Archive for June, 2009

Perfect Party Cake!

It sure does look pretty!

It sure does look pretty!

This week Carol of mix, mix…stir, stir selected Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake for the TWD bakers to try. You must visit Carol at mix, mix…stir, stir because her blog has the most gorgeous photos! You can also get the recipe there and see how beautiful her Perfect Party Cake turned out! Really beautiful. Please visit the TWD site and click on the blogs on the sidebar to see how the other TWD bakers fared with their Perfect Party Cakes – I’m sure you’ll be amazed!

I had high hopes for this cake because I love anything lemon! (and chocolate…) I had extra large eggs where the recipe called for large eggs. I wasn’t sure if that would cause a problem or not so I went back to Google to see how many ounces each egg contained of egg whites. I got 2 answers, 1 egg contains ~ 1 ounce of egg whites or ~ 1.25 ounces of egg white. So I figured I would need either 4 or 5 ounces total. I received a helpful hint from Jaime of GOOD EATS ‘n sweet treats in regards to separating egg whites. Last week I had problems separating the egg whites and had some yolk fall into it which I spooned out. She advised it would turn out better to keep the whites totally separate from the yolks – no contamination from the yolks. So this time, I separated the egg whites in a separate dish before putting them together in the measuring glass. And after 3 extra large eggs, I had 5 ounces of egg whites. So I went with that.

Mixing the cake batter was no problem, except for forgetting Dorie’s helpful hints about having the buttermilk and the egg whites at room temperature. I had her helpful hints printed out and my grocery list noted on it which I took to the grocery store with me. When I got home from the grocery store, I didn’t have my helpful hints anymore. I started the cake batter and went online to check out the helpful hints. Oops. Had to wait for those items to get to room temperature. I have to say, I LOVE zest mixed with sugar! It smells so good, especially with lemon! The cake batter tasted really, really, really good!

After 25 minutes the cake looked done but I wasn’t completely convinced. I took it out after a few minutes and I think it was a few minutes too late. The sides of the cake have come away and looked a little burnt. And the cake didn’t rise that much at all. I was soo disappointed because it had looked Perfect going in! I wasn’t sure if I was going to slice these in half since they were so thin but I forged ahead.

I was a little hesitant about making the butter cream frosting after reading the P&Qs. I’ve never made butter cream frosting before and 3 sticks of butter is quite a lot of butter for frosting! After whisking the egg whites and sugar over simmering water for 3 minutes, it did not look like shiny marshmallow cream. I had to whisk it quite a bit longer to get there and my arm was hurting. (HAH! I’m such a wimp.) I was super encouraged when I got the marshmallow cream texture and it looked really nice after mixing it for 5 minutes after that. When I was done adding everything in and mixing for an additional 10 minutes I wasn’t sure if the texture was correct. I thought it looked pretty but was it ‘shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine’? Hmm. I don’t know, but I sure liked the taste of it!

I assemble the cake and 2/3 cup of raspberry preserves didn’t seem like enough so I used it sparingly and made it work. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention and only 1 of the layers has the raspberry preserve/butter cream middle. I accidentally put the 3rd layer on top of the second layer without putting butter cream on the second layer. Rats! O, well.

I took the cake to work this morning. I’m waiting for it to get to room temperature before serving it. I’m hoping to bring home a slice for the beau and so I can take a picture of a slice too. Sorry for the sorry pictures, I forgot my camera and had to use my cell phone!

I definitely plan on making this one again. The cake batter is so tasty I just can’t resist. Plus I’d like to have the cake rise like it’s suppose to so I’ll keep trying!

UPDATE: We just had the cake at work and I absolutely LOVE the flavor of this cake! I definitely plan on making this again, after all practice makes a Perfect Party Cake! I saved a piece to take home for the beau too!

Last Week: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise
Next Week: Katherine Hepburn Brownies


Coconut Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

You put the pineapple in the coconut and you eat it all up!

You put the pineapple in the coconut and you eat it all up!

This week Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen selected Dorie’s Coconut Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise. Quite a mouthful. Please visit Andrea in the Kitchen to see how it came out for her – all the way in Australia! You can also get the recipe on her site.

I was very ambivalent about baking this. Not a fan of coconut and the beau who is a fan of coconut is out of town this week. I do my baking usually over the weekend but the beau’s family was in town and there wasn’t any time for it.

I took a day off from work yesterday and got all the ingredients together. I was one of those that did not read the recipe thoroughly. I did know the meringue would take 3 hours to bake but I didn’t realize that it would have to be chilled for 4-6 hours prior to serving.

