Archive for the ‘Eye Candy’ Category

Edible Containers-Daring Cooks Challenge – Part 1

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

This is part one of this post.  I remembered a really interesting basket made out of orange peels that my friend Dominique in France showed me in one of her cookbooks.  I had never tried it, so I thought this challenge would be a good time to tackle an orange peel basket.

I had a kitchen gadget for garnishing that I thought would be just the implement to make the basket strips.  The process is that you cut off a small piece from the end of the orange for the platform, then you cut a long spiral strip.  I had to make strips because I was not too skilled with the tool, and it slipped off the peel periodically.  So, voila, after a short basketweaving session it worked.  I filled the container with a chick pea and red pepper salad.  So, here it is:

Well then I looked back at the challenge, and the container is supposed to be edible.  Realistically, although you could eat orange peels, a basket this size might be a challenge.  So, my next step was to find the recipe for the salmon tartare cornets in The French Laundry Cookbook that I had always intended to make.  My first batch was a little overdone, so they did not roll.   My error was to cook them too long, so I took the second batch out when they were just congealed but not browned, and they rolled up great.  You bake them again after that.

Part 2 will show the filling in them.  I am thinking sun dried tomato chevre would be good.  Thomas Keller uses salmon tartare, but raw fish never really excites me, in fact it makes me squeamish!!  So, look in a couple days for part 2.

Here is a little peak at the cornets:

Beauty in the Kitchen – Springerele Cookies

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I have admired these shaped wonders ever since I saw them in a Martha Stewart magazine several years ago.  But alas, the molds are not readily available, or weren’t at that time.  Then on a trip to visit my son in San Francisco I saw one mold at Sur La Table, but still I did not succumb due to what I thought was an astronomical price.  This year I couldn’t stand it, and after unsuccessfully trying some shortbread molds I broke down and ordered the real deal.  You can mail order the molds from House on the Hill.  There are hundreds for all different themes and holidays. Since they are very pricy, I only ordered 2, a heart and some little ovals that are also small enough to use as marzipan decorations.

I followed the recipe that came with them and is on the web site.  It workd very well, even when I divided it into 1/3 of the recipe.  I do recommend you try to get ammonium carbonate.  It used to be difficult to find, but my local grocery has even started carrying it.  It does make the texture light, and it rises when heated.  The cookies have to set overnight to dry before baking to get the best impressions.  In one batch I did not really cook them through, so they were a little soft in the middle and tasted great.  The next time I followed more of the instrucitons in the Martha Stewart baking Book, and baked them at a lower temperature for much longer (almost an hour).  That batch came out very crisp, in fact they are best eaten by dunking in coffee.

Is this is best cookie ever in terms of taste – no.  They are a little dry.  But, they are really lovely to look at, so I do recommend trying them.

I have to go now, I am visiting the local foods class to talk about my blog with the students, so this post is for them.

Piece Montee (Croquembouche) Daring Bakers Challenge

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

The recipe is here I have to thank Cat because I really had a blast making this, and it tasted great as well!

The best part of Daring Bakers is that is makes you actually try things that you have read about but not actually made.  The May challenge was to make a croquembouche.  I am not that crazy about cream puffs, but I had never tried to make gluten free pate a choux. So, that was my personal challenge.  I tried the recipe included in the link above from daring bakers but with gluten free flours,  I also tried a batch with an adaptation of a recipe from Bette Hagmans Gluten Free Goumet.  Both turned out good, but the adapted Betty Hagman recipe has the best inner holes in the puffs, so I used them to make the piece montee.  I will post my version of the gluten free pate a choux shortly.

I also tried to make a spun sugar coating which is traditional in Croquembouche, and giove it the needed crackle when you eat it. I used a recip from Dessert Circus, one of my favourite baking books for French baking.  Well, I made an absolute mess in the kitchen, but I had a ball doing the spun sugar decorations.

This is the first time I have treid to make spun sugar, and it is a little challenging and takes practice. What I learned is that you have to let the syrup cool a little before using.  Also, you have to hold the fork up really high until the sugar stretches, that is what makes the fine threads.  I used one of my little experiments to top the croquembouche, and added pansies (I have warned my husband not to weed up all the pansies, they have come in very handy for decorations lately).  Overll, this Daring Bakers challenge was really interesting and expanded my culinary repetoire.

Fun with Fondant on a Poppy Seed Cake, and a Recipe

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

We had a small dinner party at the end of the holidays and I needed a little something for dessert.  I also had the decorating urge, and some fondant from Golda’s Kitchen ( ) that I wanted to try.  Although you can easily make fondant, it is a lot quicker to just open the container, peel back the plastic, and start decorating.  If you haven’t used fondant before, it is really easy, tastes reasonably good,  and can produce smooth sheets that are a joy to decorate with if you don’t feel like dragging out the piping bags and making a mess.  Since I had other things to fuss with for the dinner, the fondant solution was perfect.

I used a  scalloped circle cutter for the base, then rolled balls of coloured fondant to make the leaves and holly berries. A toothpick indentation in the berries gave a touch of reality, and these were done toute suite.

The cake is my favoutite cake when I am just craving something good but simple, and not too sweet.  This recipe is adapted from A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti, a great dessert cookbook.  Make sure you use buttermilk and unsalted butter for the best taste.  This cake keeps very well frozen and is a great thing to have ready in the freezer when you need a quick little shortcake or ice cream accompaniment.  I love this cake.

I have made a gluten free version of this cake and it is also very good, but needs a lot of tweaking, so I will post it when I test the recipe again as quite frankly I dont remember exactly what I did.  TRhis cake is also excellent as a short cake or as a white cake with swiss buttercream frosting.

Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cake

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti.



Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray grease or butter pans.

Mix dry ingredients and set aside in a separate bowl.

Wet  Ingredients:

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter until light.  Add in the sugar and beat again, then add the eggs.  Add buttermilk and wet ingredients in 2 batches.
Add at the end:

  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Stir in the poppy seeds.  (Note: Poppy seeds spoil easily and taste rancid.  Try to get fresh seeds from a health food or bulk store, and store the seeds in the fridge.)
Bake in muffin or small cake pans.  Time – it depends on the pan, usually about 15 to 20 minutes, but keep watch on them.  They are done when the edges are slightly brown and the middle has risen and often has a center crack.

If using a layer pan this recipe makes one 9 inch layer.  This cake keeps very well, but the crust can get a little soggy, so I like to freeze whatever isn’t going to be eaten within a day.  The frozen cakes keep very well, and are a great way to have a small cake with a bowl of ice cream.

Fabulous Fondant

Friday, April 17th, 2009

My daughter was here this weekend, and she wants to learn more about cake decorating. Both of us thought fondant looked smooth and an open canvas, so we finally tried some.
We made regular cupcakes, and also used a small “muffin top” pan. The muffin tops worked out to be a really nice petite shape, a little mouthful of sumptious sweet cake (See above pic).
Here are our little kitty’s!

And some florals.

We were lazy and used premade fondant that I got at McCall’s in Toronto – they have everything for cake decorating! It worked perfectly. It comes in a tub that you can just take out what you need and save the rest. Surprisingly, the fondant tastes fairly good, a little chewy and sweet, slightly vanilla flavoured. I was not expecting good taste, let’s face it royal icing is just for looks, but this is not bad at all, in fact it might be even be better with a little flavouring added.
Next time we will coordinate the colours more, and will try to make the fondant (maybe, opening the tub is really fast and easy, and McCall’s is a long drive from here!)
So, for our first batch, it won’t rival the Hello Cupcake book, but we had a blast.

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