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27 September 2013

My Life is a Word Problem

You remember those word problems we had to solve in math class?

"Johnny has 30 candy bars.  He eats 10.  How many candy bars does Johnny have?"  Something along those lines anyway.  Point is the problems often involved copious quantities of items you wouldn't have in normal circumstances, yet no one ever seemed to blink an eye.

That's how I felt the other day when I purchased eggs.  I had 20 dozen eggs and NOTHING else in the cart.  "C has 15 dozen eggs.  She needs to make 12 angel food cakes (plus some other things), but the cashier and other customers do not know this.  How many ridiculous questions and sideways glances will she get?"

Answer:  No ridiculous questions, though I did get a few sideways looks, which really strikes me as strange because I purchased the massive quantity of eggs at our "friendly" neighborhood Wally World.  There is no possible way I and my cart of eggs were the greatest oddity in the store...I refuse to believe it.  Anywho...

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Ta-da!  Twelve angel food cakes, ready to be sliced.  I also made some vanilla sugared strawberries and whipped cream to go along with them.

Oooh...and I learned a few things along the way:
  • Angel food cakes burn very easily.
  • Under baked angel food cakes (even if they appear completely baked) will fall out of the pan when turned upside down.  It's a very fine line between under baked, baked to perfection, and burnt...
  • An electric knife is the quickest and easiest way to slice angel food cakes.
  • Angel food cake pans come in a variety of colors and styles.  Do not waste time with dark coated pans or pans that do not have a removable inner core.  I made this mistake and had to bake additional cakes.  Bringing the total I actually baked to 15.  
  • The recipe I use for angel food cake requires 1 dozen eggs per cake.  But, only the egg whites, no yolks.  So many egg yolks...what to do with them?  I hate to let them go to waste; they are currently in my freezer awaiting their next mission, once I figure out what that will be.
One other thing I learned - I still love angel food cake.  I haven't had a slice of one in years, but my enjoyment of it hasn't diminished.  Plus, since I'm wiser these days, I can now more fully appreciate that I can have a slice or three and still be making a "healthier" choice.  Don't judge.

Think I'll go have a piece of cake.  Oh, and if you have ideas for what I should use the egg yolks for, do share!  Custards or ice creams come to my mind, but not much else, so I'm open to any suggestions.

Talk to you soon!



25 September 2013

Cake Conversation

It started out simple enough...
"Do you remember that monster truck cake you made?  You had a picture of it in one of your books."

Me - "Yes, I do."  Commence rummaging around and flipping through several books in order to find the correct photo.  Finding photo - "Is this it?"

"Yeah.  I want my birthday cake to look like that."

Me - "Ok, we can do that.  No problem.  What flavor of cake do you want?"

"Chocolate like always."

Me - "Good choice."  Presume the conversation is finished, commence the other tasks I was working on completing.

Few minutes later...
"Can it have Batman and Robin climbing up the side of it?  Oh, and it needs to have the Riddler and Joker, too.  And some of those cake balls, but they should look like bombs.  All around the cake so it looks like the cake is about to be blown up."

Me - "Umm...ok.  Would you prefer to have the monster truck cake or the Batman cake?"

"Batman."

Me - "I'll see what I can do."

Did I mention this conversation was with my 8-year-old nephew?  I still haven't figured out how exactly we made the jump from a monster truck cake to the caped crusader and cake ball bombs, but it was an interesting discussion.  (I whittled out some of the more descriptive ideas he had...let's just say he was very specific and had VERY grand ideas for his cake.)  We ended up compromising.

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(Yes, I used a flash on this photo.  Forgive me...)

Speaking of family birthdays, one of my niece's also celebrated a birthday recently.  She is now officially a teenager...  Side note:  icing a cake shaped like the number 3 was more difficult than I anticipated.  I'm sure you really needed to know that, but, hey, I like to share random tidbits sometimes.  

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More birthday goodies (not for any of my family members though):

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Basic "Plain Jane" cake, perfect for any type of party, birthday or not.

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Football theme...is it for a birthday or just a game watching party?  (In this case, a birthday.)

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Can you guess what movie these cupcakes were inspired by?  I'll give you a hint:  "Boo?"  "Kitty!"  Or if that doesn't help:
  1. Fill in the blank:  _______ under the bed.
  2. Inc.
Now, take the word you filled in the blank with and combine it with the second word.  Viola!  Thanks for playing along.


