Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Candy is Dandy.... But Liquor is Quicker!

Oh how that is soooooo true!!
So it's my turn to host Sugar High Friday! I am really excited about it! As you all know the ever fabulous Jennifer at Domestic Goddess started this grand day of sugar induced comas for us all and for that I am eternally thankful!! I love love love me some sugar and this is such a great excuse to find new recipes that fit into the theme for the month! For 16 months now we have experimented with apples, spices, nuts, honey and citrus. We have used coffee, custard and of course the ying and yang of sweets: Dark and White Chocolate. We have tried our hands at puff pastry, pies and tarts and seducing our loved one(s). We have even dared to go low....

So what else is left, you may ask? Well..... Rum, Tequilla, Burbon, Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Limoncello, Wine..... get my drift? This month's challenge is to liven up the party with a drunken dessert! No liquor or spirit is off limits.... but let's try to stay away from the ever popular rum cake....

Send me your entry by April 21st and look for the round up on April 23rd.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One Truly Terrible Tart

So I don't really know who Damon Lee Fowler is but I can tell ya he ain't the King of Tarts. Not that he ever claimed to be.....

I bought his book "New Southern Kitchen" at a discount book store we have here in Huntsville. Lord, I love that place. I am constantly going in there to see what new they have.... they have good titles and fabulous prices. So when I saw the title of this book I had to have it. I mean come on... there is a biscuit on the COVER! That is serious food porn for us southern breed. ANYHOW... I am one of those people who likes to judge a book by it's cover...Literally. I don't like to look thru the book to see if there are any recipes that I might like.... oh no, I take it a face value and anticipate getting it home and devouring it like a sensational novel. I like to be surprised. Most of the time I am rewarded for my shallowness but sometimes it slaps me in the face and I close a book knowing I just wasted 12.99. So.... this was one of those books. After I went through the book I was left wondering what exactly was "new" and in some cases what was "southern". Of course I studied the dessert chapter like I was about to take a test on it and didn't really find anything interesting. Baked Peaches with Pecans, Baked Apples with Pecans, Banana Pudding (seriously), Chocolate Charlotte, and several variations on Shortcake and Macerated Strawberries. And this recipe for an Apple Tart with Shortbread Crust.

Gingered Apple Tart with Shortbread Crust

10 ounces (about 2 cups) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra fine white cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
2 lemons
6 large or 8 small tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 cup bourbon

Preheat your oven to 375. Make shortbread crust in food processor by combining dry ingredients and giving it a quick whirl to sift. Start adding in cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Turn out into 12 inch tart pan and press firmly. Prick lightly with a fork and pop into oven for about 10 minutes. Get on with the apple mixture.

Using a zester, cut the skin off both lemons into long strands. Cut lemon zests in half. Halve lemons and juice both into a non reactive bowl. Peel and core apples. Cut apples into 1/4 inch thick slices, adding them to the lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Arrange the drained apple slices in cooled tart case and add chopped ginger in as you go. Top apples with bourbon, sugar, lemon zest and nutmeg. Bake for about 40 minutes until apples are tender and golden brown on top. Serve warm with ice cream on the side.

Sounds simple, right? And it really was. Too simple. It was so simple that I was thinking to myself.. " There is no way this is going to come out well....." The problems started right away.... the bourbon and juices from the apples began to seep out the bottom of the tart pan causing a hellacious spot on the bottom of my stove that caused an insane amount of smoke. I swear, it was like a fog machine was on in there! Then the sugar and lemon zest on top didn't reach a golden brown.... it turned black, immediately. So that was lovely. And it seemed mushy, but who am I to judge while it is still in the oven. The timer dinged and out came the tart. With a hefty amount of liquid spilling out onto the floor, it was a mess. I let the thing cool for about an hour then *tried* to remove it from the tart pan in one piece. It did okay coming out, but the crust was too mushy to hold all the apples and their respective juice in and one of the sides collapsed. It was like a dam had broken.... apple juice and bourbon went flooding out onto my stove and I just sighed. "Screw it.....Kathryn, come on, let's get in the bathtub!" After Kat's bath I dished out some of this pitiful excuse for a tart to Art and myself with a side of Duce de Leche ice cream. The ice cream was good. The tart was terrible. The sugar did nothing to sweeten the apples and they were sour from the lemon juice. Every now and again a blackened piece of lemon zest would get stuck in our teeth and the chunks of ginger were completely out of place. The "crust" was pathetic. Not even a crust... more like a gritty, mushy, uneventful, soggy piece of cornbread. We both took a bite and agreed that it was indeed terrible. So.....Me and Damon Lee Fowler are not on speaking terms. God love that poor tart.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Life....not Food

I think I am going through an ugly spell in my life. I am just funky these days. Let me run it down for you.... I seem to have developed a case of adult acne right in between my eyes. I got a facial a month ago and have been Clearsil's poster girl ever since. I have some sort of fungus on my right baby toe nail. So in addition to the dry and cracked heels that could double as heavy duty sand paper... I have a black baby toe. Nice. I just cut all of my hair cut off and now have to wear two little pigtails to keep it out of my face. And a headband.... I am hideous. I have only worn yoga pants, flip flops and a tee shirt with a sports bra(yields the LOVELY uni-boob) for the past month. And I still need to loose the last 20 pounds of baby weight...... Wait... She's two. Can I still call that baby weight??


