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A baker who happens to decorate…

…describes the kitchen creativity side of me.

Today, I am determined to create a vasilopita for one of my brothers-in-law.  I love the texture that slow rising in the refrigerator gives breads.  I’ll find out in the morning whether it was successful with this formula (which seemed unusually dense for any bread dough.  I’m sure absent-mindedness had something to do with it.  Oh, well.  I’ve made out a new shopping list just in case it doesn’t turn out and I need to try it again.  I’m not sure how significant the bread will be if it isn’t received ON New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve.

Poured Fondant

     Poured fondant, so few and basic the ingredients but, so elegant a finish it produces.
Have all items to be covered prepared before making poured fondant.  Cake items should be crumbcoated with a thin layer of icing or brushed with a simple syrup (equal parts of sugar and water heated to boiling then allowed to cool or, apricot or apple jelly/jam melted (they’re both clear like when melted and don’t interfere with the finished icing color.
  3/4 cup whole milk
         5 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp extract
                                                                                                                6 cups powdered sugar(sifting isn’t necessary but,
                                                                                                                       if you do, do so after the sugar is measured)
Stir all ingredients in a heat safe bowl and heat over simmering water(don’t allow bottom of bowl to touch water).  Stir frequently until warm (98-105 degrees (it should feel just slightly warm to the touch).

With The Changing Seasons…

…comes a change in me.
 
     As Summer draws to a close and a new school year is in the visible future, the breezes are more frequent and the temperature’s harsh edge has been softened, the shadows become more playful and the smells in the air bring faint memories of childhood, I sense the desire to bake and cook hearty meals becoming more and more overwhelming.  I’ll still bake cakes.  I’ll still decorate cakes.  My heart will want to be baking breads and making stews.
 
     Separate kitchens is a distant dream.
 
     Today, I made tuna casserole and spiced apples.  I couldn’t help but smile as it reminded me of Mama.  I’d not heard of Tuna Helper until one sister took on the responsibilities, for the most part, of the bulk of the domestic chores.  My sister was proud of the success of her meals and we enjoyed them tremendously.  As I grew up and moved away, I made a version of it but without the help of the Tuna Helper box contents.  I dubbed it…Tuna Goo.  My kids giggled at the name (which was the reason for giving it that name), ate it, and requested it regularly.  As with baked macaroni and cheese, I longed for things like Mama made (all except for that vile stuff called egg gravy  ).  On occasion, I would make baked macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, or some other dish from my childhood.  Sometimes, the dish was well received.  The negative responses were overwhelming so I made them less and less until I didn’t make them at all.
 
     Now that almost all are gone from home with families of their own, I feel free to make the things my husband and I enjoy most…like our mothers and grandmothers.

Experiments

The workload is light.  So, I’ve been able to do a little experimenting.  This time, it’s with piping gumpaste.  This experiment began Sunday night.
I placed about a 1/2 cup of gumpaste, pinched off into small pieces, into my mixer bowl. I added about 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water, a little at a time while mixing on low (the small chunks made the mixer clunk about a bit).  I covered it with plastic to let in dissolve (hopefully) for several hours.  After several hours had gone by, it hadn’t fully dissolved.  I added 1 teaspoon of the white Unbreakable Gel and let the mixer run on 2 (Kitchenaid stand, tilt-head) for about 10 minutes.  It still wasn’t fully dissolved.  I then placed the bowl over a pot of simmering water with the hopes that that may help.  It did, I think.  I removed the bowl from the heat and transferred it to a smaller bowl and covered it with plastic, making sure the plastic rested on the surface of the goopy mix.  I allowed it to come to room temperature (several hours).  I removed the plastic and stirred…still little lumps.  I decided at that time enough was enough and brought out the big guns when it comes to lumps…the support hose…as in a new pair of support pantyhose, feet removed and washed, sanitized and dried.  I scooped all of the gumpaste goop into the hose foot and squeezed it into a pastry bag fitted with a coupler.  I now have something…I don’t know what exactly…to try out.
Fitted with a #2 tip, I decided to pipe out tiaras.  This was awesome.  All the intersections fixed themselves…melded nicely into each other.  It piped without too much effort.  I also piped out a net pattern…the kind, that when the sides are pulled, it looks like a fishing net.  Because the gumpaste goop had the consistency a little thicker than piping gel, I allowed all the pieces to lay flat for about 30 minutes to set…that was the plan anyway.  After setting for about 30 minutes, I placed several of the tiaras over their form (an empty 2 litre soda bottle with the ends removed) to dry.
After several hours of curious touching and waiting, the piped pieces were tacky but not wet or sticky sticky but more like rubber or another substance when it gets warm…it had a bounce to it.  So, further experimenting, I placed one of the piped tiaras into the microwave for 8 seconds (microwaving gumpaste pieces for short amounts of time and sometimes, several heat/cool sessions depending on the thickness of the piece, has proved, to me, to be an excellent way to harden them faster…).  All it did for this piped piece was to heat up the thin spots and make them bubble.  After it cooled, the bubbled areas were obviously effected still effected, adversely, by the heat.
I woke up this morning, anxious to see if the night hours brought any success.  Oh, yes!  They’re hardening!  No more bounce to them.  Oh, no!  Some of the tiaras remained on a flat surface!  hmmmm…side of a cake decoration…possibly the beginnings of an upright decoration…or suspended beneath the cake, between two tiers…or maybe further experimenting by steaming them to see if they become pliable enough to secure to the form.
These are the pieces as they are this morning. The drip areas are obvious at the bottoms of the tiaras…and you can see how it flattened out.  The bottoms of the tiaras were piped beads.  You can see the thin, bubbled areas on the microwaved tiara (the one laying next to the piped netting(or third from the right)).

