Thursday, December 29, 2005

As you may have read in a previous post, I have acquired the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and plan to work my way through it Julie/Julia style....I have made several things from the book, but am saving them to post on a new site I am a co-author on called Good Things. Ali over at Something So Clever is the master planner on Good Things and she ask me to be a part of it.....I was thrilled and decided that my contribution would be to bake EVERYTHING in the MS Baking Handbook. Gulp. Easier said than done ....and once I sat down and really started taking in all that was ahead of me... I developed an ulcer. Good Lord. I have to make a 3 tiered wedding cake, roulade, angel food cake, goat cheese frosting, homemade puff pastry, eclaires, a dizzying array of breads and cookies and a nectarine tart that literally scares the hell out of me. It says in the description that this nectarine tart is easy to make but I beg to differ when looking at the picture. But I promised my Alicat that I would do this and damnit I am going to do it...... If it takes me 5 years... I am going to make EVERYTHING in this book. Every single little frosting, simple syrup and lemon curd that MS thinks is EASY..... even if it kills me. And you get to be there...... laughing the whole way.

Sooooo.... like I said earlier I have made several things from the MSBH and honestly they have all turned out like.... crap. I started to think that maybe this book wasn't all that .... then I looked back on all the desserts that I have made these past 5 months and realized... ummmm.... no, it's me. I'm just not too good at the dessert thing. But I am learning and have made things I would have NEVER thought I would have made.... Case in point: The Carrot Ginger Cake. This weeks dessert experiment... Martha style.

This is not just any old carrot cake.... oh no. This is Carrot Ginger cake with toasted pecans and an orange laced cream cheese frosting topped off with tiny marzipan replicas of carrots pulled fresh from the garden.....I followed this recipe word for word. I got a new Salter scale for Christmas and used it to weigh out my carrots to the exact weight the recipe called for. Okay, well I say I followed it word for word... but I did have to sub powdered ginger for fresh ginger only because I had already been to the grocery store and thought I was cool with the ginger I had stored away in the freezer. I thought you could save ginger in the freezer.... but when it came time to grate it, it was literally mush. Gross mush. So I had no choice but to use powdered ginger...... but other than that I went word by word. The cake part went well and it came out of the oven golden brown at exactley the time Martha said it would. The orange cream cheese frosting whipped up beautifully and tasted amazing. And lastly the marzipan was a blast. Oh I tell ya... I am really becoming addicted to this cake decorating, molding stuff out of sugar thing....I had a good time making those little carrots. The were so very easy and I was suprised out how realistic they looked.... especially once they were dusted with the chocolate cookie "dirt". I made it for my mother in law's birthday and it really was a hit... The cake tasted great (finally) and the little carrots were a huge hit... especially with the kids. Martha has once again inched her way into my little heart and I guess I will keep her around....for a while.

Carrot Ginger Cake

Unsalted butter, for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 cup (3 ounces) pecan halves
1 pound large carrots, peeled
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 375°. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Dust pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Set pans aside. Spread pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan, and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and let stand until completely cool. Reduce temperature to 300°. Finely chop pecans, and set aside.

Using the smallest holes (less than 1/4 inch in diameter) of a box grater, grate carrots, yielding 2 1/2 cups. Place carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, and ginger in a large bowl; whisk until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the toasted pecans.

Divide batter between the two cake pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middles comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove pans from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack; let stand until completely cool.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of the cakes so surfaces are level. Slice each layer in half horizontally. Place a layer on a cake stand or cardboard round, and spread 3/4 cup frosting over top. Place a second cake layer on top, and spread with another 3/4 cup frosting. Repeat with third layer and another 3/4 cup frosting. Place last cake layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the assembled cake. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill 3 to 4 hours.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eight-ounce bars cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
Pinch of salt

Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and beat until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients, and beat 5 minutes more. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cookbook Must Haves

I was going through the cookbook section of and came across a few that we all need to add to our collections! If any of you have any of these please let me know... give us a review!

"Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager joins forces with New York Times bestselling author William J. Birnes to throw open the vaults of interstellar haute cuisine, revealing for the first time the secret preparation techniques behind a variety of exotic dishes and drinks."

Sounds fabulous. I am sure this is the height of Mr. Birnes writing career. Interstellar haute cuisine.... Coming to a town near you.....

Booty Food

"A Date by Date, Course-By-Course, Nibble-By-Nibble Guide to Cultivating Love and Passion Through Food"

Sex and food... goes hand in *ahem* hand, right? But the title of this book makes me think of 59 cent cheese Krystals at 2am.

The Best Fryer Cookbook Ever

"From crispy appetizers and snacks to sizzling meats to vegetables, grains, and potatoes to appetizing fried desserts, The Best Fryer Cookbook Ever delves into the how and why of deep frying. It covers the best -- and potentially healthiest -- oils to use, correct temperatures and frying times, technical tips, and helpful hints for using the deep fryer, safety guidelines, and even the gamut of deep-fryer makes and models now on the market. With Phyllis Kohn's professional and easy-to-follow instructions, plus a kitchen-tested lineup of delectable recipes, everyone will welcome deep frying back into their home, especially when they learn how deep-fried food often absorbs far less fat than shallow frying."

