Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Ultimate Blog Hop

     Another Monday, time to link up with Stasha and Listicles. The book prompt last week was genius. I now have a long list of new reads to look for. I've already picked up A Discovery of Witches, can't remember who recommended that and The Passage, thanks MannahattaMama even if you don't like my faves Dickens, Chekov, Don Quixote ...LOL and you too Jane Doe. I'll let you know how I enjoyed it when I finish.

     It's been a busy week/end here in the Kitchen.

     There is Movita's contest. That's right, you can vote for me TODAY (Monday after 8 am EST until 8 am Tuesday morning), right now. From every platform you own, can beg, borrow or steal. LOL I'm not sure if I'm in group 3 or 4. I'll be at work when the voting starts and my company has not only blocked access to Movita's blog but mine as well. I know.

    A friend is leaving the country, for good. Sad, but  it means a free place to stay if ever I find myself in Calcutta. Nedhi, I miss you already. Spent the weekend making a farewell treat for her. Then of course cookies for me, to ease the pain.

     Finally, been wracking my brain for a good post for Susi's new Thursday link up over at Boca Frau. The possibilities. She kicked off her meme with home make cream puffs. I know!

     Okay, on to this week. Anna over at The Mommy Padawan gave us these two choices.

#1 – list 10 things you really like about yourself, things you are good at, your super powers!
#2 – You have 48 hours free of all responsibilities and unlimited cash, what 10 things would you do, places you’d go, etc.

     Super powers, whoo hoo. Wait, I don't really have any super powers. I'm pretty handy in the kitchen or the garden but know of lots of people far more gifted in both areas. I like to DIY but, well, that's always a crap shoot, scratch that. There are two kind of brain boggling, mystifying talents I possess.

1 The ability to destroy sheets. I have no idea what is what but I've ruined my second fitted sheet so far this year? I must be the most energetic sleeper ever. No thread count can stand the test of my nocturnal thrashings.

2 The ability to fall down and/or knock over any thing, any where, any time, every time. I am astonishingly clumsy. As a dancer friend of mine once said, " You move well. Then you just fall down. For no reason. What is up with that?" as I was picking myself up off the floor, again.

     A dubious claim to fame at best but, it does have a few unexpected benefits.

1 Keeps me humble. Hard to get a big head when you're constantly falling up or down a flight of stairs.  Unless of course it's the swelling but a little ice will fix that.
2 Makes me creative. Shark attack, rescuing children from a burning building, taking down a mugger, always sounds way better than I whacked myself in the face with the car door splitting my own lip.
3 I know the value of an apology, as I dumped a friend's drink into his date's lap as I was introducing myself at the wedding reception. She was less than impressed. The second time.
4 The sight of blood doesn't faze me. I've seen so much of my own, really... No big deal.
5 I have a high tolerance for pain. See above.
6 It's usually pretty entertaining, some times down right awe inspiring. Bob-sledding down two flights of stairs, with my arm hooked over the railing really was a sight. My friend at the bottom was speechless, the doorman at the top, completely awe struck. He even complimented me, " I've never seen anyone do that before." "Are you sure you're OK?" That is a compliment, right?An inspiring performance really.

     Maybe super powers aren't my thing. Let's give the second prompt a try.

1 Buying the farm. My dream, I get to keep the toys. Now I have a place in the city and the country.

2 A truck. Farm boy at heart, no further explanation necessary.

3 The more money than brains car. Nothing spells practical for Canadian weather like a snappy little convertible.

4 The Ultimate Blog Hop.

      Imagine, if you will, being able to hop on your private jet and go visit the people behind your favourite blogs. I'd finally get to see Rorybore's place. I could go riding with Stasha. Check out the simple life with Mark. Cook with Movita or Eggton. Bask in the sun with Gemaine, see Alison's newest addition. Cruise Abu Dhabi with MannahattaMama, meet Jennifer. Swing down to Florida and see Susi and Hilary. Laugh along with Jane Doe, have bacon with The Sarcasm Goddess.  Drinks with the Kitchen Slattern. Ghost hunting with Jacqui. The fun I'd have. It would be epic. I'm sure I could even spin it into a television series, bypassing the whole 48 hour deadline. Livin' the dream.

      There it is, my mangled attempt at today's list. Now go vote. Drop by Stasha's, after you vote, then tweet and Facebook it so others can vote, for me right, and see what super powers or spending powers we all have. Subtle, non? Who knows, maybe this time I'll even get my mother to vote for me?

Friday, April 27, 2012


     Gesundheit. Just kidding. Schneewhichen Kuchen (pronounced Snow White Cake) provided the inspiration for the much anticipated birthday cake for the one and only Movita. That's right, I went back to the story books for inspiration. Again.

