Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas cake and Christmas pup

Christmas cake: chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream
For Christmas, I got to make a baby's first Christmas cake for a very special baby, Sydney Mae. I decided to make another giant red bow because I'm really loving how my bows are looking lately. I like to make them hugely puffy (a quality, in truth, that's only desirable in a bow).

I added candy canes, which I made out of fondant, and a few holly sprigs (thanks again to the incomparable holly-making skills of my partner, Anthony).

I made the candy canes by rolling out to thin ropes of fondant, one red and one white, twisting them together, then rolling the twist out two meld the two ropes together. They looked freakishly realistic once they were dry.

Chris and I have adopted a seven-year-old Shih Tzu named Skippy and it took me no time at all to become completely obsessed with him.

I have this week off and I am already dreading having to go back to work because I will miss hanging out with my pup all day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

two-tiered holiday cheer

first birthday cake with vanilla cake and nutella buttercream
This holiday cookie-themed cake was for Xavier John who turns a year old today. The cake was for his birthday but also for a cookie baking competition and party that his mother, Erika, holds every year during the holidays.

Anthony and I decided that since this cake was for the cookie party as well as a Christmas birthday, we would make blinged out gingerbread "cookies" out of fondant and decorate them with royal icing and gold dragees. We made Christmas tree shapes, stars, snowflakes, gingerbread men, candy canes and ornaments. They looked so real I wanted to bite right into one.

Anthony created the finishing touch in the form of a few of his lovely sprigs of holly that we tucked in next to the cookies.

lemon tarts with toasted meringue
I also made lemon tarts for Chris' Christmas party at work this past week. Fifty bite-sized tarts in crispy, buttery pastry shells. I was able to get the scalloped edge on the shells by cutting out the pastry dough with a scalloped cookie cutter. Yeah buddy.

For the filling, I used a lemon cream which is lemon curd but with much, much more BUTTER in it. The trick is to cook the eggs, sugar and lemon juice first, then let the mixture cool enough so that when you add the butter, it doesn't melt but emulsifies instead. Once you chill it, the mixture come together to form a very thick, buttery cream.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the bent spoon

the bent spoon
The weather was so lovely this weekend, Chris and I trekked down to Princeton, NJ to listen to some choral music at the university, eat an amazing brunch at Elements and try ice cream from a business I've admired from afar for a long time now.

The Bent Spoon offers a selection of 16 flavors of ice cream which they display in gelato pans. The girl at the counter said that they spin their ice cream with very little air in it, just like gelato, by using a gelato paddle in their batch freezer. The result is deliciously smooth and intensely flavored. They focus on using local, seasonal ingredients and get all their dairy from a small dairy co-op. I'll let you know what the name is exactly once I find out. I e-mailed the owners and am waiting to hear back. Good NJ dairy is nearly impossible to find...

I was still stuffed from brunch so I ordered two sorbets, grapefruit and cranberry ginger apple. Both were pleasantly tart though a little sweet for my taste. I also wished the ginger came through a little more in the cran-apple ginger. I LOVE me some spicy ginger. Chris had coconut ice cream and chocolate hazelnut ice cream. Again, both were a little sweet for me, but overall delicious. I also asked for tiny samples of a pair of new fall flavors, pumpkin mascarpone and honey. The honey was hands-down the best flavor I tried.

The Bent Spoon also offers large and miniature cupcakes and a assortment of cookies and other baked goods. I settled on a mini vanilla cupcake and a chocolate chip cookie.

The cookie looks the way I want a chocolate chip cookie to look. Pockets of chocolate seep through from the inside and the center looks slightly cratered so you know it wasn't over-baked. When you break the cookie in half, you can see that they threw whole round chocolate pieces into the dough (the girl at the counter said they use Guittard chocolate) so that they melt while baking and form stratified layers of chocolate inside the cookie. YES. VERY TASTY. I thought the actual cookie part was, unfortunately, a bit bland. It did look beautiful, though, and was perfectly baked and yes, I ate the whole thing. Sorry Chris.

I took a small nibble from the cupcake icing and immediately knocked it off. I am just not a fan of that birthday cake frosting (butter, confectioner's sugar and milk). It's too sweet, too grainy and forms a weird hard shell on the outside when it sits too long. The cake was very moist, but again, I wished for a bit more flavor. Maybe they were using more oil than butter in their baked goods? Not really sure. It looked adorable, though.