When I was a little girl I greatly enjoyed reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, which featured chapter after chapter of misbehaving children and their hapless mothers who turned to good old Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for help. The cures ranged from “let the kids stay up late as long as they want until they’re too tired to do anything fun, so they’ll stop complaining about bedtime,” to “I’ll let you borrow my pig with lovely table manners to act as a model/shame your child into eating politely,” to “here are some magic pills that will turn your child invisible whenever he’s showing off.” The books were hopelessly dated even back when I read them– they all involved happy housewives and mostly absent husbands, and everyone wore gloves and attended luncheons and ate ridiculous 1950’s food. Which is what brings me to this, um… masterpiece.
Because really, the 1950’s produced some seriously awful stuff, and while I think that the foods mentioned in the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books were deliberately exaggerated (prune, noodle, and sardine surprise, anyone?), this one was just too bizarre-yet-plausible to pass up.
The table was decorated with pink tulips, a pink tablecloth, pink candles, pink napkins, and pink nut dishes. The main course was a maraschino cherry, walnut, marshmallow, pineapple, strawberry, cream cheese and cabbage molded salad, accompanied by pink biscuits. There were also pink mints and pink gumdrops. And luckiest of all, Mrs. Harroway just happened to be dressed entirely in pink with even pink gloves and pink roses on her hat. All through lunch she was so happy and gay everybody said, “You look adorable, Helen dear, I wish I’d worn pink.”
I love my mini mooncake molds. Seriously love them. They’re probably my favorite decorative kitchen gadget, beating out the letter stamps for shortbread, the nori punch that makes tiny faces to put on food, and all the cookie cutters. Lately I’ve been using them to cover petit fours in molded fondant, but before that I actually used them to make mooncakes, and I’ll be doing a variation on that in this post. After all, the Autumn Moon Festival is coming up, so everyone else is making mooncakes too, right? Right???
Anyway, I never much liked traditional mooncake filling– bean paste, nuts, salted egg yolks– so I spent some time trying to figure out what to use instead. It had to be firm and hold its shape while baking, so cake batter and most cookie doughs were right out. Same with fresh fruit and any creamy centers. Finally, I hit upon the idea of using cake pops– not the kind you bake into shape, but the original kind, where you mix crumbled cake with something liquid or gooey and form it into a ball. I figured the moisture from the liquid would prevent overbaking, and the structure of the cake would hold its shape well enough to keep the molded outside from collapsing or exploding.
And what do you know, it worked! Since then I’ve made a few different types, my favorite being yellow cake and cream cheese with candied pineapple, coconut, and maraschino cherries, all wrapped up in a shortbread crust. However, for this version I wanted to try something different– chocolate. Chocolate crust, chocolate filling, chocolate EVERYTHING. I decided to use my small (35g) round mold to make these as bonbon-like as possible.
Another break from sewing…
As I’ve said before, I love making cute lunches for my little girl, and when it comes to ideas and supplies it doesn’t get any better than Japanese bento websites. When I saw these egg molds for hard-cooked eggs, I knew I had to get one. (You can also get them on Amazon)
I admit, I like using the bunny mold much better than the bear mold– it always seems to come out better and bunnies are cuter anyway.
The basic steps are simple: cook the egg, peel it, place it in the mold while warm, dunk in ice water to set. However, my experience with these has helped me develop some tips that will help you get the perfect (and convenient) molded egg.
So, after my first excursion into petit fours the matter rested for quite a while, until by chance I came across an article about mooncakes. You know, intricately-stamped pastries filled with red bean or other sweet pastes, given as gifts or served with tea for the Harvest Moon Festival or Lunar New Year. I actually don’t like them very much, flavor-wise. But I do appreciate the possibilities in detailed molds intended for desserts.
A little searching online revealed that the molds came in various shapes and sizes, including a nice little 50g capacity plunger set that came with interchangeable design plates. I got mine in a square shape with various floral design plates, figuring that even if I didn’t make mooncakes I could make something interesting.
Once the mooncake mold arrived, I immediately realized that it was just the right shape and size to make petit fours. If I used rolled fondant instead of poured fondant, I could mold it however I liked over a cube of cake. Of course, I don’t much care for regular fondant, even the marshmallow fondant I use for layer cakes– it’s chalky and cloyingly sweet. So, figuring it couldn’t hurt, I decided to add cream cheese to the recipe. Voila! Perfect. The new recipe maintained the flexibility of fondant, but the extra fat from the cream cheese added richness, which did a lot to cut the sugariness and reduce the rubbery texture. Continue reading