Thursday, May 27, 2010

Piece Montée: May's Daring Baker Challenge

In just 6 days I will be taking my final comprehensive RN exam, and from there... who knows. With all the craziness of trying to cram 4years of nursing school knowledge into the past month would probably have driven me insane, were it not for my beloved baking. Yes, as I've said in previous posts, baking really helps me to de-stress. At first I was not really planning on partaking in this month's challenge, what with having to deal with all the stress of studying for the exam as well as job-searching (who knew it would be so difficult to find a job as a nurse!?!? not what I was told 4years ago).

But after thinking it over, I decided to do the baking thing because, I'm pretty sure there's a limit to the amount of time one can spend studying in a 24hour period before all of the information begins to drip out of one's brain and onto the floor (at which point it is essentially useless b/c there's no getting it back in there!). So, off I went into the kitchen... ready to whip up a storm.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Piece Montée

Pastry Cream:

For Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tbs. cornstarch
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla

1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine remaining milk with sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil. Remove from heat.

2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into egg mixture, whisking constantly so that eggs do not begin to cook.

3. Return remaining milk to boil. Pour in hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

4. Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

- Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring 1/4cup (~50ml) milk to a boil in a small pan; rem
ove from heat and add in 3 ounces (~80g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

- Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ tsp instant espresso powder in 1 ½ tspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux
Yields ~28

- 3/4cup water
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- For egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Preparing batter:Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

3. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

4. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

5. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

6. Piping: Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

7. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

8. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

9. Baking: Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

10. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

11. Filling: When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly while you make your glaze.

12. Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:

- 8 ounces/200g finely chopped chocolate (semi-sweet is best)

Method: Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:

- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Method: Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of Piece Montée:
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may still be hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. After building your piece montée, decorate the tower with drizzled glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. Have fun and enjoy!

Well, after all that baking... I should probably get back to studying. Wish me luck :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Panda-ish Bread

I've actually had this recipe saved on my computer for the longest time and just hadn't gotten around to making it because I was far to inexperienced with bread to even attempt to look at the recipe :P However, now that I've purchased a bread machine I'm a little less fearful of yeast baked goods and so I decided to give this panda bread a shot.

I used the recipe from Do What I Like and followed it to a "T", except for the major oopsie I did with the arrangement of the dough pieces. I don't quite know what I was thinking, but for some reason I thought I would put a slab of green dough in between the eyes (why a panda would have a random blob of green between its eyes, I don't quite know). Maybe I was tired, and it looked right at the time... I should probably be getting more sleep T_T. I actually realized the mistake after I had placed the final section of white dough around the green slab and the eyes, but by that time it was too late to fix my mistake... the dough was quite sticky and I couldn't fix the panda's face without mangling his eyes. So, I left it and thought "how bad could it turn out?"

My irreversible mistake!!! I think I thought I did it right b/c I was distracted by how cute the bread looked... kinda like a leaf on the panda's face.

Having to live with my mistake and finish the bread... at least it still looks kinda cute.

After I sliced it... I realized how unpanda-like it looked :(

Well, the answer is pretty badly... the panda no longer looked like a panda; even as I tried to pass it off as the daikon panda from Nerima (see picture below) by sister still thought it just looked like random swirls in a loaf of bread.

Dang-it!!?! Oh well, at least I attempted something so ambitious... maybe I'll try this recipe again in the future, and be more careful about how I arrange the dough.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sushi Cupcakes for Dad and Mom (and me)

Well, as always, may is quite the busy month. It's my dad's birthday, then my birthday, mother's day, my best friends birthday and in addition to all the celebrations I have to hunker-down and study like crazy for my final RN exams! Man, trying to condense 4 years of nursing knowledge into one month is quite the stressful experience.

With all the celebrations going on (and my need for some major study/stress relief) I decided that the best thing to do would be to bake and decorate a couple cupcakes! I thought long and hard about what type of cupcakes I wanted to make... and for some reason I was craving just an old fashioned vanilla cupcake. I also knew I wanted to use fondant to decorate the cupcakes... but the tricky part was figuring out what theme I wanted the cupcakes to take on!

After scouring google for a solid half-hour I decided that since my dad and mom both love sushi (and we always go out, just the three of us, to all-you-can-eat late-night sushi once a month) that sushi-themed cupcakes were most definitely the way to go! So, I got to work baking the cupcakes, allowing them to cool, rolling out the fondant (I used Wilton's pre-made white fondant and simply dyed it into the colors I wanted) and slapping the cupcakes together. Ooooh, I simply love playing with the fondant! It's like making sculptures with play-doh... brings back such fond childhood memories ^_^

Vanilla Cupcake
Yields 12 cupcakes

- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup milk

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream sugar and butter until soft and fluffy. Add in eggs one and a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
4. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir until just moistened.
5. Add in the milk mixture and continue stirring, only until just combined (do not over-mix).
6. Add in the final half of the flour mixture; again, stir until just combined.
7. Pour into a prepared muffin tray and bake at 350degrees for 24-28minutes, until golden.
8. Allow to cool completely and then decorate.

Ahi tuna nigiri and an Akagai (red clam) nigiri

Your classic sushi roll

Ebi (shrimp) nigiri

Ikura (salmon roe) roll and a Toro (fatty tuna) nigiri

Well, when I unveiled these cuties to my mom and dad (and my sisters) they were so surprised at the intricate details... namely the tiny blobs of ginger and wasabi. However, since these cupcakes had so much effort put in to their decoration, my mom didn't want to touch them for fear of "breaking" them, my dad was busy taking pictures. and my sisters didn't want to eat them because they were "too cute". Alas, why did I make them so adorable that everyone was scared to take a bite?? Oh, well... I wasn't scared, so I dug in... and they were just as delicious as they were well-decorated!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Another Free E-magazine from Betty Crocker

As the title of this post states, I have another link to an online Betty Crocker magazine! They sent it to me because my birthday's coming up and this e-mag is all about Birthday Cakes.