Tag Archives: review

A Tale of Three Cookie Sheets

21 Mar

Recently, hubby and I trekked to the big city for a cheapo dinner (his favorite kind) and he surprised me by purchasing a chocolate chip cookie for me whilst I was making the obligatory potty stop before the trek back to the wilderness. (So much for sugar detox, right?) I could have looked past the milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, but Lord, I’ll never forgive the preservatives in those “fresh baked” dailies. It must be bad if I can taste it because unnatural, preserved beyond eternity doesn’t usually bother me at all. I’m just in it for the sugar buzz.

However, had it not been for the laughably bad commercially sold cookie that is marketed as “fresh baked daily,” I never would have been in the mood for a real chocolate chip cookie. Thanks or blame? You decide.

Having nothing better to do, okay- that I wanted to do, I cooked up a scientific experiment.

For my little foray into the scientific world, I used the exact same recipe but 3 different sheet pans/cookie sheets. One is the run of the mill jelly roll pan, one an airbake (which may or may not be a copyrighted term) type, and the last one a non-stick airbake pan. No, I don’t know why I have 3 different cookie sheets in my kitchen. It’s a recent development. I decided to not ask why, but just accept them for who/what they are.

This recipe is for a chewy cookie and experience with it has taught me that if you bake them until they look like all other cookies (that is, nice and brown), they will be as hard as your husband’s head when he thinks mixing your pink shirt with his tighty whities is a stellar way to save time and energy. Each batch of cookies was baked for the exact same time.

First up: the regular airbake pan.

These had to cool longer than usual in order to get them off the sheet in one piece. I assume this is because the pan retains heat longer? Good to know.

Next: the non-stick air bake pan:

As you can see, they are puffier than the other batch. However, they soon deflated to look like all the rest.

Lastly, the jelly roll pan:

I baked them for the same amount of time as the other pans even though (when I’m not experimenting so as to eat cookies without guilt) I normally bake them a minute or two longer. These look under-done. In fact, they looked under-cooked for a full 24 hours. They even tasted a bit like it. Not enough to keep away the chow hounds, but still.

For the last trip through the oven, I used the regular airbake pan again but this time I left them in the oven until they looked like cookies are supposed to look when they are done. They weren’t nearly as soft, yet they never reached the rock solid stage they do when I’ve cooked them for the full time with the jelly roll pan. Still edible, but not as yummy.  At least, not as yummy for those of us who like our cookies chewy.

Side by side comparison in the same order as baked:

Left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Again, left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Once more for the folks with short-term memory loss, left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Below is the last batch that I baked until brown. “How dry I am! How dry I am!”

What, you might ask, did I learn from this experiment? Nada dang thing. Except my cookie recipe is soooo much better than the ones for 2 bucks at that one restaurant. You know, the one with the subs. They should stick to bread and meat. 

Clean up volunteers get a free cookie!

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You talkin’ to me?

27 Sep

Frosting chick: Dude, have you seen the number of hits on the blog?

Fondant chick: More hits than Pete Rose back in the day.

Frosting chick: Yeah, and just about the amount of feedback he gets today, very little! How come nobody’s commenting on anything?

Fondant chick: Maybe we’re not interesting after all and our friends are blowing smoke up our patooties when they say they like it?

Frosting chick: C’mon, really? Would they keep ordering cakes if it were really all about the patootie smoke? SOMEBODIES are coming here, the question is, who?

Fondant chick: Aliens, then. Definitely aliens. They’re coming to steal our cake. I just know it. My mother-in-law says so.

Frosting chick: That would explain the sudden loss of aluminum foil in the shop… but perhaps they’re looking for something more. Like insight into the female psyche through witty and smart blog entries?
Fondant chick: Is hubby acting up again-because that sounds more like what women wish men would do. Maybe we’re so good that we leave nothing for our stalkers to say?
Frosting chick: READERS! They’re called “readers”! (*nod to “You’ve Got Mail)

Fondant chick: Ahem. Sorry. Readers. Stalkers=bad, readers=good. Got it. Please excuse my momentary confusion. The lack of comments must be affecting me terribly. Poor self esteem and all that.

