Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bittersweet with Caramel Gems

Last week was busy, hence the long stretch between posts. This little stacked number was for a party of 14. It is coated and filled with a bittersweet ganache flavoured with cognac. The middle layer of each cake is studded with caramel pockets. The caramel glaze, (dusted with gold powder) is surrounded by balls of chocolate fondant. The cake was originally going to be draped with chocolate fondant until I discovered that the chocolate fondant recipe I used is not such a great draper - in actual fact it doesn't - If I had read the second part of the recipe a little more thoroughly I would have known that before I made two batches thinking I had done something wrong. Ah well, live and learn.
Speaking of learning, I was quite impressed that when I went online to problem solve the draping issue, I found the blog of the author Rose Levy Beranbaum, and posed my dilema there. I was pleasantly suprised by getting a response not only from her blog master, (???, like a webmaster but for blogs???), but from Rose herself. It was the latter who pointed out that I had missed the crucial draping information. Dam, how embarrassing.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Labne Bi Zeit

That is the Lebanese name for what in English sound much less appealing -
Yogurt Cheese Balls in Olive Oil.

Silverfox was here for a visit and made yogurt cheese by lining a conical sieve with "sugar cloth" and dumping in 10% mf yogurt. It sat for 24 hours and like magic, voila - cheese, with the whey caught in the bowl in which the sieve was resting on. You can use the whey in bread or any baking. You can use the yogurt cheese as is. It tastes like a tart-ish cream cheese.
As you can see, I made labne bi zeit, or rather a variation of it. Here is Paula Wolfert's recipe, and my modifications follow.

Yogurt Cheese Balls Packed in Olive Oil
2 cups well drained, low fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Near East or Aleppo pepper, or 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
olive oil
small dried red chilis
1. Mix the yogurt and salt and dump into a triple layer of clean cheesecloth and tie up into a sack. Suspend the sack over a kitchen faucet with a bowl below to catch the drip. Allow it to hang 24 hours. A good tip is to scrape the outside of the cheesecloth once or twice to facilitate draining.
2. Crumble the cheese onto a paper towel and refrigerate until firm and dry to the touch. With oiled palms roll into 1-inch balls and dust with paprika or Near East Pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The balls will stay fresh for a few days. For longer storage, let them dry another day on paper toweling, then place in a glass jar and completely cover with olive oil. Add a few small dried chilis. Keep the jar in a cool place or refrigerate. Return the jar to room temperature before serving.
My variation: I used straight hot paprika, but just a light sprinkle over the balls. I didn't oil my hands and did not notice any problems, didn't dry them over night, and used the oil from Stovetop Roasted Garlic, (see early posts for that recipe - Sept, 2006??) plus a few creamy cloves. Threw in a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, oregano and a chili. The smell is lovely.
We will eat these plus the cheese I brought back from California at a little gathering at our place tonight. I'll post the favorites.

Here is a little Lemon Strawberry Cake I put together Thursday with leftovers from the wedding cake. (We are still seemingly swimming in the Saffron Lemon Curd - intentionally I might add. It is so lovely and tart, like a punch to the tastebuds.)
I managed to get this cake put together in 15 minutes, or less. Very handy to have everything made in waiting!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bollywood Bon-bon

Well, that was exciting, as well as exhasting. This photo is still the unfinished cake...I forgot to take my camera to the reception so other people have photos of the finished cake. I'll get them soon and post one, as this photo doesn't include the topper surrounded with more flying buttresses, that made it look a little more finished, (and straight!).
It was an exciting cab ride to the restaurant, me bracing for every corner and pot-hole. I suggested the cabbie drive like it was a newborn, and when he didn't seem to change his driving I said he should think of driving like it was his firstborn. He drove very gently and we arrived without mishap.
Thank Christ, since I had already had a big dilemma the night before the wedding. I had to cut off all of the marzipan I had carefully made and applied because it started to bleed out the colour...long story...all was well by five am, (ugh). I managed to get two hours sleep before the kids woke up and I started "painting" the cakes again.
Gilding the 'Lilies'

Beading the Buttresses

Topper Close-up

Friday, June 08, 2007

Inspiration is Everywhere

Went to the bride's mehndi this evening and couldn't help but think the pattern on the bride's hands would look lovely on the cake.

Did a little more work on the topper last night. You can now get the gist of what it will look like finished. I will finish it tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

All In A Days Work

Not to mentioning having to chase kids until 8 o'clock tonight. Busy day doing prep for the cake. Made up 3 batches of marzipan, (bought almond paste, combined it with fondant that I made yesterday - voila, almost homemade marzipan). Then made the Saffron Lemon Butter Icing, below. It took two and a half pounds of butter to make! Good God, that is alot of icing.

Every spare few minutes was dedicated to making these buttresses, (next snapshot). They need to be made quickly because the pastillage dries out pretty fast when rolled so thin. In the photo I am gluing the curly q into the center of the paisley shaped thing. The small ones for the top of the cake don't need to be filled with curly q's but the larger ones for the bottom layers will be stronger with the extra support.

This is going to be on top of the cake, if all goes well. Its a crappy shot, but I am too tired to take another photo. It is upside down in the photo. Later this evening, when everything has dried I'll flip it over and hopefully finish it.

More buttresses drying.

If anyone wants recipes for the marzipan or Lemon Saffron Buttercream, just let me know.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How To Eat A Burger

Monday, June 04, 2007

I Spent All Bloody Sunday Making This

It was a practice run for the wedding cake I am making this week. I wanted to see how the Saffron Lemon Curd carried through the cake, and wanted the Sheila and John to see if they liked the taste. I also wanted to see if the intense colour of the icing turned tongues blue and/or orange.
The cake is a go, so today I did the grocery run, and tonight I made more pastillage, (for making the paisley shaped additions), a pouring fondant, (for making marzipan) and the Saffron Lemon Curd. I love Lemon Curd, and can eat far too much of it. The addition of saffron makes it a deeper gold, and adds an earthy kind of richness that tempers the sharpness of the lemon custard.
The Lemon Curd took some time to make. I listened to a Billie Holiday CD and half of Death Cab for Cutie before I was finally straining the dam thing. Thank god for music and the cool swirls forming on the surface of the ever so slowly cooking custard.

A little cooking tip: when the swirls fade to barely visible, watch out, your lemon curd is almost cooked.
Here’s the recipe, only modified by the addition of saffron, from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. (Her quantities, my directions)

Saffron Lemon Curd

4 egg yolks
½ cup plus 2 T sugar
3 oz. lemon juice
4 T unsalted butter, softened
pinch salt
finely minced lemon zest
pinch ground saffron
o Set up a bowl with a fine mesh strainer somewhere near your stove.
o In a heat proof bowl combine egg yolks and sugar thoroughly, then add lemon juice, butter and salt. (I sloppily juice the lemons into a measuring cup, not bothering to keeping out pulp or seeds since the custard will get strained later. I just kind of estimate the displacement caused by the seeds and go a little over the 3 oz.)
o Put on some music…lots of it. Actually, do this first.
o Place over simmering water and stir constantly (but not too quickly! If you stir too vigorously it will take longer to heat and thicken the custard), until thickened to the consistency of a thin hollandaise. Do not boil.
o Immediately pour the thickened custard through the fine mesh sieve and press the custard through. Discard seeds and junk. Stir in lemon zest and saffron powder. Cool, covered, (I press a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bowl on to the surface of the curd), then store in an airtight container in the fridge.
o Keeps for up to 3 weeks refrigerated.

And here is the money shot, (for today), Saffron Lemon Custard. I like the way the flash makes it kind of glow!