Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holiday Baking Championship Episode 4 - A new holiday spin

I found this picture to be rather auspicious. After the very first competition when Aveed was eliminated they set us up in this order for a group shot... hmmmmm...

Episode four... we walk in and Jesse comes bursting through a door with wine bottles telling us he's come to the party and hey where are the desserts we were supposed to make??? Huh???
We have no idea what he is up to and then he pulls a box on a table up revealing several boxes of yellow cake mix. Crap, I'm thinking I never use mixes. Then he explains that we are to make anything other than a cake with this mix.

Racking my brain as we walk around looking at ingredients, I see canned pumpkin and I remember Cliff's amazing pumpkin spice cookies that she was embarrassed to tell me were just a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. I can do that! I need another cookie or something else.... Those cookies are very cakey and so I think if I put an egg in the mix and some cocoa powder, red food color I can make a red velvet cookies... orange and red nice fall colors. I add chocolate chips and white chips to the red velvet cookies...but I need more.

We have an ice cream store downtown that has fun flavors and one day I saw a poster on their window for birthday cake ice cream. My friend mentions that she read it was just cake mix and ice cream base. I begin thinking that cake mix is, sugar, flour, leavening, and flavor. If I do not add too much of the mix to the cream it can work. So I just use cream, milk, and a cup of cake mix and put it in the ice cream freezer. It comes out creamy smooth and tastes like cake mix. I decide I want to give it a complementary flavor. So I cook pecans in butter for a butter pecan cake mix ice cream. I turn it into a sundae so the cookies compliment the ice cream.

Ok the Christmas theme is missing here but I made three different things with the mix!! I hope that counts.

The cookies got mixed reviews, Lorraine loved the red velvet, Duff thought I should have put chocolate chips in the pumpkin (good point), and Nancy loved the ice cream and so did Lorraine... but Duff... not so much. He just didn't get the idea of how cake mix could turn into ice cream without having a floury taste. We did this cute back and forth banter about it and finally he says, "I just don't know if it would be any different without the cake mix." DUFF! the cake mix has the sugar and the flavorings, without it you would have been eating frozen cream. Thats all! Lorraine said "Stephany was really thinking out of the cake box!" And what you didn't see was Nancy standing up for me and telling Duff he is crazy I really did something special with the cake mix! Thanks, Nancy!

Ian wins this round with his amazingly delicious caramelized apple crepes with bacon! Nancy tells him she is going to buy cake mix for her pancakes from now on!!
His advantage is he gets a head start on the next challenge. 10 minutes. The challenge is we have to run up to a table filled with classic desserts that are not holiday and make them a holiday dessert.
I see coconut cream pie, Summer fruit trifle, Fresh fruit tart, strawberry shortcake, banana pudding, and birthday cake.
Ian picks first and he gets coconut cream pie...the rest of us are breathing a sigh of relief since none of us wanted that one... I am thinking strawberry shortcake, or fruit tart would be the best for me... Birthday cake would be easy to transform but we only have 80 minutes and that is just too tight.

It's time for us to go and I run to my table open the envelope and I got strawberry shortcake!
As you can see I was elated! I will make holiday flavored scones for the shortcake and then make it a Christmas shape and go from there...

I made cranberry orange scones with strawberries macerated in ginger juice. Fresh whipped cream with a mascarpone cream on the side to look like a tree and then cranberry compote on the other side.

Then comes the twist...fresh cherries with pits! I immediately think these can go into the compote and compliment my dish.

I add a cinnamon stick to keep it in the Christmas theme.
I make snowman shaped scones with cranberry buttons. The plate looks ok but it really needs some pizazz. So I melt some chocolate to write on the plate... I decided to write Jingle Bells since that hasn't been done yet. Dang it, I do not like the look of the chocolate on the plate. I run to the shelves and grab red sugar crystals pour them over the wet chocolate and shake off the excess and it looks great! Wooo hooo! I got his one! I hope. I never know what Josh is going to come up with... he is so creative and clever!!

