My Cake Decorating Gallery

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michigan Lady Food Bloggers Go to the Eastern Market

I've only been to the Eastern Market in Detroit twice, both in the spring for buying a bunch of flowers and vegetable plants for my garden. I hate having to water plants every morning before work and getting my sandaled feet all wet in the morning dew.. but still, I water every morning, filling and toting a watering can because we don't have a hose hooked up in the back. The garden still does poorly, (maybe because I also hate to weed?) and on top of that I'm afraid to eat any vegetables because now we get the lawn fertilized and I always picture some poison floating over into the garden. I am OK with not being a huge gardener.. it was a nice idea, but I think I'll stick to the kitchen. I am downsizing my annual flowers that I'm going to buy this year and totally nixxing the veggie garden ... I think I will just throw a bunch of sunflower seeds there and see if they grow. Anyway, instead of growing my own crappy veggies, (maybe I'll have a tomato or pepper pot on my deck but that's IT), why not leave it up to the wonderful farmer's markets? I hope to visit the Eastern Market or maybe the Royal Oak Market, which I've never been to, more frequently this summer and get inspired by fresh veggies to make some tasty foods for The Husband and I.

March 27th was my first food-centric trip to the Eastern Market and I was lucky enough to be going with two fellow Michigan Lady Food Bloggers - Noelle of Simmer Down! and Amy of Runs With Spatula who were already pros at exploring the Eastern Market and they made for great tour guides to me, the newbie!

We started off our morning at the Russell Street Deli, which was totally awesome.  I didn't take a picture but I had a mouth watering "scramble" and since it was the special scramble of the day, I don't remember exactly was in it, but I think porcini mushrooms and shaved reggiano-like cheese and some tasty veggies.. all served with a side of flavorful fried potatoes and I had the cranberry nut bread from Avalon bakery. I would definitely go here again for breakfast, and everyone else has the same idea - I think the line is usually out the door but I think it's worth it - especially if you get there early! I'd love to go back to try some of their awesome homemade soups. Everything there is fresh, homemade and unique. I was really excited to see a breakfast meat option was Kopitko's (in Hamtramck) smoked sausage which is the "coobassa" sausage my family will drive 60 miles to get a few times a year, and have for decades.

Next we hit up Rocky's which has some bulk spices, dried fruits, and other random goods and I got several items- some madjool dates for my mom (only $3.99 a pound compared to $7.99 at Nino's!), some bulk ground cumin, and some additional Carolina Classic BBQ (Sticky Fingers) which we were out of. Next we hit up J.R. Hirt across the way which is a store with tons of interesting foods and related products. I got an oven mit that has the map of the lower peninsula on one side and the upper peninsula on the other, love it!

We stopped at a lebanese store looking for an ingredient for Amy, and then we started hitting up the market sheds and see what the vendors had in store for us. Some of my favorite finds were Kenzoil - a delicious and zesty herbed olive oil great for dipping crusty bread, such as from the Avalon bakery. I got two loaves from Avalon - one of raisin cinnamon which made some kick-butt french toast and one long baguette which didn't last long with Kenzoil!


I also stopped at McClure's pickles, which I saw featured on the Food Networks "Best Thing I Ever Ate" - they were unique in flavor and I still haven't opened my jar at home, but I look forward to eating this Detroit/New York specialty. Even though my Michigan Lady Food Bloggers tote bag was getting heavy, that didn't stop me - I got a dozen of fresh Amish eggs as well as a batch of totally killer chocolate chunk cookies from Traffic Jam and Snug. I've been to Traffic Jam for drinks and dinner before, and I didn't know they would have a cheese and cookie display at the market, and those cookies were just absolutely to die for.

I also stopped at the Spice Misers who had lots of spices for sale but I particularly liked their wide selection of $0.99 packs, or 6/$5 so I grabbed 6 that I thought sounded good or unusual to share with my mom. I like that you can try out an herb/spice before investing in a huge amount. We also picked up some blueberries and strawberries which were cheap. There was lots of produce that looked interesting though obviously it wasn't local!

Noelle was on the lookout for some goat so we went into this meat market that I never would've ventured in by myself. They had halves of pigs and such hanging behind the counter and it turns out they the GOAT Noelle was looking for! So this is where you can get your goat!

She wanted some bone-in goat pieces and the butcher guy obliged and chopped off part of the half of goat and she was pretty pleased with her find. With the goat, Noelle was successful in making her Aloo Gosht which looks like it turned out totally delicious in her post here.