Frosting chick: I dig. But we can’t let it get us down. Did you do your affirmation(s) today?

Fondant chick: Darn it! I forgot. All the wondering about the lack of comments has just filled my day. *Sigh* and I have so many other things I need to do. Why oh why don’t they comment? *Whimper* Why am I rejected yet again?
Frosting chick: Now, now, there, there. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation why were not getting any responses. *sniff sniff* we don’t smell…

Fondant chick: My son smells. Maybe that’s it? Naw, surely they can’t smell him all the way over there. Perhaps the awesomeness of our cakes leaves them speechless?

Frosting chick: Hey, if you can’t smell my hubby’s feet from your house, I doubt anyone can sniff out boy wonder. You might be onto something with this whole “awesomeness” thing, my affirmations tell me so. Following the philosophy of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, perhaps our sweets can CHANGE THE WORLD!!!!!! Eh, sorry. Ok, so it’s not that… perhaps it’s stagefright on the readers part?

Fondant chick: Stagefright? Perhaps we should say something really stupid to make them feel safe? You know, “they have already written something so stupid what I type cannot possibly sink to that level.” Or have we already done that? Just in case we haven’t, I’ll start: I didn’t know Jimmy Hendrix was an African-American until I was in my 20’s. Not good enough? How about this: I cannot pronounce dragees or Tuscarawas or Worchestershire. Still not good enough? Okay, okay. I’ll deny this if it ever gets out, but I regularly fart in public. Hmm, maybe those aren’t stupid but are just private confessions. You got anything?

Frosting chick: Heck yeah! I, uh, can’t believe you didn’t know about Hendrix!
Let’s see…. I regularly retain my “Mother of the Year” status by feeding my ADHD crazy boy PB&J’s for dinner. Now that hubby is gone most nights, I don’t have to cook! I’m totally loathing the upcoming birthday cake I’m doing for next week.  I despise vacuuming. Oh, and I hate feet!

Fondant chick: Feet? Really? Well, I think knees are ugly, if that makes you feel better. Not just my knees, knees in general. Maybe they think we intimidate them? How about this: the first time I made a ball cake, it was raw in the middle. I swear I thought it was done. I checked it with a toothpick and everything. Or maybe this: I am initimidated by other people’s cakes. That is, right up until I see a professional’s work that is not that great. Then I wonder why I’m not rolling in the bucks and world famous. Or at least state famous.

Frosting chick: I getcha. Feet are like deformed hands at the bottom of your legs.  Ok, in tracing my ‘caking’ history, I must go back to the mid ’80’s. I decided that I could absolutely make a TMNT cake. Just the head, I wasn’t all turtle shell crazy. Anyway, to make a long story short, there was just something NOT right with his eyes, and we named him “Retardo”, in the fashion of Donatello, Leonardo, etc… I’m in my 40’s now, don’t make me try to name them. If I ever come across a pic of Retardo, I’ll post it right away.

Fondant chick: Oh, yeah- every cake I’ve ever done has something that is “not quite right.” If I’m lucky, that side becomes the back. If not, I keep my mouth shut and hope no one notices. You know what? They RARELY notice.
So c’mon! If you say something stupid, we promise not to notice. If you say something mean, we’ll try to slay you with a witty comeback. Not a mean one, one we can all laugh about. Stop leaving us hanging out here in cyberspace wondering if we should keep posting or throw in the spatula!

Frosting chick: Yeah, throw us a bone here. Got a question? If we don’t know the answer, maybe someone else who visits might! Got a cake coming up and need some ‘outside the box’ idea’s? We might be able to come up with a concept you haven’t thought of. Tap our creative minds, it’s free!

Fondant chick: Remember, we’re all in the same bowl of frosting together! Okay, that sounds odd. You know what I mean. We all have problems and ideas, even if those ideas turn out to be ones we should have left buried in the compost pile in our minds.

tn

Yeah, can you imagine what it was like to be in THIS bowl of frosting?