A staple in every southern kitchen.

The I Can't Chew Cookbook

"When a medical condition forced his wife to eat only soft foods, the author developed 200 recipes that were soft, nutritious, and delicious. Containing recipes for soups, main dishes, vegetables, and desserts, this unique cookbook will help non-chewers fully enjoy their meals."

Ummmm... okay. There really is a cookbook for everyone! The title cracks me up.

The Pink Panther Cocktail Party

"No bachelor pad, lounge, or luau is complete without a cocktail, and this handy hipster's recipe book includes five dozen of them, each inspired by everyone's favorite cool cat, the Pink Panther. Also includes colorful retro artwork by the infamous Shag and a bonus CD with video clips and songs."

If I were still single and went to a "bachelor pad" that had this book on the shelf, I think I would turn around and walk straight out. If your man has to lean to be cool from the Pink Panther... there is something SERIOUSLY wrong.

How to Microwave: The Cook's guide to the Best Microwave Practice

I couldn't find a description for this book anywhere. But I think the title says it all. I love the phrase " best microwave practice". I mean, do we really need a microwave how to?

Star Wars Cookbook II

"Provides step-by-step instructions for creating healthy snacks, main courses, and deserts including Darth double dogs, Bubble City Salad, Boss Nass Broccoli, and Opee's sea crunch."

Good God... this is version 2.

Karma Cookbook

"Boy George has joined forces with his great friend and macrobiotic mentor, Dragana G. Brown, to offer up dozens of mouth-watering recipes that will tantalise your taste buds and boost your immune system."

That's it... I am writing a cookbook.

The Magic of Jello

"Foods with Cult Followings.What's more entertaining than a shimmering, jiggling bowl of Jell-O? For a century kids and grownups alike have enjoyed the sweet flavors of the humble, packaged gelatins and puddings. The Magic of Jell-O: 100 New and Favorite Recipes Celebrating 100 Years of Fun with Jell-O pays tribute to the staying power of this versatile treat. The brilliant color photos and tempting recipes will draw anyone in, whether for a brief trip down memory lane or a serious investigation. "Berry Blue Shooting Stars," "Wiggly Banana Splits" and a "Watermelon Pit Parfait" are as much fun to make as to consume. More mature palates will appreciate "Easy Tiramisu" with coffee liqueur, or the sinful "Cappuccino Cups." Birthdays and Halloween are just two of the occasions celebrated in this confection of a cookbook. "

Okay I think I might actually want this book! I REALLY want to make that 7 layered thing on the front....

MiniMart A La Carte

"Anyone can savor the flavor of convenience with Mini-Mart à la Carte, a hilarious guide to simple and scrumptious cooking using just those ingredients found on the shelves of the corner store. Victoria Traig, co-author of Judaikitsch, and her intrepid, taste-testing boyfriend, have scoured their local stop-and-shop, crafting culinary delights from the treasures found there. Canned meat to squeezable cheese, relish packets to frozen slushees, the ingredients in these tantalizing recipes amount to much, much more than just the sum of their parts. With tasty recipes for delectable appetizers like Sardines Rockefeller and Notzoh Ball Soup, hearty entrees like SPAM Wellington and Fish Sticks Amandine, and sweet finishes like Banana Nicole Smith and Twinkie Surprise, guests will be lowering their brow, but not their wow. So, forget the Zone, cancel the trip to South Beach, and chow down on some real food, mini-mart style."

I personally would love to have a copy of this in the glove box of my 1992 Geo Metro..... for pit stops.

Spam: A Biography

"In this history of the all-American pork-in-a-can product known as Spam, the author praises Spam for saving the Russian Army during World War II and for bestowing upon the world such award-winning recipes as Spam Fritters and Spam Cheesecake."

Okay I want to know what award the Spam Cheesecake won. Seriously.

So it seems everyone, including those with intolerances, allergies, serious medical conditions, those that are pregnant, in love, in a hurry, health conscious, overweight, lazy, vegan, vegetarian, lactovegan, and ovovegan have a cookbook dedicated to them. It seems everyone from Treckies to Boy George can write a cookbook. It seems every type of food had been covered: Jewish, Mexican, Southern, Cuban, Lebanesee, Indian, food from North Carolina, from New Orleans, food from Oregon, Washington, Florida, and Montana. We have it all.... There is NOTHING that has not been covered by a cookbook. Nothing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Marshmallow Fellow

Homemade marshmallows. I don't know, I kinda felt a little snooty and foodie elitist while I was making them. I mean, WHO, besides Martha makes homemade marshmallows? Marshmallows from the market cost what 1.50 a bag... Right? So WHY would anyone go through the mess and trouble of making them from scratch....... I'll tell you why, because they are damn good. Damn good. And they are somewhat of a novelty. " Oh look honey... She MADE marshmallows. How...... very interesting."

