Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pot O' Gold St. Pats Cake

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone! I hope it's the best ever :) If you've ever been to a Rolla, MO St. Pats celebration, then you know it's always the best ever. Although I couldn't be in Rolla for St. Pats this year, we did have a pot luck at work. I decided it was time to practice some of the things I learned in the cake class I recently watched online. Before I get to the cake, I just want to say that anyone interested in learning to use fondant or modeling chocolate to decorate should definitely take this class! She shows how to make your own fondant and modeling chocolate and also how to get super crisp edges and corners on both your buttercream icing and on the fondant. The class is taught by a lady who writes a blog called Jessicakes and she is truly an artist. If you click on the blog name link above, you can get a link to the class that will give you 50% off the price, bringing it to $20. I have to say I think it is totally worth the cost. I'd tried making modeling chocolate in the past and it was a complete failure. Also, I typically have a lot of trouble with my fondant. But using her recipes and methods (which were only slightly different from what I already used), I had MUCH more success. Anyway, just wanted to tell you about it :)

For this cake, I didn't really want to do a shaped cake, but instead wanted to work on my fondant covering skills and try the "wax paper transfer method" that is taught in the Jessicakes class. I opted to make an 8" six layer rainbow cake. I actually made the cake from scratch this time using a recipe for butter cake from the "Sprinkle Bakes" cookbook I got for Christmas. It was delicious! One of my coworkers said she thinks this is her favorite cake that I've made, taste wise anyway. here's a peek at the insides since I didn't get a picture after it was cut.

I covered the cake first with a Swiss meringue buttercream and tried to make it as smooth as possible. I did an upside icing technique that is also shown in the class and it worked very well. The only difficulty is that though I would typically use my bench scraper to smooth the cake, it is only 6" tall and my cake was 7" tall. So I had to get a little creative. I ended up using a piece of cardboard with a straight edge to smooth it. It wasn't perfect, but it worked pretty well. Then it was time to cover the cake with fondant. As usual, this was pretty nerve wracking for me. It took me two tries to roll the fondant out but once I got it on the cake, it worked great. I only had a couple little wrinkles at the bottom.

The trick to smooth fondant is continuing to pull the "skirt" out as you smooth.

The next step was to add the details. The green hills and rainbow were both made out of modeling chocolate and I used a "wax paper transfer method". Basically, you cut out all the pieces you want on the cake using templates, then you lay them out of wax paper that has been spread with a thin layer of Crisco. Once you get it all laid out, you brush a little bit of water/corn syrup mixture onto the design and pick up the entire wax paper "sticker" and wrap it around the cake. Of course this means you have to take good measurements so that your design matches up perfectly. As you'll see, ended up measuring once and cutting twice :)

Here I'm brushing the water/corn syrup mix on the modeling chocolate transfer. This method worked great!

After placing the transfer around the cake and peeling off the wax paper. 

womp womp. That's what I get for not measuring better. I just filled it in with a couple extra pieces. Then made it the back of the cake :)

Here's the final product!

The blue fondant is a little speckled looking because I mixed some blue modeling chocolate with the white fondant. 

I didn't get a great picture of the rainbow going down the side of the cake, but you can kind of see it here. 

I was very happy with how this cake turned out! I'll definitely be using these techniques again soon. In other news, Joe and I ran 10 miles today in our half marathon training! We're both hurting a little right now, but I have to say I'm pretty proud of us :) Also, all the wallpaper in our dining room is GONE and I'm almost done prepping the walls with paint. I'm trying to get as much done as I can this weekend and next since once Easter gets here, we won't really have a free weekend until sometime in May. But there are a lot of fun things coming up, so I'm excited about them. Thanks for reading and have a great night!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Braided Cinnamon Roll Bread

Happy Monday! I guess by the time most of you read this it will actually be Tuesday, so happy Tuesday too :) As usual, I was sad to go back to work today after a nice weekend at home. I FINALLY finished peeling wallpaper this weekend and can now get to work on repairing the walls and prepping for paint. I also bought an online cake course that I started watching this weekend that shows new, better ways to cover cakes with fondant. It's been great so far and I'm looking forward to using some of these techniques for a St. Pat's cake for our potluck at work this Friday! I didn't do any baking this weekend, but I did do some baking two weekends ago that I want to share with you now. One of the things I made was this braided cinnamon roll bread. I've been wanting to make a sweet version of the Braided Pesto Bread for a long time now so I finally decided to do it. The process was basically the same as the pesto bread, but I made a couple changes to the recipe. The end result was great! It tasted kind of like a king cake and Joe and I ate pretty much all of it in 2 days. It is best served warm but if you're impatient like me, room temperature is great too :)

Braided Cinnamon Roll Bread
Adapted from Braided Pesto Bread from "Confections of a Foodie Bride"

For the bread:
1 c. warm water
2 t. active dry yeast
2 1/2 c. flour
1 T. vegetable oil
2 T. honey
1 t. salt

For the filling:
4 T. butter, melted
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
1 T. coffee
1/2 t. vanilla

- Pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer or into a medium bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let that sit for about 10 minutes (it may take more) until the yeast bubbles up and becomes frothy. If that doesn't happen, then the yeast is no good and you need new yeast.

