Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweet Summertime!

I have had some minor time on my hands to play around with amidst the domestic chaos life presents me with on a daily basis, and honestly, I feel incredibly lazy today having been up all night baking. What it is with me pulling these wild baking overnighters? Something about stars and ganache I think, anyhow here are the resulting products!

 Zebra Print Toffee

This one got me into trouble with a good friend, hehe, for it was a last minute surprise I decided to make before a special dinner we were going to, and it decided to misbehave at the last minute and I had to "save" it. Toffee is such a finicky animal! I ended up being late for said dinner, being forced to rely on my culinary charms to buy me some sweet mercy and forgiveness. Did it work? She still fed me so I am thinking yes. LOL

Vanilla Babycakes with Semi-Sweet Chocolate Ganache
(Recipe Obtained From: Rose's Heavenly Cakes)

These bring an interesting story to mind. At choir practice on Thursday last week, one of our guitarists suddenly looked at me and said "I'd like some cupcakes on Sunday!" Ha! Then our percussionist said "Yeah! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting! My favorite."  It was so funny how he said it so politely and with almost childlike hope, because he had no idea I do cakes etc to begin with or that I had stopped making them recently (for others). He just acted on intuition, and got lucky!  I asked him what made him ask me, and he thought about it, then said he had no idea! It just came out before he could think and stop himelf! Talk about going with your gut instinct! Feeling God was asking me to pick up my polka dotted apron again and crank out some seriously decadent nom noms, I happily obliged. I don't think they honestly thought I would take their antics seriously, hehe, but they truly had no idea that what they had just done was medicine for my soul =P

Semi-Sweet Ganache (setting up)

Today I showed up with a pretty wooden tray of these bad boys at choir practice early in the morn, and when I felt that old familiar sense of pride and love I associate with my work, realized how much I have missed it.

Much like anything one puts their whole heart and soul into coupled with hard physical work (thinking of my larger cakes hehe) it's always a gamble for the person afraid of failing. Hoping for someone else's enjoyment, paid or unpaid, such an act can bring about the most euphoric untold joys, or on the flip side,  frustration and disappointment when things go wrong. I know it isn't any huge feat to make cupcakes from scratch blah blah blah, but for me, this was a turning point in my confidence. What a great way to begin my day! I feel rejuvenated...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Toffee! Toffee! Toffee!

Toffee! Toffee! Toffee!

This toffee absolutely hands down, was the best I have ever tasted in my entire life! The toffee itself is buttery, rich and almost smokey to the discerning palate. Upon first bite, you notice it's crisp satisfying snap, yet light texture. That sensation shortly dissolves into nothing short of heaven on Earth, as it goes through several different transformations. It starts off with that crisp snap, then gets crunchy, then chewy, then it just disappears entirely beckoning you to indulge once more. The almonds in the toffee add that familiar authenticity, while the different layers of chocolate and walnuts on top add an aire of luxury and velvety goodness to the already decadent moment of bliss. Ahhh, I love toffee!

I know, I know...I don't eat this stuff, why do I keep making it? It is so beautiful! I cannot help myself here folks, I have this obsession with old world confectioneries I simply cannot explain. There is something about watching sugar caramelize that stirs my soul, transporting me into another dimension or even another era completely! I get to escape the realities of life for a mere hour with the promise of something delightful to look forward to, and what's more, I get to share it with all the people I love the most in this world! I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon...

I know this one was kind of random, but it is what it is. This stuff is just so special to me, a product of many years of dreaming and hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of fancy confectioner's cook books I have never been brave enough to crack opened for anything more than a mid-summer's dream session. Today, I conquered the candy thermometer, and couldn't be happier! My cake making was NOT the first thing I started with, my was candy that sparked the flame!

Have a beautiful week, and if you know me and I love ya, come on over for a's waiting!


English Toffee Recipe 
(My version, adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook)

1c. Salted butter, cut into 1" cubes
1c. Sugar / 200g
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp water
1 tsp Vanilla
1-2c Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1c white chocolate, melted
1c finely chopped Almonds
                                                      1c coarsely chopped Walnuts

1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, and set aside

2. In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the butter sugar water and vanilla. Heat on low flame stirring slowly until all sugar dissolves.

3. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down sides of pan to ensure all crystals are gone or dissolved. VERY important for texture.

4. Attach candy thermometer once everything is dissolved and smooth, and take out your stirring spoon. This is where I recommend you stop stirring entirely. Ask me how I know =(

** If you keep stirring, you run the risk of it separating around 280 degrees into a nasty looking, stringy oily buttery mess. If it does do this,  it IS savable despite what you may think. Simply add tablespoons of hot water, one at a time, and stir slowly until it comes together again. Then, you resume heating per recipe.

5. Heat on low to 290 degrees, or soft crack stage. Upon hitting 290, pull from stove. GENTLY fold in chopped almonds and pour carefully into pan. Smooth with an offset spatula into an even layer at a thickness pleasing to you.

6. Sprinkle hot toffee with semi-sweet chocolate, and allow to sit until melted. Using a new offset spatula, smooth and swirl chocolate until satisfied with coverage.

7. Sprinkle walnuts onto chocolate, and finish with an artistic drizzle of white chocolate to your hearts content.

8. Don't plan on fitting into ANY outfit in the following week after making these, you just won't. They are that good! Refrigerate until firm, then use a knife and chisel the sheet into pieces.