A New Outlook

     I’ve recently decided to complete at least 10 flowers per day regardless of the workload.  Will I be able to do it?  As long as I can keep myself motivated and remember what the plan is, I believe it can be done. Depending on what is going on throughout the day as to how many I will able to complete.  If I had all day to do nothing but flowers, of course, I’d be able to produce more.  So, keep in mind, this is not indicative of a whole days’ work but more what can be done in 15-30 minutes here or there.
     These were done Monday-Wednesday.  Roses, daisies, calla lilies, and carnations.

Blogging

It’s been quite some time since I made my last entry.  For those who’ve been keeping track, I apologize.  I’ll do my best to post at least once a week. 
 
Stay tuned for some interesting and, hopefully, helpful tutorials, complete with pictures.  They may not be ‘proper’ techniques but they will be what worked for me.
 
I’m preparing for a bridal fair.  I hope to try out some new (to me) things and share them with you.

Challenges

     Challenges come in different forms.  Whether it’s a request for a cake "just like this" or a "here’s my budget, my colors, my theme, servings required…do whatever you like.  I trust you!", I enjoy the challenge.  I must confess, the latter is preferable to trying to recreate someone else’s design. 
 
     If you’ve looked through the portfolios of various designers and feel confident in his or her work, don’t be afraid to relinquish some or all of the design.  They want you happy….that’s the bottom line.  Somewhere in there is the desire to set your cake apart from the multitudes of other brides’ cakes as well as utilize their creativity.
 
    

Cake to Icing/Filling

With the exception of the pound cake and possibly one or two varieties of bundt cakes (fruit topped cakes don’t count in this observation), cake NEEDS icing and filling.  I prefer there to be several layers of filling evenly distributed throughout the cake.
   Three layers of cake, split in 1/2, filled and iced with rich and creamy meringue buttercream, and topped off with a generous amount of ganache.
   Two layers of cake, split into thirds, filled with alternating layers of lemon mousse, and key lime mousse, a layer of meringue buttercream and crushed pretzels at the center for a nice contrast to the citrus fillings, iced with meringue buttercream.
    Although difficult to see, this one has one layer of chocolate cake and one layer of vanilla cake, each split into thirds and put together with alternating layers of white chocolate mousse and caramel meringue buttercream for a total of 12 layers of cake and filling…iced with caramel meringue buttercream…

Bread

      Since my last entry I have been testing new techniques and recipes and different branches of a bakery.  My latest has been bread.  Although my ideal business would be one that serves desserts only, I can’t overlook the wonderful aspects of fresh baked bread.  I do believe I could enjoy fresh baked bread or rolls and a stick of margerine(I bake with butter but I prefer margerine to be slathered on most everything) as much as or almost as much as a perfect lemon meringue pie slice.  The smell of fresh baked bread is as comforting as the smell of an apple pie baking.  Like I said, I’ve been testing…
Everyone should include things to make them smile in their morning/afternoon/evening routine.  Mine would definitely include a fresh-baked orange sweet roll(with extra icing, of course), a smooth, dark, rich cup of coffee and thoughts of those I love….(the apple…hmmmm…an extra good Gala that will most likely be better appreciated as part of an apple strudel than eaten raw…yeah, I believe that’s what I’ll do with it).
These were made with a single rope of dough.  Once done, they’ll be the perfect size for an extra large sandwich(or a 1/2 stick of margerine).
While trying my hand at various braiding techniques, I thought I would attempt a 6 strand braid using a whole grain dough of which I was also testing the taste.  Both the braid and the taste pleased me.
Here, the single rope/strand braid and the 6-strand/rope braid are baked and I have been informed that I need to hurry with the pictures or I’ll be taking shots of crumbs.

Mums!

I think I’ve got a new favorite flower!