Archive | May, 2010

Brown(ie) Nosing

16 May

Craving, craving, craving! For three weeks, I’ve been craving brownies. Still warm from the oven brownies. I’ve tried every substitute I could dig up from the kitchen. Thousands of calories later and I still want brownies. Please tell me why we do that? The thoughts are like this:
I want brownies

They’re bad for you

Warm from the oven

They have lots of calories

With nuts

You must learn self-control

I really love that low-fat brownie recipe

You’ll never lose weight eating this way

I know, I know

Try something else

Yeah, something healthier

That will get rid of the craving

Three weeks later, and you’ve eaten chocolate chips, cake, sugar-free chocolate, walnuts, icing, fondant, potato chips, peanut butter, celery and on and on and on.

How did that help? It didn’t. It hurt. That’s way more calories than one brownie would have been and you end up making and eating them anyway, so what’s the point?

I dunno. An exercise in self-control? Nope. I ate tons of stuff and still ate a brownie.

I say, go ahead and eat a brownie or two. Just make sure you can send the rest somewhere out of the house so you don’t eat all of them.

Low-Fat Brownies (from a cookbook that I can’t remember the name of):

(My notes are in parenthesis)

1 c. all purpose flour

1 c. powdered sugar

¼ c. + ½ T. unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ t. baking powder

1 ½ oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely broken or chopped

3 T. tub margarine or butter

½ c. packed brown sugar

2 T. light corn syrup

1 T. water

2 t. vanilla

2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8”X8” baking pan with foil, making sure the foil overlaps the dish by about 1 ½” at two ends. Coat the foil with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Sift the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, and baking powder onto a sheet of wax paper or into a bowl.

(I do this before the flour sifting stuff. Actually, I get this going and keep an eye on it while doing the flour sifting stuff. You will need the medium size pan even though it doesn’t look like it at first.) Place the chocolate and margarine in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over the lowest heat until the chocolate is just melted and smooth. Be careful not to scorch the chocolate. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, water, and vanilla until well blended. (This will take a few minutes to accomplish. Don’t get discouraged.)

Using a wooden spoon, beat the egg whites in to the chocolate mixture. (I temper the eggs first by adding a spoonful of the chocolate mixture to the eggs, stirring it, and then doing it again a few times. Cooked egg whites at this point will send you ‘round the bend so I strongly suggest tempering them before adding to the pot of chocolately goodness.) Gently stir in the flour mixture just until well blended and smooth. (Don’t overmix this at this point. Remember: it is when you add flour to baked goods that you must not mix too much or you may make the batter too tough and not get the result you want. After it’s mixed, I add about ½ c. chopped walnuts, but that’s not in the list of ingredients so carry on….) Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. (There doesn’t seem like there’s enough to spread, but keep spreading it.)

Bake on the middle oven rack for 24 to 28 minutes, or until the center of the top is almost firm when tapped. (Soft and a bit gooey is okay at this point. Right here is where too many of us go overboard and overbake and end up with cake-like/dense brownies instead of soft ones.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand for 15 minutes. Then, using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully lift the brownies from the pan and place the foil on a wire rack to cool.

Let stand until completely cooled. Peel off the foil. Cut, eat, (regret, feel guilty, do nothing about the guilt like go for a walk or not eat that evening snack, repeat, repeat, repeat.)

Yes, these are the only two pictures I have. I wanted brownies, a had not a thought about a blog post, gosh durn it!

At least I waited until the ice cream was gone. For a time, I wanted that brownie smothered in ice cream, fudge syrup, whipped cream, and topped with a few maraschino cherries. There’s some calorie savings there, anyway. Right? right? RIGHT?

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Ker-shoe! Excuse me while I make amends.

3 May

Shoe cakes are still enjoying some popularity and I am not immune. Since I still can’t walk in heels; in fact, every time I tried to wear them to school it was guaranteed that I would fall in the halls (and I had an awesome knack for somehow knowing just when they would be freshly waxed).  I naturally lean more towards Converse and less towards, as Carrie says, “the big girl shoes.” I also had to make up for this monstrosity:

 

It seems like a dream. You see, I once worked for “the man.” Forty hours every week. Plus college, plus marching band season, plus, plus, plus. I was a tad worn, a tad frustrated, a tad oppressed, a tad plum crazy. Yeah. That tends to show up in cake form when you have a few hours to get it done so you can go to bed and get those golden 5 hours of sleep before those-who-sign-your-check insist you be upright and at your desk again.

