Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Retirement Party, Part 2

Not everyone eats sweets and, more importantly, not everyone likes the combo of cupcakes and beer, so I decided to try my hand at making an edible fruit arrangement.

You've probably seen these before...impossibly beautiful, these are elaborate and expensive!



I honestly have no idea how they keep the fruits from being too juicy...

Here is the equipment I used:



Easter grass, a styrofoam cone, a flower pot, bamboo skewers, and small cookie cutters. If you have a crinkle-cut knife or other fruit-carving tools, by all means...go crazy. I also hear that a head of iceburg lettuce would work well instead of styrofoam and Easter grass. You would just have to carve it to fit inside your flower pot.

Cut the Styrofoam cone to size and place (upside down) in the flower pot. You might want to put some grass in the bottom first to stabilize it. Then place some more grass on top and tuck it into the sides.

I just cut cross-sections of canteloupe and honeydew and cut out flowers and circles with cookie-cutters:



A few other tips:

1. Wash the strawberries and remove the leaves, but do not cut off the tops. The less you cut them, the longer they will keep.

2. Keep the strawberries away from the pineapple. Since I used canned pineapple chunks (I got lazy!), the sweeteners might cause the berries to macerate.

3. Thread the skewers in a consistent pattern for a more uniform look.

4. If you're making this ahead, store the kabobs in a large zippered food storage bag lined with paper towel. When you're ready to party, just pull them out and stab into the grass-covered styrofoam.

The final product...Okay, it looks nothing like an Edible Arrangement, but hey, it is edible and it is an arrangement...



Next time...

I would try a "topiary"-style fruit arrangement, using different lengths of skewers and filling in any empty areas with lime leaves or even pandan leaves (or any other non-poisonous greenery). You might need to cover the styrofoam with plastic wrap to keep the fruit from touching the foam since it is not food-safe.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Retirement Party, Part 1

A good friend from my old stomping grounds was retiring...A good excuse to visit Austin (as if I needed an excuse!).

I was tasked with a celebratory baked good. I decided to go with the classic cupcake and chose lemon with vanilla icing.

I used the large tip from my Williams-Sonoma Mechanical Pastry Bag, and went sans sprinkles.

I made some cupcake picks to spell out "Happy Retirement Wayne!"

First, print out the words onto colored or patterned paper. Be sure to space them out depending on the diameter of your circles. Mine are 1-1/4 inch. It's really handy if you have a circle cutter and self-healing mat and I especially like this one by Fiskars since it is clear and I can center the letters.



Then just tape some toothpicks or fruit skewers to the back! If you're very particular, you could cut out some blank circles and "sandwich" the toothpick in between two circles with double-sided tape.



Final Product..okay, this picture was taken at a bad angle, so it just looks like a jumble of letters!

Monday, February 23, 2009

McGriddles: Unwrapped

You either hate them or love them, but I'm a part of the latter camp who loves these quirky calorie bombs called McGriddles. Nutritionally unsound, these satisfy the tooth of all those who adore the combo of sweet and salty.

I was perusing Not Martha, when something caught my eye. SplatgirlCreates...McGriddles! My heart went pitter patter as I clicked the link and read the blog. I was a little disappointed with the end appearance and the result of her attempt at making the syrup blobs. I then went on to read many other blogs and the chronicles of those who have tried to conquer this elusive fare.

I was on a mission to make these at home myself and pare down it's uber caloric contents.

Here are my accoutrement:



The first challenge was how to make those glorious little syrup blobs. I once saw a Food Network special about the McGriddle and how they used little syrup candy-looking chips. Obviously, the home cook can't get our greedy little hands on these, so I googled. I found these mini maple chips, but I didn't think that they would work. They looked too creamy.

So I squirted about a tablespoon of regular syrup into a silicone baking cup (for anti-sticking insurance) and popped them into the oven at 250 degrees, just to evaporate some of the water, and hopefully, yield a "syrup candy".



Refrigerate until chilled. Pop them out of the cups and dice (with some pancake mix to reduce stickiness) with a very sharp knife.



The result: little syrup gummies! Kind of like a mini, syrup-flavored Turkish Delight.



