Monday, December 22, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
I decided to alternate chocolate cake layers with a vanilla layer, and used a chocolate pudding filling.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
One song he particularly enjoys is "Old MacDonald". He loves mimicking the animal sounds and the simple "E-I-E-I-O" refrain. Consequently, we decided to go with a barnyard/farm theme for his party. While I have no problems eating meat, I prefer to think of farms as places where animals LIVE, and we harvest vegetables from... so Danny's cake and accompanying cupcakes focused on veggies.
Now, a while back, I had played with some gumpaste in attempt to practice making fruit/veggie cupcake toppers. as cute as they did turn out.. I was overall left a little disappointed. Gumpaste , while edible, isn't exactly TASTY. and it's HARD. like break a child's tooth HARD. Imagine, then, my delight when I read the book Hello, Cupcake. Not only did it feature a garden-party cupcake for me to replicate.. but the authors suggested taking ready made candies and ingredients to make into the vegetables.
The result? amazing. I used starbursts and m&m candies, licorice, cornflakes and graham crackers in conjunction with some home made cake and frosting, a little melted chocolate and color gels... and I managed to produce the following.
Now, I still wouldn't allow my 2 year old birthday boy (or his 4 year old sister) to eat the starbursts-turned-veggies.... but in a few years I could totally see them eating every little bit of the cupcake, and still having teeth left to brush when they were through.
Lessons Learned: heating the starbursts in the oven worked better than the microwave. Also? best tip EVER??? rolling the 'carrots' in cinnamon after I made the decorative growth lines made the carrots look OH-SO real. and LOVED the idea of coating the cornflakes in green frosting. the 'leaves' looked truly authentic.
I'm not saying I'll never use gumpaste again.. but for basic colors and for items for kids? the reshaping of chewy candies is really the way to go!
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Naturally, when I see them at my grocer's, I can't help myself and pick up a bag or two. then I make a beeline for the apples... and get home to start baking.
My girlfriend made a french Cranberry-Apple pie a few years ago, and I have been smitten ever since. between the streusel-crunch topping and the intermitten tart cranberries, I firmly believe I can not make a plain apple pie ever again.
The recipe she passed on to me was a photocopy from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, but I have found this recipe online to be identical. If I was in the business of sharing my secrets, I'd tell you I ALWAYS double the amount of streusel topping and omit the nuts.... but the best way to bake (at least as far as I have found) is to taste and see and tweak as you like.
Anyway... if you're looking for a sure-fire hit to bring to a Thanksgiving dinner... this is a winner. enjoy... and let's all give thanks for the cranberry!
Lessons Learned: I have been LOVING the little pie tins. Not only do I increase the number of pies I can get out of one batch of filling, but the SIZE!! so nice! Perfect for hitting the spot when you have a sweet tooth, but don't want to be eating the same dessert all week.
These tins can be found in the grocer's under the label of 'pot pie' tins. They're deep dish, so 1/4 of this pie is a generous portion. try them out... they even serve well to bring to a friend's house for coffee or little thank you gifts.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
On the doorstep of Halloween... I thought it'd be only fitting to make a few ghoulish treats.
Perhaps not the SCARIEST looking cookies.... but that could be a good thing. wouldn't want anyone afraid of sinking their teeth into them.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Last week I realized that I don't make many cakes. and that's really a shame... cause people.. I love cake. The idea of a PUMPKIN cake was enough to get me to wear my contacts, get dressed up, and bake a cake... totally Stepford Style.
I found this recipe from the Joy of Baking. hook, line, and sinker. and forget about the idea of adding MAPLE to the cream cheese frosting. I was seriously swooning before I even cracked the first egg.
Now.. I did go into a more detailed description of the events that occurred while I was baking this cake on my other blog... but because my narrative involved many curses, I'm going to let you use your imagination here. (sorry.. I try to keep this blog clean, folks.)
Things started off VERY WELL, though. Dare I say I believed I had made some perfect cakes. I'm a bit of an ego-centric... I'll admit that. But I RARELY use the word 'perfect' to describe my culinary attempts. I like to recognize what I do right, but want to always better myself.. so again.. I don't throw around 'perfect' too much.
It all went to pot when I attempted the frosting, though. it was too runny (probably from my over-zealous addition of maple syrup) and I kick myself cause there was a point in the mixing process that I felt I had the right (read THICK) consistency... I forged ahead with the recipe instructions, and added more maple. GAR!
but I'll spare you all of that and just get to the awful evidence.
Despite letting the frosting sit for a few hours (thinking it would thicken or harden..) it was still a gloppy mess.
hence.. my cake became a gloppy mess.
ooey-gooey, yippy drippy MESS.
Now.. fear not.. it didn't stop me from EATING it. and I will say that the taste WAS superb. and moist. oh MY do I love a nice, fresh, moist cake! Really.. this recipe is fantastic for the cake. the icing? I might say to stick with what you know, even if it means buying a canned cream cheese frosting. The maple did add a nice layer to the frosting... but the thin consistency threw me for a loop.
The second cake I made came out a bit nicer looking. maybe because I used the frosting a bit more sparingly... knowing too much would get the gloppy side effect. SO yes.. the second one came out better.. but very far from something I'd call perfect.
The second cake was donated to my husband's work... and supposedly all who had it were very pleased. Hey.. they're computer nerds... maybe they're not as picky?
LESSONS LEARNED: So yeah. one.. NEVER use the word perfect. call me superstitious, but being that bold = murphy's law to happen = far from perfect results.
