Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I recently had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for Megan at my house. Since she was due in early February, she chose a "winter baby" theme. There weren't too many ideas online so it was fun to think of ways to create a winter baby wonderland at my house and make it special for Megan. Also, (and because there isn't much online,) here are the details for all of you winter baby shower planners out there. Who knows, there might be some one one out there! Sorry this is a late post, but it took me a while to remember to take photos of the invites... so let's start with those.
I was really excited about making the invitations by hand, and while it is more time consuming, I knew I wasn't going to find any "winter baby" themed invites that didn't also involve Santa or a bunch of blue/silver.. they just weren't going to cut it. I quickly chosen pink and brown as the main party colors since we knew Megan would be having a little girl, and I knew the cake would be chocolate - one of Megan's favorites! Plus it's a cute color combo for baby girls these days. :)
So I went to some local scrapbooking stores and finally found the paper I liked - pink cardstock, cute striped white, and some brown card stock for details. On an earlier shopping trip at Michaels, I had already picked up some snowflake and "It's a girl!" stamps which ended up being useful. Snowflake confetti and little pink sparkles also made their way on the back of the invites for extra glamour Megan loves scrapbooking so I knew she'd appreciate me getting out all of my cropping supplies (most of which she bought for me!) to work on the fun project, and I'm really happy with how they turned out! Too cute! (sensitive information removed in photo above)
This was going to be my first time making a tiered cake and I was excited to go out and get different columns and see what options I had. I had a 6inch cake on top of a 12 inch (I think?) round cake on bottom. The idea was to send the top layer home with Megan, just like a wedding!
The topper was made from ready-made fondant, and I kept the bear white with pink accents (blanket, etc) and made a little flag that said "Welcome Alyssa" for the bear to hold.
I picked a few snowflake clipart pictures I liked and melted down some white chocolate candy chips, and hand piped a bunch of snowflakes onto parchment. This was done a few days in advance. Half of them got a dusting of pink sparkly sugar, just for fun, and I alternated them on the sides of the cake tiers.
I love the shapes of snowflakes and I guess you could say that was the main theme for this "Winter Baby" shower - pink sparkly snowflakes!
Now let's talk about the rest of the food!
I didn't have any obvious food choices for "Winter Baby" themes, so I just skipped the theme for the food and tried to pick interesting, tasty, and easy items. For beverages, though, I was having a hard time deciding between hot cocoa and spiced hot cider. I ended up doing a crockpot of spiced cider, with some soda, tea, coffee, and water as alternatives.
I had tried to get a mini green watermelon but Trader Joe's only had one beat-up one left so it just didn't work out.
I filled up my three-tier server and while they didn't look as good as Martha's (as usual), they turned out OK and was an attractive finger-food friendly way to get in some veggies.
For hot food, I had handmade vegetable samosas from a local Indian store with homemade (from Padma my coworker!) cranberry tamarind dipping sauce and mango ginger chutney (from a jar). The cranberry sauce was awesome and I'll have to get that recipe. On the hot tray, I had Trader Joe's spinach/cheese triangles, and Trader Joe's italian meatballs, with hoisin/sweet and sour asian sauce. These were modeled after another Martha app idea - two meatballs on a skewer, separated by a folded snowpea. Cute! However if you heat the meatballs in the oven for too long, the peas turn a dull green. Microwaving would've kept them brighter. My oven was packed to the gills keeping all of these trays warm but it worked out OK, maybe a few samosas got a bit overdone. Timing is always difficult, especially when you decide to leave piping veggies in the morning! Cindy also brought an excellent italian bruschetta, which was a big hit and her help in the kitchen was much needed and appreciated.