I went on to cook the other items...turkey breakfast sausage patties and egg (cholesterol-free, fat-free egg substitute)...using my trusty Ateco round cookie cutter as a mold.



The last step was to cook the pancake buns using the round molds (and lots of Pam) and placing the "syrup gummies" onto the batter just before turning. I poked them down into the batter to prevent them from oozing out onto the pan.





I was delighted to see the results! They looked way better than I imagined.

Assemble (with a slice of processed cheese, of course!) and bon appetite!



Here is an up-close image. You can see the syrup pockets.



We enjoyed these for a lazy Saturday brunch. I would call it a success, although the syrup blobs did not really remain as blobs...they kind of absorbed into the surrounding pancake bun.

Next time, I'll make thinner sausage patties (less like sausage burgers!) and not fuss with perfectly shaped eggs. I'll just make a big thin omelet and cut into pieces. I'll also try another technique for the syrup blobs...maybe mix in some tapioca flour or cornstarch...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009, Part Trois (last one!)

Project 3: Alfajores

Many of my co-workers are Argentineans. I have also traveled to Argentina for work and I couldn't help but notice the Starbucks-like popularity of these Havanna Cafes. These chic cafes, nestled on every corner in Buenos Aires, peddle rich espressos and delicious confections.

One confection in particular, alfajores, are extremely popular. You can't leave Argentina without a box of these. They are shortbread-like cookies filled with dulce de leche and coated in chocolate, coconut, or meringue. The Havanna variety are wrapped in regal, gold wrappers...Think, the Rolls-Royce of Hostess Ding Dongs.

I tried my hand at making these, with a Valentine's flair, of course.

I used this recipe I found on the net, but any shortbread recipe would do. I would also highly recommend the "semi-homemade" version of making rolled cookies by kneading 1/4 C. of all-purpose flour into one tube of sugar cookie dough. I got that idea from Giada. It yields an ever-so-slightly-cakey cookie that is just sweet enough. Plus, they really keep their shape while baking; no need for spacing them out because they don't spread!

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For the dulce de leche, I was fortunate enough to find it in the international foods aisle of my local grocery store, but you can easily make it by boiling a can of condensed milk for hours and hours. Instructions found here.

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I dipped them half way in semi-sweet chocolate melted in a double boiler.

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Place them on a platter and adorn with wrapped chocolates and watch them disappear!

They were a HUGE hit and even the Argentineans raved about them. I will definitely make these again, maybe with a fluted round cookie cutter next time...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009, Part Deux

Project 2: Box of Chocolates from design.wash.rinse.repeat

An adorable DIY Valentine gift using Hershey's Nuggets...I used the one with toffee and almonds. Yummm.

I must say that this one was tricky. First, I couldn't figure out how to open a .png file and then I could not figure out how to print it to get the right dimensions. After toying with it a bit, I got some decent results.

I just LOVE the color combo of the gold with pink and orange. It just makes me happy.

With a bit of customization, this would make such a cute wedding favor, but it would be way too much work...

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Valentine's Day 2009, Part One

This year, I decided on some semi-homemade gifts for co-workers and friends. Inspired by a few of my daily blog habits, I grabbed my apron and my exacto knife and went to work.

Project 1: Apple Pie a la Twig & Thistle

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I used store-bought pie dough, rolled it out on a floured surface and cut out circles for the little pies using a paring knife...and conveniently, this yogurt container was the perfect size for the pies.

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To save time, I used canned apple pie filling. Don't put in too much or you won't be able to close the pie!

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Brush on a little egg wash and seal with a fork. Then brush some more all over the pie and prick to let the steam escape.

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Make a slew of these adorable pie boxes. It will be handy if you have these tools.

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My pies did not look nearly as good as hers, but I was happy with the results. I wrapped the pies in wax paper before inserting into the boxes. Next time, I'll cut out the wax paper squares with my rotary cutter's pinking or scallop blade.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hello world!

Hello World. I have jumped back onto the bloging bandwagon after quite a long hiatus in order to document my adventures in:

1. Eating
2. Drinking
3. Being crafty

I hope you enjoy the pics and blogs to come!...(and I hope to keep up with this blog!)