Things did not start out well. I went to get my parchment paper and found out that I had left it at the beau’s house. I didn’t feel like going out to the grocery store yet again so I googled a good substitute and ended up using well greased foil. Then I put all the ingredients in the food processor for the coconut mixture and found out that the cornstarch was also at the beau’s house. Sheesh. Googled a substitute for that too. I was wondering what else would I forget? Thank goodness for Google!

I had a rough time separating the egg whites for whatever reason. I had the 3 egg whites from last week’s Honey Peach Ice Cream and cracked 5 more eggs. When I cracked 3 of those eggs, the yolks cracked with it so that some of the yolk ended up in the egg whites. I had to spoon the yolk out so I think I was a wee bit short on the egg whites. It was the strangest thing. And of course when it came time to spread the meringue in our rectangles, the third item still at the beau’s house is my one and only offset spatula.

3 hours later, the meringue was done. I was hoping they wouldn’t stick to the foil but I had to let them cool before I would find out. The white chocolate ganache was easy. I used 7 oz of Lindt white chocolate (the only brand I could find in all 3 grocery stores) and 7 oz of Lindt coconut white chocolate. I figured if I was going to go coconut, might as well go all out.

Kind of goofy, jack-o'-lantern looking...

Kind of goofy, jack-o'-lantern looking...

Everything was done last night except for the assembly. And since I was at home alone and the beau was gone for the week, I was planning on bringing it to work. So I wasn’t able to assemble it last night. I was afraid it would get soggy by the time I got it to work today. So this morning I assembled it and a strange thing happened. I tasted the white coconut chocolate ganache and well, liked it! I also tasted the toasted coconut and the same thing happened! How strange is that since I don’t even like coconut!

The final product looked okay. I kind of sliced the pineapple too thin so it doesn’t look very juicy at all, looks more like dried pineapple. And I didn’t have even sides to I wasn’t able to frost the sides with the ganache, I kind of globbed it on. I won’t be able to get a picture of a slice of it since I’m taking it to work and cameras are a big no-no. I have a feeling I’m really going to like this one!

UPDATE: I brought it to work after lunch and passed it out to some co-workers (there isn’t enough for everyone!). I tried it first and loved it! I can’t believe I love a coconut dessert but I do and I want to try this one again for my family. The co-workers enjoyed it very much too! One of my co-workers thought I should sell them like at work like a bake sale and make money! HAH!

Last Week: Honey Peach Ice Cream
Next Week: Perfect Party Cake

Honey Peach Ice Cream

A bowl of some peachy-keen ice cream!

A bowl of some peachy-keen ice cream!

This week Tommi of Brown Interior selected Dorie’s Honey Peach Ice Cream for us to try. You can get the recipe from Tommi or go ahead and buy Dorie’s book Baking from my Home to Yours – you won’t regret it! To see what other creations and variations were made with this recipe, check out all the TWD blogs!

I bought my ice cream maker a couple years ago and last night was the first time I used it! (And during those two years, the bowl of the ice cream maker has been sitting in my freezer just waiting to be used.)

I used white peaches. I don’t have a scale at home so I ended up using 5 peaches hoping that would be enough since they were on the smallish side. I’m afraid of my peeler. My mom gave it to me years ago and she raved that it was the sharpest peeler ever! Well, I believe it – it’s so sharp it can trim your fingernails for you as you’re peeling whatever it is you’re peeling. Which is why I’m afraid of my peeler. Don’t ask me why I haven’t gone to pick up an OXO one like the beau, which is much friendlier. So, it took me a while to get the peaches peeled, pitted, and chopped. And I now have shorter nails. (Don’t worry – they didn’t end up in the ice cream!) My honey bear was quite empty so I ended up using much less than a quarter cup of honey. Didn’t matter in the end.

I still need to hone my custard skills. It doesn’t help that I don’t have an instant thermometer at home either. Can anyone reference a good one? The last one I bought didn’t seem to help me any when I used it for the Extraordinary Lemon Tart. I think it read 140 and that was all it was going to do. For this custard, I thought I’d follow the recipe where it says when you drag your finger down the spoon, the custard won’t fill in. Well, the custard was looking really, really nice and the spoon test worked well. I don’t know how, but in the matter of a split second, it went from looking nice and smooth to a bit curdled! After mixing in the vanilla and the peach puree, it still looked a little off. But in the P&Qs, Cakelaw from Laws of the Kitchen said it would turn out fine in the ice cream churner. And it did! Since I made this last night, I didn’t get a chance to taste the final result. I took the pictures this morning and dumped the ice cream back into the container before I headed off to work. From what I tasted last night, it was pretty sweet and very peachy! I can hardly wait to have some for dessert tonight!