I wouldn’t call this cake a disaster. It’s all in one piece. The buttercream and fondant are smooth. The colors are pleasing. It’s just missing something. Stuff. It looks plain, like a grocery store cake. I suppose the purchased dude doesn’t help with that, either. Eh, looking back, it’s an okay cake; but who wants to make okay? I want spectacular, wow!, cool, awesome, how’d ya do that? kind of work coming from my cakeworld. I couldn’t do that right away (see above crazy life), but I determined I would fix this, someday. A shoe cake fit the bill, talked the talk, and walked the walk.

With such popularity, you think there would be a template online for this. Nope. Maybe there is now, but I sure couldn’t find one when I needed it. I’m lucky that way.  Left to my own devices/talent/imagination, I pondered my feet for a moment and realized my feet were still big. Not gigantic-special-order-shoes big, but there are no tiny dainties dangling from my spider veined ankles, either.  My feet, dear readers, are the perfect cake size. At long last, a reason for my suffering! All those years of my parents threatening to just strap boxes to feet have finally paid off!

Hmm, problem. Shoes are dirty. Shoes are smelly. Shoes are not food safe. Well, maybe if you’re an ogre or a goat or something; but otherwise it’s best to keep de feet away from the mouth whether you’re eating or conversating. With this dilemma began many tracings, swappings, and clean paperings to keep anything shoe or foot related away from the cake. I feel it’s important for you to know that ‘cause that’s how rumors start. You know who you are. Silly gossips, rumors are for turds.

As my biz math teacher says, with a hop no less, “Okay, here we go.”

The Tracing of the Shoe:

I wanted to have enough cake to carve away so I drew what would be called a seam allowance if we were sewing.

Notes on template: Carve under toe area, Carve under arch

At least, I think that’s what that says.

To help carve the sides, I made one more template:

Note that once again, I added a seam allowance.

I also took pictures of every side of the shoe for reference.

Don’t set the scraps aside yet. You still need an upper. One upper, coming upper!

Now that we have the basic shape, it’s time to fine tune it. The tongue area needs to be slanted more and we have to create a place to put a foot in- if we were going to put a foot in, which we’re not; but it’s supposed to look like you could. It’s all part of the illusion, folks.

“Gluing” more on to help create the slant:

I remembered to carve under the toe, but I decided against carving the arch. I didn’t want fallen arches and I was fairly sure that’s what would happen if I carved there and didn’t replace it with support. If I have to replace what I took away, why not leave it there and save myself some hassle?

I used a cookie cutter for the foot hole? Is that’s what it’s called? I doubt it, but today let’s pretend that’s its name, k? The depth of the hole may need some tweaking as you progress. Too shallow and it looks stupid. Too deep and you risk the outer sides falling apart. Start shallow and work your way deeper as needed, just like a blind date.

Once the cake is carved as close to your satisfaction as it’s going to get, crumb coat and decorate.

Looks like a clog so far. Fear not, cake friends! Have faith in the power of the caker!

Sing along with me: A fondanting we will go, a fondanting we will go….

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! I’ll smooth you, my pretty! Just you wait and see!

The tongue is quite a bit thicker on one end. Go ahead, check out your own ‘chews.

Don’t forget to narrow the end of the lace by rolling it between your fingers.

 

(cut two of the above shape)

I used a pastry wheel to quilt lines all along the cake, but I didn’t take pictures of that. I think you’ve seen enough of my man hands for awhile.

For a faux glimpse of the insole:

That’s your basic plain shoe. The rest of the décor is up to your crafty imagination. I added side stripes/arches and a bald dude. A cute bald dude, but bald nonetheless.

Yeah, I could not have done this in the three hours at night I had after working that “real” job.

Real jobs are overrated.

 I say marry middle-class and coast, baby!

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