I am always confused on free choice week. So many cakes to choose from and I can't decide. Sometimes I think I ended up not making cakes, and using the free choice week as an excuse to make pastry :).
The opportunity presented itself when Marie and Rose posted the gorgeous Red Velvet Cake with lacquer glaze that was created for Sarah's wedding. I opened RHC and read the paragraphs that Rose wrote about the cake. To quote Rose: "I long resisted the charms of this cake, believing it to be merely a layer cake tinted red with a bottle of food coloring. But when several people on my blog sang its praises, I decided to investigate it more thoroughly. It turns out that there is more to this cake than its shocking color." These 3 sentences, along with the beautiful story that Marie and Rose wrote about the wedding cake, convinced me.
Not a fan of red food coloring, I set forth to make my own from beet juice. Rose's instruction is to roast the beets in the skin, along with the root and stem. I've roasted beets before and usually peel them off. But okay, I thought, Rose is very specific so there's gotta be a reason why she said to roast with skin. I followed her instruction and an hour later, when the beets seem done, took them out of the oven and opened the foil container. Disaster. No juice. See, I even took a picture so I have some proof.
The foil is very dry. Not a drop of juice. Crap! What to do now. I suppose I can forgo the juice and call it a white velvet cake. But but but... I really want to try the beet juice method.
I switched gears and prepping all my ingredients, all the while thinking of what to do.
I glanced at those beets again. Took a knife, quartered one of them, and peer into it. Hm.. looks pretty juicy. Next thing I know I'm squeezing the quarter with both hands. It's still a little hot at this point too, so ouch. I continued...
15 minutes later, I'm on the 2nd of the beets, squeezing them over a bowl. By this point I got a pretty good size of red puddle. And yes it did occurred to me that I can probably use something other than both my hands, which at this point are completely red. But I figured I'm halfway there so why bother. After squeezing 2 beets, I stopped. Weigh the liquid and I got about 50 grams worth. WOHOO.
The rest of the recipe was uneventful. It's one of those easy recipes I think and everything went well. One surprise is how pink the batter looks like.
By the way, the container behind the batter is the white chocolate frosting.
This is the batter in the heart shaped pan, ready for the oven.
Both components done, I retired for the day, leaving the decorating for the next day. I went back and forth about how to decorate the cake. I want to do something different and pretty. So I decided that this is a good opportunity to practice piping roses.
A slice of the cake. The slice is gone now, we ate it quickly after it's photographed :).
Tasting impressions: this cake is really good. I can't really describe the taste as there's no single component ingredients that stands out. I do taste a hint of cocoa. And the white chocolate frosting does complement it nicely. This frosting is usually too much for me but in this cake it's perfect.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
When I got my copy of RHC last September - leafing through the book and DROOLING over the pictures - one of the pictures that cause the drooling reaction is the baby lemon cheesecake. Not that I particularly like cheesecake, on the contrary, but because that picture is so nicely done. The little cheesecake round, on top of a biscuit, the smooth and shiny curd in a perfect swirl shape around the top. And the baby blue plate with its white adornment around it. It all just looked so enticing…
I don’t like cheesecake AT ALL. And I’ve tried many different ones. None are homemade of course but still. I always find it a bit odd because I do like cheese, albeit I can only eat small quantities on it.
My friends are puzzled. How can you not like cheesecake? I would reply by saying, “I don’t know. It is odd as I like cheese. But I always find cheesecake too sweet, too rich, too much on everything.” This is how I usually try a cheesecake: I would take a spoonful, then another small spoonful, then pushed it aside. I’m done.
I skipped the pumpkin cheesecake that was on the rotation last year. This time however, I thought, why not. The picture does look very very enticing. And it’s hard for me to pass on making baby anything, since it looks so cute.
So I set forth to make it - on the same weekend that I made the Trifle, nonetheless. Saturday was full on trifle making day. Sunday morning is cheesecake day. Have I mentioned that I’m crazy about baking yet? ^_^
I split the recipe in ½ (I’m getting pretty good at it). First I made the biscuit. I have a quarter sheet pan from Nordic Ware, perfect for this.
