Saturday, May 28, 2011

trois gâteaux

vanilla cake with nutella buttercream
What's better than one layer cake covered in swirled vanilla frosting? Why three cakes, of course. I love this kind of set up. Three identical cakes on pedestals. It's like a mini dessert buffet.

Anthony and I worked on the cakes last night and Chris and I delivered them this morning. We got lost and spent a half hour frantically driving around looking for the location and seriously regretting being mired in the dark ages of technology (neither one of us has a GPS or a smart phone. GASP. The horror, the horror.) We eventually found our way there, though---thanks Lindsay!---and delivered the cakes on time.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

i went to rome for the gelato

If I'm being honest, the main reason I wanted to go to Rome on vacation was to try as much gelato as possible. That and drink an unreasonable amount of coffee. Below I present a humble list of the places I went and the flavors I ate while in Rome.

san crispino
flavors: pistachio, caramel meringue, stracciatella, chocolate, honey, crema, pear ginger

This was the first place we went because there was an outpost just two streets away from our hotel. The snooty way they keep their gelato---in deep silver bowls with lids---matched the snooty attitude of the workers. I've read several times that this is the favorite gelato of the masses and it made sense once we tried it. Their gelato lacked any assertive flavors and left no impression on me. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. The caramel meringue was their best effort. I enjoyed the bitter caramel and sweet and crunchy meringues. But the rest just failed to impress.

flavors: caramel, coconut, dark chocolate, mint

This place gets a lot of play in the blogosphere as well. After my visit, I wasn't sure why. I know you can't pass judgment by tasting only four of Giolitti's extensive offerings, but all four were so loathsome to me, I just couldn't see plunking down another 7 euros to give them a second chance. The caramel tasted like they melted down a bunch of those cheap butterscotch hard candies from Brach's, added some milk, and froze it. The coconut was overly sweetened and the mint assertively flavored with what tasted like a bad mint extract (or Altoids, perchance?). The chocolate was the only passable flavor.

cremaria monteforte
hazelnut, fior de latte, stracciatella, chocolate hazelnut, melon, yogurt, chocolate mousse, almond

The gelato here was consistently delicious. The hazelnut was outstanding, as well as the melon, chocolate hazelnut, yogurt, stracciatella and chocolate mousse. The fior di latte had a light, pure flavor, but was a bit icy. I expected the almond to have as intense a flavor as the hazelnut, but it paled in comparison, which was a great disappointment.

fior di luna
chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, rice, chocolate chile, coconut and pine seed

There was a sign here that talked about the importance of sourcing ingredients for the gelato they made. And it showed in the purity of the flavors---everything we tried was delicious. The pistachio was my favorite, followed by the pine seed, which leaned pleasantly toward the savory side. My only complaint was that the chile was a little too spicy. Chris gave up after two spoonfuls because it was starting to make him choke.

old bridge
flavors: coffee, rice, nutella, ricotta with pistachio croquante

This shop did not blow me away. The nutella was chalky and they had dropped a few pieces of Baci candy in it by mistake because the Baci flavor was placed right next to the Nutella. The coffee tasted off (maybe flavored with extract) and the rice tasted like they just folded in some cooked rice, which was odd. But then there was the ricotta. SO DELICIOUS. It wasn't overly sweet and the caramelized pistachios were crunchy and bitter. This was one of the best flavors I tried during our whole trip.

fata morgana
flavors: basil, banana with walnut croquante, honey, lemon curd, baklava, tiramisu

If you go to only one gelateria in Rome, you have to go to this one. The flavors were crazy and all delicious. This is the place with the much-hyped Kentucky flavor----chocolate mixed with tobacco (didn't try that one, though, because it's not my style). The basil was light and refreshing and the lemon curd intensely tart. Wished I could have tried the licorice, the white chocolate pine nut or the poppy seed, too. Sigh.

caffe san eustache
I went here for a cappuccino because it reputedly has the best coffee in Rome. I actually had a hard time finding the coffee underneath the stiff, rubbery blanket of foam on my drink. I went back and ordered a straight up espresso and I liked it much better. After that, I stuck to ordering espresso, so I could better judge the taste of the actual coffee. And it was all terrific, no matter where we stopped. I am missing Rome's coffee already...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

the cake we cut in half

vanilla cupcake cake with nutella filling
This cake for a Sex and the City themed bridal shower was inspired by a fairly famous and ridiculously expensive purse. Anthony used the giant cupcake pan to bake the cake, which made getting the right shape quite simple. The real problem came in recreating the tiny, metallic crystals that cover the actual purse.

We tried using sanding sugar first. It was impossible, though, to get the definition we needed to make our "crystals" look authentic.

Next up, piping tiny royal icing circles all over the cake---translate"pain in the ass." We finished half of one side and made an executive decision that it just wasn't going to look realistic enough. ARG.

I should add that at this point we had cut the cake in half.


Why? Because it made adding sanding sugar or piping royal icing on it so much easier if the two halves of the cake were lying flat on sheet pans. Our next idea was to cover the cake in fondant, so we had to reassemble the two pieces. Anthony added a small amount of buttercream to each side, pressed them together and covered the miraculously resurrected cake in fondant.

But back to the crystal problem. After the cake was covered in fondant, we used a piping tip to press small circles into the cake to mimic the crystals. We then used luster dust to shade the cake and add details.

My next post will be from the Eternal City---Rome! In preparation, I have been working on two phrases in Italian that I intend to use every day:

"Un cappoccino, per favore!"

"Una coppa con due gusti, per favore!"