Daring To Blog Again

Wow! Who is this smiling face showing up in your RSS feed? You thought I died, didn’t you?

Nothing catastrophic to report. It’s just that the in-laws, because of visa issues and having already rented out their house, ended up going from a 2.5 wk visit to a 7 wk visit and busily worked on putting up our metal storage building (42′ x 48′, not just a ‘garden shed’). And during that time I got out of the habit of blogging. Not their fault by any means, just priorities needed to be changed. So, you are thinking to yourselves, they’ve been gone for what? 15 or so wks? What happened? I have several excuses, but no good reasons. Life is a little busier this year on several fronts and will continue to be as we plod along with our construction project, and a hopeless addiction to Bejeweled Blitz is no help at all.

While the family has been enjoying not waiting until the food photo session is done to be able to eat, I find that have missed blogging. I enjoy taking pictures of food and writing about it. I’ve wanted to tell you so many things in the past few months — Cocomero (frozen yogurt on UI campus) is fantastic, if a little pricey for a family outing (and they really should consider buying ‘troughs’, like a banana split boat, rather than a deeper container so you can try more of the 16 flavors without them smooshing into each other). Have you checked out the recycled aluminum foil? It costs a little more than regular and it’s a little thinner, but it works just fine. FoodBuzz kindly sent me some food samples to review — Emeril’s chicken stock is good but I’ll stick with Meijer, however, his Chicken Rub is fantastic! Tartlet 1 is hooked on his Kicked Up Horseradish Mustard.

But what brought me back to the blog was to say that I’ve just found a new butter cream frosting recipe! I’ve been using the same old thing and used to think that American frosting is American frosting. But this is one good recipe! It pipes and spreads so well, firms up when refrigerated, and is super easy to work with. I made 4 dozen cupcakes and 4 dozen snowman cookies for a school carnival tomorrow and thought I might need a double batch, which ends up being roughly the amount you would need to decorate a life-sized version of the Titanic. Sounds like a good excuse to make more cookies or a cake . . .


Butter Cream Frosting

1 c. butter
1 c. solid shortening

8 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

3/4 c. whipping cream

Cream together the butter and shortening until fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Gradually beat in whipping cream, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure it is well incorporated. Beat on high speed for a few minutes, until fluffy and smooth, adding a few tablespoons of whipping cream if needed (mine didn’t).

Daring Dobos

I’m finally here with the Daring Baker Challenge for August, the Dobos Torta. It has an interesting history as a cake invented for keeping longer than other pastries of its era.  The recipe was k ept secret until it’s inventor, Jozsef C. Dobos, retired and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, provided every member of the chamber could use it freely. I’ll bet he would have a food blog if he hadn’t retired in 1906.

I had intended to make this as a birthday cake for my MIL who just arrived this weekend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Still, we enjoyed the cake together.

The sponge cake and the buttercream are just sort of ‘meh’ in my opinion.  We’ve had buttercream similar to this before, and while I understand their utility and place in the realm of desserts, it’s just not my personal favorite. The cake layers were very easy to make and baked quickly as they were so thin.

I think the thin layers look just fabulous with the thin layers of buttercream. I really like the way the buttercream holds its shape and firms up in the fridge, making for easy cutting. The real highlight of this challenge for me was the caramel. I think I didn’t get it as hot as I was supposed to, because mine came out softer than I had expected it to. Still, this was greater success than I have managed before with sugar play and I was able to make a few interesting shapes with it and twist some to drape around the cake. It drooped easily if it warmed at all, but it was cute while it lasted. I wish I would have had some hazelnuts to prop up the caramel cake wedges on the top, because I love that look.

Thanks to Lorraine and Angela for a fun challenge!

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Barbie Birthday v.3

Despite protests from Tartlet 1 that Barbie cakes are a special treat for the 7th birthday (and Only The Seventh Birthday!), Tartlet 3 requested a Barbie cake for her 6th birthday, at the end of May. I have posted earlier about the Barbie Cakes I made for Tartlets 1 & 2 for their respective 7th birthdays, and last year I made 14 Polly Pocket Princesses for Tartlet 3’s birthday. This time I made a couple of modifications to my previous method.

I baked a cake in the Pampered Chef bowl again and this time I also made a 9-inch cake for multiple reasons: 1) it allows for the Barbie’s leg length w/o the two inch frosting disaster of the last one; 2) it gives a platform for the birthday candle; and 3) more cake for a number of guests. Next time I’d like to use an 8-inch cake under the skirt and that on top of the 9-inch. As it was, Barbie’s feet still touched the cake board and the top of the skirt was not quite to the waist so it made for a slightly awkward transition and seemed a little out of proportion.

I couldn’t scrounge up a top that worked for the top of the dress and I prefer not to put the frosting on the doll, if I can avoid it, so instead I did a little late night hand sewing and made the top from wired ribbon.  I cut a piece of ribbon in a trapezoid to fit her figure and the wired top and bottom allowed a little better fitting.  I stitched on two straps from a narrow ribbon, also wired and easy to shape, and two snaps in the back.  Then I used a length of the narrow ribbon as embellishment at the base of the dress and at the waist.

The top has the added benefit of being reversible, since I used a double sided Christmas ribbon. 😉  The kids have already requested that I make more clothes that will actually cover the dolls since the current Barbie fashions aren’t nearly modest enough for their sensibilities — e.g., when she sits, her skirts expose her rear end.  Fashionable in some circles, but not ours, thank goodness!

After some fun at the pool, we enjoyed the cake in the park. Barbie seems to be saying, “Yeah, Tartlet 3! Happy Birthday!” She loved the cake.

Gluten Free Picnic Fun

The end of May was a busy time for the Fruit Tart household — a farewell party, a reception for visiting friends, an end-of-year picnic for preschool, the blog’s birthday, and Tartlet 3’s birthday. For two of these I made trifle. At the end of April I made a trifle with Alton Brown’s angel food cake, but in May I made one with a store bought angel food cake and the other I made a gluten free angel food cake, based on Alton Brown’s recipe and method.

It didn’t have quite the same texture as a regular angel food cake, and it browned faster, but since I was tearing it up to make trifle anyway, the texture wasn’t a big detractor. I thought it had good flavor and because I didn’t use any rice flour there was no grittiness in the texture. I would definitely make this again for gluten free friends, but I might tweak the ratios of flours and use more tapioca and less potato starch or use a little white sorghum. Still, it was very popular when layered with Cool Whip and fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, mango, kiwi, and blueberries), and most people didn’t realize it was gluten free.

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake (adapted from Alton Brown’s Angel Food Cake)

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1/3 c. corn starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum

12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor or blender spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt, starches and xanthan gum, setting the remaining sugar aside.

In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to stand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the starch mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the starch mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

I Am Such An Idiot!

Errrgh! I hate it when I miss something completely simple. For example,  I lost the password for the Daring Baker site and couldn’t log in and was completely blind to the little ‘reset password’ thingy.  So I missed a challenge, which was cheesecake and similar to the one I made for Easter. Bah! I feel like I need a reset button for my brain. I have been so scattered this month and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to a vacation to the beach.

But at least I can remember how to bake a cake and this one was good. Very good. It’s very simple too. Plain white cake made in two layers, sliced to make four layers. Sweetened whipped cream with chopped mango folded in. Blackberries added to just the middle layer of filling. Covered with sweetened whipped cream with a hint of almond extract. Very light tasting and refreshing, it was a hit with everyone who had some. It was better than this poorly lit night kitchen photo makes it appear. 😉