Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter birthday

Following tradition, I made a birthday cake for the most recent big day.  I wouldn't put it high on my list of successes, although I did try some different techniques, very basic ones, like using royal frosting and cookies as part of the cake.

Here it is:

 I used my tried and true marshmallow fondant recipe from here, and made twice as much fondant as I needed.
I made gingerbread cookies for the buildings, which worked well, except I did not cool them appropriately, and they were slightly bent!  Not good for the overall appearance.  Points off!
And I used a royal frosting recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
The buttercream icing that I used between layers and attempted to use as glue (note the qualifier here, attempted,) was the Wilton recipe.    The webs are chocolate.  Very easy and good results!

So I was pleased with the overall idea of the cake, and the individual parts of the cake, but the cake, when put together, was a bit of a failure. Here's why: 

1.  I did not realize how heavy 4 layers of cake would be.  They smooshed they bottom layer, thereby causing a leaning tower of Pisa look.  We had one crash during the construction of the cake tower.  I ended up using wooden dowels to keep it steady, but was too lazy to try to add cake to wedge the tower back to straightness.
2.  Gingerbread cookies need to cool completely or they will warp.  My buildings were all a little bent.
3.  I have no idea how to properly attach cookies to cake.  Maybe I should have removed the fondant?  Or maybe the buttercream was not a good adhesive.  Twice with the cookie buildings falling off.  Once they crashed into the rest of the gingerbread cookies.  Royal icing transfer emergency!
4.  Not sure I've got the whole royal icing thing down.  Mine stayed sticky for days after it was applied to the cookies!  It was so sticky, I tried using it to glue the buildings but no success there, either!

The birthday boy didn't notice these shortcomings--the crashes were very exciting and funny, and I guess all's well that ends well!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Couldn't resist.

Yesterday I promised I would bake something and nobody would let the promise be forgotten, so I pulled out my King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and tried a new recipe for us:  S'more Granola Bars.  I happened to open to the page they are on, and had all the ingredients, so we gave them a shot. 

Well.  They are delicious.  And relatively bad for you.  In the end we gave some away to various neighbors and piano teachers because I could tell we were going to end up with glucose issues.  (By that I mean sugar highs, and crashes and cavities!) But we'll definitely make them again.  They do look tremendously sweet, but the oatmeal somehow buffers that.  They're good, I tell you.

S'more Granola Bars, from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (sl. adaptation)

yield:  48 bars  (whoops, my bars were apparently a little larger than recommended.)
carbs:  6g complex carbs, 11g sugar, 1 g fiber in one bar.

4 C (14 oz) rolled oats
4 C (4.5oz) Rice Krispies cereal
3/4 C (5.25 oz) sugar
1/2 C (1 stick or 4 oz) unsalted butter
1/4 C (2 oz) water
1/2 C (5.5 oz) corn syrup
1 tsp salt
3 C (6 oz) mini marshmallows
1.5 C (9 oz) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Lightly grease an 18 x 13 inch pan or two 9 x 13 pans.

Place the oats on the pan(s).  Bake for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent edges from burning.  They won't brown, but should begin to smell toasty.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Transfer the oats to a bowl and add the cereal. 

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, water, corn syrup, and salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 250 F on a candy thermometer.  Remove the syrup from the heat and pour it over the oats and cereal, tossing to combine.  Add 1.5 cups of the marshmallows and stir again until well combined. 

Place the mixture on the prepared pan, patting it flat.  Press the mixture into the pan; using the lightly greased back of another flat pan works well.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1.5 cups marshmallows and the chocolate chips. 

Bake the bars for 4-5 minutes, until the marshmallows have puffed and are slightly brown.  Remove the bars from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes on a rack.  Cut into squares while still warm.  The easiest way to do this is to use a baker's bench knife to cut the bars into long strips while still in the pan, then transfer each strip to a cutting board to cut into bars.  (I found that this was the hardest part!)

So give them a try when you need something sweet--they are easy to make.  It's not particularly good as a kid-friendly recipe because of the boiling sugar mixture, but kids can sprinkle the toppings on.  And taste test, of course!

Friday, September 25, 2009

summer in REVIEW


we met some real CHARACTERS;

saw new PLACES;

Ate very WELL;

saw some great ENTERTAINMENT;

made some new FRIENDS;

and had an all around GREAT TIME.

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