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Sawing Logs

21 Apr

Oh, Wilton Bear Pan, how many ways to use you! There’s bears, lions, and uh…and uh…I know there’s a ton more. Beaver! That’s it! Beaver.

Ever notice how there’s not much beaver stuff around? Ever see a stuffed beaver in the toy aisle? A beaver chocolate mold? A beaver anything? The naughty girl industry has taken over the beaver and I say we take it back! Back, I tell you! No more shall we ashamed of the word in public! No more shall we hide our liking for such an industrious beast! Chant with me: Beaver! Beaver! BEAVER!

 Uh hum. Pardon me. Must have missed a dose of meds somewhere. Today’s post is about a furry mammal that builds dams, is the original “Baby Got Back” in the tail department, and has teeth the Osmonds envy. The Castor Canadensis also happens to be the mascot of a certain fraternity (you know who you are, I need not name names).

This beaver starts with the aforementioned Wilton Bear pan. I do not promise to show you miracles for arms, as I still do not possess such enlightening. However, I can show you some stellar tail.

The pan comes with instructions. Follow them. Mostly. Lose your instructions? Here ya go:

http://www.wilton.com/downloads/paninstructions/2105-603Stand-UpCuddlyBear.pdf

While we’re clicking away, here’s a link that shows you some of the many uses for the bear that never poops in the woods:

http://www.wilton.com/shapedpan/Stand-Up-Cuddly-Bear-Pan

 Lose your clips? Wilton occasionally sells replacement here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E3107DF-475A-BAC0-517051D099ACA8A8&killnav=1

I read on the internet, back when it was the Internet, that you can use binder clips, too. Cause you know everything on the www is the gospel truth. The hubster and I conversed about such an option. After he informed me that there may be leftover oil on them from production and considering the possibilities of heating paint in the same small enclosed space as food, I decided against such folly.  So buy them when you see them.

Back to cake. The instructions will confuse, befuddle, and thrill you. Tis true, you bake him on his head. 

Tis also true you best set him on an old cookie sheet lest you like cleaning your oven.

Look, Ma! Beaver poop!

Ooooh, I don’t think he feels so good. Must have been on his head too long.

All better now? No kissing boo boos until you cool off!

Okay, enough goofiness. Someone remind me to take those meds tomorrow, k?

Take out the core, but don’t clean it just yet.

(I’ve never had one, but this is how I picture the aftermath of a colonoscopy.)

Here is the portion of the evening where I veer from the Wilton pros. I put the core back in and leave it there while it cools. Your choice, your comfort level. Other than that, follow the cooling instructions. First one side…

…then the other.

 

Now, let’s decorate! You will need brown/chocolate buttercream and some yellow and white (a small amounts). If you’re going to decorate the board, you’ll also need green. For the fondant, I used tiny amounts of black and white.

Crumbcoat your beast.

Doesn’t help with the defecation image, huh?

Using the grass tip (#233, found here: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=402-233), convince the chicklet to pipe the bear. After all, you’ve got a tail to form. Remind her that his tummy and inner ears shall be yellow, or white, before you rush out of throwing range.

While she’s planning her reveng, get out the following schtuff:

Chocolate for melting

Wilton garland marker (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E30D6CC-475A-BAC0-58FEDC73887B09DD&killnav=1)

Tape

Wide straws

Wax paper

Table knife

Sharp knife

Ruler

This is the part where we really improvise. Put a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Assemble your garland marker to a size called, “looks right.” (Poinky part facing up) Put one straw on each end of the bendy part of the garland marker. Move the other end of the straws until they are touching or almost touching and tape them to the wax paper so they don’t move. Take another straw (or trim one of the other ones before taping. That’s what my cheap tail did.) and clip off a piece to the length of “that’ll work.” Place the short straw in between the other two. Confused yet? No worries, I took a picture. It should look like this:

Look like tail you’d chase yet?

