Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to… Do Parchment Paper Rounds

This will show you step-by-step instructions on how to properly prepare your round cake pans with parchment rounds. Sometimes in recipes, in addition to greasing your pans, the recipe will suggest you line your cake pan with a round of parchment paper to make it a “true” non-stick surface. Here is an easy way to make Parchment Paper Rounds to fit you cake pan perfectly! Once you get the hang of it, it only takes seconds to do.

Equipment needed
Parchment paper
Cake pan
A pair of scissors

1. Start with a piece of parchment paper with a diameter that is larger than your (bottom of) cake pan, and fold it in half (L to R).

2. Take the spine and put it on the bottom, and fold that piece in half (L to R) again.

3. Take the upper LEFT corner of the paper, and fold it over towards the bottom RIGHT hand corner to create a triangle. It doesn’t need to hit the corner, as long as it is parallel to the edge. There may be some excess, but not to worry!

4. Take this angled edge and fold it over so that it is parallel with the bottom edge, creating a skinny triangle.

5. In order to fit your round cake pan perfectly, take your cake pan and turn it upside down so the bottom of the pan is facing up.
6. Take the skinny point of the triangle and put it in the center of the pan.

7. Cut the parchment paper where it hits the edge of your cake pan.

8. Open up the paper, and it will now fit your pan perfectly!

Source: YouTube

How to... Toast coconut

So easy, and tastes and looks great! It is a terrific way to add nuttiness, maximizes the coconut flavor, and possesses a crispy yet chewy texture. It can easily be done over the stove top or in your oven. Coconut burns easily so take your time and stir often.

Oven method
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
2. Spread unsweetened coconut shavings, or sweetened shredded or flaked coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Tip: If toasting sweetened coconut, check and stir more frequently because the added sugar causes irregular browning.

Source: Bon Appetit

Stovetop method
1. Spread coconut in a single layer into a skillet.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the edges of the coconut flakes turn brown, but the middle remains white.

Wilton Cake Decorating Course- Course 1, Class 3

Welcome to my 100th post!!!

OK- now back to the regularly scheduled subject matter...

My department was hosting a summer luncheon on the morning of Class 3 (our classes are in the evening). I had just finished delivering some leftovers to my DB, and upon returning to the CafĂ©, I suddenly felt sharp, stabbing pains in my lower abdominal region. The pain worsened and was so sharp, I lost consciousness, which eventually led to a call to 911 and I was taken to the ER. Knowing we couldn’t attend the evening’s Wilton class, my DB contacted our Instructor, Melissa, to let her know… and she kindly offered to do a make-up session for us this weekend. We were thrilled!

What did I learn?
We learned several new decorating styles today- Part 2 of the Wilton Rose, Shell border, Figure piping, Fruit & Hearts, Star flower and a Swirl flower.

Our colorful array of buttercream icing:

We started out with thinly frosted cakes with white thin consistency buttercream frosting:

Here my DB is sketching out his design for his cake:

He wanted to make sure his cake was very smooth before starting- he used a tip we learned in class: To make your frosting look extra smooth, take a piece of wax paper and smooth out the top and sides of the frosting with your hand in long, sweeping motion:

Working hard on his Star border:

In our private weekend session, we learned how to complete the Wilton Rose... so here is my DB trying to practice his Rose, transferring to the cake with the flower lifter:

He is doing the Swiss Dot all over his cake:

His finished cake!

A close-up of his Roses:

I chose a floral/luau theme with colors that were bright and festive. Our friend Rachel was turning 30, so I decided to try my hand at figure piping the 4 of us (me and my DB, Rachel and her husband) on the cake, and piped "29+1" for her final days in her 20's.

I started out with a shell border and some swirl flowers on top:

My first attempts at figure piping:

My completed top of the cake (I still need to learn symmetry, lol!):

Here are some close-ups of my shell border and drop flowers:

And my completed cake!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two Cheese Italian Pasta salad

We had a department luncheon on Thursday and I brought in several items, including this dish. I liked it for the ease and tastiness of it. I normally do not like pasta salads mixed with bottled Italian salad dressing, but this tasted refreshing. I loved the combination of the feta cheese and Parmesan, and the cherry tomatoes imparted a slight sweet flavor in contrast to the salty tones from the cheese and Italian dressing. You can customize the flavors to what you have on hand, or to your tastes! It is a perfect item to bring to a picnic, potluck, or BBQ.

1-lb medium-sized pasta (I used medium shells)
Splash of olive oil
Ken’s Lite Northern Italian w/Basil & Romano dressing
4-oz of pepperoni slices, chopped
4-oz crumbled Feta cheese (Reduced-fat is fine)
10-oz container cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
6 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta, but do not rinse; you want all that starch to say on there so the dressing sticks to the pasta. Let the pasta cool a bit
2. Combine the remainder of the ingredients. Cover and put in the fridge until it is cold.

Tip: I usually add more dressing at this point too because a lot of the first addition has absorbed, and I like a lot of dressing on it. Toss and serve!

To shake things up a bit you could add:
Gorgonzola cheese
Chopped peppers
Lemon juice

Source: Adapted from One Particular Kitchen

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Strawberry Ricotta Muffins

I normally don't bake with strawberries since they produce so much (natural) juice, so when this recipe called to dehydrate the berries, it peaked my interest. According to the original recipe, dehydrating berries concentrates its sweetness and allows them to hold their shape in these baked goods. They also point out that with any quick bread recipe, it is imperative to avoid overmixing the batter to result in fluffy muffins. The dough will initially be very stiff, but the dough loosens when you add the ricotta mixture and strawberries.

These muffins were warm, soft, moist, fluffy, and tasty- what more could you ask for in a muffin? You can taste a hint of lime in it as well. The sanding sugar is a coarse sugar used as an edible decoration that won't dissolve when subjected to heat. This can be purchased at any cake supply or craft store (I found this at Michael's for $3.99). I loved this touch, and it made the topping wonderful!

2 cups medium strawberries (I used a 1-lb package)
3/4 cup ricotta
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 Tbsp butter melted and cooled, divided (I coated my muffin tin with butter-flavored cooking spray and thus used 8 Tbsp melted for the batter)
Butter-flavored cooking spray
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon or lime zest (I used lime zest, and would use 2 tsp next time)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Sanding sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Gently wash, hull, and cut strawberries into quarters (if the berries are large, cut so all chopped berries are uniform in size).

3. Bake until strawberries are partially dried, about 45 minutes. (I baked mine for 35 minutes on a toaster oven rack.) Let cool.

4. Increase oven to 400 degrees.
5. Brush a 12-mold muffin tin with 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Set aside. (I used butter-flavored cooking spray.)
6. In a bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, and vanilla.
7. Stir in the remaining 8 Tbsp of melted butter.

8. In a large bowl, use your fingertips to rub together sugar and lime (or lemon zest) until incorporated.
9. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
10. Use a spatula to gently, but quickly, fold ricotta mixture and strawberries into dry ingredients. Don’t overwork it. The batter will be initially thick, heavy, and stiff.

11. Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins.
12. Top with sanding sugar if desired.

13. Bake until tops of muffins are golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes. (I baked them for 19 minutes.)

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: As found on Sarah's Test Kitchen, originally from About.com

Wilton Cake Decorating Course- Course 1, Class 2 (Darin)

Good morning!
My DB and I are participating in the Wilton Cake Decorating Course together, and I placed a recent post on my blog earlier last week, and presenting below is my DB's (successful) attempt!
The pictures are below... he's so happy with it! Stay tuned for more cake decorating projects to come weekly!

His rainbow cake:

His star border:

A close-up of his rainbow stars:
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