     Let's see, Snow White. Evil queen, stop snickering. Fascination with mirrors, I did catch Minion #1 posing and talking to himself in the bathroom mirror. No, I did not tease him mercilessly. Fairest of them all, why that would be the birthday girl herself, Movita. I've seen the bikini pic. Seven dwarves, minion 1 and 2 aren't overly tall but dwarves? Whatever, it's off to work I go.

     I have the real recipe and preparation for this tasty German sheet cake and will post it at some future date. A co worker of mine makes it and it's delicious. Well worth the effort.

     So what is this cake I speak of? The original is white cake, studded with cherries, covered with a thick layer of vanilla, she calls it buttercream, but it's kind of a combination of custard and buttercream, all topped off with chocolate ganache. I don't know the German equivalent for ganache. Mouth wateringly good. But it's a sheet cake about an inch thick, hard to decorate and make all festive like.

     Here is what I did.

    Rather than a sheet, I decided to do two 9 inch rounds. In retrospect I wish I had done three 8 inch ones for a little more height but... I digress. Strangely all of my cake pans have gone MIA so off to Walmart for new ones, because I'm not paying $30 a pan at the baking supply shop. A pound of bacon, ice cream scoop and Mickey Dee's Happy Meal (two Big Macs, large fries) later I returned home ready to bake.

     Rather than use canned or bottled cherries, I used these, sweet cherries in red wine. Far better texture and taste, well, because I made them.
White Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare cake pans, two 9 inch, three 8 inch or a 10x15 rectangle.
In a medium bowl sift flour and baking powder together.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry, soft peaks.
In yet another bowl cream together butter and sugar.
Add vanilla.
Gradually add flour mixture and milk, alternating between dry and wet.
Mix well between each addition.
Fold in beaten egg whites.
Fold don't stir, the egg whites provide volume to the cake. Mixing will flatten them.
Pour into prepared pans and bake on centre rack of preheated oven.
Depending on the size of the pans, it will take from 20 to 35 minutes.
Remove when a toothpick or tester comes out clean.
Let cool completely.

     I added the cherries just before putting the cakes in the oven.

The cake batter
Adding the egg whites
All folded and ready to put in pans
Ready for the oven
28 minutes later

     With the cakes cooled, the frosting made and the fondant rolled and shaped, it was just a matter of assembling all the pieces. I'd just like to add, some how the sight of a 200 pound, unshaven, long haired, 6 foot man going into a cake supply shop looking for petal dust or fondant cutters fills the sales ladies hearts with glee. They love me. They're always very chatty and helpful. Oh yeah, now it's called pearl dust, not petal dust. Back to the assembly line.

Ganache in the making
     Wait! I almost forgot the chocolate ganche for the filling. Melt about equal parts cream and chocolate over a double boiler. Actually, bring the cream to a simmer, chop the chocolate into pieces while you're waiting. When the cream is hot add the chocolate, put the lid on, remove from heat and let sit about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth then let cool. You can whip it into frosting, use it for a filling, eat it by the spoonful, whatever. In retrospect I wish I had added a tablespoon or two of Amaretto was still good. It's chocolate. Use good stuff. Now back to the assembly line.

Ready to start
No I did not pay for a cake wheel
It's an inexpensive lazy Susan from Ikea
A dam of frosting
That way the filling won't run into the frosting
Clever huh?
No, I didn't come up with that.
Add the ganache
Second layer
Ready for frosting and fondant
The bits and pieces
The weird pineapple shaped things were supposed to be tulips
Minion #1 thought they looked good
I disagreed
Ta da, all done
A spring bouquet of daffodils and hydrangeas just for you
One of the residents of the cat farm
Startled by a parti-coloured dragonfly
Dammit, Movita!
One of Hadley's pigs is in the bushes, spying
I can tell it's one of hers by the glowing evil red eye
Minion 1
Ready to spring into action
Minion 2 with Master 1
Being on her good side, she loans him out to me when she's not around
I work them mercilessly
Being a minion blows
Happy Birthday
Whatever age you decide
You've even got your own Prince Charming in 2.0
Who else would distract bears for you?
You're livin' the dream

     There you have it, my contribution to Movita's big day. I just have to say, if Hadley comes up with some Estonian butter cake that translates into "Rapunzel's Hair" or some such thing, well, let's just say there will be a few less minions and a lot more mulch for the garden. I will plug the leak here at Team O.K. After all, Ginger 2012 is just around the corner.

