"the Taste"-style contest, pitting our skills against each other, serving up only one tantalizing bite of each dish...but more on that later. During my research into Oscar-themed menus, I came across the lovely Bakerella's Oscar statue cookies, and felt they would be the perfect addition to our evening of celebrating good food and great movies.
It required a little more thinking and substitution, since I was working with a limited pantry. Tomorrow is grocery day, so the pantry is a little empty, and we challenged ourselves to create our menus using only what was in the house. It's a great way to use up leftover bits in the fridge, and discover foodstuffs long forgotten in the dark recesses of the cupboard. However, it meant I was missing key ingredients for Oscar sugar cookies, like eggs. Nevertheless, I was determined to make the fancy little statues.
, and marked the opening using the template.
I cooled the cookies, then got to work assembling. Again, too lazy for icing, but I decided the next best thing would be to glue the two pieces of the statue together with a generous layer of melted chocolate. Better than icing? I think so. Also, it makes a much better compliment to a cup of coffee at the end of the evening.
(On a side note, I was very happy with the entire Academy Awards this year. All my favorite movies won in the categories they merited. Argo received top honors, which was well-deserved. And, Seth McFarlane wasn't half-bed, either, and that's saying a lot when you realize that I can't stand anything he's done.)
Eggless Sugar Cookies
(makes 10 complete Oscar statues)
1 2/3 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and milk. Slowly add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one piece twice as large as the other.
Place the larger piece of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Using the awards show statue template, cut out 10 statue tops and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with yellow decorator's sugar, gently pressing the sugar into the surface of the dough with your fingers. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until very lightly golden around the edges.
Roll out the smaller section of dough between the sheets of waxed paper and cut out 10 2-inch circles. Using the template, mark the center and width of the statue onto the base. Use a sharp knife to cut a 1/4-inch thick rectangle of dough out of each base. Place on a baking sheet and bake as above. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Again?! Well, I have leftover cake, AND a dinner to go to - why not? This time, I made a delicious strawberry compote to layer in my trifle, rather than using a jam. I had strawberries sitting in my fridge that were a little unripe and not getting any better. I figured they could benefit from a little cooking!
trimmed from the giant cupcake) into cubes for better distribution.
2 pints fresh strawberries
1/4 c. sugar
1 oz. orange-flavored liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
Slice 1/2 pint of strawberries and combine them in a saucepan with the zest and juice of one orange Cook over medium heat until strawberries are soft. Mash them up using a potato masher. Dice the remaining fresh strawberries, and add them and the orange-flavored liqueur to the compote. Bring to a boil to cook off the alcohol, leaving only the flavor. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside to cool. Use this chunky compote as the fruit layer in your trifles, as a delicious topping for ice cream, or stir it into your yogurt for breakfast. Yum!
Monday, February 18, 2013
I made a cake this past weekend for a cousin's 6th birthday, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to reiterate the idea of working with what you have on hand. Rather than going out and purchasing a cake mold, I thought I would get creative with the vessels I had already and build a cake. It can be challenging, but if you're up for a challenge, it can be a lot of fun, and extremely rewarding when you behold your final creation.
I decided on a giant cupcake, after much research and inspiration-finding on the interwebs. I thought it would be a great conversation piece, as well as a little bit out there, much like the personality of the spunky, fun-loving little girl we would be celebrating. Yes, a giant cupcake would be perfect. Now to the construction.
The trick to cake-building is simple: any form can be broken down into simple shapes, which can then be combined using fillings and frosting. You can even get a better visualization of the shapes by playing around with the empty cake tins and baking vessels. Anything oven-proof can be used, such as glass pans, metal tins, ceramic ramekins, stainless steel mixing bowls...so long as it is OVENPROOF. Once you've checked that, you can begin creating.
I gently laid the cap on the cupcake, then prepared a recipe of lavender frosting to finish the cupcake.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Valentine's is upon us - and beside offering up a box of chocolatey delights for my Valentine, I always like to highlight the evening with a romantic dinner for us to share. Now we've been through the usual suspects: fondues, fillet mignon, fondant chocolate cakes, seafood, oysters, escargots...You name it, we've already tried it. This year I happened upon a random web search thread(you know the kind - click, link, click, link - until you're light years away from your starting point), and found myself at a picnic in Sydney, Australia. More specifically, the Sydney Picnic Co., which is exactly that - provider of baskets brimming with locally sourced treats for picnic-goers. I am a little disappointed that I did not know of its existence when I was visiting Sydney.
(Look! He even brought me roses!)
Slow-roasted tomatoes and goat cheese, with black olives, basil and balsamic vinegar. I served this with a freshly-baked baguette.
Peaches, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and mint. The mozzarella got a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before serving.
Grilled filet mignon, spicy prawns and asparagus, served with a salsa verde. This course was served hot off the grill, but I could easily see it served room temperature at a summer picnic outdoors, too.
Mild Brie with balsamic fig jam and walnut crostini.
Chocolate pots de creme with strawberries and amaretti cookies.
The entire menu was a great success, with each dish turning out extremely flavorful and delicious, despite my never having attempted any of the recipes before. All the food parings were quite successful, too. All in all, I think it was a very enjoyable evening, spent eating good food in the company of my wonderful guy, love of my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Happy Valentine's Day, and I hope this finds you spending quality time doing the things you love with the people you love, and not just today, but everyday.
PS: Find the recipes here!
Monday, February 11, 2013
I was pondering a simple and customizable way to offer chocolates to my beloved. Rather than the old heart-shaped store-bought treats, I thought I could come up with a way to make him bite-sized pieces of all the flavors he loves. Also, I am in no way a trained nor practiced chocolatier, so I wanted something easy, something without moulds, something with a 100% success rate. No bain-marie, no thermometres, no difficult steps. I decided to make chocolate pastilles.
I compiled a list of add-ins, scoured my shelves for ideas, and collected my findings.
Once all the sprinkled tops were complete, I moved on to the mixed-in ingredients. I only melted a small portion of the chocolate at a time, following the same heat-stir method as above, and then mixed in my ingredients a little at a time, tasting after each addition. I did this to achieve the best flavor as possible, trying not to be too generous and overdoing it. No one wants a cayenne pepper-flavored chocolate pastille that sets your mouth on fire!