Josh got the birthday cake and as I glance his way I do not see him doing too much decorating. He is mostly concentrating on getting the icing on evenly... the cake looks like it is still warm. I may have a chance at this one...

My turn for the judges...They love it... especially the writing and the compote. Duff said he, "got nothing" on the ginger in the berries... sigh... but they thought the flavor combo was delicious and the design was perfect.

I won the second one in a row! I am really on a roll now! Josh looked upset because they loved his cake and I think he thought he had this one... but NO! It's mine.

No advantage, just bragging rights but thats ok with me!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holiday Baking Championship Episode three--Thanksgiving Genius

Happy New Years to all my fans out there! Everyone who showed up faithfully or watched in the comfort of their own home each week to see if I could pull off the win...alas... I did not, but I have tons of great stories to share with you now!

The next two episodes I am going to write about are my two favorite ones! In both of these I felt both fortunate to get the challenge that I picked and creative making something special out of the ingredients given.

In episode three, I had a roller coaster of emotions. In the first challenge I picked a can of pumpkin and was thrilled to make my Mother's chiffon pie. Working from memory to make the tart, I believe I put too much pumpkin to gelatin and even using the blast chiller it never set up. I was just mortified to have to present this mess to the judges. You have no choice in the matter when they call your name you have to walk up and face the music! With each recipe they want a story and sometimes the story is just your taste buds and you have to kind of make stuff up to make it interesting but for this one I had a heart warming story and I failed. It really sucked...So for the next challenge I was determined to make something spectacular.

The challenge was to put together two classic desserts to make one tasty treat.
I pulled Tiramisu and Bread! I know exactly what to do... but wait! Amy has the advantage and can switch with anyone she wants. I hold my breath and wait for her decision and she passes me up, YAY! I know exactly how to put these two together.

I run to the shelves and grab the Italian lady fingers, a loaf of brioche, rum, espresso powder, and mascarpone. I am going to make a bread pudding that tastes both of Tiramisu and custardy bread pudding. My heart is pounding as I place the rum and coffee soaked cookies in the ramekins because I am thinking this is going to be good! I could win this one! Then I cut the bread up and begin making my custard to pour over... but wait! Jesse had the twist. It's canned or fresh sweet potatoes. I hesitate thinking about how I can incorporate this twist. Canned sweet potatoes are already cooked and very soft with a sweet light flavor. I can puree them and put it in the custard! This can work!

I decide to use the oven under the stove instead of the convection oven both because I don't have to run to the oven and because this needs to cook slowly in a water bath. I carefully place the pan with water and ramekins into the hot oven. Then I begin to cook the bourbon caramel sauce I'm making to go with my dessert. It comes out perfectly and as I turn off the stove I get a bit confused by the knobs since they are all exactly the same on this range. I find the right one and take my sauce off the stove.

After getting my plates and deciding on how to decorate this dessert, I open the oven to check the status of the pudding. I don't feel any heat when I open the door! I look at the thermometer in the oven and it says 175 degrees! Shit! I must have turned the oven off in my confusion. I pull it out and run it to the convection oven praying it will finish in time. Since it is a hotter oven I am hoping it would finish cooking in the time left.

With 5 minutes on the clock I pull them out and take off the foil covering and they are perfect!

Unfortunately, they didn't post any photos of this dessert so I can not share. But it was a simple plating, with silver and gold sprinkles and chocolate medalion on top.

Facing the judges, I am really scared they won't like it or that it is raw in the middle... after the last failed challenge I need this for my confidence more than anything.

They give me luke warm critique on the presentation. I'm holding my breath. The first bite shows three happy faces and I begin to breathe. They all agree it tastes just like both the Tiramisu and Bread pudding! And they taste the sweet potato too. They love it. Although Lorraine mentions that the brandied cherries I added to the bread pudding layer wasn't adding anything to the dessert. Overall they really loved it and Lorraine said, "I think Breadamisu is going to be a thing!"
I spout out, "Redemption is sweet!!"

