On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place


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DoughEZ Mat

DoughEZMatWhen Dave (Mr Fussy’s good friend from High School) returned from his month-long ski trip to Denver, Colorado, he bought back a number of things I’d ordered from the States. One of those things was the very new to market DoughEZ mat.

Because I had a few cakes to make (still two to write a post for), this weekend was the first I had to focus of cookie things. I’ve made some Chocit roses and flowers, made some royal icing rose transfers, and finally this morning I made some cookie dough, three types in fact, so that I could test drive the DoughEZ mat.

Gingerbread_Chocolate SweetSugarBell_LemonShortbreadI made Sweetapolita’s Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie, my preferred chocolate cookie recipe, Haniela’s Gingerbread cookies (which is an adaption from Sweetopia’s Gingerbread cookie recipe) and SweetSugarBelle’s Basic Sugar Cookie recipe.

I made some changes to Haniela’s recipe. I replaced the honey and molassas for Golden Syrup, and instead for Star Anise I used Allspice. To the chocolate cookies I added Raspberry emulsion (and wished I hadn’t). To the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe (BSCR) I added my usual lemon extract.

Both the Gingerbread and the Chocolate cookie recipes stated to chill the dough first. The BSCR doesn’t need to be chilled. However I always chill the dough, but after having rolled it out. Trying to roll out already chilled dough just hurts my wrists.

So none of the recipes had been chilled, but all of them rested a minimum of 30 minutes. Now it was time to see how the DoughEZ mat behaved with these 3 different recipes. All 3 of them were a softish dough. I could easily press my fingertips into the dough.

Sweetapolita_ChocolateI first cleaned the DoughEZ mat as described and placed the plastic guides under the mat. I used 1/3 of the dough and roughly shaped it into a square/rectangle and got to work. I folded the other half over the top and then rolled away. It was pretty quick work which I was very pleased with.

DoughEZ_ChocolateI carefully peeled back the top layer of the DoughEZ mat and was a bit disappointed that the dough had stuck a little to the surface. The instructions go on to say that you need to place a piece of waxed paper over the surface then flip the whole thing. Now to peel back the other side. Same deal. Bits of dough had stuck to the mat. So again I placed another piece of waxed paper down. It was very easy to just smooth over the surface to get those little peaks of dough back under control.

DoughEZ_GingerbreadNow for me I don’t mind the whole waxed thing because often I roll the dough and then freeze it. I like it to be between sheets of waxed paper. It means when it comes to use it, it’s good to go. I just use a pallet knife to loosen it from the waxed paper, cut my shapes, then I can easily remove the shapes and transfer to the baking tray.

DoughEZ_LemonShortbreadBut one of the big advantages of the DoughEZ mat is meant to be the saving on waxed paper. That you can just peel the mat away, use one piece of waxed paper (primarily to protect the mat) and cut the shapes. Many users of the DoughEZ mat have said they don’t worry about the waxed paper. They cut their shapes out directly on the mat without any damage or difficulty.

My experiment would be a bit one-sided unless I tried my usual method which is to roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper.

WaxedPaper1What I became aware of, which I’ve never noticed, was the noise it makes rolling over waxed paper. It’s actually quite noisey. This is the first time I’ve had any strips to use as a guide. I usually use my Joseph Joseph rolling pin which has guides on the ends to ensure an even thickness of dough. I really like using the strips though. Often the rolling pin will slide rather than roll. It can really get a way on you and you find yourself almost laying over the bench. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it definitely heads in that direction.

WaxedPaper2The waxed paper behaved as it typically does, which is the bottom piece to crease. Which means you have to flip the dough over, pull the waxed paper out from the dough, lay it flat over the dough and roll again to try and ease the crease out from the dough. And now on thinking about it, it becomes a bit of a hassle to d fix it.

SSB_LemonShortbreadEven though the DoughEZ pulled a bit of the dough away on each side, the process itself was so much quicker and slicker that although not perfect using the dough recipes I used, I will definitely continue with the mat. Who knows, other recipes may perform better, but I like the chocolate and BSCR so I’m happy to use my little white scraper over the surface of the mat to gather up those little bits of dough. It’s not much of an inconvenience.

