Thursday, March 31, 2016

Almond,lemon,ginger biscotti

Neglect is never a good thing. Whether it's cleaning house, personal upkeep, people, and/or your your second child's birthday. Do I need to acknowledge fact that more than a few times I say aye to those incidences which may have deemed myself border-neglectful? I digress, when typing hands tend to wander, follow a mind that's always running out the door, bringing on deficits to the tiny nook of web I occupy and consider a part of me. Forget those pictures of a subject intended to appear much earlier than now, all of what I've just said disallows that to happen. And is it my imagination or has March zoomed by without taking me along? Clearly I need to bring an end to the anomaly, of planting megapixels and preworked ingredient lists onto neutral drafts, meantime, crunching my way through last two batches of what should be on display.

Biscotti. One of the many things I am grateful to the streets of Tuscany for. As I was tasting, testing, pottering through various biscotti possibilities, it occurred that not a single specimen claimed occupancy in BFMK archives. I beg you don't ask. Just know, it changes today and I'm busting out perfection in order to wane that gap.

This particular bulletin may be a life-alterer in terms of how both you and I bake the beauteous Italian biscoot. It's when Giada, in all her gorgeousness, convinces you that production of the Italian classic is noncomplex and mostly foolproof, thus having you in full hopes that your own finished product will end up identical to her 5starred one.

Atypical of the crunchy, no-chew cookie, biscotti is how it sounds, almost biscuity and I truly believe it should come with a clause... pair it with a hot beverage of dunk-and-saturate standard. A flavorbank of almonds, following a twice bake method is finished off with white chocolate smears. Sturdy, yet yielding in its crisp, airy enough to munch on in succession, thereon, there's a definable reverence that comes in stride with each sequential bite.  For sure it emphasizes a deliciousness recollective of vintage tinned goods, ushering accompaniment from 6 ounces of Earl Grey or masala tea, depending on which part of the world you're from.

Deconstructing the whole into key power components that, in fact, provide noteworthy leverage, will aid in understanding the only result that should be tolerated, that of an Amazing Oblong Cookie. Cornmeal imparts sandy-soft texture, lemon zest the fresh burst of Spring, which some of you living in tundra parts of the country might greatly appreciate and ginger sources adequate dimension and bite, thus yielding a proven winner for anytime- alltime snack coverage.

Finally, due to my innate flair for impeccable timing, I'm dispatching this out before April fools'...just so you know, a batch of these and the hand that brought them forth do the endorsement seriously. No jokes.

We'll save that for tomorrow.

(Adapted from Food Network- almond, lemon biscotti dipped in white chocolate: Giada De Laurentiis)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds
  • 18 oz white chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup chopped crystallized ginger

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Line baking tray with parchment or nonstick silicone baking mat.
  • Sift flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt.
  • In another large bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs till pale yellow. Mix in vanilla extract and zest.
  • Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just blended. Stir in the almonds.
  • Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • With floured hands divide dough in half. Shape each half into approximately 9 inch long, 3 inch wide log. Transfer both logs onto prepared baking sheet, equally spacing apart.
  • Bake logs for 30-35 minutes until pale golden.
  • Take out and cool for 5 minutes. 
  • Transfer logs to cutting board or counter. Using serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices.
  • Arrange biscotti cut side down not same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes.
  • Turn biscotti over and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes or until color changes to light toasted brown. Turn over on wire rack and cool completely
  • Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in a microwave safe plastic bowl, and place in microwave at 50% power,  heating at 30 second intervals, mixing well with rubber spatula after each interval until it slowly begins to melt. Once most of the chips are melted, stir and allow the remaining chips to melt in the residual heat. Stir well until mixture is completely smooth.
  • Dip the end of each biscotti in chocolate and set over wire rack. ( I don't like too much on mine so a smear or two is most appreciated) Sprinkle a few pieces of ginger on dipped ends.  Allow chocolate to harden.
  • Can be stored in airtight container for upto a week.
"Lead my longing heart To the high ground, to the clear view And in awe I'll be there Beholding You"
 Hallelujah, My King. 
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." 1Peter 1:3

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Converse shoe cake

Apparently, giant shoe modelling was on my 50things-to-do- once-you-hit-midlife list. I believe I've arrived.