Before you melt the chocolate, read how to make the tail so you can move as quickly as you need to before the chocolate sets up. Even though my sentence will say, “Melt the chocolate,” don’t do it yet; don’t believe me, I lie.

Melt the chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the mold to a depth you are comfortable with. Too thin and it may break. Too thick and you’ll be on a sugar high until your trainer uses lunges to cleanse it out of you.

Let the chocolate cool a bit, but NOT completely. Once it  firms up a bit (but not completely hard), use the ruler and the table knife to score it into a diamond/criss cross pattern. Do NOT cut all the way through or you’ll have to start over. I am not responsible for do-overs. Now, let the chocolate harden completely and remove the mold from around the tail. Use a sharp knife to carefully remove stray bits of chocolate.

Thank the chicklet for her services, promise her you’ll pay for her carpal tunnel surgery later in life, and carefully place the beaver on the board. Use a round tip and pipe the eyes. Using the black fondant, cut small circles and place them in the appropriate pupil place, AKA “about there.” Cut a small triangle and place it in the proboscis area. Cut two small rectangles of white fondant and put them in the chopper area.

Realize that you have 5 minutes before the beaver leaves to build a dam, smear green buttercream on the board and pipe extraordinarily long grass. Consider it the beaver stocking up on vegetation for the winter. Place tail on the board in the buttage area, wave bye-bye to it, and wish it luck on its two hour car trip. Don’t tell it a horde of college kids who are always hungry and love free food almost more than checks from parents await it, should it survive the trip under the watchful eye of Mattimeo, the chinchilla.

 

Good thing I didn’t name him.

Buh Bye, Beaver Boy!

Need a Quickie?

18 Aug

Every once in awhile, life gets in the way. Oh heck, let’s just say it. Most of the time life gets in the way. We work cake in around car repairs, packing the kids off to various places, weather so hot you wilt before you get out of bed, and that elusive thing we now have to call a career instead of a job.  We’re shoving aside dinner dishes and bills trying to eke out a mere foot of space to get the crumb coat on the cake for tomorrow’s church supper. It doesn’t help that the materials and ingredients you gathered so carefully hide beneath rolling mats and cutters or you’re so addled you don’t remember you bought the perfect tool for the job months ago and end up hunting for something in the cabinets that will almost work for what you need.

 On the rare occasion that you had time to clean the kitchen that day, the last thing you want to do is mess it up again. The fam will take care of that for you, anyway. Enter “the event.” Bake sale, class snack, or office potluck is on the calendar, but who’s had time to look at that? This is when we all need a quickie. You need something decent, cheap, and quick. A small cake? Uh, no. One hour to bake, two hours to settle, hour upon hour to decorate- that’s more time than you’ll have in the next three months. Royal iced cookies? Even a simple design with two colors takes too long. Cake truffles? No room in the freezer and the chocolate magically disappeared during last week’s PMS/car broke down/kid is on your last nerve episode. Rice Krispie treats? Too simple? Eh, they can be. However, they require few ingredients, they are inexpensive to make, they cook up fast, and they require minimal counter space. It’s the simplicity that gets to you, isn’t it? Everyone loves to eat them, but no one is impressed that you made them. Anyone can turn on the stove, melt, stir, and press, right? What if we add a little something to the process? Give them a little wow factor, kick it up a notch, or whatever the latest cooking lingo is. Make the kid who forgot to tell you he needs a snack for 30 tomorrow dig out the cookie cutters and let’s get to work.

For those who have never made them… is there anyone who’s never made them? I think my kids made their first batch around 10 years old so I can’t imagine there’s a soul on this earth who hasn’t stuck a spoon in gloopy marshmallows just once. Anyway, just in case, here’s the recipe:

3 T. butter or margarine

10 oz. regular marshmallows or 4 c. mini marshmallows

6 c. Rice Krispies

That’s the official version from here: http://ricekrispies.com/recipes/the-original-treats.aspx#/recipes/the-original-treats

 

For this particular foray into the sweet world of no time, you will also need:

Cooking spray (not the olive oil stuff) or additional butter or margarine

Sprinkles- whatever you have on hand will do. If you have none on hand, don’t worry about it. Lord knows the last thing I want to make you do is make a trip to the store right now.

