Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moral of the story: bring extra butane when torching a meringue topping.

Cardinal sin, right?

But yes, I ran out of butane during the laborious torching of the meringue topping of a cake! I had tentatively (by this, I mean that I was nervous and tentative while filling the torch, not "unsure of time" in filling the torch) refilled my creme brulee torch and hoped for the best. And clearly - it was not enough because I could only get about 1/3 cake "moderately" torched!

So apologies to the birthday girl!

So yes, it was a Baked Alaska - a cake base topped with ice cream and then entirely covered with meringue which is then quickly baked or torched to get that lovely (and tasty) brown finish! The base was a chocolate chip butter cake and then layered (in a dome) with strawberry, mint, and caramel swirl ice creams (all homemade) with a layer of chocolate wafers between the layers (not homemade). I regret not taking any pictures of the cross section, but to be honest - my slice was melting!

I think that's one of the biggest pros/cons of homemade ice cream - the nature of the recipe I use yields a soft ice cream. Not soft-serve tender, but definitely scoop-able right out of the freezer! As a result, it's always ready to serve but tends to puddle quickly, unless you eat it fast. This made the ice cream very easy to mold, but it also meant that I had to work extremely fast both in the molding and the torching of the meringue. I won't mention again to bring extra butane when torching a sizeable amount of meringue, unless you've got a really professional-grade torch! (not like my little home cook Typhoon one purchased for $10)

The cake was delicious - the base was a little frozen and made it a bit difficult to cut - note for potential bakers: make a dense but thin layer. The ice creams were a good choice and the mint was a delicious twist on an after-dinner treat.

I'm ramping up for holiday project (no cards this year) and I really only have this one last weekend to get everything together - watch out for sneak peeks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple Pecan Sandies

Yes, I'm still around! Apologies for the delay between posts and thanks for continuing to check in! I was commenting to a fellow blogger at work that it can be so difficult to continue regular blogging. My weekly blogging was nothing compared to her 5-days-a-week blogging! But at the end of the day - it all comes down to commitment and allocating time to do it. For me - a lot of it comes down to whether or not I can whip something up worthy enough to post. I post the fails too - but I like to post things that I hope readers out there can learn from. Like chilling your dough. VERY important. Especially if you have a warm kitchen like I do!

I made sure to dedicate some baking time this weekend, because my Brigitte cookie cutters have arrived!! All the way from Germany, these cookie cutters are a simple fluted rectangular square, but come with a complete set of interchangeable letters! So you can personalize your cookies or decorations with messages and other sweet sayings! But what to make....what to make?

When making very shape-defined cookies (like sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies) keep in mind to use cookies that are low on leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder and has a fairly sturdy dough (not too wet = substantial amount of flour and binding agent). A weaker dough can be reinforced with some creative rolling (between plastic wrap or parchment) and lots of chilling, which should firm up the butter enough to hold the shape. Some good recipes include sugar or gingerbread cookies or simple chocolate wafers. Shortbread, if you can roll it out, is also quite good, if you can cut out the shapes. I decided to do an interesting twist on one of my favourite cookies - Martha Stewart's Maple Leaf cookies.

I came up with the name and concept first - maple cookies....with pecans! Ground pecans! Maple Pecan Sandies! (believe me, it doesn't always come to me so easily) I substituted half of the flour with toasted and ground pecans and used an entire egg instead of just the yolk. The dough was a bit wet, so I added in another 1/3 cup of flour to bring everything together.

But to the really good part (there's more? :D :D) - the cookie cutters! I ordered a set of Brigitte cookie cutters all the way from Germany and I couldn't wait to break them in. So without further ado...

Recipe to follow!