Every single birthday here has seen cupcakes, baked goods and not, confections of various layout and design, each with certain levels of distinguishable build and character. This time though "certain levels" was not enough. This birthday had to reach an even greater high, better because it'd be The Sweet that defines the day- "sweet" definition I use here is the adjective conveying fine, acceptable. Examples being, "That song is totally sweet". "Here(wherever that is), we enjoy the sweet life". "Having a birthday party at 16 is sweet."

Get my point? Birthdays prior to 16 aren't introduced as sweet. An audacious claim to some bold age bearers, that group of people just two years short of Adult who once (unbelievably so) upon a time lived in you and now think they know more than all existing generations combined.

For the child this post is about, the one who crept her way from 10+5 to hereweare it is no different. Surely, it's not quite that scenario for her mother who remembers walking her to kindergarten orientation. Holding her steady hand, I found myself crying like a baby on sight of the large banner that had the audacity to welcome these pintsized attendees as "Class of 2018." How? When?  Why? Where did it go? Bittersweet maybe as I look back. Because we're almost there. 

Her favorite dish is rice and fish curry. Her best loved dessert, pavlova. And anything remotely neon, psychedelic and blindingly fluorescent have become all-time requirements in how she dresses herself head to toe. This is my firstborn, child who is really nothing like me and in whom I am so proud and well pleased.

So to incorporate at least some of that in the biggest bash this humble home has ever seen was part dilemma, part ADD planning on my end. A DIY neon makeover of what was once my living room, now transfigured into a cacophony of color, sound, lights, became the venue for much sweet laughter, fun and excitement.

Moreover, her cake request, had to be tuneful to the occasion, one of a kind, and test to whether Amma's cake art skills were up to par. It was the moment her favorite canvas sneaker, was to reach an edible destiny, that of a multi structural cake. Since most of the 365 days of the year her feet are bedecked in every possible bright, bold and expressive way Converse has made available to regular mankind. You said it, the topic in question had to bear rightful neoney relevance.

In itself, the idea and search for Converse Cake became a two day project. The massive amounts of webtrolling got me conceptualizing what the furthers would entail. After clocking in several hours on Craftsy and YouTube style cake construction, I had what I needed. With real person how-tos, instructions, diagrams, and tips, there was vision(and much fervent prayer) that had me realize nothing should/could/would go inevitably wrong from here onwards.

Thus, I'm premiering it for you, brief action shot of the day my first child completed 16 and I became  the cobbler, architecturing shoes with substances that taste so good I think I may have found my calling.

Must I mention, teen-owned phones, normally rendered for well-meaning selfies came out to snap and click The Green Shoe, before it was pieced into servings. The birthday recipient was beaming with as much joy that her adolescent self-image could exude. And did I see it? The look she shot me through those lenses, the cool-you-be ones, even if for a teensy moment(oh my!).

Endorsements come in many unexpecting and surprisingly happy ways. Don't they?

For the shoe~
2 9x13 sturdy cakes (I made 3 of my sponge cakes, one extra for back up)
2 cups chocolate ganache or buttercream (for the shoe)(modified my ganache recipe,made it thicker, richer for spreading, using 16 oz bag Ghirardelli chocolate chips with 1/2 c whipping cream)

For the box top~
1 9X13 cake (I baked my chocolate cake)
1 batch apricot-vanilla buttercream icing( I used this recipe mixed with 2 tbsp apricot jam)

For assembly~
about 3 pounds fondant (I used 3 batches of my homemade marshmallow fondant)kept half of one batch white, colored a large part green (for the shoe) and brown(for the box), slightly smaller batch black and small amount of blue for the star

Other tools, materials~
Old converse shoe, cleaned( I had about 2 dozen to choose from:-)
fondant tools, cutter, stitch tool, etc.
Wilton silver spray
edible writing pens
wax paper
printer(print allstar signage for box, Chuck Taylor-all star circle on inside of shoe)
Lots of rags or paper towels
Phone pics:-) These are the only pictures I have to prove I wasn't just watching TV :-)  Apparently my kids did not find any of my backbreaking work interesting.