So after a few hours and with a heavy tote bag, we finished up our Saturday morning visit of Detroit Eastern Market. I am looking forward to going back and thank Noelle and Amy for the fun! It was so nice to hang out with people with the same interests as me, and they also had their cameras with them (even bigger and fancier than mine!) so for once I did not feel like a freak documenting my foodie adventures!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Birthday Cake for a Few Lucky Nerds


I'm not sure why I agreed to do it, I guess I just couldn't fathom my coworker, Joe, having to go out to Milford Bakery to get a little birthday cake made for he and our other coworker, Marco, who shared the same birthday on March 19th. I said "oh, hm, well instead of that, I have no class for once this Thursday so I could probably make something..?" ... and then Marco stopped by later saying he likely wouldn't be in Friday, so "you don't have to bring anything in Friday...." which was quickly followed up with "but Monday would be good."

I guess I had spoiled my coworkers with Cookies for a Cause almost every Friday for the last half of 2009, and since 2010 has come around, there hasn't been anything like that going on from Kitchen Bliss. They're hungry and need their sugar buzzes. I also miss baking, I have been trying to keep the stuff out of the house but it's always fun to make a new cake,.. so I agreed to make one for Marco and Joe last weekend. I knew it had to be nerdy since we work in a software/electrical engineering area.

I also wanted to utilize the opportunity to try a few new things, so there was at least a benefit to me. :) I tried out a version of White Almond Sour Cream cake, aka (WASC), which a ton of people on CakeCentral use for wedding cakes and such. I also had a carton of Bettercreme which I had wanted to try as a filling but hadn't had a chance to yet. I had a box of vanilla cake mix, and the WASC recipe starts with that and adds a 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup water, some salt, 3 eggs, and some flavoring. See all of the information here. It was the perfect amount for one 10x10 square layer and I was hoping it would make the cake tall enough to torte and then fill and not have to make another layer. It worked out pretty well, it was much shorter than my cakes usually are, but my cakes are usually like 5 or 6 inches tall which is a little high.

My opinion of the WASC recipe was that it needed more flavoring (granted I didn't measure out my vanilla, almond, and baker's compliment exactly), and it was a lot more dense than just the cake box alone. I liked the dense part, it was more sturdy and felt less likely to crumble or crack, which is helpful for stacking cakes and traveling. The flavoring I can adjust, plus the frosting overpowers the cake flavor most of the time.

As for Rich's Bettercreme, which is also popular on CakeCentral and around bakeries everywhere, it was pretty tasty. Now I know it is not fancy, it is a non-dairy whipped topping basically, and it has been described to me as "the stuff Walmart, Costco, and Sam's club use on their cakes".. so if you like that "light and airy" whipped frosting and think that American buttercream is too sweet and heavy and greasy, you might want to give this stuff a try. My local cake store sells it by the carton in liquid form. It whipped up quickly in the kitchenaid and as recommended on CakeCentral by MacsMom and Melvira, two ladies who do awesome things with Bettercreme, I also added one box of pudding mix - Cheesecake flavor to be exact, and some milk. It tasted great, I don't care if it is fake. I am one of those people who like the light and whipped frostings as well. I like mousseline which is light and airy and very buttery too, and American buttercream as well (made with at least half of real butter), so I am not too picky I guess. Not a huge fan of store-bought frosting jars or any of that stuff.

One thing I especially liked about the Bettercreme (besides it's easy to whip, flavor, and it's tasty and light and airy) is that it keeps its volume when being pressed between two layers of cake. You can actually get that big 3/4 or 1 inch thick layer of airy filling that looks so delicious, and it didn't seep out the edges or deflate upon sitting or anything like that. I am going to do some experiments because I'll be doing a wedding cake and my friend wants to see if we can do it ALL in Bettercreme... so stay tuned for more Bettercreme news at KitchenBliss.

I used a layer of raspberry jam along with the thick layer of cheesecake flavored bettercreme, and then my cake was ready to be frosted. I used my typical 2 sticks butter, same volume crisco, and about 6-8 cups powdered sugar as my outside frosting. This is the wilton recipe for decorator's frosting, and you can flavor it with whatever extracts you want, and can add milk or water or corn syrup to change consistency. I used a little orange extract along with my usual vanilla, almond and baker's compliment, so that was really very nice.