Talk to you soon!

24 September 2013

Cast of Characters: Cream


Did last week's tasty tip for Half & Half substitutions leave you confused about butterfat and the types of cream you can find in the store?  If so, hopefully today's tip will help sort things out a bit.

First, what is butterfat?  Butterfat is the natural fat contained in milk and dairy products, and most milk and cream products are sold by the amount of butterfat they contain.  (The U.S. has federal standards for the butterfat content of dairy products.)  Butterfat content affects "mouthfeel" of products - i.e. how rich and creamy they feel on your tongue.  For example, whole milk has a "silkier" mouthfeel than skim or reduced fat milk.  Whipping creams can feel almost heavy on the tongue due to their high fat content.

So, now that you know a little bit about butterfat and how it impacts the taste of your dairy goods, what about the cream?  Cream is made by skimming the butterfat off of milk and it is categorized by it's fat content.  Here's a break down of some of the most common types of cream:
  • Half and Half:  half milk and half cream, fat content 10.5% - 15%.  It adds richness milk doesn't, but can not replace cream in recipes.  It will not whip like cream.
  • Light Cream:   also known as "coffee cream", fat content between 16% - 29%.  It will not whip.
  • Whipping Cream:  made specifically for whipping, fat content 30% - 36%.  It will whip.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream:  also known as "heavy cream," made specifically for whipping, fat content 36% - 40%.  It will whip.
"Whipped topping" or "dessert topping" usually does not contain any cream, but is instead a mixture of hydrogenated oils.  It has its uses, but you can't use it as a cream substitute.

Mmm...tasty!



21 September 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt

Yeah...you read that right.  Frozen yogurt.  With cookie dough.  And chocolate chips.  It's a virtuous dessert, too, because of the yogurt.  Yogurt is good for you, so this must be.  Right?  *nodding head in agreement*  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I usually mix up this yumminess when I have lonely containers of vanilla yogurt languishing in my fridge.  Oh yes, it happens.  I have this great idea while I'm in the store that I'll eat plain vanilla yogurt and be super healthy...then it seldom happens.  Though once it's frozen and has some extras added to it, it seems to disappear pretty fast...one of the great mysteries of life.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt
Printable Recipe
Prep:  10 to 15 minutes
Freeze: 6 to 8 hours or until set, preferably overnight
Yield:  12-ish servings

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Ingredients:
  • Eggless Cookie Dough
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp water
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (feel free to add the whole bag if you like)
  • 24 oz vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular, your choice)
Preparation:
  1. Make the cookie dough - in a bowl combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat until smooth.  Add the vanilla and water and mix well.  Add the flour and salt and stir to combine.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.  If you prefer the cookie dough stay in larger pieces, refrigerate for refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  If you don't mind it breaking up and sharing its cookie goodness with every bit of the yogurt, use immediately.
  2. Stir in the yogurt.
  3. Place in an airtight container and freeze until solid or overnight.
Notes:
  • Adjust the amount of yogurt to find the perfect balance and consistency for your tastes.
  • I typically don't refrigerate the cookie dough prior to adding the yogurt.  I'm too impatient for that, plus I like the cookie flavor "infused" into the yogurt versus large chunks of it.
  • I store the yogurt in small glass canning jars; makes it easy to serve and it is already portioned.
Happy yogurt making!



19 September 2013

I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Cupcakes...

Diddly dee.

There they are a-standing in a row.

Bom. Bom.

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Salted caramel chocolate ones.  Camo buttercream white almond ones.  Vanilla bean and baseball topped ones.

Give them a try!

I've got a lovely bunch of cupcakes.

Diddly dee.

Did you enjoy the musical entertainment today?  Hope so.  Too bad you had to miss out on the dance moves...maybe next time.

Perhaps I should have offered you snacks prior to the entertainment.  Maybe a basket full of munchies - cinnamon sugar pretzels, chipotle honey peanuts, sweet and spicy crackers, red hot popcorn, s'more snack mix - any of that strike your fancy?

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If not, maybe cake and cookies?  In this case, meringue roses.

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Talk to you soon!  Bom. Bom.

17 September 2013

Ingredient Substitution: Half & Half


First things first, what exactly is "Half & Half?"  Well, as the name suggests it is a mixture of half milk and half light cream, and it usually has a fat content somewhere between 10.5% and 12 percent.

