Monday, March 28, 2016

Some musings with my cake decorating

So when I started this blog, all of three months ago, I had some pretty lofty ideas of what I would write about: everything from esoteric musings to write-ups of the various projects I was working on. I was going to create a photo gallery of my travels, of my truly ridiculous hat collection, of my cat. Three months in and it's been mostly baking and cooking and food. Ah well.

So true to form, this update is of my latest forays into cake decorating. Cake one was pretty simple. These two were a tad more creative, and so much fun to do.

I did the Flower Cake as my second cake for the class I'm taking. It was still a little rough, especially if look real close, but it was so much fun to step back afterwards and realize that I did that with frosting. The cake was a basic white cake that I added two tablespoons of ginger to (1 fresh, 1 dried and ground).  Despite how much ginger I put in it didn't really taste as strong of ginger as I would have like.

My third cake was an ombre cake.   The sky blue coloring for the frosting made such beautiful pale blue rose-like swirls. I wish I had darkened up the mid and bottom levels, to make a more distinct color change, but it was otherwise awesome.

The cake itself was a champagne pear cake, though by the end the pear flavor was indiscernible. I used canned pears, and chopped them into the batter of a champagne cake.  While I couldn't taste them, the pears made the cake itself so moist. I filled the cake with a homemade champagne bavarian cream.

I will say that while gorgeous, this style of decorating meant there was a high ration of buttercream frosting to cake and filling, and at times felt a bit overpowering. That may just be because the cake and filling were very subtle flavors in comparison to the strong taste of the buttercream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chorizo Bacon Empanadas with an Avocado Sour Cream Dipping Sauce

I love empanadas, perogies, dumplings, pasties, and pretty much any food that is fried or baked dough stuffed with deliciousness. So I decided to try my hand at baked empanadas. I love this website:, so after reading through about a dozen or so recipes for both dough and filling I had a fair idea of how to go about this. And I must say the result was super tasty.

For the dough:
  • 3 cups flour (I use all-purpose)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (about 6 oz), frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 TBS water
  • Egg wash (usually an egg beaten with a few drops of water) 

Directions for the dough:
Mix the flour and salt together. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss together. Add egg and water and mix until dough is clumpy. Form into a ball (if still dry, add water a tsp at a time until dough just sticks together enough to manipulate), wrap in cellophane, and chill for 30 minutes.  While dough is chilling, prep the filling.

  • 2 potatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large chorizo link, casing removed 
  • 3 strips of bacon, rough chopped
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cups pepperjack cheese, grated
  • 1 cup queso fresco
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions for filling
Saute the potatoes, chorizo, bacon, green onions, and garlic together until the potatoes are fully cooked. Remove from heat and let cool.

Assembling the empanadas.
Take the chilled dough and roll out on a floured surface into a thin sheet. Using either a round lid like I did or a large circular cookie cutter, as I would recommend, cut the dough into circles. Fill each dough round with a heaping spoonful of the chorizo mixture and top with the cheese, making sure to not overfill. Fold the dough over and crimp to close. Arrange the uncooked empanadas on a baking sheet with parchment and chill for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. While the empanadas are chilling, heat the oven to 375*F.
Brush the empanadas with egg wash just before putting in the oven. Bake until golden brown, or about 20 minutes.
While the empanadas are baking, you can make the dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:
2 avocados
1 container of sour cream (about 16 oz)
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender on high speed, puree together the sour cream, avocados, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth.

At this point I poured the dipping sauce into a bowl and set it at the center of a plate. Once the empanadas were slightly less volcanic and I could pick them up without burning myself I arranged them around the bowl and brought it out to serve.

The result was super delicious.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Puff Pastry Pull-Apart Bread

After a few tries I finally managed to manipulate puff pastry (store bought) into a cool looking twisty pull apart bread. The biggest issue I had with it is that in order to get it to bake properly the resulting bread was, in my opinion, in need of some kind of dipping sauce.  It was just too dry for my palate.

  • One box puff pastry (found in the local grocery store)
  • 3/4 cup rough chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 1 8 oz container of whipped cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup honey greek yogurt
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 TBS powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole dried cherries 

Beat together the whipped cream cheese, yogurt, flour and powdered sugar until fully combined. Set aside.
Cut the puff pastry sheets into equally sized circles.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over one of the circles of puffed pastry. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and dried cherries.
Place the second puffed pastry circle over the top. Leaving a small circle in the center of the pastry intact, cut the pastry into small wedges (see image). Double twist the wedges so that the result is almost sun shaped.
Heat oven to 400 *F. While oven is heating, chill the pastry (at least 15 minutes). If you want yoy can egg wash the top of the pastry.  Bake until the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Cake Decorating

Last week I started a three week cake decorating class (on top of my graduate work and moving and writing a novel and everything else, of course). Below is the result of my first class. The cake was a basic cardamom and rose cake, filled with a chocolate fudge, and decorated with buttercream frosting and pre-made frosting flowers.

As you can probably see, I definitely needs some practice.  But not too bad for my first real attempt at making something at least somewhat elegant looking. Hopefully this is a sign that the days where my cakes taste great but look like a 5 year old with finger paints did the decorative honors is coming to a middle ;)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lemon Syllabub Parfait

After a week and a half vacation during which I got to spend a delightful few days wandering through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I am back and ready to blog. Also, I can't wait until I figure out a better formatting for this page. But that is a post for another time. Onward to the recipe.

A little background for this recipe, I have watched an inordinate amount of cooking and food channel shows in the past few years, including a delightful show called the Great British Bake Off.  A few months back I heard the term 'everlasting syllabub' and since I didn't know what it was, felt compelled to not only research it but put together my own spin the generally alcoholic dessert.

Instead of a drink, which is what a syllabub is depending on where you get your recipes from, I decided to make this more of a whipped cream and layer it with fresh strawberries and lemon curd.

  • juice from 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sweet white wine (I used a moscato d'asti and made it strong, some may prefer less alcohol)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • lemon curd
  • strawberries, washed and sliced.
First I combined the juice and zest of 1 lemon with the sugar and wine, covered, and chilled while I whipped the cream to just before soft peaks formed.  Since my small electric hand mixer broke after too many batches of marshmallows, I used a whisk and did whipped the cream manually. It took a bit of time but it got the job done and allowed the other ingredients time to thoroughly chill.  At that point I added the lemon and wine mixture and continued to whip until soft peaks formed. Then I layered the cream with strawberries and dollops of lemon curd into large wine glasses and served.

Result: Delicious!

Though I think next time I'm going to layer in angel food cake as well.