April 8, 2010

On merging food with visual arts.

Posted in Links and Re-Blogs, Misc Musings tagged , , , , , , at 4:34 pm by Dani

A friend of mine recently introduced me to toxel.com, which is a fabulous website for killing time and general miscellaneous entertainment. A few weeks ago I shared with you guys a link to weburbanist.com. This is similar, but organized in a very different way, and I love it.

Today I opened up my RSS feeder and was thrilled to see that toxel had a new post up, and it was about cake! Have you ever watched Ace of Cakes on the food network? These cakes are like those from Charm City Cakes (which, in case you didn’t know, is the bakery that Ace of Cakes showcases). Check it out:

You can see the rest of the cake post here.

If you enjoyed that, maybe you’ll also enjoy this post, which is about food art creations.

I love food when it tastes good. But you know what I love even more? When it looks good too! Next time you’re making yourself dinner and have extra time to spare, try arranging your food the way the do on food competition shows; somehow your food will taste better. Presentation is 5 points, after all.

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March 26, 2010

On donuts (with bacon).

Posted in Baking, Recipe tagged , , , , , , , , at 2:39 pm by Dani

Straight from the things-that-seem-gross department, Bacon donuts:

Bacon Donut
I apologize for the quality. Phone camera. Who wants to buy me a camera?

Oh, so you want a little more explanation? Fine, be that way.

First thing’s first. Gotta give a quick shout out to my friend Sarah, with whom I have a friendship based entirely on our love for food. In short: We like cheese. Without Sarah’s support, I never would have had the courage to throw bacon on a donut.

 Bacon Donuts (and regular ones too!)

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I live (well, bake mostly) by the word of Alton Brown. So, without further ado, I give you where I started:

***PLEASE NOTE: This is not the entire episode. This is part two.

If you don’t want to watch, of if you can’t memorize all that: here is the recipe all written down for you. Food network dot com is wonderful.

First thing I do when baking from a recipe is gather the ingredients and measure them all out into containers. This might mean more dishes, but it makes everything so much easier. The end result looks like this:

Ingredients

Now lets talk about the bacon element. I really wanted to fry the bacon donuts in bacon grease, which meant I needed a lot of it. So, when I went to the market to buy bacon, I looked for the fattiest one I could find. In order to save the grease, what you have to do is lay the bacon onto a cooling rack or something similar (It needs to have holes big enough for the fat to drip through, but not too much space that the meat falls through. And of course, it needs to be oven-safe). Then put the cooling rack or equivalent into a cookie sheet or baking pan; something that can catch all the grease. This is what it should look like:

Bacon
Really really really fatty bacon. You might want to spread them out more, but I found that it was fine like this.

Bake in oven at 400 degrees F or until the fat is almost completely melted away. Be careful not to let the bacon burn because you’re waiting for the fat to melt off completely. Something to try: Maybe cut a big portion of the fat off and “cook” it without the bacon for about 10 minutes, then add the strips of meat. I didn’t do this, but it’s something to think about. I almost burned all the bacon waiting for the fat to liquify. If you really want to go all out, you could buy the fatty bacon and also a package of bacon to cook for the meat part. That way you could cook the first former without worrying about overcooking.

I poured all the grease through a regular strainer to get all the chunks out. If you have a cheesecloth you could run it through that to get a pristine oil, but this was sufficient. I ended up with about 2 cups of grease, which was enough for a small saucepan. Yeah, I know, you’re not really “supposed” to fry things in saucepans, but I can tell you from experience that it works, so who cares? This amount of grease lasted me about 10 donut holes, which was quite enough. Lastly, crumble bacon once cooled. You’ll be sprinkling it onto the donuts at the very end.

Left: Grease. Right: Bacon.

DONUT TIME!!!

Follow the instructions on the food network site I linked to at the beginning of this post. Yeah, this one. But first, read the next three paragraphs. Don’t have a stand mixer? Neither do I. Read the next two paragraphs.

two donuts: a warning
See the one on the right? That’s why you should read my advice first. The left was the second attempt. Lots of flour. You’ll understand in about 2 paragraphs.

This is the part where you’re going to think I’m crazy (assuming you didn’t already think that). I watched Good Eats, and proceeded to spend half a day trying to find a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to borrow. Seriously. Half a day. I REALLY wan’t one. Anywho, in the end I didn’t manage to get my hands on one, so I kneaded the dough by hand. After sufficient googling, I felt confident that this would work just as well. In fact, I found many webpages dedicated to the question, “Can the dough hook ever replace kneading by hand?” I took this to mean the two are relatively interchangeable. So I used my hand mixer to mix the dough until it was too think to use with my sad little-engine-that-could machine. Then I started kneading. I kneaded for about 45 minutes total.

