Saturday, August 16, 2014

father's day peach pie

For Father's Day this year, I decided to make a pie instead of a cake, since we had just finished a whole slew of cakes recently (my birthday cake, Mother's Day cake, Grant's birthday cake ...). Since we had fresh peaches in the fridge, and a few baby nectarines on our tree in the backyard, I decided to make peach pie, with pie crust cutouts on top to spell out D-A-D! (If you remember, I had wanted to spell out M-O-M in my Mother's Day cake, but that didn't quite work out).

I sliced up my peaches and nectarines, and tossed them with sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt. Then I made my favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, formed it into two round discs, and let them set in the fridge for about half an hour. Once chilled, I took out once disc and rolled it out big enough to fit my pie plate, gently eased my pie crust into my pie plate, and then crimped the sides.

Then I poured in my peach filling mixture. (The little teeny pieces of fruit are the baby nectarines from our tree!)

Then I baked it in a 425F oven for about 15 minutes to get the crust going, and then reduced it to 350F to bake for another 45 minutes or so.

Once the pie was done, I took out my second disc of pie crust dough from the fridge, rolled it out, and used alphabet cookie cutters to cut out pieces to spell D-A-D. (I only used less than half of the second disc of dough). Then I sprinkled on some sanding sugar and baked them on a cookie sheet at 375F for 10-15 minutes.

Once the cutouts were done, I placed them on top of the finished pie. (Note: you could also place the pie crust letters on top of the unbaked pie, and then bake the entire thing together, but I find that the cutouts don't retain their shape as well).

Mmmmm, pie...

Hope you all had a Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

piped shells camouflage birthday cake

I've been making camourflage cakes for my husband's birthday the past couple of years (see here and here), and this year I intended to make another one! But I was running out of designs! So I took inspiration from the piped shell birthday cake that I made for my youngest baby's first birthday this year, and made camouflage out of different colors of piped shells (except that I piped the shells in a different direction)!

I also wanted camouflage on the inside of the cake this time, so I made half a batch my favorite vanilla cake batter (recipe in my new book!), divided it, and colored the batter green and brown, leaving the third portion white.

Then I alternated colors when dropping the batter into my 6-inch prepared cake pans.

Once baked and cooled, I whipped up a batch of fresh whipped cream (recipe also in my new book!), and piped a layer in between the cakes.

Then I covered the entire top and sides with whipped cream. At this point, it didn't have to be perfectly smooth, as I was going to pipe camouflage shells all over the outside!

I divided the remaining whipped cream, and colored the portions green, brown, and black. Then I used a Wilton #21 tip to pipe vertical shells in randomly alternating colors. (For the sides of the cake, I piped the shells from top to bottom, and for the top of the cake I piped the shells from the outside towards the center).

And here's the finished cake!

I especially loved the way the top of the cake turns out - the piped shells made a beautiful pattern.

And for the inside of the cake!

Cute little swirls of camouflage :)

Happy Birthday, my love!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

graduation cap cookies

I made these graduation cap cookies at the request of my friend Monica, who I've been making goodies for over the course of several years now! Her daughter was graduating from 8th grade, and Monica wanted these as cookie favors for her graduation dinner party. I didn't have a graduation cap cookie cutter though, so I asked my handy hubby to make me one! (See this link for other copper cutters that he has made for me!)

She only needed 16 cookie favors, so I made one batch of sugar cookie dough and one batch of royal icing (you can find both recipes in my new book!). After chilling the dough briefly, I rolled it out and used my new shiny copper cutter to cut out my graduation cap shapes.

After the cookies had baked and cooled, I used stiff blue royal icing to outline the graduation caps.

Then I filled it in the runny blue royal icing, let it dry overnight, and then used the stiff blue icing to outline the caps once more and add details.

Next, I used stiff yellow royal icing to add the tassels.

And the final touch was a little dot of stiff blue icing as the "button" that holds down the tassle.

Happy Graduation, Viviana! Hope you enjoyed the cookies!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

dulce de leche

I've always known what dulce de leche was, and have tasted it in ice cream and other flavored desserts, but I hadn't actually tried it by itself. My best friend from college has a husband from Argentina, and when he told me that he would eat dulce de leche straight out of the jar with a spoon, and could almost finish an entire jar, I thought, "What?! That is crazy!" In my mind I was picturing eating spoonfuls of straight caramel by the jar. Which I thought was crazy.

But when I made my first batch of dulce de leche, I finally understood what he meant. This stuff is addicting! It is like caramel, but soft, and almost pudding-like. I found myself sneaking spoonfuls of it from the fridge, using a new spoon each time, until I had accumulated a big pile of used spoons in the sink. I had only made one jar with which I had planned on making multiple desserts, but soon it became clear that I would barely have enough to make my Hello Kitty alfajores with!

I have now made three batches of this stuff! (Well, actually four batches, if you count that I made double the amount with the last batch!) For the first two batches, I used this recipe from David Lebovitz (the recipe is also in his awesome ice cream book), where the method was to roast sweetened condensed milk and a pinch sea salt in a baking dish, covered with foil, and placed in a water bath. The directions were to roast it for 90 minutes, but I ended up doing 3 hours because I wanted a darker caramel. Once it was out of the oven, I whisked in a bit of vanilla extract to add to the flavor of the caramel.

