In keeping with the woodland theme, I wanted to decorate my dessert table with various items that you might find on the forest floor– but I wanted to make them edible. Candy rocks immediately came to mind, like the ones I’d used for the Kitty House Cake for a previous birthday party, but the available options were all rather small and I wanted to think bigger. Then I came across a recipe for homemade rocks made of white chocolate fudge– I was sold!
These rocks are really easy to make– you just melt together some white chocolate and sweetened condensed milk, then add cookie crumbs for some realistic speckles and mold the slightly chilled mixture before rolling in powdered sugar. Plus, they look amazingly realistic! I made a half-sheet pan full of rocks with this recipe, including some pretty large ones that I made by wrapping storebought brownie bites (or pieces thereof) in the fudge mixture to bulk them up– I figure that the fudge is sweet enough that no one would want to eat a solid piece of it as big as their fist.
As I mentioned in my previous post about fudge frosting made with ganache, I’ve been experimenting with frostings lately– specifically, chocolate frostings. And while the ganache frosting ultimately came out as the winner I have to put in a good word for this one, which intrigued me due to the unique use of a food processor rather than the stand mixer– it promised to be done in seconds, which seemed like it would be convenient for a quick recipe. On the other hand, it also called for softened butter (which always takes a while) and melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate, which not only takes a little time due to the cooling of warm chocolate, but also uses what I consider a specialty ingredient– unsweetened baking chocolate (I usually keep bittersweet in my pantry). Still, it was interesting enough for me to give it a shot.
The resulting frosting was amazingly smooth and silky, though not particularly fluffy– an expected side effect of the food processor, which doesn’t beat much air into the frosting– and as promised it came together in 60 seconds flat. The chocolate flavor was excellent as well, so I would definitely recommend this for when you want a denser frosting that doesn’t need a mixer.
The other day I was reading my daughter a bedtime story that had a particularly tasty-sounding description of brunch, featuring fluffy omelettes and sugar-dusted donuts. For some reason the latter caught her attention, and before I knew it I was promising to make sugar-dusted donuts of our very own!
Of course, I really don’t like the hassle of deep-frying, but I find baked cake-style donuts to be not particularly donut-y, so I searched the internet for a recipe for yeast-raised baked donuts. Preferably with a minimum of kneading, because I didn’t want to have to break out the stand mixer. Eventually I found one that looked pretty good— it had a two-stage rise, one at room temp and one overnight in the fridge, and could be baked up in the morning. Reviews were decent. So I gave it a shot.
The other day I was at Roche Brothers in the cheese section, when I spied a jar of jam.
I was immediately intrigued, as my love of the raspberry-rose (and often lychee) combination is well-known. I experienced momentary confusion as to whether it was quince and apple jam (due to the brand name) or raspberry-rose jam, but determined that it was the latter and decided to try it.
It’s really excellent– the raspberry is nice and bright, and the rose comes through just enough to avoid being overly floral. But what to do with it? It seemed a waste to spread it on toast, and I worried that the delicate flavor would be lost if I used it in a layer cake. But then I saw these lovely linzer cookies from Brina’s Bites and knew exactly what to do with it.
These pastries* were really a spur-of-the-moment creation, based on the availability of fresh peaches and a last-minute dinner invitation. You know me, I can never arrive at a gathering without some kind of baked good, so I skimmed my recipe box for inspiration and came up with these incredibly simple, yet incredibly tasty desserts. Squares of buttery puff pastry are topped with a pillow of marzipan and a handful of peach slices, then baked to crispy, flaky perfection. The tanginess of the peaches is set off nicely by the floral sweetness of the marzipan, and the crunch of puff pastry wraps it all together in a convenient bundle, ready for dessert or an indulgent breakfast treat.
*Okay, so these aren’t really danishes– a danish is a very specific type of pastry with a very specific type of laminated, yeasted dough. Puff pastry was a shortcut.
The other day I was hanging out with my daughter and she asked if she could paint something. Now, I could’ve gotten out the craft paint and the paper (and boy, do we have a lot of both), but for some reason that didn’t appeal. So I decided to bake cookies.
How do these two things relate, you ask? Why, we were going to paint on the cookies, of course! Continue reading →
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.
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 →
I’ve had a thing for petit fours ever since I first saw them for sale in the Harry & David holiday gift catalogs… a flat box of perfect little cubes made of paper-thin layers of cake and filling, enrobed in chocolate, topped with an intricately-piped design. They looked like something you’d find on a tiny cake pedestal on a tea table, maybe in Versailles, and I was dying to try them– possibly while lounging on a velvet-upholstered sofa. Unfortunately, as I was only about eleven at the time and didn’t have $30 to spend on a box of cakes, my dream was not to be.
Once I got into baking as an adult, however, I realized two things: First, that the components of petit fours were amazingly simple, and second, that the assembly was going to be a pain. Nevertheless, I had my chance to make them when I hosted an afternoon tea party, and jumped at it. Continue reading →