     Now for all of you out there, breathing a sigh of relief, it's not over yet. There is still the voting to contend with. Stay tuned and I'll keep you updated on the how, when, where and of course I don't have to explain the why of voting for ME. Can't wait to see what everyone came up with.
Movita, it's been a slice

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cue the Mennonites

     Thursday, one more sleep until.... You guessed it, Movita's deadline. I feel like a kid at Christmas. Because I'm sure there will be doubts as to the veracity of my claim I did indeed make said cake, the pure awesomeness, I have carefully documented the process. Each. Painful. Step.

     Having fumbled my way through perfected the decorating, it was time to turn to the frosting. It had to be good. It had to be great. I knew what I had to do. Bring out the big guns. Cue the Mennonites.

     I had my people call their people, explaining the situation. Knowing of Movita they understood my dilemma and sprang into action. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? Fresh churned Mennonite butter, just what I needed for an incredible buttercream frosting.

     I had already decided on the cake, sorry no spoilers, you'll have to wait until tomorrow, but I had to decide between chocolate or vanilla frosting. Being the trooper I am, I made both. Tested both. Ate both.These are the lengths I'll go to, the trials I will endure. How I suffer for my art.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
1 pound icing sugar, sifted about 3-4 cups
3 tablespoons of milk/cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

Place butter in a bowl and beat until light, like you would if creaming butter and sugar together.
Add the icing sugar one cup at a time, beating until the sugar is well incorporated each time.
Add vanilla
Add milk/cream one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Thin with milk/cream, thicken with icing sugar. 

     I only used 3 cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream and it was perfect. I also used 3/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening. Mixing the two gives the amazing taste of the butter with the stability, higher melting point, of the shortening.  You can mix it half and half if it is going to be hot where you are taking the cake. Don't want the icing to melt and run.

    Mine tasted like French vanilla ice cream. I had to stop eating spoons of it or there would have been none left to ice the cake.

     Don't soften the butter in the microwave, just don't. Plan ahead and leave it out to bring it to room temperature. Micowaving melts part of the butter as it softens it and that can make everything greasy and curdled looking. Not what you're looking for.

     To make chocolate add 1/2 - 3/4 cup of cocoa powder or 3-4 oz of melted chocolate to the above recipe. 

     Whipping the butter and shortening
I should have been using the paddle attachment
Adding the sugar
Switched the beater
Sugar all in
Stiff and a little grainy looking
After a little cream, smooth and delicious
You can see the texture difference, right?
Getting down to some serious chocolate

     I used recipes and tips from two sites, here and here and kind of combined them. Both are great reads, full of all kinds of good stuff. Be sure to stop by both if you are looking for recipes, tips or ideas on cake making or decorating. You'll be glad you did.

     Thank you to my aunt Susan for getting the butter for me and the Mennonite community around Meaford for making it. My waistline might not thank you but my taste buds sure do.

     Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for the finale, the grand reveal, the cake.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Fondants

  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness."

     Yep, Dickens has summed up the last two months here in the 'Kitchen pretty well. And if you don't recognize the quote from A Tale of Two Cities, well, I got nothin'. The education system failed you, ask for a refund.

     Movita is having a birthday. (the best) She's hosting a contest. (still the best) I got eliminated by her sister in the last contest. (the worst) Because I suspect  a leak here at Team O.K., seriously what are the odds Movita's sister would enter The Three Little Pigs in a ginger smack down against my Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, I've had to keep my master plan under wraps. (the worst) No banter with Movita. (the absolute worst) I have no master plan. (still worst) I have two months to make a plan. (wisdom?) I consult the minions. (complete foolishness, although the Kitty Litter Cake with Happy Birthday Movita spelled out in chocolate ganache cat scat did have it's appeal) New plan.

     The competition at Movita's is fierce. I am not a cake baker. Truth be told I'm not much of a cake lover unless it's cheesecake then all bets are off. I had to up my game. I had to decorate, crap.

     The one and only cake I have ever gotten raves about was one I decorated with sugared flowers for a friend's birthday, until Tris knocked the house plant into the cake covering it with dirt, thanks Tris. Anyway, edible flowers, spring, violets. My six that have bloomed aren't going to cut it. Too early. Whole Foods? Not after the aphid fest last time. Who needs the extra protein? That leaves fondant, edible fake flowers. Off to the interweb.

     I'm just going to say this and get it out there. Fondant covered cakes are beautiful, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it usually tastes like ass. All that work scraped off to the side and thrown away. After reading about the crap I could buy pre made, I decided to try making my own. I've got time. I like a challenge.

     First up, marshmallow. Why? It was easiest and tastes like toasted marshmallows. I love toasted marshmallows. I got the recipe here. Excellent site, hopefully she'll give me a few pointers despite the rather irreverent tone of this post.

