My Cake Decorating Gallery

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Daring Bakers Do It Again: December 2009 Challenge, Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Well, I have made a gingerbread house once before (for my gingerbread house decorating party... where I made all four of the really!), but this was a "first" for me on many levels. I have never made a gingerbread house with windows or any kind of a light fixture, so that was a fun aspect to include. I also hadn't done any piping on the gingerbread pieces before assembling the walls of the house before but I also really liked that fact.

I have an old Wilton Gingerbread House/Holiday book from like 1983 thanks to my mom, and I thumbed through that to pick out my favorite project to work on. There were so many good ideas but this church was my favorite and I just had to do it. (I've always wanted to do a replica of my suburban house but that'll have to be for next time)... there were templates in the back of the book so I transferred them to parchment paper and then cut out poster board templates.

We were given two recipes to choose from but after comparing them to my tried-and-true 1980s recipe I just had to go with the one in the magazine. It seemed people were having problems with dry dough and mine is a dream to work with. Let me know if you'd like the recipe! Anyway, after rolling out the dough (chilling is not even necessary), I carved out all the pieces and baked and they all grew slightly but in the same amount so they assembled together nicely.

I waited for them to cool and worked on my electrical portion of the project. The nice man at Ace Hardware helped me set up a large battery that connected via wires to a socket and flashlight bulb which I inserted into a carved out whole of my two 16x16 cakeboards. It's not too festive looking if you look at the battery but all I have to do is make a connection with the wires and then the light is on. I should be able to use this year after year.

Next I whipped up some royal icing, also the recipe from the book - 3 tbsp meringue powder, 1 lb powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and 3.5 oz of warm water.. mix for 6 or 7 minutes until light and fluffy. This worked as a tasty and perfect glue for assembling my pieces. I used a small circle cake decorating tip to put designs around the windows of my walls. I also made some hard candy... which I subsequently forgot about and almost burned (but luckily it was a golden amber color when it was all said and done) and poured out hot sugar for my "glass shards" which would be pasted on for windows with more royal icing.

Once all of the pre-assembly details were done, it was time to put up the walls. That really didn't take long thanks to the royal icing and how quick it dries. Then the roof and the front part of the church. I also piped out a cross for the top and put on the door, but all the rest of the decorating would be saved for the next day.

The following day I had a "sugar party" which was similar to my gingerbread decorating party but we were decorating Christmas cookies and Christmas cupcakes instead.

It was very fun and I was happy to have Megan, Chris and Carol over, and they did an awesome job even though they claim to be novices.

After all the cookies and cupcakes, it was time to finish off my gingerbread church which had dried overnight. I used necco wafers for the roof and jelly bellies for the bottom border/foundation, and then silly gummy spearmint green candies for bushes. I used the rest of the frosting to make snow and eventually ran out but that was OK.

I was very pleased with my ltitle creation and I hope I will be able to donate it somewhere to some one who will enjoy it, as I have no kids and feel it is sort of a shame to let go to waste. Maybe some one on facebook will want it. :)

 Thanks to Anna and Y for such a fun challenge, I just loved it. Today (the 23rd) is my birthday and it is a great way to ring in my 29th year, by displaying a gingerbread church for all to enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Kitchen Bliss!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another Daring Cooks Adventure: Beef Wellington

Hi All! It's another delicious edition of the Daring Cooks and this month the challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online. This was very very exciting to me because while the salmon looked totally delicious, I have always wanted to make Beef Wellington.. it is one of our favorites and we get it almost every year for my birthday (though not needed this year) and we even had it for our wedding entree. I only had a chance to make the Beef Wellington (just in the nick of time yesterday!) but I would love to make the salmon recipe because it looks so delicious, and I bet my parents would love it too. (Sometimes The Husband needs some coaxing to eat fish...)

We had two holiday parties this past weekend - Friday and Saturday night - both with fancy and hearty meals so I must say we were feeling a little burnt out from fancy meals by the time it came to Sunday night's Beef Wellington. But.. for Daring Cooks.. the dinner must go on!

I tried a short crust pastry for a pumpkin/pecan pie I made for Thanksgiving and the crust was a little tough, so I was a little nervous to try out yet another short crust pastry but I felt that I should just try it again, that would be the main part of the challenge for me, plus I had all the ingredients. I put the crust together much like I remember Audax's awesome directions (in the Daring Cooks forum) and hoped for the best while it chilled. I always seem to need to add extra water to my crusts. Anyway, meanwhile, I made the duxelles .. I followed a recipe I saw online. Duxelles is a mixture of shallots, button mushrooms, garlic, and thyme all chopped up and sauteed which I then set aside to be wrapped around the meat. I had some leftover fillet of beef from a large Costco one that I chopped up and froze in pieces, which ended up being more than I expected and we had tons of leftovers! Some of the beef wellington recipes I saw online said to wrap the beef and duxelles with prosciutto but I have a vendetta against that stuff so I skipped it.

What I did do was follow the Good Food Online recipe and made some herb crepes. The purpose of these crepes (just milk, flour, herbs) is to absorb any extra liquid from the duxelles and meat, so that the flakey crust can stay nice and crisp. I laid down the crepes on plastic wrap, spread the duxelles mixture on top and then laid the seared beef across and wrapped everything up into a log. That got chilled while I rolled out my pastry.

The pastry worked out OK and I wrapped the log of meat in the pastry and popped it into the oven. I stuck an instant-read thermometer into the thickest end and waited for the meat to get to 123 degrees. This didn't take too long. I left the log to rest and the temperature did rise a good 10 degrees.

Even with how burnt out we were with holiday parties... we both agreed.. this was an awesome meal.  My fear of short crust pastry is no longer with me as this crust actually turned out flakey and delicious. Yay! Take that, Mom! This recipe is totally Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or New Years Eve-worthy... this would also be an excellent recipe to impress some dinner guests. You can make the duxelles and crepes in advance and the whole thing can be chilled.. it really isn't that much work, minus the quick pastry. I will definitely make this recipe again.. we served it with a Detroit specialty - Zip Sauce, and with some broccoli. Yum! Thanks to Simone for making me try this recipe and I can't wait to try the salmon version.