We head back out to the judges and my breadamisu wins the round! Unfortunately, this means someone now has to go home. Andra and Aristo are on the bottom. Both talented chefs and great people! Aristo was the one this time and this proved to be controversial on social media.  Some thought Andra should go because she had been on the bottom two times before. PEOPLE! this is not how this competition works! They judge from challenge to challenge. What you did in the past has no bearing on the present decision. I am afraid that the torch mark on the cake might have done him in. Aristo is an amazing Chef! He is talented, very witty, and creative. I am so proud to call him my friend!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Week 2...Pairings

Going into week two I felt calmer and a bit more confident since I now have worked in the kitchen, seen the process and was fairly successful on the first round.
Walking into the set we see Jesse, our very handsome host, standing by a table with burlap bags. Something is in those bags that we have to use somehow, I am sure! Listening as he goes on about holiday pairings and the importance of doing this right. He then explains that we will be working in teams and to find out who we are paired with we need to grab one of those bags. We all look around at each other smiling knowing that there won't be a bad pairing and we just need to find out who it will be! This time we casually stroll up to the table and pick a bag and walk back to the designated line. Jesse tells us to open it up and I have a maple leaf and am paired with Jenn! I am thinking this will be a great pairing since we have chatted about our styles and they seem very similar! I am stoked! Next, he explains we need to make 12 hand pies using this cutter and decorating them "out of this world holiday extravaganza"...or something like that :) in 90 very short minutes! Geeze!!
We go to our station the first thing we both think of is maple syrup and Jenn tells me she knows how to make Maple butter! I have only eaten it from a jar and am so thrilled she will make this for the glaze. I then suggest my maple bourbon pecan pie but am worried about it being too liquidy and running out, so I think of apples that have pectin and the apple pecan maple bourbon hand pies are born. We then start talking crust. She mentions she has a very good one made with cream cheese. Surprisingly, I tell her I have one too! We then realize we have the same family recipe! What???
High five and off we go to work. We split the work up she does the maple butter, I make the filling and we both make a large batch of dough. The dough needs to chill for a while, preferably an hour but that is not going to happen!! It's in the fridge and we head to our tasks. I make the filling and it is very liquidy even with the apples. I was hoping they would thicken in the oven. Butter is done and is creamy and I want to stick a spoon in it and suck on it but we had work to do! A lot of work. We need to roll and cut 24 leaves. Fill them, fork the edges. egg wash, sprinkle some sugar around the edges and bake them for at least 20, preferably 25 minutes. AND THEN, figure out how to decorate them in a spectacular fashion. I run to get a couple platters for them. All that are left, that are big enough, are large ovals. Jenn had mentioned a wreath of leaves. I loved this idea and encouraged her input. I told her I could make some multicolored leaves from fondant to fill in the wreath. The only maple leaf cutters that were smaller than our was very small but I didn't have time to go negotiate with the other contestants for the other cutters (and that wouldn't have been difficult since we all have so much mutual respect for one another) so I ran back and made small maple leaves using yellow. orange and green fondant. The colors swirled into each other and they were bright. Jenn melted chocolate and piped it in strings around and around the edge of the platters. Then she instructed me to pipe little wisps of green boughs coming off the strands she piped. I thought it was going to look great when we put the pies on... OMG three minutes... pull them out of the oven and glaze them and get them on the platter. Then throw the little fondant leaves on so they makes sense.... and time is up! Done. It's in the judges hands. We go first. The platter is presented and right away, without hesitation, Nancy says, "Well, it looks like a tornado!" OH are kidding me? I knew we didn't get fancy enough but really? A tornado? Well, our tornado just died out, I'll tell you! Wind out of the sails... Ok, now we are praying they taste amazing. Mixed reviews there too. Duff said not enough goo. Lorraine loved the crust and Nancy (I think) said not enough filling... they all were very impressed by the maple butter and the punch of flavor it gave. I walked back to the lineup with my tail between my legs.