Looks like a lot for one serving doesn't it?  =)

Looks like a lot for one serving doesn't it? =)

Last Week: Parisian Apple Tartlet
Next Week: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

Spicy Sauteed Fish with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

Tilapia covered with olives and cherry tomatoes

Tilapia covered with olives and cherry tomatoes

I made this dish for the first time last Friday.  I don’t know why but I always forget to take photos of food that I cook vs food that I bake!  I brought orange roughy fillets to the beau’s house on Friday night.  I didn’t know how I was going to prepare them so I browsed and found the recipe Spicy Sauteed Fish with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes.  Actually, the beau and I were browsing and looking for a recipe where we had the ingredients already and this is the first one that did.  He didn’t have cherry tomatoes, just regular tomatoes.  And he had kalamata olives which is one of the main ingredients.  We only needed olive oil, garlic, fresh parsley, and red pepper flakes.  We only had dried parsley flakes also.  It was so easy to make and the result was incredibly tasty!

For dessert I tried Parisian Tartlet partie deux (part two).  I picked up Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry and used a white peach for the tartlet.  I had a green d’Anjou pear but it’s still a bit firm.  The white peach was a little weird, I wasn’t able to get the pit out when I slice it in half!  (I didn’t use all of the peach so we ate the rest, and noticed that it tasted more like a nectarine than a peach, more weirdness.)  I had to use a paring knife to cut the pit out!  And the pit had split in half when I split the peach in half.  Weird.  Part two is a ‘shared’ retry:  I copied one of the TWD bakers and melted the butter and brown sugar together, then I brushed it on the puff pastry; then I sliced the peach and placed them on top; and brushed them with the butter/brown sugar glaze.

Prior to going into the oven...

Prior to going into the oven...

This baked for about 18 minutes.  I believe the beau’s oven is a lot more efficient and newer than mine which came with the condo when I purchased it in 1996 and so is probably very low end.  I took a peek about midway to check on the puff pastry.  Well, it puffed a whole lot more than the one I made with the TJ puff pastry.  Not sure why.  I happened to also follow the advice of Leslie from Lethally Delicious, unknowingly.  I don’t have a 4″ cookie cutter so I used a Japanese rice bowl for my cutter.  Except it didn’t exactly cut through the pastry all the way.  I had to use a paring knife to cut around the edges.  Which is the advice Leslie shared with me, to cut the puff pastry with a sharp knife!  The glaze seeped out the edge of the puff pastries but I brushed most of it back onto the pastry.

Parisian Peach Tartlet - Oo, la, la!

Parisian Peach Tartlet - Oo, la, la!

The beau enjoyed this dessert, although he wished the puff pastry was a little thicker in the middle because his cracked in half while he was eating it.  I LOVED this and plan to do this again and again with different variations of fruit fillers!  The puff pastry was so nice, crisp, and flakey, unlike my original version which was much more softer and chewier.  Visit Jessica from My Baking Heart for this recipe and try it ASAP, you won’t regret it!

Parisian Apple and Banana Tartlet

Parisian Banana Tartlet

Parisian Banana Tartlet

This week Jessica of My Baking Heart selected Dorie’s Parisian Apple Tartlet for us TWD bakers to try out. Can you believe it took over a year for her turn to come up? Please visit Jessica and see the terrific Parisian Apple/Plum/Peach Tartlets that she made! I have Puff Pastry envy because her tartlets have really puffed pastry! Jessica also has the recipe noted on her blog so be sure to give it a try – you’ll love it too!

I loved this recipe for its simplicity! I have very minimal experience working with Puff Pastry so I was going to buy the all butter puff pastry from Trader Joe’s that Fit Chick shared with us in the Recipes for June TWD entry. In the Parisian Apple Tartlet P&Qs a lot of the TWD bakers mentioned making their puff pastry from scratch – soo awesome. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do that myself. For now, Artisan Puff Pastry from Trader Joe’s will suffice. (I couldn’t find any of the Dufour Pastry that Dorie mentioned.)

I bought my fruit at the last minute so the only fruit that was ready to use was the Fuji apple. My Anjou pear and white peach are still under wraps, trying to ripen. I also bought a couple bananas because a banana tartlet was calling my name!