**** Update ****

Brenda from DoughEZ was kind enough to offer the following suggestions:

Play around with your dough and new Dough EZ system.
Slightly knead your dough on the mat before rolling out.  Place your dough within the mat and use mat cover to partially flatten. Now use your rolling pin and begin to roll out dough as directed stopping halfway thru, before you reach the desired thickness. Slowly peel back mat to see if sticking occurred. Please see photos.( I almost have the cover of the mat flush with itself, when you peel back cover.) Recover and continue to roll to desired thickness.
Depending on your recipe residual sticking may occur during the initial roll out. It should cease during re-rolling process. You should be able to re roll your dough, numerous times with out having issues that normally take place when you use excess flour in the process.
To remedy this, take scraps and run them across the mat and it will pick up these little pieces. If your recipe is extremely sticky or extensive sticking of dough to the mat occurs, then add a small dusting of flour to the mat at the beginning of the rolling process or as needed.
Hope this information helps. For more tips and techniques, check out our video demos or tutorials at www.dough-ez.com.
**** And on another note, I wanted to mention the fabulous communication with Brenda. When I first saw the mat I contacted Brenda about whether she shipped to New Zealand and she came back with a price. Then I made contact a few days later asking if there was any chance the mat could be sent to Dave and gave the date he was to leave Denver. Brenda very kindly got the mat sent sooner than the website suggested and then followed up after it had been despatched. That’s great customer service in my book. Then the email the other day asking how I was getting on, which coincided with this post. It’s great to see a business so interested in how their product is being received. ****
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Banana Cake

Oooh, it’s been such a great weekend for trying out new things. In this post I’ll talk about the Agbay Junior, and touch on the butter (there’ll be a separate post coming for that).

Banana cake for the work folk.

Banana cake for the work folk.

I was making a banana cake because it was time to use up the bananas I’d taken from work (they were left, unwanted) and popped into the freezer. I’d decided some weeks earlier that when the time came I’d be making Summer’s Banana Cake recipe. You can find the details from this link.

Yesterday I’d made butter. Mum bought me a Mad Millie Butter kit for Christmas. Today I was using the butter I’d made, in the Banana cake.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Summer’s recipe is actually for cupcakes, but she does say you can easily make a cake from it. Summer’s suggestion is that you add an additional banana. And it was 3 bananas that I had from work, so that came together nicely. One of the things that I liked about the recipe was using a blander (food processor or similar) to get the banana fully incorporated. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of banana cake. I love bananas, but I’m not fond of cooked banana, except when it’s drowning in maple syrup and been heated (caramelised) to put on top of pancakes. Despite my lack of desire to eat banana cake I was really looking forward to trying out this recipe and method.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there's droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there’s droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Usually I’ll make 3 layers of cake from Summer’s other cake recipes, but I decided to make just two. I really wasn’t sure how far the frosting would go. I was hedging my beats. Anyway, the cakes took closer to 45-50 minutes to bake. I wasn’t really surprised given the batter was a little looser than other cakes I’ve baked of Summer’s, and of course the amount of batter was greater. The tops cracked, and oddly it was where the cracks were that the cake looks a little more moist (see later photo).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that's my experience).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that’s my experience).

This is the first cake I’ve made since Christmas. And for Christmas I got an Agbay Junior cake leveller. I was pretty darn excited that I’d be getting this baby assembled and using it. I’ve heard so many people say once you’ve used one you’ll never go back to any other method of torting cakes. I’ve seen the promo video’s. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos (for other things) where the baker is using the Agbay to torte a cake. Needless to say I was hooked, it was just a case of someone else buying it for me ;-). It was a good Christmas!

Once I had the Agbay assembled (was straight forward) I put one of the cakes onto the cake card and determined the size of the layer. Except I didn’t quite get it right and I needed to have dropped the height by one notch (which is like 1/16th of an inch I think). The second layer I torted at that height and it worked out perfect. I thought I’d try my luck and see if I could pass the first layer back through the Agbay. I knew I’d only need a thin sliver, I guess the 1/16th of an inch. What is life if not for living dangerously. So with that in mind I passed the Agbay back over the first cake and it worked! And you can see from the photo just how thin it cut. If I didn’t already love the Agbay for the ease and speed at which it could torte, I was now hook line and sinker in love with my new gadget.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

With that in mind, it seemed perfectly acceptable to then use little hearts as decoration for the cake. And so I did. Boy oh boy, making a cake that’s decorated in frosting only is such a breeze. I did put a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. I needed to seal the sides since the cake is now in the fridge until I go to work tomorrow. I’d forgotten how easy baking a cake can be when you’re not preparing a cake for being covered in fondant. I feel like I achieved so much!