And for the last batch, I read somewhere online about cooking it in a slow cooker water bath instead, so I tried it out with my rice cooker (set on the slow cooker setting). This method was a lot easier because you didn't have to keep checking on it and refilling the water, however it took about 13 hours in the slow cooker to get the color caramel that I wanted! So I suppose there are pros and cons to both methods. ;)

This dulce de leche is so versatile - with it I have made three batches of Hello Kitty alfajores, a batch of ice cream, and I still have so many ideas on what to use it for! Posts to come on that later!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

hello kitty alfajores - dulce de leche sandwich cookies

The first time I had alfajores, I was blown away. My best friend from college was in town visiting with her husband and kids, and we were at the Ferry Building when her husband, who is from Argentina, spotted a stand with goodies from Argentina! Needless to say, they bought a box of alfajores for us to snack on later.

At first glance, they just looked like sandwich cookies dusted with powdered sugar. I didn't know what to expect, but as soon as I bit into that cookie, I was hooked! The cookie itself wasn't too sweet, and had a delicate, tender, and deliciously crumbly texture. Combined with the dulce de leche filling and powdered sugar on top, it was the perfect balance of sweetness, and I HAD to learn how to make them!

The day after our house guests left, I began my quest to make these addictive cookies. I made dulce de leche for the first time (post to come on that later), and then I made the cookies using this recipe. When it came time to roll and cut out my cookies, I of course had to make them in the shape of Hello Kitty!

Once baked, I tried the cookies, and although they were super crumbly and had a fine texture, they were a bit too egg-y for my taste (maybe from the 4 egg yolks?). So I tried this recipe instead, and while I enjoyed the taste of the cookie much better, the texture was a little more coarse than the first recipe. So I'll have to do some more experiments and somehow combine the two recipes later on!

In any case, once I filled them with homemade dulce de leche, they still tasted delicious! (I used a piping bag and medium round tip to apply the dulce de leche filling, but you could just use an offset spatula, butter knife, or spoon).

I did a final dusting of powdered sugar, and then used the back of a toothpick to trace Hello Kitty's eyes, nose, whiskers, and bow, just to define her face through all of the powdered sugar.

While these cookies are best when eaten right away, they can also be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Just in time for for Argentina's semi-finals game in the World Cup tomorrow! Go Argentina!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

chocolate coconut non-dairy popsicles

I've made these popsicles with two different recipes now, and each time they came out great! Although, both times I didn't start out with the intention to make popsicles :)

The first time I made these, I had meant to make non-dairy chocolate coconut ice cream, from the Bi-Rite book "Sweet Dreams and Sugar Cones". While the resulting ice cream had ended up tasting great, it was rock hard and almost impossible to scoop! Even after letting it thaw a bit, my scoops came out in jagged pieces. So I placed the whole container of ice cream in the refrigerator and let it melt down overnight, before re-freezing the mixture in this awesome popsicle mold.


The second time I made these, I had meant to make a chocolate coconut whipped frosting, for non-dairy cupcakes that I was making for my friend Reggie's daughter (who is allergic to cow's milk). I found this recipe at Oh She Glows, except that I added about 4 tablespoons of good cocoa powder, but even though I had separated the coconut cream from the milk, it still would not whip up stiff enough to be piped as frosting! So instead, I froze the mixture as popsicles, this time using a Hello Kitty popsicle mold that Reggie had bought me for a past birthday. :)

I'm so glad that both times I was able to turn my failed desserts into delicious popsicles!

Friday, June 27, 2014

chevron cake for baby gender reveal

I was first introduced to Monica a few years ago, when my friend Cindy was hosting a baby shower with Monica and they asked for my help in making red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate tiaras. Since then, I have made goodies for Monica several times! There was the piggy cake and  pool party piggy cookies that I made for her daughter's birthday one year, and also a mini Hello Kitty cake a few years ago (that I haven't yet blogged about). And a couple more goodies that I haven't yet blogged about (posts to come!)

So when she asked me to make a baby gender reveal cake for her friend who was expecting, I was excited to be a part of it! And the funnest part was that only the doctor and I knew the gender of the baby, not even the parents-to-be knew! Monica had to drop off a top-secret reveal envelope at my house, which was sealed by the doctor and never opened ... until I got my hands on it! :)

Monica's friend already knew she wanted a chocolate cake that looked like this one, except with yellow chevron instead of blue. I wasn't sure if I liked that the placement of the mustache and bow and letters were at the top of the cake instead of the middle though, so I sketched it out to help me decide.

I baked up two 8-inch homemade chocolate cakes (recipe in my new book!), and sliced them in half horizontally to give me four cake layers. Then I filled them with freshly whipped cream (tinted blue or pink based on the information in the secret envelope!), and then covered the top and sides with two coats of cream cheese buttercream.

I piped a quick shell border on the top and bottom of the cake, and then got to work piping the mustache, bow, and wording.

The final touch was piping the yellow chevron - I used a Wilton #5 tip, and just kind of did a freehand chevron design.

And then it was done! I had been a little worried about the chevron coming out crooked or uneven, but in the end I thought it looked pretty good!

The only thing I wish I could re-do was the top shell border - it was a super hot day, so my cream cheese buttercream started to melt on me! Needless to say, after a few quick pictures, the cake went back in the fridge to set!

And for the gender reveal on the inside of the cake?

It's a boy!