Get out a decent sized pot, a spoon (I prefer wood), cookie sheets, cookie cutters, waxed paper, and a plastic baggie.

A word about cutters: look at them before you start. Will you be able to see what the shape is easily? Are they tiny, fussy things? Are there parts that are too small making the treats fragile? If so, toss them back in the cabinet and choose different ones. This is supposed to easy and a little impressive. Don’t make it harder than it is. 🙂

Spray the cookie sheets with cooking spray. Put the butter in the pan, turn the burn on low, and start melting the butter. Add the marshmallows and stir until it’s all melted. Stir in the cereal and once that’s mixed decently, stir in the sprinkles.

Pour the mixture out onto the cookie sheets. Slip the baggie on your hand and press it out until it’s reasonably flat and even. Lightly spray the cookie cutters with the cooking spray and press them into the treats like you are cutting out cookies.

Once the treats are cut, remove the shapes from the pan and place them on the waxed paper to cool completely. Depending on the cutter, your time availability, your persnicketyness, etc… you may need to shape them a little or smooth them a bit more using your hands. You can reshape the leftovers and cut out more until the mixture is too hard to shape anymore. At that point, whatever happens to what’s left are wages for all you put up with in this life.

Stand back and admire your resourcefulness for a moment. Put away the guilt. No man is an island and no woman should make a Charm City equivalent creation when she has a task list that looks like your 5 year old’s Santa wish list. Trust me, it’s enough. I gave these to college students in my accounting class. The age range was barely shaving to gave up finding time to shave 10 years ago. They were impressed simply because they’re a different twist on the usual. Shoot, I’m not working right now and I only found time to write this because I can’t sleep. Therefore, if it sucks, blame typing at 3 a.m. and not the author, k?

Truffle Addition

10 Jul

Ack! I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since we’ve posted! The Summer sun calls and I’m taking yet another class that takes waayyyy too much time. I promise we’ll get our stuff together soon and post a full post. In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in something KHalstead posted here: http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=660467&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=15

Instead of using cooling racks for the truffles, she uses styrofoam. I tried it tonight and it works WONDERFULLY! Cover your styro with wax paper, shove the toothpicks through the wax paper and styrofoam and let it drip away. It’s easy to peel the drips off the wax paper and the only trimming I had to do was a tiny bit underneath the truffle. Now I don’t have to hold my breath while I pull the truffle filled wax paper off the cooling sheet and onto a cookie sheet. Woo hooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks, KHalstead!

Truffle Board

14 Jun

Whew! Modem problems, graduations, final exams, and cakes have kept me away far too long! Fear not. I have not forgotten nor forsaken you, my lovely cake friends. I have files upon files filled with scrumptious cake happenings to show you, starting with this:

For the two people who haven’t heard, one of the latest crazes in cakes is cake truffles. Please, call them truffles. They are time consuming to make and if we keep calling them cake balls no one is going to want to pay what they’re worth. Think marketing, k? Besides, some people are immature and snicker when you say, “balls.” 

Cake truffles are a great way to use leftover cake, but they can also be made with an entire cake. You will, however, have to invest mondo amounts of time to do an entire cake. Just sayin’. Plan accordingly. Basically, you smoosh the cake into crumbs, add icing, roll into ball shapes, and dip the truffles in chocolate. You can use any combination of flavors that strikes your fancy. You can add flavored oils to them if you like. You can use up leftover frosting. You can magically use vanilla cake and turn it into chocolate cake just by using chocolate frosting. They can be frozen. Watch out for bloom, though. If they bloom, thaw them until they are dry and sift either confectioner’s sugar for white chocolate or cocoa for regular chocolate over them to cover up the white spots. The spots aren’t harmful, just fugly.  I actually prefer them frozen. I should warn you: they are addictive. These are not “I need to fit into a smaller size” treats.