The domed tops we ate after dinner. I still had sufficient frosting to slap some more between the two tops. The cake is very definitely banana. And I found the texture to be quite smooth. The other thing that I like about the cake is the absence of all the black specks that you typically get with banana cake. I guess having blended the banana took care of that. So true to my word, I’ve baked a banana cake for my team at work. Quite possibly it’s the last time the current team is together. We’re moving out to MYOB’s new building, and part of the crew from the 3rd floor at work will be going to MYOB’s existing building (500m down the road) and my immediate team will be in the newer building. It’s a bit sad really, but cake will quite possibly make everything seem ok again 🙂

Simple but colourful decorations.

Simple but colourful decorations.

 

 


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Merry Christmas – 2014

And another year draws to a close. And almost without time to do anything for Christmas. Usually I’m baking Christmas Mince Pies from Show Weekend. My first batch was last Sunday. It’s been such a rush these past few months.

As a bit of a consolation prize I managed to make the Alton Brown Rich Fruit cake (same as I made last year), this time as a cake and I had enough batter left over for 4 (or was it 5?) mini loaves as well.

Mr Fussy's cake. All four corners have his name on them.

Mr Fussy’s cake. All four corners have his name on them.

Given the cake was baked only last week and as an after thought, there was no plan for any decorating. In fact the store bought decorations I’d relied on in past years I’d just thrown out. Now I was stuck. I didn’t really want to leave the cake covered in fondant, but to do something a bit different for Mr Fussy. This after all is his cake. And he gets to have all 4 corners. Corner pieces are much sought after in our family. Natalie managed to get the sides of the fruit cake baked for Jasmine and Sam’s wedding, and when I asked what happened to the corners she said she’d eaten them already! This was just 2 days after the wedding and they were gone. Saves that awkward moment when you begrudgingly share. But we understand, we’ve all been there.

But this is Mr Fussy’s cake. It wont be served on Christmas day, it’ll just be his little secret cake.

The rest of the weekend I spent baking and decorating cookies for Christmas. Much like the cake I really didn’t have any fixed ideas as to how I was going to decorate these. And some haven’t been finished, only that I’m not sure if I want to put anything more on the trees.

I rather like the trees just as they are. But they're not as Christmassy as they could be. To add some baubles or not?

I rather like the trees just as they are. But they’re not as Christmassy as they could be. To add some baubles or not?

Work has been frantic and the last two weeks we’ve been lucky to escape from work before 6pm, some nights it’s 7pm. So we arrive home exhausted and with little thought for anything but trying to summon up the strength to cook something that includes vegetables for dinner.

I got rebellious and made a squiggly snowflake. Anything goes!

I got rebellious and made a squiggly snowflake. Anything goes!

Anyway, these cookies were a good way for me to unwind and spend some time doing something I enjoy. Plus I got to make the reindeer cookie that I’ve been wanting to make ever since I saw it last year. But I didn’t have the right cutter, so a year later here were are, even if it’s just the one. Sadly the icing cracked while it was drying. Still was fun to make.

The big debate was whether to add the snow or not. So far the "or not" wins.

The big debate was whether to add the snow or not. So far the “or not” wins.

And here are some other cookies, not all of them, but a good selection of the others I made. Now to find containers to store them all in until Thursday.

A mix of stencilling, stamps and piping.

A mix of stencilling, stamps and piping.

Well, it seems it wont always go right.

Well, it seems it wont always go right.

Seems a bit weird to have a snowman at Christmas in New Zealand.

Seems a bit weird to have a snowman at Christmas in New Zealand.

I have no idea what the plan is for these. I bought ribbon and all, but what to pipe on them.  Merry Xmas? Mark, Anita I'm digging the "free spirit" piping though. I must be tired.

I have no idea what the plan is for these. I bought ribbon and all, but what to pipe on them. Merry Xmas? Mark (Mr Fussy), Anita I’m digging the “free spirit” piping though. I must be tired.

Hope that whatever you do during this holiday time you have a fun relaxing time spent with those near and dear to you. Stay safe.


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A tale of two cakes

Cake Paper Party recipes

Cake Paper Party recipes

The heading of this post is a little melodramatic. Although I did bake two cakes today (Saturday). When I began to follow Summer Stone’s blog, Cake Paper Party, the first post I read was her post on American Mud Cake. The thing is I’d already read it somewhere else and hadn’t realise it was Summer’s recipe. Although I’ve found a Chocolate Mud Cake that works well (Planet Cake) I was intrigued by the American version. Since I didn’t have anything planned for this weekend I decided I’d bake the Mud Cake. I’ll pop it into the freezer and use it later in the month. The other cake I wanted to try was the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake. It’s more or less a from scratch WASC cake. Even though I’ve got a couple of box mixes, and bought the White Chocolate pudding mix while in Canada, I’m still drawn to a from scratch cake. My problem was that Mr Fussy let me know on Friday night, after packing away the groceries, that there was no room in the freezer. He didn’t know what my plans were for the weekend, but the lack of freezer space was going to ruin my plans somewhat since I would have no room in my freezer after the mud cakes went in. The only option was to make the cake and then send him off to work with it on Monday.  I’m working at a client site otherwise I’d take it to work. With two birthdays from work colleagues this weekend it would have been warmly welcomed. Actually a cake at any time would be warmly welcomed.

