March 27, 2016
Easter for me is a time for Bunnies, Chicks, Eggs, Easter Baskets and of course Egg Decorating… However you choose to spend the day, I hope you and your loved ones are together, sharing food, prayer, or your Easter Baskets. I chose to spend the morning peeping some eggs and this year I thought why not try the natural approach to coloring. I decided to try coffee, turmeric, chili powder, and spinach (because I really wanted green).
The colors are subtle, some more successful than others, and some didn’t really work at all. The big surprise is that I like the coffee the best! Turmeric worked well too, but chili powder and spinach were a bust… so I broke out the food coloring. I was carful to not over dye the eggs, because I wanted a soft natural palette this year. I’m not sure where this technique of wrapping the egg with mesh or a piece of nylon stocking came from (or I’d give credit) but I think it’s a great way to add visual interest, while keeping it natural. Here are the results. I’m pleased with how they turned out, there were one or two I’m not showing you but for the most part the method is easy, and produces good results. I love the flower , I used hellebore because it’s really the only thing blooming in my yard right now. I foraged some bamboo leaves, some evergreens and a small fernlike plant that I’m pretty sure is a weed… but a pretty leaved weed. Hey, on March 26th in the garden you can afford to be too picky. Note: choose soft non-woody plant materials and avoid thin spindly plants, they don’t work well. I added vinegar to both the traditional dyes and my “spice dyes” , i have to be honest I don’t really know what is does, but we did it when I was a kid, and you add it to PAAS so I added it. Good luck if you’re dying eggs today.
January 25, 2015
I follow FOOD52 on instagram and they recently posted this dreamy looking cake shared by Amanda Hesser. Her note about this cake read: “My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. She kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold. I wrote about this cake in my second book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, but wanted to celebrate it here on food52”. Well that was enough for me to try it for a family dinner party – My Father-in -law Loves chocolate cake so it’s apropos. These images are all mine, I have to say it was pretty easy to make but I’m a tad disappointed that the melted chocolate froze up a bit when I added the sour cream for the frosting. So be warned, make sure your sour cream is room temp and your chocolate isn’t too cool when you add the melted semi-sweet chips. Also, the dinner party is in a few hours from now so i can’t tell you how sublime this cake is… just yet. : ) Serves 10. And it looks pretty, love the simplicity. Thanks Amanda!
2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.) When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.
May 12, 2014
I do ok in the kitchen. What I mean is I’m not a trained chef or baker but I get around a kitchen or recipe pretty well, provided I have the right tools and ingredients. For Mothers Day I wanted to do something fun and whimsical and wanted to avoid the lemon, berry,whipped creme trappings that are so prolific around this spring holiday, so I decided to make home-made Ding-Dongs. I followed a recipe from The Bean Town Baker and have to say they tasted even better than the real thing. The Bean Town Baker implies that there is a lot of work in these but that’s putting it mildly. I doubled the recipe, so it was double the work… trust me on this, that probably didn’t help. they are in her words a labor of love. Instead of posting the recipe (you can find that by clicking the link to the Beantown Baker page) I’m going to give you the inside scoop on this recipe.
So, First things first… if you are astute you’re probably scratching your head thinking “he said Ding Dong but the picture up top is a Hostess Cupcake, what gives?” well, here is the lowdown on that…
The ‘from scratch recipe for the cake used in the recipe suggests you use 9 or 10″ round pans. After baking mini-cakes are made with a cookie cutter, filled and glazed. There is a great deal of cake waste with this method, but you do get the iconic straight sided shape. Actually there is so much batter that the recipe suggests a bit of the batter be reserved and used for cup cakes – this way the round cakes don’t bake up too thick. (I was happy to imagine having extra cupcakes laying around the house, heck summer won’t be here til June 21st right?) Anyway, it wasn’t until I was well into my second batch that I realized the cupcakes would make perfect replicas of the famous Hostess cupcake, and the left over whipped filling and ganache were just enough to dress up a dozen or so of the “extra” cupcakes. I baked what I could in cupcake papers and the rest I just put in a well greased cupcake pan and both ways worked well. I liked not serving cupcakes with paper on them to my guests. And frankly, the cupcakes were easier, cuter.