I have had the Martha (of course, who else!) recipe for a while now in my " to try" folder and decided that the holiday baskets needed them this year. They were, suprisingly, very very easy to make. I has some sort of weird idea that they were just going to be one of the hardest things I have ever made... and they were not that at all. I am not sure why we don't all make these more often. They blow the supermarket bags away. I think it is because no one really has a tangible idea of what in the hell a marshmallow is made of.... Then Kraft has to go and get all high tech on us by using the term " Jet Puffed" on the bag. What is jet puffed? That conjures up all kind of weird images in my head.... And all those images pertain to weird and expensive equipment that I will never own. Some that hasn't even been invented yet!

But trust me.. If I can make them you absolutely can make them. They are fun , actually! And people really are intrigued by them. Here is the recipe I used... Cut them into neat little shapes, color them, flavor them as you wish... just don't come back here and tell me that you have Jet Puffed.

2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand 30 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals. Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.

With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

Generously dust an 8 x 12-inch glass baking pan with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out. Cut into shapes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Insane in the Membrane, Part II

Something happened yesterday.... Something great. I am not sure exactly what it was , maybe it was sheer determination to prove all the ones who had doubt wrong, maybe it was all the prayers to the cake gods, maybe it was just luck.... What ever it was it was great. I freaking pulled it off... The Farm Tractor cake was conquered.

This was so much fun. It's sculpture... But with sugarpaste. I worked for 6 hours straight on it and the hours felt like minutes! With each step I would say to myself... "I can't believe I am pulling this off. I can not believe I am doing this...."

Shaping the cake was no problem at all. The Hummingbird cake was nice and chilled and sliced up very well. This is a very very dense cake but it produced a lot of crumbs! I thought at first that I might be in trouble with all the crumbs but I did a fairly decent job of getting them all cleaned off. The cream cheese icing as a crumbcoat was a bad idea, I think. It never did dry like buttercream does so the fondant gives a bit when touched. I don't like that it does that. I want the cake to feel firm and solid.... There is no risk of it collapsing, but it still doesn't seem "firm" enough.

Another problem I had was coaxing the blue fondant onto the tractor body. Those square edges gave me a very hard time. In the book the tractor is smooth and perfect and the corners are smoothed over beautifully..... Mine wanted to fold over like Christmas wrapping paper. I had no idea what to do with them... and I had to act fast because the fondant was starting to dry. At first I had them flare out but quickly changed my mind. It looked stupid. I ended up pinching the corners together and trimming of the excess. Then I couldn't figure out how to make the seam go away. Anyone know how to do this?? I think the seams look really bad... but I figure the more I do it the better it will get.....

The rest of the sculpting really went great. Having an art background had finally paid off! That sculpture class I hated my senior year of college is finally making sense! The farmer's body went well... as did his face, nose, ears, eyes, arms and hands. The tires were a breeze... just cut out with biscuit cutters and embellished a little bit with pattern..... One issue I did have was being messy with the sugar glue. I had some idea that powdered sugar, merigure powder and water would dry clear..... why did I think that??? !!! It obviously does not dry clear.... it dries very white. Very white and very hard. So something I definitely learned for next time is EASY with the sugar glue.... and I need to be cleaner. And EASY with the freaking powdered sugar! Holy crap I had that stuff everywhere! Powdered sugar loves to settle into any and ever crack in fondant and it is a pain to get out.....

I really did have so much fun doing this and plan to make many more. I learned a lot from this first cake.... On what cake to use, what icing to NOT use, what to go easy on and what to add in. I learned that if you actually read the instructions things will turn out how they say they will turn out. I have to say I am pretty proud of this.... and I would have always dreamed about making one of these and saying "one day one day" had it not been for my best friend in the whole world... Stephie.

*** I am begging you all to please give me hints and tips on rolled fondant! Please email me anything you can and also some great sites to look at as well!! ***

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Food Blog Awards Nominations

Okay kiddies... get your nominations in by this Friday, December 16, for your favorite food blogs. There are all sorts of categories. So nominate your little hearts out!

Thanks to Ali for nominating Lick the Spoon for a few categories!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Insane in the Membrane

So my best friend in the whole world has just been declared mentally insane. I wish I could help her and I wish there is something I could do to for her.... but there is nothing. Honestly, I never saw it coming.... the breaking point, you ask? She asked me to make her (firstborn) son's FIRST birthday cake. Yeah.. I know. Sad, huh? God bless her soul.
I, of course, had a fleeting moment of insanity ( and WAY too much confidence) and exclaimed "YES! I CAN DO IT!I WOULD BE HONORED! " Actually I am very honored that she has enough confidence in me to do this... for the FIRST BIRTHDAY!Especially since she is a regular reader here..... God love her.
But she is insane. And so am I.
Here is the cake I am faced with.....

We will go through this together day by day. I have just started on the cake portion of it.... Hummingbird Cake.... I will get started on the fondant stuff this week. Stay tuned.. this will be an interesting week. Please pray to the cake gods and ask them to help me..... please.

Hummingbird Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 c. banana, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil and stir only until moistened. DO NOT BEAT. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, and banana. Pour into greased and floured pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

* I left out the pecans since this is a cake for children....