A rouge block of chocolate has slipped into my "ganache" stash.

A rouge block of chocolate has slipped into my “ganache” stash.

The first cake I started was the Mud Cake. I’d pulled the butter and sour cream out for the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake (SCVBC – just because it’s a lot to write!) before heading out the door for a run, but when I arrived back, had breakfast and showered ready to make a start, I realised I needed more eggs than I had at room temperature, I had enough for the Mud Cake, but not for the SCVBC. So decision made. While I wanted to taste test the Mud Cake, and check the texture, I decided I’d just have to forgo that. As I write I realise that was a bad decision, I really do need to know how that cake baked and tasted. I guess I’ll have to make another!

A little something I collected in Bologna

A little something I collected in Bologna

Can I just say I’m so very very pleased with the Magic Line pans I bought. I watch in wonder as the cakes bake so evenly, and near flat. While I can’t say whether it’s the ML pans or the fact the pans are just 2″ that makes the difference, I know that 2″ pans bake so well and I can’t imagine going back to 3″ high pans, unless of course I want to make a Mud Cake that isn’t expected to be layered.

Flat! I have flat cakes right out of the oven.

Flat! I have flat cakes right out of the oven.

I ran the knife around the edge of the pans carefully so as not to gouge out the side of the cake as I’d done with Mum’s White Mocha birthday cake, another of Summer’s recipes. I tipped the cakes out and then righted them up the other way. I was thrilled with how straight the sides were, and while the cakes look a bit wrinkly on the top (there’s sort of an optical illusion going on in this photo), they have remained flat and not sunk. And they’re 1.5″ tall. That’ll make for a taller cake than I’d usually decorate, it’ll come to 4.5″ tall with frosting to be added. But still, I’d rather than them taller and torted them than worry the cake height wasn’t going to be a bit on the short side.

Hmm, hard to explain what's going on here. I didn't poke my finger in it. I really did bake like this.

Hmm, hard to explain what’s going on here. I didn’t poke my finger in it. It really did bake like this. Ok, so this is not perfectly flat, but it’s the closest I’ve ever had and for that I’m grateful.

We can give the Mud Cake a tick. There’s nothing in making that recipe that worries me and I’m very pleased with how the cakes turned out. Of course I have no idea the taste which is important, and why I’m likely to be making this recipe again in the near future. After lunch I got stuck into the SCVBC. While I outside putting the mud cakes in the freezer I grabbed the other 1/2 recipe I had for the sugar syrup that is used to make the buttercream. I poured that from the zip loc bag to a bowl and then put it in the microwave for 20 seconds. It didn’t really warm at all, but it took the edge off the chill. The butter was at room temperature.

Love me some vanilla beans.

Love me some vanilla beans.

Onto cake number 2. All my ingredients were at room temperature but I still zapped the butter for 20 seconds at two 10 second intervals. The method of making the SCVBC is the reversing method, so there’s no creaming of butter and sugar where you can smoosh the butter well and truly before adding the remaining ingredients. It’s important the butter is quite soft so that it will incorporate without needing the living heck beaten out of it. The extra beating that might be required I suppose could over work the protein in the flour and alter the texture of the cake. At least I’ve heard you can do such things.

Beautiful cake batter.

Beautiful cake batter.

It’s a pretty easy cake to make, in fact I like not having to cream butter and sugar. Once it was ready to go I weighed the batter and then did my sums. While the recipe uses three 9″ cake pans, I wanted to have some of the cake to try but not all of it. I figured out I could use 7″ cake pans (using .77 of the full cake batter) and the remainder would be split across two 4″ cake pans.

Even just nudging above the top of the 2" pan these baby 4" cakes still rose and baked flat. I'm so excited!

Even just nudging above the top of the 2″ pan these baby 4″ cakes still rose and baked flat. I’m so excited!