- Add the flour, oil, honey and salt to the yeast mixture and begin mix with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl. If kneading by hand, stir the mixture first then dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

- Place the dough in a bowl coated with a little oil and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

- Once the dough is risen, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and dust your work surface with flour for rolling the dough. If you have parchment paper it is good to roll the dough out on that. But still dust it with flour.

- Place the dough on the parchment paper and start rolling into a rectangle shape that is roughly 12" x 18".

- Melt the butter for the filling in a small bowl then brush or pour the butter over the rolled dough and spread it evenly leaving about an inch border around the edges.

- Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and sprinkle over the melted butter on the dough. Leave a border around the edge.

- Tightly roll the dough into a long cylinder.

- Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough length wise. Then carefully twist the two pieces together into a rope. I had a bit of a hard time twisting this bread. I think it was because I rolled the dough much thinner than the first time.

- Carefully form the braided bread into a ring and pinch the ends together. You can then trim the excess parchment paper if needed. Slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and allow the bread to rest for another 15-20 minutes to rise again. * I made the mistake of sliding my bread onto the back side of a baking sheet, but then the butter sugar mixture leaked out during baking and onto the bottom of the oven, so be sure to put it on a cookie sheet that has a rim. *

- Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let sit for a 10-15 minutes before mixing up the glaze.

Maybe I used too much filling? No, not possible :)

- Mix the glaze ingredients together and slowly pour over the finished bread. Enjoy!

This really was delicious and I wish I had some right now! Maybe I'll make it again this weekend :) I'm trying to think of other variations to make. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

I've still got a few backlogged posts to get out on here, but my nights might be busy with this St. Pat's cake for Friday so we'll see if I get anything written. Thanks for reading and have a great night!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Homemade Caramel Corn (& Caramel Cheetos!)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! The work week is half way done. We're looking forward to a little bit of warmer weather the next few days here in KC so I'm hoping that it will melt the rest of the snow. I'm also hoping that it will make me not be such a bum in the evenings. When it's cold outside, all I want to do after eating dinner is sit on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket (much like I'm doing right now - except right now I'm also being productive by writing this post haha). It sounds like we recently sent all of our snow to St. Louis and then Ohio so I hope all of you in those places will thaw out soon too!

A few posts ago, I professed my new found love for our hot air popcorn popper. As I mentioned, we bought it so that I could make some "fancy" popcorn recipes for our Oscars party. The popper we got was $7 at a local thrift store, but it looks barely used. I found the exact same popper on Amazon and it retails for around $27. I've seen several poppers at thrift stores, so if you're looking to try one out then look there first! Just look for a clean one and definitely don't get it if it has any signs of burning. Odds are that someone bought it and then never used it so they just donated it. Anywho, the 2 kinds of popcorn I made for our party were buffalo ranch and Moose Munch caramel corn. Moose Munch is actually a treat you can buy from Harry and David and is essentially caramel corn drizzled in chocolate with nuts mixed in, I think. I made caramel corn, drizzled in chocolate with marshmallows mixed in. But for the recipe today, which is some I made to bring to a different event this past weekend, I nixed the marshmallows. They just got stale after a couple days though the caramel corn stayed crunchy. This recipe is simple, but does take a little time. But the end result is totally worth it! And I have to warn you, it's a little addicting.

Now you may have noticed in the title of this post that I also mentioned Caramel Cheetos. I can just see your faces now and I know what you're probably thinking, "GROSS" or maybe, "she's got to be kidding". But think about it, have you ever gotten one of those huge tins of popcorn that has cheddar, caramel and plain popcorn? Surely you've tried the cheddar and caramel types together. It's awesome! Caramel Cheetos are similar to that. You really don't taste much of the Cheetos at all, but you get a nice crunch from them. I promise they're good! Everyone who tried them liked them! Now for the recipe... I actually got the caramel corn recipe from a blog called Favorite Family Recipes and the caramel Cheetos came from Plain Chicken. But the caramel part for each recipe is almost exactly the same, so I'm just going to show one of them. It can be used for popcorn or Cheetos! Here's the recipe:

Caramel Corn (or Caramel Cheetos)
Total time: approx. 2 hours
Makes approx. 2 gallons of popcorn or 1 - 20 oz bag of Cheetos

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels (our popper uses 1/4 cup per batch so I made 2 batches)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
any other mix-ins you may want like candy or nuts

- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Then pop the popcorn according to your popper's directions. If you want to make caramel corn but don't want to buy a popper, then you could use pre-popped bagged popcorn, or you could probably even use the microwave kind. Place the popcorn in the biggest bowl you have or if needed split between 2 bowls. It will be hard to stir in the caramel if your bowl is too full.