How could we have done that better? This will haunt me forever now!!
I read Jenn's blog on this and she mentioned that we should have divided the work up more like the other teams did. I suppose she is right. That would have saved time and energy. I am a collaborator. I love to share ideas and grow off each other. I believe we did that. I had fun working with Jenn and learned how to make maple butter from her!! She is an amazing decorator and baker and I will always watch her work online and hopefully one day our paths will cross again!
Next challenge. No time for frivolities and emotions...HA!
I am feeling a bit silly now both from the excitement and the hours of work it takes to produce a show. OH YES, the timed challenges are TIMED and it is so hectic and then its over... for a bit, while they clean up our messes and they change the set and then makeup, bathroom break... you know, stuff. Your body feels like it just ran a marathon and rode the fastest roller coaster in the world simultaneously and then just suddenly stops. You know that in a little while you have to pick back up and do the next elimination challenge in which everything is on the line. Sigh. Don't get too comfortable, I tell myself. Lineup! It's time for the next one! We line up, do jazz hands...except for Ian...laugh the nerves off and the doors open... in we go.
This time Jess is standing in front of a door and there a christmas tree all decorated next to him. As he starts with the story to preface the challenge, something about christmas and putting the right things together... I notice mistletoe hanging in the doorway...hmmm...and sure enough he walks under the mistletoe pointing it out... a little birdy whispers in my, chef, I did, I ran for the kiss. I got it just as though I caught a fish, I ran back to the line with my prize. All my friends/competitors were cracking up, wondering what in the world got into me? I wondered that myself!
Now we get down to business...Josh and Ian have won and their prize is, they get to pick their teams! Ian goes first picks me! I am thrilled because he is such an awesome guy and I love his work. He is a brilliant chef and an instructor like me! We will be a good team. The next thing we have to do is run back and grab a box with the flavor pairings we are to use. We get pecan and caramel. I am feeling really lucky now because each one of the flavors I've gotten hit with so far, are great! Well, except for the peanuts...
Since they wanted a pairing I suggest two desserts working well together with textures. I do crunchy and Ian will do creamy. We throw our ideas out to each other and it's go time! I run for the pecans and small pans to bake them. I don't want cupcakes but something that size. They have every pan and shape of pan you could ever imagine. I find a really cute square shaped cupcake pans and I grab it and run back to get started. As I am about to make my ice cream Jesse calls out, stopping the action to let us know our next twist is Egg Nog... First I am thinking about the peanuts and this will not go with my plan but suddenly I realize that egg nog and ice cream have the exact same ingredients! I pour in some caramel sauce to give it a complimentary flavor and pop it into the ice cream freezer. I need a garnish now and with caramel being one of the flavors I make caramel fences and spread the rest onto a silpat spread it paper thin and sprinkle on some crushed pecans. When it is cool I crush it up and sprinkle it in the finished ice cream. Now it has the perfect crunch added! And crunch is what I want!
I am very confident in my dessert and very excited to plate. Ian however, is a little nervous and I look over and he has made a perfect dacquoise! I taste his mousseline cream and it is dreamy. I see his beautiful brandy snap tuiles and that is his crunch! We've got this one, I am thinking! Just praying Josh doesn't do some show stopper wiping us off the map!
We are first up and the judges have not one bad thing to say about my dessert, except it could look more holiday, even though it does look fall and that is holiday? Ok I'll take it!
Ian's only mistake was calling his fallen eggnog mousse a mousse and not a sauce. I'm want to dance out of the set! That was a great review and Duff called my cake RAD!
During the final pick of the winner and the elimination, what really happened that you did not get to see on the show is, Ian and I were chosen the winners of the dessert pairings and then Jenn won the individual dessert. I am not sure why they cut that out other than they have tons of extra footage and something had to be cut. Perhaps they didn't want to distract from Jenn's win. We will never know but you now know a little secret, I put that win under my personal hat even it they didn't show it! HA!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Episode one, A Starry Sky