So, what happens if you need half & half and don't have any on hand?  There's several options:
  • The easiest substitution would be to simply mix a 1/2 cup light cream* plus 1/2 cup milk.  The only problem is that you can't commonly find "light cream" (16% to 29% fat), you're more likely to have "light whipping cream" or "heavy whipping cream" on hand.  In that case...
  • If you have light whipping cream* and milk, combine three parts whole milk and one part light whipping cream.  So, 3/4 cup whole milk + 1/4 cup light whipping cream would equal 1 cup half & half.
  • If you have heavy whipping cream* and milk, combine four parts whole milk and one part heavy whipping cream.
  • And, if you don't have any type of cream in the house, you can combine 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (softened) plus about 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk to equal approximately 1 cup of half and half.
*Light cream, light whipping cream, and heavy whipping cream are NOT all the same thing.  Each one has a higher butterfat percentage than the previous.  Don't confuse them - you might be setting yourself up for a recipe fail.

Mmm...tasty!



10 September 2013

Shed the Skin


Most raw peanuts still have the skins, but occasionally you'll come across a recipe that calls for "skinless raw peanuts."  First, the skins are edible, so it's really more your preference if you want to take the time to remove them.  Second, I've yet to come across a recipe that was a failure because I didn't remove the skins from the peanuts.  Because yes, sometimes I'm lazy and/or not willing to give up 30 minutes to de-skin a pound of peanuts.

But, if you still want to remove the skins, my preferred method is to freeze the shelled raw peanuts several hours or overnight; then remove a few at a time from the freezer, and slip the skins off with my fingers.  You don't want the peanuts to get too warm, the skins will be difficult to remove - so don't hurry the initial freezing time and only work with a handful or two at at time.

You can also roast the peanuts in a 350°F over for 3 to 5 minutes, allow them to cool, then rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.  OR you can blanch the peanuts a few at a time in boiling water for about 3 minutes, drain, remove the skins with your fingers, then spread on paper towel to dry.

Mmm....tasty!


06 September 2013

Three Weddings

And a funeral.

Ok...not really, but I figure you were thinking it when you  read the title to this post.  I can honestly say, I've had some interesting cake requests, both in designs and reasons for wanting cake, but I've never had an order that I was told was specifically for a funeral.  Guess cake just doesn't seem to very appropriate on those occasions...  But, I digress.

Three weddings.  Three weekends.  And, I survived, the cakes survived, and Madre had a good time helping out.  If I recall correctly, after our third wedding cake delivery and set-up, her comment was along the lines of "it's such a hoot to deliver cakes with you."  Yep, that's me.  Here to entertain you while I try my best to handle the curve ball(s) that always seem to come up with weddings.  I honestly don't know how wedding planners manage to not go postal due to the stress and crazy antics and ideas I'm sure they encounter EVERY day.  That being said, let me just offer these two pieces of advice if you're planning a wedding (no you don't have to take my advice, although I personally think it's pretty good):

  1. Just because you can and it sounds like a great idea, does not mean you should.  Seriously consider all aspects of the matter - venue, time of year, safety, etc.
  2. You have delegated or will be delegating certain tasks to people.  If they tell you they are concerned or that something is not an advisable idea, you might be well served to take it to heart.  It doesn't mean that going with the original idea will end badly, it just means that you've upped the risk.
Sooo...now that I've counseled you today, do you want to see the cakes?  Oh, and let's see if you can spot the commonality between all three; I'll give you the answer at the end of the post.

Wedding #1:

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I seriously underestimated the amount of time I was going to need to create everything for this event.  There was the fondant ribbon wrapped wedding cake and three "kitchen" cakes, the chocolate groom's cake, and a sweets buffet with over 1,000 pieces.  To say sleep was in short supply in the days leading up to the event would be an understatement.

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Yes, the bride and groom topper on the cake are high-fiving; how fun are those?

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This was the first sweets buffet I've put together.  No, the stands and decorations were not mine, they were provided by the bride and party planners.

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Side note:  the reception for this wedding was held in one of our local restaurants.  To say they transformed the place would be putting it lightly.  It was beautiful and absolutely amazing the work they did; I can only imagine how many hours they put in to make look so completely different.  I definitely was not prepared for the change.  (Not that the venue is bad to begin with, it's a fun place, just more sporty than rustic elegance.)

