Monday, November 30, 2009

Intro to Cakes Practical Final.....

And so it begins.....  Fall 2009 finals, beginning with a week of practical exams and then written exams and cleaning all the lab classrooms.  Please excuse my {potential} lack of posting during this stressful time!

And today's the day of my practical final in Intro to Cakes.  Wish me luck!  I've had quite a few ups and downs in that class, and here's hoping today turns out better!

Here's a sneak peek of what I'll be making.....  (Recipe and longer post coming soon)

Key Lime & Coconut Cake

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin or Pecan? or BOTH!

Hands down, Pumpkin Pie is my favorite at Thanksgiving time, (or maybe always, although Grandma's Rhubarb is pretty amazing in the summer time too....)  But, I live in the deep south now, and that means Pecan Pie country.

So, for my first Thanksgiving as a southern resident, I decided it was only fair to make both!  And let me say it was no small feat to make these pies (as well as the rest of the Thanksgiving Dinner) at A's house.....  It's most definitely a kitchen for two bachelors, which is fine because it suites them. But it means that when I come, I have to bring most all supplies with me.

I can never abide store bought crust.  I'm too fond of my Pate Sucree recipe. Yes, I know it's suppose to be for tarts, but it's so delicious for pies too!  I made my crust this past weekend and froze it.  Then I used it to keep my cooler cold on the drive up here.  I splurged last year on cute leaf cutters from Williams-Sonoma.  And I'm still happy I bought them!  They're just so cute :) Williams-Sonoma did change the varieties of leaves this year, but they're still lovely.

My Great Grandma Irene's pumpkin pie is famous in my family.  It has such lovely flavor and good spice (no store-bought pumpkin pie spice for her).  I always make her recipe verbatim.  Except this year, there were a few changes.....

I used organic pumpkin for the first time!  I recently saw the film Food Inc (I'll probably post more about that next week.) and have subsequently decided to buy as much local and organic as possible.....  The organic pumpkin has a slightly different consistancy than the Libby pumpkin puree I've used in the past.  I think I'd drain it through cheesecloth next time, or else add another egg to the recipe.  One super sad thing was that I forgot my nutmeg back at my apartment :(  So, I just added additional cinnamon and a little vanilla..... It was still okay, but I love the flavor of nutmeg and sorely missed it.  A did comment that the pie tasted more "pumpkin-y" than previously, but he liked it!

I've also dubbed this year as the end of Cool Whip.  I'm only slightly ashamed to say that I really really like Cool Whip.  I'm one of those people who can eat it straight from the tub. However, since taking my nutrition class AND watching Food Inc, I've decided it's probably better for my health to no longer consume it :(  Goodbye Cool Whip!  My mouth might miss you, but my body wont!

And then comes the pecan pie!  I did quite a bit of searching for the perfect pecan pie recipe, but finally settled on one in this month's issue of Gourmet Magazine.   It was delicious and gooey and yummy just like pecan pie should be.....  The only feedback so far was that the surprise addition of orange zest was out of place, even though it was just a small amount.  I think I've got to agree.  Sorry Gourmet!  Other than that, it was a lovely pie!  Oh, and I used a spoon to make the scalloped pattern in the crust.  I think it's a rather nifty unique pattern.

We at so much for dinner last night that we almost skipped dessert.  (Gasp, I know!) But we did end up eating small slices pumpkin pie.  Then A came up with the most wonderful idea for the pecan pie..... Why not eat it for breakfast!  I think we've started a new tradition.  A piece of pecan pie with a hot cup of coffee is an amazing way to start your day.

I think this above image is my favorite of the pies.  I'm contemplating making pie themed greeting cards for next year.  Any feedback on that idea?

And now for recipes:

Great Grandma's Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk or cream

1.  Mix all ingredients together.
2. Pour into a raw 9" pie shell.
3. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes.  Then at 350 F for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife blade put in the center comes out clean.

Note: Because I forgot the nutmeg, I doubled the cinnamon and put in a splash of vanilla.....

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie
Gourmet Magazine November 2009

3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup {spray measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring syrup}
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated orange zest {I'd omit this next time}
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 cups pecan halves

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang.  Crimp decoratively. Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm in the freezer.
  3. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in corn syrup mixture.
  4. Put pecans in pie shell and pour corn syrup mixture evenly over them. Bake on baking sheet until filing is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. {it took a little longer than an hour for me}.
  5. Cool completely.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers November 09: Chocolate Orange Cannoli

I am still so stuffed from last night's Thanksgiving dinner.... Or maybe it's from the piece of pecan pie I had for breakfast this morning.  In all the busyness from last night, I nearly forgot that today is the Daring Bakers reveal day!

