Wednesday, February 17, 2010

revisiting chapter one

as i work on recipes, susan edits them. part of the process includes looking at the sections/chapters and assessing them-are they balanced or lacking? do they include a variety or simply a couple recipes being manipulated over and over? thankfully, chapter one is in pretty good shape and only in need of a few minor changes. one thing that shouted out to susan was the absence of a lemon meringue pie. honestly, it wasn't a big deal to me but it left the chapter lacking a little variety, so you know what happened next; i made lemon meringue pie much in the same way as i do when i make it at the cafe. if you have had it at the cafe then you know that i favor individual lemon meringue pies and not big ones-and that means no cutting of meringue in the bakery. it also means that if you order the little pie, you get all of the meringue right on top just as it should be.

it doesn't get any easier than this-purchased 3" pie shells, baked and ready to be filled.

lovely and tart lemon curd, home made or purchased-you decide. i went with home made

a mountain of meringue to salivate over. be sure to whip it only until the peaks are stiff but still droop a little.

fill the crusts with the lemon curd

dollop the meringue on top, use a spoon to seal it to the edges and then make the little peaks by tapping the spoon to the meringue and pulling it away quickly

a quick trip in the oven to brown the tops

mmm...lemony meringue pies

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

where've ya been?

and no, i haven't been to london to visit the queen. oh wait, were you asking me or the cat? it's been a busy week for me. we always try to do something for valentines day and this year, we hosted a dinner party for the girls. if you want to call a party, mainly it was just a dinner with a fancy dessert.

but before i was temporarily sidetracked, i was working on a cake for chapter two. i am really embracing the concept of simple when it comes to the cakes. using some sort of tube/bundt pan really makes it easy to decorate-just pour a glaze over it and be done with it. while working on this one, i was reminded of that scene in my big fat greek wedding when ian's mom, harry, presents thula's mother with the bundt cake. it's a cake with a hole in it...who serves a cake with a hole in it???

my thrift shopping obsession has given me a chance to find a few interesting pans and when you add that to the tubes and bundts from my days as a bakery owner and the pans from my uncle, i have plenty to choose from.

the ever growing collection

so here is another attempt at this weeks challenge, root beer float cake. (at this point i should mention that i forgot to flour the pan after greasing it and this is the result) i did this in the cafe a while back but did not like it with boylan's root beer soda; it was way to sweet and mild with no flavor of root beer.

a trip to the grocery store had me stocked with a natural, micro brew root beer that had things like sarsparilla and bourbon vanilla in it. the best part, it left me with absolutely no need for the root beer concentrate that every recipe i looked at called for. it made a tasty drink as well as a tasty cake! (that whitish look to the cake-i remembered the flour after greasing the pan)

a simple vanilla glaze and there you have it, root beer float in a bundt cake. drink up y'all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

the sweet taste of success

before you go any farther, load the cd player or your ipod with a copy of ce ce peniston's "finally" and join me in a loud and clumsy happy dance.

batch #9-perfectly level cakes. can you believe it?

ooey gooey chocolatey glaze running down the sides of the cake

moist and rich and finally crossed off the "to do" list

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

schooled again

things i learned today:

chocolate will burn in the microwave-i mean burned black and smoking and it doesn't take that long to accomplish this

burned semisweet chocolate smells kinda like burned popcorn

if you screw up the first test of a recipe, chances are every one of the 7 versions you bake after it won't be right either

and there you have it folks, a day in the life of a pastry chef...the problem with the cake recipe turned out to be the amount of sugar in the recipe. the first version called for 1-1/2 cups and i am pretty sure i only added 1-1/4 cups. when i tasted the first one, my initial thought was this cake isn't sweet. and so it starts; each version after had an increased amount of sugar based on the amount i should have added and not the amount i actually added. now i find myself with a small mountain of cake layers and a need to run at least one more test. this time i will get the sugar adjusted properly.

oh, one more thing i learned today; i'm a little slow but i catch on eventually...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

add another to the pile...