The biscuit came together perfectly. The only surprise is that it takes about 14 minutes to bake, instead of the prescribed 7.
I waited until the biscuit cooled on the rack before starting on the cheesecake. Plus it’s lunch time and I made chicken mushroom pizza.
After my stomach is satisfied and there’s no trace of the pizza except for the dirty baking stone, I set forth to combine the cheesecake filling. Cream cheese and sugar are beaten until combined, and then beat in the egg and egg yolks. In go lemon juice and salt until incorporated, then sour cream.
I used a pair of shears to cut the biscuit, using the bottom of the cupcake molds as a template. I taste the scraps of the biscuit, yum, it taste so good and spongy.
I followed Rose’s instruction of using a measuring cup to pour the batter in. I weigh each cupcake cavity to precision; I want these little babies to have the same size.
Cheesecake baked in 30 minutes. I let it cool – with ice in the hot water – then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Next is my favorite part – to make and to eat: the tangy lemon curd. I’ve made this several times so I won’t go over the details. Once curd is done, I transfer it to the measuring cup as well and pour onto each cheesecake. At this point I realized that I took the curd a little too far as it’s not really pourable consistency. Ok, no problem, I use the small spatula to scoop out the curd and smooth it out onto each cheesecake. Then everything is refrigerated for 2 hours.
Un-molding is a little tricky. I have to push up the bottom of the pan up, hold this with one hand, and then used a big metal spatula to move it to a plate. The image of forklifts came to mind. I am fork lifting the baby cheesecake LOL.
Tasting impression: Man oh man, gotta revise my previous statement. I like cheesecake, but only if it’s Rose’s recipe :)). This baby is so good. It’s smooth and creamy and I love the tanginess of the lemon curd.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Whenever I think about trifle, I always think about that episode of Friends where Rachel made a trifle that turned out into a disaster. Do you know that episode? The other page of the recipe was stuck together so she made a trifle that is part a dessert but consist of ground beef. Ross said it tasted like feet and could hardly swallow it. As you can probably guessed, Joey loved it and he ate it heartily :).
My trifle is not going to contain ground beef, mind you. And it also does not taste like feet LOL.
A little background story...
I was not planning to make this trifle. For one thing, I don't have a trifle bowl, and not planning on getting one. Second excuse is that I have had trifle before and was not impressed (though you think by now I should trust Rose to change my opinion). But then I told myself, the recipe is 5 pages long! Somehow the idea of making 5 pages long trifle does not appeal to me. Why, you say, how could I think that way. Well that's just how I feel, this week at least :). Final reason was the spun sugar. Looks delicate and well, I tend to wreck delicate things...
I don't remember exactly what convinced me. Perhaps because it's been much discussed lately by the HCB. And also , isn't it the whole point of being in a baking group, to try new things and challenges! So I told myself that this trifle is worth the adventure, even if I have to spend the whole day for it (and in fact, it takes me about 4 1/2 hours to do).
10 AM. Making the beurre noisette. Halfway through waiting for the darn butter to brown - which takes forever - I thought to myself, I should have skipped it. I thought also of cheating and increasing the temperature, but the last time I did this, I burned the butter. So I persevered and waited. And then finally, oh my oh my... the butter turned into this golden brown thing that has such an amazing indescribably smell. Seriously, I had no idea butter could smell this good! I had to resist the temptation of dipping a piece of bread into it.
Next, I combined eggs and sugar and whisked them away above simmering water until lukewarm. Then they are whipped at high speed for 5 minutes until tripled and thick. One cup of egg is sacrificed into the beurre noisette goddess. Then a sifted mixture of flour and cornstarch are folded into the egg mixture until combined, followed by the folding the beurre noisette mixture.