And, I now have a Tupperware tub filled with chocolate cake bits – I’ll come up with something yummy to use them for – maybe mixed into malted ice-cream? or a trifle might be good… but I guess the moral of the story is, go for the cupcakes! They are easier to make, they don’t waste unused cake, they are easier to eat and they present better and more professional that their cousin the Ding-Dong and it’s all about presentation right?
May 13, 2013
I am especially lucky to have Mondays off from my typical work day. The Interior Design business; paperwork, installations and the balance of client/office time morphs into something completely different, something more personally creative, almost introspective on a day off. And eventhough I snuck in a tiny bit of client time most of the day was spent alone, arranging shelves, gardening, induldging and maybe a tiny bit of napping! So, as I start to unwind tonight I thought I’d send out what a typical day off looks like for me.
It started with a commute (about 15 minutes) to a Clients for a quick rug install. We flipped a few rugs around the house to freshen up other rooms while updating the living room “off the kitchen” (vs the living room” off of the front foyer”, through the “tween” room and bar. Shes a great lady and I have fun with her, we debate and collaborate to find common ground between us and when we find it, we buy what ever it is we are in agreement on. The Ascot rug from Asmara Rugs in Waltham, MA is a beautiful addition to the relaxed space that’s affords comfortable reading spots, coffee cozy spots and a snuggle up spot. We agreed on this rug after she had the chance to have it brought into the home. This Asmara Rug was definitely love at first sight.
Not going to lie… I had cake for lunch, torte actually. It was Mother’s Day leftovers, it was calling my name, I had to taste it. I made a semi-sweet torte with pecan and cookie crust for Mothers Day and I was so happy that there was actually a bit of it left over for today. It is SO rich that one 9 ich spring-form pan ( and 2 lbs. of chocolate) produces enough torte to serve 20 people. I served it with homemade (of course) carmel sauce. Here is the link I used…simplyrecipes.com
If I had known I was going to post this topic today when I was planting rose cuttings in the hopes of propagating them. A client gave me these after I had complimented her healthy rose-bush, so vital in the ocean air, and pretty too. A small pink rose covers the canopy, Cecile Brunner? heirloomroses.com If I don’t kill them I will plant them to climb the columns on the front porch.
April 12, 2013
Ok so first, I owe you all an apology. Did I realize the Easter cake recipe was in metric measurements? NO, did I try to make it anyway? YES. Did it turn out? Well, yeah… I gotta say it was unique and a perfect complement to the beautiful lamb dinner and it fit in perfectly with the deserts others brought along. Would I make it again? Hmmm… Maybe. I think I’d like it better with and orange marmalade layer and zest of an orange and skip the rose-water. It was pretty and assembly was fun and pretty easy so for that I got a big return for my investment. If any of you have tried it, let me know how it worked out and if decide to try it, I say skip the rose-water and add orange zest and marmalade or brush the sponge cake with liquor of some sort and fold berry juice into the whipped cream instead.
Now you probably know by now that for me it’s all in the construction and execution of cake making that gets me excited. I am so far from this level, and frankly know myself well enough to know I don’t have the time or the patience to pull one of these cakes off, but just look at these…
What really gets me is the FLAWLESS execution of these edible masterpieces!!! I mean seriously, look for a flaw… have these images been photo-shopped? We are taking PER-FEC-TION. Most of these images were found here sliceofcake.deviantart.com
March 26, 2013
…and I’m taking a dessert to my hosts for supper. They are definitely food snobs, so this has got to be good. I can’t go with average taste and Wham-Bam aesthetics flawlessly executed, that won’t be enough. This dessert has to be sublime, unique, appropriate, and it has to be pretty. I tend toward razzle-dazzle. This has a beauty but its in its honesty, it’s purity… I’ll strive for that if this becomes the winning dish, and if mine looks nothing like this I’ll shave chocolate shavings all over it and add sparklers when I bring it to the table, because everyone likes chocolate and sparklers. Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Cake… it has an esoteric ring to it (even the recipe is a little snotty) I think I’ll try it.