When I was cruising around CakeCentral, I noticed a very pretty black and white cake which had this interesting lacey/flower pattern piped onto it, so I wanted to try that on this cake, just for fun. Then I had to think of a way to make it nerdy. So it was Sunday night and I finally came up with a birthday software algorithm that I thought they would like.. it went something like this:

if ((VeDAY_e_Today = 'CeDAY_e_March19th') && ((VeNAME_e_Coworker == 'CeNAME_e_Marco) || (VeNAME_e_Coworker == 'CeNAME_e_Joe)) && (VeWORK_e_Group = 'CeWORK_e_ETC_and_SafetySystems'))
{
  VeMSG_e_Wish = 'Happy Birthday You Guys';
  VeCAKE_e_Priority = 'CeCAKE_e_FirstSlice';
}
else
{
  VeCAKE_e_Priority = 'CeCAKE_e_Wait_Your_Turn';
}


I write software so this is all looking pretty normal to me and I wrote it in a style so that they'd be able to read it pretty easily, even if these guys weren't coders themselves.. and if they didn't understand it, no cake! I took out some fondant and colored it green and rolled it out and had no good ideas for the shape and just went for a starburst type of thing. It was already after 10pm on Sunday night and maybe I could've used some food coloring or piped all of this code out, but my little paint brush was not fine enough so I totally just used a caligraphy marker and knew no one would eat the fondant anyway (I'd make sure of it, plus it's Wilton and tastes gross). So the marker went on pretty fast, though I had to shorten some of the code.

So if you're looking for an idea on how to make a birthday cake for a software engineer or a computer geek or a birthday cake for a nerdy computer science person, this might be an interesting idea for you. Everyone in the group loved it - the nerdy code and also the taste and look of the cake. Joe ate probably 3 slices just so he could get more Bettercreme filling - it was a big hit!

And so this ends the description of 2010's first cake from Kitchen Bliss. It isn't the fanciest or nicest looking cake but it served its purpose and turned out well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Pie Cake for Padma (and one for us)

Martha Stewart's Apple Pie Cake recipe that showed up in a Everyday Food magazine a few years ago (February 2003) is still one of The Husband's favorite desserts. This was my first time making it, and I did realize that my mom must have made extra streusel topping for all of those times she made it for us, but the original recipe is still quite good, and relatively easy. The most time consuming part is peeling, slicing, and coring the apples... my apples were small but my trusty crank apple peeler/slicer/corer machine did most of the work. My husband is a #1 Fan of Apple Pie Type Stuff and I also have a coworker, Padma, who is in the same boat - can't say no to a delicious crumb-topped apple pie. Yes it has to be one of those crumbly dutch apple pies - who likes those ones that don't have crumb topping, anyway? :)

I made one as the recipe called for, in a 9in springform pan, which was going to Padma for her birthday. That's why I couldn't get a great photo of the inside of that one - I just sent the whole pan home with her for her and her family. I also made a half batch in a little square dish for The Husband and I to enjoy on Sunday after our really long workout. I was too lazy to photograph the pretty slice on my plate, where you could see all the layers of juicy apple.. go look at Martha's recipe for a better photo. A half recipe made about 6 medium sized servings.. the Apple Pie Cake name is a little deceiving.. it is more of a crumble or pie than a cake. Really you're just putting the streusel topping down, topping that with apples, and then topping it off with the rest of the streusel.. it turns into a moist, buttery, crumbly appley, cinnamonny, delicious little dessert that is sure to be a hit at your house. Serve slightly warm and if you must, it would go great with a creamy vanilla ice cream. Totally yummy! Try this recipe, it is a keeper and I'm sure it will be a favorite for any apple lovers in your family. It does get slightly mushy by the next day but it is still good.


Apple Pie Cake
as seen on MarthaStewart.com

Serves 6


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith (about 12)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Directions


In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Using an electric mixer or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture forms pea-size pieces. Press two-thirds of the crumb mixture into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Core and peel the apples. Cut into thin slices, and place in a large bowl. Toss the apple slices with the remaining teaspoon cinnamon and the lemon juice. Arrange apples in the prepared pan; they will come up over the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the apples.


Place pan on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet, and bake until cooked through and golden brown on top, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and let the cake cool in the pan to set. Serve, or refrigerate for 2 hours to set more firmly. Serve at room temperature.

Daring Cooks: Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was brought to us from Eleanor (http://geekdomaustralio.blogspot.com/) and Jess (http://jessthebaker.blogspot.com/) and they shared with us some wonderful recipes for the heart warming comfort food - Risotto!  The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I've only made Risotto one other time - alla milanese (pretty simply prepared, but with saffron to make it a little yellow, and usually served as a side dish with osso buco). The Husband ended up not liking it and at that time I thought it was because of the saffron - the recipe called for a whole tsp, and even though I skimped, it seemed to overpower the dish with this... dark, musty, saffrony flavor.. which turns out, we are not huge fans of. It doesn't bother me as much as The Husband, though.

I was excited to try risotto again and bought another $6 package of fancy risotto rice from Kroger. This time I was going to skip the saffron and go with a more familiar flavor - wild mushrooms. I know we love porcini mushrooms with steak so I thought that would be great in this dish too.