The first morning of the shoot, we must be up and ready to go by 7 AM. I wander to the breakfast room for coffee and food. I only met one of the competitors (Aristo) on the shuttle from the airport, so I look around carefully for others that might be looking around too. Sure enough we all spotted one another, some how, and sit at a table together. Introducing as we eat, we tell short versions of our personal stories. We notice a good looking guy just standing by the elevators with a placard around his neck hanging from and lanyard. It's now 7 and we all approach him asking if he is our driver and he confirms. We then notice the placard has all of our pictures on it. This way he can make sure he doesn't pick up some stranger. We all found this very humorous. We all pile into the long van and off we go to the studio. We get a quick tour of the green room where we hang out waiting for the next call to shoot or to interview, and where we eat our lunch and chat. As we walk around checking out the set (the back of the set since they want us to be surprised when we go into shoot) and meeting the rest of the crew, we all notice everyone on set has our pictures around their neck! Cool!
They escort us back to the green room tell us to go to makeup. Then we get into the clothes they picked out of our suitcases and put our aprons on and it's go time! OMG, this is real! I am doing this! Nerves are beginning to set in and my heart is pounding so loud I can hear it in my ears. We stand outside the door to the set, makeup checks our faces, sound checks our mics, they tell us the order to walk in and we line up, and wait. And wait. And wait. If I don't think too much the nerves die down but if I try to figure out what is going to happen when those doors open, my whole body shivers. So I just try to stay calm and breathe. The doors open, and we file in looking around at the amazing set with all the kitchens set up and the wall lined with equipment and food. The nerves are suddenly gone! This is my happy place in the midst of kitchens and food. Now I am getting excited and I can't stop smiling. Jesse Palmer walks out to greet us and he is more handsome in person than he is on TV! And tall! And very nice too. He is not super goofy like Bobby Dean but he puts us at ease and is fun to interact with. He fits right into this amazing group of competitors that have been chosen. As he explains the challenge, (Run up pick and candy cane and make a dessert reflecting the flavor and use the cane in it too) my head starts to spin with ideas...I want those red ones I tell myself. Go! We run up to the table and Ian's feet trip me on the way up, I almost fall but catch myself on the table, grab the red canes and run back to the table. We were instructed to shout out the flavor when we turn over the card with it written on it. "I got raspberry" I call out. The first thing that pops in my head is that chocolate goes really well with raspberry so I run around getting chocolate, fresh raspberries, raspberry puree, fresh basil and whipped cream. I make the brownie layer thin so I can put it on the bottom of a raspberry mousse. I run to the oven and barely get it on the shelf! I guess my nerves were not totally gone. I make the mousse cut out the brownies, assemble the dessert and begin plating. I still haven't found a use for the artificial raspberry flavored candy cane. I decide to cut it up and fold it into whipped cream and put a nice quenelle on top. The color bleeds a bit into the cream but it is way too late to do anything about that. Sauce, sprinkle and done, times up! I just completed my very first challenge on the show! YEAH! And it looks damned good too! 
I take it to the judges, they have a few critiques, which I knew like the cream and red food color bleed. Overall though, they loved it. 
Well that wasn't too bad at all and I'm feeling pretty confident going into the next challenge. 
We file out for more makeup, a set change and interviews. After a couple hours we return for the elimination challenge. For this one we grab a glass off a beautifully set dinner table and inside is a card with the name and ingredients of a holiday drink. We need to make a dessert highlighting the flavors in the drink. I grab one run back to my kitchen and I get Mulled Wine! Yeah! I love mulled wine and immediately think of poached pears. My strategy at this point is to stick with what I know and don't get too wild, yet. 
NONE of us want to be the first one off so we all try to play it a bit safe with familiar flavors. 
I make a classic poached pear almond tart. I poach the pears in a classic mulled wine concoction. 
It smells amazing as it cooks. I know this is going to be a good one! I cut out star cookies and sprinkle gold sugar crystals over each one and pop them in the oven. 
At this point, Jesse comes out to tell us about the twist. We all forgot about the twist. It is peanuts in their shell. What can I do with those?? Peanuts do not go well with my dessert no matter which way I incorporate them. "Peanuts are for elephants!" So since I over baked my first tray of cookies I decide to cut out another tray and put a peanut in the center of each one and then sprinkle the gold sugar over. The cookies are small enough and I hope the flavor spreads throughout the cookie. Then I reduce the wine for a sauce on the plate. Three minutes left I swipe the sauce with a brush, place the tart on the plate and then carefully place one large star and one small star on the plate. 
The judges love it, Lorraine says it looks like a starry night. They all say they taste the mulled wine and the only problem is that darned peanut cookie... well, no kidding. I was so excited I ran back to the green room burst through the door and shouted, "They Fucking LOVED IT!" Everyone turned around laughing and shushed me because there were interviews going on in the other room!
So I made it to the top three on the first round, I feel great and ready for next week! 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Holiday Baking Championship and how did this happen??