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

Well, I'm back. Good lord... February was a crazy month for me. Kathryn and I stayed very busy this entire month... hence the feelings of abandonment you might have been having. I am glad to be back and glad to get back into a routine.... and back in the kitchen. It was so crazy around here this month I didn't even get to participate in Good Things. Bleh. But like I said, I am back so get ready for a dessert filled March!

One thing that kept me pretty busy all month was the planning of my baby girl's 2nd birthday party. Yes, I am one of THOSE moms that goes WAY overboard and gets crazy. My sister said " Can't Kathryn just have a normal party?" Uhhhhh.... no. I was pent up in a cubicle for TOO long and had WAY TOO MUCH creative energy to burn... so no normalcy here. Sorry.

My big contribution was of course the cake(s). Yes, plural. I know.... Why couldn't I have just made one simple little cake and left it at that? I told myself it was because I am trying to learn the "craft" and that I needed to make 3 cakes to practice. Okay, sure. That sounded good a week or so before the party.... but at 1 am on the night before I was cursing the damn things and wishing I could just run to Costco and pick up a sheet cake with some cute blue roses and her name spelled out in icing.

But I couldn't... and I would have been REALLY upset with myself if I had given up. The baking and covering the cakes was the easy part... and as you can see I didn't do any sort of elaborate decorating of the cakes .. the hard part was trying to figure out how to get them stacked in a crooked kind of way. I was trying to emulate this cake by Confetti Cakes... but I failed miserably. I was confident until I realized that I had already "glued" each cake to it's corresponding board just like Colette told me to... but then how was I going to get a support dowel thru the cake and the board? I know, it the solution sounds simple enough now, but when it's 10am the morning of the party(that starts at 1pm) rational problem solving is not something that comes swift. So I said screw it... we will have this one big present cake.. and we will have two smaller cakes that Kathryn can have with her candles on it.... Sounded good.

As you may be able to tell the theme of the party was candy. My dad said "Who's Candy? Is that a new cartoon or something?" "Yeah dad... It's a new cartoon about strippers. The main character is Candy and her side kick is a rabbit named... well, Bunny. Strippers by day and crime fighting heroes by night. Kathryn just loves it....."

Ahem..So... candy was the theme. And boy did I have fun with that! It was like a candy shop exploded in there... It was fabulous. All the kids were walking around with these huge lollipops.. it was so sweet. We had candy and cupcakes and homemade marshmallows and soda pop and cake and cake and cake and some boring grown up food and a moonbounce! Holy crap we had a good time! After the kids got all hopped up on sugar they jumped unitl their little legs just wouldn't jump anymore! Then the adults got in and jumped until their little lungs just wouldn't breath anymore! It was great.....

Each layer of the cake was a different flavor. The bottom was Hummingbird Cake with cream cheese filling. The middle layer (or bottom layer of the smaller cakes) was lemon butter cake with raspberry and lemon curd buttercream filling. And the top layer was good ol' Chocolate with chocolate rum filling. And before you get your panties in a wad... I used imitation rum flavoring.. not real rum. So just calm down. The lemon butter cake was outstanding. I was so excited it came out. I mixed raspberry preservatives with vanilla buttercream for the filling in one layer and mixed lemon curd with vanilla buttercream for the other layer. It was soooooooooo good. Too good... as I get up in the middle of the night and sneak bites of the few leftover pieces. I only had a small bite of the chocolate cake but my mom and husband really loved it. And this is the same husband who does not like chocolate. I was stunned. So that recipe will absolutely become a staple in this house. I pulled the recipe off the Hershey's website and was surprised at how easy it was to work with. It carved very nice and stayed nice and moist. This is a great cake....I highly recommend!

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

So y'all, that's my third attempt at rolled fondant. Here are the problems I had with this cake..... Please help me out!!

  1. Building a tiered cake. Crooked.
  2. Getting dried fondant to stick to dried fondant.
  3. Working with thinned royal icing..... I think I added too much water.

The cake was supposed to have fondant "tissue" like the Confetti Cake but I couldn't get the dried pieces to stick the dried cake. I had made over 100 pieces of fondant tissue that I had to just throw away because I couldn't get it to work.... should I be using gum paste for things like that? What is the difference in fondant and gum paste?? Any help will be much appreciated!