As it turned out, the batter in the two 4″ cake pans was a little more than 1″ before baking. I had expected the smaller cakes to bake quicker but it turned out that the 7″ and two 4″ cakes took 35 minutes. The other two 7″ cakes took 30 minutes. Go figure. I think the oven temperature had dropped just a bit, clearly enough to make a difference. It wasn’t until I tipped the 7″ cake out onto the cooling rack that I realised I’d not run the knife around the edge. I shook my shoulders and threw caution into the wind and repeated the same with the 4″ cakes. They all just slid nicely out of the pans.

I probably didn't need to add some electric pink to the frosting. Oh well.

I probably didn’t need to add some electric pink to the frosting. Oh well.

The three 7″ cakes are in the fridge and will be filled and covered tomorrow. Not sure how I’ll cover them, but Mr Fussy has requested the Passionfruit flavour for them, and the smaller cake to be strawberry. I’d ordered Nutrafresh freeze dried powder during the week and was eager to try it. I bought Raspberry, Blueberry, Strawberry and Passionfruit. I whipped up the 1/2 portion of Swiss Butter Cream. It takes my KitchenAid a lot longer to emulsify the butter and sugar syrup than Summer describes, but eventually we got there. Again I had my face pressed close watching for that magical moment when everything starts to get all cohesive and I knew it was going to work. I’ll use the same method tomorrow for the passionfruit frosting. Update, well it’s hardly an update when you’re reading this all at once. It’s Sunday and I’ve finished the 7″ cake.  I made the frosting and it took a very long time of nothing much happening. I knew that it wasn’t ruined, I just needed to add a bit more butter. I could see the texture changing very slowly and found that slowing the mixer rather than increasing the speed worked better.  I reckon it took about 15 minutes before I added more butter, and then after that had been worked in I set the timer for 4 minutes. If it hadn’t worked after 4 minutes I was going to add more butter. As if by magic, right on the dot of 4 minutes the buttercream came together. Phew. I did have to add more passionfruit flavouring, so all up 2 tablespoons.

Great texture. These cakes have baked so nicely.

Great texture. These cakes have baked so nicely.

I didn’t need the full batch of buttercream. I knew I wouldn’t. I coloured some of it, but when I was finished and took the cake outside to the fading daylight I could see the buttercream was still too green for what I thought it was inside. I’ve got left over buttercream now in the freezer waiting for another round of cake baking/testing.

Love how the lighting makes this cake look all shiny.

Love how the lighting makes this cake look all shiny.

As for the design of the cake destined for Mr Fussy’s workplace, I had been puddling about with a piece of fondant I’d left out to dry over so I could basically finger paint. Well I wanted a watercolour effect but I have to admit to touching it with my fingers and pushing some of the colour around. I wanted to see how easy this “look” was as I have plans to use it for my Pink Ribbon cake. I first saw this design by Allison Kelleher from  AK Cake Design on The Cake Blog. Anyway adding this to the cake was a bit of a last minute idea. I’d previously cut the fondant strips out and had them measured at 4″ tall.

A small portion of the fondant I painted with edible dusts and rose spirit (not Vodka this time).

A small portion of the fondant I painted with edible dusts and rose spirit (not Vodka this time).

The 7″ cakes I had trimmed to 3cm in height and added minimal frosting between the layers. I really thought the cakes would have been higher than 4″ finished. Sadly I didn’t check before I started to place the fondant panels around the cake. Oh well. It was just some practice and rather than tossing the “art” out I managed to find a way to use it even though it hadn’t been my plan initially.

A little sandwich after dinner. Still a very light but moist cake after a day hanging out in the fridge.

A little sandwich after dinner. Still a very light but moist cake after a day hanging out in the fridge.

As for waste not want not. The left over cake that was torted I sandwiched together and that become pudding. I was pretty pleased with the texture of the cake given it had been in the fridge for a day. Hopefully it’s still just as good tomorrow but I wont know, and Mr Fussy is likely to try palming the cake off without having to have another slice himself. I suspect 3 days in a row might be pushing it. As for me, well I joined the gym today. Last day of sweet treats for me. I’ve got 2kg to lose in 2 months and it’s time to knuckle down and reduce the amount of cake and increase the amount of exercise!

Dessert.

Dessert.


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Happy birthday Mary

This weekend was my Mother-in-Laws birthday.

12 serves would be better. And it would use up all the Rocher Chocolates!

12 serves would be better. And it would use up all the Rocher Chocolates!

I chose the cake I wanted to bake as soon as I read Summer’s blog post on 7 August. I was only days from having gotten off a plane from our 6 week holiday over the other side of the world and I hadn’t quite gotten my head into the game. I wanted something that would look effective (and taste delicious) without having to drag out all the tools and equipment to create flowers to adorn a fondant covered cake.