It's hard to believe I am on national television even when I see myself! It feels like it's someone else, someone I know really, really well. But it's me!
I auditioned on a whim. In March of this year, I got an email at work announcing that the Food Network wants students or instructors to audition for the show. I thought about it for a day or two, then on a whim, I decided to just go for it. I pulled out my phone put it on selfie video and walked around the school just ad-libbing as I went. It lasted about a minute and a half, then I filled out the application and sent it off. To my surprise, they called me 3 days later. I chatted with this gal answering questions, she said I may get a call in a few days asking for a Skype interview. I did, it was supposed to last 30 minutes but we talked for almost an hour. She seemed really excited to meet me telling me that I was just what they were looking for! I was cautiously excited. She said the next step was another Skype interview with the Producers of the show and that they will want to see something I baked. I should hear from them in about a week. At this point, I decided to tell my boss that this may happen and I would need some time off to shoot the show. She informed me, which I was well aware, that we didn't have anyone to teach my class because Kathy had just quit. I hoped they would figure something out so I could do this if the producers liked me. I waited. A week passed and I heard nothing. Okay, I say to myself, they found who they need and perhaps they will save my application for a future show. A couple of weeks later, on a Monday at 8 PM I get a call telling me they want to Skype on Wednesday morning at 9 AM and I am to have two christmas style pastries to show the producers. I explained that I work all day on Tuesday and there is no way I could have something at 9 AM since my class begins at 9. She said ok thats too bad, MAYBE I would get another call in a couple weeks. I got to work on Tuesday morning and thought to myself that I can not let this opportunity go by without a try! I called the gal back and told her I wanted to do the interview but could I do it later like during my lunch break at 12 and she said yes! So after class I threw together a cake with gingerbread cookies that looks like houses all around it and a Christmas croquembouche.

I contacted the IT guy at work who set me up in the dining room with natural lighting and the phone call happened. They had very little to say after I described my work. They said all there questions didn't apply to me because it was obvious I knew what I was doing. So this one was quick and they said I would hear from them one way or another in a few days. Well, many days went by and I am not hearing anything. My boss is asking me if this is going to happen since she needs to figure out what to do if I go. I have no answers. We are now well into April. I had asked the first Skype gal when the filming would be and she said May or June. There isn't much time left! Another week goes by and finally at 8 pm one night I get a call telling me, congratulations! I am in the final 15 and they need 11, 9 contestants and two alternates. So I pass on the information to my superiors with a sigh. I still do not have a final answer. They are getting irritated because they do not have anyone yet to cover for me. This is out of my control but if I do get chosen you bet I will go one way or another!
I get a call from a gal who asks for a long interview, again, I talk with her for two hours! Same questions with more detailed answers. At the end I ask her when I will know for sure whether or not I will be on the show and she hesitates, tells me it should be soon and then in confidence tells me how much they like me and I shouldn't be too worried about the answer. So now I am getting very excited, it's beginning to feel real now! They send my contracts I am to sign. It 's looking even better now but still no call telling me I am on the show! We are now into May. I get the call, I'm on the show! Filming will be the first two weeks of June. The school scrambles to find someone who flies out from the New York school to cover for me and I am off to New Orleans to film the show!
Since I have a series of stories to blog about I will keep writing and try to catch up with the shows so you can read the inside story of the shows after they air. I am sworn to secrecy as to what happens so don't even ask! LOL Be sure and tune in to Food Network 9 PM pst Monday nights. Then you can witness how far I go in the show!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Apologies and what I've been up to...also some recipes 

