My Cake Decorating Gallery

Friday, October 31, 2008

Creepy Halloween Cupcakes

Yay for Megan and Bryan having a Halloween party... a perfect excuse to make more cupcakes. This was a fun project - I just googled halloween cupcakes and picked out the styles that I liked the best and went with 6 of them-- Spiders, Mummies, Brains, Monsters, Skull/Crossbones, and Ghosts. All of the decorating was done with buttercream frosting and I just used food coloring to get the different colors. Some of the other examples online used candy and such but I thought I would keep it "easy to eat" with just frosting...

Here are a few shots of how they turned out!

Note to self: Always use a box when transporting cupcakes, especially if you aren't "glueing" them down with frosting to the board...even if you are only driving a few miles. Sudden braking can cause a few cupcakes to roll off the board and get smashed, as they did here! Lucky for Megan and I, we just ate those on the spot..... so, only 22 cupcakes left for the party! Oops!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pizza Dough

I missed last month's challenge (crackers) but was happy to squeeze in October's challenge, especially since it was my first savory challenge plus my first time to use yeast in a recipe. Today is the post date and I just squeaked in this recipe last night!

To start, I had a few "problems" but nothing to do with the recipe. First, I left my camera's photo card at work so I had to pull out the old camera, so hopefully the pictures turned out OK! Second, our furnace seems to be on the fritz but only with me, so it was 55 in my house all evening because I couldn't get it to turn on! (Until The Husband came home at 9 when the first pizza was ready, then he did the same maneuvers I had except the furnace turned on for him!!!) That was just extra stress though cooking the toppings and having an oven at 500 degrees did warm up the kitchen area eventually. Lastly, I'm not sure if it was the oven or the pizza stone but they smelled up the house at that high of a temperature... it did not affect the flavor of the pizza and maybe this is something that wouldn't happen again. I'd still make pizzas but maybe with a furnace working so I can open a window. :)

The recipe wasn't too difficult - it was from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart.

4.5 cups chilled flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups ice cold water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar

flour or cornmeal for dusting

See Rosa's blog at Rosa's Yummy Yums for more details about this recipe!

The directions were for a 2 day process - Day One included mixing the dough and then splitting it into mini balls (I chose quantity of 4) and putting in the fridge to rest. Day Two included molding them into discs, letting them rest for 2 hours and heating up the pizza stone and prepping your toppings before baking.

I have tried using my pizza stone in the past with those stupid Betty Crocker pizza crust mix packages (just add water) but I had all sorts of trouble with my pizza peel and the pizza sticking, etc. I don't think I was preheating the pizza stone and also I was putting on too many toppings, and not using cornmeal underneath the crust for easy removal, plus it was store-bought crust, so that was probably the problem.

I did get a chance to try tossing the pizza doughs, as the challenge recommended to capture on camera, if possible (with three of the four... the first one I quickly realized the dough stretches so quickly so I didn't get a chance to throw it with the camera ready). Here is a collage of the last three tries...

Since I was alone, finally I learned how this old camera's timer worked (flash-flash-flash-flash-longflash-THROW!) on the last try, but then I hadn't floured my hand enough and you can see it sticking to my right hand. This caused a mishap with the dough and there just wasn't enough flour in general, so I ended up with a strangely shaped fourth pizza... but that was OK with us. (see picture of L-shaped pizza below) Lesson learned! Like I said, the dough stretched so easily that I only got one toss per dough... maybe it was because I had bigger pizzas than the original recipe (they said make 6 smaller ones)... or maybe my "discs" were too big.. they were about 7 inches or so, as it rested for 2 hours before baking.

For my first real pizza dough trials, I only had a chance to prepare for two different topping combinations. I made two styles of pizzas:

#1 homemade marinara (from Sopranos cookbook), crumbled fennel sage sausage, mozzarella/provolone mix, and red onions.
#2 barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's and Sticky Fingers), leftover chicken enchilada filling (seasoned, green salsa with cream, and corn), red onion and mozzarella/provolone cheese
The BBQ / Mexican Chicken pizza was a huge hit with The Husband, it was a great twist on the typical BBQ Chicken Pizza. The Green Chicken Enchilada recipe blog will be coming soon... that was another great dish (and why I had leftovers of the filling!)

I am looking forward to trying some roasted red peppers, a mexican pizza, and other fun toppings for use with my next time around with this dough. Maybe I'll make a sweet one with sliced apples, spices and brown sugar! This is a great recipe to keep around and when we have kids, I hope to have a "pizza night" tradition like so many of the other bloggers seem to. This dough tastes great and mine turned out a bit like "New York Style Pizza" - crispy and chewy crust and thin and floppy elsewhere. It was yummmmy. My topping combinations turned out great, too!!

This was a great challenge and I am glad I have tried this recipe. Thanks to Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums for hosting this challenge! I am so excited to have a great pizza crust recipe on hand! Also, I'd like to try this recipe on a grill - and maybe even for a "make your own pizza" party, which seems like a lot of fun! Thanks again Rosa!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This is my entry for i like to cook's Weekend Cookbook Challenge with October's theme of "Fall Vegetables." This month is hosted by Lisa from Confessions of an Apron Queen and I thought it was perfect timing! A neighbor had dropped off some butternut squash and I had yet to think of something to use it for... now I had a purpose. I searched for recipes and finally decided on Curried Squash Soup from it just sounded tasty to me and I was happy to finally have some time to participate in this blog challenge.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

as seen on Taste Of Home

1 3/4 lbs butternut squash (i had one small and 1 large and it was a good amount)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (i used olive oil)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Cilantro Cream Topping
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Place squash cut side down in a greased or foil-lined baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out pulp; set aside.