P1000614

Cake Chicks Undercover

21 Sep

Have you ever wondered what a cake decorating contest is like? If you could “hang” with that crowd? If you have a snowball’s chance of competing? So did we. What’s a cake chick with a longing to do? Spy, of course! We’re so good at it, we didn’t even have to lurk around corners to get the story. We walked right in, spoke to people, gawked, took beau coup pictures, and boldly snagged pieces of each cake even though we were supposed to limit ourselves to one. Hey, it’s not my fault they didn’t say that before they started passing the plates!

Here’s the set-up: contestants arrived one hour prior to the competition to set up. They have one hour to finish decorating their partly finished cakes in front of a live audience. And they were definitely live. A little too live at times. Kids, young adults, and way grown people alike were both nervous and excited- too much so at times. While the contestants are decorating, judges interview about their creations. Eek! Go away! They only have an hour!

 After the time allotted has passed, the judges get to work and eat cake while we watch and are served our own pieces. Badda bing, badda boom, winners are announced, and we all go home entertained, full of cake, and a little more educated.

 There you have it. That’s how it works. Satisfied? *Sigh* I thought not. Okay, here’s the whole scoop on this particular contest:

 We arrive at the much disclosed location and pull up to the little booth where they keep the parking attendant hostage. When we fork over our hard-earned-we’ve-got-bills-to-pay five bucks for parking, he sees our swank attire and posh vehicle, takes pity on us, and gives us two free tickets to the event. Score!

 Park the hoopty, walk into the building, and wander around acting like we belong. The contest is being held during a home improvement show so we totally blend in. We look like we drop a hundred grand on a patio, right? Suuurrrre.

 Okay, in our zest and excitement, we’re a lil early for the contest. We get the lay of the land and now the contest starts in….an hour and a half. LOL Hey, at least right outside there’s a horse show of some sort. Let’s go check that out…. Well, city cake chick is not fond of the aroma and country cake chick still can’t stand to see a whip used so let’s not hang here too long. Blah, blah, blah, kill time and check on progress. Nope, zoo dude is still hogging the stage. Lunch? One taco, two drinks, and too much money later, it’s time to check again. Whoo hoo! Snag a couple of seats and wait for the big event to start!

 Waaiit a minute. Where’s the nekked cake? Why are these covered? They look almost done. What’s going on here? Hmmm, guess I should have read the rules a bit closer. I was ready for them to start from baked nekked cake and end with a completed masterpiece. I mean, that’s why I said, “No way am I ready for that” when asked if I was interested in competing. Shoot, had I known all I had to do on site was the actual last hour of decorating any cake I might have tossed my spatula into the ring. Or not. I’m pretty chicken, that’s why I’m a cake chick and not a cake lion or something else equally fierce.

 Cake chicks and cake roosters, there is fondant everywhere! As far as the rolling pin can reach, there is fondant. Out of 5 contestants, there is 1, yes 1, fondant free cake. Here. In middle America. In a town nicknamed Cowlumbus. Fondant. Huh. Whoda thunk it? And not just accents, either. Entire cakes covered. In fondant. I thought for awhile there I’d have to pull my fellow chickie out from under the folding chair where she was rocking herself while in the fetal position. Fondant has officially taken over the world if it’s here.

 Hey, I’m a fondant fan. I’m also a buttercream pipe dreamer. I can eat buttercream literally by the bucket if not stopped but fondant? Yes, I’ll have one piece, please- but only if it’s a kind that tastes good. I’m a wannabe buttercream piper. I’m practicing my skills dreaming that one day a client will ask for an 8 tier wedding cake with royal string work and intricate scrolls and I’ll say with confidence, “I can do that, no problemo.” In the meantime, I fondant. Not that fondant is simple or easy. It’s just a different talent and skill. One I already have. Piping does not come naturally to this cake chick- which makes it all the more exciting to try to conquer.