Summer’s recipe just hit the mark and I loved how fluffy and light the cake looked.

Last weekend I set about making the cake. I knew it would be a little time consuming because when Summer said “about” a third I knew that I would be doing “precisely” a third.

You can see just how many bowls I used in making sure I had just the right amount of vanilla and chocolate batter to marble the cakes.

Brown sugar in cookies can be difficult to mix in thoroughly.

Brown sugar in cookies can be difficult to mix in thoroughly.

The same weekend I also made a batch of cookies using my new Whisked Away Cutters. I had a new recipe to try. It was a bit of a mish-mash of a few recipes. I really wanted a recipe with a darker cookie. This is a ginger based cookie but it tastes more spicy than it does ginger.

Hmm, what to do with these blank canvases.

Hmm, what to do with these blank canvases.

As I often do, I started flooding the cookies and then wondered how I would decorate them. Of course leaving it this late meant no wet-on-wet. But in the end it worked out just fine. I found stencilling to be so much easier than I’d anticipated. I guess I’d built it up to be a bit of a difficult method but it was super quick and easy. Of course I they’re not perfect but I’ve already learnt a few things in my first attempt and I wont be hesitant again.

Vanilla meets chocolate meets more vanilla. And marble.

Vanilla meets chocolate meets more vanilla. And marble.

I took the cakes from the freezer Thursday night after arriving back from a work trip to Alexandra (so pretty down there during Winter) and Friday I made the frosting. Unfortunately the frosting hadn’t cooled and thickend enough for me to complete covering the cake that night so I covered the mixer bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

This is how gorgeous the frosting looked Friday night.

This is how gorgeous the frosting looked Friday night.

Saturday we started the day with pancakes (love those buttermilk pancakes) and I took the mixer bowl from the fridge and gave the frosting a poke. Solid. Cold and solid. Now I had something I still couldn’t work with. On the Friday night it was beautifully mixed, shiny and velvety. Now it was dull and hard.

Of course I didn’t really have the patience (or wish to leave it to the last minute) to wait several hours to see if it came back to room temperature in time and would be the right consistency/thickness to work with, so I put the bowl into another bowl with some warm water and slowly started to break it up and mix those smaller solid bits together a bit.

When I felt the smaller solid bits were small enough I used the mixer to start to incorporate it. I had to keep scraping the bowl and paddle to get the frosting that was clinging to both back into the bowl. The more I mixed the frosting the lighter it was becoming and I didn’t really want a two toned frosting. It took quite a bit to get the frosting to where I thought it was right to work with. What I hadn’t realised until I was covering the cake was the chunks of chocolate. While everything was perfectly mixed and smooth and glossy on Friday, it seems the chocolate decided to make a return to its original state. I hadn’t realised this or else I’d have done something more (I don’t know what) to incorporate things better. Most of my chocolate was 72% so it could be that I just had too much cocoa solids to work back into a homogeneous velvety smooth frosting.

Fixing the channel.

Fixing the channel.

I’d noticed too with the cakes that as they baked, they rose from the edge, then from the middle but they never quite met so I ended up with a channel on each cake.

At this stage I’m putting this down to the cake tins. My cake tins are all 3” and I know that can make a difference in getting the heat into the cake tin. Anyway, I’ve ordered a bunch of 2” cake tins from the USA now, they’re dirt cheap by comparison to what we pay here in NZ, and I couldn’t find any 2” cake pans at all the usual places I buy from.

The other thing that told me these cakes hadn’t baked as they should was the finished height. Summer said they’d be around 1.5” but mine were barely 1” right in the centre. I knew these cakes were unlikely to be quite as light and fluffy as Summer’s cake.

After 6 weeks of being away from the kitchen and having seen the Baking Powder container was nearing the end I suspect that I also need to replace the last of my baking powder.

Little bits of chocolate not quite mixed back into the frosting.

Little bits of chocolate not quite mixed back into the frosting.

As for the cake, it is as Summer said, not sweet but it is rich. That frosting is so yummy, even with the little chunks of chocolate. I had a hard job pulling myself away from the left over frosting. I had to tip the last of it down the sink or I’d have eaten the lot! And there’s a diet already in my horizon (as of tomorrow!! L) That stuff is so good it’s bad.

Marble cake slice.

Marble cake slice. 

Because of those little bits of chocolate I opted not to have a smooth cake. A pallet knife made easy work of putting little ridges in the surface. Then it was just a case of piping a few swirls and placing the Rocher chocolates on the top and job done.

