Archive | August, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer…

27 Aug

Boy, is it hot outside. The other day I heard the weatherman on the radio say that it is starting to cool off and we would feel a difference by the end of the week. He lied. There’s no other possible explanation. As I stand outside each afternoon in the 2:00 sun waiting on the buses to come  pick up my precious first graders, I do not feel a drop in temperature. Hopefully I will soon, though. 🙂
Until then, I would like to celebrate one of the expressions that I don’t even remotely understand: the dog days of summer. How did this expression come about? Anyone know? I don’t, but I’m a dog lover so I’ll just go with it. I wish I could say that I came up with this cake design all by myself, but that would be a big fat lie. And since the weatherman already told one of those, I’ll tell the truth. I was inspired by a cakecentral.com member who goes by the username of bocaditospr. When I saw the picture of bocaditospr’s cake, I knew I would have to try something like it. So here’s my little tribute to the special 4 legged friends in my life. 🙂

I started with an 8″ round chocolate cake.

Then I carved just a little off of the top to give it an angle.

Gave it a crumb coat of buttercream…

…and then wrapped some red fondant around it. I didn’t bother covering the top, because it wouldn’t show in the end product anyways.

I needed a silver border for the top and bottom, so I made a couple from fondant and painted them with luster dust. Can you guess what it will be yet? Or did you already scroll down to the bottom to see? 🙂

Ok…..how many of you had not scrolled down to the bottom before you read that last sentence…..but couldn’t stand it after you got the idea? Just checking. 🙂 Next I rolled out some gumpaste and cut out pawprints. I only cut out three pawprints, and it will still a little tedious. Good thing I didn’t need any more than that.

Then I made a couple of dog tags so that it could be personalized. Too bad my dogs can’t read, I think they really would have appreciated that. 🙂

This dog food looks just about good enough to eat!

Of course, there is an added bonus because you only need a small amount of cocoa puffs to add on top as the “dog food.” You can eat the rest for breakfast. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: Lost, Season 6 came out this week. It’s the only season Eric and I haven’t watched yet. Honestly, I thought Season 5 got a little too crazy… but now I’ve watched so much that I just have to know how it ends. Anyone else find this show slightly addicting?

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

20 Aug

A few months ago I got hooked on a cake site, www.cakecentral.com. I started spending lots of time browsing through all of the galleries, being inspired by the absolutely amazing works of art in the form of cakes. After I’d browsed through a few thousand mouth-watering pictures I started reading through some of the forums. I found that there were lots acronyms that I didn’t quite understand, and sometimes felt like I was reading another language. I wondered why people kept talking RVs, because I had no idea what a Recreational Vehicle had to do with cakes??? But pretty soon I started catching on and I realized that on this site, RV stands for something else……red velvet. 🙂 At this point the posts started to make a LOT more sense. 🙂 There were some acronyms that I just couldn’t figure out, though. Being an elementaryschool teacher, I tried to use my reading comprehension and context clues skills, but still couldn’t crack the code. So I reverted to google. 🙂 One of the mysteries was something called SMBC. Turns out, it stands for Swiss Meringue Butter Cream. Armed with this new insight,I decided to re-read a few of the SMBC articles, and they made much more sense now that I knew for sure that they were discussing icing. 🙂

From what I could tell, this icing was supposed to be absolutely delicious. Problem was, some people also said it was very difficult to work with because they couldn’t get the right texture. Some said they followed the recipe exactly, and ended up with a goopy mess that couldn’t be piped onto a cupcake. I decided to give it a try, and found a recipe on www.howtoeatacupcake.net. This site even includes an SMBC video/tutorial, and after watching it I felt I could make a successful batch of icing. I said a quick prayer that I wouldn’t end up with a bowl full of sugary, soupy mess like some of the posters on cakecentral had……and went to work!

The first step is to cook egg whites and sugar on top of a double boiler. My mom gave me a nifty little egg separator from Pampered Chef, so it was easy for me to separate the egg whites from the yolks. Here it is in action. I just had to crack the egg into the top of the contraption, let the egg white pass through the wires, and the yolk stayed in the top. Kind of like a little egg strainer. There is probably a more sophisticated name for it, but I like “egg strainer” just fine. It’s simple and to the point. 🙂

I don’t have a “real” double boiler, like the kind my Granny uses for making chocolate pies……so I just used a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Worked just fine. The egg white/sugar mixture has to cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm. The recipe says to cook it to 160 degrees, but I didn’t have a thermometer to use so I just guessed. I probably shouldn’t do too much guesswork the first time I try a recipe, but in this case it turned out ok.

Once it was warm enough, this mixture went into the mixer (with the whisk attachment) on medium for 7 minutes. This whipped air into the mixture and caused it to form peaks (along with cooling it off).

Next you have to lower the speed and switch to the paddle attachment to add the butter, a little at a time. This was the first time I’d actually used the paddle attachment on my new Kitchen Aid mixture. I’m not going to lie, I was a little giddy. Or maybe more than a little…

Almost done! Bump up the speed again and mix for 3 minutes, allowing the icing to thicken up. Then turn it to low one more time to add the vanilla. Let it mix at low for 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. And it’s finished!

