Friday, March 30, 2007

Grand Finale Cakes!

This week was supposed to be my big finish for cake decorating class. Unfortunately, I got sick and missed Wednesday's make up class for course 1.

On Thursday I decided I was feeling sufficiently better to attend. We learned a lot so I'm glad I made it. The most interesting technique was the basket weave. It looks pretty complicated but once you practice it a few times you get the hang of it. My cake was way too crumbly though. I didn't trim it down from fear that it would completely disintegrate so I had a very tall cake and a lot of surface area to cover in basket weave. My crumb control issues were pretty severe but I knew it would be covered up by the weave pattern. The flowers really add an extra special look to the cake. Even though I can identify so many imperfections it looks pretty as a whole. I am really happy I took the class. I learned a lot of things I would not have been able to figure out on my own. It was great going with Renu as well. I recommend this activity as a great bonding class between good friends:)

Here is the cake I had prepared for the Course 1 Finale. I bought a chocolate sponge cake from Longo's. I was so much easier to ice and had hardly any crumb control issues. I put the flowers on top to decorate it that Kanchana and I had made on the weekend. I love the colours. They look so delicate and lovely! The actual cake should have some dots and a border at the bottom but I was too tired to finish it after class. I'll have to attend another Course 1 Finale class to get my certificate so you can expect another post next month. Mom took the cakes to her school for her class. They apparently licked the plates clean and wanted a 'flower piece'. Heehee. I did when I was a kid too:)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Flowers- Cake Decorating Class

Kanchana and I decided to bake a cake and decorate it for our cousin Sheila's birthday. I was impressed that we created something so nice. Kanchana was the stylist and picked the colours we should use and I was the techical director listing off all the tips I learned in class. Our first masterpiece! We called it our Tiffany's cake because of our use of the Tiffany's blue colour.

Last week in cake decorating class we learned how to make more flowers.

Maria, our wonderful instructor makes it look so easy but I have yet to make a flower that looks like one of hers. Regardless, they look very pretty even if you are not an expert. I should have bought some sugar glitter. It makes the flowers look so sparkly and nice!

Here are some of the flowers from class. We learned to make all kinds of flowers like apple blossoms, dasies, daffodils, pansies, primroses, roses and violets!

The picture on the right has some of Maria's flowers (the professional looking ones). The ones by Renu and I are on the left.

I enlisted the help of Kanchana (since she was in town visiting for the weekend) and my mom to help me make some flowers for my grand finale cake. They were very good for first timers! Thanks guys:) Hope the cake turns out nicely!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Montreal Part Deux

I went to Montreal last weekend to visit Adonia. Her birthday is today (Happy Birthday Adonia!) so I thought I'd go up early and celebrate with her since she is coming home this weekend.

We had a great time even though there was a snow storm on Friday night leaving 20-30 cm snow! She was not very impressed at my footwear selection I brought and had to lend me some boots to wear. Thank god that is not normal winter weather here. The picture to the right is of St. Joseph's Oratory on the mountain. I told Adonia I'd walk up there with her next time I visit (weather permitting).

So Friday night we had a fun pajama party in her room. Then on Saturday we slept in and made breakfast. Since it was her birthday I offered to be her sous chef. The menu was: Spicy Omelet with gouda and tomato topped with asian veggies and a side of toasted sesame seed challa bread. To finish it off we had some probiotic raspberry yogurt with bran to make it healthy. We tried one of the Tazo teas I brought- Wild Sweet Orange which was also very nice! What a way to start the morning. The food looked and tasted amazing.

Then we were off to Simons! Luckily there was no wind chill so it was not too bad walking outside. We just prayed we wouldn't slip down the mountain! I bought some great tops and a trench coat! Adonia is a great personal shopper. She was a good advisor when I tried on my outfits. By the time I finished my shopping it was after 4 and we really wanted to go to this bakery called Duc de Lorraine. We decided to take a shot and try to get there. After 3 Metro line changes it was 4:45, Adonia decided to boot it there to try to make it before they closed. The girl ran like the wind. I tried but my shopping bags weighed me down. lol. We did make it there and it was sooo worth it. The cookies and cakes looked so beautiful. I couldn't wait to try them! The little animal shapes looked adorable too.