I’m going to have to re-make the cake once my new pans arrive (baking powder is already on the shopping list). I’m keen to see how the cakes bake without such a barrier of a cake tin to work against.

All together now. Happy Birthday, to you!

All together now. Happy Birthday, to you!

The great news is I couldn’t see all those little bits of cake that I’d placed in the channel. Love having a cake that provides it’s own camouflage.

One last comment. This cake can easily got 12 slices. I decorated the cake for 10 slices but only Mr Fussy and his brother could manage to eat an entire slice. It was so rich that smaller serves would have been nicer.

Getting the hang of the stencilling.

Getting the hang of the stencilling.

 


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Room for dessert?

Hello hello. I’m back from Auckland and thinking about what I have to pack tomorrow for my week-long trip to Sydney. Phew. Talk about a quick turn around at home.

Despite that I still found time today to make dessert. A dessert that involved white chocolate AND caramel. Two of my weaknesses.

White Chocolate Caramel Mousse Tart anyone?

White Chocolate Caramel Mousse Tart anyone?

During the week I’d made the Salted Caramel Sauce primarily for our Australian Practice Manager. I’d met Donna a few weeks ago when I was working out of the Melbourne office. This time it was her turn to visit us. Donna had mentioned her plans to make an apple pie this coming week and I immediately followed that up by saying it needed to be served with salted caramel sauce (and send her this link as suggestion for Apple Pie. The caramel sauce recipe is in there too). Making a dry caramel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and my first two times were a flop. So I decided to make the caramel sauce making the full recipe and keeping half for us. Well Mr Fussy was keen that we have some too, so a full recipe it was.

Donna has two smaller jars of salted caramel sauce tucked under her arm, and we put our lot to use in a White Chocolate Caramel Mousse individual tarts. That’s a long title.

I had 3 individual tart cases left over from when I made another carmel tart recipe. The pasty is my favourite and the recipe is here. The caramel sauce is the one I always use, but I change the method somewhat.

Ready to make something wonderful happen

Ready to make something wonderful happen

Heat the cream so it’s just warm. Add the cream in 3 batches whisking between additions and making sure any clumps have re-melted. Return the caramel/cream mix to the heat and add in the butter and sea salt.  And Bob’s your uncle. In actual fact I whisk the castor sugar while it’s clumping and melting and yes I get some splashed up the side of the pot. But it all seems to melt back in once the cream is added. The cream makes the mix bubble up and at this point it seems to collect the little bits of melted sugar. At least for me it makes caramel a less fussy task and it doesn’t seem to make an ounce of difference to the caramel.

So the tart cases and the caramel had been pre-prepared. I just had to make the white chocolate mousse. I used this recipe again. It’s the same I used when making this year’s Valentine’s Dessert.

Glorious!

Glorious!

I added 3 egg yolks instead of the 2 in the recipe. I added an extra only because our eggs are smaller in New Zealand than in America. Three is a little more than 2 in America, but I don’t mind extra richness. To the white chocolate mousse (yet to have the whipped cream added) I spooned two very generous dessert spoons of caramel sauce. Once this had been mixed through, and loosened the white chocolate mix, I then added the whipped cream in two batches.

A slathering of Whittaker's 70% dark chocolate

A slathering of Whittaker’s 70% dark chocolate. Which made it impossible to cut into and necessary to pick up and eat by hand.

Then to up the ante, I added a layer of dark chocolate to the base of the tart cases before spooning in the mousse. It didn’t take much to fill up the 3 cases, especially when I had a generous layer of chocolate. I ended up filling 4, almost 5 ramekins with White Chocolate Caramel Mousse. Two of those went to Dad and Ruth (it was Dad’s birthday yesterday. No time to make anything for a nice afternoon tea this year), two for Mr Fussy and my MIL during my absence, and Natalie has the “almost” enough to call it dessert. I don’t think she has any plans to share the salted caramel sauce. I think that’s being snuck home without the inhabitants being any the wiser.

Mr Fussy's little tart. And proof cutting into the tart was an impossible task (notice the cut mark?)

Mr Fussy’s little tart. And proof cutting into the tart was an impossible task (notice the cut mark?)

There was a bit of chocolate left over so I put that into a piping bag while it was still melted. Then I warmed it back up tonight to flick around the plate (along with a little more caramel sauce). Then decided I’d be creative, or silly, depending on how you look at it, and pipe little messages on the plates.

Love the collection of colours and aromas from these spices and ingredients.

Love the collection of colours and aromas from these spices and ingredients.