This icing takes some time to make, and from what I’ve read you shouldn’t skimp on the mixing times, because that’s where you can cause problems with the consistency. But if you’re patient enough to make a batch of this stuff……WOW, you won’t regret it. 🙂 As soon as I’d finished making this batch I tried a small spoonful and wondered why I hadn’t made it even sooner. It’s so light and fluffy, and the flavor kind of reminds me of vanilla ice cream. 🙂 It’s much different from the American Buttercream that I usually make, which is more rich and dense. I really can’t say that I like one better than the other, because some cakes taste great with a very rich icing. But then again, some would go really well with this fluffy-as-a-cloud type. The best way I could describe the texture would be whipped cream, but that really doesn’t do the icing justice at all. I’m kind of at a loss for words when it comes to this icing, so I guess you’ll just have to try it for yourself and see what I mean. 🙂

Random Thought For The Day: Several weeks ago my husband took a section of the CPA exam, and he just found out that he passed. I’m so proud of him. 😀 God is good.

The End.

Taking the Easy Way Out…

13 Aug

With school starting this week, I knew that I needed to pick a dessert to blog about that would be very easy to prepare. But…I didn’t want to have to compromise flavor for convenience. I thought Monkey Bread would be the perfect solution. 🙂 Easy to make, but full of delicious cinnamon gooeyness. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Monkey-Bread-III/Detail.aspx

If I make this recipe again, I’ll make just a few changes. I’d only use 1 cup of white sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon because I found that I had way too much cinnamon sugar for the amount of biscuits. Also, I’d only bake for 30 minutes instead of 35, because mine was a little overdone and dry. 😦

I figured….if I’m going with an easy recipe anyways, I’m going to really take all the shortcuts. The recipe said to roll each biscuit piece in cinnamon sugar. I thought even this was too much work, so I decided to put the cinnamon sugar in a big ziploc bag instead, and toss the biscuit pieces in it (I learned this intense cooking method from Shake ‘n Bake, of course).

I opened all of the cans of biscuits and put them on a cutting board, so that I could cut them into fourths. Having recently watched a re-run of Chopped, I found myself pondering, “How quickly could a professional chef chop this entire mound of biscuits?” Then I wondered, “Is that a ridiculous question? Would a *professional chef* ever be bothered with chopping canned biscuits? But really…..how quickly could it be done?”

I didn’t time myself to see how long it took me to chop them all, but I decided that a professional chef could have done it in 1/5 of the time. Not sure why 1/5, it just sounded good to me. 🙂 Then I started thinking…..once the biscuits are cut up into these pieces, it kind of reminds me of the chunks of apples that my sister uses in apple pies. Of course, I wanted to call her up and ask her to make me one, except that she lives several hundred miles away.

After I shook the pieces in the cinnamon sugar, they didn’t look like apples anymore. But they kind of looked like chicken nuggets.

Eric passed by and saw me shaking these pieces in the sugar mixture, but didn’t really see what it was I was making. He asked if I was making Chex Muddy Buddies, because I made that a couple of months ago and he remembered that I shook around the cereal in a ziploc bag. Of course, when he asked that I wanted some Muddy Buddies right away. Now I had cravings for monkey bread, an apple pie from my sister, chicken nuggets, and chex mix. Then I realized……it was after dinnertime and I hadn’t had anything to eat yet. Maybe that could explain how pieces of canned biscuits looked like chicken to me? I decided I needed to eat something….fast. 🙂

Once all of the biscuit pieces have been tossed in the sugar mixture and arranged in a bundt pan, just pour over the melted butter and bake! Super easy.

This recipe really did have a good flavor to it; it was just too well done. I was tempted to try a second batch just to see how much better it tasted, but I never found the time. If any of you try it, let me know how long you bake it. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: Some people have really weird names. After looking through all of the registration paperwork for my new students this week, I saw that one of my student’s legal middle name is “Dragonfly.” Well, technically it’s her third name, but she has four. So I guess it’s her second middle name? I don’t really understand that whole process. I thought there was a 3 name limit per kid, or something? 🙂

The End.

The REAL fun size :)

6 Aug

As I was trying to think of a name for today’s post, I thought of something that my sister, Jessica, always says.  She says that she doesn’t understand why “fun sized” candy bars are called fun size. She says it doesn’t make sense, because a tiny little candy bar always makes  you want more. She says that it would be more fun to eat the regular sized chocolate bars, not the small ones. So it would really make more sense to call a larger candy bar a “fun sized” bar. Well Jessica…this week I made a *fun* sized cupcake. 🙂 A couple of weeks ago my mother in law gave me one of those cake pans that makes a giant sized cupcake (Thanks again!). So I tried it out yesterday, and decided to try to make some sugar flowers to go on it. 🙂 I’m honestly not a huge fan of carnations, but I found a set of instructions to make them out of gumpaste and it seemed fairly easy. It took quite a while from start to finish, because I had to let each layer of petals dry before adding the next layer. But I was pretty excited with the final product. 🙂

Not bad for my first try….let’s hope it’s not just beginner’s luck. 🙂  Now onto the cake! It bakes in two pieces, the top half of the cupcake and the bottom half. I loved how easy these pans were to use, and since they were silicone it was really easy to turn the cake out of the pan without it sticking or tearing. Here’s how it looks before stacked.

I decided to ice the bottom part of the cake white, to be the “cupcake wrapper,” and then I stacked on the top layer.

I decided the top should be iced in a light pink color, to go with the carnations. 🙂

Last step: place the gumpaste carnations on the cupcake…..and it’s all done! I had a lot of fun with this, and now I’m trying to decide which flower to try next. 🙂

Random Thought for the Day: Making these flowers made me think a quote from one of my favorite movies. Who can name the movie without looking it up? “Pierre, I love you, but if you use another carnation in my bouquet, I will deport you.”

Leave a comment if you know the movie. Or if you want to tell me what your favorite movie is. Or if you want to tell me what movie you want to watch this weekend. Or if you just feel like leaving a comment. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone.

The End. 😀