Marshmallow Fondant
16 oz marshmallows
2-5 tablespoons water
2 pounds of icing sugar, sifted-I sifted 3 pounds and used almost all of it, just over 7 cups

Combine the water and marshmallows and melt in the microwave.
This took me far longer than her recipe, more than double the time, not sure why.
In another bowl place half your sifted icing sugar and make a well.
Pour the melted marshmallow into the well and start mixing, gradually adding the rest of the sugar.
Eventually it will be too stiff to mix. 
A couple of minutes for me.
Turn the "dough" out onto a lightly greased counter and start kneading it.
It will be sticky so grease your hands as well.
Keep adding sugar until it is not sticky, is smooth and easy to work with. 
Another couple of minutes.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate in a re-sealable plastic bag.
You could probably use it then but I found the texture much nicer after it had a chance to cure overnight.
You can colour a whole batch during the mixing, or separate pieces out after.
I did the pieces, kneading the colours in the next day.
It took about half an hour from start to finish

The melted marshmallow
Took a long time and about double the water?
The mess I made mixing in the sugar
The stand mixer was no help this time
The raw dough

Getting ready to add colour
Gloves so you don't stain your hands
Shortening so it doesn't stick or dry out as you knead it

Lots of gel colour
Lots of kneading
In colour
Cutting flowers
Moulds and presses
Moving along
A whole bouquet
Erica's cupcakes
Fondant trial number 1
Not too shabby
And it sparkles

Basic Rolled Fondant
recipe from here
2 pounds of icing sugar, sifted - again I sifted 3 and used most of it
1 package/tablespoon gelatin
1/2 teaspoon flavouring-I used vanilla
1/2 cup of white corn syrup
1 tablespoon glycerin
1/4 cup of warm water

In a small bowl, combine water and gelatin.
Let sit for a few minutes, 2, 3.
While you are waiting, start a double boiler, you'll be needing it for the next step.
Once the gelatin has plumped up a bit, place the bowl over not in, the boiling water.
Let the gelatin melt, then add the corn syrup, flavouring and glycerin.
Stir until well combined.
This should only take a couple of minutes.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, put half your sifted sugar and make a well.
Pour in the gelatin mixture and start mixing.
Use the dough hook on you stand mixer.
Mix until too stiff to stir with a spoon.
It will probably be sticky so it needs to be turned out onto a lightly greased surface and the remaining sugar kneaded in.
My stand mixer took it to almost completion, Woo hoo.
Continue kneading in sugar until the ball is no longer sticky but still pliable.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate in a re-sealable plastic bag.
You could probably use it then but I found the texture much nicer after it had a chance to cure overnight.
You can colour a whole batch during the mixing, or separate pieces out after.
I did the pieces, kneading the colours in the next day.
20 minutes from start to finish
Assembling the ingredients while the gelatin plumps up
Just starting to melt the gelatin
The whole thing in the mixer
The end result
No more pictures, I'm not givin' Hadley any ideas.

Rolling out the dough    

     I didn't have trouble with this exactly, but it wasn't trouble free either. Reading online there seems to be various schools of though on rolling it out so I varied my technique with the different batches. I didn't find much difference, however, I wasn't rolling large sheets to cover a cake I was just making decorations.

     What ultimately worked easiest for me was rolling on my lightly greased counter, dusting the rolling pin with either cornstarch or icing sugar. I also had shortening on hand to lightly grease my hands if it started getting sticky. I tried rolling on parchment paper and plastic wrap but found it a little harder to manipulate.

     To bring both to room temperature to work with, 10 sec bursts in the microwave. I used 20 secs to get it to a perfect working consistency.

    The marshmallow was harder to get thin, even sheets but it took the colour better/faster when I was dyeing it. It stayed quite elastic and I had a hard time releasing it from the cutters sometimes.

    The plain rolled really thin easily, maybe too thin. I had a problem with it keeping it's shape, then I had a problem with it sticking. It was very humid, raining all weekend so that may be a factor as well.

     A dab of water held each, gluing different bits together.

     Working with both was a lot of fun, like playing with edible Play Doh. I kept thinking how much fun kids would have making decorations for cupcakes.

     Neither dried to rock hard consistency like I thought they would. Both tasted good, sweet, really sweet but good. After reading about how awful the pre made was I'm wondering why you would bother. I didn't find it all that difficult to make, nor was it particularly time consuming. Of course it didn't look like this, this or this either so... How awesome are those cakes? Hopefully she doesn't know Movita or I'm S.O.L.

     If you have any tips or tricks, by all means pass them along in the comments or drop me an email, I could use the help. That's my tale of two fondants.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Month In ...