Before dessert came a Moroccan casserole. Thanks for Alison providing me the recipe many months ago. I think this was the 3rd time I’ve made this. Each time it’s with beef. Tonight I decided to use white pepper, which is what the recipe calls for, but I’ve never had it, instead using cracked pepper. Boy oh boy. What a massive difference that one change in ingredients made. I liked it, but it sure added more heat to the meal.

Unlike usual, this time I served it with mashed spud. Mr Fussy often makes mashed spud but it tends to have a few lumps here and there (sometimes more than a few). I’d read a trick recently about how to make sure the mash is creamy. A quick Google and I found what I had remembered. The milk needed to be warmed up. I incorporated a few changes. I drained the potato and left the pot on the element so that the could dry out and the steam could escape. While that was happening I warmed up the milk and then added the butter to it. The warmth from the milk melted the butter. I used the stick whiz thingee with the mash attachment and mashed the potato as is and then began adding in the milk/butter mixture. The milk/butter mixture was added in 3 batches. Then the taste test and a bit more salt and cracked pepper was added. And we had the perfect creamy mash, just like that.

Ok, that’s the end of my little tid bits. And here’s hoping that all future mashed spud in this household will be just as creamy.

There’s enough spud and casserole left over that Mr Fussy and my MIL have a meal ready to go. In the meantime I’ll be making doing in an apartment and counting down until I return home. It’s another little milestone. Once I’m home it’ll be one more day of work and holiday time for 6 weeks. Excited much?!

First up is brunch at The Old Vicarage tomorrow morning. I wanted to do something nice with Mr Fussy before heading way and leaving him to manage everything at home alone. I’ll miss him.

The chocolate and white chocolate caramel mousse was just the right balance to make sure the mousse wasn't too sweet.

The hidden chocolate layer with the white chocolate caramel mousse was just the right balance.


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Something sweet for Valentine’s Day

all the cookiesSince Mr Fussy prefers cookies I made a batch of Lilaloa’s  End-all chocolate cookie recipe.

I made a bit of a boo-boo. Imagine that. Instead of ¾ of a teaspoon of baking powder, I put in 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. I just grabbed the wrong two spoon measures.

I was puzzled when my cookies spread since the blog post was adamant the cookies wouldn’t. Obviously I’ll have to make them again since I botched this batch. For all that, the spread wasn’t more than I’ve seen with other recipes.

tiny bitesThe cookie dough is really soft. There is a warning the dough will be soft, and you’re encouraged to refrain from adding extra flour if you’re going to chill the dough. I finally did as instructed 😉

I did my usual and rolled it out between two sheets of waxed paper and put the 6mm sheets of rolled dough into the fridge. The dough would have been in the fridge for more than 2 hours when I grabbed the first sheet to cut out. Before I had finished cutting out the last of the dough the cookies at the edge of the sheet had begun to soften making it a little tricky to pick them up and place them on the baking tray. I also popped them back into the fridge before baking them.

Cake lace decorations

Cake lace and chocolate transfer hearts

For all that they taste good. I didn’t add the shortening, I used all butter. I didn’t want the cookies to be soft. Since they usually last a whole week or more I didn’t want to get a sense that they’d softened and perhaps not as fresh as they should be. The cookies aren’t hard or crunchy by any stretch of the imagination so I’m not sure how soft the shortening would make them, if added.

As for the royal icing, I used the last of my Wilton meringue powder and was short a few grams, I made the balance up with dried egg albumen. I really didn’t think it would make a big difference, after all, I’ve made a full batch with egg albumen. That turned out fine, but it had a slightly odd taste.

wet on wetAnyway, the reason I’m making a note of all this, the royal icing didn’t set. I’ve never had that happen before. I didn’t realise until I was picking up the cookies and accidentally nudged one and then saw that the icing was more like marshmallow.

I haven’t asked Mr Fussy how he’s managing to pack a cookie up to take to work. I imagine it’s a bit messy.

The decorations are mostly based on the YouTube Amber from SweetAmbs made.

I haven’t given up on trying filigree, but it’s fair to say I still suck at it. I can’t understand why the piping settles so thick, I’m using a number 1 tip. Must practice at every opportunity.

hearts everywhere

Using the cake lace silicone mat as an impression mat with a fondant decorated heart

While we don’t really do the whole Valentine’s thing, well that’s not entirely true, we love an excuse to go out for dinner, we don’t do gifts, we do exchange cards. I’ll be in Hamilton (I know, I’ve mentioned it before) so I’m still trying to figure out how to get my card to Mr Fussy so it’s not thrown at him as I leave tomorrow morning.

Hope everyone has a nice day, whatever Valentine’s means to you. Cookies are good any day of the week!