I’ve figured out all sorts of things along the way, but there was one issue left and I think I may have solved it. How does one set them down after dipping? I’m jumping ahead, though. Let’s start at the beginning.

The cake needs to be broken up into small pieces. It should be bigger than grains of sand, but smaller than chunks. Chunks will make it difficult to roll a smooth truffle. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is in my food processor.

Now add the buttercream. Some people use canned frosting, but the best flavor is with homemade, in my opinion. Here, I’m using bits of leftover frosting from other projects.

See the dark chocolate frosting? That’s what is going to turn this vanilla into chocolate.

The amount of frosting to use varies from cake to cake. Start small and add more as needed. Don’t go by the amount shown above as the bowl is potato salad for a family reunion huge. Start with one of the dollops shown and go from there. Test it by rolling it into a ball shape. You want it to firmly hold together without cracking.

(I added cocoa to this batch to make it more chocolately and to correct adding too much frosting.)

It will probably stick to your hands a bit once you’ve rolled 3 or 4 of them.

(Shoes are for sissies or paid orders, LOL)

Once you’ve reached the correct consistency, roll all of the truffles and as you roll them place them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.

When the sheet is full (or you run out of mix, whatever happens first), put them in the freezer. At this point you can freeze them until they are solid, toss them in a Ziploc type bag, put the bag in the freezer, and stop here until you are ready to dip them. This is handy if you don’t want to risk chocolate bloom but don’t have time to do it all right now.

Once you’re ready to dip, have the paper lined cookie sheets handy. I like to start with an empty one so I’m not maneuvering around the undipped ones. However, with my latest method, this isn’t a problem.

The type of chocolate you choose is personal preference. You can use chocolate chips, candy melts, leftover Easter bunnies, or go high class and use couverture (that’s so fancy I don’t know how to spell it). Let your budget and personal preference guide the way. The important thing here is that the chocolate must be tempered. It what you use isn’t already tempered, you’ll have to learn how to do that first. A topic for another day and for someone much more experienced than me.

Note: Chocolate and moisture do not mix. It will make the chocolate seize. You will know it has seized because it won’t be all melty and smooth anymore. You can try to rescue seized chocolate by stirring in shortening a teaspoon or so at a time until it returns to the correct consistency.

Now that you know that, chop the chocolate.

Hang in there, we’re almost done. It’s time to melt the chocolate. There are three methods to accomplish this:

Double boiler (see above pic)

Microwave (which is difficult for me to achieve the perfect temp: melted but not burned)

Crock pot type melting device (see below pic)

(The pictures I’m using are a combination of batches. The ones shown above are coconut flavored cake truffles.)

Get the truffles from the freezer while you are melting the chocolate. If you dip them when they are too cold, the chocolate will crack so you want them solid enough to hold together while dipping, but not too solid or you’ll have to dip twice to cover cracks. Dip to your heart’s content, let the chocolate set up, and they’re finished.

This brings me to my dipping experiment. As I said, I don’t have a lot of luck moving the truffle from the chocolate dipping area to the cookie sheet. I have tried all sorts of devices: toothpick, fork, spoon, and several special instruments made for chocolate dipping. None of them work to my satisfaction.  Tapping the instrument against the side of the pan helps the excess drip off but you can’t do that with a toothpick. If you don’t use a toothpick, you have to cover them completely with chocolate, which means there’s no uncovered “blow hole” to prevent blow outs. It’s a dilemma.

Instead of using cookie sheets to place them on to harden, get out your cooling racks and cover them with waxed paper. This method uses more toothpicks, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. Using one of the toothpicks, poke holes into the waxed paper.