 Anyway, fondant is definitely here, but there’s some buttercream work, too- along with *gasp* chocolate! Yum, white piped chocolate! *Swoon* Now it’s my partner’s turn to pick me up from the floor. Where I’m crawling towards the table trying to sneak a taste. “Whoa, there, Nelly! Don’t make me harness you and put you in the ring outside!” Alright, alright, I’ll sit back in my chair. For now.

 After we peruse the offerings, the contest starts with minimal fanfare. The crowd quiets for a bit as the work begins- but no for long. Every contestant has their cheering section and some lend quiet support, but others, not so much.

Dispatch Cake Contest supporter compressed

At this point, one of us is sliding in and out amongst the chairs and onlookers taking pictures whilst the other is “standing on ballerina toes trying to see over the heads of the RELATIVES WHO GET TO SEE THESE FOLKS WORK ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!!!!!!!!” Ahem. As I said, some were calm and others were not.

 La, la, la, la- contestants are covering cakes with fondant, applying borders, covering cake boards, piping basket weave, etc….etc…etc…. It was difficult to see due to people standing and the set up of the whole shebang. Every 15 minutes or so one of the judges announces the time left. Roughly half-way through, a local reporter/judge talks to each one of the contestants asking about the inspiration for their cakes and each caker’s experience with cake. Near the end, the crowd’s patience is at an end and they start filing by the tables, completely blocking the view of anyone polite enough to stay back and let them work without interference. Argh! A child’s curiosity gets the best of her and I see her reach out and quickly slap a cake. Aaaahhhh! I swear, this next part was pure reflex on my part. I’ve been a parent too long. I should have been given more time off as a parent. You would have done the same, I swear.

 I slapped my fellow caker. Yes, slapped. Reflex, I swear. It was as if I was reaching out to slap that child’s hand away from the cake. At the same time, I gasped, “She’s touching it!” Fortunately, the slap was gentle enough that my bud just said, “what?” like a fellow exasperated mother who’s been interrupted one too many times. Security like people (if you can call people in golf shirts security) quickly set up a barrier and the cake was unharmed. Whew! Disaster averted.

 The whistle blows signaling the end of the allotted time and we are all given one more chance to take pictures and shuffle by the cakes. Contestants cut into their masterpieces and the judging begins. We were, umm, too busy eating cake to watch much of the judging. J Hey, you have to know if it tastes as good as it looks, right? I mean, in the end, cake is for eating.

  How did it taste? Disappointing. Then again, I had pretty high expectations so my disappointment was partly my fault. I was looking at the decorators as semi-gods. Obviously, they were confident enough to enter. If they entered, they must have thought they had a decent chance of winning. Judging by their supporters, other people thought so as well. I naturally assumed a person with such high decorating skills would have equally high baking skills. I mean, it’s cake, right? You eat it. Your family eats it. Your friends eat it. Your coworkers eat it. There must be something extraordinary about it, right? Nope. Box mix, box mix, box mix, box mix, probably altered box mix. Call it fudgy chunky pumpkin whatever. It’s a box mix. Huh. So what’s all fuss about scratch vs. box again? Hey, I like box mixes. I make them a lot. It’s just that I had different expectations. I definitely didn’t expect the chocolate to be burnt, but let’s not point fingers at what I’m sure is already an embarrassing enough situation. Can you imagine when that caker got home with the leftovers and discovered that little oopsie? Oh my!

 Other unexpected discoveries were:

 Wilton boxes. Yep, flimsy as they are, every box I saw was a Wilton.

 Not a Viva paper towel in sight. I guess they all trusted their icing to remain perfect. The paper towels I saw had prints or patterns on them.

 Fondant- the homemade one was okay- tasteless, which can be a good thing. It didn’t compete with the cake or buttercream flavor at all. The stuff that wasn’t homemade and that was served was…weird. Very stretchy. The person who flavored their fondant with pumpkin pie type spices- don’t do that. Weird and ick, ick and weird.

 Square corners with ripped fondant. As we all know, that’s what décor is for, right?

 Crooked borders

 Not an airbrush in sight, but there was a can of Wilton spray color involved.