If you use this recipe and decide to do what I did, note that the dough will be VERY VERY sticky. One option is to flour your hands and add flour until kneading is comfortable, but I didn’t want to do that because I worried that it would ruin the fluffiness of the donuts. So instead I went the patiently-deal-with-dough-stuck-to-everything route. I just kept working at the dough even though it made my hands look like Incredible Hulk hands, only not green. At first it didn’t seem like anything was happening, but I kept working the dough until eventually it was more interested in sticking to itself than anything else. The key point here: Patience.

Also worth noting is how much flour you need when rolling out the dough. The answer is: A lot. The dough was really soft, which is good, but it also means it doesn’t hold its shape so well when you try to pull it off the counter. So remember: LOTS OF FLOUR. Again: LOTS OF FLOUR. Cover your surface ENTIRELY before you start working with the dough.

Next time we’ll talk glaze. Stay tuned.

March 21, 2010

On layer cakes and Oreo frosting.

Posted in Baking, Cake, Recipe tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:46 am by Dani

A few weeks back I was watching the Good Eats episode entitled “The Art of Darkness III” The first recipe he talks about is for Chocolate Ganache. I had never before realized just how simple ganache is! Just bring together equal parts chocolate and creme. That’s it. No really, I promise. Don’t believe me? Watch it yourself:

That is it; I was hooked. I had to make something with ganache and it had to be immediate. So I went out and bought some prepackaged cake mixes (I’m usually very anti cake mix but the need for instant gratification overpowered the distaste for shortcuts) in white cake and devil’s food cake, a box of confectioner’s sugar, a box of Oreos, Ghiradelli’s 60% Cacoa chocolate chips, and creme. This is the result:

Cake

I'm into making things pretty. I only wish the frosting went on smoother.

What you’ll need:

(2) 8 or 9 inch round springform pans

(1) Serrated knife

(1) Electric Mixer

(2-3) Heavy Duty ziplock bags

(1) Pair Scissors

(1) Knife to spread with

(4) Long skewers

(2) Cake mixes, and any ingredients called for on the boxes

(1) Package confectioner’s sugar

(Approx. 15) Oreos

(10 oz.) Chocolate

(10 oz) Whipping creme

(1/3 cup) butter, room temp

(Approx. 1/4 cup) Milk

Optional: Food Processor, small pot, mixing spoon

1. Prepare both cake mixes, baking each in one of the springform pans. Chill them in the refrigerator.

2. Combine confectioner’s sugar and butter with hand mixer on high, add milk a little at a time until the consistency feels right. I’ve talked about this process before, and you’ll see it again because I LOVE FROSTING.

3. Put 6 Oreos into a ziplock bag, and crush against the counter or with the flat side of a knife. As fun as beating up cookies can be, please refrain from being too aggressive. If the bag breaks it’s not so fun to clean this up.

4. Add Oreos into frosting and set aside. Do not refrigerate.

5. Ganache time. Chop up chocolate either with a knife or food processor. Heat the cream barely to a simmer, and pour it over the chocolate. Let this sit for 2 minutes. As Alton would say, “Just walk away.”

6. If using a food processor, pulse it 2 or 3 times, or until the creme and chocolate are combined completely. If using a spoon to mix, quickly stir until the same blend is achieved.

7. Lets return to the cakes. Use the serrated knife to even out the tops, and slice through the cakes parallel to the bottom of the pans, to create 2 thinner layers out of each cake. I used the Betty Crocker mixes, and they held together great.

8. Pile up the cakes while the ganache it is still warm and liquid-y. Pour about 1/4 of the ganache over the center of the bottom layer, and spread it around, avoiding the outer 1″. Place the second layer over this, and repeat with the 2nd layer, then again with the 3rd. Over the 4th layer also add ganache, but this time spread it all the way out, and also coat the sides of the cake.

Cake Innards

Cake Innards

9. Use the 4 skewers to stab the cake from the top all the way through, evenly spaced, to keep the layers from sliding around as the ganache sets.

10. Refrigerate for a few hours, or until ganache is stiff and cake is solid.

11. Now you can frost the entire cake with your Oreo frosting, and use the rest of the cookies to decorate. I suggest filling a plastic bag with the frosting and cutting of 1/2 inch from the corner, and using this to pipe the frosting over the cake before trying to make it smooth with a knife, and putting the leftover frosting in the last bag and cutting off a much smaller tip to decorate. This is how I decorated, but you can let your imagination run wild.

Top of cake

Stay tuned for my next layer cake: Mommy requested one for her birthday, which happens to be passover. Should be interesting.