The sponge layers of this cake are very light as they don’t contain fat or raising agents, the rise is achieved purely by the whipping of air into the eggs. This is a very quick and simple cake to make and its merit is directly proportional to the quality of ingredients you use to make it. Ensure you use the freshest possible organic eggs, duck eggs if you can get them.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Break 6 eggs into a very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the eggs gently to break them up, then add the caster sugar and whisk on medium high speed until the ‘thick ribbon’ stage is reached. This means the mixture will be light, have increased substantially in volume and be of a moussy consistency. When you lift the whisk the mixture should fall slowly in thick ribbons.
While the eggs are whisking, grease three (22cm diameter) cake tins and line the bottom with a disk of parchment paper.
When the thick ribbon stage is reached, add the sieved flour and fold in very gently to fully incorporate without knocking the air out of the mixture. Very carefully apportion the mixture between the three cake tins and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning two thirds of the way through the cooking time. You will know when they are ready as they should be golden brown and coming away slightly from the edges of the tins.
Remove from the oven and cool in their tins for 10 minutes before carefully turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
Whisk the cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Be careful not to over-whisk it, you want it to be in soft peaks and full of volume. When the correct volume has been reached, add the rose water little by little to your taste.
Chop the pistachios so that you have a good mix of larger chunks and nut dust.
When the sponge is completely cooled, remove the parchment disks from the undersides and place the first sponge on the stand on which you plan to serve it. Spread the sponge with a thin layer of raspberry jam and then generously spoon on about a third of the rose water cream. Arrange raspberries across the cream remembering to evenly arrange them around the very outer edge, as these will show when you sandwich the layers together. Sprinkle a third of the chopped pistachios, again remembering that the ones on the very edge will show.
Place the second layer of sponge on top and repeat with the jam, cream, raspberries and pistachios, then add the final layer of sponge. Don’t add jam to this layer, but add the cream being more careful as all of this layer will show. Arrange the raspberries and pistachios artfully and then sprinkle over the dried rose petals.
recipe found on: www.donalskehan.com
December 6, 2012
Much like the idea of an edible treat, a seasonal flourish (centerpiece, candle, wreath, etc) is another good idea for gift giving at the holidays (CHRISTMAS). It serves a purpose.. you give it, someone receives it, it’s pretty and then it dies, gets eaten, gets burnt or goes to the attic til next year. If you’re at all crafty, you can do this! Put a glass container inside another glass container and fill between them with seasonal candy, cranberries, or what-have-you… Add water and fresh flowers to the interior container, you’re done! Feeling adventurous? hot glue candy canes to a jar, wrap with bow, fill jar with water add fresh flowers.
Fresh greens around a candle in a vessel (available at Micheal’s Art Supplies, A.C. Moore and other craft stores) is stupid simple and looks great. I Think the image above shows the greens on the outside of the footed container… But I’d put them inside. If you’re worried about burning down the dining room table, put the candle inside a smaller glass jar inside the larger vessel. Holly, pine, cranberries, tiny ornaments, candy, fake snow the list of options for this type of candle display are endless. NOTE: please use the secondary glass container if you’re using the fake snow, last year I found out the hard way that the fake snow basically becomes a giant sterno if ignited.
Bundle candles with a ribbon or what-have-you and add a decorative flourish ( holly, berries, etc) or if you really have your holiday “game face” go all out and make a floral centerpiece. These oranges tucked into a basic pine arrangement will smell amazing and last three times longer than fresh flowers. Start with a water tight planter or plastic lined box – if you don’t have one, gift wrap a small box and use a ziplock bag – add floral foam (yep, time to drive back to Michael’s), add pine and add an orange or several, depending on the size of your planter/box. A single orange would be pretty, don’t feel like you have to create a massive arrangement to make it look substantial.