 One person out of 5 wore gloves. None had their hair covered. In fact, one long haired contestant didn’t even pull the hair back in a ponytail. Not all wore aprons.

 The buttercream layer under the fondant was maybe 1/8” thick. Mine is closer to ¼”

  Just interesting observations. Observations that make me think I’m too hard on myself and perhaps I’m ready to play with big guys. Or maybe the medium guys.

 In the end, the little details didn’t seem to matter that much. As someone said to me, “You could have Jesus spinning on top of a pumpkin, and the ‘shoe would still win.” Sorry if that offends anyone, but there’s a truth to it.

Dispatch Cake Contest 'shoe compressed

The horseshoe stadium wins every time. Something to remember, no? I’m not saying she didn’t deserve the win, not at all. She gave a terrific explanation of her inspiration for her cake and she does a mean, fast, straight basket weave, after all.

 Check out the detail on this apple:

Dispatch Cake Contest apple compressed

“Gorgeous!” (must be said in a certain tone of voice with jazz hands) Again, to be fair, the judges were not cakers. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. Only cakers truly know the exquisiteness of a well turned out shoe:

Dispatch Cake Contest william's shoe compressed

or perfectly executed cutey pie pumpkins:

Dispatch Cake Contest baby pumpkins compressed

or the real difficulties of a chocolate collar (even if the decorator says it’s easy):

Dispatch Cake Contest chocolate collar compressed

I guess I just wanted all the cakes to win or something. Each one had their own specialness to it. Each stood on its own as a work of edible art. But dang, did you have to go all ‘shoe on them??? LOL

So, judge for yourself. I know you can’t taste them so you’ll just have to go on decorating skill alone. Which one would you have chosen?

Dispatch Cake Contest 091 'shoe cake done compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 090 pumpkin and stump compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 074 chocolate cake compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 092 pumpkin house compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 093 square cake compressed

 

Bettercreme: A Better Cream?

30 Aug

bettercreme frontIn case you haven’t read it already somewhere in the vasty vastness of the World Wide Webster, Bettercreme is all the range in some circles. Since I’m not one to miss out on all the latest and greatest (scrunchies are still in, right?), I thought I’d give it a whirl to see what all the hubbub is about. After all, if there’s something out there better than buttercream, it behooves us all to jump on the bandwagon lest we be left behind once again (Don’t ask. It involved Sea World and my sister. Very traumatic). 

I’m not sure if a rose by any other name is still the same, but I’ve seen Bettercreme used interchangeably with Better Cream, Better Crème, Butr Cream, Frosting Pride, etc…. I’ve also seen correction after correction that one is not the other. Since Bettercreme is what I could get my hands on without unduly inconveniencing myself, that’s what I purchased. After sitting in the freezer for a few weeks because I was scared (What if it is better? What if I wasted my money? You know- all that psychological chicky nonsense.) I sucked it up and tried it out for my daughter’s bday cake. I certainly couldn’t use it for the first time on a client’s cake and I knew this cake would already be too much for us to consume without eating it at every meal for the next week, so what better time than now?

 Before we start, a bit of a disclaimer: who knows if I actually did this right? I tried to follow all the info I read when I made it, but things tend to happen in my kitchen and the old grayer-all-the-time brain matter isn’t quite what it used to be concerning retained info. Sure, I could have collected all sorts of notes, studied them, created a step-by-step instruction sheet, but why do that when you can wing it? My other disclaimer is this: every one has different tastes. What I love you may find nauseating and vice-versa. My chemical overload may be your fresh as pure cow’s milk nirvana. To each their own, and as my mamma says, “It takes all kinds to make the world go round.”

Now, for the process. Step one: read the carton. I’m smart like that. Step two: realize you forgot to thaw it so set it on the counter to thaw while you continue making the cake.

bettercreme back

Now, kvetch a little bit because you didn’t chill your bowl and beaters. Then decide to think like Martha and put ice in a bowl with water to place under the mixer bowl so it will whip faster. Spill water everywhere trying to get the bowl of ice water under the mixer bowl and get the whole ghetto set-up on the mixer. Pour off some of the water and repeat. Try it one more time for good measure and then give up because you realize this is taking more time than if you had gone ahead and chilled the stuff before you tried channeling Martha. Maybe I’m not so smart after all?