Since it has been so very long since I wrote on this blog... I know MY BAD...I will try to make it up to you all in pictures and recipes that I have been working on. Along with stories of my adventures in the last year or so. I know that doesn't bring back those I lost due to lack of posts but at least it might start up interest in my blog again. I hope!
I made this beautiful cake this weekend for a sweet couple who had a home grown wedding with all the love and support of friends and family. I gave them a great deal and didn't even charge for delivery since it was at a local spot I've been to many times before. The mother provided the amazing roses for me to decorate the cake. Most of the vintage style piping the bride wanted was covered by the flowers (she really wanted them wrapping around the cake) but you still get the vintage feel. You can see the inside of the cake because I had extra batter so I made a small cake for my students to try. They loved it! I call it my "signature cake" because it seems to be the most popular flavor. Two layers of dark chocolate devils food cake (see the s'more cake blog) and my adapted Hazelnut butter cake that I will post here for your enjoyment. The filling is coffee flavored swiss meringue buttercream with tahitian vanilla buttercream on the outside. (See for the best vanilla!)

Just some inspiration...a 20th birthday
I made last year.  

Hazelnut butter cake

one 9” round cake

I adapted this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's golden almond cake in her Cake Bible... I can't seem to just let recipes be!I have tripled this recipe to make one 12” round cake and it came out great!

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream (divided)

1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour

2/3 cup toasted ground hazelnuts

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. Baking powder

½ tsp. Baking soda

½ tsp. Salt

12 Tbl. (1 ½ cubes ) unsalted butter room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Prepare your pan with either pan spray or butter and flour with a parchment on the bottom.In a bowl combine ¼ of the sour cream, the eggs and the vanilla.In your mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low until they come together and then increase to medium speed and beat for 1 ½ minutes. If you are using a hand mixer, mix on high speed.Scrape down the sides, and add 1/3 of the egg mixture, mix on medium for 20 seconds, scrap and repeat two more times scraping well between each addition.Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with your spatula.Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and it springs back when lightly pressed in the center.Leave in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out to a wire rack to coolYou can make this cake a day ahead and wrap tightly when cooled. It is very moist and tender and quite yummy!

And then there is PIE!! This being a fresh organic peach pie. I find I just don't make pies often enough! I adore pie...especially with ice cream! So why don't I make pie more often I ask myself? Not sure really. The crust is easy peasy because I use a 1-2-3 formula with only butter and it comes out flakey and rich and everyone always asks me if I use butter. OF COURSE I use butter! 
The 1-2-3 thing is a formula using 1 times water, 2 times butter and 3 times flour. AND it works with either cups or weight. For example: It shows easier in metric, 75 g water, 150 g butter, and 255g flour and of course salt 1/2 tsp.
Or in cups it would look like: 1/3 c water, 10 1/2 T butter, and 1 1/2 + 1 Tbl. flour, 1/2 tsp salt. 
Remember if you are using this formula to keep everything icy cold! Ice water and even frozen butter works best. 
Here I used about 6 large ripe peaches and 4Tbl. flour mixed with my 3/4 cup sugar. I didn't add spice because I love the natural taste of peaches. 

and some more pies to inspire you to get BAKING!! These are from last fall. 
pumpkin, lemon meringue apple and dutch apple. 