     Time to sit back and settle in with Rory for Coffee Chat. What television show would you spend a month in? Hmmmm. That's an excellent question. I kept it to currently running shows or it probably would have been I Love Lucy. No explanation necessary.

     I'm not a huge fan of episodic television. Most shows are great for a season or two then...just... fizzle. Or maybe I just don't have the attention span. What ever.

     Survivor and The Amazing Race flashed through my head, just for the challenge aspect of it. But then that's a month of hard work so.... NO

     Up until recently, I would have chosen Game of Thrones. Cool story, faithful to the books at least for season one. Season two, what happened? Things are so off book now, makes me angry. In three short episodes. And the author of the books is the executive producer. Scratch that.

     Mad Men. Lots of drinking, smoking and fornicating. I could do that. Nah, never really got into the series.

     Dexter? Tempting

     The Killing. Very tempting. Great story, a crime solving whodunit. Michelle Forbes who has been on some of the coolest shows from TNG to True Blood. Awesome to meet her. Umm, a whole month. I'm terrible at solving mysteries. Those damn Hardy Boys didn't teach me a thing.

     That of course leads to True Blood. Hangin' out with Sookie and Bill. Cool, but I'm not really built like Eric or Alcide so.... Maybe if I shed a few pounds, and hit the gym, and miraculously become 20 years younger.

     The Walking Dead. Post apocalyptic zombie creating virus world. I'd be a natural, see.

Nah, that makeup was itchy, the blood stayed sticky and got all over everything. Besides, I'm clumsy, all I'd end up as is bait, then a meal.

     Then I got thinking of comedy series, I have a feeling they'd get old fast. The billion and one crime shows, nah. Feel good wholesome family shows, yawn.

     Too bad Sliders wasn't on anymore, or Stargate. Who wouldn't like to tool around the universe or through alternate dimensions. Then it hit me. Why didn't I think of it earlier? And the new season is starting soon. I love this show.

     That's right folks, Doctor Who. How could you resist the invitation to travel through all of time and space in a blue police box with the last surviving Time Lord? A whole lot of awesome. And not all of the Doctor's companions end up dead. This is my final answer, where I will spend my month. Just try and pry me out of the TARDIS. I dare you.

     Stop by Rory's and see where else we'd like to spend some quality time.

     And now for episode two of this post. I got tagged, twice, by family. Rory and my cousin Carly so... I'm not going to play by the rules but I will answer the questions.

Here are my questions for those I have tagged:1.   Oreo cookies:  are you a milk dipper or pull them apart and lick the creme inside?
Neither, I hate Oreos. I'm sure I was the only kid who wouldn't eat Oreo's or PB&J. I loathe peanut butter unless it's in a cookie, with honey or in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
2.   beach or pool?
Either/both as long as the neither are too crowded. Crowded with family is fine.
3.  What's your freak talent?
Uh this is a PG blog, I'm not talking about "freak " talents. What happens in my bedroom is no ones business but my own. LOL
4.  What's in your bag?
A book, toothpaste and tooth brush, another bag, two actually. One plastic and another re usable one for grocery shopping. In my knapsack. 
5.  You are a closet _______  fan?
Kelly Clarkson/Paula Deen
6.  Who is the celebrity you would most like to meet and why?
Annie Lennox, the epitome of cool
7.  Can you put your mascara on with your mouth closed?  (boys, if you are here...pick a substitute)
No I can not shave with my mouth closed
8.  Last thing you bought.
Books, cigarettes, beer and pearl dust-don't ask. I'll tell you on Friday
9.  The best part of waking up is _____?
Hitting the snooze button and rolling over
10.  You have one phone call - who ya gonna call?
I actually don't know, depending on why, probably my parents.
11.  What is your favourite thing about the opposite sex?
Giggling. Silly I know. Guys guffaw, we snicker but talking late night with my Mom or any of my girlfriends can reduce me to giggles. Little kid, uncontrollable giggles.

Because we're all rebels in this family, Carly choose to ask direct questions for each of the people she tagged. Here's mine

The Ossington Kitchen:  How did you come up with the name for your blog?

Easy. The original idea/purpose for the blog was to share family recipes and pictures. Life in our collective kitchens. I live on Ossington Avenue My blog is my kitchen. The original header was going to be the view from my kitchen window but it kinda sucks and I'd have to clean the window so...

     I have chosen not to tag anyone else. I know, I'm a big spoil sport, but I couldn't think of questions for eleven people right now. It will come to me a couple of weeks from now of course but by then it's kinda too late.

     Don't forget to drop by tomorrow for the first installment of the epic trilogy that is Movita's Birthday Cake.