Hopefully you can see the spaced holes in the picture. Dip the truffle into the chocolate, covering almost completely. Remember: you want a small spot left uncovered. The sensible place for this is near the toothpick which you stick into the middle of the bottom of the truffle so it won’t be seen unless someone has an uncontrollable urge to look at truffle butts or something.

(The uncovered area should be a lot smaller than shown above. This picture also shows the difficulty in dipping when the chocolate level gets low.)

Now that the truffle is dipped, you are going to put the toothpick (still stuck in the truffle) into one of the holes in the waxed paper. It’s easier to start in the center of the rack and work your way outwards.  One hand holds the toothpick from above while the other waits underneath the rack to receive the toothpick. Move slower than you think so it’s doesn’t drop from one hand to the other.

 

Place the toothpick into the hole, pause, put your other hand underneath and grasp the part of the toothpick sticking through the hole. Remove the hand that’s above the rack, and with the hand that’s grasping the toothpick below the rack, lower the truffle until it is sitting on the waxed paper. Let go of the toothpick and slowly remove your hand from beneath the rack.

Ta da!

Your truffle is now sitting on the rack and it hasn’t rolled anywhere, you didn’t scrape off chocolate getting it from the toothpick to the rack, and your fingers aren’t chocolate covered in the process.

You can dip about 6 truffles and then the chocolate is set enough on the finished truffles to enable easy removal of the toothpicks so you can reuse them for the rest of the truffle dipping.

Other than using more toothpicks, the only problem I have with this method is removing the chocolate that pools at the bottom of the truffle. When using the cookie sheet method, you can score around the bottom of the truffle before the chocolate is completely set. You can’t do that with this method. However, I always had to fine tune them with the other method, so it’s no biggie for me.

Once the chocolate is completely set and all the toothpicks are removed (you can place the racks in the fridge or freezer to hurry this process), use a cookie sheet (rimless is best) and slowly pull the waxed paper off the rack onto the cookie sheet. Most of your truffles should stay stuck to the waxed paper. If not, as long as the chocolate is firmly set, it’s not a problem. Now that they are on a solid surface, you can trim the pooled chocolate with the knife of your choice.

Eat. Enjoy. Place in mini cupcake wrappers and impress your friends with their elegance.

Just don’t try this unless it’s Halloween because people freak out far too easy and won’t eat them.

 

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?

Practice Makes Perfect or Perfect Practice Makes Perfect?

6 Apr

Spring has sprung (at least on some days). Feets and arms and knees and such are about to come out of hibernation.  Combined with changing fashions, I have to face the truth: pleated shirts cannot carry my stomach through another warm season. Getting my capris and shorts out of storage didn’t help, either. Dang it!

Something Must Be Done. Drastic Measures Must Be Taken.

But what?

I have to stop making so much cake and buttercream “just for practice.” Still, I do need the practice. My piping skills have gone from so-so, just need to perfect the rose and writing, to “are you sure you’ve done this before?”  I, my friends, have over-fondanted. I like fondant. It’s fun, it’s crisp, it doesn’t involve quite the amount of small motor skills as piping. Plus, I don’t eat much fondant as I practice. I wish I could say the same for buttercream. Fat and sugar, sugar and fat. Yum! I started playing with buttercream again to sharpen my skills. After all, some day fondant will be passé and clients will go searching for the caker who cakes “the old-fashioned way.” I must be prepared, right?

With my sugar addiction in full swing once more, and my summer clothes laughing when I tried to squeeze them beyond my Shar Pei thighs, I’m gradually changing things up in the kitchen. Mr. Handy is cool with salad for dinner once a week (after many eons of trying to slip it in) and leftovers are still breeding like rabbits since the kiddos decided to engage in some strange ritual called “college and job” so it’s easier for me to take those leftovers and make a meal for one that’s not packed full of the carb fest of rice and noodles that my Sugar Daddy, ooops! husband, adores. I’m drinking more (the non-alcoholic, non-calorie version of that word. No need to replace one addiction with another, I suppose). Still, that leaves the cake/buttercream issue. How can I practice without sugar laden goodies?  Everyone I know says they want free cakes, but no one is willing to come pick them up. That leaves a lot of cake in my kitchen.