So, without further adieu, here's the November 2009 Daring Baker's Challenge: Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural).

She writes:
Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with. 

I'll admit, this challenge brought about one of my baking fears: frying.  I've got almost zero experience with deep frying, except for the doughnuts we did in class a few weeks ago.  And I'm also nervous about frying at my apartment because if there ever was a problem and I got hurt, I don't really know anyone who could help me! Ahhh!

I truly did plan on conquering the fear and having a friend come help me fry.  But when it came right down to it, Thanksgiving was looming so quickly that I ran out of time to try the frying.  So, I baked cannoli cups in a 350 F oven instead of frying cannoli tubes.  I'm kind of sad about this fact, but I do have left over dough (currently resting in my freezer) and I may try to fry some in the future.

I tried two different baking techniques, since I'm unfamiliar with cannoli dough and how it acts. One batch I baked inside my Williams Sonoma mini tart pan (with fluted edges) and one batch I draped over an upside down mini muffin tin.  Both were non-stick surfaces. The Williams-Sonoma pan seemed to work better, but in both cases, I overbaked them, unfortunately :(

Then, I made a sweetened Ricotta Cheese filling with orange and bittersweet chocolate. Additionally, I dipped the shells in melted bittersweet chocolate before filling them.

I've not really been a fan of ricotta cheese in dessert items--I always thought it belonged in lasagna instead.  But, this challenge may have won me over to ricotta in desserts!  The filling was so tasty!  I may or may not have squirted it from the pastry bag straight into my mouth.   shhhh....

A couple additional tips about the filling....  I ran out of time to properly drain my ricotta cheese before making the filling. Story of my life is having great intentions and not necessarily having the time to follow through.....  So, my filling was more liquid than I would have liked..... I chopped Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips to add to the filling and I didn't chop all of them quite as finely as I should have. Some of the pieces were too big to fit through the star tip I used for piping. Still, it turned out pretty well and tasted yummy.

As Lisa mentioned above, cannoli traditionally contains Marsala wine.  I did have a bit of a time finding Marsala wine.  I'm not as knowledgable about wine as I'd like to be (but that will change next semester when I take "Intro to Wine" Hurray!) and had no idea that Marsala wine has a much higher alcohol content than most other wines.  So, I had to make a trip to a liquor store to find it.

In North Dakota, all alcohol is sold in liquor stores, nothing in grocery stores. I guess I've been spoiled by wine in grocery stores since moving to SC. I tried several stores before finally asking a store associate where I could find marsala and having them tell me I'd have to go to a liquor store or buy a "cooking grade marsala."  I wasn't so keen on buying the "cooking grade" so I went off in search of an open liquor store.  Liquor stores in SC have the oddest hours....  And I always seemed to go when they were closed.  But finally, last weekend, I found one that was open!  And they had Marsala!  Success!

If you've never used Marsala before, you may be surprised by it's lovely aroma, as I was. It has such a different smell than I had expected (although I'm not exactly sure what I expected).... somewhat sweet? I'm hoping to experiment more with it in the future.

Thanks, Lisa for a wonderful challenge! 


Lidisano’s Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.
400 g Part Skim Ricotta Cheese {should be drained in a cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator if you don't procrastinate like me}
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Orange zest for garnish
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the (drained) Ricotta and the Confectioner's sugar and mix until just combined. Add in the cinnamon, vanilla bean paste, and orange extract.  Add the chopped chocolate.  
2. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with the filling and refrigerate until ready to pipe into chocolate-dipped shells. 
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Breakfast!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year Thanksgiving is very different for me.  It's the first major holiday since I moved down South, and so I do feel a bit weird not being at home with my family. I could have gone, but I had such a terrible time getting back in October and I do start Finals next week.  So, I decided to stay and am subsequently in Columbia for a few days.  A has to work today, so we'll be eating dinner this evening.

Even though I'm missing my family today and all our normal traditions, I'm still very very happy to have started this chapter in my life and to be in pastry school finally. I'm so thankful this semester has gone so well and that I am able to spend Thanksgiving with A :)

One tradition my family does nearly every major holiday (like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter) is to have a family breakfast, which usually consists of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, cut up fruit and some sort of egg dish.  I wanted to continue that same tradition, even though I'm far away, only kick it up a notch.  No more Pillsbury Rolls ever!