They had a cheese section but we were going for fondue in the evening so we didn't bother. We went home and were tired out from our day of running around so we decided to relax with a good movie. We watched Napoleon Dynamite...I love that movie. It so funny. We snacked on the cookies we picked up from the bakery (including the Tuile Nature shown above!). They were so good! You could tell they used butter and other good quality ingredients:)

Then we headed off to Fonduementale. We had gone there last time and loved it! We got a great table at the front of the restaurant and were seated immediately! This was the complete opposite of what happened last time. We knew our evening was off to the right start! I was very boring and got the same fondue I had last time. Adonia was the adventurous one and tried this Dijon kind and it was really good. We also got a plate of veggies for dipping and it was a great idea. I think it helped us not get full to fast because the bread lead us to major carb overload last time. The baguette they serve is very nice though. I also have to mention that they serve this delicious salad at the beginning with this amazing dressing and sesame seeds...I loved it. I wish I knew what was in the dressing. Overall, I think this is one of the most unique restaurants I've been to. The food is really different and tastes so good. I highly recommend it. It is on the very trendy street, St. Denis so you can walk by all the cool shops and cafes for a nice experience.

You can see the front window seat we got in the picture!

We were so full by the time we got home but we had enough room to try a bite from some of the cakes from Duc de Lorraine. Triple Chocolate Mousse cake and Tiramisu cake....pure heaven. The cream they use is soo delectable! Amazing. You should go try it. I went to sleep dreaming of dessert!

The next morning after majorly sleeping in we went to make pancakes! We used the Martha Stewart recipe which was very simple to follow. I had never made pancakes from scratch so I was a little worried about the outcome. I should mention that in high school Adonia and I had a little pancake fiasco where we tried to make pancakes (using a mix) and wanted to add chocolate chips and sprinkles to the batter....ya, we ended with a partially burnt multicoloured mess. lol. Those were good times.

So we needed to redeem ourselves. Now that we are adults we are a little more competent around the kitchen (the only place left to go was up). So, armed with a
recipe from Martha and a positive attitude, we entered the kitchen. We blended our dry ingredients and whisked our wet, combined them (but not overworking it) and crossed our fingers as the first one hit the pan. That Martha sure knows how to write a recipe. It was a winner! We added our own inspiration to the dish (a dash of nutmeg in the batter made the flavour pop!) and a splash of milk because the batter was really thick. We got very nice, soft, fluffy, delicious pancake perfection! We were redeemed (in our own eyes)! We topped it with butter and generous pour of all natural REAL maple syrup. (Which I also retardedly spilled all over myself as well, but that is another story). Simply delicious. That's all.

For dessert (we figured it was a lunch meal because of the time we were eating at) we shared one of the culinary delights from Duc de Lorraine- The Napoleon. It perfectly balanced the pastry with whipped cream, strawberries and custard making each bite bring more happiness than the last. Yum.

Thank you so much for such a wonderful weekend Adonia! Happy Birthday!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday! She is the best mom ever:) She is so cute and always thinks of nice things to do and buy for us. I'm sure when Kanchana comes to visit we will make a trip to the temple because that is my Mom's favourite thing to do.
Here is a picture of us from Kanchana's wedding last year.
Happy Birthday Mom! I love you!

Here are the beautiful 2 dozen roses my Dad got for her!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Maileen came over and we made the most delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes. I saw a great recipe in the New York Times online and wanted to try it. It was from Elisa Strauss, the owner of Confetti Cakes in Manhattan. She was once a designer for Ralph Lauren but found her passion was in cake design Her cakes are really works of art!

So our success was in the cupcakes and our failure lay in the icing. To start out with I thought I would save some calories in a very rich dessert by buying light cream. I did not read the directions in the icing or I would have seen that the cream needed to be whipped therefore had to be heavy cream. As you can imagine, disaster ensued.

To compound the problem, the mascarpone/cream cheese combo did not seem to taste or smell very nice. I don't think I like mascarpone. Perhaps it is because I have not tasted it prepared properly. All we made was a very runny, strange tasting mess.

Luckily, we called Betty Crocker to the rescue! We had a lot of fun decorating our cupcakes (and watching America's Next Top Model in between). Mai brought over some wonderful sprinkles that perfectly complemented our red velvet theme. My favourite were the playing cards symbols. The black and red hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs looked super cool against the chocolate and vanilla icing! This was a great recipe and I recommend it (not the icing though). The substitutions I made were using buttermilk instead of vinegar because I didn't have any and I used some of my Wilton food colouring which is really strong. You can omit the food colouring to make chocolate cake but Red Velvet sounds so much cooler!

Mai took some awesome pics for me to post on the blog. Can't wait to do it again Maileen:)

I packed them up in my new 3 in 1 ultimate caddy that carries 12 regular and 24 mini cupcakes plus a regular rectangular cake if you pull out the tray! I know, its a little overboard but I totally love it and it prevented the designs from being ruined, plus I got 40% off at Michael's this week! Thanks for getting it for me Mom!

Can you spot the McCain Deep and Delicious inspired one? heehee!

Here is the recipe. I found out you have to sign in to view it in the NYT website.

February 14, 2007
Recipe: Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from "The Confetti Cakes Cookbook" by Elisa Strauss (Little, Brown, to be published in May).
Time: 90 minutes, plus cooling

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3½ cups cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.