I never wanted to do this. It seems like such a waste. Waste is bad. Save the earth, save the chocolate, save the buttercream! Alas, the return of my mother’s stomach in the mirror leaves me no choice. I must practice, gulp!, without cake. But, wait! you say; because you are smart like that. What about the buttercream? Does this mean that now I get to eat buttercream by the mixing spoonful since I cut out the cake calories? Alas, no, it does not. With the exception of the occasional, “what the crap is going on with the frosting? cake, my crumb and final coat are not a problem. I can smooth out nearly every crater you throw at me. Piping practice is what I need and that, my dear friends in cake, does not take much buttercream at all. In comparison, anyway. A quart sized baggie instead of the mondo gallon sized ones. Add in that you stick a tip in a bag, and not much buttercream flies anywhere anymore, much less near the pie hole. *Sigh* I’m in mourning. Is that natural? Don’t answer that. I don’t really want to know right now. Maybe later.

Lest you think this blog has become a confessional of purging caking demons, I do have a tutorial in mind. Waaaaiiit for it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out of buttercream. My recipe takes 4 lbs. of powdered sugar so just imagine for a moment how much buttercream that makes. A Lot. A lot of buttercream, a lot of calories, a lot of inches on the waist. We all know that no matter what we say to ourselves before it happens, there will be buttercream calories on the scale the next day. I like to think it’s magic. Too bad that magic doesn’t transfer to my once cute as heck shorts, huh?

I was firm with myself for once and made an alternate choice.

No, not that kind.

 I’ve heard you can do this with toothpaste, but toothpaste is a lot more expensive than buttercream. I think. I haven’t actually run the numbers, but it seems to my sugar addicted mind that it is. So, no buttercream and no toothpaste. What’s left?

Chocolate

Stay with me here. I haven’t gone off the deep end yet. Probably not, anyway.

Yes, chocolate is still a lot of sugar. No denying my way around that. I also love the taste of chocolate. So much that I will eat sugar-free chocolate despite a case of the toots the rest of the day.  I had been piddling around with the idea of trying chocolate transfers again. You see, I fail at buttercream transfers. I’m missing the gene for it or something. But chocolate, maybe chocolate is the answer. Plus, the chocolate discs can be used in small amounts and are fast to melt and be ready for use when I have an hour to spare to play around. The other handy property of chocolate is: it’s hard to eat much when it’s flowing like Wllly Wonka’s river through the piping bag. You’re too busy trying to keep it corralled to eat much of it. It’s also messy as heck so you spend a fair amount of time with a washcloth in one hand and a piping bag in the other.

So, chocolate it is. Now, I’m not saying I’m a whizz here. No chocolate transfer miracles occurred. These things take time and practice. But one day, maybe; one day I might practice enough and the seas will part and the chocolate will stay put and not lump and I will create awesomeness. Just maybe not today.

It helped that I just read the Whimsical Bakehouse book.

Full of chocolate plaque visions, I tried a beaver first.

Heh. He’s a bit rabid, doncha think?

It’s tough to keep the chocolate at the right temperature: melted enough to flow smoothly but not so thin that it’s running like it’s had too much fiber, if you know what I mean (These kinds of thoughts keep me from considering consuming it in vast amounts while I’m practicing). I did a little better when I free handed a cloud looking object.

Okay, maybe I need more practice. Still, it looks better than my last wrestling match with buttercream transfer, so there’s hope in there somewhere.

What I really liked was writing with it. No messing about with the elusive perfect consistency ‘cause chocolate is what it is. I got brave enough at the end to even try a little freehand action.

Yup. Still can’t freehand. However, notice that there are no breaks in the chocolate. It’s actually even fairly straight. The bottom is even, but the top needs work. Also, spacing is still a problem. I think I need to figure out how to either get a template on the cake and pipe over it or figure out how to remove the chocolate from the wax paper without breaking it so I can place the words on the cake.

