Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Better Tasting Fondant at home!

Well, Spring has sprung or is springing... at least here on the Central Coast of California it is...sorry for those who are still under a snow blanket!
Anyway, it is the time to start making all kinds of special occasion cakes and fondant is very expensive to buy but rather inexpensive to make your self. I thought I would give you good recipe for fondant and some explanation as to what you might look for while making it.
You see above you all the necessary items for this recipe. I know many are making this "marshmallow" fondant which they say tastes better than the real thing. However, being the purest that I am I will not use premade marshmallows for my fondant and from what I can tell the marshmallow style is not only plastic tasting from the bagged puffs but rather sticky and difficult to use as well. I am sure there is a trick to it and if you prefer that I am not one to tell you "no" but I prefer this recipe. It isn't going to be anything but SWEET no matter which recipe you use... it is primarily sugar, so there you go!
Here is the recipe and following will be photos and explanations...hope it all helps you fab cake decorators out there!

Better Tasting FONDANT

Makes 2 ½ Lbs. Good for an 8" or 9" cake

3 Tbl. milk
1 Tbl. gelatin
sprinkle gelatin over the water in a shallow stainless pan. Let sit five minutes and then place it over low heat in a shallow pan with simmering water stir until melted.
When it is melted add:

½ cup corn syrup... or glucose which is a thicker substance and gives more structure
1 Tbl. glycerin... you can find in cake decorating stores or online
1/4 cup unsalted butter... this will add to the off white as well use shortening for a whiter fondant 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla... which will give the fondant a slightly off white color 

2# powdered sugar sifted well (8 cups)

Pour the powdered sugar into a large bowl.
Make a well in the center of the sugar and pour in melted gelatin/cornsyrup mixture. Stir mixture with a large spoon until mostly combined then start mixing with greased hands. If dry add water if wet add more powdered sugar. Knead with greased hands until smooth like bread dough.

Fondant can be worked with at once, but works best after it rests for several hours or over night. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container for one month. Can be frozen indefinitely.
A mixer can be used for mixing. Kneading must be done by hand or the texture suffers.

12” layer uses 5# fondant rolled to ¼ “ thick
9 “ layer uses 3 # fondant rolled to ¼ “ thick
6” layer uses 2 # fondant rolled to ¼ “ thick

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's day and comforting scones...

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's day and it got me thinking about those warm and cozy quick breads that are made by the Scots and Irish. Scones and Irish soda breads are great comfort foods on cold days... or heck, warm days too! 
I am thinking that tonight as my class finishes their chocolate, caramel bombe, I will wander off in a totally different direction and make my fab Irish soda bread with oats, whole wheat flour and raisins... they called that the spotted dog! 
But in the meantime I thought I would give to you my favorite scone recipe that I developed back in the 80's for my little bakery. They are rich and creamy and the flavor bits in them can be changed to suit your tastes! The photo has them with crispy bacon and chives. But the original recipe was a sweet lemon currant scone. A bit more traditional, however I have made them with cheese or blueberries, or dried fruits such as apricot or cherries. Have fun with them and have sit down relax, have a cuppacoffee or a nice tea and let your memory float back to simpler times when we didn't have to constantly run off to somewhere to do something... so important that we forget to smell the roses or in this case taste the scones!  

Chef Stephany’s scone recipe

3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ Tbl. Baking powder
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

4 oz. (one stick) unsalted butter cold
4 oz. (1/2 package) thick style cream cheese

3 eggs
2 Tablespoons buttermilk or heavy cream

1 cup dried currants
zest from one lemon

Place the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Cut the butter and cream cheese into pieces and place in the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients.
Rub the butter/cream cheese into the dry ingredients using either the paddle on a stand mixer or a pastry cutter by hand. If you are using a food processor then pulse 5 or 6 times until you see chunks of butter and cream cheese remaining.
Do not over mix at this point leave larger chunks of the butter/cream cheese in the mix. You should have pieces the size of grapes left in the flour mix.
Then mix together the eggs and buttermilk or cream in a separate container.
Pour it into the dry butter mix and lightly toss by hand until the dough begins to come together but is still dry. Add the zest and currants (or whatever you like!)  and continue to toss together.
At this point you should have a dry mix that needs a bit more kneading. So dump your mix onto a lightly dusted table and pull it together by hand giving folds as you are kneading. This should take only three or four folds and now you have a dough that can be formed into a round and cut into triangles or use a biscuit cutter to cut out your scones.
Brush with cream and bake in a hot over 425°F for about 15-18 minutes depending on the sizes you have cut.
You should get about 16 -18 scones…unless you like small ones…then more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The best carrot cake ever! Well, at least I think so... :)

I consider myself a bit of a snob when it comes to food. I adore food with what I call the "yum factor"...who doesn't really? Of course food should look as good as it tastes but looks are only a fraction of what I need to be totally satisfied by yummy stuff. Lately I have noticed the come back of a cake that I have always considered very very low on the yum factor scale and I find this rather curious. So I ask folks who want me to make the bright scarlet cake called red velvet, what they actually like about it...since I just don't get the attraction. Those of you who have made this cake know it has huge amounts of red food color in it to give it that devilish hue and for flavor it has a very small amount of cocoa powder. So small in fact you can't even taste it! So what then??? is the attraction? When I enquire those who seem to love this strange and unusual concoction, the overwhelming answer is "The frosting!" For the most part it is always cream cheese icing! Ok this I understand! Who doesn't love cream cheese icing but I say, let's put it on a tasty cake instead of ingesting 3 ounces of red food coloring!
Enter... the carrot cake...
Ok some folks say to me they don't like carrot cake because it has the dreaded raisins in it or they are allergic to nuts... HEY there is a fine solution to all of these complaints and it gives the traditional carrot cake a whole new look and taste too! BUT never....never....change that wonderful icing!
Here is a carrot cake that is simple to make and very nice on the tongue! 

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing 
This will make two 8" or 9" layers
I adapted this recipe from Bo Friberg's Professional Pastry Chef

4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
14 oz. granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 oz. all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 LB. grated carrots
4 oz. crushed canned pineapple
2 oz. shredded sweetened coconut
(or if you prefer the more traditional style use 
4 oz. chopped walnuts 
2 oz. raisins instead of the pineapple and coconut)

Using a stand mixer with the whip attachment, whip the eggs at high speed until light and frothy.
Turn the mixer down to medium speed and add the oil in slowly. Turn the mixer down to low and add the sugar and salt. 
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda and baking powder. 
Using the paddle attachment, add the dry ingredients into the wet and then by hand fold in the carrots and your choice of the other fruits. 
Pour into the prepared pans and bake at 375F for about 40 minutes or until the cake springs back and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on rack and after about 15 minutes turn it out of the pan to cool completely. 

Cream Cheese icing

8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. unsalted butter softened to room temperature
8 oz. powdered sugar sifted
1 teaspoon excellent vanilla extract

In your mixing bowl with the paddle attachment cream together the cheese and the butter until smooth and no lumps appear. Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar. Mix on slow speed until the sugar has mixed in completely and then turn up the mixer to medium speed and whip until smooth and creamy. 
Keep cold and re whip if necessary. 

Fill and ice your cake with this and if you need more cake or icing these recipes can be double easily.
You can coat the outside edges with either chopped walnuts or toasted coconut and I made marzipan carrots for each slice... this is fun but tedious... enjoy!