Hosting the baby shower was a great experience and it was a LOT of fun! Everyone was so happy to see the glowing mom-to-be and shower her with love and cute gifts that we could all "ooh" and "awww" over. Also a big thanks needs to be extended to everyone who helped out and even stayed to clean up, it was so sweet of you!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Let's talk about the FOOD. We chose some of their specials so my few pictures are not all firm menu items, you'll just have to show up and see what's on special that day! Chris ordered a delicious appetizer which was a special, so all I can remember was that it was red peppers stuffed with goat cheese and I know there were some truffles sprinkled on top, some microgreens, maybe some balsamic vinegar... whatever the details are, it was EXCELLENT. The Husband hates goat cheese but he would've downed a plate of those, for sure - Chris was so nice to let us all taste! Really good food is truly a fun experience. Next up were some of the entrees that we ordered... Chris tried the osso buco (Italian braised veal shanks, where bone marrow is part of the appeal!), The Husband had the rack of lamb, Pat had the formaggi penne (white wine poached pear, chicken breast, goat cheese, etc) and I had the chilean seabass special... I wish I remembered all the details but it was superb - banana chips, microgreens, buerre blanc sauce, and a lot more.
THINK Cafe (located in Bucktown)
Sunday, March 1, 2009
This blog post is a little late... maybe because it wasn't one of my best looking cakes... oh well! I was very happy to bake and bring this monstrous delight to Christmas for the Bliss Christmas day festivities, but as you can see from the recipe, they don't recommend doing anything more than a day in advance so timing was a bit tight... And it being the holidays and my birthday (And my own stupidity deciding to bake the Triple Berry Tart for The Husband since he didn't like mint), I didn't get a chance to work on the appearance of this cake! I would've put more candy canes on top but I truly was out of time and already late somehow. I was inconveniently born on December 23rd which meant I was at my parents house from that day all the way until late evening on Christmas Eve for celebrating birthday and Christmas festivities with my family. After a horribly slow ride home through the snow, I was shaving chocolate curls late into the night (and listening for reindeer on the roof) on Christmas Eve. I did bake the cakes early, while I was also baking my birthday cake (yum!) and slip-sliding around on the roads to finish up Christmas errands on my birthday.
Opening presents and making frostings made for a busy morning but it was worth the effort as the end product was very tasty. I love mint and chocolate and I also love meringue so I was really excited to try this white and fluffy frosting. I love it and would definitely try it again. The picture in Gourmet magazine (see comparison with my photos below!) looked awesome and even though mine fell short of looking that great, at least the taste was good!
The main flaw of my cake, besides the need for more candy canes on top, was that I should've read the last word of the recipe "Chill" (or at least think about it for a minute, as it does seem obvious now looking back)..... I didn't keep it cold before serving so it made it sloppy to cut anything less than gigantic pieces. The cake really was a lot taller than needed but hey - it's Christmas - might as well, right? So, if you try this recipe (and it is delicious!) - just make sure to keep it in the fridge until serving!
Devil's Food Layer Cake with Peppermint Frosting
From Bon Appetit Magazine December 2008 (cover photo)
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 cups ice water
Dark chocolate ganache
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
White chocolate cream
12 oz high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Bittersweet chocolate curls
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolk. Add cocoa and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with ice water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just blended and smooth after each addition. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.
Dark chocolate ganache
Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Before using, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to spread, about 30 minutes.
White chocolate cream
Place white chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan. Pour hot cream over white chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Cover; chill until mixture thickens and is cold, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.
Add 2 cups chilled cream to white chocolate cream and beat until smooth and peaks form. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk to thicken, if necessary, before using.
Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer on platter, cut side up. Spread 1/3 of dark chocolate ganache over cake. Spoon 2 cups white chocolate cream in dollops over cake; spread evenly to edges. Top with second cake layer, cut side down; spread 1/3 of ganache over, then 2 cups white chocolate cream. Repeat with third cake layer, cut side up, remaining ganache, and remaining cream. Cover with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Chill while preparing frosting.
Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, egg whites, and corn syrup in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Whisk by hand to blend well. Set bowl with mixture over saucepan of gently simmering water; whisk constantly with hand whisk until mixture resembles marshmallow creme and ribbons form when whisk is lifted, 8 to 9 minutes. Whisk in peppermint extract. Remove bowl from over water and attach bowl to heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until mixture is barely warm to touch and very thick, 7 to 8 minutes.
Using offset spatula and working quickly, spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top and sides. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill.
Big reminder here:
Don't forget to chill it before serving - otherwise the light and airy fillings will squeeze out and make for sloppy cutting like I had.