Monday, September 28, 2009
The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Woo hoo! I have never made puff pastry before, so I was super excited. I watched the little video everyone found that had Julia Child and Michel Richard making puff pastry (to be used for something else) and I made my quick dough in the food processor, and I got out my pound of butter, hammered it down into a disc, and wrapped my dough around it. Making a puff pastry means rolling out the butter-wrapped-dough and folding it onto itself, and then rotating the dough disc, rolling it out, and folding it onto itself again.
Next, for making vols-au-vents. I hadn't heard of these but it turns out they are just puff pastry "cups" to hold a lovely filling, savory or sweet. A classic vols-au-vent filling is a creamy mushroom mixture, like a thick soup, so I decided to do something similar and make a large vols-au-vent and whip up a thick and creamy chicken stew. It was like a chicken pot pie really, and it turned out to be so delicious! The Husband loved this so much, I made it a few more times for him throughout the week. Goodness, we ate a lot of puff pastry this week.
I had a few different shapes of "pastry bowls" - some small, some large, trying out a few of my biscuit cutters. I didn't have any small enough to make super cute little bites so I had to cut those by hand with a sharp knife. I had some leftover scraps of dough so I rolled them out into a rough square and covered them with cinnamon, rolled up each end towards the center, and then sliced them into palmiers. These were baked along with the vols-au-vent and after one bite of a cinnamon palmier, we fell in love and gobbled up all the rest This homeade puff pastry is so delicious!
There were a few other vols-au-vents left over from my first batch of baking, and after the delicious creamy chicken stew and cinny-palmiers, I couldn't leave well enough alone. The Husband already went snooping around and ate the "hats" of the remaining cups so I decided to just make fresh vols-au-vents the next day and use these up. I cut one ripe banana and sauteed it with brown sugar and butter, with a pinch of cinnamon... a quick banana foster! I poured this into the two remaining vols-au-vents and they were devoured shortly there after.
The next day I made a larger vols-au-vent for The Husband for more left over chicken stew and the extras were used for additional palmiers. I also made a few appetizer vols-au-vents, but savory with something besides chicken stew. I used chopped up black forest ham, gruyere cheese, and scallions. These were so delicious freshly baked, dipped in a little bit of dijon mustard.
These were a big hit with The Husband (as expected) and I would certainly do something like this for a party appetizer sometime. I think they would be crowd pleasers!
I also made some fillings for my dessert vols-au-vents for the next day - a pastry cream and some caramel dried apples (that were reconstituted in cider). The next day, I finally got home early enough from work to take advantage of daylight for taking decent photographs. I quick made 4 small square vols-au-vent (and some additional palmiers) and filled one with pastry cream and a raspberry on top, one with pastry cream with our favorite blueberry preserves, and the last one was filled with the caramel apple mixture. I was so excited to try this pastry cream.... then I found out it was basically vanilla pudding. What is that light and airy white cream that fills doughnuts... is that bavarian cream? I think that is what I was hoping for. Maybe next time :)
These dessert vols-au-vent were equally delicious and I decided to just use up the rest of the pastry dough and make a mini strudel with the remaining caramel apples for The Husband, and the rest got topped on a casserole of additional chicken stew (yes three times in one week, but he didn't complain due to the pastry!) which was baked into a delicious pot pie. I actually was being really good this week which means The Husband ate about 90% of the puff pastry batch in a matter of 4 days or so... uh-oh. :) Good thing he runs marathons!
Anyway, these were truly delicious and I had so much fun thinking of different fillings - savory and sweet - to go into these little beauties. Making the puff pastry was a great lesson and I might even make it again sometime (even with the frozen stuff being so readily available). Thank you Steph! Go to Steph's blog for the recipe. :) Oh and sorry for being a day late, I can't believe I forgot yesterday!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
With that, I thought I had enough information for my cake design. Chocolate cake was the favorite of her sister, so I went with that and put in my typical raspberry buttercream filling and covered it in white buttercream to set the stage for my decorations.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I recently had the honor of creating a wedding cake and a groom's cake for the wedding of one of The Husband's best friends, Clay, and his fiance Sarah. There were a number of challenges with this project, first and foremost - I've never made a wedding cake or groom's cake before!!!
I wasn't sure what decorations I'd do on the wedding cakes - maybe swiss dots (groups of 3 dots in a triangle all over), or regular polka dots or swirls. I practiced on a plate and even know it was more work, I felt the swirls looked the most elegant. I was happy the way they turned out. The only other work on these would be at the reception site - placing the cakes, the tiers, the ribbon and flowers.
When the wedding day was finally upon us, I was happy to find the cakes were still in good shape (they took up most the space in the fridge that was also filled with a ton of beer as our cabin was the 'party cabin' as we had 8 people and most of the groom's men staying with us. After the wedding ceremony at 1, I came back to the cabin and started packing up between 2:30 and 3. The reception site at the Iron River Country Club would be open for guests at 5 so I had a good hour and a half to put everything together.
I had made a detailed list of where to start - unpack everything, place decorative ferns on the table (thanks Grandma for the ferns), place mom's revolving silver platter cake stand, take out cakes, center tier legs into bottom cake, tape top cake onto tier, add ribbons, place flowers, etc.. just in case I got too nervous to know what to do next. I love lists. It worked perfectly.