Since I am planning on serving the trifle in wine glasses, I baked the cake in a cupcake pan. Only have 1 pan and only needed 1 as I've only made 1/4 recipe. I filled up each cavity of the pan up to almost full and the cake baked up really nice and spongy. And when it almost finished baking, the smell of heavenly beurre noisette appeared again, yum!
I'll skip telling you the sugar and strawberries part as it's easy and self- explanatory. I used the strawberries as-is (no sugar added) as they look pretty ripe. Plus, I like my strawberries to have a little bit tartness in it.
12 PM. Next is the Chiboust cream. I have a couple of vanilla seeds stashed. The seeds were scraped into the milk while the pods are swimming in fridge with the cream. Milk were brought to a boil while the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla seeds are combined. Then the gelatin and cornstarch, and next is the hot milk is slowly added. The whole concoction is then returned to the stove and cooked until thickened. Add in the vanilla and grand marnier, then cooled to room temperature. To speed the cooling process, I placed it in an ice bath. It took 15 minutes to cool it. Then I whip the cream and fold in the pastry cream.
1.30 PM. Now the fun part: composing the cake. I put some sliced strawberries at the bottom of each wine glass, put a dollop of cream, then one layer of cake, a generous portion of boozey sugar syrup, then repeat again with the strawberries, cream, cake, syrup. Once all 3 glasses are decorated, I stored it in the fridge while I make the whipped cream.
I decided on making the gelatin-stabilized whipped cream (p.446) since we won't be eating all the trifle on the same day. It's pretty similar method as the whipped cream.
Now comes the most anticipated part. And when I say anticipated, I mean with fear and well fear.
Let me begin by sharing a picture of my "work area" for the spun sugar. I don't subscribe to newspapers, so on the floor are junk mails. On the counter are my 2 wooden dowels - otherwise known as wooden chopsticks. Then you see my weapon of choice: 2 small forks taped side by side. I didn't have the heart to cut a whisk. It's not about the price, I know I can get one at a discount store for under $5. I feel it's cruel to cut whisks. Thankfully Rose gave the alternative to use forks :).
2.30 PM. 1/2 recipe of corn syrup and sugar are heated together over medium heat until it boils. Then, I increased the heat and boil until medium amber and 360 degrees. This was the point where I realized that my instant read thermometer only measures up to 300 degrees! Yikes! Let me tell you that I stared at that syrup mixture very intensely, not wishing to miss the milisecond where it turn to medium amber. Once medium amber is reached, poured the syrup into a pyrex cup. I dipped the forks into the cup to check and the caramel fell off the fork in droplets. I waited a few seconds, then checked again. They fell in strings. So I stood on my dining table chair, dipped the forks into the cup and vigorously wave back and forth, hoping the sugar would fall in long threads onto the chopsticks. What ended up happening is that I did have small droplets, even though I tried to move my hands very quickly. Oh well, I continued. Since I only have 1/2 recipe of the syrup, it hardened too quickly, and my forks hardened into it! I managed to pry them away and zapped the syrup for 10 seconds in the microwave. Then I continue to make more spun sugar, using the other chopsticks. This time I was more successful, very little angel’s tears in sight and I started to enjoy this whole business of spinning sugar. At the same time, I poked my pinkie on one of the small sharp edges of the caramel at the edge of the pyrex cup and it started bleeding a little. Right then and there I decided I had enough fun for the day and settled for 2 little curved spun sugar on top of 2 of the wine glasses. My pinkie is okay, not badly damaged, though it still hurts the next morning.
So there you are folks. Not too bad of an adventure of spun sugar. I ended up with one slightly bleeding pinkie, some sugar on the kitchen shelves and dining chair, no sugar on the ceiling. Cleanup is not too bad, the sugar was easy to peel off.
Tasting impressions: Oh my goodness! This trifle is to die for! Seriously!!! Easily an 8 rating, super yummy! The strawberries play a crucial role, in my opinion, as it smells so wonderful. It tastes pretty light, in that I easily eat the whole glass myself in mere minutes. I will definitely make it again, though probably for special occasions. I will definitely use the wine glasses as I like this look a lot.