miniature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
6 cups rice krispies cereal

Melt butter in large glass bowl in the microwave. Add marshmallows and stir until coated with butter, then return to microwave until completely melted stirring once in a while.
Stir in vanilla. Stir in rice krispies cereal until well coated. Using lightly buttered spatula, press into buttered 3.5 L (13 x 9") pan. Allow mixture to cool. Cut into bars. Best if served same day.

I used extra miniature marshmallows and folded them in after the cereal was coated in the melted marshmallows. I also made them in a 8x8 pan, so they would be nice and thick!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

holy waffles batman!

I've been baking waffles with a 10 dollar waffle iron for years. I'm no waffle expert. Before I ordered waffles for Cha at a diner a couple of years ago, the only waffles I had ever had (apart from the bad ones I made with the cheapy waffle iron) were frozen Eggo waffles. A while back, I remembered the thick waffles my mom used to buy in the bakery section of our grocery store, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and packaged in a clamshell. They had crusty little bits of sugar in them that made them so good. I tracked them down and had one. Not as good as I remember them being. With a bit of research I found out they were Liege waffles. I decided that I had to make some. That could not be achieved on a 10 dollar waffle iron. So I've been dropping hints about wanting a good waffle maker.

 Then my birthday came around. My husband presented me with a huge box that weighed about 30 pounds. For some reason it had the words waffle iron on it. My husband had bought me a 30 pound waffle iron! Have no clue where I'm going to store that thing while we're not using it!

I'm still researching 
Liege waffle recipes, but I couldn't wait any longer to try it! (And the fact that I had been up since 5:15 am with the baby gave me plenty of time to bake breakfast!) I made just a basic Betty Crocker recipe that didn't even call for separating eggs. I didn't even use butter because I was too lazy to melt it! (How lazy can you get?!) When I opened the lid, they looked amazing! So impressed! Evenly golden and crispy outside, and nice and tender inside. Dipped in local maple syrup, they tasted... well, like anything dipped in maple syrup would! But the texture! And the goldenness! We will find somewhere to stash the 30 pound waffle iron.

So next up, Liege waffles. There must be somewhere near here that sells pearl sugar!!! I really hope I won't have to pay insane shipping + duties to get it here from the states!

Monday, February 14, 2011

happy valentine's day

I sent Chaboo to school with these strawberry marshmallow pops and valentine cards this morning. She was soooo excited! Although it would have been way easier to do them myself (and I would of spared a broken bowl), I got her to help me dip them in white and pink sprinkles last night. I had made a batch of strawberry marshmallows in the morning, poured the mixture in a 8x8 pan, let it set, then cut it into cubes. I pushed a lollipop stick in each, dipped them in some white candy melts, and got Cha to cover that with sprinkles. Et voilà! Easy enough sugary treat for a bunch of three year olds! Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

more red velvet... cupcake form this time. I made them in a jiffy right before dance class yesterday morning, so I could hand them out to my nieces and nephew today for valentine's day. And I have no problem admitting that the icing is store bought, especially after yesterday's fiasco with the red velvet cake.

I'm so happy I found these cute jelly hearts to decorate them! I'm almost happy that the store was out of v-day sprinkles. Note to self, next year, don't wait until 2 days before v-day to get supplies. Plenty of Easter stuff, but not much pink, red and white!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

red velvet cheesecake cake

My birthday is this weekend. Last year, while my husband was home with our daughter who was sick, he tried to surprise me by baking me a cake. First thing the baby did when I walked in the door after work was to drag me to the freezer where my husband had stashed the layers. I was indeed surprised when I saw the finished product: He had made white chocolate fondant to cover the three layer cake and tinted a portion black to decorate it with a swirl… It was very, very impressive! And a very thoughtful gesture that turned him off white chocolate for a long while. I know he would have probably baked something again this year, but he knows how much I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. So, when I asked to bake something myself, he allowed me the pleasure!

I’ve been wanting to bake this cake forever. I think I have it 4 times in my evernote, from 4 different blogs. I seriously considered baking it for Christmas, but my dessert contribution was getting too expensive. So, for my birthday it is. Also appropriate for v-day, with everything white, red and pink plastered everywhere!

Since my brother and his wife are vacationing in Mexico, it’s just my parents, my husband, my girls and myself celebrating this year. I’ve decided to bake a little 6 inch cake, just to make sure we’re only eating one portion of this bad boy.  

As I said, this recipe’s been everywhere on the blogosphere, but it seems the original recipes where adapted from Apple a Day and Martha Stewart. This version yields a 6 inch cake. I baked the cheese cake and cake layers the day before serving, and made the frosting and assembled the cake the day of.