 After giving that up, pour the amount you need in the mixer bowl, attach your handy-dandy whisk, and start the mixer. I read that you can flavor and color this stuff, so I carefully added a tablespoon of good vanilla and some green gel coloring. Whip, whip, whip and check periodically to see how stiff it’s getting. When it reaches stiff peak (that’s when you lightly dip your beater or a spoon onto the top of the mixture and lift straight up. If the peak doesn’t form, keep whipping. If the peak stands straight up, it’s too stiff to use for icing AKA hard peak. If the peak is stiff but the top of it flops over, it’s juuussst right, Goldilocks.) it’s ready to use-almost. First, take the bowl off the mixer, grab a spatula, and very lightly fold the mixture to ensure it’s completely whipped and all of the coloring is mixed in- that is, it’s all the same color without any blotches of lighter or darker frosting. There- all done. It’s ready to use for whatever you want. I thought I took pictures of this process but they seem to have disappeared in the Never-Never Land of my computer files. If you’re lucky, they’ll show up before I post this. If not, use your vivid imagination.

Onward towards the review part! I smeared it on the glass I was using,

covering the glass

torted the cake and filled it with the frosting,

torted and filled margarita

placed the cake in the glass,

placing cake in glass

and iced the top of the cake with it.

Per usual, the color darkened over time.

color darkening margarita cake

No problemo. After all, she’s just turning 21. She’s not supposed to know what a Margarita looks like just yet. If she does, and she’s smart, she keeps that bit of info to herself, right? So, no problemo.

 The texture is definitely lighter than buttercream. It’s closer to a whipped cream in texture, which is cool. Heavy frosting isn’t always appropriate. After all, can you imagine Strawberry Shortcake with buttercream? I think not! It’s light, it’s fluffy, it can’t be smoothed completely, it doesn’t crust (and I expected all that), and it tastes…

Blech!

It tastes like chemicals. Yes, I’m quite used to artificial sweeteners, thank you very much. Splenda and Equal taste sweet to me. I have altered what’s left of my brain synapses so they think it’s sweet and not all chemically tasting. This stuff, however, tasted awful to me. No, I didn’t expect it to taste like buttercream. I expected it to taste similar to sweetened whipped cream. Lest you think it’s my palate that is in error, let me tell you who else tried it and their thoughts.

Hubby- ick!

Daughter- what is this stuff? It’s gross.

Son- disgusting.

Hubby’s coworkers on whom I pawned off the cake: one dip of the finger and they wouldn’t touch it anymore.

All that cake into the trash. Wasted. What a shame. It’s almost a sin to waste cake, isn’t it? Nevertheless, not even I, who will eat darned near anything that approaches junk food, ate it.

Interestingly, the color started to separate over time. Perhaps I added too much coloring? Perhaps it’s not stable enough to stay together? I dunno. All I know is that it started separating even though it was kept in the ‘fridge most of the time (it’s not shelf stable). Take a look at the previous pic again. Don’t look at the top, look at the side.

color separation margarita cake

See the darker green areas?  Dang it! Separated like your kids when their arguing gets on your nerves.

 Check out the instructions on the carton and compare them to what I did. Spend a relaxing hour reading this thread on cakecentral: http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-601193.html .

A lot of people seem to like it. Not me, not my fam, and not 12-ish coworkers. It’s a dud over here. If you’ve tried it and had better results, let me know. If I did something wrong, let me know that, too. Heck, if you tried it and had the same results, I would appreciate you telling me so I know I am not alone. For now, the remainder shall sit in my freezer until I “gift” to my partner in cake. After all, there’s no point in both of us spending our hard earned pod dwelling money trying stuff.

Until we cake again!

Chick2

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