Also, part of the challenge was to use your own homemade stock for the risotto. So on a weeknight, I tried a new recipe for making stock - roasting chicken drumsticks (was my cheapest option) with aromatic veggies until nice and brown, and then covering with water and simmering for a few hours until a great broth was formed. I added some parsley and additional onions, celery and carrots into the bath, as well. After that, I strained everything and had my very own chicken stock ready for the risotto I'd be making the next night!

The broth ended up really jelly-like which is a great characteristic of good stock and I was able to get it to liquid form by quickly microwaving the stock, as needed. I follow the directions for a full batch of risotto, and I used a mixture of the water that I used to rehydrate my porcini mushrooms, plus my homemade chicken stock, to moisten the risotto while cooking. Risotto rice is great because as it cooks, it gets creamier and creamier and doesn't typically require the addition or cream or cheese to get that wonderful homey consistency. Mine wasn't the creamiest but it was still pretty good. It took a long time of periodically adding broth to the rice and stirring, then adding more broth, until the rice was finally done. I had sauteed up some button mushrooms and added some chopped fresh parsley and shaved parmesan to finish the dish. We were starving since we had gotten home from work, went to the gym for an hour, and now were eating after 9pm on a Tuesday night... not ideal, but the promise of a great dish was keeping us alive.

Well... bummer. The Husband didn't like this risotto either! As soon as I added the white wine, I noticed the rice had the same musty, dark, "saffrony" flavor we didn't quite like the last time I made risotto.... all this time I was blaming saffron, and I think it comes down to the fact that The Husband really doesn't like white wine in rice. Really, what's there not to like about flavored rice? I am totally going to trick The Husband and make this again, skip the white wine though, and make sure he knows that he too can like risotto! As of right now, I think it is banned from the kitchen and I still have a huge container of rice!

Since we're eating healthy, I didn't do any deep fried risotto balls, or arancini that others were making, so I brought in the remaining risotto to work and fed it to my Italian coworker who absolutely loved it. Thanks to Jess and Eleanor for a great challenge and I look forward to trying risotto again!

Here is the base recipe for the risotto we followed (and we allowed to add our own variation):
Risotto Base Recipe


Ingredients:
olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g
Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L

Directions:

Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).

Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.

Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.

Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.

Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.

Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .

Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.

Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Maui Banana Bread


I'm always searching for the "perfect banana bread recipe"... something that compares to the best banana bread I've ever had, which was at the Halfway to Hana road stop in Maui while we were on our honeymoon. Probably everything tastes better when you're on a honeymoon traveling through rainforests in a convertible and swimming in waterfalls, however, based on the zillions of reviews online of the place and its mention in the Maui Revealed book, the bread is actually really really good. I've been searching for a copycat recipe ever since our honeymoon to no avail... but last weekend, we had a plethora of ripe bananas and I searched again.

I came across this "Maui Banana Bread" recipe, which I thought would turn out to be one of those Hawaii-esque quick breads that have coconut and macadamia nuts and stuff mixed into banana bread to give it an island taste (whcih is not what I'm looking for at all), but this recipe looked very very simple. No raisins or even cinnamon, just bananas and a few other basics. I noticed it used shortening instead of butter or oil and I thought that maybe this was how they made banana bread in Maui... I doubt that they had a ton of butter on hand decades ago and shortening would sure survive the long boat rides... maybe that's how the people at the Halfway to Hana make it. It was worth a shot! The recipe is from the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens so that was also a great sign that this was going to be authentic and delicious.

I did alter the recipe slightly by adding cinnamon sugar into the buttered loaf pan and swirling it around to coat it, and then pour the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the batter once it is poured in. I thought it was a great addition and the bread itself is totally awesome. Extremely moist, very banana-y and it is the closest thing I've had that is like the banana bread of my dreams... honestly it's been too long since Maui (3.5 years) so I don't quite remember what the bread tasted like, and this bread could really be it... or at least close. I noticed that it used a cup or so less of flour than other recipes, which I think means it is less bready and more moist and has a wonderfully strong banana flavor compared to your typical slightly dry Bette Crocker type recipe. It's so simple but absolutely fantastic.

Anyway, try it .. I think you will love this recipe. I did bake it about 5 or 10 minutes longer than it called for, I think. Yummy!

Hawaiian/Maui Banana Bread
as found as the recipe from the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens on the 1st Travelers Choice Internet Cookbook website here 



1-1/4 cup of flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 small very ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs

*I also had a few tablespoons of sugar with cinnamon in it which I swirled into the greased pan prior to pouring the batter, and then poured the rest on top of the batter before baking. Yum!
Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Blend together bananas, shortening, and eggs. Fold flour mix into blended ingredients ...don't over mix. Spoon into 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Thump once to remove air holes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool. Cut into squares.
 
I did type in the ingredients and tabulated the calories.... don't look if you don't want to see the bad news... but the whole loaf has 2700 calories in it.