No offense, but I've learned to make some pretty incredible stuff while in school.  Now that my tongue has tasted the good stuff, it's hard to go back.....  So, we had New England-style Sticky Buns, some with pecans, some with raisins, some with craisins, and some mixed.  I made them in class a couple weeks ago and froze a few to save just for Thanksgiving.

We also had some organic orange slices, some Chocolate Brownie Drunken Strawberry Almond Brioche (which I'll be writing a post about soon..... I meant to do it last week but ran out of time), and some Earl Grey Tea, subsequently my favorite tea.

Ironically, my family didn't do their traditional breakfast this morning.  (I know, I gasped too!)  But since the feast of the day was to be hosted at their house for a change, I guess they've decided to switch it to another day.   Nevertheless, A and I had a great breakfast!

And now I'm preparing for our grand dinner later.  Let's just hope I don't screw up the turkey...... I've never made one before and my cooking skills are not nearly in the same realm as my baking ones. I'm almost wishing we were doing thanksgiving sushi like some friends of mine are doing....   At least the pies I've made will be good :)

Tomorrow is Daring Baker's November challenge reveal day!  And then after that will be a full re-cap of our Thanksgiving Feast.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Apple Crisp

One of my all-time favorite desserts would have to include Apple Crisp. Although there are very few desserts that I do not like, apple crisp does hold a special place in my heart due to the fact that it's a dessert of my childhood.  I had company this past weekend, as A had switched days of working, so I decided to whip up apple crisp for dessert one night.  It's such an easy, yummy dessert to make.  And eating it is like eating a memory....

During my growing up years, my grandparents had a fabulous apple tree--one of those antique varieties that you really can't find anymore.  My parents house also has an apple tree, but for whatever reason, had some trouble with it during it's early years.

Sadly, my grandparent's tree was blown over in a horrific wind storm one summer when I was in middle school, so no more of those delicious apples.  However, my parent's tree has more than compensated!  Their tree produces mamouth amounts of apples.  I'm really serious!  Early in the season before the apples are even close to full development, they have to unload apples, just to keep the branches from breaking!

My mom has always made apple crisps, but one special occasion she makes it for is the anniversary of my dad's engineering company.  The company was started in the early 90s and it was a big step for my young family.  Every October, she would celebrate the company's anniversary by making a batch of apple crisp for everyone in my dad's office.  Well, the company has grown tremendously and now has locations in other cities as well.  But my mom still makes apple crisp!  People have come to expect and anticipate it each October and the number of batches has increased quite a bit.   She now uses one of my favorite tools to aid in preparation: the apple peeler/corer/slicer combo.

My sisters and I have helped serve the apple crisp as many years as our schedules would allow. It was really odd for me to not be there to help with it this year, although I know there were other years I wasn't able to go either.....  So, make my own apple crisp and serve it to myself , I must! I don't have a peeler/corer/slicer combo, so I made mine by peeling and slicing the apples myself.  I used granny smith apples, because I had them left over from another project, but really you can use whatever apple you like.  I like my apples to get soft but not mushy, so granny smith are good ones for me. I do wish I'd had some apples from my parents tree.....

I have a confession to make: I really don't use a recipe when making apple crisp.....  I just cut up apples, add some sugar and spices (cinnamon and nutmeg are great) and then a little flour for a thickener (just enough to coat the apples).  I used two apples this time, because I was not making a large batch.

I put the apple mixture in two small ramekins and then a small casserole dish.  The ramekins are just perfect for a small dessert.  And especially with apple crisp, which can look somewhat unappealing when it's scooped out of a larger dish, having individual desserts really does aid in presentation.

Then the apple mixture is topped with a streusel topping.  Seriously, I can just  eat unbaked streusel with spoon.  So tasty.  But, I will say that it is even better baked!  I make my streusel, again without a recipe (this is so out of my normal character), by mixing oatmeal with flour and brown sugar and then adding cinnamon and nutmeg and enough melted butter to moisten it.  I actually had leftover streusel in my fridge from making apple pie with a friend. So that went to good use.