We spent a long time putting flowers on the wedding cake (and of course I had lost my scissors and the ones we borrowed were terrible which also made cutting the ribbon difficult, hence the quadruple pinning on each tier to cover up mismatched ribbon seams) but finally we got to a point where even I was satisfied - "Okay Gwen, you're right, it's as good as it's going to get! We're done!"
The lobster cake went together much faster - place lobsters, place legs, place sand (brown sugar), place seashells, and place veil and hat. The toothpicks in the legs weren't in the right place exactly so I had some bright red frosting on hand to fill in the gaps, it worked out great. People were trickling in watching the progress and it was really satisfying hearing the positive comments. Sorry for anyone who was there when I accidently bumped the wedding cake with my finger and may have muttered some explicatives... I smoothed out the small bump I made as best I could. :) The bride and groom seemed to love the cakes and Clay made a nice announcement to everyone in the country club getting food that I was the cake decorator, as they could all view it while passing by to get their food. I was very pleased with how everything turned out and was just happy to get everything up there safely and put together without any major hitches! It was a super fun project, I learned about a lot of new techniques, and thanks to Clay and Sarah for the fun adventure and congratulations!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Debyi from Healthy Vegan Kitchen was our host for the September 2009 Daring Cooks challenge. Debyi chose the recipe for Indian Dosas from the "refresh" cookbook by Ruth Tal.
I didn't make the dosas until today, the posting day, but I made the curried chickpea filling and coconut curry sauce in advance. I also was making 36 pints of Skyline Chili this weekend so while I had wanted to put all this together sooner, I didn't have the stovetop space for another frying pan! :)
As a side note, I had a little mishap with the spicy chickpea filling. It called for a few medium peppers, so I picked some up - banana peppers. They weren't too spicy but they definitely had a kick when I tried them as I was chopping them. Before I knew it, I must have somehow gotten some of the hot pepper oils all over my hands, which eventually ended up on my face... I washed my hands about 4 times and a few more before taking out my contacts and I felt fine when I went to bed. When I woke up, I attempted to put my contacts back in... but that didn't work out at all. I think I even still had some rogue pepper oil on my fingers still.. I just couldn't get it off! My contacts are the expensive hardy kind so I only have 4 pairs a year, but luckily it was just about time for a new pair. It was glasses for a few days to let my peppered eyes rest and by Sunday I had a new pair in and I am feeling just fine! Whew. Next time - remove contacts first and wear gloves! I used to have weekly disposable contacts so it was never a big deal when I was making spicy salsa... I'll be more careful from now on. :) The spicy chickpeas were worth it. :)
I love Indian food but this was an exceptionally interesting challenge because Debyi dared us to cook totally free of animal products and the recipe seemed to be gluten free too! I've never cooked anything Vegan in my life, but I was excited to try it. I love vegetarian food. I love meat too, so I guess I love it all. :) Anyway, this meant having to buy some special items that I wouldn't normally get - soy milk and all purpose gluten free flour.
The dosas are crepe-like pancakes which are filled with the curried garbanzo bean filling and this can all be topped with a delicious coconut curry sauce. I love chickpeas and all the flavors in this dish. Thank you to Debyi for introducing me to this kind of cooking and for a real kitchen adventure!!
And now for the taste test - I am home alone tonight so I just made a half batch of the dosas and I didn't quite read the directions (and scoop two tablespoons of batter into the pan) and just put half the batter into the pan and swirled it around like I do crepes. I did the same thing for the second dosa and had two pan-sized dosa pancakes.
I filled the dosa with the chickpea mixture, folded the dosa over like a crepe and topped like the sauce. A few quick (and unfortunately dark) pictures and I finally got to dig in - oh my gosh! This is SO delicious! All three of the components added such a unique aspect of the final flavor profile.. I *loved* this recipe. The dosa is soft, spongy, and has a wonderful consistency to contain the spicy chickpea mixture which is just an explosion of flavors. The coconut curry sauce is creamy and tones the spicy filling down and brings everything together in a truly wonderful blend of flavors. Oh darn I just realized I forgot the coconut and cucumber toppings... guess I'll have to have another one tomorrow! :)
In summary, I was wondering what I'd be doing with my extra gluten free flour and soy milk, but now it is pretty clear that I'll be making more batches of these recipes and sharing with my family! My parents are going to LOVE this. So yummy! Thanks again Debyi!!!!!!
From the"refresh" cookbook by Ruth Tal
1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) watercooking spray, if needed
1 batch Curried Garbanzo Filling (see below), heated
1 batch Coconut Curry Sauce (see below), heated
¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut
¼ cucumber, sliced
1.Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
2.Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3.Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter.
Makes 8 pancakes.
Curried Garbanzo Filling
This filling works great as a rice bowl topping or as a wrap too, so don't be afraid to make a full batch.
5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste
1.Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2.Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.
Coconut Curry Sauce
This makes a great sauce to just pour over rice as well. This does freeze well, but the texture will be a little different. The flavor is still the same though. My picture of this sauce is one that I had made, had to freeze, then thaw to use. It tastes great, but the texture is a little runnier, not quite as thick as it was before freezing.
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced
1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4.Let it simmer for half an hour. Enjoy!!