2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Yield: 3 cake layers.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chilli Tofu-tastic

I was experimenting with some tofu on Sunday and made a yummy dish reminiscent of chilli paneer! I am not a fan of mushy tofu and it must be very flavourful! So this is what I did: Heat up 1 or 2 tsp oil in a pan, splutter cumin, add tofu slices, season with turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala, salt and pepper. Cook until the pan is dry and tofu has nice brown marks. Then, (here is my experimental portion) add grapefruit juice to deglaze the pan. It gives a nice tart tangy flavour and the sticky coating (like tamarind). I let it cook down and added more juice again. You can decide if you want a runny or thick sauce. You could also add it to pad thai which I did with the leftovers from dinner the night before. I really liked it. My mom was not a fan. She threw it out (when I was at work) and told me she had to clean out the fridge. Alas, I guess I will have to try to recreate it another day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dinner with the Old Roomies!

My folks went to visit my aunt and uncle in Ottawa this weekend so I had two of my old roomies from Uni over. The plan was to bake Red Velvet Cake (I had seen a recipe for it in the New York Times) but it didn't quite pan out. We made some other wonderful (ish) dishes though!

Sheena came over in the afternoon. She is one of the first people I met at Laurier. We became fast friends and totally bonded while studying for BU111 and BU121. When we became roomies it was the icing on the cake. Those were some of the best times at school. We had a lot of fun in that house on Hazel.

The first dish we attempted was the gnocchi that looked so beautiful and delactable on Priya and Meeta's blogs. Sadly, ours was not as stunning. It tasted good but became more of a mashed potato thing as time went on. I think we needed more potato and starch or something. I didn't have the exact ingredients listed on the recipe:(

However, we did make a delicious ricotta thyme cheese sauce. We made a roux with butter and flour. Then we added the milk and cheese with some salt, pepper and thyme for seasoning. It was super tasty.

I also wanted to try making pad thai. I know its a weird combo but whatever. I was taking advantage of having the kitchen to myself. So, armed with a random recipe from the internet, Sheena and I got down to it. We chopped some veggies (mushroom, baby carrot, bean sprouts and snow peas!), stir-fried some extra firm tofu (seasoned with salt, pepper and corriander powder), soaked our noodles and tossed together with the sauce. I know, I deviated from the recipe but it's the same result. I think I will be experimenting with the sauce in the future. I think it could use some more kick. Overall, it was quite tasty and pretty easy to make. I recommend this one because it can be easily adapted to suit many different tastes (spicy or mild) and still be delicious and flavourful.

Anjali, who became our roomie in 4th year (and part of cupcake baking infamy), came over a little later and made a delicious mushroom crostini! It was a fablulous appetizer. There were two types of mushrooms finely diced, parmesan cheese (can't go wrong with that) and very nice french bread. The girl knows I love mushrooms! It was very delicious. Two thumbs up!

Thanks for coming over girls! I had a great time. Looking forward to the next one. I vote for it to be at Sheena's new place!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Dulce de Leche Experiment

Adonia and I had this amazing Dulce de Leche dessert at the Green Bean downtown Oakville. I wanted to know what exactly it was and found a recipe for it on the internet. It seemed simple enough, so last night I got out a can of condensed milk and put it to the test. I was hoping to end up with an amazing caramel.

It took sooo long. I was really worried about it exploding so I checked on it very frequently. By then end of the 3 hours it had become a creamy brown colour. I tasted it right away and it still seemed like condensed milk but with a different consistency. After it had cooled overnight I tried it again and it tasted a lot better! Mom said it was just 'theratipaal'. lol. It does taste like that!

I think I will use it in a cake as a binding agent because of the sticky texture and viscosity (remember that word from Gr. 9 science?). It tasted good on toasted crusty bread. I guess it can be used like jam. I know Smuckers sells some. It looks like a good topping for ice cream too.

I'll let you know how it fares in my cake!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Cake Decorating Class #3

Class 3 was all about decorating cupcakes. We learned some great techniques for flowers and shells.

My favourite was the adorable and easy clown! The plastic head really brings it to life. We also learned how to do a bear but I didn't have the right colours so I adapted it to a pig.

I tried to make little babies with soothers like the picture in my course book but aparently they didn't turn out as well. Some of my co-workers were confused and thought the baby was the pig :S

I made lemon cupcakes (box mix but adapted to be eggless). It tasted very light and fresh. I thought I'd switch it up because I had just done chocolate this weekend. I think with practice my designs will get better but I guess that is true about everything. Class 4 is postponed to the end of March because of the snow day we had earlier this month. Renu and I are thinking about taking Course 2 since we already kind of have a routine in place.

Here are some more pictures of the cupcakes! If you know of any good designs please do share:)
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