I had to show pictures of the popper in action :) This is the best part!

There she goes!

Each of those bowls was made from 1/4 cup of kernels!

- Place the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently.

- Bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

- Remove the mixture from the heat and add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. The mixture should get lighter in color and foam up. Stir to mix well.

It really foams up a lot when you add the baking soda.

- Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn in the bowl/bowls and quickly stir to coat all the popcorn with caramel. If you're using 2 bowls, you may need someone to help you so one doesn't start to harden too soon while you're stirring the other. Joe was my handy helper as always :)

- After the popcorn is coated in caramel, spread it onto 2 cookie sheets that are either lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

- Place both pans in the oven and cook for 1 hour, taking the pans out and stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes (that's the kind of tedious part).

- When the popcorn is cooked, let it cool in the pans, then melt your chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler and drizzle them over the popcorn. If you want to have other mix-ins with your caramel corn, mix them in on the cookie sheets before drizzling the chocolate. I poured my melted chocolate into a Ziploc and snipped the corner off to drizzle the popcorn. Then place the pans in the fridge to cool the chocolate.

- When the chocolate is cooled, break the caramel corn into pieces and enjoy! Then try not to eat the entire bowl.

* For the Cheetos, you do pretty much exactly the same steps. Make the same caramel sauce, then pour over a bowl of Cheetos. Stir, place on cookie sheets, and bake for an hour stirring every 15 minutes. You know you're curious to try some! :)

I see myself making this caramel corn A LOT in the future. It could be adapted for pretty much any holiday by adding things like seasonal M&Ms or candy corn at Halloween, or even just sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Plus it makes a ton of caramel corn so you could easily turn it into several gifts for people. Now go to the thrift store and find a popper! And have a great rest of the week :)

P.S. Let me know if you guys have any sweet or savory favorite popcorn recipes/combinations. I'm looking for some fun ones to try!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cajun Shrimp Quiche

Well, another weekend has passed and just like that it's March! Oh, and happy belated birthday to my Mom and Uncle Rodger! The both celebrated their birthdays yesterday. Joe and I had a pretty busy weekend and I'm already looking forward to the next one. I scraped a bunch more wallpaper, but we did fun things too :) I made more caramel corn to bring to a party at the house of one of Joe's coworkers last night. There was a lot of karaoke at this party and it was awesome haha. Today I made another Birthday Blessings cake as well as some yummy cinnamon roll bread. But we'll save that for another post! I guess not everyone considers making a few new recipes fun, but I do :)

Right now I want to show you a recipe I made for an awesome shrimp quiche. I love quiche and since Joe isn't a big fan of having breakfast for dinner, quiche is about as close as I can get. And with this being a shrimp quiche, it is perfect if you're not eating meat on Fridays right now because of Lent. It has great Louisiana flavor and didn't taste to breakfasty for Joe. Plus, it makes two whole quiches so you can freeze one and then just reheat it another night. This recipe came from a blog called Eat, Live, Run and it was super simple to put together. Here's the recipe:

Cajun Shrimp Quiche - From Eat, Live, Run Blog

2 pre-made pie crusts (I bought the ones that had to be placed in pans, but you can use the kind that are already in a pan)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup half-n-half
2 stalks celery, minced
3 greens onions, minced (I actually used 1/2 of a yellow onion)
1 green pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
4 T butter, melted
1 T Tony's seasoning
1 T Old Bay seasoning
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1 large tomato thinly sliced (I skipped this part)

- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- If needed, place the two pie crusts into 9" pie pans.
- Roughly chop the raw shrimp into bite size pieces.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, and half-n-half. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, cheese and jalapeno. Mix well.
- Add the Tony's and Old Bay and mix well. Stir in the shrimp.
- Divide the mixture between both pie crusts. If desired, place three tomato slices on each quiche.

- Bake for 60-70 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Let cool for a while before serving. Enjoy!

All of our snow is finally starting to melt, but with some snow plow mounds that are probably 6 feet tall, it will likely be a while before it's all gone. I'm just looking forward to getting to run outside again since the treadmill and I are not getting along. With daylight savings time coming soon, there will be a lot more daylight after work to go running outside. I've got a few posts on backlog so there should be no excuse to not put a couple posts up! I hope you all have a great week!