I’m glad I made it, but was a bit disappointed. I thought the cake was a bit dry, and the cheesecake too soft. There was almost not difference between the cheesecake and the frosting, texture wise. I was happy with the flavour of the cheesecake though. I totally messed up the icing, so we’ll ignore that component. I don’t know. The idea was sound, but…

I should mention that the cake is a breeze to whip up. No butter to soften, two bowls and a few tools. Easy peasy. Really. Takes no time at all.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

For the cheesecake:
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 3/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in the egg and scrape down the side of the bowl. Beat in sour cream.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of a 6 in springform pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 40 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

For the cake:
1 1/4 c. cake flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 ½  tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 TBSP red food coloring
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. white distilled vinegar

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat egg, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 6" round cake pans and bake 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely, then level. (You can keep the scraps to crumble up and use to decorate the cake once it’s frosted.)

For the frosting:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. butter, softened
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5–7 minutes.

Place bottom layer on cake stand. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom, then peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the bottom layer of the red velvet cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any red velvet crumbs in the bowl of frosting! Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

they're pink!

I don't remember ever liking v-day as much as I do this year! We never celebrate it as a couple because it's so close to my birthday, but this year, I'm going all out. Baking that is... Plus it probably has something to do with the fact that Chaboo is old enough to grasp that there's something special about the day this year. She wants to give out valentines to pretty much everyone she's ever met. That kid has a lot of "friends". So i'm trying to plan out treats to give out with the valentines I made for her.

 This morning, inspired by Shauna at Piece of Cake, I made Strawberry Pink Marshmallows. The original plan was to sandwich homemade marshmallows between two homemade graham crackers and a schmear of ganache for homemade smores. Now, I'm glad I tested out a graham cracker recipe last month... Don't know if it was my mad skills, or the recipe, but they turned out rock hard. Chab couldn't even bite into them. She made a mess had a blast decorating them though... So scratch the graham cracker idea. I'm hoping to make these chocolate cookies, and have them sandwich the marshmallow for some kind of chocolate strawberry sandwich cookie. Or maybe, the marshmallow would be better showcased alone? We'll see... In any case, what kid doesn't like marshmallow? Marshmallows were actually the first taste of sugar Chab ever had. I had used (store bought) marshmallows to decorate her cupcakes for her first birthday. Her eyes went wide when she managed to get those in her mouth!

 Now, I made marshmallows for the first time last xmas for a 
hot chocolate cake I brought to a family gathering. I was pretty proud of myself and thought they were awesome, but never having had homemade marshmallows before, I had no clue what they were supposed to be like. Then I read up more about them, and read that they're not supposed to have that wet jello-like mouth-feel. And although the mixture was a breeze to pour into the pan in an even layer, I had a hell of a time trying to get them off the icing sugar covered parchment paper. So, thought I'd try a different recipe.

I'm so glad I did! They are insanely good! From what I remember, the method is pretty much the same, but the ratios must be different or something... This one called for greasing the pan as opposed to covering it with icing sugar. It worked so much better!  The thicker consistency of the mixture made it much harder to get into a smooth layer. I had pretty much managed, until I decided that I wanted them to be "prettier", so I dipped a toothpick in gel color, and swirled it in the mixture. Now, there was no way they we're going to be nice and even. They're a bit too thin for my liking, although, if I end up putting them between two cookies, I think it'll be perfect. I'm definitely going to be making this recipe again, but in a 8x8 pan, to get nice chunky blocks of marshmallow to plop in my mouth! And now that I know where to get those tiny bottles of flavour... oh boy! The possibilities are endless!

Strawberry Marshmallows

Barely adapted from : Piece of Cake

Makes a 9X13 pan
2 packets unflavoured powdered gelatine (1 tbsp each)
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, devided
1/4 cup water
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
6-7 drops strawberry flavouring
2-3 drops pink gel food coloring
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted, for dusting

Grease a 9x13 pan with a small amount of shortening, using a paper towel to rub it lightly and evenly onto the bottom, sides and edges of the pan. Set aside.

Combine the 2 packets of gelatine and 1/3 cup cold water in a small bowl and let the gelatine soften for 5 minutes.

Place the 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup water and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and stir gently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pan, and place it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, checking it occasionally--you are looking for it to eventually hit a temperature of 235-240 degrees (soft ball stage).

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave the gelatine on high until it is completely melted, about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer on low, and very slowly pour the melted gelatine into the corn syrup.

Once the syrup reaches 235-240 degrees, pull it from the heat. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatine mixture. When all the syrup has been added, crank the speed up to medium-high and let it go for about 6 to 7 minutes, until the bowl is barely warm to the touch. The candy will turn white and fluffy during this time. Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the strawberry flavouring, just a couple drops at a time, stopping the mixer to taste the marshmallow, adding more drops until you reach the desired intensity. Beat in the food coloring, drop by drop, until you get the color you're looking for.

Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula spritzed with a bit of cooking spray to nudge it into the corners and smooth the top. (I used a silicone spatula, and it only kinda worked. At that point, I swirled more coloring in the mixture to get a marbled effect.) Sift confectioners' sugar evenly and generously over the top. Let sit for about 6 hours.

Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and invert it onto a confectioners' sugar-dusted work surface. Dust the marshmallow slab with more confectioners' sugar and cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great here for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more confectioners' sugar, patting off the excess. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lovely cupcakes for a daycare v-day party

My friend Mylène asked me for a cupcake recipe she could make to bring to her son's daycare for Valentine's day. He's only been in daycare for a month, and doing great! Way to go Josh! I don't know anyone who likes chocolate more than her, so I was trying to think of an easy chocolate cupcake recipe that wouldn't give the kids a massive sugar high! Then realized that v-day is all about hearts and red, pink and white for the kids! So Mylène, you must make these Pinkalicious Cherry Cupcakes.

Rosie at Frosting for the cause has a great post to make them look just like in the book, (one of Chab's favorite BTW), but I'm slightly adapting it here to make it easier to follow. I made these cupcakes a couple of months ago and they got great reviews. They are sweet, and tender, yet sturdy enough not to fall apart everywhere (I hate that about white cupcakes!)

Pinkalicious Cherry Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
1 cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
1 cup chopped maraschino cherries
Few drops red/pink gel food colouring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Separate 4 eggs, and set egg whites aside to be beaten. Add the egg yolks to the creamed mixture, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. Mix in a 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then half the milk, 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, and the cherries and juice.  For pinker cupcakes, add a few drops of pink gel food coloring to the batter.

Using ice cream/cookie scoop, fill cupcake liners. Bake until inserted toothpick comes just clean, about 18-20 minutes, but take care to not over-bake. As soon as you have removed cupcakes from oven, remove each of them from pan and place on wire rack and let cool completely.

Now you can make frosting from scratch but for the kids, I would totally do white icing from a can. (I tinted the icing pink when I made them last.) Top with white sprinkles, and a cherry on top (pat it dry so the juice doesn't run all over the frosting). And you have a perfect pinkalicious cupcake for v-day!

Mylène, j'espère que ton coco va passer une super belle St-Valentin!

Monday, February 7, 2011

royal pain

Last week, I tried using royal icing on sugar cookies for the first time. My friend's son is turning 5 this month and is having a dinosaur party. We thought we'd attempt making dino eggs cookies to give out in goody bags. When Tastespotting and Foodgawker failed to deliver, we went to Flickr for some inspiration. Found very cute Yoshi eggs cookies to copy. Thought it would be a piece of cake. Yeah. Right. Didn't exactly turn out like the picture. There's a reason people charge an arm and a leg for sugar cookies!

So with V-Day in our immediate future, sugar cookies were still on my mind and on my to-bake list. There are so many talented bakers\bloggers out there. I found so many
beautifully decorated cookies to draw inspiration from! Not one to give up so easily, I set out to make a proper batch of cut-out cookies as opposed to the sugar cookie bars that I had used for poor Yoshi. The cookies came out beautiful, very tender and delicate, if a bit thick. We'll blame that one on the rolling pin.

 So 3-plus hours later, the cookies didn't quite turn out like I had hoped, but hey, for a second try, I think they're pretty good! They tasted good too! I'm sure my mom's junior book club will have no complaints!

Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Using a stand mixer, cream together your butter and sugar until smooth (2-3 minutes).  Add in one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth and well-combined.  

2.  Whisk together your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture to form a dough that is stiff enough to roll out.  (You may need to add more or less flour). Refrigerate your dough for 30 minutes before rolling out. 

3.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface.  Cut into shapes of all sizes and varieties! (My heart cookie cutter made 36 cookies)  Place on an parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. (My cookies were a very generous 1/4 inch and took 10-12 minutes to bake. They were barely golden, but the tops should spring back when pressed.) 

I used Wilton's Royal Icing recipe to decorate the cookies. I have no experience with Royal Icing, and I'm not sure what consistency it should have, but I only beat the ingredients together for a few minutes before it formed peaks, and nowhere near the 7-10 minutes the recipe states. I also had to add a lot of water for it to be of a consistency where it could be used on the cookies... Also, the icing on the cookies got kinda soft after two days. I think more experimenting with royal icing is in my future. I came across recipes that add corn syrup to the icing. Might try that next time...

so, here we go...

Seems everyone has a baking blog. I bake. I figure, I should have one too. If only to show off my copycat creations, bad photography and interesting writing style. Plus, I have so much time on my hands right now, being on mat leave and everything. Might as well keep busy. I have no clue what this is going to end up being. But hey, while I'm blogging, I can't get into too much trouble... or, can I? Let's see!