Looking back to last fall I see my pictures of our trip to Costa Rica. I took 7 women down there to tour cacao plantations, coffee plantations, heart of palm farm, organic farm that grew so many strange and wonderful fruits and veggies and of course the natural habitat and animals of this wonderful country. We shopped at a local farmers market and cooked meals but mostly we were treated to fabulous food cooked for us by the local people who hosted the tours we took. We ate everywhere! The heart of palm was my favorite meal though. The woman owned farm was owned and run by this woman who among those talents was a chef too!!

She made heart of palm lasagne, heart of palm salad, heart of palm dip and for dessert we had heart of palm cupcakes. It was all delicious.

    At one of the places we had a private chef who was self trained and cooked us traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans, eggs, fresh fruit, juice, and fried plantains.

Each night we had lovely dishes she came up with that had a local flair.

Over all Costa Rica is an amazing country with social responsibilities that they take seriously. Like recycling, and making sure all of their working population has health care and paid vacations. Just to mention a few...
But I digress... it is food we are talking about right? Food being my life and all.
We also visited a small chocolate manufacturer who uses only Costa Rican grown cacao.
It is not far out of San Jose the capital on the way over to the east side. 
They are called Sibu. Very nice folks! OK so enough for today I just needed to get the juices flowing! I have way more to write just needed to sit down and do it!
So please don't give up on me, I will be back... famous last words eh??
If you have something in particular you want me to write about in the baking area please feel free to comment or email me and I will listen I promise!
Until next time...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Help with gum paste roses

Gum paste is one of those things that you are either going to love to work with or get frustrated and give up on. Personally I like to do it in small amounts. If i had to do this on a daily basis I would probably get very bored and throw up my hands. I, fortunately, live in a area where most folks appreciate fresh flowers rather than sugar ones so my requests are few and far between. I do teach this technique so I get regular practice and I can give you some easy tips to making the process more fun and successful! 
First of all you need the proper tools. 22 gauge wire, 24 gauge wire, needle nose pliers, rose petal cutters, calyx cutter, ball tool, pad, something to hang the flowers on to dry, plastic wrap, shortening, paint brush, skewer or other fine point tool. 
You will want to make the centers of the rose and thread them onto the wire with the hook on the end and then let them dry overnight before making the rose. If you rush this process the roses will drop off the wire while drying. 
Make sure your gum paste is always covered with plastic as you work on it. Rub your table or work surface with a very very thin film of shortening. Put a small piece of gum paste into a small container of water to make the glue you will use in making the flowers. It melts, gets thick and is the perfect glue. 
Roll your gum paste out very thin. Think of the petals of roses and how thin they are, this is how thin you want them to be.
 When using the ball tool to thin the edges of the petal, be sure and keep it half on and half off the paste. The intention is to thin only the edge of the petal. Sometimes it takes quite of bit of pressure to thin it out. This all depends on the texture of the gum paste you are using. What you don't want is distinct lines where the ball tool has been.

 To get the nature curves that rose petals have use the skewer and roll the edge away so the petals have movement.
 The first petal is tightly wrapped on the very tip of the center. If you begin to low on the center you will run out of room and not have as many petal as you would like.

There are many ways to dry the flowers and I use the little white wire racks you can buy at house ware stores. They are used as an extra shelf for space saving. Just hook the wire and hang! You can also use soft styrofoam and dry them up right but I find this doesn't work well for the thinner wires.

I have dried flowers in egg cartons too but they are usually wireless flowers. 
The best way to get the petals to stand away from one another is to begin the rose get it to the first three petals and then give it time to dry. After a day or so you can begin adding more petals for the complete rose. This is why I always make them in bulk. First all the centers, then the middles, then two petals, then three, now I can go back to the first rose and begin the next layer since sometime has passed letting it dry. I usually make about 12 to 15 roses at one time. This is much more productive than making one at time. 

Keep your gum paste wrapped well with a thin layer of shortening rubbed over it and it should last a very long time! Have fun and take pictures :)