Basic directions, plus links to youtube links, tutorials~
Set aside some hours. It took me a good amount of time after baking and frosting the cakes to shape, cover and detail.
For the shoe template, trace the sole of a cleaned, original shoe onto cardstock. Wrap this template in plastic or laminate
Trace template 3 times onto vanilla cakes, so you have 3 whole soles.
Frost between layers, one sole on top of another (I frosted with ganache). Place this, with a little ganache on the bottom of base to place firmly on a cake board( which should be traced from the sole template onto cardboard, or any steady board and covered in foil).
Place the 3 layered cake with board in refrigerator to firm.
Once firm, cut out front half from the topmost sole (3rd layer) to get the high top look.
Line up the real shoe alongside the 3 layer cake, use toothpicks as a rough guide and secure these onto cake to judge the slope and roundness of the shoe. Carefully carve the sides and front of the shoe. Don't shave off too much, a little at a time and you will soon see it taking form.
Cover entire cake in a first coat of ganache. Smooth with spatula. Refrigerate to firm.
Frost again with a second ganache coat, slicking off edges for a level, rounded look that will keep shape under fondant. Refrigerate.

Cover with fondant(look below).

For the boxtop/base cake underneath, I frosted the whole 9X13" chocolate cake with the apricot vanilla buttercream, smoothing first and second coats, refrigerating in between.

After you cover this with the tan/brown fondant, you will secure the completed, fondant covered shoe cake, cake board et all on top the "box"with a small smear of frosting to hold in place. Lace placement can be done after this step.

For the fondant bedecking, links are below. I myself am not Grand Master of confection and cake perfection( surprising, right?). If I sat here going through each and every part, piece and detail of assembly and gild, then this report would go till the end of the week, leading me to insanity and you to abandon me completely and resort to less meaningful ways to fulfill the need for a 3D shoe cake. The videos saved me from countless tears and led, what would've otherwise been utter unsuccess, to a deliciously filled, layered and completed edible Canvas (excuse pun) that passes off as visibly decent.

All my templates from the shoe sides, soles, top covering, tongue and to the white border base were measured using wax paper and a ruler, placing it directly onto the corresponding parts of cake I needed to cover and contour. I didn't download/print templates, cake and dimensions will be different and so will shoe measurements. The tutorials below are guides, but ultimately you need to scale your model, either with a ruler or something as simple as your fingers for length, width, shape, etc.

Further,  just molding a shoe out of cake does not much in terms of the ooh and aah factor. It's details that will dignify the whole setup. Grommets sprayed with gray/silver colored frosting spray, long black line bordering, laces that have a tucked-in look. I'll admit, it all could've been fashioned more up to mark. Clearly you see I am in no way a threat to Nike for future footwear design.
 Shoe cleaning :-)
Bake the cakes at least 2-3 days in advance. Freeze and take out a couple of hours  the day of cutting/forming/assembly.
I actually started the night before and had no time to set up shoot for all the stepbysteps.
You should have fondants ready  as well(make at least a few days in advance or buy premade). Have them colored and primed in proportions needed.
Do all the small details, like the round sign for the shoe, All-Star signage for box top. I printed out all these and traced shapes onto corresponding fondants.
And if you for a second doubt it, both the cakes are delicious. The scraps can therefore be handled in several different ways
1. Freeze leftovers for later recycling.
2. Make/serve/donate cake balls, using maybe any leftover frosting if that's happened.
3. Eat appalling amounts while you are assembling Le Grand Structure and get sick THE WHOLE NIGHT because you mistakingly understand your capacity to be way beyond that of any normal human (this may or may not have been a real life occurrence).

Ending on that, with all the hints, tips and attention to technicalities I was able to construct a not so pathetic attempt and was part conducive in making my All Star's Sweet day a little bit sweeter.
Hurrah for the tutorials, demonstrations, diagrams of these talented ladies. The following are fine  guides that make the idea of a giant cake sneaker achievable. Take from, out or modify what you need.
Cakes Decor
Ann Reardon's Converse Shoe Cake Tutorial
Angela Capeski's Sneaker Cake Tutorial
If anything, this should motivate you, to 'If she can, so then can I " lengths.

February 2014: Fish and shrimp biriyani
For you Shalom. Love Amma.
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:22-26