Yes, I know about using piping gel and rubbing it onto the cake, but these ol’ eyes aren’t getting any sharper so I have my doubts it would be obvious enough to be useful for me. Plus, I’m pretty good at smearing things when I shouldn’t.

There’s info everywhere about how to do this, so I’ll make this short. You need:

Waxed paper

Image/template

Chocolate discs

Disposable piping bag

Microwave

Tape

You can get the template by printing the picture of your choice from your computer. I suggest one without a lot of details to start. Also, look out for impossibly teeny spaces you won’t be able to get chocolate into.  Like girl child beaver wrists.

For the writing, I used Word and typed with different fonts, and then printed it.

Place your template on your workspace and tape it down to keep it from moving. Place the waxed paper over the template, and tape that down, too. Don’t use tons of tape or you won’t be able to remove the waxed paper easily.

Place a dozen or so chocolate discs in the piping bag and microwave the bag in 20 to 30 second increments. Take it out, smoosh it around to mix, repeat as needed. Stop nuking it when it’s almost completely melted. The remaining heat and smooshing will finish the job without burning the chocolate.

Snip a tiny hole in the end of the bag. You’ll have to experiment a little to figure out the right size. If that’s too frustrating, grab another disposable bag and rig it up with a coupler and a small round tip. Not to state the obvious, but don’t put your couplers or tips in the microwave. It will be pretty, but no good shall come of it. Once you have the second bag ready, snip off the end of the first bag (the one without the coupler and tip) and insert it inside the first bag.

Now, you’re ready to practice. If you messed around with royal icing and cookies, you know what to do. If not, here’s how:

For images: outline the image, including any parts you want separated from the rest like the arms. You are building the image from the front to the back. This means you create the facial features, let the chocolate set, and then fill in the other parts like the belly and feet. If you want toe/finger nails, pipe those and let it set before you make the actual foot/hand. I hope that makes sense. Look at your image for a couple of minutes and think about how you need to build it. You may even want to write it down for reference and to make sure you’re not overlooking something.

The important things to remember are:

Let each layer harden before adding the next

Chocolate spreads

For writing: just have at it. Remember to move your arm rather than your hand and to let the line fall into place rather than trying to etch it onto the surface like you do with a pencil.

What I don’t know yet: how to make the chocolate smooth.

I know I have to keep it melted, but the stuff is hardening in the bag and I’m trying to hurry before I run out of time and it’s a rock again so I just hope it all levels out.

It doesn’t.

It seems to me that it also needs to be cool enough that it doesn’t melt the features I’ve already added (like eyes) and it also can’t push down on those features to make them spread and thus make the image look messy/creepy. Eh, it’s a work in progress.

Leftovers: like dinner, I always have leftover chocolate and I believe, with all my heart, that every time you throw chocolate in the trash, a butterfly loses a wing (just kidding, kids. Calm down). Therefore, I put the leftover chocolate into a mold and, after it sets, bag it for use another day.

Now, put down that frosting and give me 2 miles on the treadmill! The dreaded bathing suit is just around the corner!

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

 

Oh, Fudge!

20 Dec

The kitchen is clean so of course we must mess it up again right away. Why wait for the kids when you can do something yourself, right?

This recipe is from a book I stole from my mother when I left the nest. I could soft coat that, but it’s Christmas and Santa knows all anyway. It’s from an old HER Realty cookbook. It requires no candy thermometer, no marshmallow cream, and no fancy ingredients. It doesn’t even require a stove. This recipe was created using the new fangled machine of the time: the microwave. Man, I used to sit in front of ours convinced the radiation would kill me like Spock in that one movie. Ah, those were the days!