mmm cake, moist and chocolatey and warm from the oven. the fragrance is intoxicating and inviting and as annoying as annoying can be!!! another batch for the ever growing pile of cakes on my table. just one more that isn't quite what i want it to be. never mind it even though it tastes good, it just ain't right. at this point, i am tired of chocolate cake. or at least tired of chocolate cakes that don't do what i expect them to do. that sound, it's just me heading back to the kitchen for one more attempt at this lovely cake.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

that takes the cake

no, really, take the cake. go ahead, take it. for the love of pete, just take it!!! part of the process of formulating recipes is testing them out and having the chance to see the differences that come with changing the proportions. it can be frustrating too, especially if it doesn't yield the desired results, repeatedly. that is where i am at this point. close but no cigar and in possession of a growing mountain of chocolate cake on my kitchen table. one more adjustment should do it, i hope. but not tonight, i'm out of unsweetened chocolate and ambition. the fat lady hasn't sung for this cake yet, but roger daltry has and tonight, that's close enough...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

just pluggin away

it's a never ending cycle...measure, mix, bake, clean, taste, measure, mix, etc. today's exercise in futility was a chocolate fudge cake. although, it wasn't a total disaster, just more of a disappointment.

to do this properly, i have to work like a non pro. that means sometimes i have to do things differently than i normally would as a professional. take this photo, here i am mixing the batter with a dinkiest of hand mixers. it was a hand me down from a former employee in a past life. it struggled with the batter and i was skeptical that it would even make it to the finish. darry came into the kitchen and announced "i can't smell the corned beef anymore because all i can smell is the motor on that thing." once again, we were sharing the kitchen but at the moment, i had the counter and he had the stove top.

the layers came out of the oven looking perfect. they were completely level and looked like winners. but looks ain't everything.
as perfect as they appeared, there simply wasn't enough sugar in the batter. on to round two...

this time i lugged out the beast and mixed the batter with it. now i have been told that it is unreasonable to expect the user (the person who purchases and uses my cookbook) to make a major purchase in order to complete a recipe but this is one exception where i suggest you do just that. i am not being paid to say this so don't think that i am getting anything for this but i recommend to anyone who is a frequent and adventurous baker to purchase one of these stand mixers. rather than list it as an expense, view it as an investment. these things are nearly indestructible and they last-mine is 20 years old and still working. we won't mention the fact that i no longer have first gear and there is no such thing as a slow start when using it. and that fine layer of flour that coats the entire kitchen is just another sign of genius, isn't it or so i keep telling myself.
the added sugar definitely improved the flavor but i think now that i need to adjust the leavener-they sunk slightly in the middle. after i make a trip to the store for more chocolate and a few other things, i'll be ready for round 3.

having filled the dishwasher to capacity, again, i was forced to do the dishes by hand. lazy elves, they are never around when you need them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

don't call it molasses

you wouldn't think that these tall canes could be responsible for something as tasty as sorghum. sometimes called molasses, sorghum is a well kept southern secret. don't be fooled by the reference to molasses, it may taste similar but sorghum is it's own product whereas molasses is what is leftover from the refining process of cane and beet sugar-the "garbage" that they remove to make it white.

the seeds are an important grain in places like africa but they can also be ground into a gluten free flour. in my neighborhood, i can find it in the indian markets and at some point i want to buy some and try it out in some bread.

the tall stalks are cut, pressed for the juices and the juices are cooked down to make the sorghum. 5 gallons of juice will yield about one gallon of sorghum. every fall in the ellington agricultural center in nashville there is a music and molasses festival. i have watched them make the sorghum many times and have some pictures posted here.

my book wouldn't be complete without at least one sorghum cake and here it is. a sorghum spice cake drizzled with some lemony glaze.

Monday, February 1, 2010

totally pietastic

today found me completing the first chapter of the book. it is all about pies and i was able to get the last of them finished today. guess the fact that we have been slightly snowbound wasn't such a bad thing after all.

country pies are easy to make. what are they you ask, galettes in southern speak. just little free form tarts/pies. not too fancy but very quick and tasty.

toss some ripe fruit with sugar, flour and any spices or other flavors if you like.

roll out a little piece of dough. it doesn't need to be perfect.

top it with the fruit filling.

fold the edges in towards the middle but be sure to let a little of the fruit peek out.

it should look like this. then a quick brush of egg wash and a sprinkle of large crystal sugar and into the oven it goes.

warm tasty pies. where's the ice cream...