Learning New Lessons

Yesterday I took one of my girls to school for the first time. I was not one of the parents with a video recorder, a camera that looked like what you might expect from a National Geographic photojournalist, or even a point-and-shoot camera snapping up photos of every step she took to the front door. I was in the car, dropping her off at the door with a wave and ‘have a good day!’. Tartlet 2 started 4th grade with Ms. Sabin. The rest of the tartlets and I started a new school year at home. With the new territory of a brick and mortar school comes the backpack, the gym shoes, and packing a lunch. I’m not likely to be as cute and creative as Jennifer’s Vegan Lunch Box, but hopefully we can get nutritious lunches ready for the kid before it’s time to head out the door each day. Unfortunately, I bought the lunch box one day and found the little boxes another . . . it doesn’t hold three of them at one time, no matter how you rearrange them. So the pretzels ended up in a little bag in the front pouch.

Another lesson learned last week was about salmonella. I think I gave myself a case of that last week after licking my cake batter spoon. I should know better, as Tartlet 1 pointed out, because I won’t let the kids do such a stupid thing. If you do the math and figure that salmonella is in 1 out of every 10-20,000 eggs and I tend to go through 3 dozen eggs each week, sometimes more, then I use roughly 2000 eggs each year and the chances are that every 5-10 years I will lick a spoon with a contaminated raw egg. Unfortunately, despite the violence with which I was sick last week, I’m fairly certain the odds that I’ll lick a spoon in the future are probably greater than 1 in 10,000. I don’t learn all that quickly, I suppose.

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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).

A (Chocolate) Chip Off The Block?

Tartlet 1 has been doing the baking lately. She made a variation of Banana Chocolate Chip bread and muffins. She also made my birthday cake — dark chocolate with mini chocolate chips stirred into the batter. I think she’s off to a great start and, judging from the speed at which her baked goods were consumed, I think the rest of the family agrees. 😉

Happy Birtday?

Today was Tartlet 2’s birthday.  Or, in a Cake Wrecks worthy entry, it was her birtday. Yes, on close inspection it really *does* say BIRTDAY! I noticed it right away at the Meijer bakery, but they had smooshed in the writing already by dropping the H, so I didn’t think anything was to be gained by arguing with non-English speaking lady with the decorator’s bag in her hand. Who knows what it might have said with a ‘correction’. I think I was the only one who noticed it. The 9 yr old crowd is much more interested in Troy and Gabriella. *swoon*  or *gag*, depending on your taste.

Tea Party Trinket

For Tartlet 2’s tea party last week, she was to bring a tea setting and a napkin ring. Since we didn’t have any napkin rings on hand, I went to my sewing/crafting stash and we were able to produce this, a ‘found art’ project. The actual ring is the cardboard center of a ribbon spool (top and bottom paper pieces removed). Then, using my hot melt glue gun, I covered it with a piece of silky fabric (a leftover from a Civil War era dress my mom made *9* years ago!), tucking the edges of the fabric over the cardboard and into the inside of the spool and gluing it in place. Around the top and bottom I glued a piece of lace edging and covered the straight edge with ribbon. Then I used the same ribbon to make a bow and glued it to the center of the spool, using the ribbon rose to hold it in place. Finally, we added extra roses to the ends of the ribbons. Tartlet 2 didn’t use the glue gun much, but helped direct the project. She thought it looked nice with a napkin with a Battenburg lace corner.  The placemat you see in the photos was a handwoven gift from my Mom’s friend about 16 yrs ago.

Lemon Blueberry Scones

As promised, I’m back to tell you about the other scone I made for Tartlet 2’s Tea Party. I hesitate to call this a scone as it does not have a traditional texture at all. It is soft and tender, almost like a snack cake rather than a scone. This recipe was modified from the same one I used for the lime currant scones but you can see how a small difference in sugar and cream and the use of fresh fruit in place of dried makes a large difference in final texture. That’s why I think it’s important to understand the role each ingredient plays in final product — for example, sugar provides moisture as well as sweetens so if you want to reduce sugar, make sure you add some moisture or your reduced sugar product will be dry and dissatisfying, conversely adding extra sugar changes the texture too, etc.

Tartlet 2 and the younger set much preferred these softer, moister scones to the lime currant scones. The leftovers were disappearing throughout the afternoon and I was not the only one nibbling! 😉

Lemon Blueberry Scones

1 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter

3/4 c. fresh blueberries, washed and dried

1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
6-7 Tbsp. heavy cream

milk

Heat oven to 400 F.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Toss blueberries in dry mixture to dredge. Whisk together egg and 6 Tbsp. cream and stir into mixture until dough leaves the sides of the bowl, adding more cream if necessary.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly 6-8 times. Divide dough in half and roll out to 1-inch thick circles. Cut into wedges. Place on parchment lined baking sheet leaving space for them to spread; brush tops with milk. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.