Another one of my favorite kitchen tools  would absolutely have to include my Kitchen Aid Toaster Oven, which I used to bake this small batch of apple crisp. I really love my toaster oven, but I admit I was initially skeptical about toaster ovens in general.  Two years ago, when I was in college the first time, my roommate in my first apartment said one thing we had to have in our kitchen was a toaster oven.  I didn't really see a point to having one, because I thought a regular toaster was just fine, but then I realized the wonder that is that toaster oven..... so great for making toast, but also is fabulous when you're cooking for low numbers (like 1 or 2) and do not want to waste the energy of heating your entire large oven.  I would like to do more experimenting with baking in a toaster oven, but haven't had time yet. But I digress...

The whole thing baked in under 20 minutes, with the toaster oven set on 350, and wow did my apartment smell tasty during the baking.  Actually, I did get them a tish too dark on top, but the beauty of apple crisp is that one can pick the top layer off and no one knows the difference!  Actually one of my favorite parts of apple crisp is picking pieces off the top when it comes right out of the oven.

Apple Crisp really is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (preferably vanilla bean).  But I didn't have that, so we enjoyed more of the apple flavor instead. A liked his so much that he ate his small ramekin portion and then proceeded to eat most of the small casserole dish too!  It is one of those desserts you don't feel quite so guilty eating because of all the fruit.  And really, you can use very little sugar  as well.

Yum, yum, yum!  I just might have to make more this weekend.....  Thank you Mom for making such wonderful apple crisps and inspiring me to make them too :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Krispy Kreme doesn't have anything on these.....

Doesn't your mouth water already? 

This past Friday was Doughnut Day in my Laminated Dough and Pastries. We made Apple Fritters, Glazed Doughnuts, and Cinnamon Twists.

And oh my goodness, what yummy confections they were!! Krispy Kreme didn't have anything on these! I know I've said this before about product we've made in this class, but honestly, these were the best doughnuts ever!

Sheeting the Dough; Assembling Apple Fritters. 

For all the baking I've done, I've never actually deep fried anything!  It was a bit nerve-wracking to fry at first, because I was so scared about burning the fritters/doughnuts or about not keeping the oil hot enough to actually fry the doughnuts.....  Not to mention the potential of burning myself....

Frying a fritter; Glazing a fritter in honey glaze

But since this experience, I've now become more confident in frying... It isn't a scary as it may seem.... no doughnuts were marred in the experience and I didn't suffer any harm. I think I could tackle it at home as well!

Fresh doughnuts, just begging for a cup of coffee! 

Chef gave us some pointers about frying. Always keep your oil around 365 F. Depending on the the number of items you want to fry at a time and the temperature of the items, you might want to have the oil temp slightly higher prior to frying to allow the temp to always stay above 365 F.

I really do not want to admit how many of these awesome doughnuts I've consumed since Friday..... A. was here this weekend, so I knew we'd both enjoy them.... I've never seen A. get quite so excited about something I've baked!

I really did plan to give some of them away, but they seemed to disappear into our stomachs too fast.....  So addicting! Besides, doughnuts really taste the best when they're warm and the glaze is still drippy :)

There's really nothing like a fresh doughnut. 

My fear of frying is now conquered and I'm certain I'll make these again.....  My head is already spinning with all the potential flavor combinations.....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When life gives you key lime curd....

I really really hate waste, a fact that just might come from the fact that I'm also a pack rat.  I especially hate throwing away food.  I always feel like I'm throwing away my money (and hard work).

I've been tweeking a key lime curd recipe to use in my practical final for "Intro to Cakes" so I've had several batches of curd in my refrigerator, most of which have gone bad before I've had a chance to think of something to do with them...

While searching in my mess-of-a-freezer for bread to have with my dinner, I discovered some shortcrust dough from earlier this fall. And inspiration struck!  Why not make a tart shell and fill it with some of the curd!

And why not bake the tart shell in my toaster oven because it was already pre-heated and cooking my dinner.   Voila, Key Lime Curd Tart!

getting ready to eat my tart while watching a "Grey's Anatomy" marathon

Alas, the crust got a little darker than I originally wanted (a little over "caramelized").... so I'm thinking that perhaps the toaster oven doesn't heat quite as evenly as I originally thought.  Still tasty though!

I like making smaller, individual desserts because I'm quite often creating for just myself. And I have almost zero willpower and an insatiable sweet tooth.

Because this curd recipe was modified to be paired with a very sweet coconut cake, it's a very tangy (aka tart) curd.  Almost too tart.  I did contemplate adding whipped cream or meringue, but.... I didn't this time.  Perhaps in the future.

For one of the few times in my life, I actually could not finish the entire dessert!

I'll include recipes tomorrow....  I need to find them on my other computer....