Wedding #2:

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All buttercream...I think I spent over an hour piping the scrollwork onto this cake. And the logo on the groom's cake just about brought me to my knees, I fiddled with that thing for an hour or more.  *sigh*  

What do you think of the color combo?  I was skeptical when the mother-of-the-bride told me what the wedding colors were; it's not a combination I've seen very often, but it works really well.  Madre and I concluded that the orange was in honor of our Cowboys since there were OSU tents set-up outside the venue.  (We could possibly have been incorrect in that presumption, but that's what we went with...)

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Venue note:  this reception was in a restaurant, too!  Though one that has been empty for as long as I can remember.  You never would have known it though; the place was sparkling and looked fantastic.  Bonus:  the banquettes and stools at the counter were covered in orange Naugahyde - perfect match for the color scheme!

Wedding #3:

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Speaking of my Cowboys...yes, that is an Oklahoma state shaped groom's cake with the Pokes logo.  Absolutely fabulous.  The wedding cake is pretty stunning, too.  Fondant ribbon roses on the top and bottom tiers with ivory buttercream on the second and third.

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Some of the rosettes  on the cake were tipped in gold.  Pretty, huh?

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Did you spot the "C+C" heart on the groom's cake?  It was the bride's idea and echoed a similar design on their save the date cards.

Site note:  this reception was held in an airplane hangar.  Yep, you read that right - an airplane hangar.  No, there weren't any airplanes inside, well not full size ones anyway.  It was a really fun, out of the ordinary setting, but it was a tad warm inside.  I was concerned about the cakes having meltdowns, but have heard from a few people that they looked good and tasted good, so I'm guessing they survived intact.  Whew!

So, that wraps up this wedding post.  Did you spot the common thread among the three?  You forgot to keep an eye out?  Well, go look again.  I'll wait.  *whistling*

Back already?  So, do you know the answer?

If you said "pink," you are correct!  All the weddings had pink as one of "the" colors; different shades, yes, but still in the pink family.  I'm not sure if that's the color of the season or if it was just coincidence.

Anywho, talk to you soon!

05 September 2013

An Elephant Never Forgets

But, since I'm not an elephant (at least, I wasn't last time I checked), I do sometimes forget.  I know, I know - hard to believe, but it happens to the best of us.  Last time I spaced something, I burned cinnamon sugar pretzels.  It was a travesty and the smell was awful, it took me two days to get rid of the odor!

Anywho, I'm sure this elephant never forgets anything, especially not birthdays.

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And, while I don't know personally, I'd say that the web-slinger himself seldom forgets anything either.  Though don't quote me on that because, let's be honest, aside from a few cartoons and a couple of the movies, I'm not the most avid follower.  (Don't judge!  Each their own, remember?)

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Of course, if it does happen that you forget something, unless it's of earth shattering importance, I'd say you can probably take the dog's approach to it:  kick some dirt over it and move on.  *wink*

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Oh, and can I just say that slinging chocolate buttercream "mud" at a cake is strangely satisfying and quite a lot of fun.  It makes a huge mess that you then have to clean up, but what's that compared to a little fun, right?

Speaking of fun, cake related things - logos are always super, super fun to try to recreate in edible mediums.  Yes, you may be detecting a hint of facetiousness there - it's not that I'm opposed to logos on cakes, it's just that they are (for me anyway) notoriously difficult to get just perfectly "so."  They always seem to have shadows and shading and swoops and swirls and fonts that don't always translate so well from a digital file.  Oh sure, some of them aren't too difficult:

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But, then you get the ones that have shadows and shading and swoops and swirls and fonts that need to be matched, and you begin wondering, how can something that looks so simple, be so difficult?

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Ah...thanks for listening to me grouse.  Think I'll go work on the next logo'ed cake now.

Talk to you soon!

03 September 2013

Shock Your Veggies


Shocking in warm water may extend the life of fresh produce, or so some food scientists believe.  Researchers report that submerging the fruit and vegetables in hot water slows the production of gases and enzymes that turn them brown.

So, how do you "shock" produce?  Fill a large pot with hot tap water (between 122°F and 131°F) and soak the fruits and/or veggies for two to three minutes.  Then drain, dry, and refrigerate as usual.

Added bonus, you might notice a slight increase in crunchiness.

Mmm...tasty!