I will for sure use this recipe again... but next time I will use double the cream cheese, and single or slightly LESS than single proportions of the liquid ingredients. Next time.. I'll be going for a thick frosting. Like ability-to-pipe thick.
Monday, October 13, 2008
a good friend of mine, whom I have already named to be my executive talent scout should I ever get too big for my britches. (and by that I DO mean money wise.. not pants sizes. if I LITERALLY get too big for my britches, then said friend will be the one duct-taping my mouth shut and putting my rear back on weight watchers. Cause she and I know I have to look good for that day when our kids get married. Just sayin'. )
ANYWAYS! Susie, in many ways, is my eyes and ears. She finds the coolest stuff, and that definitely includes recipes and fun ways of doing or presenting everyday stuff. A few months ago.. Suser passed on a link to a Martha special featuring a treat called Cake Pops.
I was immediately enthralled.. but I'm ashamed to admit I did not even ATTEMPT those little bad boys until this past bake sale. I was GOING TO... just... life took over for a little.
I thought it would be fun to make some cake pops in a ghoulish theme... I was thinking ghosts and goblins. or at least ghosts and pumpkins.
that's where the 'trick' part came in
On the original site of the cake pops creator... she was coating her pops in candy melts for the round pops... and the 'cupcake' shapes were 'dipped' on 2 different occasions.
I used white chocolate, and it was NOT EASY to work with. it was very gloppy and thick. I found that my ghosts looked a bit more like round and fat mummies. oh, and my food writing markers?? did not work so well on the white chocolate. I ended up using my Wilton dye gels for the eyes.
Look at these poor things... it's like they're BEGGING for someone to help them look better.
and lo and behold.. my 'grand' ideas of doing pumpkin balls got SQUASHED because I didn't have a good way of letting the balls 'dry' without setting them up-side-down. (thus giving them a Frankenstein-esque flat head.)
Thinking fast I dunked the orange 'balls' in theme-colored sprinkles, and chalked it up to inexperience.
All in all I think the treats turned out cute enough, and they tasted fine. (though ENTIRELY too sweet in my opinion. My 4 yr old daughter didn't seem to mind, though.) They seemed to be as dense/fudgy as a brownie coated in a too-thick layer of white chocolate.... just not as rich and heavy as a brownie would be.
I'm in no hurry to try these again, but that's not to say I won't. I think that like anything, practice would make me more proficient at making them... and perhaps using a thinner consistency outer shell (such as candy melts or adding paraffin!!! again with the paraffin!) would make this project a little easier.
or having a stand of some sorts so the pops could harden upright?
overall... I'll give it a "boo!" rating. Really... not my best work. Try me again next year?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
In the here and now, however... Autumn is more than a season of weather to me. It's back to school, it's birthdays and socials time, it's holidays, and most importantly.. it's GOOD FOOD.
I once joked with a friend that I only eat pumpkin from September through late January. While I know it's entirely silly to put stipulations of when I eat a particular food... 'saving' pumpkin for this time of year just means it's that more special to me.
Imagine my glee, then, when I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Truffles. pumpkin. chocolate. spices.
my tongue about fell out of my mouth.
At the heels of a bake sale, and eager to get back into the kitchen, I concocted a new flavor of Happy Janes inspired by the Pumpkin Truffle recipe and this SO-EASY recipe for home-made graham crackers.
I set out by making the graham cracker rounds, my signature shape for the Janes. As I said, this was much easier than I expected it to be. I think once you get used to working with cut-table cookie doughs, this falls right in line. (A word of warning, though.. if you choose to make graham crackers.. this recipe was far stickier than a regular sugar/butter cookie dough. I suspect it's from the abundance of honey.)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Jungle Janes - 3 points total (one 3rd place vote)
Friday, August 29, 2008
Unlike my other blog in which I tend to blather on and curse a lot... this is a place where I share a part of me that I am truly passionate about... my baking creations. For a girl who went to college for Aircraft Engineering, and spent 8 years working and designing and managing projects in varying engineering disciplines.... BAKING and decorating is a pretty far cry from what I was trained to do.
But alas... here we are, and here I go down that road. A road that I hope will some day lead to culinary school when my children are a little older. A road that may some day lead to a business in which I can make money from my edible creations.
So again... your participation in this contest is not only validating to me, but encouraging. Having more than just my close family and friends see what I do is thrilling and nerve-wracking! but to have such a great response and surge of creativity shared all in the name of naming a Jane? Again, I say it is encouraging. Maybe this really IS the right road for me to be on!
So without further ado... I will take the submitted names and pass them on to my judges!
Each name will be anonymously given to my panel of judges for a vote. I am asking my judges to vote for their TOP FIVE names. OF those top five names... each will be assigned a point value ranging from one (1) to five (5) points. Five points given to their favorite name, 4 points to their second choice, and so on down to one point for the #5 spot.
I have personally bribed my judges for their input with their own coconut and dark chocolate combo Janes. I figure it's only fair that they can match the taste with the name.
I have five judges in mind, and will scan their scoring sheets for all to see on Monday.
again.. thank you ALL so much for participating... and stay tuned for Monday when our "Name That Jane" Contest WINNER will be announced!!!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Lessons Learned? once again, I foolishly tried to 'enhance' the white chocolate with an imitation strawberry extract. (there's the clue.. imitation = BAD!) the chocolate got lumpy and grainy, and I had to scrap the batch. oh well. the second batch came out nice, and believe it or not. I think it's better without the 'extra' strawberry flavor. now they just stand with that hint of strawberry. very nice for adults who don't like that over-the-top sweetness.