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the flour, salt, curry powder and cayenne until blended. Stir in broth. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender, combine half of the broth mixture and squash; cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining broth mixture and squash. Return to the saucepan; heat through. Combine the topping ingredients; place a dollop on each serving. Yield: 6 servings.

This soup is a beautiful color (better than the dark picture above) and it tastes awesome! It's slightly sweet and the curry is subtle, it tastes rich but it's very healthy! The cilantro is a delicious counterpoint. Thanks to Lisa for hosting a great challenge!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cake Decorating Class.. First and Possibly Last

I live near a little cake shop and I recently just finished a little course they offered "Intro to Cake Decorating"... a lot of it was a little basic but I did pick up a few good tricks and learned how to make a buttercream rose and such. We had to make a cake for the last class (it was four classes, each 2 hours) and I decided to go with an ornately decorated little greenish cake. I liked the way that unlike my classmates, I was not using all sorts of random colors and but instead went with a "cool" color background and all of my decorations were in white. I was trying to class things up, you see. hehe

On this cake, I practiced making a ruffle along the top and then I added some string work, which I had been meaning to try. String work is where you pipe thin "strings" of icing and they typically are hanging in the air, at least partially. I added a rosette type of a border along the bottom which I thought was a poor choice, I would've scraped it off and done something more delicate if I could have.

On the top I practiced some cornelli lace (please ignore the asymmetrical "flower" shape that the lace is filling in --- for a real cake, I would've made sure it was straight!), and I did some "beadwork" to outline the lace, and finally there was room in the center for one rose. It was pretty fun to just sit there and do whatever came to mind. And I didn't even have an occasion so I brought the cake to fatten up my coworkers... and as it turned out, it was my 3rd anniversary date at work so I could've used that as an excuse. Happy Anniversary To Me!!!

I used the cake instructor's frosting recipe which she swears people loves and that it is the best, and let me tell you, this "Baker's Complement" extract (as opposed to vanilla or almond) is pretty weird smelling and tasting. I don't think I'm going to use this recipe again! It sorta lost its weird taste after a few days, afterwhich her half shortening/half margarine recipe tasted pretty similar to the frosting at Kroger.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad I got to try the rose and stringwork in particular, I will be doing so again! They are easier than they look! The class was OK though it interfered with my other more interesting projects, such as the Chili CookOff cupcakes. It was a little annoying to have to make the nasty "class buttercream" the night before the class when I had some cute little peppers and GM signs to pipe out... but if I hadn't had taken the class, I would have always wondered if I was missing something. It turns out that it's just fine to look in books and online for ideas, and it's perfectly fine to learn from my mom, from trial and error myself, and from reading about other people online!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chili Cook-Off Cupcakes

I host a chili cook-off at work, and this was the third one we've had so far - it is getting bigger and better each year! We had 12 chilis enter the contest and probably about 60 people. Maybe someday I'll post "how to host a chili cook-off" but for now let's take a look at these cute cupcakes I made especially for the event!

I had googled "chili cupcakes" and saw a few chili/crockpot cakes but nothing in the way of chili cupcakes.... so I decided I could certainly make my own.

I decided I wanted to make basic cupcakes with frosting and then have a cute token on the top of them, and I was going to make four types -- red chiles, yellow chiles, blue #1 ribbons, and the GM symbol.

I hadn't used Royal Icing since the Gingerbread House party but I thought that should work out fine - it is an extremely stiff icing that dries hard and keeps its shape and it is good for making little flowers, etc ahead of time, which will be used to decorate a cake later. It's OK for taste but it's nothing you'd want to frost a cake with solely. Royal icing is also sometimes used for frosting cookies.

I mixed four different colors - blue, red, yellow, green and got out my tips that I'd be using for the different shapes, and started piping the shapes onto the parchment paper. It actually went pretty smoothly, and I made several extras in case they didn't dry quite right or if any of them broke accidently.

I let the little cute shapes dry overnight and they were perfect - they popped right off of the parchment paper and they stuck into the frosting without a problem. I think they turned out cute and I'm glad I learned a little bit more about using Royal Icing and making little decorations ahead of time - it works well!

Royal Icing
3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder (can be found at Michaels)
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
6 tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients until stiff peaks form, 7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy duty mixer (or 10-12min at high speed with a handheld mixer). Keep all utensils grease free for proper icing consistency. Makes 3 cups (though it seemed a lot less for me!). For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water (this is what I did).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

White Chicken Chili

I host a chili cookoff where I work and I've only ever had one little taste of a white chili / chicken chili. It was good and since then I've been wanting to try a recipe!

Good ole Betty Crocker has a recipe and here is the modified version that I used. It was super tasty, it thickened up nicely, and The Husband really enjoyed it served in a bread bowl (he's been loving those lately.) I think it would equally be good with tortilla strips on top or served with chips! This is a perfect fall meal, and it comes together quickly which is good for a weeknight.

White Chili
Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro plus more for garnish
a splash of lime concentrate or 1-2 tablespoons fresh
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cans white beans, such as canneloni
1 can of corn kernels
1 packet of McCormick white/chicken chili seasoning mix (so Betty didn't use this but this really made it taste a lot better, otherwise I would've added more salt and cumin, etc)

1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bitesize pieces (I seasoned mine with salt, garlic and coriander)

Monterrey Jack cheese for garnish (this makes it super good)

Onions, cilantro, sour cream, bread bowl, tortillas, hot sauce, etc for garnish... it's all good

Saute the onions and garlic until soft, add all other ingredients except the chicken. This is a good time to cook the chicken if you haven't done so, yet, in a separate pan. Bring to a boil and simmer. I used my submersion blender to blend up some of the beans to thicken this soup a bit, before putting in the chicken. Add chicken and simmer for 5 minutes or until heated through. Pour into bowls and garnish with cheese and other toppings. This chili thickens upon standing. It's so delish!