The ingredients are simple:

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 lb. Confectioner’s sugar (have extra on hand)

2/3 c. Chunky peanut butter

½ c. Unsalted butter or margarine

¼ c. Milk

 1 ½ t. Vanilla

 

Chocolate Fudge

1 lb. Confectioner’s sugar (have extra on hand)

½ c. Butter or margarine

1/2 c. Cocoa powder

¼ c. Milk

 1 t. Vanilla

¼ c. Nuts, broken (optional)

That’s it. For both fudges. Nothing fancy, nothing that takes hours, but something that will win over the boss and get your Christmas bonus after all. Hey, we can dream of more than just sugarplums, right?

First up: Peanut Butter Fudge

Soften a stick of butter and sift the confectioner’s sugar. Even if you think it doesn’t need it, sift it. You don’t want lumps or you’ll be in the kitchen all night and Santa won’t come ‘cause a creature is stirring. And stirring, and stirring.

Except for the vanilla, put all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. I use a casserole dish with its handy dandy lid for the task.

 

Nuke it for 2 minutes.

While it’s radiating itself, prepare your pan. Spray the pan or a piece of foil with nonstick spray. For the first time ever, I used wax paper. Don’t do that. It will be nearly impossible to get the fudge out of the pan. Always livin’ and learnin’ over here.

When the ding dongs it will look something like this:

Stir it for a bit so it looks something like this:

and then nuke for another 2 minutes. Stir again until it looks like this:

It will be hot, so don’t burn yourself like I usually do. Take it out and stir it until it’s smooth. Add the vanilla, and stir again.

It should look like this:

It will be thickish, but how do you know it’s thick enough? Experience. Don’t have any? I’ll lend you mine. Rarely is 1 lb. of confectioner’s sugar enough. Sure, you could give it a whirl. If it doesn’t set up, use it as a topping for ice cream or something.

If it’s not sheeting, it’s not thick enough. Add more sugar and stir it in. By not sheeting, I mean it shouldn’t run off the spoon:

Like a certain someone drooling over Clooney, huh?

If yours look like mine, add more sugar and stir it in.

Awesome one handed action shot, huh? I have the greasiest camera in town, hands down. One hand, anyway.

That’s better. It should cling to the spoon- kind of like stiff buttercream.

 

Plop the goop onto the foil.

(Pretend that’s foil. Sheer foil. My newest invention.  I’ll make scads of moolah, doncha think?)

Pick up all four corners and put the package in the dish.

Spread it around as needed.

Stick in the big cold box for at least 20 minutes. It’s done. You can freeze this, so feel free to make it at the beginning of December and pull it out Christmas Day. Because you have enough to do as the month flies by, that’s why. Do what you can, when you have time to do it.

Onto the fudge version. The process is a little different, so pay attention.

Put the butter into the microwave safe dish, and nuke it until it bubbles- about a minute or so.

Clean up tip: use the same lid you did for the peanut butter fudge. Odds are it’s still clean and it will be one less thing to wash if you use it again. Not stylish, but practical.

Working fast at this point (so the butter stays hot and it doesn’t get too stiff to work with), sift the cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar into the bowl.

Add the milk.

Now add the vanilla.

Stir it until it’s smooth and perty.

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Add more confectioner’s sugar if it doesn’t look like this:

Like before, scrape it out of the bowl and onto the foil. Pick up the corners, and place the package in the dish.

Spread it around as needed, fridge that puppy until it’s firm. If you want something with more zing!, crush candy canes and press them into the top before it sets. You could also substitute chopped candy canes for the nuts or even sub mint flavoring for the vanilla. I’m more of a purist. I like chocolate and mint, but it’s hard to eat a whole pan of it. A couple of pieces, yes. A whole pan, no. What’s the point of cooking if you don’t want to shovel down the whole batch? That would be, I dunno, normal or something. *Shudder*

Done. One hour, two fudges. No fussing with equipment. Simple. Yummy. Freezable. Why not? Santa eats it whether it takes 2 hours or 2 minutes. It’s sugar. Eat it.

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