custom cakes/cookies

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hogwarts Sorting Hat Cupcakes

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t completely thrilled at the “challenge” of replicating a mass-produced cookie. Sorry Nicole. But then serendipity swooped in…

My friends Jeremy and Aubrey (who own an awesome tea company) invited me to a “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” screening party. Jeremy and Aubrey throw an incredibly fun party (I’ve been lucky enough to attend several now!) complete with contests, delicious themed foods, and intricately-planned quiz show style games. Of course, if you are going to play games, you will need to separate into teams. If you are going to play games according to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry rules, you will need to be sorted to your appropriate house.

So to aid in this, I fashioned miniature sorting hats out of mallow cookies. That is, I piped the marshmallow portion of the challenge recipe into the shape of a witch’s hat using the cookie base as a brim. These were dipped in chocolate and then perched atop a chocolate buttercream-frosted, chocolate cupcake. In random order, a candy star (colored red, yellow, green or blue) was set just underneath each cookie. Here’s where the suspense is built in: guests must wisely select a cupcake and then lift off the cookie portion to reveal to which house they belong. So much fun! Try making these cookies yourself. Homemade marshmallows are surprisingly easy to “whip” up!

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

3 cups all purpose flour

½ cup white sugar

½ tsp salt

¾ tsp baking powder

tsp baking soda

½ tsp ground cinnamon

12 Tbs unsalted butter

3 eggs, whisked together

Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows

Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
Add the eggs and mix until combine.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, line baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Roll out the dough to -inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1½ inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

Homemade marshmallows:

¼ cup water

¼ cup light corn syrup

¾ cup sugar

1 Tbs powdered gelatin

2 Tbs cold water

2 egg whites, room temperature

¼ tsp pure vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235° F on a candy thermometer.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
Transfer to a pastry bag. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.

Chocolate glaze:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate

2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guest Chef for a Day

Oh my! Look what I've stumbled upon. Friday Mornings @ SELMA -- a local-foods breakfast salon. A gathering place of like-minded friends and community members that imagine a new, regional food economy. These donation-only meals take place every Friday morning in the home of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe on the westside of Ann Arbor and are a celebration of seasonal, local ingredients. The fundraising efforts of SELMA are aimed at supporting the current and future local-foods community. Besides sourcing supplies for each event from local farmers and other suppliers, the balance of proceeds is set aside for projects that build new farm/food infrastructure such as creating hoop houses, which can transform Michigan's frigid northern climate into a four-season growing environment. A weekly podcast is broadcast onsite where host Kim Bayer discusses subjects related to the re-localization of food economies--the core reasons this salon sustains.

So how thrilled was I when at my very first breakfast visit, I was asked to guest chef! Two Friday's later I was planning and cooking a breakfast for 94 friends of Jeff and Lisa. It was an amazing experience to be in the kitchen. I don't think I ever grinned wider. Of course, I couldn't have done it with out my friends who helped sous, Jeremy and Aubrey from Arbor Teas, and all of the other super helpful volunteers. Already I've signed up to do it again on August 21st. Mark your calendars! I'll save you a spot at the bar...

I finally was able to round up photos from the morning I cooked. Thank you Kim, Matt and Aswin! If anyone has more photos, please pass them along.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baked Tofu, traditional flavors powdered

The July challenge from the Daring Kitchen was hosted by Sketchy from Sketchy's Kitchen who chose a dish from Grant Achatz's Alinea cookbook - page 230. This challenge was mostly geared toward pushing culinary normalcy by delving into molecular cuisine. I have to admit, the prep that went into completing the challenge seemed a bit ridiculous at the outset, but the resulting presentation and flavor made it more than well-worth the endeavor. The flavors of these powders really pop on your tongue—the combinations are brilliant! Some alterations on my part, of course: the original recipe called for skate poached in a butter emulsion, and Sketchy suggested flounder or cod as substitutions. Wanting to keep things vegetarian (actually this time, vegan!), I opted the soy route and used locally produced Rosewood Tofu that I baked in traditional Asian flavors. For the most part, the powder preparations were a breeze. I borrowed a colleague’s dehydrator (the Snackmaster). You simply set it and forget it for 12 hours—not a bad way to start cooking a fantastic meal!

Onto the recipe:

1 lb tofu
300g fresh green beans, sliced into very thin rounds (2 mm)
300g lemons
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
150g cilantro
150g parsley

100g dried banana chips
300g powdered milk
100g cup minced red onion

200g capers (brined, not oil)

Powders – prepared in advance

caper/ onion powder

lemon powder

cilantro/parsley powder

‘brown butter’ powder

Citrus Powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

Zest lemons and poach in the simple syrup three times. Strain thoroughly and move to the dehydrating tray. 130° F for 12 hours. Pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder. If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder.

Cilantro/Parsley Powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Shake to dry and place on dehydrator tray. 130° F for 12 hours. Grind and pass through chinois. If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds.

Onion Powder
100g cup minced red onions

Place in dehydrator set at 130° F for 12 hours or microwave at medium power for 20 minutes. Pulse in grinder, then pass through chinois.

Caper Powder
200g capers

Rinse the capers in cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine. Strain well and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130° F degrees. Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix with onion powder. Or try microwaving on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir. Repeat for 30 second intervals until dry.

Brown Butter Powder

100g Dried banana chips, unsweetened
300g spray powdered milk

Preheat the oven to 350° F, sift the milk powder into a fine layer on a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat.

Grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted milk powder. Pass this through a chinois

Baked Tofu

1 pound firm tofu, rinsed, patted dry, and sliced ½ inch thick

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 Tbs agave nectar

2 Tbs sesame oil

2 Tbs minced gingerroot

1 tsp minced garlic

Preheat Oven to 350° F. Lay tofu slices in a single layer in baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over tofu. Bake 45 minutes, or until tofu is nearly dry and well browned.

To Plate:

Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the cilantro-parsley powder. Swirl these around in desired pattern. Mound green beans on plate and place tofu wedge on top, sprinkle with brown butter powder.