Since I have little experience with puff pastry, I kind of flubbed it. I let the pastry out to thaw a bit because I couldn’t pull the 2 sheets apart. Well, I let them thaw a little too much. I used a glass cup to cut out my 4″ circles (it was just shy of 4″) and it was difficult to pull the circles out because the dough was very sticky. I put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes and then worked with them. I should have let them stay in there for a lot longer but it was already past my bedtime.

I used 1/2 of the Fuji apple for one tartlet and 1/2 of a banana for the other tartlet. I sprinkled them both with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Sprinkled a few bits of butter on top and let it bake for 25 minutes.

Thank goodness for silpat mats! The brown sugar melted all over the silpat mat and by the time I took the tartlets out of the oven, the melted brown sugar on the silpat mat was dark and turned hard once cooled. I ate a piece thinking it would be like caramel candy, HAH! Guess again. Bleah.

A little bit puffed pastry vs very flat puff pastry...

A little bit puffed pastry vs very flat puff pastry...

I tried half of the apple tartlet and really liked the flavor of it. You can tell the puff pastry was too warm when it went in the oven because it kind of didn’t puff. The banana tartlet puffed a little bit and looked nicer too. I love bananas! Top it with some melted brown sugar (not burnt!), cinnamon, and nutmeg – boy, did it taste yummy! Wish I had some ice cream to go with it! And speaking of ice cream…

Next Week: Honey-Peach Ice Cream
Last Week: Cinnamon Squares

Cinnamon Squares

Looks pretty with flowers from my mom's yard

Looks pretty with flowers from my mom's yard

This week’s TWD baked goodie was selected by Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. You have to visit her blog, she has a lot of goodies (sweet and savory) to share with you and her photos are really beautiful. Tracey picked Cinnamon Squares and she did it 2 ways – as a cake and as a cupcake. My version of Cinnamon Squares wants to be Tracey’s version when she grows up!

I was really pleased with this week’s pick because I LOVE cinnamon! Cinnamon and chocolate together? What could be better than that? (Other than more cinnamon and chocolate…)

I always read the P&Q post for helpful hints because I usually tend to bake over the weekend and most of the TWD bakers are a lot timelier than me. A really good hint was to make the bottom layer of the cake thicker than the top layer because the cinnamon/chocolate layer in between tends to sink a bit. I followed that advice and unfortunately, my cinnamon/chocolate layer still sunk towards the bottom! Although it was really deceiving because as it was cooling on the rack I was admiring it – the middle layer looked exactly like that – a middle layer! I was feeling pretty pleased with myself (I think I remember myself doing an impromptu happy dance, and yes, I was all by myself in the kitchen).

Doesn't it look like it's in the middle??  Soo cruel to tease me like that.

Doesn't it look like it's in the middle?? Soo cruel to tease me like that.

I let it cool to room temperature and then wrapped it in saran wrap to take to my mom’s house for a family get together. The only thing that bothered me a little bit was that it looked a little over baked at the edges. That doesn’t bother me because I like the burnt edges of cakes, cookies, brownies, anything really. But I wasn’t eating this cake all by myself; although that cake batter was sooo tasty I totally had to restrain myself from liberally tasting it, just to make sure there was enough cinnamon you know. But not everyone likes burnt edges…

At my mom’s house I made the chocolate frosting. How simple was it you might ask? Just melt chocolate and butter together and you’re done! You can even microwave it to get it done more quickly. Sheesh, so simple and really delicious – just ask my mom, she was licking the bowl! HAH! A change from when I used to be the one licking the bowl while she was doing the baking!

I am not proficient at all with making my frosting look nice and pretty like Dorie did with hers or Tracey with her cake and cupcake, and most of the other TWD bakers. I need a lot more practice. But I just pretended that the frosting was too warm and thin for me to make it look pretty and frosted the cake. My mom was disappointed that the frosting didn’t cover the whole cake. She got over it when the cake was sliced because my niece pointed out that she loved how thick the frosting got on top! It was a baking success with the family, everyone loved it!

The frosting does look pretty thick on top!  =)

The frosting does look pretty thick on top! =)

Don’t forget to visit Tracey’s blog and I suggest you copy the recipe and try this one for yourself – especially if you love cinnamon! And definitely visit the other TWD blogs to see how their Cinnamon Squares turned out because there’s always lots of different takes done by the TWDers!

Next week: Parisian Apple Tartlet
Last week: Chipster-Topped Brownies